Does the Universe Have a Purpose? Neil deGrasse Tyson, Animated
By Maria Popova
“Why does the world exist?,” asked one of the best philosophy books of the year. Another way to put is, “Does the universe have a purpose?” That’s exactly what the John Templeton Foundation asked a dozen of our time’s greatest scientific minds in a new series of Big Questions. The wonderful MinutePhysics — who have previously given us a stride-stopping open letter on the state of science education and animated explanations of why the color pink doesn’t exist, why the past is different from the future, and why it’s dark at night — have animated Neil deGrasee Tyson’s characteristically brilliant answer to the question, which once again reaffirms him as the Carl Sagan of our day:
To assert that the universe has a purpose implies the universe has intent. And intent implies a desired outcome. But who would do the desiring? And what would a desired outcome be? That carbon-based life is inevitable? Or that sentient primates are life’s neurological pinnacle? Are answers to these questions even possible without expressing a profound bias of human sentiment? Of course humans were not around to ask these questions for 99.9999% of cosmic history. So if the purpose of the universe was to create humans then the cosmos was embarrassingly inefficient about it.
Indeed, what an eloquent attestation to the power of not knowing.
Published December 4, 2012