Why Are We Here?

It’s time to take a look at what might be the most mysterious question we human beings have to face: why are we here? When you start thinking about it, you immediately seem to stumble upon a wide variety of different – yet equally unsatisfying – answers. It doesn’t matter from what angle you approach the issue: you won’t be able to crack it. However, despite this seemingly discouraging answer, it doesn’t harm to give a go, right? Nah, probably not.

There are many different views about why we are here on this earth of ours. One “branch” of human thinking considers religion to be the foundation upon which the answer to this fundamental question is built. And although I am not a religious person, I cannot call it inconceivable to feel the urge to base your faith upon a higher power. I even dare to say that it is a natural human inclination to try to grasp the world we are living in to the fullest extent possible. And for that matter, religion seems to be a great tool for avoiding the madness of feeling powerless; for avoiding the feeling that we will never come to understand what we are doing here on this earth of ours. But more about religion in another article.

Since religion is not the only “option” available. There also is a completely different branch of human thinking that – through the centuries – has gathered many adherents. A branch to which the “enlightened” Western civilization adheres; a branch of human reasoning that says farewell to each and every inch of uncertainty; the branch that encompasses true reason and intelligence. I am talking of course about science. And if you caught me talking in a slightly cynical manner about the nobleness of our scientific enterprise, you are right. I don’t necessarily agree with the mindset of “let’s take a look at the facts” in order to end an argument. That is, a mindset of giving science the monopoly on the production of facts. Since how true are the facts if we do not call them facts anymore? If we just consider them to be products of human thinking and creativity?

But let’s take a closer look at the endeavors of religion on the one hand and science on the other. In what way do the two fundamentally differ from each other? Do they even differ from each other? Isn’t it true that both of them proclaim to know what is true and what is not? Isn’t it true that both parties believe that the manner in which they believe – whether it is adhering to the word of God or Allah, or gathering data and coming to conclusions – is not only the only way in which the truth will come to us, but is also the only morally right way to do it? “How can people ignore the word of God? Don’t they see that this is the way to act?” Or, “Why believe in the word of God when it is so obvious that the only truth there is can be obtained through the scientific enterprise? Science is after all the paragon of human reason.”

It seems to be – as it is with a lot of matters in life – very much dependent upon the paradigm you live in what your notion of truth or right and wrong might be. What is the neighborhood you grew up in? What are the ideas you have been taught at school? What do your friends and family belief? All these components determine the way you look at the world and the way you interpret the information you obtain from your external environment.

But what if you aren’t satisfied with the solutions brought forth by religion or science? What is you do not feel at ease about both of these proclaimed approximations of the way the world works?

Let me tell you a story. A few months ago, I was visiting a guest lecture from a Stanford University Professor at the university I am studying. The professor seemed to be a very knowledgeable man who spoke about topics like dark matter, very small particles, general relativity and other notions I hardly knew – and know – anything about. Although I did not fully understand everything he said, I could see that he was very passionate about – as he said – “coming closer and closer to discovering the true origins of our solar system”. His team at the University of Stanford had – by making use of satellites – been able to measure the activities in our solar system as they happened “within seconds after The Big Bang”.

At the end of the lecture, there was an opportunity for asking the professor some questions. When no-one seemed to make an effort to ask the professor a question, I decided to give it a go. Although I did not know anything about neutrinos or matters of those sorts, I knew what I wanted to ask:

“Sir, can you please tell me what happened before The Big Bang?”

Of course the professor didn’t know. After all, how could he? No-one knows. But it seemed to be the appropriate question to put everything into perspective. To show that there will always be a step further. That there will always be another cause for what we consider to be the beginning. But don’t get me wrong. I certainly do not believe that we should stop our quests in search for the ultimate foundations of knowledge. Both science and religion are great goods for our society. Besides all the economies being propelled by scientific discoveries and consequently the wealth we live in, science and religion provide us with food for thought. They allow us to dream about what might be. They give us purpose. What more could we wish for?

I am curious about what you guys think: can we know why we are here?

Written by Rob Graumans

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