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Last updated 12/10/2017.
“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.” (If truth exists)
When I started writing as a junior in college, my thoughts were motivated mostly by a scientific curiosity with the origin of life. I often wondered about my existence, but I had little expectation of figuring anything out, and certainly no intention of finding profound truths or compelling worldviews. But as I expanded my thoughts and began to seriously consider the nature of reality, I realized that my conclusions were inherently powerful. And power, the ability to influence others, was something I rarely thought of, let alone wanted. As an introvert, I prefer minding my own business, and I’ve never liked telling people what to believe or how to behave. As you can imagine, I wasn’t the best Christian growing up. My faith gave me a sense of purpose and joy that I wanted to share with everyone I knew, but I kept it a secret. My love for humanity was silenced by a fear of being judged. And what good is an evangelical that can’t evangelize?
But besides my dislike of attention, I regarded power with distaste. It seemed to highlight the corruptibility of human nature and the short-sighted ego of the politicians and financiers that manipulate our world. Power is usually selfish, and those who rise with good intentions often fall to greed, lust, or dishonesty. Almost every instance of human-caused suffering has, at its source, a desire to control. From harassment and discrimination at home to war and genocide abroad, we often witness the misuse of power. But there is certainly evidence of the contrary: Abraham Lincoln ended slavery in America; Gandhi led a peaceful revolution against British rule; Bill Gates has donated $35 billion to global initiatives like agricultural development, emergency relief, urban poverty, global health, and education. Clearly, power itself is neither good nor bad—it’s how and why we use our influence that determines its moral utility. And my ideas, in revealing possible truths about the nature of human existence, could define an ideological framework that guides the use of power. This may be the objective morality that renders true authority incorruptible.
In September of 2016, two months before the U.S. Presidential election, I had just finished the first draft of my philosophy. I had also just started my second year of medical school, and writing was becoming a difficult hobby to maintain. At that time, I saw this blog as a work of art more than anything else. Sometimes it seemed like a creative masterpiece that would captivate the world. And other times, shadowed by self-doubt, my writing seemed rather cheesy. But I was generally proud of my work, and had begun to think that it might be true, so I decided to share it on Facebook. And of course I was terrified. As I mentioned above, I’ve never been the type of person to tell others what to believe or how to behave. Yet here I was telling everyone right from wrong, and preaching a standard of moral perfection that seemed far beyond my reach. As much as I want to be a good person, I’m no Jesus or Gandhi.
“The great moral teachers of humanity were, in a way, artistic geniuses in the art of living.” – Albert Einstein
When my post received more attention than I liked, I distanced myself from my work. I didn’t want to be perceived as odd or judged for thinking differently. I wanted to blend in, so I hid from the world all the thought and emotion that I had poured into my writing. Just as I had done with my faith as a child, I kept my worldview to myself. Though it gave me a sense of purpose and joy that I wanted to share with everyone, my love for humanity was again silenced by a fear of being judged. The last thing I wanted was to believe that I had found the meaning of life only to realize that I had lost my own sanity. Besides, while my ideas were deeply satisfying to think about, they probably weren’t all that necessary. Hillary Clinton would win the election, the world would go on as usual, and we would probably survive. I had a good idea, but I wasn’t convinced that it was real enough, nor that the situation was desperate enough. It might one day shake the world, but it had yet to shake my doubt. It might one day start a movement—but a movement I didn’t want to lead.
A friend asked me on election night, “If Trump wins, does this change your philosophy?” “Not at all,” I texted back. “In fact, that would probably strengthen it. Whoever wins, our government will still be lousy.” And the worse our state of affairs, I reasoned, the stronger our dissatisfaction and the better my ideas would seem. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition that our society is fundamentally broken, and that the fix must involve a fundamental change. Adaptation is necessary for survival—this is a scientific fact. As Darwin recognized, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” The question is no longer about whether or not we need to change, but what we are going to change, and how we will motivate such a shift from a culture so grounded by tradition. While I knew my philosophy could answer these questions and show us a way forward, I didn’t seriously consider its utility until I had lost all hope in the current state of our world—until I saw just how desperate our situation had become.
“Immensely powerful though we are today, it’s equally clear that we’re going to be even more powerful tomorrow. And what’s more, there will be greater compulsion upon us to use our power as the number of human beings on Earth increases still further. Clearly we could devastate the world… As far as we know, the Earth is the only place in the universe where there is life. Its continued survival now rests in our hands.” — Sir David Attenborough, The Living Planet, 1984
Power can take many forms, from beauty, skill, and confidence at the individual level, to labor unions and nuclear arsenals at the group level. But besides WMDs, the types of power that can produce large-scale changes in society fall into three main categories:
(1) Political—legislation and jurisdiction
(2) Economic—investment and management
(3) Cultural—information and emotion
The first is obvious; the second controls the use of land, labor, and capital; and the third involves everything from media and education to sports and religion. There is clear overlap between these spheres of power, and some people, like Donald Trump, have all three. But even if you’re an average person who votes, spends money, and uses social media, then you also have all three, though to a much lesser degree. But in any case, the reality I present may one day influence the President’s decisions, as well as yours and mine.
“[The truth] 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.” (The sentient mind)
Regardless of political or economic involvement, an influence of culture remains the most effective force for driving change at any level of society. Cultures are these bubbles of information and emotion that divide America into Red or Blue, Black or White, Christian or Atheist. The beginning of any movement requires a disturbance of these micro-realities, a shift in culture that changes the way we think and feel about ourselves and our world. But what sustains a culture and drives a movement forward is a sense of relevance, because relevance gives us a reason to care. Why should I think and feel a certain way about my existence? Why should I protest harassment, or decry the rise of bigotry and corruption? Why should I build this bomb, or drive this truck through a crowd? Why should I believe that Trump will make my life better and my country greater? Take a look at the movements around you. Some of them are morally intuitive, and others seem obviously backwards. But regardless of their benefit to society, these movements all have one thing in common. They make us feel relevant. They attempt to satisfy “three very fundamental human needs: identity, community, and a sense of purpose.”
While most sources of power have been found and accessed, the greatest potential for change remains untapped: the culture of intellectual thought. From senators to entrepreneurs to professors, the academic community spans all three areas of power. This network of thinkers and innovators connects every institution and industry in the free world. And though the intelligent crowd remains broken by despair, and divided by ideologies and interests, there is no question that the mobilization of such a group would be absolutely transformative. There is no precedent for the impact of an idea that could unite, with one ideology and one interest, every rational mind. In reviving our spirit of discovery and embracing our capacity for creation, my philosophy has the potential to stir a global movement of political, economic, and cultural influence. This reality, if true, will bring an enlightenment that empowers the whole of humanity. It will burst every bubble of reality, and introduce us to an existence that is far more beautiful than anything we could have imagined.
“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.” (Home)
Consider the age-old question: what is the meaning of life? Think of everything that you care about—your education, your career, your family. Think about the times of laughter you’ve shared with the people you love, the pride you felt for your team, or the anger and sorrow you’ve felt towards the injustice in our world. It all seems rather meaningless when you consider the smallness of planet Earth in the vast emptiness of space. Yet we long for our lives to mean something. So we, afraid of losing our relevance, have generally ignored the bigger picture that science has revealed. But I’ve taken the cosmic perspective and embraced it in a way that satisfies the deepest of our intuitions, and gives meaning and purpose to every human experience. This is a reality—perhaps the only reality—that makes us a relevant part of our universe.
“The question is no longer about whether or not we need to change, but what we are going to change, and how we will motivate such a shift from a culture so grounded by tradition.” By aligning our scientific reality with our moral intuitions, this philosophy makes the most intelligent way of living also the most honorable way of living. With it we can establish a culture of truth and honesty, a society of compassion and humility that is compatible with the fundamental principles of every peaceful religion. We can expand our freedom of expression and celebrate the diversity of life. We can understand the mind and body, and build a society that benefits the whole of humanity. We can engineer a civilization that strengthens the natural environment and evolves with its ever-changing forces. We can solve the great mysteries of life and the Universe, and explore the worlds that we will one day settle. Finding our role in creation may remain the task of our descendants. Our task, for now, is ensuring their existence. With the resources of the intelligent, we will turn the world’s cities into epicenters of scientific and social progress. With peace and civility, we will show the world what it means to be alive.
“Imagine a sentient species aligned by one vision. Imagine an intelligent system driven by a cosmic aim. 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 on every human mind a whole perspective and a higher purpose. It will incentivize the sustainable development of every economic market, and direct the flow of capital towards the creation of a society that is glorified by every descendant of humankind. And from this reality will arise a compassion that is global—a cooperation that will bring us to the stars.” (If truth exists)
When I was younger, all I ever wanted was a stable, normal life. I’d go to medical school, become a surgeon or some other type of doctor, and have enough to live a comfortable and happy life with the people I cared most about. As someone who is rather laid-back, I didn’t have much ambition to be good at anything. I knew I was smart and more curious than most, but otherwise I considered myself pretty average. So when I started thinking about the physics of life, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought that any educated person with internet access could have made the same connections and formed the same conclusions. In hindsight, my ideas seemed like common sense, and it took me a while to realize that my brain didn’t work like anyone else’s. And because I happened to think a little differently, because I cared a little more about my existence, I was the one to stumble upon an idea that could save the world. And all of a sudden, I felt responsible for the fate of my species. In the blink of an eye, I might have brought myself to the world’s attention and gained an influence I didn’t want. And my life, then, would be anything but normal.
My friends have suggested that I write with a pseudonym. I could see how being anonymous would work for other forms of creativity like paintings or novels or music, where it’s easier to separate the art from the artist, to judge the quality of the piece apart from the character that made it. But it’s certainly more difficult to separate a philosophy from its philosopher, especially with one that seeks to bring about a global cooperation. If my idea was going to change the world, then it had to change me first. And sure enough, as much as I’ve tried to distance myself from my ideas, the reality I found has inevitably begun to change the way I think and feel. My worldview has given me a sense of purpose and perspective that has largely eliminated depression and anxiety from my life. It has brought me a hope more powerful than that of my childhood faith, and inspired within me a resolve and resiliency that I didn’t think was possible. And above all, it has given me a reason to love my world and my species—a reason that makes more sense to me than any religion or atheistic assumption.
What is the meaning of life? I’ve given you my answer, and it demands a response. I have presented you with a choice that may decide the fate of our species. And now it’s up to you to decide whether a third-year medical student has indeed glimpsed the truth and found the meaning of life. It’s up to you to decide whether you will recognize and accept a purpose that is bigger than yourself or any of your dreams. It’s up to you to expand the bubble of your reality, and to make your community the whole of humanity. I have made my choice and embraced its implications for my life. As far as I know, I have found the truth, and I will pursue it with my whole heart.
“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 profound revelation of our purpose. If we wish to believe in free will, then we now have a choice. We can embrace our role as Creator, and create an existence more beautiful than the mind can comprehend. Or we can refuse our cosmic calling, and let ourselves fall into the darkness.” (Reason & Religion)