The Search for Meaning (ii)

As a follow-on from the previous post, let’s consider how our universe began with a bang to end all bangs, a cataclysmic origin that might suggest that any resulting universe should be extremely disorderly, if not completely chaotic. Surprise, surprise! Ours is developing in accordance with ‘laws’ which we can mathematically formulate and experimentally verify. It seems then, though sounding paradoxical, that the design of this mathematically ordered and rationally understandable universe necessitated just such a ferociously explosive beginning. You can’t make an omelette, we’re sometimes reminded, without breaking eggs.

The same might be said about the origin of life. In the beginning, the universe was composed of hydrogen, and some helium, but that can’t produce living beings. Carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous and sulphur are also required. These can only be ‘cooked up’ in the nuclear furnaces inside ‘supernovae’, massive stellar explosions which then spray these elements in all directions, until they coagulate and form planets like earth. You and I, in other words, are quite literally made of ‘star dust’. Once again, eggs had to be broken so that omelettes could be formed.

These apparently fiery ‘flaws’ in the origin and functioning of our universe arise out of what is increasingly recognised to be its ‘fine tuning’. Had there been tiny differences in any of the natural ‘laws’, there would have been no such universe – no galaxies, stars, planets or human beings. Similar, arguably, is the origin of the first living cell. Once upon a time, the idea was that with the right chemicals present in a watery ‘soup’, only a bolt of lightning was needed for life’s journey to begin. The genie suddenly emerging from Aladdin’s lamp comes to mind. 

We now know that the origin of life has less to do with chemicals than with ‘information’. There’s nothing simple about a single cell. Its inner structure and functioning are mind-blowingly complex. For cells to ‘know’ how to organise themselves, function properly and replicate, necessitates the equivalent of the most incredibly complex computer-like coding. Inevitably, there are sometimes errors, or ‘mutations’, with unwelcome results, but that appears to be inescapable. It’s either that or no living cells, and therefore no human beings. 

Did the immensely complex, mathematically exact ‘information’ contained within the ‘laws of nature’ come from nowhere? Where did the incredibly detailed, precisely sequenced ‘information’ needed to form the first living cell come from? Such ‘information’ either came from nowhere, or arose from random ‘mutations’ over many millions of years, or came from where we experience ‘information’ coming from on a daily basis. As examples, the words we read in books come from intelligent minds, as do the computer programmes that power our smartphones. 

This is why it seems valid to me to consider that ‘Intelligence’ may have designed and built the bricks of ultimate reality. Because we’re humans, however, we link intelligence with physical brains inhabiting personal bodies. It’s less easy to contemplate disembodied ‘Intelligence’ as the ‘information’ source from which the ‘design’ of all things originated. So I’m not talking, here, about a personal God, all-powerful, all knowing, and all good. Such a God would have to account for the seemingly cruelly indifferent, destructive happenings in the universe, and on this particular planet.

I’m talking about a transcendental, designing Intelligence, continually producing the information on which everything depends, but which cannot know in advance exactly how the mathematics, and flows of information will work out in practice, except that, if the omelettes are to be made, some eggs may need to be broken. Perhaps this is the price that must be paid for all the wondrous aspects of this marvellous universe, and of the magnificently multicoloured panoply of life.

If so, this transcendent Intelligence has shared its conscious awareness with you and I. When we finally close our eyes, our personal awareness will most likely die with our bodies, but perhaps this won’t matter, if we’re re-absorbed into the universal awareness of that Source of all Being. I’m content to think that thought.

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