Does the Universe Have a Purpose?

by Nancy Atkinson on November 28, 2012

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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?

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

TheVeganarchist November 28, 2012 at 3:28 PM

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

Rick Holcomb November 28, 2012 at 3:56 PM

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.

Taxario_resident November 28, 2012 at 5:41 PM

Beer is the answer.

Francisco Germán November 28, 2012 at 7:23 PM

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?

hilly1963 November 28, 2012 at 7:52 PM

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.

Torbjörn Larsson November 28, 2012 at 9:05 PM

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.

DarkGnat November 28, 2012 at 9:13 PM

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.

Torbjörn Larsson November 28, 2012 at 9:19 PM

Define “purpose”. It is very easy to observe that it is a social construct.

Alanator November 28, 2012 at 10:01 PM

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

Paul Mayo November 29, 2012 at 12:13 AM

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.

TheVeganarchist November 29, 2012 at 4:34 AM

ecce homo deleterious!

Mike November 29, 2012 at 12:17 AM

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

The Latinist November 29, 2012 at 3:25 PM

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.

Encore Sur Terre December 2, 2012 at 4:29 AM

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.

disqus_LzZ4ALMFit December 3, 2012 at 1:32 AM

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.

Peristroika December 4, 2012 at 3:33 AM

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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