Humans have been trying to find a way to fill this deep void that exists within us, namely our intrinsic need for purpose and meaning, since the dawn of time with religion or some form of spirituality. The mental health movement is largely about addressing this ‘hole in our soul’. That’s not to say that we’re incomplete in the physiological sense, but that a significant primal part of us is covertly searching for answers to the more profound questions around our existence.
The algorithms of our search engines have undoubtedly convinced a large troop of self-proclaimed internet gurus and philosophers that there is a huge market for their services. I am not here to point fingers. I am as conflicted as the rest of us. Just when I feel like I’ve cracked some hidden meaning about my place in this reality, an idea takes root and I find myself back down the rabbit hole. This is not a new phenomenon. Ancient civilizations invested a dizzying amount of their time, energy and resources in building awe-inspiring religious structures to give a face to their beliefs, many of which still stand today. Belief and meaning were of such paramount importance that the costs involved could sometimes lead to a society’s own demise.
The question of how intelligent life formed in the universe against significant odds, in which science plays a pivotal role, is essentially part of this quest for meaning. Meaning is the fuel of the human spirit. Meaning is everything because it fundamentally defines the way we behave on this planet, the way we live our lives and where we are going next as a species.
Atheists will be quick to argue that there doesn’t need to be a meaning to live a fulfilled life on this planet but every human on this planet has already drawn conclusions on what the nature of this reality is — that it isn’t the product of a computer simulation for example. Just because the currently accepted view of things is the most rational, doesn’t make an atheist a non-believer. As the French philosopher Rene Descartes famously stated, “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things”. Descartes’s philosophical wonderings eventually led him back to religion but we are all similarly inclined to look for ways to justify our own beliefs. We cannot know…