Life does have a purpose

This is what Christian propaganda material tells us.

Among the many life forms that evolved on the earth, human beings have done rather well for themselves. We have truly acted as the vice-regents of the earth and utilized most of earth’s resources for ourselves. The purpose of every common man is to seek as much happiness as he can find. This couldn’t be said to be the purpose of our lives. A few of us do go beyond personal happiness and lead a relatively more purposeful life, but this is again purely in the interest of the humans only. Mahatma Gandhi, George Washington, Edison and Einstein are all important to us, not to the universe.

If a creator god has created us with a purpose, then our existence should be important to the universe. Leave aside the universe, are we relevant to at least the earth? How much difference would it make to earth if we were not existing here? Are we more important to the earth than the earthworms? The universe is full of wasted material and space. How much more relevant are we to the universe compared to the wasted material? Are we glorifying ourselves by saying that our life has a purpose?



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Is not the purpose of living things to reproduce themselves a purpose?

Michael OL. Since we are all expressing opinions about "purpose", which can be hard to nail down for many of us, your "purposeless" world view is valid as well. As a biologist and evolutionist I attribute purpose to all life and biological processes, whether known or not.

I wouln't spend too much time and energy looking for a purpose. Your purpose might be doing what you do every day. Simply being alive and doing what you like -- common things -- can be enough. Extraordinary accomplishments are usually a result of curiosity or incredible persistence -- obsession, really. The purpose driven quest for a cancer cure has been going on for decades, to no great results. But a retired person studying an obscure alga in The Crimea might come upon something which sparks the interest of another which leads to something  significant. 

Searching for a purpose is frustrating and usually fruitless. If I fail with my art I will at least have enjoyed myself. And of course I may join the company of other failures, like van Gogh.  hahahahaha




I have lived with more than a dozen cats (2 or 3 at a time), have lived with the man I still love for 36 years, have taken a little care of elderly people, have taught hundreds of people, have watered thousands of plants, have cleaned my apartment over and over, have read thousands of books, have done some suicide watch, have connected to people and said good bye, have cooked meals 40 years long, and I could make this list much longer. But you get the idea: for some I'm an elderly woman who is busy with trivia all day long, or you might think I'm a useful part of society - perhaps I am. To me, there's purpose in what I do. I think it's good for people to be part of a network in which care, understanding and joy play a big part, so I work at it. There might or might not be a bigger purpose, but if there is, it's too big for me to do anything useful with.

Chris, that was beautifully said.

Chris, we love you for this---it is all positives. 

On a smaller scale, we humans must find purpose for our lives. It's up to the individual to define their life, whether it's parenting, on the job, helping others, etc.

Life cycle(an evolutionary cycle) is so purposeful in itself that we don't need to seach for individual purposes as being part of it.

Still if one persists to have a purpose as an individual, being happy yourself, helping others to be happy(all forms of life), you serve the purpose of the cycle.

In terms of purpose to the universe or even this planet? None. We can't destroy this planet. The life on it, yes, but this hunk of rock we call earth will continue it's path around the sun with or without us (or any other life form). Unless you take some kind of new age religious outlook, that our planet is alive and can feel, no life really matters to it. I honestly don't think earth is "happier or sadder" than say Mercury or Jupiter. And neither is the rest of the universe.

Concur. The topic seems to have been addressing human purpose.

The way I see it, the quest for human purpose can be approached from several directions.

If we're honest and look for universal purpose, we find that there is none. That is, what is the purpose of a human to the universe? Taken from an objective perspective completely removed from life, humanity, this planet and everything else, what purpose does a human have? The only honest answer is, none. Faced with that many become depressed, some find it liberating in that they're now free to choose their own purpose. I tend to prefer the latter simply because the former isn't any fun.

Then there's the evolutionary perspective. Some would say that the purpose is survival, some would say reproduction, but I actually disagree. The reason is simple, most things don't know that they're reproducing, most aren't self aware enough to understand that the object of the desire to survive is themselves. On some level, however, there is an awareness of certain traits and a drive to perpetuate said traits. From where I'm sitting, it's like a much more complex version of self-replicating proteins. But that seems so shallow... until you realize that "trait" is a hugely open ended term and "acting to perpetuate one's traits" could describe pretty much anything that any living thing does. But even then, because it is so broad, it lacks the potency and specificity to really inspire human beings. Heck, this isn't even specific enough for a member of any species. Then when you consider that this is an iterative feedback loop, you can see that to some degree the purpose of one generation is influenced by the previous. That is, the specific traits which are pursued are influenced by the selection criteria of the group doing the selection. So then we have hierarchies of purpose which stretch backwards through our ancestors as well as sideways through our societies and ecosystems. My purpose to the government might be to pay taxes. My purpose to my parents might be to care for them when they're old and feeble. My purpose to my dog might be to feed him and play fetch. They list of imposed purpose could go on nearly endlessly. And that might be enough if we weren't so self aware and so conscious of ourselves and our actions. It might be argued that many animals are effectively on autopilot, while we must consciously take the controls. That being the case, no external imposed purpose can really move us unless we internalize that purpose and make it our own... and once again, we're forced to decide our own purpose in life.

Then we get to the side which we Atheists don't normally think about, god-given purpose. That is, if god(s) exist, and they created us, then did they do so with a purpose in mind? How would we figure out what that purpose is, given the silence of the gods? The way I see it, we should be able to figure it out through similar methods to archaeology. We can look at ancient tools and see evidence of how they were used. We can then determine from that the purpose for which they were created. This is how we know that some hand axes were indeed created to cut while others were mainly to illustrate the skill of the person who made it. Similarly, if we were shaped by the hand of a creator, we should be able to see what it is that we do and determine the purpose for which we were created. I've had this conversation with theists before and have yet to have them disagree with me on this one. In this particular scenario, we're still left with having to find our purpose. We're not so much choosing it, as we are uncovering it. The fun part is that so long as you're not scientifically illiterate, this circles back around the evolutionary purpose. That is, once you admit that have evolved, and this is the way we got to where we are, then we still must admit that we would not only have a purpose imposed on us by god(s) but also everything else and that we must find our own purpose amongst all of that. It's not such an easy discussion if the person you're talking to doesn't believe in evolution... but we can still appeal to the specifics of humanity even if we can't appeal to the broad purpose of life... and we're still right back where we keep ending up.

The purpose of our life is the purpose we give it.

Homo sapiens do not have a purpose or a plan for our lives. We evolved as part of the natural processes of life, living things. If an individual dies, the Earth will not change  If a species goes extinct, the Earth does not change. If all living things go extinct, the Earth has already changed, but continues on its journey around the Sun and Milky Way and Universe, looking more like Mars, perhaps, or whatever the elements produce. The Earth, the Sun, the Milky Way, the Universe do not care if all living forms on Earth go extinct. They will do nothing to make Earth more habitable if humans destroy the possibility of living things to survive.  




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