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When you look at the world today, you might find it difficult to be optimistic. When you see the hate and ignorance so widespread, or the deterioration of our natural environment, you might feel rather powerless. Humanity seems divided beyond any hope of the unity that we so desperately need. We can complain on social media, march in protest, or pray for some divine intervention, but there isn’t much else we can do about our dissatisfaction with the world—or the existential threats we face. If you’re a realist, it might seem easier to give up, to despair at humanity and grow indifferent towards life. I felt this same sense of discouragement when I left the Christian faith. But instead of falling into apathy, I began to wonder if there was more to life. With deep discontent and open-minded curiosity, I searched for hope when it seemed like there was none. And I found, from my fascination with biology, a hope unlike any other: if such harmony can exist at the chemical level, then perhaps nature—human nature—has allowed for such harmony at the conscious level. Maybe there is a way to emulate, from the brokenness of humanity, the beauty of biology.

Click here for a 9,000-word summary of Part 1: The Truth

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Micrograph of the neurons in a mouse’s hippocampus, a part of the mammalian brain that is critical for learning and memory. Image source: Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century, by Carl Schoonover.

Your mind is the result of 100 billion neurons communicating over 100 trillion synapses. Your body is not a single entity, but tens of trillions of cells that continue your collective being. At every moment, each cell performs a multitude of chemical reactions that result in the beating of your heart or the creation of your next conscious thought. A person is a bunch of atoms that are making and breaking electric bonds. We are nothing but particles following the same physical laws as those of an exploding supernova.

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The Crab Nebula is the remnant of a star’s supernova explosion recorded by Chinese astronomers in the year 1054 AD. Orange filaments of hydrogen gas surround the bluish glow of electrons whirling around the Crab Pulsar, a neutron star that rotates about thirty times per second. Photo by NASA/ESA‘s Hubble Space Telescope.

“We humans… who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the Cosmos, have begun to wonder about our origins. [We are] starstuff pondering the stars; organized assemblages of ten billion billion billion atoms considering the evolution of atoms; tracing the long journey by which, here at last, consciousness arose. We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.” – Carl Sagan

Life is beautiful because it represents order in a universe of disorder. And for us, it represents a universe that is conscious of itself, an existence that can discover its own laws, explore its own depths, and appreciate its own magnificence. One cell, four billion years ago, has grown into a system that blankets the planet from the highest peak to the deepest trench, a system so aware that it knows the age of its existence and so powerful that it can extract the energy from an atom’s nucleus.

Image source: Glassbrain Flythrough 2015, a real-time visualization of electrical activity in the human brain by the Neuroscape Lab at UCSF.

But why? Why is there something rather than nothing? How do we make sense of our reality—of the Universe, of the mind, and of human nature? Perhaps you think we exist in a multiverse, and everything is chance. Or maybe you believe, like I did, that Christ will return and rule the Earth within our lifetime. Whatever your preconceived notions may be, my goal is not to change your mind, but to open your mind. My intention is not to make you think that I am right, but to make you think, for yourself, about your existence. Because as I see it, here’s the reality: the progress of humankind is now dependent on our ability to put aside our frustration and bitterness, to look past our short-sightedness, and to engage ourselves with the broader picture of what it means to be human—if it means anything at all.

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Cell division. Image Source.

The following could be the answer to our deepest questions and the solution to our greatest problems. This may be the purpose of human existence, and I have not yet found a reason for my conclusions to be false—atheists and evangelicals alike have felt drawn to this idea. But as compelling as this reality may be, all minds are predisposed to find meaningful patterns where there are none. Thus, my philosophy is not fixed but evolving with the progression of knowledge. With trial and error, my worldview now will develop until the day I die. As Charles Darwin said, “freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds which follows from the advance of science.”

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.” – Richard Feynman

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The Cat’s Eye Nebula (3,262 l.y. away). Image source: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Given human nature, this is the only idea that might unify humankind. This is the most sensible meaning to be found in our small and fragile existence, the most logical worldview that satisfies our religious intuitions, which so adamantly claim that we are more than some vain cosmic accident. This is the only reason to think that we are part of something worth loving—that our existence is something worth preserving. And this is a reality that every intelligent being must realize, if its being is to be continued beyond a pale blue dot.

This is the truth, if such a truth exists.


Next:   A Pale Blue Dot   |   CONTENTS   |   ABOUT   |   ALL OF THE ABOVE
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