Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence
The universe within. Silhouette of a man inside the universe, physical and mathematical formulas.. The concept on scientific and philosophical topics. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.
The universe within. Silhouette of a man inside the universe, physical and mathematical formulas.. The concept on scientific and philosophical topics. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.
©Tryfomov/stock.adobe.com

Believing in a Purposeful World Is Good Mental Health!

Perhaps fine-tuning of the universe should be taught in school as a mental health initiative

In the fourth episode of the Science Uprising series of short films, cosmologist Lawrence Krauss informs us, arms waving up and down, “If you were designing a universe for life, I suspect that you would design it differently. There is no evidence to design or purpose to our universe.”

Cut to a figure shrieking unintelligibly from the podium at an American Humanist Association meeting, “I suck!” He appears—admittedly, this is entirely a matter of perception from a distance of time and place—to be having (or pretending?) a nervous breakdown.

The figure turns out to be science media personality Bill Nye the Science Guy, named Humanist of the Year in 2010. In the organization’s magazine, he enlarges on the depressing theme, “I suck”:

And Earth, really, in the cosmic scheme of things, is another speck, and our sun—an unremarkable star, nothing special—is another speck. And the galaxy is a speck. I’m a speck on a speck orbiting a speck among other specks amongst still other specks in the middle of specklessness! I am insignificant! I suck.

Bill Nye, “The Best Idea We’ve Had So Far” at The Humanist

In Science Uprising 4, a voiceover asks, “Are we really just insignificant specks in an accidental universe?”

Ah! Finally! A question that requires no advanced skills or education to answer!

No.

Here’s why we are not just insignificant specks: Suppose our universe was one where, now and then, conglomerations of chemicals wash together on planets’ surfaces, producing various complex chemical reactions. Nothing resembling life, purpose, or consciousness ever emerges from the endless chaos.

Yes, that all sucks. But no one perceives it because no conscious entity arises to perceive it. Once such entities do exist, it can’t just suck, by definition. There must be something more going on.

The film introduces us to the thoughts of well-known scientist Freeman Dyson and several others. They point out a few of the many examples of the minute fine-tuning of our universe. It is explicable only as a design.

But now, watching Bill Nye screaming “I suck!” raises a question: Why isn’t the fine-tuning of the universe taught in school, not as a support for any specific religion but rather as a support for mental health?

Consider the benefits: First, fine-tuning of the universe is evidence that a mind underlies it, whether we know anything about that mind or ever could. In any event, our lives can’t just be meaningless noise.

Second, the ability to think “I suck”—or that the galaxy sucks—is evidence for our own immaterial minds. Only such a mind can stand outside the physical world and form such an opinion. Termites do not think that of themselves, nor do fungi, chimpanzees, or galaxies.

But now suppose the perception “I suck!” is well-founded, based on personal behavior? It puts the perceiver in an entirely different class of entities from any of the above. For one thing, the man who can imagine that he himself sucks can also imagine an alternative himself who doesn’t suck, or not so much.

It shouldn’t surprise us if there is an Uprising against science that encourages a point of view that will only deepen the difficulties for young people making their way in the world.


Other responses to the Science Uprising series: Seven minutes to goosebumps: Confronting materialism head-on. A new short film series takes on materialism in science, including that of AI’s pop prophets (Robert Marks)

If one did not start with a materialist bias, materialism would not be invoked as an explanation for a whole range of experiments in neuroscience. (Michael Egnor)

Stop Ignoring Evidence for the Existence of the Human Mind! Materialism enables irrational ideas about ourselves to compete with rational ones on an equal basis. It won’t work

and

There is a glitch in the description of DNA as “software”. In contemporary culture, we are asked to believe, in an impressive break with observed reality, that the code wrote itself


Denyse O'Leary

Denyse O'Leary is a freelance journalist based in Ottawa, Canada. Specializing in faith and science issues, she has published two books on the topic: Faith@Science and By Design or by Chance? She has written for publications such as The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail, and Canadian Living. She is co-author, with neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist'€™s Case for the Existence of the Soul. She received her degree in honors English language and literature.

Believing in a Purposeful World Is Good Mental Health!