This is a summary of Section I. My philosophy.
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 my attempt to convince the world that we are part of something worth loving—that our existence is something worth preserving. And this is a truth 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.
The following could be the answer to life’s deepest questions and the solution to the world’s greatest problems. And so far, I’ve found my argument to be inarguable. Atheists and evangelicals alike have come to agree with my conclusions. Nonetheless, 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.”
My philosophy, Part 1: Human nature
The following is summarized from: A pale blue dot.
Pale Blue Dot is the most distant photograph ever taken of the Earth, a tiny speck caught in a beam of scattered sunlight. At the request of astronomer Carl Sagan, it was captured by NASA’s Voyager 1 from 4 billion miles away. Sagan reflected on this image in a lecture at Cornell University: “In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”
How do we comfort the migrant who fears for her safety, or the father who can’t feed his family? How do we stop the moral decline of a nation lead by greed and bigotry, or the intellectual regress of a post-truth society? The distrust and the despair are widespread. Around the world, we see a species that is anxious, addicted, and depressed. We see divisions of class and culture that seem irreparable, and imbalances of wealth and education that threaten the stability of nations across the globe. And with our economic growth fueled by a dying planet, the status quo is surely unsustainable. If our societal troubles don’t spell the end of civilization, then a collapsed ecosystem certainly will.
Whether it be ISIS or climate change or systemic racism, we often isolate our issues as individual problems to be solved. But really they reflect a more serious condition: a lack of awareness. In the words of Leonardo da Vinci, we must “realize that everything connects to everything else.” We can no longer approach our separate problems with narrow solutions, because the issues we face are no longer just about the comfort of our society. They are now about the survival of our species—the extinction of our children and grandchildren. Just consider: we have 15,000 nuclear warheads between nine countries. In our blissful ignorance, we have maybe caused the sixth mass extinction since life evolved on land.
And here we are, a society driven by self-interest but devoid of significance—a generation without purpose, lost in a mess created by our forefathers but too hopeless to clean it up. We have inherited the seemingly impossible task of saving the human race. So unfortunately, the fix won’t be as easy as reducing emissions or making the rich pay more taxes. The solution will take more than a public policy or a piece of technology. It will take the shift of a global mindset, the transformation of a culture broken by apathy and despair. It will take an idea unlike any other.
“Extinction is the rule.
Survival is the exception.”
– Carl Sagan
Sooner or later, our existence will be threatened. And every member of our species will be forced to stop and contemplate the nature of our reality. We will reconsider all that we hold true, from the hopeful claims of religion to the materialistic assumptions of science. We will search for a reason to cherish the life we deem so precious. Because if we want to exist, then we must care about our existence. If we claim to be an intelligent species, then it’s time we start thinking like one.
The following is summarized from: The sentient mind.
The existence of every living system depends on the coordination of its components. As the survival of the body depends on trillions of cells, the survival of the human system will require the cooperation of several billion minds. In the words of Jesus Christ and Abraham Lincoln, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” But how in the world do we get seven billion people to work together?
From concepts of heaven to ideals of utopia, we have long dreamed of a perfect society. And in these fantasies, one thing has been altered: human nature. Scholars have for millennia concluded that our nature is incompatible with any ideal society. And today, things certainly haven’t improved. Whether it be anti-vaxxers or climate change deniers, we are a species persuaded by meaning rather than by evidence. We are short-sighted, too worried about our comfort to care about our survival. We are inherently selfish, and cooperation is impossible. But though we may despair, there is a solution that many have overlooked: human nature, as hopeless as it seems, is our only hope.
Premise: Human nature is a given. If it’s not something we can change, then it’s something we must use—and this is the only rational way to use it. The following axioms are assumed based on both their logical plausibility and their practical utility for the survival of our species.
We all have distorted perceptions of reality. Every mind is patterned to think in ways that produce inaccurate judgements and irrational behavior. In the last six decades, nearly 200 cognitive biases have been identified from research on human judgment and decision-making. And among these biases, one theme seems to dominate: for the mass majority, emotion defines reason—not the other way around.
Despite differences in culture and language, research indicates that both the neural encoding and physical experience of our emotions are remarkably consistent across different populations. Shown above, feelings increase (yellow) or decrease (blue) sensation in different areas of the body.
“Human beings have a demonstrated talent for self-deception when their emotions are stirred.” – Carl Sagan
Emotion is how the mind assigns meaning and value to every conscious experience. Emotion drives our most pronounced behaviors and sustains our most powerful beliefs. Emotion alters our perception of reality and the scope of our morality. The truth is, our species is not as intelligent as sentient; human nature suggests that the intellectual alignment of our species is dependent first on a common emotional state.
A global cooperation, then, would require a love that eliminates hate, a pride and happiness that includes every inhabitant of this planet. But these states of the sentient mind are, in nearly every circumstance, bound to a sense of purpose. And the greater the purpose, the more compelling the emotion, and the more powerful the unity. This principle of human nature is perhaps best illustrated by the religious mind and its craving for relevance.
“The deepest principle in human nature
is the craving to be appreciated.”
– William James
Reflecting upon our nature, I realized that the mind is a system that can be hacked by ideas that align our emotions towards a shared purpose (axiom 1). In this era of science, unifying humankind requires an idea that is both objectively reasonable and universally meaningful, both logically sound and spiritually profound. This idea must be bigger than any political platform, economic incentive, or religious belief. It must define a purpose towards which all emotions can be aligned, inspiring a moral cooperation that is unparalleled in human history.
“We have broadened the circle of those we love. But if we are to survive, our loyalties must be broadened further, to include the whole human community, the entire planet Earth.” – Carl Sagan
Our morality is limited by the extent of our emotion, and our unity by the scope of our purpose. If there is any optimism for mankind, any chance of unifying our species, then it remains in the possibility that our existence is, in fact, bound with a greater purpose. If we are to survive, then we must find an aim that is above ourselves and beyond our lifespans. Because human nature, as hopeless as it seems, is our only hope.
The following is summarized from Scientists & sociopaths.
Presently, our world is run by politicians and financiers, many of whom exhibit traits of sociopathy and narcissism. Power seems to be held by those who have ruined society with their selfish endeavors. However, I think few of them are truly evil. Because even the sociopath has a desire to belong. Like everyone else, he wants to exist, and he certainly doesn’t want to exist alone. Though his love may be limited, he is generally prone to care for his closest companions. The vast majority of individuals have, in some degree, a mutual respect for our shared existence. For the unemotional, this circle of loyalty is small, and it narrows even more with power or wealth. But if this circle can’t be widened through compassion, then perhaps it can be widened through reason.
“The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.”
– Bertrand Russell
The powerful may fail to see the utility in cooperation, but they are surely the minority. And though they stand at the top of society, it is innovation that feeds the roots of every industry, and science that upholds every facet of our civilization. Clearly, the true potential of our species remains not with the short-sighted ends of the greedy, but with the thinkers who work for the broader visions of mankind. If there is to be an ideological revolution, a global cooperation, then it must begin with those who are capable of embracing a cosmic perspective.
“For peace to reign on Earth, humans must evolve into new beings who have learned to see the whole first.” – Immanuel Kant
“The power [of science] forces on all of us, including politicians, a new responsibility—more attention to long-term consequences, a global and trans-generational perspective, an incentive to avoid easy appeals to nationalism and chauvinism. Mistakes are becoming too expensive.” – Carl Sagan
“You can’t have people making decisions about the future of the world who are scientifically illiterate. That’s a recipe for disaster.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
The Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland is the world’s largest machine, built in collaboration with over 10,000 scientists and engineers from more than 100 countries.
“Science is international but its success is based on institutions, which are owned by nations. If we wish to promote culture, we have to combine and organize institutions with our own power and means.” – Albert Einstein
The ALMA array in Chile is the world’s most complex telescope and largest astronomical project, built in collaboration with the scientific communities of Asia, Europe and North America. Photo by ESO/José Francisco Salgado.
“Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.” – Louis Pasteur
If humanity is to survive, then we must mobilize the intellectual community to take its place as the head of the human system. We need an agreement among the thinkers who will ultimately guide the future of our species. But such a unity seems unlikely given the many ideological differences among our academics. Of particular concern is the pervasiveness of our nihilistic assumptions: everything is chance, there is no purpose, and we may as well be nonexistent. These are dangerous ideas because, as Steven Pinker notes, “pessimism can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.” If we cannot let go of extinction, then we doom ourselves to extinction. If we fail to hope, then we will remain hopeless.
“I believe, indeed, that overemphasis on the purely intellectual attitude has led directly to the impairment of ethical values. Without ethical culture, there is no salvation for humanity… A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.” – Albert Einstein
For this reason, my argument is directed towards an academic audience. But these ideas are meant to give everyone a sense of purpose, and you don’t have to be very smart to understand this discussion. Many have found these concepts to be both simple and intuitive. And should you care about injustices or inequalities of any kind, then realize that our moral progress is bound to our intellectual progress. In fact, the Enlightenment ideals of liberty and equality were born largely from the critical reasoning advanced by the Scientific Revolution. Together, these movements formed the moral and intellectual foundations of Western Civilization. But if our progress is to continue, then we need another movement, one that stirs every scholar and humanitarian around the world. We need a spiritual revival that makes practical use of the compassion and altruism potentiated by every major faith. But unlike other religious awakenings, this one must begin with the intellectual mind.
The following is summarized from Two trillion galaxies.
The Hubble Ultra-Deep Field is an image of a region of space that is just one thirteen-millionth of the total area of the sky (smaller than a 1 mm by 1 mm square held 1 meter away). An estimated 10,000 galaxies are visible.
Physicists and cosmologists agree that the Universe is “fine-tuned” for life. The laws of science seem to contain many fundamental numbers, and the conditions that allow for life can only occur when these numbers lie within a very narrow range. But many dismiss the significance of this fine-tuning with the anthropic principle: in an infinite multiverse, our universe just happened to have the laws that support the existence of life. This agrees with a materialistic philosophy, which claims that nature has no purpose. From life’s complexity to the mind’s awareness, everything can be explained by a coincidental sequence of physicochemical interactions. Everything is chance, and we are completely irrelevant.
The galaxies in our observable universe are clustered along dark matter filaments that are connected in a cosmic web.
But while nobody can prove that we matter, nobody can prove that we don’t matter. Not even the materialist can claim with absolute certainty that our existence is meaningless, and that our intuition is completely mistaken. The anthropic principle is certainly plausible—but it hinges on a hypothetical multiverse that is currently unverifiable. And while the reality of other universes might be interesting to ponder, there is a reality that we cannot ignore: the healthy mind is inclined to consider itself relevant, and its vitality is rooted in purpose.
“If there is any optimism for mankind, any chance of unifying our species, then it remains in the possibility that our existence is, in fact, bound with a greater purpose.” When you consider the fact that 85% of the world is religious—a figure that is expected to rise—you realize that our materialistic speculations will be of no benefit to our species. Because of human nature and its teleological inclinations, concepts that impart an existential objective will be the most useful for the preservation of mankind.
“We must mobilize the intellectual community to take its place as the head of the human system. We need an agreement among the thinkers who will ultimately guide the future of our species.“ But intellectuals and imbeciles alike are driven by this principle of human nature—cooperation requires a unifying objective. Scientists and sociopaths, like everyone else, will not work together without a reason to. And since we cannot prove the absence of purpose, it would be wise for us to assume a purpose that agrees with both logic and intuition.
“[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
Even if we exist in a multiverse, the anthropic principle does not preclude the possibility that our universe has become aware for a reason. Just because our existence is lucky does not mean it is necessarily trivial. While the human species is coincidental, human nature may represent a universal tendency found in the development of all sentient beings. Any higher consciousness that arises will consider its existence meaningful, and its intelligence will be bound with an emotional purpose. Maybe our intuition tells us we matter because we do, in fact, matter. In the interest of our survival, this idea is worth considering.
The following is summarized from: Eternal relevance.
Hardwired into our brains, our religious behavior likely began as intentional burials over 100,000 years ago. As Philip Lieberman suggests, burials signify a “concern for the dead that transcends daily life.” However, new evidence might indicate that our propensity for such behavior is more deeply seeded in our evolutionary past. Even more, we may not be the only species with a concept of mortality—death rituals have been observed in elephants, dolphins, primates, and birds. These animals also display the greatest capacity for cognition, emotion, and complex social and moral behavior.
The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness: “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states [or] intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”
Consciousness has developed independently in different branches of the evolutionary tree. In particular, birds offer a striking case of parallel evolution in their behavior, neurophysiology, and neuroanatomy. Although the lineage of birds and mammals diverged about 320 million years ago, the emotional and cognitive networks of their brains “appear to be far more homologous than previously thought.” Parrots and crows exhibit near human-like levels of consciousness and self-recognition. Some birds even have neural sleep patterns like those of mammals, including REM sleep.
Fairness, reciprocity, empathy, cooperation—caring about the well-being of others seems uniquely human. But behavioral research confirms that we share many of these moral traits with other mammals. Dogs feel guilt, rats have empathy, dolphins show compassion, and birds get jealous. On the darker side of human nature, “evil” behaviors are also found throughout the animal kingdom.
Elephants have been observed to return to the remains of their dead, touching and sniffing the body with their feet and trunks. In some cases, the carcass was visited by completely unrelated elephant groups. Thus, researchers have concluded that elephants have a “generalized response to the dead.”
A newly-published film captures the solemn reactions of a group of chimpanzees who discover the dead body of a friend. As in humans, chimps and other primates seem more affected by the death of individuals with whom they have formed meaningful relationships and closer social ties.
“Human nature may represent a universal tendency found in the development of all sentient beings. Any higher consciousness that arises will consider its existence meaningful, and its intelligence will be bound with an emotional purpose.“
If human nature reflects the nature of all sentient life, then spirituality may be tied to higher consciousness. A religious tendency may be an indispensable element of self-awareness. In this case, our beliefs in angels and ghosts are indicative of something more than complete nonsense. By creating the most compelling distortions of reality, our spiritual views reveal the most powerful dispositions of the mind. These views reflect subjective truths, but their underlying parallels may uncover something objective about the nature of consciousness.
Supposing the mind has any purpose, perhaps there is some truth in what the mind believes its purpose to be. Most obviously, we all want to exist. Like any other organism, we are programmed with an innate determination to live. And as the evolving mind became self-aware, it developed a concept of its own existence—and a fear of its nonexistence. Thus, we find comfort in a form of immortality, a continuation of the mind through reincarnation or an afterlife. We want to continue beyond the spacetime boundaries of the Universe. And while some might call this fanciful imagination, most of the world considers this their fate. The mind is inevitably drawn to the idea that its being is just one part of a never-ending sequence. Simply put, we crave eternal relevance.
“There is in this Universe much of what seems to be design. Every time we come upon it, we breathe a sigh of relief. We are forever hoping to find, or at least safely deduce, a Designer. But instead, we repeatedly discover that natural processes… can extract order out of chaos, and deceive us into deducing purpose where there is none… [But] maybe there is one hiding, maddeningly unwilling to be revealed.” – Carl Sagan
My philosophy, Part 2: Our purpose
The complexity of life is one reason why some academics attribute our existence to intelligent design. Because the processes of a cell are overwhelmingly interdependent, the origin of life remains one of the most perplexing mysteries of science. Most theories propose a concrete sequence of events that may have lead to the first cell. Some argue that life began with RNA, while others think that metabolism or lipid protocells arose first. However, in their search for these physical pathways, biologists have overlooked a metaphysical mystery in the emergence of life: a determination to exist.
We all have a desire to exist. Arising with the first cell, this will to survive is a major distinction between living and nonliving matter. Indeed, the origin of life must involve the origin of its purpose—to live. And purpose must involve awareness, because purpose implies intent, and intent demonstrates the presence of a mind. Thus, the very concept of survival requires a determination that can only be explained by a sense of agency. This “struggle for existence” necessitates an intent that may constitute the very beginnings of awareness.
But some argue that this “awareness” and its “purpose” are nothing more than a delusion. Having evolved from nonliving matter, all biological phenomena must be derived from the purposeless laws of nature. Since life is nothing but a coincidental sequence of chemical events, mind and purpose are just confusions of molecular interactions. The metaphysical is just an aimless byproduct of a purely physical system. In other words, your consciousness is an illusion—an illusion that loves, an illusion that laughs, an illusion so self-aware that it has realized itself to be an illusion.
This materialistic assumption, for obvious reasons, remains unverifiable. Besides, its implications are incredibly demoralizing. Explaining our desire to exist as some delusion is a depressing thought, even for the most stable mind. But if the survival instinct isn’t an illusion, then how real is it? Supposing the vitality of life cannot be reduced to—or separated from—its physical properties, then it must be intrinsic to the physical properties themselves. In this case, our will to live may be as real as the ground beneath our feet. Our desire to exist is somehow fundamental to the nature of the Universe.
Maybe the only reason we ask “why do we exist?” is because we want to exist.
And the better question is, “why do we want to exist?”
Evolution is chance, but evolution cannot occur without a replicating entity. Natural selection cannot act without this “struggle for existence,” this self-sustaining tendency that is innate to all of life. But how do self-sustaining molecular systems evolve from interstellar dust? My theory, like any discussion on the origin of life, remains speculative. And while this is unimportant for the remainder of my philosophy, I do think it is an idea worth exploring. Perhaps this existential drive is inherent to our concept of dark energy and time. That is, the propagation of spacetime also perpetuates every oscillation in nature, from the spins of galaxies to the spins of electrons. When these cosmic and quantum cycles intersect, they align and resonate, producing the self-sustaining cycle of chemical energy that we call biological life. Simply put, life is the resonant frequency of the Universe.
Survival is somehow fundamental to the nature of the Universe. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And there is no evidence more convincing than your very own being and its desire to be. Extrapolating this perpetual drive of life to all of nature may seem rather unscientific. But we evolved from nature, and the laws that govern the evolution of life are the same laws that govern the evolution of stars. So when you see life and its struggle for existence, it certainly seems possible that this struggle is innate to existence. Our desire to exist, then, reveals a truth greater than the outcome of any experiment. There is, underlying the laws of nature, a perpetual drive that is most powerfully manifested through life and its awareness. Simply put, nature has one purpose: existence is bound with a tendency to exist; being is bound with a will to be (axiom 2).
“Bottomless wonders spring from simple rules,
which are repeated without end.”
– Benoit Mandelbrot
“Why does something exist rather than nothing? For ‘nothing’ is simpler than ‘something.’ Now this sufficient reason for the existence of the Universe…which has no need of any other reason…must be a necessary being, else we should not have a sufficient reason with which we could stop.” – Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
And just beneath the typed quote,
three small handwritten words in red pen,
a message from Carl Sagan to Leibniz and to us:
The following is summarized from: A cosmic purpose.
What is the purpose of life? As sentient beings, we ask this question in our search for meaning and happiness. As living beings, the answer is simple. The purpose of life has always been, and will always be, survival. If nature has any aim, then it is to perpetuate its existence. And if we have any aim, then it is to perpetuate ours. Thus, we exist to exist, and we live to continue life. There is no greater meaning to our being, and there is no higher purpose for us to realize. Because any reason for existing must, at the very least, involve an existence. There can be no purpose in being without being itself.
Because “we cannot prove the absence of purpose, it would be wise for us to assume a purpose that agrees with both our logic and our intuition.“ Quite beautifully, the only logical purpose in existence—to exist—also happens to satisfy our most visceral instinct: our desire to exist. If our nature reflects the nature of reality, then our struggle for existence reflects existence itself. We want to be because we are meant to be. After all, our religious intuitions claim that we are meant to be forever.
“The mind wants to be, so it considers itself an eternal being. We want to continue beyond the spacetime boundaries of the Universe. While some might call this fanciful imagination, most of the world considers this their fate. The mind is inevitably drawn to the idea that its being is just one part of a never-ending sequence.“ And there is only one logic that can satisfy our longing for eternal relevance. In our search for purpose, I believe that our species will come to one conclusion: we were created to create.
Because the truth is, everything dies. You and everyone you know will die. In three billion years, life on Earth will die. In 8 billion years, the Sun will die. Our galaxy will die, and so might the Universe. But still, the mind considers itself eternal—a sure delusion, but a powerful indication that a reality beyond space and time is no longer inconceivable for the human mind. And because of our intellect, the unthinkable has become thinkable; science has presented mankind with the possibility of an indefinite existence. If we want to survive, then eternal life can no longer remain a religious fantasy; it must now become our cosmic vision. Because we, the created, have become the Creator. We are God becoming self-aware.
“I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.” – Freeman Dyson
The ALMA array in Chile is a collection of 66 antennas that provide unprecedented insight into star birth during the early universe. It is the world’s most complex telescope and largest astronomical project. Photo by ESO/José Francisco Salgado.
“[Reason tells me of the] extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capability of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man.” – Charles Darwin
Perhaps best known for its discovery of the Higgs boson, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland has been critical in advancing our knowledge of quantum physics.
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” – Galileo Galilei
There is no foreseeable end to the evolution of the human mind and the progression of its intelligence. The growth of our knowledge is accelerating. We predict cosmic and quantum phenomena with increasing precision, and manipulate the laws of nature in ways that are inconceivable to the ordinary mind. We expect to find and spread life beyond Earth within a few centuries. We will soon have the ability to edit our own genes, and to guide our own evolution. And we will soon create machines more powerful—minds more intelligent—than ourselves.
We dream of colonizing the galaxy, and of discovering the truth about our origins. As Sagan said, “we are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.” Hence, we may very well be a way for the Cosmos to continue itself. Our ability to reason, to feel, to self-reflect—they aren’t some aimless accident. Rather, our existence evolved to understand and appreciate itself, for the sole purpose of continuing itself. Awareness evolved for the extension of life, in this universe or the next. It could be as simple as colonizing Mars, as complex as creating a big bang, or as grand as expanding the cosmic web.
The Laniakea supercluster, our filament of the cosmic web, was defined by mapping the movements of 8,000 galaxies after subtracting the effects of cosmic expansion.
The Milky Way sits near the divide between the Laniakea and Perseus-Pisces Superclusters. These structures surround a vast region of empty space known as the Local Void.
If we want to survive, then “we must consider the possibility that our being is bound with purpose. Because intellectuals and imbeciles alike are driven by this principle of human nature—cooperation requires a unifying objective. Scientists and sociopaths, like everyone else, will not work together without a reason to.“ And there is only one reason that makes any sense: the purpose of life is to continue life. And if man is relevant, then his purpose is cosmic. So if we want our existence to matter, if we want to continue beyond Earth, then we must assume that the human mind has evolved to spread life. But with a capacity for creation comes an equal capacity for destruction. Should we continue to exist as intelligent and sentient beings, then we have a moral responsibility to understand and to cherish our existence.
“We on Earth have just awakened to the great oceans of space and time from which we have emerged. We are the legacy of 15 billion years of cosmic evolution. Now we have a choice: we can enhance life and come to know the universe that made us, or we can squander our 15 billion-year heritage in meaningless self-destruction.” – Carl Sagan
“It is, surely, our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth.” – Sir David Attenborough
“Our loyalties are to the species and to the planet. Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.” – Carl Sagan
We exist to exist, and we live to continue life. There is no motive as moral and no purpose as noble as this. Because the truth is, life is not a right—no one is entitled to existence. Rather, life is a privilege that comes with an obligation. We are part of something beautiful, and our job is to continue its beauty. It’s time that we, as a species, find our place in the Universe. Maybe there is a reason why man, confined to this pale blue dot, is so drawn to his destiny in the cosmos. As Sagan said, “the sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars.”
The following is summarized from: The religious mind.
Research suggests that religious individuals suppress the brain networks used for analytical reasoning in order to engage the network for empathetic thinking. On the other hand, non-religious individuals tend to suppress their empathetic thinking for analytical reasoning. Nevertheless, both reason and religion are essential to the evolution and continuation of our species. Here’s why.
A great majority of the world identifies with a faith that upholds love and kindness. And for everyone else, these moral virtues are certainly worth respecting. Yet we see corruption, suffering, and perversities of every kind. And with such apparent depravity in our nature, many have given up hope, or reserved their ideals of peace and joy for an afterlife. But if humanity is to survive on planet Earth, then the harmony meant for an afterlife must be realized in this life. “We need a spiritual revival that makes practical use of the compassion and altruism potentiated by every major faith. But unlike other religious awakenings, this one must begin with the intellectual mind.“
A belonging to nature is fundamental to all our spiritual convictions. However, the most widespread beliefs emphasize not only our connection with creation, but also our connection with humanity. In nearly every faith, the ultimate end is a transcendent unity with each other and our origin, whether it be one in Christ or one with the Universe. And at the source of this oneness is a conscious phenomenon that we call love—an alignment of emotions driven by one purpose: to exist, together, forever (axiom 3).
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
– Jesus Christ
“You will never enter paradise until you have faith,
and you will not complete your faith until you love one another.”
– Prophet Muhammad
“God is love; it is the only truth I fully accept.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.
Without them humanity cannot survive.
– Dalai Lama
Our greatest moral leaders all recognized one thing: whatever the truth is, it must involve love. They knew that only love could fix the brokenness of man. That only compassion could change the course of our species. If there is any reason to hope in human nature, it is love. If there is any meaning in life, it is love. Through different beliefs, they reached the same conclusion: love is why we live, and why we want to live forever.
“This is my commandment,
that you love one another as I have loved you.”
– Jesus Christ
If I have learned anything from my faith, it is this: there is no phenomenon more powerful than love. Through its effect on the sentient mind, love is the single most potent sustainer of life. Fortunately, human nature allows nearly every one of us to love; all we need is a reason to. And as shown by religion, we have come up with some very fantastical reasons. Nonetheless, faith underscores the possibility that human nature, with its capacity for evil, holds an even greater potential for good. That our nature allows us to hate, but to love even more.
“A phenomenon like self-transcending love does entitle us to make claims about the human mind. And this particular experience is so well attested and so readily achieved by those who devote themselves to specific [religious] practices or who even take the right drug that there is very little controversy that it exists. Facts of this kind must now be understood in a rational context.” – Sam Harris
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 working together for the continuation of your collective being. If such harmony can be inspired at the quantum level, then perhaps nature—human nature—has allowed for such harmony to be inspired at the conscious level.
At the quantum level, the components of an organism seem bound together by a certain purpose: to continue its collective being. To sustain, in a delicate homeostatic balance, the trace flows of energy throughout its trillions of compartments. To maintain the flux and gradient of every molecular form across every lipid membrane in its assembly. To recreate, through four nitrogenous bases, the precise passing of electrons by every enzyme from conception to death. What holds an organism together at the quantum level manifests itself, at the conscious level, as love—an alignment of emotions towards one purpose: to exist, together, forever. To continue our collective being.
“It is quite possible to lose one’s sense of being a separate self and to experience a kind of boundless, open awareness—to feel, in other words, at one with the cosmos.” – Sam Harris
“For small creatures such as we,
the vastness is bearable only through love.”
– Carl Sagan
“If we are a way for the Cosmos to know itself, then we may certainly be a way for the Cosmos to continue itself. Our ability to reason, to feel, to self-reflect—they aren’t some aimless accident. Rather, our existence evolved to understand and appreciate itself, for the sole purpose of continuing itself.“ That is, consciousness is the highest experience of order continuing order. And at the sentient level, this order is driven by love.
“We love because God first loved us.“
(1 John 4:19)
“Anyone who does not love does not know God,
because God is love.“
(1 John 4:8)
“God is love;
it is the only truth I fully accept.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
“Consciousness is the highest experience of order continuing order. And at the sentient level, this order is driven by love.” Thus, our creation is the manifestation of our Creator’s affection. And now we—the created—have become the Creator. The true realization of this purpose must necessarily motivate a love that extends beyond ourselves and our species to the whole of nature in its beauty. Should we assume our role as creator, then we all must personify our Creator’s love. If we want to continue our existence, then we must love our existence—its past, its present, and its future.
“Our remote descendants, safely arrayed on many worlds throughout the Solar System and beyond, will be unified by their common heritage, by their regard for their home planet, and by the knowledge that, whatever other life may be, the only humans in all the Universe come from Earth. They will gaze up and strain to find the blue dot in their skies. They will love it no less for its obscurity and fragility. They will marvel at how vulnerable the repository of all our potential once was, how perilous our infancy, how humble our beginnings, how many rivers we had to cross before we found our way.” – Carl Sagan
Mankind stands at the edge, caught between a stampede behind and an abyss below. The priest looks to the heavens, and the scientist looks to the stars—both believing that they have found their own hope, but neither aware that they seek the same salvation. The only alternative to extinction is eternity, and the only solution to death is love.
Today, we live in a culture that fuels narcissism. But a practical religion should inspire humility from even the self-perceived greatest. And there is no truer sign of our insignificance than the stars above—a reminder that I alone am absolutely nothing, and only with my species can I be something. If you seek greatness, then look at the stars yourself, and let the majesty of God show you what it means to be truly relevant. Power isn’t about wealth or status. It’s about creating a world that is glorified by every descendant of humankind, and being part of an existence that is loved forever. In the cosmic perspective, true greatness arises from humility and kindness; the loss of this foundation is what brings power to corruption and society to ruin.
The following is summarized from: If truth exists.
Premise: Human nature is a given. If it’s not something we can change, then it’s something we must use. The following axioms are assumed based on both their logical plausibility and their practical utility for the survival of our species:
- The mind can be hacked by ideas that align our emotions towards a shared purpose.
- Nature has one purpose: existence is bound with a tendency to exist.
- Love is an alignment of emotions towards one purpose: to exist, together, forever.
Conclusion: The mind is the highest experience of order continuing order. And at the sentient level, this order is driven by love. If we are to continue our existence, then we must love our existence.
“If I have learned anything from my faith, it is this: there is no phenomenon more powerful than love. Through its effect on the sentient mind, love is the single most potent sustainer of life.” And my philosophy is meant to inspire a love based not on wishful beliefs, but on a reverence for the beauty of our existence as revealed by modern science, and on a desire to preserve our presence in and beyond this Universe.
“Our loyalties are to the species and to the planet. Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.” – Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan: “The civilization now in jeopardy is all humanity. Here we face a critical branch point in history. What we do with our world, right now, will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendants. It is well within our power to destroy our civilization and perhaps our species as well. If we capitulate to superstition or greed or stupidity we could plunge our world into a time of darkness. But we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet… [We should] consider in every nation major changes in the traditional ways of doing things, a fundamental restructuring of economic, political, social, and religious institutions.“
“If humanity is to survive, then we must mobilize the intellectual community to take its place as the head of the human system.“ Unfortunately, the President of the United States threatens to destroy the moral and intellectual progress that is, now more than ever, critical to the survival of humankind.
America is a failed experiment, and so is the civilization it leads. We should begin a new experiment, with a new hypothesis: if we are to exist as a living system, then we must behave as a living system. We must restructure our political and economic institutions to reflect the regulatory and metabolic functions of an organism. With our wealth and technology, we must engineer a society that maximizes the mental and physical well-being of every earthly citizen. Achieving such a world will take a transformation of culture that may seem too radical to realize. But if humanity is to continue, then our progression towards such a society is essential, and it begins with the intellectual assumption of a moral purpose: we exist to exist, and we live to continue life. We are one system, the human system, and every one of us is a necessary component of our unified existence.
“A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed. We are one planet.” – Carl Sagan
We are the human species, the Mind of planet Earth—God becoming self-aware. The embrace of such a reality will exalt the intellectual community and expand its innovative capacity. It will advance our pursuit of knowledge and discovery, and create a culture of awareness that forces upon every mind a whole perspective and a higher purpose. It will hold all leaders accountable for their actions, and restrain the rise of tyranny and corruption. It will incentivize sustainable adaptations in every market, and direct the flow of capital towards the creation of a society that is glorified by every descendant of humankind. And from this idea will arise a compassion that is global, a cooperation that is unparalleled in the entirety of our galaxy.
But take one look at the world today, and you might think I’m crazy. You might think my ideas are too idealistic to be realistic, and maybe they are. But what else can you expect from a philosophy that aims to uncover the purpose of existence? Any hope of redeeming the human species will certainly need to be optimistic. Any vision that intends to transform our myopic society into a star-faring utopia will certainly need to be idealistic. Nonetheless, idealistic does not mean impractical. Just look at religion, which has captured our minds since the dawn of man. Our spiritual beliefs are idealistic, but they are not so impractical, because they are certainly powerful. And there is no philosophy more practical than one that exploits our obsession with eternal relevance to ensure the survival of humankind and the progression of the human mind. There is no idea more powerful than one that inspires a happiness and pride that is global, a love that extends beyond ourselves and our species to the entirety of our existence. We are God becoming self-aware; this is a simple truth, but certainly one that can change the world.
“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” − Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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 my attempt to convince the world that we are part of something worth loving—that our existence is something worth preserving. And this is something 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.
Everyone perceives a different reality. We all have unique beliefs and patterns of thinking, driven by emotion and guided by ambition. Thus, the ultimate success of my philosophy is dependent on two conditions. First, the human mind has evolved to recognize and to follow the truth. Second, the argument I present is, in fact, the most logical and intuitive truth to be found. But like any existential argument, there are claims which may be difficult for the skeptic to accept, especially when they involve concepts as abstract as love, or as unscientific as God and purpose. So I challenge everyone to examine my logic for themselves, and to find alternatives that have as much sense and utility as mine. My goal is not to make you think that I am right, but to make you think, for yourself, about your existence. Maybe like me, you’ll find that it’s something worth caring about.
This is the end of the summary for Section I: My philosophy. Before continuing, please read the entirety of Section I. as presented in Contents. In the next section of my blog, I will describe the practical implications of my philosophy, assuming it’s true, for the moral, political, and socioeconomic structure of human civilization. I will discuss how we would bring about such a society, and what this world might look like. Please send any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.