Telescopes, microscopes, atom-smashers, and fMRI brain scanners—these are just some of the technologies scientists depend on to untangle the material mysteries of the universe and our all-too-human lives within it. But alongside each new material explanation, we hear a familiar charge: “Reductionism!” cry the opponents of the mere material— “We are no clockwork machine!”

And along with them I wonder, too—what happens to meaning when a woman is reduced to sub-atomic particles? Where is love in a vibrating string? Do these wonderful new tools of discovery really reduce us to blind/meaningless things? Are we left cold, loveless, and forlorn under the weight of our new understanding? On the other hand, are the most widely promoted alternatives—religious mythologies grounded in the visions of prophets and theologians—relevant to modern life? Or have they too become a thin gruel in which to find meaning—so out of sync with our lives that in many cases they prove more harmful than helpful?

I believe this is a false dilemma. While I contend that revealed religions are indeed outdated and in many cases an obstacle to harmonious society, what science reveals through its ever-reducing explanations of our existence—expands, not forsakes, meaning—and it does so in a way that belief in a deity or supernatural cosmic purpose never could. Technology uncovers the multiple sources and layers of our emergence into the world from stars to mud to love—and in this uncovering, we find the meaningfulness of our lives inescapable.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to blog you a Model of Everything that, I hope, will make the argument above clear, optimistic, and irresistible!

Part 1. The Very Small

Part 2. The Very Small, Probability, and Uncertainty

Part 3. The Emptiness of Things, Large and Small

Part 4. From Atoms to Suns

Part 5. Molecules that Copy

Part 6. The Power of Error

Part 7. The Inner Life of Living Things

Part 8. More on Body and Soul

Part 9. Contra-”Reductionism”

Part 10. The Complete Model?

Part 11. The Meaning of Meaning

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This is a survey about “the meaning of life”—and about people’s opinions where meaning  in life may come from.

Of course such questions are grandiose, and the more we try to reduce our answer, the greater the temptation to quip rather than reflect. I hope you’ll do more reflecting than quipping.

The first two questions will probably take the longest to answer (5-? minutes, if I had to guess), but the remaining questions should go quickly.  Feel free to revise your answers as you complete the survey.

I hope you find this exercise interesting and perhaps in some way revealing—and thanks for taking the time!

Tyson

Click Here to Take the Survey

The meaning of life is that life is meaningful—on its own.

Our lives are inescapably meaningful, and we, each of us, are little meaning generators…

We are meaningful to ourselves, and we are meaningful to others. When we ask the question, “Is there a meaning to life?” or “What is the meaning of life?” our lives already have meaning. It means something to ask these questions, and even if we shake our fist at the sky, wondering what it’s all for, concluding that life and everything in it is meaningless—well, that’s a meaningful thing…

We are not the play-things of God(s) or the objects of some grand plan—what happens in our lives is not concretely meant to be—there is no cosmic playwright writing us, no Goddess planning our destiny—our futures are not etched in the stars or determined by the position of Pluto as it rises against Neptune in this Age of Aquarius…

And yet everything we do is meaningful—perhaps in ways we’ve never considered. Our actions affect our own lives and our daily decisions spill over into the lives of others–even a sideways glance may be a moment of meaning to a stranger. It is senseless to ask if life has meaning, the question itself is profoundly meaningful—so the answer, then, is always and intensely yes…

It is this overpowering meaningfulness, this overwhelming sense of import that fuels our curiosity. It is why we dissect and why we collect, why we record and why we gaze—it is also why we  make-up gods and demons, why we worship deities and pray to invisible beings. It’s the certainty that life is meaningful without understanding why it is so that convinces us someone else must be in control—that makes us think all this meaning can’t come from just me.

But it does. Your are that meaningful.

This is a blog about that—about the meaning foundational to our human lives. It is also about the discoveries of science and how they impact the way we see ourselves–it is about psychology and neuroscience, about particle physics and evolutionary biology. This is a blog about making sense of our meaning, and about the mistakes we too-often repeat along the way. It is a blog about everything–and I hope you’ll get involved in the discussion.