This site explores the concept of Meaningfulness, and how to find it in your life. We define something as "meaningful" if it has a lasting and constructive purpose. So, for example, a meaningful life is a life that has a lasting and constructive purpose.
Note the distinction between "meaningfulness" and "purposefulness". A person may have any number of purposes or goals in their life, but those purposes are not meaningful unless they involve something that is lasting and constructive. For example, a person may have a goal in life of acquiring wealth. This goal may give that person a feeling of purpose during their life, but the goal ends when the person dies, and hence is not meaningful in itself. Another person's goal may be to have a family, in which the children would "carry on the name". That purpose may then extend beyond the person's lifetime, but there is no guarantee that the family name will survive indefinitely into the future, and there is a sure guarantee that it will not last forever. That purpose, therefore, is also not meaningful.
In addition to being lasting, a meaningful purpose must also be constructive. You cannot have a meaningful life if your sole purpose is to destroy what others have built or are trying to build. You also cannot have a meaningful life if you lack the ability to work toward and implement your purpose. Hence your purpose must be feasible and constructive.
Can meaningfulness as described above be found in anyone's life? Does meaningfulness even exist?
We consider first the existence of meaningfulness itself. Meaningfulness is described above as a concept with the terms "lasting", "constructive" and "purpose". These terms are well-known and well-defined. This makes "meaningfulness" well-defined and easily conceived and understood. The fact that it can be conceived means that "meaningfulness" must exist, at least as a concept. The existence of meaningfulness as a concept is what allows us to describe and discuss it rationally, as was done in the paragraphs above.
Since meaningfulness exists, it is something that a person can commit to or devote their life to. That is, you can commit to having a life that has a lasting and constructive purpose. If you are interested in that, then the information in this site may help you. On the other hand, if you simply have no interest in meaningfulness, then go no further. This site is not for you.
Now the existence of "meaningfulness" as a concept is
interesting, but a concept is not actually meaningful in itself if it
cannot be realized (actualized) or attained in anyone's life. So we
can conceive of meaningfulness, but can we actually achieve or attain it?
We know that our lives here on Earth will not last forever. We could
try to achieve meaningfulness by working on technologies that might lead to
immortality, but our best knowledge is that the Earth itself will not
last forever, and will ultimately be destroyed one way or
another., Even if we were to achieve the prohibitively unlikely
dream that our species might survive on another planet or in another solar
system, our best knowledge is that our entire Universe will
eventually die in a Big Crunch or cease to function in a Big Freeze.
So it quickly becomes apparent that we cannot achieve meaningfulness on our own in our own earthly lives. In addition, our ability to even conceive of meaningfulness (which allowed us to prove its existence) is also not something that we created. On the contrary, we were born with brains and minds that already have that ability. So we conclude that we are not the sources of meaningfulness, either as a concept or as a possible realization.
So anyone committed to meaningfulness must look for its source and realization from somewhere outside of themselves. This Source of Meaningfulness must be a higher being who has the power and ability to create a Universe like ours, and who has an intention and purpose that lasts forever. Such a being we call God. Thus anyone committed to meaningfulness must be at least a believer in the existence of an eternal God who created all things (i.e. a Deist). In addition, for creatures like us to find meaningfulness in our own lives, this God must care enough for his creation to interact with His creatures and share with them the knowledge of how to attain meaningfulness. Thus anyone committed to meaningfulness must also be a Theist (i.e. a believer in a God that cares for and intervenes in our Universe).
So does such a God exist? Does an eternal Source of Meaningfulness exist who has an everlasting constructive purpose, and who shares the knowledge of that purpose with His creatures?
In fact, there is significant objective evidence that such a God does indeed exist. Some of the most powerful evidences are the following:
o The Creation and Existence of Our Universe
o The Order and Fine-Tuning of Our Universe
o The Formation of the Earth
o The Specified Complexity of Life on Earth
o The Ability of Intelligent Life on Earth to Understand Meaningfulness
o The Success of Science/Mathematics/Technology
o The Existence of Beauty
o The Lavishness of Our Existence
o The Existence of the Bible
The Creation and Existence of Our Universe
We know that our Universe was created in the finite past, and that its creation required an unimaginable amount of power. In addition, the well-known and measured expanding of our Universe into a higher dimension required this creation power to exist in higher dimensions outside and beyond our own. This kind of higher power is consistent with the existence of a theistic God.
The Order and Fine-Tuning of Our Universe
Our Universe was created in a highly ordered state that was fine-tuned at an unimaginable level in order for it to remain stable, such that stars and planets like our Sun and Earth could exist. This hyper-microscopic level of fine-tuning could not have happened by chance. It could only have been done by an intentional Being with unimaginable knowledge, who cared deeply that creatures like us also exist. This kind of knowledgeable, caring and loving Being is also characteristic of a theistic God.
(Some cosmologists speculate that the fine tuning of our Universe could have occurred by chance in a multiverse, in which an infinite number of universes are being created, some of which would randomly be fine-tuned for life like our own. However, this theory requires that a multiverse generator exist that itself must be fine-tuned to a level that is hyper-exponentially more precise than the fine tuning required for our single Universe. So the requirements of unimaginable knowledge and caring would actually increase for the Creator in this scenario. (For more discussion on the multiverse, go to Big Questions/The Multiverse.) )
The Formation of the Earth
In addition to the fine tuning of general cosmic parameters across the entire Universe (as discussed above), there has been an exquisite fine tuning of specific conditions in our area of the Universe. These conditions have been configured to produce an environment on Earth capable of supporting and sustaining advanced life for an extended period of time.
The formation of the Earth and its life-supporting environment required a highly specific galaxy, host star and solar system. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is a unique pure-disk spur-free spiral galaxy with spiral arms that are wound exactly right to provide a long-lived Galactic Habitable Zone. Our host star, Sol, is a unique G-type dwarf star that was formed in a metal-rich section of the Milky Way, and then was ejected at just the right time, location, direction and speed to end up in a stable orbit in the Milky Way’s GHZ. Our solar system had just the right combination of material, planets, asteroids and collisions to produce an Earth that orbits stably in Sol’s habitable zone, with hundreds of fine-tuned conditions required to support advanced life.
External to our Milky Way Galaxy, astronomers are discovering finely tuned conditions that configured our galaxy cluster to produce a Supergalactic Habitable Zone. This SHZ produced the Milky Way with its life-supporting characteristics, along with a relatively radiation-free area of space for the Milky Way to occupy.
The hyper-astronomical fine-tuning that was used to produce the Earth’s life-supporting environment makes it extremely likely that the Earth is an exceedingly improbable planet that is the only place in our Universe capable of harboring intelligent life. Indeed, it appears that the entire Universe was used to focus on one specific area and on one specific process of configuring the conditions to support advanced life here on Earth.
(See Big Questions/How was the Earth Formed? for more on this topic.)
The Specified Complexity of Life on Earth
From the Law of the Conservation of Information, we understand that the incredible amount of complex specified information found in living things on Earth could not possibly have originated from random undirected processes. They must have been designed by an Intelligent Being. Indeed, the design of the hyper-astronomical complexity of life's processes are far beyond our capabilities. They must have been designed and created by a Being with intelligence beyond our understanding. This is consistent with the attribute of omniscience of a theistic God.
(It’s true that we have developed genetic engineering technologies that allow us to modify some of life’s designs to a slight degree. But that’s only because we make use of highly complex genetic machines that already exist in living cells. The ability to design and build these machines from scratch, or to design and build entirely new forms of non-genetic life are far beyond our capabilities.)
The Ability of Intelligent Life on Earth to Understand Meaningfulness
Not only has a powerful, knowledgeable and caring God created a highly-ordered Universe with highly complex life forms, this God has also created intelligent creatures like us who have the mental ability to understand the concepts associated with meaningfulness. God has also provided us with other people who have received revealed information, which they have passed on to us, on how to achieve meaningfulness in our lives. The fact that this has happened is convincing evidence that God is caring and loving, and that He intervenes in our Universe.
Why does science work so well? Why does mathematics describe reality so well? Why is the Universe transparent to electromagnetic radiation and other information-carrying objects? Why does the Earth’s atmospheric transparency allow us to observe the Universe? Why are the current sizes and positions of the Sun and Moon just right to allow precise observations of eclipses? Why is Earth’s gravity strong enough to hold us, but weak enough to allow spacecraft to escape it for research and technological activities? Why are we able to observe and understand so much about our Universe and the Earth? Why is there such a wide range of materials and energy resources on the Earth that allow us to make incredible technological advances?
These and other questions like them are pure mysteries unless one understands that a loving God designed and created the Universe and the Earth in such a way that humans could thrive and prosper there. In his book, The Privileged Planet, Guillermo Gonzalez explains how our place in the Cosmos has been designed for our exploration, discovery and understanding of it and ourselves. The evidence presented by Gonzalez points to a loving God who wants His creatures to thrive, and to understand the why and the how of attaining meaningfulness.
The Existence of Beauty
(God as the Best Explanation of Beauty)
The Lavishness of Our Existence
One of the basic principles of materialism is that any randomly generated complex functional system would exist at the simplest and most economical limit possible. This is because of the extreme difficulty and improbability of any random process to construct any complex system. Thus, if our complex Universe were created by a random materialistic process, then we would expect that any complex living systems within would exist at their minimum levels of survivability. The fact that we can live in comfort with surpluses of all that we need to thrive at levels far above basic survivability is strong evidence for an intelligent and loving Designer/Creator/Sustainer.
There is much that we can learn and understand from studying nature. But there are many important details about God that can only be learned from a specific revelation of His nature and His will for our lives. That is why He provided the Bible. How do we know that the Bible is God's Word? That question is answered in The Bible section on this site.
So, given the evidence outlined above, it is highly likely that a
powerful, caring and loving God does exist.
The fact that God created this highly-ordered Universe with
highly-complex creatures like us is evidence that He has a constructive purpose
in what He does. But is God’s purpose
lasting, i.e. is God eternal?
The evidence for God’s eternal existence follows from the definition of God as the Source of All Meaningfulness. As the ultimate Source, God created our Universe and anything else that had a beginning. This means that God is uncreated, and hence has existed from eternity. God could not have suddenly appeared out of nothingness in the finite past, because it is impossible for something to be created from nothingness. Indeed that is the definition of “nothingness”. (There are some who claim that matter and energy can appear spontaneously from the quantum vacuum, but they confuse nothingness with the existence of the quantum vacuum.)
Will God exist forever into the future? We have no reason to believe otherwise. It would be hard to imagine a Being that has existed from eternity, and yet has only a finite future (if that is even possible). In addition, the hyper-astronomical power and hyper-microscopic finely-tuned perfection of the Creator of our Universe implies that God has the characteristics of a Being who can exist forever. Finally, we have God’s promise and assurance in the Bible that He will be with us forever.
So if God is eternal, and has a meaningful existence, how does this apply to us? How do we attain meaningfulness in our own lives? Fortunately, God is Love, and He provides a plan for us be with Him for eternity, and to be a meaningful part of the existence that He creates. God’s plan is revealed in the Bible, which is discussed further on The Bible page.