Today, I want to ask the question, “Why are we here?” That is, why does the universe exist; and why do we humans exist in this universe? As a response, I will list a few interesting quotes from others who have pondered this question. The reader can meditate upon these responses and consider the path of inquiry which will then be most satisfying.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), a Christian philosopher, did not believe that science could answer this question in a satisfactory manner. He wrote,
Question: “Why do I live?” Answer: “In infinite space, in infinite time, infinitely small particles change their forms in infinite complexity, and when you have understood the laws of those mutations of form you will understand why you live on the earth. . . . You are an accidentally united little lump of something. That little lump ferments. The little lump calls that fermenting its ‘life’. The lump will disintegrate and there will be an end of the fermenting and of all the questions.” So answers the clear side of science and cannot answer otherwise if it strictly follows its principles.1
On the other hand, Richard Dawkins has confidence that science can and does answer the question. He points to Charles Darwin and says,
Darwin told us why we exist and that’s not an easy question to answer. It’s not just us, it’s all living things. The living world is incredibly complex and staggeringly improbable – unless you understand where it came from; it looks as though it’s been designed; everyone thought that it was designed; but Darwin showed that it wasn’t. That’s the importance of Darwin.2
In a documentary entitled “Why Are We Here?” Dawkins goes on to say that the universe has “no purposeful design” and that humans “provide the purpose.”3 Essentially, what he is saying is that the purpose of the universe is what we humans decide. We give the universe the only purpose it could possibly have.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE) said that we were made “to look upon one who looks back in love.” The Westminster Catechism asks the question, “What is the chief end of Man?” or What is the main purpose of humans? The answer provided is: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.”4
At this point in history we find two premises alive in the world. One is that the universe spontaneously came into being. The other is that a Creator caused the universe to come into being. It seems to me that all of our understanding, values, and philosophy are then derived from one premise or the other. As we meditate upon these two premises, we must consider well our own understanding and the implications for how we will live our lives.
1 Tolstoy, Leo. A Confession, The Gospel in Brief and What I Believe (trans. by Aylmer Maude). London: Oxford University Press, 1958; pp 27-31.
2 National Geographic Interview with Richard Dawkins, “Professor Richard Dawkins on Darwin”; http://natgeotv.com/uk/dawkins-darwin-evolution/dawkins-interview-darwin
3 “Why Are We Here?”; Richard Dawkins; Discovery Science Documentary; http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/why-are-we-here/