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Photograph by Jose M. Moulder.

When you look at the world today, you might find it difficult to be optimistic. When you see the hate and ignorance so widespread in our communities, or the deterioration of our environment, you might feel rather powerless. America, supposedly indivisible, seems hopelessly divided. With its leadership in disarray and its people in discord, our country is broken, and so is the culture of reason and compassion that made it great. 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. Several years ago, I felt this same sense of hopelessness and disillusionment. But instead of falling into apathy, I began to think about the nature of my existence. With deep discontent and open-minded curiosity, I searched for hope when it seemed like there was none.

Note: here is a condensed, 9,000-word summary of my philosophy.

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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 trillions upon trillions of molecules that continue your collective being. If such harmony can exist at the quantum level, then perhaps nature—human nature—has allowed for such harmony at the conscious level.”

About 37 trillion cells make up the human body. 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 nothing but several billion billion billion atoms that are continuously 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 a neutron star, the crushed ultra-dense core of the supernova. Photo by NASA/ESA‘s Hubble Space Telescope.

Life is beautiful because it represents order in a universe of disorder. 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.

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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 would return and rule the Earth within this 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.

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

The following could be the answer to life’s deepest questions and the solution to the world’s greatest problems. And so far, my argument has proven to be logically sound and intuitively profound; atheists and evangelicals alike have come to embrace these conclusions. 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 moment 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 with the potential of unifying humankind. This is the most sensible meaning 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
Images in this blog are not my property. If you would like any image credited or removed, or if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please comment below or contact me at iftruthexists@gmail.com.

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