I really wish I still believed in popular philosophically indefensible ideas like “everything happens for a reason”. Actually, this statement is true, but not in the way most people believe. First of all, unless an event is random, it has a cause, and that is the reason for it’s coming about. But this is not what is generally implied by the statement. What most people mean, is not that A caused B, but that in time (maybe in 5 minutes, maybe on your death bed) you will see that event B, which in your temporally and contextually myopic human perspective you perceive as “bad”, actually caused you to change the path in your life and led you to what will eventually be one of goodness and bliss.
Let us examine the some of the assumptions proponents of this idea implicitly and some times, explicitly make:
1. The universe is conscious.
2. The universe cares about me and my needs.
3. There are no random events
Ok, assumption number 1, the universe is conscious. Hmm, really? How does the universe–i.e. a collection of planets, asteroids, comets, stars, black holes and the other assorted inanimate matter magically become conscious? You might reply, “it just is”, to which I reply “no it isn’t. Prove it!” and then I’ll wiggle my head like black people stereotypically do (I can say that, some of my best friends are black!) To which you reply, “I just know, I’ve felt/experienced it”. To which I reply, “well, I haven’t” and then come in for a double leg, pick you up and slam you on the mat for 3 points. And then, because I’m feeling generous, I say that, for the sake of argument we will assume that the universe is indeed conscious.
So, assuming that the universe is conscious, the next assumption is that it is conscious of the needs and desires of not just every human, but every human that has ever lived and will live. Is this really plausible? First lets consider the size of the universe (thank you wikipedia):
The Universe is very large and possibly infinite in volume; the observable matter is spread over a space at least 93 billion light years across. For comparison, the diameter of a typical galaxy is only 30,000 light-years, and the typical distance between two neighboring galaxies is only 3 million light-years. As an example, our Milky Way Galaxy is roughly 100,000 light years in diameter, and our nearest sister galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy, is located roughly 2.5 million light years away. There are probably more than 100 billion (1011) galaxies in the observable universe. Typical galaxies range from dwarfs with as few as ten million (107) stars up to giants with one trillion (1012) stars, all orbiting the galaxy’s center of mass.
So….given the immense size of the universe, even if it is conscious, how is it even remotely plausible that it cares about the fickle desires of some teeny tiny organisms on a teeny tiny planet in a teeny tiny solar system in a teeny tiny galaxy…you get the point….
How can we even think of ourselves as important within the scope of the universe? Especially when you consider that early humans have only existed for 50 000 years and the age of the universe is 13.73±0.12 billion years old. Are we to believe that the universe was waiting around to cater to our whims for over 12 billion years? Not even windows takes that long to load…
OK, so maybe in a universe that’s 93 billion light year across we are somehow important and in fact, we are so special that for over 12 billion years the universe worked on creating us (to cater to our individual whims). How did I not see this before! We are soooo humble! But there is still a minor problem. Are all events necessarily causally bound? That is to say, for every event, was there a prior event that caused it and an event that caused that one and so on? If we answer yes, then every thing that happens to us in our life is a result of a prior event, all the way back to our birth, conception, birth and conception of our parents etc..
This does not sound very appealing if you are a person who likes to think that sometimes, events are results of decisions they have made. Which is it? Did the universe cause event A to occur and unbeknownst to me, send me off on a causal trajectory that will eventually lead me to event E, that will be what I wanted all along? (but didn’t know because I don’t have the foresight of a conscious universe). I’m not so sure that’s a very strong hypothesis. When we could apply the scientific method and test it…wait, we’d need an alternate (conscious?) universes for that. Doh!
Oh, well, I’m off to bed. Maybe elaborate more tomorrow…
And how come whenever I import text, I can’t get the text that follows it to revert to the original size?…I guess everything happens for a reason! (I can’t wait for the universe to reveal in its wisdom why it has planned this for me! I can hardly sit still!)