Meaning of Life

“… Atheism faces an almost identical scandal today. We’ve been sucked into a silly argument that has no answer, one that should never have been asked in the first place. But we’ve been sucked into it, and it has become the Scandal of Atheism. The question is deceptively simple:
What is the meaning of life?

The Scandal of Atheism is not that we’ve been unable to find a godless answer to this question, but that we keep trying to find meaning, again and again.”

Life is good. Enjoy it, and don’t keep looking for meaning that’s not there.


I disagree. Lang walks, healthy eating, it is only means. The motto “a healthy mind in a healthy body, pursuing and manifesting what it loves, is the meaning of life” is good but unsatisfactory.
Talking about Universe’s heat death after some billion years, of course, is based on GR model and nobody can deny this. But I would object that we have some 10 or more billion years of Sun’s life for development of unimaginable complexity, based on Homo sapiens model we have (we are now). In some hundred million years evolution has created and developed animals, our human achievements are created in some thousand years, this time is very short compared to the time before us. I want to say that, if we manage not to destroy ourselves in this or next century (Martin Rees has evaluated the probability = 0.5), we have before us unimaginable possibilities:
1. Transfer our minds, our consciousness to contemporary computers – robots. There doesn’t seem to be any physical impossibilities or laws, preventing us to do so. On a big scale, I dare to think, we already know what consciousness is and how to create it in robots. An article about consciousness in new intelligent controllers see
2. Transfer our values and emotions to robots. It doesn’t seem that we have enough knowledge in order to create emotions in robots today, but I don’t see principal obstacles for this. These beings will replace our biologically inherited tendencies demanding to secure survival of individual by more progressive tendencies demanding survival of population and society. Remember what Eistein said about our thinking and problems.
3. As a result new beings Homo roboticus will come on the stage, they will surpass us in many branches: speed of information processing, ability to solve complex tasks and so called ‘global problems’ we are unable to solve today, and ability to reprogram ourselves.
4. After these new beings make their reproduction, Homo sapiens will go off the scene and Homo roboticus will attain unrestricted lifespan, something we call immortality. In order to calculate the probability of this change we can create the formula similar to Drake’s.
Time for doing this is more than necessary – remaining Sun’s life is some billion years. In this time Homo roboticus will learn to create other universes and how to pass the information created in our Universe. In short – how to pass the possibility for matter to get conscious of itself.
Today, knowing the counted possibilities, we can have a sense of life, differing from mentioned usually. Our individual feeling about unavoidable death is insignificant and inessential. The feeling, “when  we die, everything will disappear”, is an illusion created by our brain. The big and essential part of every individual’s brain content (the ‘soul’) will proceed living in other peoples brains. Nobody can deny that he or she is living with the information inherited from parents and cultural environment. In other words, we do live ‘eternally’ (in the time range of population existence) already now. But we do not feel that because evolution has created a more important survival mechanism – the global, all-embracing fear from death. This is why we do feel – if I die, everything is lost. I.V.

The comfort offered by religion comes with a price, which is what might correspond to the falseness of it.  The comfort of religion is eternity, but the purchase or bargain one must make for eternity puts weighty importance on what one does in this temporal world.  What a believer believes or thinks or does can have enormous eschatological significance with that person’s relationship to eternal existence.  So behind that sense of comfort can be a nagging angst, such as given in the passage in the Gospel of Mathew (Ch7 if I recall) about how though you may have believed and worked in My (My = Jesus) name when the kingdom comes I will not know you.

The universe is vast, and the region we observe is just one patch of it all.  We human could be compared to ants living under their little hill, our planet, which can look outwards and see the vastness of the world beyond.  It is all temporal and in the end all observers in the universe are finite.  We are just one unique happenstance of this, where the nearest ETI might be a hundred million light years distant.  It is not possible to empirically determine if there is some role for such observers, but we can say with some confidence there is no eternal or infinite gambit that we must play out here.  The universe is ultimately pitiless, and it will all increase local entropy so that by 10^{110} years the last black holes decay and all is reduced to a de Sitter vacuum that in turn decays into a complete void in an infinite time period (though in a finite conformal time).

The lifting of this burden does mean that one accepts that one dies, humanity will pass away, and in the end there is no little reason to think that our thoughts or actions are some determinant which influences an infinite time forwards.  One then accepts the reality that they are just a part of this vast network of life, complexity that manifests itself in the universe.

Not that I disagree with any of these comments, but I see a couple rays of hope.

First, when we look at the difference in animal life, say a paramecium v. an alligator v. a human astronomer, we might project that although we have some answers and we see some stark limitations in the future, our descendants…human and transhuman and beyond, may be able to discover much more and grapple with more limitations.  A race of Earth-bound alligators could not fly to the moon, but we did.  And so our transhuman descendants might build Dyson spheres, machines and civilizations beyond what we dare to imagine.  This reveals my prejudice in favor of more civilization. I enjoy granola and Nature as much as the next dirt-munching treehugger, but to paraphrase Richard Martin, author of ‘Super Fuel’, I like being able to fly halfway around the world in a day…in short, I strongly prefer high-energy, high-tech civilization.  I’m violently opposed to, say, the Taliban, who want to drag us all back into the hardscrabble desert nomad life their cult leader lived 1400 years ago.  Only higher tech, higher energy civilization will breed the kind of descendants I’m hoping for.

Second, after pretty darned good descriptions of reality (thanks Vic and the List), and pretty good predictions (which we don’t have), and a bit more control, I find myself needing a little more art in life.  I spend more time looking for, contemplating, and appreciating beauty.  That Philadelphia tight end who jumped clear over the Raven a couple days ago…good example, like last years (who was it?) flip over a safety into the end zone ….pure art.  Most of us here are word and language and equation people – there’s another opportunity to find and appreciate – le mot juste, the best turn of phrase, the beautiful equation.  And, take Florence…Vic can appreciate Niccolo Niccoli’s manuscript, which only a relative few can appreciate the beauty and depth of, while I can’t get entrance to the Laurentian, I can get a different kind of appreciation from the chalk artists on the streets outside.  We all are, after all, as Joni Mitchell puts it, only chalk marks in a rainstorm.  And I look for the unsung heroes that are all around us going un-noticed.  The beauty is there, the heroes are there, if we practice being open and alert enough to see them.  All this is religion-independent.

I spent a little time on stage.  There are few better feelings than to perform well for a large audience.  But as all performers know, our time on stage is so very brief, that doing the best we can there takes all of our concentration – but it turns out to be a worthy way to spend the little life we have.  This goes for all stages, however large or small, in town or far away, even when there is only one big spotlight in the morning sky, there is no audience except family and friends, and the stage is covered in green grass. Jim Wyman

I am rather skeptical of future-sci ideas of this sort.  To be honest I think if we start trying to augment ourselves or make ourselves into trans-humans that we will screw it up.  I think chances are very good that genetically engineered humans will suffer from weaknesses similar to plants and animals that we hybridize or genetically modify.  I think it is likely that information technology will increasingly integrate into our bodies and eventually our brains, but I also think these enhancements will do little to improve our long term survival.  If anything they may so utterly disconnect us from the natural world that we end up in a very vulnerable situation.  The future of humans in space is not looking very good either, and really far out ideas about terraforming planets I think are very improbable.  Mars is about as close to Earth as any other planet in the solar system.  Yet the atmosphere is 1/100 th that of Earths, the regolith is filled with perchlorate compounds and average temperatures are arctic.  Perchlorates make the environment toxic; think of trying to water your garden with bleach to imagine what the biological implications are.  The magnitude of an effort to convert Mars to an Earth-like planet would enormous.

A long tern future continuation of humanity in space may be with nano-bot von Neuman probes that replicate and have some mechanism to evolve over time.  These might over millions of years populate the solar system, particularly asteroids and weak gravitating objects, with a sort of ecosystem.  This might then in tens of millions of years migrate and evolve through the galaxy.  This could then form a sort of galactic eco-system of life-like entities, where maybe intelligence might emerge.  This is also a bit far out, but it seems more plausible than standard ideas of planetary colonization or star federations and the like.  I strongly suspect that even if this happens that our species will have long since died out before something like this forms a galactic network or eco(like) system spanning across thousand of light years.

I never understood the logic of Dyson spheres.  An elementary calculation done in electromagnetism courses is to consider a charge inside a spherical conducting shell or a shell with charge.  The average potential inside is constant, so the force on the shell is zero.  The same thing holds for a mass surrounded by a shell of mass.  So a Dyson sphere that encloses a star has no gravitational force that anchors it to the star.  As a result any perturbation on the shell will cause it to drift relative to the star and the star will burn its way through the shell.  In fact this is what prompted interest in anti-de Sitter spaces.  This is a space that within a conformal boundary can contain a black hole.  A shell or box can’t contain another gravitating body “eternally.”

Life is but a walking shadow.
A poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more
It’s a tale told by an idiot
Full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.


“These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air,
And, like the baseless fabric of vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with sleep.”
William Shakespeare, The Tempest, 4.1
Elementary particles: the dreams that stuff is made of.
Vic Stenger

Beverly Scofield


About basicrulesoflife

Year 1935. Interests: Contemporary society problems, quality of life, happiness, understanding and changing ourselves - everything based on scientific evidence.
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