Does The Universe Have A Purpose?

Does The Universe Have A Purpose? October 30, 2007

The Templeton Foundation has asked a number of scientists this question: “Does The Universe Have A Purpose?” The varied answers they received vary are shared on their web site.

(Thanks to millinerd for sharing this on his own blog).

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  • I believe this question to be disingenious. The simple fact of it is that the question whether or not the universe has a purpose is not a scientific question at all. What we get instead are opinions.Call me a cynic but it occurs to me that this website is another transparent attempt to get faith-based opinions on par with science. Everyone has of course a right to his or her opinion. There is, however, no assumed right to be.. well, right.Maarten van den Driest

  • Thanks for the comment! I really didn’t see it that way. Sure, scientists as scientists have nothing more to say about purpose than anyone else. I took the point to be that some scientists feel it is appropriate to speak of purpose, while others do not. I also thought it was to the credit of the Templeton Foundation, which is committed to showing the compatibility of religion and science, that they showed examples of a variety of opinions, as well as individuals who say ‘yes’ to purpose but mean very different things by it.Scientists, as scientists, cannot provide anything that results from their research that demonstrates that God does or does not exist, that demonstrates clearly that the universe does or doesn’t have a purpose in any sense. But I took the point to be that the scientists are people and as such they struggle with the same questions, and reach as wide a range of conclusions, as the rest of the population. Their work in the sciences may feed into some of the things they say about this subject, but ultimately it doesn’t answer these questions one way or the other.That’s how I took what the Templeton web site had to offer, at any rate. Since they offered a range of answers, I didn’t think anyone was suggesting that science has the answer. I took the diversity of views itself to be the message.Thanks for the comment. Let me know if you think I’m totally off the mark on this!

  • Perhaps a more telling question would be “Are non-scientific questions worth asking (and trying to answer)?” I’ve encountered some strains of thought where a non-scientific question is automatically dubbed “nonsensical” or “useless” or even “meaningless.” To a certain extent, I can see where they’re coming from.And yet… it seems to be the habit of humans to speculate on exactly those things that we can never know for certain. So simply ignoring the “undecidable” questions seems, to me, a denial of human curiosity. On the other hand, getting so caught up in those questions that we ignore more practical and immediate matters is also…not good. So I would say they’re worth exploring, with the awareness that a “final” answer is unlikely.

  • (sings)”You put your right foot inPut your left foot out . . . . “Isn’t that what it’s all about?O_Ó

  • Reacting to James McGrath and qalmlea:Well, yes, obviously scientists are just people who wrestle at times with those age-old questions. I am not going to cede this point, just because it is already so painfully obvious.However, the opinions of scientists in these matters are not any more interesting than mine or yours. I ask, what is the point of asking scientists per se?What the original point of the Templeton Foundation might have been I do not know. Perhaps it would be a good idea to ask them.qalmlea, it has always been my view that non-scientific questions are just as valid as any others. The point, however, is that everyone is free to make up his own answers and cannot expect others to agree.