Does the Universe Have a Purpose?

Article Updated: 4 Jan , 2016
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An intersection of two of my favorite entities (Minute Physics and Neil deGrasse Tyson) now covers a topic that has been on my mind lately: does the Universe — and therefore humanity — have a purpose?

deGrasse Tyson was asked by the Templeton Foundation to answer this question and poses here that if there is a purpose, the cosmic environment has a strange way of showing it.

What do you think?

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53 Responses

  1. Mike Petersen says:

    No.

  2. Raimo Kangasniemi says:

    We humans can give the universe a purpose through our own continued existence and achievements.

  3. G Money says:

    the universe is a random natural event.

  4. Ben D says:

    Does the universe as perceived by bacteria living in a human host have a purpose ask the bacteria…

  5. Zoutsteen from Holland says:

    I can imagine that stargazing can leave quite an impression on people. Even before the invention of the telescope people looked up in awe at the river of stars which we now know to be our own galaxy. What else can one do than love it as if it was a living being? I guess that is what made some people chose their professions within astronomy.

  6. Edward Dahl says:

    The universe is a giant computer of sorts and is running calculations.

  7. lcrowell says:

    The universe may be a form of bootstrap. A universe of quantum observables may requires observers. I make this statement not as a scientific hypothesis, but more as a philosophical conjecture. if so then the universe gives rise to observers that have the ability to observe and thing about itself. In this sense there might be a form of reification, or an assignment of ontology to the universe or existence due to the fact it can acquire consciousness within it.

    If this is the case then the existentialist philosophers, particularly Sartre and Heidegger, were right in telling us that the purpose to life or the world is entirely what we assign to it.

    LC

    • zubilon says:

      Humans are exceptionally good at projecting their perspective onto everything… including the universe. If the universe has a purpose, then so do we; if the universe has no purpose, then neither do we. Some people feel uncomfortable with the latter; some do not… Hence the debate. As for me, the answer is self evident: The universe simply is.

      • lcrowell says:

        The universe just exists, or better to say the vacuum just exists that is unstable and fluctuates locally into cosmologies. Some people find this disturbing, for the presumed hopes offered by religion are lost. For myself I think this removes the unwarranted, and I think in some ways neurotic, worries over one’s status with respect to a God or judgment and the rest. While it ultimately means that our moral behavior is something we have to work out for ourselves without some absolute guidance, it also means there is no terrible judgment coming upon us because of our so called sins and the rest.

        One thing in the Bible makes sense now:

        Gay marriage legalized on the same day as marijuana makes perfect biblical sense.

        Leviticus 20:13 “ A man who lays with another man should be stoned”.

        Our interpretation has just been wrong for all these years.

        Anyway, anyone or I could indulge in smoking pot, gay sex or I could decide to wear women’s dresses from now on and the consequences are entirely of this world’s making. There is no God that will eternally punish me or smash the world to pieces because of these silly matters.

        LC

      • Torbjörn Larsson says:

        Purpose is observationally a social construct. Such things explicitly doesn’t come out of natural constraints but out of culture.

        It is likely there are groups that doesn’t have a notion of “purpose”. It is a deceit to think social constructs are universal.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      The best prediction for emergence of observables is decoherence. It specifically doesn’t need observers, no Schroedinger’s cat, but a large environment.

      Why there is a large environment is another question. But observers can only appear with such an environment.

      So I would say, like the idea that nature is the source of purpose, the idea that observables require observers is mistaking the constraint for the parameter.

      • lcrowell says:

        Decoherence only goes so far. What decoherence tells us is how a superposition is replaced by an entanglement, where that phase or entanglement is absorbed into an ever larger set of reservoir states. It does not exactly eliminate the Schrodinger Cat issue. In fact there are quantum states called cat states that are used to look at this and related problems.

        We might think of the classic double slit experiment. A quantum wave function ? passes through the two slits so that it has two states corresponding to the slits. We may write

        ?(x) = C(e^{ikx} + e^{ikx’})

        for C the normalization. On the screen the modulus square of the wave function gives us

        |?(x)|^2 = C^2(2 + e^{ik(x – x’)} + e^{-ik(x – x’)})

        = 2C^2(1 + cos(ik(x – x’)).

        The cosine function then predicts the wave interference pattern we see on the screen.

        Now assume we try to ask the question which slit the photon really passed through. We place at one of the slits a spin state, which is s_z = ??_z. We have the set so that if the photon passes through the top slit this spin state is “up” and down otherwise. We then couple the above wave with the states |+> and |-> so that

        ?(x) — > C(e^{ikx}|+> + e^{ikx’})|->

        Now if we take the modulus square since = 0 the cosine term that emerges from the cross term is absent. We have replaced the superposition of the wave for the two slits with an entanglement.

        We may think of continuing this where we use a larger spin, say s_z = N? for N a large number. The entanglement phase is then e^{-iS/?} = e^{-iN}. If we Wick rotate this, which is a bit of a cheat, but it works, with setting i — > 1, this phase term in a path integral is a partition function term that for large N is insignificant. So the phase associated with an entanglement is “buried” away within a reservoir of large states, or a system with a statistical distribution and so forth. The argument does not say the entanglement is truly demolished. This set of states with a large N is the Schrodinger cat. We tend to make FAPP arguments that since the entanglement phase is buried away in such a large number of states that we can treat it as effectively gone.

        While we might not like it, there is still a problem of just what constitutes a measurement. There is no air tight argument which demonstrates that an complete reduction of a quantum state can happen without a literal measurement. This leaves open the door for the role of consciousness. Now I am not going to advocate any quantum consciousness nonsense, and I think most of that stuff is wrong. However, there is a curious gap in our understanding of what is a measurement and further how it is a classical or macroscopic world exists.

        LC

  8. tenstripe says:

    It is humanities job to keep the universe organized.

  9. The Latinist says:

    I will start with a definition of purpose: purpose is an expression of intent that couples will with the ability to carry out that will.  Assuming this definition, purpose is also subject to the temporal constraints of causality: for an event to happen purposefully, the intent to create that event must be formed prior to the event itself.

    To fully consider this question, we should therefore consider it during  several different eras: 1) at the ‘beginning’ of the universe, 2) after the beginning of the universe and before the advent of human beings and 3) after the advent of human beings.

    First, let us consider the question of the purpose of the universe at its inception. For there to have been a purpose to the universe at its inception, there must have existed before the beginning point an entity possessed both of the will to create the universe and of the ability to do so.  Unfortunately the answer to this question is far beyond the reach of current human knowledge.  Indeed, we do not know if there was a ‘before the universe existed’ or even whether such concepts as ‘before’ are meaningful outside of the context of our universe. To ask this question is really to ask whether there was a creator, or whether god exists — the sort of unanswered and perhaps even unanswerable question to which I’m not even sure it is worth giving too much thought.  I would rate this one as unanswerable for the present.

    Second, then, we have the question of the purpose of the universe after it began.  Is it possible that the universe, even if it originally had no purpose, has since gained a purpose?  For this to have happened there must have come about since the formation of the universe an entity both capable of formulating a will to guide the development of the universe and possessed of the power to do so.  Again, whether such an entity exists is not entirely within our grasp; still, we are on a bit firmer ground here because we are at least able to observe the universe.  We do not know for certain whether an entity with will exists, but if it is acting to change the course of  events in the universe according to its purpose, we should be able to observe the universe behaving, for lack of a better word, ‘willfully’.  But we do not; as far as we have been able to observe, the universe on macroscopic level behaves in a completely predictable and deterministic manner and on the quantum scale according to probabilities.  In short, as far back as we are able to look in our universe, we just don’t observe miracles happening.  This suggests that there is at least no macroscopic purpose to the universe. I would rate this one as unlikely.

    Finally there is the question of the purpose of the universe since the advent of human beings.  Could our existence as a species have given the universe a purpose it did not previously have?  Much here depends upon the question of whether human beings have free will, but that is a prickly question that I would like to leave aside for the moment as unnecessary to answer this question.  I will come back to it shortly.  For now I think it suffices to note the limits of human ability to affect the universe.  There are vast portions of the universe upon which, due to distance, we can have absolutely no effect.  Even supposing that we can form a will for such portions of the universe, we are completely incapable of carrying that will out — of turning it into a purpose.  Moreover, even our feeble efforts are or someday will become Purpose is an expression of intent. It  couples will with the ability to carry out that will.  It is also subject to the temporal constraints of causality: for an event to happen purposefully, the intent to create that event must be formed prior to the event itself.

    To fully consider this question, we should therefore consider it during  several different eras: 1) at the ‘beginning’ of the universe, 2) after the beginning of the universe and before human beings and 3) after beginning of human beings.

    First, let us consider the question of the purpose of the universe at its inception. For there to have been a purpose to the universe at its inception, there must have existed before the beginning point an entity possessed both of the will to create the universe and of the ability to do so.  Unfortunately the answer to this question is far beyond the reach of current human knowledge.  Indeed, we do not know if there was a ‘before the universe existed’ or even whether such concepts as ‘before’ are even meaningful outside of the context of our universe. To ask this question is really to ask whether there was a creator, or whether god exists — the sort of unanswered and perhaps even unanswerable question to which I’m not even sure it is worth giving too much thought.  I would rate this one as unanswerable for the present.

    Second, then, we have the question of the purpose of the universe after it began.  Is it possible that the universe, even if it originally ha no purpose, has since gained a purpose?  For this to have happened there must have come about since the formation of the universe an entity both capable of formulating a will to guide the development of the universe and possessed of the power to do so.  Again, whether such an entity exists is not entirely within our grasp; still, we are on a bit firmer ground.  We do not know for certain whether an entity with will exists, but if it is acting to change the course of  events in the universe according to its purpose, we should be able to observe the universe behaving, for lack of a better word, ‘willfully’.  But we do not; as far as we have been able to observe, the universe on macroscopic level behaves in a completely predictable and deterministic manner.  And even on a  quantum level it behaves according to probabilities.  In short, as far back as we are able to look in our universe, we just don’t observe miracles happening.  This suggests that there is at least no macroscopic purpose to the universe. I would rate this one as unlikely.

    Finally there is the question of the purpose of the universe since the advent of human beings.  Could our existence as a species have given the universe a purpose it did not previously have?  Much here depends upon the question of whether human beings have free will, but that is a prickly question that i would like to leave aside for the moment as unnecessary to answer this question.  I will come back to it shortly.  For now I think it suffices to note the limits of human ability to affect the universe.  There are vast portions of the universe upon which, due to distance, we can have absolutely no effect.  Even supposing that human beings are capable of gaining control over our own actions and the course of local events, how can those actions be said to create purpose for the remaining countless billions of galaxies and untold lightyears of space? And if they cannot, could such a limited and parochial purpose be said to be that of the entire universe?  I think that the answer to this question is an emphatic ‘no.’

    There remains, however, one more question to be answered: whether humanity might have a purpose even if the universe does not.  Nancy treated the two questions as equivalent, but I do not agree that they are.  If human beings have will and the power to shape their own destiny, it seems to me that the collective will of humanity might be able to guide its future and humanity might then be said to have a purpose.  Unfortunately, we are again in uncertain waters; because of developments in neuroscience it is becoming increasingly uncertain that human beings have free will at all.  It is certainly not a settled question, but it is looking increasingly likely that we human beings do not possess a will in any real sense, but that our actions are completely determined by preexisting conditions and natural laws.  And even if individuals were shown to have free will it would not necessarily follow that there is any sort of collective will giving purpose to ‘humanity’; it seems at least equally likely that we would prove to be merely several billion individual humans, each with our own unique and often conflicting purpose.

    So in the end I think that we cannot know for sure whether the universe was created with a purpose, but that, if it was not, it is unlikely that it, or humanity, has since gained one.    equate to gain control over our own actions and the course of local events, how can those actions be said to create purpose for the remaining countless billions of galaxies and untold lightyears of space? I don’t think it can, and I therefore think that the answer to this question is ‘no.’

    There remains, however, one more question to be answered: whether humanity might have a purpose even if the universe does not.  Nancy treated the two questions as equivalent, but I do not agree that they are.  If human beings have will and the power to shape their own destiny, it seems to me that the collective will of humanity might be able to guide its future and humanity might then be said to have a purpose.  Unfortunately, we are again in uncertain waters; because of developments in neuroscience it is becoming increasingly uncertain that human beings have free will at all.  It is certainly not a settled question, but it is looking increasingly likely that we human beings do not possess a will in any real sense, but that our actions are completely determined by preexisting conditions and natural laws.  And even if individuals were shown to have free will it does not necessarily follow that there is any sort of collective free will giving purpose to ‘humanity’; it seems at least equally likely that we would prove to be merely several billion individuals, each with our own unique purpose.

    So in the end I think that, while I we cannot know for sure whether the universe was created with a purpose,  if it was not then it is unlikely that either it or humanity has since gained one.

    • Lorin Ionita says:

      You might have copy pasted some of your text a few times. And I am at the impression that you associate “free will” with “collective will”.

  10. Dn says:

    So by the authors own video, we have an insignificant history in the universe, more nearly related to the bacteria in our gut than to an “enlightened being (real or not)” with a long history in and significant understanding of the universe. Therefore, as we’ve only been around for 0.0000001% of the universe and can’t show a purpose at this time, we can conclude then the universe doesn’t seem to have a purpose (with some noise about 99.9999999%).

    That’s as arrogant as those that would say the purpose is us – it assumes we’re at the center of it all. The facts would only seem to suggest we have insufficient information and no method to test.

    I’m neither say it does or does not, but for such glaring arrogance about what we know and don’t know, the video made me lose a lot of respect for an author I usually enjoy.

  11. Adam Crowl says:

    We as purposeful observers assign will to phenomena if they show signs of goal-seeking behaviour – and correct our initial perception when other causes external to the phenomena can be shown to cause the perceived behaviour. The Universe could be a purposeful entity on its own, an object used by a purposeful entity and thus having a purpose imputed to it by an exterior Being, or we have merely made a category error. I think the first possibility is more interesting than the latter two.

  12. Guest says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how, to this present day, scientists try their best to either discredit or disprove the existence of a designer/creator of the universe even though they basically know just as much in this subject as the ‘common man’.

    If i am not mistaking, there has even been a research (pardon the absence of any sources in this) as to define the word “nothing” since that’s what there was before the big bang. When put in the right context, isn’t this equally, or maybe even more, naive than assuming there was intelligent design at work upon the creation of the Universe?

    • lcrowell says:

      I don’t think that science exists to promote an atheist world view, and of course by the same token science should never be required to conform to any theology. I think few scientists start a career in science with some idea that they want to show God does not exist. I also think it might be bad PR if lots of scientists start actively promoting an atheist agenda.

      If you ask most scientists what their opinions or conclusions are with respect to God or some divine creator-designer you are likely to get a combination of muted answers and for the most part rather negative assessments on the existence of God. Richard Feynman back in the 1960s responded about this type of issue by saying that few people who go deeply into science hold onto the religion of their fathers or grandfathers or generations further back. It is very hard to be a strict believer or literalist upholder of scriptures and at the same time be an evolutionary biologist, or a cosmologist, or even a less controversial area of science such as solid state physics or analytic chemistry. Neil deGrasse Tyson is right in saying that religion has a very poor track record of getting its assessments right. In the end theology promotes an idea about the nature of things, things created by a God, within the framework constructed meant to confirm our hopes. Those hopes involve our eternal existence, abrogation of death, the need for a savior God and so forth.

      The observable universe, our spacetime cosmology and fields/particles within it, emerged from a quantum fluctuation. Quantum mechanics indicates there are sets of observables, where within these sets of observables one may measure them in a manner so they are commensurate. In other words one may measure any of them to arbitrary accuracy at the same time. However, one may not measure observables belonging to two different sets of observables. The universe then has an observed description according to one set or the other, but not both. The classic case is between position and momentum (or energy and time) which results in the Heisenberg uncertainty principle ?p?q = ?, that is well confirmed by experimentation. Quantum mechanics due to this implies that a system with no particle state, or a pendulum (harmonic oscillator) that has no energy will have some minimal uncertainty form of energy. This is called the zero point energy. In cosmology this is not stable, and there is a tunneling phenomenon. The uncertainty principle tells us that a particle trapped in a box with walls that have some potential energy can’t completely confine a particle within it. This further means the vacuum in a cosmological setting can quantum tunnel into a lower energy configuration, which generates a cosmology. To understand this further requires additional study; I can’t go into complete detail on this within this blog post, that is already getting long.

      So we have two possible options. The first is there is an omni-conscious being that created things on the basis of His will. The second is there exists a timeless quantum vacuum that spontaneously generates cosmologies. The first option puts consciousness, indeed an infinite consciousness, as the ultimate basis of existence. The second does not. The first might conform to our hopes, where our conscious being is tied in some way to this ultimate infinite consciousness or being. However, to propose that consciousness is the ultimate foundation of existence this is a huge proposition that is far more complicated to uphold than physical postulates that hold there ultimately only exists a quantum void that has instabilities. I maintain the existence of God, an infinite category that usually involves omnipresence, omnipotence and omnibenevolence, is complicated for theologians have been tied up in knots for many centuries over rectifying these three. The problem is this involves infinities. Infinity is not a number but rather a set, or cardinality of a set, and without some definition according to a sequence or convergence and so forth is mathematically pathological. Theological arguments end up as some “rock-paper-scissors” game that never concludes.

      The empirical data and observations of the universe give little support for the theological interpretation of existence. Further on the basis of theory, since God is infinite, or is an infinite category, arguments based on God end up as pathological; one can’t logically conclude anything. As a result theology has lost its intellectual thrust since the time of Galileo. Of course it holds social-psychological power, and religion is a big force in society. However, I find it interesting how religion engages in a huge science denial campaign, often in association with conservative political world views that deny science. This is most often seen with the creationism ideology that purports how evolution is false. Of late there is a small but growing idea of geocentrism, where the Earth is again at the center of the universe and a universe that is reduced to a sort of tiny fishbowl. I suppose that since the vast time span of the universe is threatening to faith, there is a desire to compress the vast spatial extent of the universe into a small box. I think this just illustrates how religious faith simply gets these things wrong, pretty consistently.

      LC

      • Guest says:

        First of all, thank you for making both time and effort to reply to my post in such detail. While your and my own scientific knowledge clearly aren’t even on the same scale, i still want to comment on a few things you mentioned.

        You wrote that the proposition of a supreme creator is much more complicated to uphold than the proposition of a quantum void with instabilities. My comment/question in this matter is whether it’s possible that the complexity of a supreme creator lies in the fact that it defies both logic and our current knowledge/perception/physical laws and that it doesn’t have to mean that something we can’t see or measure truly isn’t or has never been there?

        Im thinking of all the discoveries progress that science has made over the years that we didnt know were there in the first place. Maybe a faulty example to give here but isnt the higgs boson something similar? We assume its there but it has never been observed? Also, our definition of something being infinite might differ drastically from the definition of the designer (assuming there is one).

        Regarding the fish-bowl, i think the rational human will agree to the fact that
        the earth isn’t 6000yrs old nor is it the center of the universe. However, with that said, for all we know, we could be living in someones armpit where our 10AU is less than the thickness of a human hair because, well, we just dont know (right?).

        I apologize up front if im not making sense but i do hope you understand where i’m coming from and thanks for reading 🙂

      • lcrowell says:

        The idea that religious faith defies reason and our ability to observe is almost a central supposition of religion. Paul in his Epistle to the Hebrews writes that faith is the evidence of things not seen. The problem is that this ultimately comes down to magical thinking. I can’t disprove the idea that the universe was created 6000 years ago with all the appearance of an ancient origin. In fact I can’t disprove it was created 10 minutes ago with all our memories and evidence of our history created along with that. Yet these are not effective postulates for there is nothing we observe that supports their validity. Further, these assumptions do nothing to increase our understanding of the universe. They can only exist to support a theological proposition. The same would hold for any argument for supernatural events that are presumed to underlie observed reality, or events that are considered miraculous and supernatural.

        The Higgs particle is of course not directly observed. It exists for 10^{-25} seconds and if I multiply this by the speed of light, where at high energy it is moving close to that speed, it only travels a distance of 3×10^{10}cm/sec x 10^{-25}sec = 3×10^{-15}cm. This is 1/100th the radius of a proton. So we detect it through the other particles it decays into. How this is worked out is a complicated business, and to understand this in depth it is advised to pursue physics to the doctoral level, and maybe do a thesis on this topic.

        LC

      • The Latinist says:

        Thank you for this excellent summary of the argument against the God of the Gaps. Certainly anything that we don’t fully understand could be caused by some magical being using supernatural means; but every phenomenon we have ever been able to understand has been found to conform to predictable natural laws and not to be the product of supernatural forces. To speculate that there is a supernatural force underlying those natural laws is pointless in that it does not give us any additional information to improve our understanding.

      • Very good reply post. It highlights how important and indeed amazing science, particularly physics, is…

      • Very good post. It ties in with Karl Popper’s theory of falsification.. I could go on but it might get boring!. And as you say, many people believe that if something (e.g. the existence of a god/s) can be proven/unproven, a definite conclusion can be arrived at, but this belief is based on our knowledge base/logic/perception/physical laws .. certainly creates a lot of food for thought..

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      I don’t think analysing religion is something scientists, or science blogs, should promote.

      On the other hand it is a vital part of science, and science blogs, to provide society with empirical knowledge and related services. If atheism is an observation of science, or religion is cumbersome for society, it is vital that scientists act accordingly as in everything else.

      _Especially_, I would say, when we all know that religion ask for special pleading, to be treated differently. That in itself is a dangerous idea when applied most anywhere.

      And the fact is that we know religion doesn’t work to predict what we see. Indirectly for centuries ever since we could start to compare with science. And directly since the 70’s-80’s when we could generally test that magic (locally breaking energy conservation) doesn’t work.

      At the same time it became evident that magic is neither necessary nor very likely to constitute universes, they can most easily emerge spontaneous out of physical laws. (Hawking et al.) And in the last decade it has became evident that magic is neither necessary nor very likely to constitute physical laws, they can most easily emerge spontaneously out of inflation. (Susskind et al.)

      Thus the last gap for magic was closed. That there are no gods or other kinds of magic is an observation, and if you call that “atheism” so be it. Then nature is atheistic. [shrugs]

  13. Vyas Chady says:

    The purpose of the universe is to create another universe.

  14. zkank says:

    How the hell do you see arrogance?!

    I saw humility.

  15. Dav_Daddy says:

    IIRC I read an article on physorg not too long ago where some scientists were looking at something like the CMB or dark matter/galaxy distribution in an attempt to rule out the hypothesis than none of us really exist or are we really just variables running in some type of simulation.

    Once again IIRC the results were inconclusive and they were unable to rule out that we are just a simulation being run in a computer.

    Wry about the lack of links but I’ve had a long day, it’s 4AM and I think the whole thing is a rather silly pointless exercise.

  16. katesisco says:

    Does the universe have a purpose? The universe purpose is the same as the purpose of the smallest scale. We do not know if that has been found. If it is the quantum world, then the purpose is organization.

  17. Olaf2 says:

    Why on earth would someone or something need a purpose to do the things he does?
    You can have a perfectly good and interesting life without need of a purpose.
    The purpose thing is such an overhyped word.

  18. zubilon says:

    Purpose is an invention of the human mind. The universe did not give rise to us with any purpose, though it may have evolved us to perform a function. (There is a difference between purpose and function.) Human consciousness is not required for the universe to operate (i.e. to collapse wave functions as icrowell might say) since it managed to get along without us until now. But here’s where it gets interesting —» We are not separate from the universe: on a quantum scale we are made of exactly the same stuff as everything else. The quarks, leptons, exchange particles (and fields) that constitute our brains do not have a special quality. On this scale, each of us merges with the universe — like drops of water merge with the sea. So you could effectively argue that consciousness is an integral part of the universe, though on a very small and local scale (as far as we currently know). The question is: Are we nature’s way of “knowing” itself?

    • Torbjörn Larsson says:

      The problem here is that evolution has no global target. So we know that we haven’t evolved against anything beyond fitness, and fitness is a merely a measure of differential reproduction. In other words we evolve because we can.

  19. There is no end to creation because all that we are is in the mind of the Creator, so is the Universe. To ask if the Universe has a purpose I will have to say yes it does.

  20. JeffersonWeeps says:

    A classic frame of reference problem – trying to discern larger intent and purpose of the whole from the perspective of a participating component within. I think the intellectually honest answer is that as long as were limited to our human perspective – we can’t know. This is where Heisenberg, Kant, and Kierkegaard all come crashing together. Hence such issues being in the realm of faith. I recall as a kid in college listening to John Dobson’s comment about the Big Bang – that prior to the existence of measurable space, we have the absence of division. And prior to the existence of measurable time, we have the absence of change. Therefore, from our perspective, the Big Bang event originated out of the changeless and the undivided, which is long way from ‘nothing’. That’s still based on our human frame of reference, but it’s the farthest that I’ve been able to take this question with any epistemological certitude.

  21. why was seth rogen doing the voice of neil degrasse tyson?

  22. Rick Holcomb says:

    I don’t mean to be arrogant but I will say that I’m quite certain all of the Earth’s religions, christanity, islam, jewdism, hindu, etcetera, are totally dangerous bull. Responsible for more misery on Earth than is comprehensible.
    But speaking of comprehensible, I’m fond of the quote: ‘Reality is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we CAN imagine’. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying to discover the basics of our universe, just that we should be open to surprise.

  23. Taxario_resident says:

    Beer is the answer.

  24. Francisco Germán says:

    Es difícil saber si existe un propósito. Uno se inclinaría hacia el “no”, pero existen otras consideraciones.

    Una almeja, en un criadero, tiene como propósito crear una perla que será lucida en un collar.

    Una mariquita, en un cultivo, tiene como propósito controlar una plaga.

    El ganado tiene como propósito alimentarnos.

    Ninguno de estos seres tiene la capacidad de preguntarse o plantearse cuál es su propósito, o si el universo tiene un propósito, pero si la tuvieran, serían incapaces de dar una respuesta con los medios con los que cuentan. Hay un espacio increiblemente vasto a su alrededor, lleno de interrelaciones que, sencillamente, no comprenden.

    En el video se dice que nuestra especie ha existido durante un 0.0001% de la vida del universo, no sería en exeso arrogante la idea de que siendo tan jóvenes como especie, pretendamos saber EXACTAMENTE qué es lo que sucede?

  25. hilly1963 says:

    We exist because of the same reason bacteria is in your poep, because we can, everything works on the same principle throughout the universe. As such, if a purpose can exist it will, currently we do not like religions, but they exist for the same reason we exist, because they can.

  26. Torbjörn Larsson says:

    I think the religious Templeton Foundation is trying to insert its religion into science.

    Based on observations, language capable species are labeling their intentional behaviors as “having purpose”. They make their own purpose as they see fit.

    Obviously then the world can neither lend purpose to such species nor have a purpose of its own.

  27. DarkGnat says:

    As we know so little of the universe, we cannot determine if it has purpose or not. We can only make educated guesses, and that assuming we’ve been looking in the right places with the right tools. We could be wrong about everything, which is why science should never stop searching.

    Is there a supreme being or creator? Maybe, maybe not.
    Even if there was, would we even be able to understand or even observe
    it?

    The best answer to me is:

    The universe has a purpose if you want it to.

  28. Alanator says:

    Way to early in our existence, to answer that question!

  29. Paul Mayo says:

    I believe the purpose of the Universe is to create life and we (the human race) are the result of what the universe is “designed” to do.

  30. Mike says:

    Wouldn’t it be something in the future to learn that the Universe itself is intelligent in its own way? Everything seems pretty orderly.

  31. The Latinist says:

    Wow. I apologize for that. I was working on my iPhone, and apparently somehow made copypasta out of myself. I have fixed that problem.

    As for your second point, it is not so much that I associate “free” with “collective” as that I believe any will, collective or individual, must be free (that is, undetermined). Assuming as I do that no outside consciousness is giving purpose to our lives, for our lives to have ‘purpose’ our own will (either collectively or individually) must be free. For “humanity” to have a collective purpose as I think Nancy was suggesting, moreover, I think that there must be some collective will to give it that collective purpose; our individual purposes would not necessarily add up to a collective purpose.

  32. Encore Sur Terre says:

    I’ll answer that with a question to ponder over. How much do we know about everything there is to know about this Universe?

    Why discount the possibility and be as those that thought the world was flat because their knowledge of the earth was as limited as ours is of the Universe.
    The only thing I know for sure is that man’s arrogance knows no bounds.

  33. disqus_LzZ4ALMFit says:

    Everybody has something to say about the purpose of life. He mentions “religious” types of people and, in a way, belittles them saying how they only think the purpose of life is to serve God while they are here on earth. Then mentions how our bodies work. i do believe without God, our bodies would not even work the way they do. We may not even exist they way we do. The video was informative but not my favorite.

  34. Peristroika says:

    The universe simply is. However, WE have a purpose and until we know that there are other self-aware, sentient beings other than ourselves, than we are and shall remain the universe’s consciousness, it’s awareness of itself since we are a property and a creation thereof. But if it did have a purpose, then I think it would be to become aware, to know itself through the evolution of the products of its infinite probabilities.

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