What is the Meaning of Life
Order and Design – Orderly Cosmos
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 14 Order and Design – Orderly Cosmos by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? What we have been saying over the past few weeks is that whatever meaning there is in life, it’s built into the very basic makeup of our world. You remember yesterday we talked about the basic elements that make up our present universe. Of course, there are well over a hundred of them now.
You remember we discussed how scientists have been able to foretell and to foresee and, indeed, warn each other where a certain element was to be found, how it was to relate to the other elements and what would be its atomic weight. This is because they have discovered, as they began to find more and more elements through the years, that the elements were related to each other in an orderly fashion on the basis of their atomic weight. It was a little like finding a string of beads made up of a red bead, a green bead, a blue bead, a yellow bead, repeated in that order and all in ascending sizes.
That’s the way the scientists began to see the elements — like oxygen and hydrogen and radium. They discovered that the lightest to the heaviest elements related to each other according to their weights in certain series so that they were able actually to tell that there’s a gap here and it ought to be a yellow bead, and it ought to be this size and that weight. That’s the way they began to conduct their experiments. They even assumed the existence of certain elements that they hadn’t yet even discovered, so sure were they that they existed. Of course, they did this on the basis of the order that they had discovered in the relationship of one element to another in the past.
In other words, all scientific endeavor is based on the assumption that there is order in our world, because, of course, of the degree of order they have already discovered so far. What one philosopher has said about this order and meaning in the world and the meaning of life itself is as follows:
He said, “Suppose that I found myself on a desert island, a desert island where there was no sign of life at all. Then, as I walked along the beach my foot hit something, and I thought it was a stone and I picked it up and it was a watch. Immediately I would say to myself, â€˜There must be some human being on this island that owns this watch or there must be somebody that has made this watch.’ But the moment I see a watch I conclude there has to be somebody who understands the fine tolerances that makes this watch work, who understands the regular orbits that the wheels turn, who understands timing and regularity, who has precision and dexterity in their fingers and their hands. I conclude, in other words, there must be a watchmaker.”
The normal, common-sense mind works that way. Of course, the philosopher went on to say that that is what we do in relationship to this world.
What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of the world? Well, when we begin to discover such order and design in even the very basic elements that make up our world, and when we see the way the seasons follow one another so regularly and so unfailingly year after year and century after century, due to the regular orbiting of our planet around the sun, when we see that we time our atomic clocks by the regular rotation of our earth on its own axis, when we see that we perceive such order in the circulation of the blood and in the relationship of the five hundred muscles in our body to one another, when we see that there is order and design in our world — the common-sense mind naturally concludes that there must be another mind somewhere that works like mine, because I know that I did not create this order simply by perceiving it.
I am also able to perceive things that happen by chance and things that are purely arbitrary. I am able to
distinguish between order and design where I find it and arbitrariness and chance where I find it. So my mind does not create this order; my mind only perceives an order that is already there. So some mind at least as orderly as mine and able to conceive of the same values and the same balances as mine, must be somewhere involved in this world. It’s just a natural response of the intellect to order when it finds it.
It’s like you, you know, going outside your door in the morning and you find lying at the bedroom door a bone. You don’t immediately say, “Ah, my brother must have left his bone around again.” You don’t. You relate the bone to the kind of creature or being that would produce it. You would say, “That dog! What’s he bringing his bone upstairs for?” Similarly, if you found a simultaneous equation on a sheet of paper, lying outside your bedroom door, you wouldn’t immediately say, “That wretched dog, leaving its assignments around again.” You wouldn’t. You’d say, “That brother of mine! He’s left his homework here. He’ll need it.” You naturally assume that a dog leaves a bone; a human being leaves a simultaneous equation, because you relate the product or the item itself to the producer or the originator of it.
It’s the same with our world. When you see order and design in it that your mind can perceive, you automatically conclude there has to be another mind somewhere involved in the production of this order that I see around me. That is the basis of all scientific endeavor in our day. Scientists assume that order. Often we’ve been reluctant to agree that they do, in fact, exercise a certain amount of faith, but they do. They will tell you that. They will say, “Look, we set up a hypothesis and then we set out to prove that that hypothesis is true and that that hypothesis we set up on the basis of the order and design that we have already perceived. Indeed, we could do nothing if we could not depend on the reliable responses of the material substance in our world. It’s only because we can foretell and foresee, indeed prophesy that material substances will react in a certain way each time that we can have any order.”
Indeed, the whole world of commerce, the whole world of transportation, the whole world of psychology, the whole world of human endeavor depends on such order. Without that order we could not arrange an appointment tomorrow. We could not arrange to even have a meal tomorrow if we could not depend on certain crops and certain substances responding in certain premeditated ways.
So the mind naturally comes to the conclusion that there is so much order and design and there is so much meaning in the natural fabric of our world that whatever produced it must have some of the same characteristics as our minds have. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to perceive this order.
What is the meaning of life? There must be a meaning in our life when you see all the evidence of meaning in our orderly, carefully designed world in which we live. Let’s talk a little more tomorrow about whether the life around us gives us any clues about the meaning and purpose of our own lives.