'Feelings are not always rational or can be settled by logic'geralt, pixabay.com

A wonderful element of religion is that it provides purpose and meaning for our existence as human beings on this earth, as well as offering eternal individual relevance. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that people may develop a black-and-white mentality, according to which it can be difficult to continue to appreciate the wonder of life once it is explained by the “rules” of science. Does accepting the immensity and magnitude of science, maths and history equate to accepting a sadness or meaninglessness to human existence? Science, maths, data and rationality always explain how, not why.

However, understanding our existence is not specific to a scientist, specific to a writer, specific to a banker, specific to a salesman. It is a universal human feeling and philosophical existential anxiety about human relevance, and feelings are not always rational or can be settled by logic. I believe you can comprehend science alongside the comprehension of human beings as miniscule in the colossal magnitudinous universe and still find meaning and beauty in the world. Poet John Keats voiced what many people fear of science: that in explaining the world scientifically, it makes it less amazing. I disagree, and I hope that a different perspective can offer solace, comfort, wonder and meaning amid this insurmountable universe  not remotely to belittle or dismiss belief in religion, but to also offer acceptance, meaning and beauty in science.

I am possibly lucky that I accept the meaninglessness of being human in a universe that will continue to evolve, change and render humanity a blip. I don’t feel like I need to be relevant to the wider universe or have a wider purpose. I may be composed of meaningless atoms, that happened upon life due to ridiculous odds, but I don’t feel upset about that. I think that offers meaning in itself. To reference Ricky Gervais in the comedy After Life, you can find life to be precious and meaningful because you can’t watch it again and again, like a film. Therefore, you live every moment with passion, love, excitement and find magic in what you do experience and know. Gervais has stated that questioning the meaning of our existence “always comes back to us”. One can potentially argue there is inherent egotism in humans desiring relevance in a universe we will never control. As evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins states, “the universe doesn’t owe us anything.” My mum always advises me that being anxious or upset about things out of your control is futile. The universe and science are so drastically out of our control that I focus on my immediate life and existence, because that is all we have.

“Science won’t (usually) make you laugh”

Facts, empirical data, science and mathematics are phenomenal. We can marvel at them, revere them, respect them, and immensely enjoy learning them, but science won’t (usually) make you laugh, supply you a plaster when you’ve cut yourself, nor hug you when you’re emotionally vulnerable. All we have is each other. Other human beings. Inevitably, we can and will never be relevant to anything but each other and that is why other human beings should mean everything to you. If we are meaningless atoms, all we have are other meaningless atoms that can fulfil us. As I don’t personally believe in an afterlife, what deeply saddens me is humans who only experience suffering. Therefore, I find meaning and purpose in my ambitions of dedicating my career to helping others and promoting justice, kindness and equality. But one can also find meaning in their friends, family, relationships, love, nature, memories and learning. You can find meaning in enjoying learning about science without necessarily needing to be relevant to it. I can’t control the universe or science, but the things I can control is where I find meaning. Gratitude to life doesn’t have to be directed to a God nor dismissed by science. We can love and marvel at what we have and find contentment and fulfilment in that simplicity and need nothing more.

“Rationality explains how, not why”

I interpret science to be magical and meaningful without desiring the why of it. If it is all by chance but hosts such intricacies, doesn’t that make it even more of a magical miracle? Our improved understanding of genetics has revolutionised how we view ourselves and other species; work in the field of physics has discovered particles even smaller than the atom. A multitude of factors had to coalesce to support life on this planet and then further, for each single individual human to have life. When you truly think about it, it’s mind-blowingly amazing. The meaninglessness is meaningful, because we are so lucky to experience the slightest blip in the universe due to chance, accident and infinite factors. Can’t we simply appreciate the astounding nature of this, be so grateful we can discover this information and have life at all?


Mountain View

How much do calories really count?

Someone special to me recently highlighted a proverb utilised by After Life: “A society grows great when old men plant trees, the shade of which they will never sit in.” We find meaning in things we do for others, even if there isn’t wider universal relevance for ourselves. We cannot change that we, as individuals, are essentially meaningless atoms, but it is all we have, and the other meaningless atoms that surround us. All we have is our immediate existence: the love we feel, the memories we have, the knowledge we gain. Why does it matter if we’re irrelevant to the universe? We should always find relevance and meaning in the very things that affect our direct existence. Find gratitude and meaning in the laughs you share, the people you meet, the nature that is and marvel and be curious of the science and maths that explains it. I am grateful for the life I do have beyond anything and don’t desire anything more than the love of my life, my wonderful friends, my incredible family and career ambitions. That is enough meaning for me. Science and maths will never detract from that  it can only add. This is my existence and, I believe, the only one I will ever have. I want to make the most of it, and make my own meaning, rather than get fixated on meaninglessness to the universe. It’s something I can’t change and so out of my grasp, why fixate on it at all?

Feelings and sentience is integral to being human … and maybe that’s something to ponder. That’s what makes us human. That’s what gives us meaning. Our sentience. Our emotions. Thus, feeling meaningless gives meaning itself, because it hits exactly what makes us human, that science cannot exactly explain consciousness and emotion (past biological human chemistry and primal urges). Perhaps that’s precisely it. Our emotions, memories, love, and therefore the question itself of meaning (and the dejection that may come with it), is in of itself what gives life meaning.