Thursday, May 25, 2017

The purpose of life

Environmental & Science Education.
Edward Hessler


We ask about purpose a lot.

It interests us and we sprinkle our conversations with it liberally.

Think about life.

What are its purposes? Sometimes we get even bolder and become very specific and limit it to one purpose.

Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll and Minute Physics producer Michael Reich propose A (just one and not "the") purpose for life.
Sean Carroll [Wikimedia]

As you might guess, it takes more than a minute, 4 minutes and 22 seconds to be exact. After all it is a big topic. So, let's call it Less than 5MinutePhysics.

It is the last video in a series by Carroll and Reich and is based on Sean Carroll's book, The Big Picture.

You will encounter two ideas in that book that may be new, one is naturalism and the other is poetic naturalism. I'm a naturalist and I find poetic naturalism a very compatible world view.

Here is what Sean Carroll has to say about both of them.

"Naturalism is a philosophy according to which there is only one world — the natural world, which exhibits unbroken patterns (the laws of nature), and which we can learn about through hypothesis testing and observation. In particular, there is no supernatural world — no gods, no spirits, no transcendent meanings.

"I like to talk about a particular approach to naturalism, which can be thought of as Poetic. By that I mean to emphasize that, while there is only one world, there are many ways of talking about the world. “Ways of talking” shouldn’t be underestimated; they can otherwise be labeled “theories” or “models” or “vocabularies” or “stories,” and if a particular way of talking turns out to be sufficiently accurate and useful, the elements in its corresponding vocabulary deserve to be called real.

"The poet Muriel Rukeyser once wrote, “The universe is made of stories, not atoms.” That is absolutely correct. There is more to the world than what happens; there are the ways we make sense of it by telling its story. The vocabulary we use is not handed to us from outside; it’s ultimately a matter of our choice."

Two reviews of the book, one favorable, one not.

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