[Solved] Why does Life Exist?
Why does Life Exist?
Most religions explain life as existing because of God’s will. That explanation is fine if it gives comfort to people but it is not a scientific explanation. A scientific explanation is harsher and colder, and leaves us with a displeasing answer as to “Why are we here?” Unlike religion, the purpose of science is not to give comfort.
Nature abhors a gradient. Gradients exist when energy or pressure enters one part of a system and is discharged at another. When you suck on a straw inserted in a glass of water, the water rises in the straw because of the pressure gradient caused by a vacuum. Thermodynamic theory says that life exists because nature abhors the energy gradient between solar energy entering the Earth and heat energy reradiating into the atmosphere. On Earth there is an abundance of plant, animal, and microbial life. By converting solar energy into biomass, these organisms reduce the energy gradient between solar energy entering the ecosystem, and heat reradiating out into space. Life is reducing the gradient. Nature “wants” there to be life on Earth.
Nature “wants” there to be life is a teleological statement. A scientific way to say it is that 4 billion years ago, in geothermal vents there existed both a strong energy gradient and a rich mixture of inorganic chemicals. These chemicals came together in millions of different combinations, but by chance, one combination had the ability to absorb chemical energy and transform it into heat. Thus occurred the first living organism, which incidentally reduced the energy gradient in the vent. On a lifeless planet such as Mars, there is a strong energy gradient between solar energy hitting the surface and the heat reradiated from the surface. Nature “wants” there to be life on Mars, but is stymied because of lack of water.
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Thermodynamics can offer no innate purpose for life. If you seek a purpose in life, you have to define it for yourself. Life consists of experiencing happiness, excitement, love, sorrow and pain. It consists of expressing yourself in art, music, sports and science. It comes through helping others. It is the thrill of achievement and the disappointment of defeat. It consists of learning about other cultures, and immersing yourself in natural ecosystems to help preserve the richness and diversity of life. But you must make an effort to seek it. It will not come without effort.
Some definitions of life include the characteristic “consciousness”. Consciousness of time (and also of happiness, sorrow, death and other intangibles) depends on the existence of human brains. Scientists that study the brain say that consciousness is a function of the interactions of neurons in the brain. The greater the number of interactions, the greater will be the consciousness. Brain Specialists cannot give an explanation of consciousness – what it is or how it is generated. All they can say is that is a result of the interactions between the neurons that compose the brain. In other words, consciousness is an emergent property, and the greater the number of interactions, the higher the degree of consciousness. Consciousness therefore is not simply present or absent, but is present in varying degrees. The idea that horses have a degree of consciousness came to me from my farm, where I had a stallion (Thor), a mare (Sally), and their two offspring. The mare became unmanageable after she became tangled in some barbed wire. I had to send her off, and as she was carted away in the horse trailer, Thor gave out a heart-breaking whinny. He was conscious of what was happening.
If consciousness is a result of interactions between components of a system, then we can say that a school of fish or a flock of birds has a consciousness. The individuals are like neurons in a brain. The interactions between birds could explain why a flock of starlings swirl and swoop in formation and do not bump into each other. However, we cannot explain the nature of the interactions. We can also say that ecosystems have consciousness because there are thousands of interactions between embedded species. If the number of interactions is a measure of the degree of consciousness, then tropical rain forests have the highest degree, and deforestation results in a loss of consciousness.
Comment 1. Regarding the purpose of life, and seeking it- can the purpose of life be to just exist? If it takes effort to develop consciously a purpose for life then do those that do not put effort into it have no purpose? Doesn't nature determine your existence? The purpose of life is really the outcome of events we had no control over.
Comment 2. It's an interesting concept that ecosystems have consciousness. When I have seen bees at work in the past, I have very clearly seen a collective consciousness towards a common goal- a non-visible connective tissue unting the bees to their queen, their hive, their movements.
At Spring Valley Farm I remember how at the duck pond all the ducks would take actions together.
Another good example of an ecosystem consciousness was when some of the pigs were harvested at the farm, and stress was spreading through the remaining swine; in lieu of hiding for example to avoid their fate- they started fornicating.
Reply to Comment 1
The thermodynamic view says that the purpose of life is to reduce the energy gradient between solar energy entering the Earth and heat radiating out. That is a difficult premise for people to accept. Therefore, religion was invented so that people could feel better about the struggles they were enduring. That is why Karl Marx called religion the opiate of the masses. Psychological counseling also was invented to help people create a reason to keep on living.
Reply to Comment 2
The idea of group selection and group consciousness is rejected by biologists who believe that natural selection is based solely on reproductive success. These scientists say that evolutionary selection is based only on self-interest (see “The Selfish Gene”by Richard Dawkins). Thermodynamic theory says that selection is based on power output, and since groups are more powerful than individuals in war and other forms of competition for resources, there is a tendency for selection of individuals that are inclined for group and ecosystem interaction, and group and ecosystem consciousness.
@thermoevogmail-com I do not agree with the origin of religion premise. Religion evolved, over time, in many civilizations and with similar covenants to provide the most evolved organisms in any ecosystem a measuring/ best-practices system for their existence. Religion is often a key to survival in history; so religion in many ways served to support what we can now explain scientifically. It's too reductionistic to claim it was to make people feel good or better. Religions involve belief systems that incorporate eating recommendations, behavior recommendations and rituals that actually help you live longer. Most religions encourage things like eating in a certain order, cleanliness, reflection, learning....which all help survival.
Yes, religion does all those things, as well as make people feel that they have a purpose in life. But the purpose of this forum was to ask, why does life exist? Not why does religion exist?