John Stewart and the Meaning of Life

As was recently posted on the Guardian (scholarly version here), the philosopher/hypothesizer John Stewart thinks he has a pretty good guess at the meaning of life. It hinges on a few points:

1. He claims to observe a repeating trend in biology in which forms aggregate and coalesce into a new more powerful form.

2. The seeming fine-tuned-ness of the universe for life, which leads many to anthropics and the “Many Worlds.”

3. That it is possible to create a “universe,” although the sense of the term as he uses it might sometimes be closer to “replica universe” or “simulated universe.”

He then posits the following:

The trend for larger scale organization will continue, with humans eventually forming some sort of interconnected global community, which will reach into space and find other communities that originated on other planets, with the process advancing until it can either move outside of or manipulate this universe or find a way to create another universe (unless we kill ourselves first.)

The consequence is the question “What if it’s been done already?” and his answer is “You might end up with a chain of universes and their offspring-universes which are tuned for successively increasing habitability to life, with our universe being a link in this chain.” Even if we have no way of knowing any of this to be true, he reasons we should act as if we do, and therefore the meaning of life is the lesson taught by terran evolution (and contrary to the “survival of the fittest” style individualism) that it’s best to cooperate.

He doesn’t posit how this train got started. Maybe there is some source of universes or we are the first. I’m also not sure I would call it “meaning” to say that our lives are part of a large scale meta-biological process; he admits that many feel a similar scientific reduction is just what stripped it. But for all it’s logical bleakness, it’s fascinating and a little rosy.


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