Description: Order and design continued
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
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.