|Why do I exist?|
|Question Date: 2019-03-24|
That is certainly an important question. It’s
not the kind of question that science helps us
answer, though. Science tries to explain the
world in terms of causes, such as why animals
behave in certain ways, or what causes a
Other fields of study, such as philosophy and
religion deal with the meaning of life.
That doesn’t mean that scientists can’t have
opinions about why we exist. We’re just not
experts in that field. So here’s my personal
opinion. It may not be better or worse than anyone
My opinion is that we get to decide why we
exist with every decision we make and every action
that we take. That doesn’t mean we have to be
perfect. Nobody is. It just means that it’s
important to figure out what we value and try to
make decisions based on those values. I know that
I am still less kind, honest, or generous than I
should be sometimes, but I try to keep my
values in mind and do the best I can to honor
those values. When I act on my values, I make
my existence mean more.
My suggestion is to think about your values.
What’s important to you? What do you think will
make the world better? Why? Talk it over with
people you trust.
Then think about anything you could do to make
even the smallest change. Do you wish people
were nicer? Be nicer to people. Do you wish
your neighborhood were cleaner? Pick up some
trash. Start small.
Just remember that your existence is very
valuable. It’s up to you to decide what to do with
Keep asking the tough questions.
As far as science can tell, you exist
because the laws of chemistry, physics and biology
allowed certain chemical reactions to
autocatalytically take place around 4 billion
years ago. These reactions allowed metabolic
reactions to occur along a mineral surface or
within a vesicle, and those metabolic reactions
allowed replication to spontaneously occur….
Once such a self sustaining protobiology
emerged, this protobiochemistry interacted with
the environment such that the set of reactions
that were favored continued whereas the ones that
did not were de-selected. This aspect is a
protoform of Darwinism… the selection of an
organism due to interaction with the
environment….. After 4 billion that is
4,000,000,000 years of this selection process
(darwinism), POOF!! , here you are.
There is no reason to suspect that this process
has not taken place on tens of billions or more
planets within the Milky Way galaxy, a collection
of around 200+ billion stars. Note also that the
Milky Way galaxy is only ONE of perhaps a trillion
OTHER galaxies within the observable Universe.
No matter what, you should strive to make
something of your life and help others insofar as
you can do the same. We are all in the same
boat and you should be kind to others who may
not be as fortunate as yourself.
You're not alone in asking this question - I
think that every single human being asks this
question at some point in their life. Truth be
told, we don't know - but we are trying our very
hardest to find out! Every new discovery, and
every new breakthrough in science can hopefully
help to get us closer to the answer. We may
never truly know why we are here, but the pursuit
of discovery gives us purpose - and that alone
just may be the answer itself.
I know that's not a very satisfying answer, so in
the meantime... the answer is 42. Unquestionably
and always 42. Don't Panic!
The simple answer is, because you were born.
The longer answer could be that Earth has the
right elements and is the correct distance from
the sun to support life, so life evolved here,
and eventually there were people who gave birth to
more people, who gave birth to your parents, who
gave birth to you.
Getting more philosophical,
there are lots of ideas about people's purposes in
life. Some of them come from religion, and some
are ideas that people just decided make sense for
them. Generally, most people's purpose has
something to do with doing good things.
The simple answer is that your father's sperm
met your mother's egg and fused into a single
cell, that single cell being you. That one
cell then grew to become the person that you are.
We know this because this is how all humans - and
most other animals - are created, by a sperm
meeting an egg. We've seen this happen in nature
and in the laboratory many, many times, and are
not aware of any way to create humans or most
other animals that are different from this. As a
result, we conclude based on what we know that
this is how humans come into being.
This question is often asked in a religious
context, such as "did God create me?", or
the like. From a scientific prospective, the
best that we can say is that there is no evidence
for supernatural forces involved in creating
humans, and the science only works when there is
evidence. This is the weakness of the
scientific method; while it is the best method we
have for learning about the universe when we have
evidence, it fails when we don't. As a result,
science cannot answer religious questions like the
one that I asked three sentences ago.
All that we can say is that the simplest
explanation for your existence, what we actually
have evidence for, does not require anything
Science can help to understand a bit about
yourself, why you are the way you are, and how
you came to be. You started from a single cell, a
fertilized egg that contains genetic material
(DNA) from both your mother and father. In an
amazing processes, that single cell grows
and differentiates into many millions of cells
that become tissues and organs such as lungs,
brain, heart, muscle, liver, skin, and so on that
make up the anatomy of a human. All this
development took place inside your mother’s womb,
and after you were born, your brain continues to
develop and grow as you learn and experience the
world. The field of science that studies how
organisms develop from single cells to adults is
called developmental biology and is a
But there is more to us than just our biological
functions. Humans have highly evolved brains
that produce complex thought, consciousness,
feelings, emotions, and a sense of identity.
The branch of science that studies how the brain
can give rise to feelings and thought, and how
your personality and identity develop is called
psychology. While scientists don’t fully
understand consciousness, psychology can help to
understand how your mind can turn a constant
stream of perceptions into a single unified
“I” with complex feelings, emotions, and
In addition to having a sense of self,
humans live in communities of people, and we are
always interacting with each other. Everyday you
will interact with members of your family,
friends, classmates, and others. These
interactions with people shape who you are, your
values, and who you will become. The branch of
science that studies how and why humans behave in
society is called sociology. Sociology can
help explain how and why you exist as an important
member of your family and fiends.
Finally, from the moment you are born, you are
immersed in a culture that is particular to a
specific time and place in the history of
humanity. The study of how culture develops and
how different societies interact is called
cultural anthropology. Cultural
anthropologists study how meanings and beliefs are
similar or different in different groups of people
in different places of the world, and how these
change over time.
Thus, science can help to understand how and
why you came to exists as a biological organism
(biology), as a thinking/feeling subject
(psychology), as a member of a family/community
(sociology), and as a person immersed in a
particular culture (anthropology). At the
individual level, people find meaning by thinking
and reflecting about their beliefs and
desires. At the social level, people find
meaning by being part of a family or community.
At the cultural level people find meaning by
participating in important cultural practices like
attending sporting events, participating in
religious ceremonies or national celebrations,
eating and sharing a meal that has a particular
cultural significance, and so on.
Culture gives rise to art, literature, and
religion. In this context, science can provide
only a small piece of the answer to the question
“Why do I exist?.” There are many
different ways that people have attempted to
answer that question. Literature, philosophy,
religion, and the fine arts all attempt to answer
this question in their own way, and all these
disciplines can be important for helping to think
about what it means to exist and what it means to
be a human being with a meaningful life.
I'll say you exist because your mother and
father gave birth to you, and their parents gave
birth to them, and on back for generations and
generations. 'Why' questions can be hard to
answer. What do you think we can do with our
It’s good you’re wondering about this at your
age. Essentially, we all exist to make the
world better. Keep asking questions like that
and you will be on a conscientious path.
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