Philosophy on Life Research Proposal

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Personal Beliefs -- Philosophy of Life

Origin and Nature of the Universe

To the best of our current ability to make meaningful assumptions about the origin and nature of the universe, it seems that the universe started out approximately 10 billion years ago as an explosion of energy. During the 20th century, astronomers and astrophysicists learned exactly what happened from a very small fraction of a second (10-47) after the "Big Bang" to the current epoch, but it is not known what happened earlier than that small fraction of a second. In fact, according to what we understand about quantum mechanics (the physics at the atomic and subatomic levels), it is fundamentally impossible for us ever to know what "caused" the universe to come into existence or how anything could "come into existence" from nothing.

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However, it is not helpful to try to explain how anything (like the universe) came to be as the work of a "god" or other pre-existing being or consciousness that predated the universe. At some point "before" the Big Bang, one encounters the same questions about any "gods": Where did God come from? How could God "come into existence" or come to exist out of nothingness? At least in the case of the universe, there is direct evidence that it exists and very precise mathematical proofs establishing everything that happened since less than one second after the first "instant" of the universe. Conversely, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest the presence of any "gods" and only hearsay evidence and writings believed on hearsay to be those of various "gods." Finally, while there is nothing contradicting the logic of the belief that the universe exists, there are numerous glaring inconsistencies and other logically impermissible beliefs about most religious concepts of "gods."

Research Proposal on Philosophy on Life Assignment

This universe evolved by complex laws of nature that we understand quite well. We do not understand how or "why" that happened; but we know it did. Ultimately, it may be that this universe is only one of many (or an infinite number) in different times or what physicists call "dimensions."

Origin and Nature of Human Life

Just as we understand the complex principles involved in the evolution of the universe, we also understand a tremendous amount about the evolution of biological life on earth. In much the same way that scientists cannot explain "how" a universe came to be, there are limits to the scientific definition or understanding about what makes life different from non-life. However, evolutionary biologists can trace the course of human evolution back to long before our genetic code became slightly different from that of our closest non-human simian ancestors. Given what we know about how life develops and what conditions it requires, it makes much more sense to assume that it occurs periodically near some of the hundreds of millions of stars in each of roughly half a billion galaxies in the known universe.

There does not seem to be any basis for believing that human life is fundamentally different from other highly evolved animal species. That is not to say that living human beings have no rights within their relationships with other human beings and society; but it means people are not special in any significant way from other animals and no more important than other species in the long run. Once one understands that the existence of stars, planets, and the rest of the physical universe is finite, the obvious implication is that nothing that ever happens in the universe (or on earth) particularly matters. Ultimately, that is why the most "productive" use of our time on earth probably relates to improving the experience of life for as many other people (and possibly for other living creatures) as possible.

Analysis of What is Wrong with Human Societies

The religious impulse is one of the main problems in society. For one thing, it unnecessarily divides people in a way that causes a tremendous amount of harm within and among human societies. Throughout recorded history, religious differences have always been at the root of the most common cause of persecution, social conflict, and war between nations. At the level of the individual in society, religious morality is confusing; it also causes unnecessary shame and guilt over many natural impulses and frequently interferes with healthy psychological development and with genuine appreciation of the basis of morality and obligation in human life.

The natural tendency of human societies to maintain established social and cultural norms and values is something of a double-edged sword. Specifically, it is the way that individuals learn to interact with others and what people can reasonably expect from others. However, the same societal norms expectations that help connect individuals at the local or national level also create a natural ethnocentric perspective that, much like religion, separates people from different regions and causes enmity and often direct conflict.

At the societal level, even the most highly developed political and governmental systems still have significant problems, as is more than evident in the United States. In some parts of the world, national governments are overtly and systematically corrupt; in still others, there is no effective government at all and the closest thing to public administration are the arbitrary beliefs of regional and local militias or tribal chiefs.

Prescription for Change

So far, the reduction in the role that religion plays in human societies has dramatically improved life for people inhabiting the so-called "First-World" nations, particularly in the Western hemisphere. Today, it is easy to forget that as recently as the late 19th century Britain required specific religious allegiances of the general public and still punished "heresy" with brutal imprisonment in dungeons and horrifically cruel torture. On a much smaller scale, religious beliefs precipitated similar officially sanctioned persecution in Massachusetts and other regions of the U.S. during the same approximate time period.

In principle, it should be possible to extract and retain some of the most beneficial components of the religious impulse in human societies while reducing other aspects of religious beliefs that cause so much more harm than good. Furthermore, there is no reason that fundamental concepts of morality and social consciousness need to be connected to religious underpinnings. Contrary to what many people come to believe because of their religious indoctrination, the alternative to religious values is not necessarily moral anarchy; it is simply human benevolence and goodwill toward others.

The natural impulse of empathy is just as capable of being cultivated among young children and does not require teaching fables and deference or obedience to religious moral authorities based on those types of beliefs. More importantly, whereas any tangible benefits of religious perspective in society inevitably separate societies and people who do not share the same beliefs, a secular moral perspective could achieve many of the same benefits but without the social and human costs that are frequently associated with teaching morality and social values through religious indoctrination.

Intellectual Difficulties and Conceptual Problems

One of the problems implementing significant change in human societies is the power of momentum and the sheer length of time required to achieve changes; therefore, meaningful change tends to occur incrementally rather than over the shorter time. On the other hand, even if relatively little changes from decade to decade, one need only consider the recent election of Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency and the use of the Lincoln Bible to appreciate that meaningful social change does occur over the longer term (notwithstanding the obvious underlying problems with any connection between religious concepts and government).

In many ways, one could consider the current era somewhat analogous to the mythological period of ancient Greek society. In that regard, future generations could conceivably look back on this era as a curious time when modern technological progress coincided with the persistence of ancient beliefs about… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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