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What is the purpose of sentient life?

  1. Apr 7, 2009 #1
    The Universe is a pool table, the big bang is the first strike and entropy will result in all the balls in the pocket. This version of the Universe is dictated by fate, everything could be calculated.
    Life occurs, and although it is more complex without awareness it is still a ball bouncing around the table, the plant turns to face the sun but does not choose to.
    Sentient life occurs, it can influence the game but what should it decide to do?

    I’ve been pondering this for a while now (I have other bad analogies with candles) but my question is the same - What is the purpose of sentient life?

    If we now have the opportunity to set ourselves a goal what should we set? The best I’ve come up with so far is if the Universe will end should we not try and find another way to exist (ok this is a long way off but would boil down to the pursuit of knowledge). But again I reason why is the survival of life worthwhile.
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  3. Apr 7, 2009 #2


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    There doesn't have to be any purpose.
  4. Apr 7, 2009 #3
    They are inter-related. In order to figure out what purpose you want to give your life, you have to survive long enough to decide. Once you have a purpose, you need the resources to survive long enough to reach your goal.

    However, its not the goal thats important, or even that you reach it.
    Purpose is about having a goal and pursuing it.
  5. Apr 7, 2009 #4


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    Perhaps a better question to ask is as you suggested "should we have goals?".
  6. Apr 7, 2009 #5
    I know, I should. Mom says I don't apply myself enough though.
  7. Apr 9, 2009 #6
    The ultimate purpose of life is to live. Survival is the top priority for all living things. Natural selection ensures this. Any traits that lead to non-survival of a species by definition means they do not survive. Survival of one's personal life typically falls second to survival of the genetic code, as evidenced by creatures that die after giving birth, or mother bears that fight to the death to protect her cubs.

    The purpose of all living things is to go on living.
  8. Apr 9, 2009 #7
    Given the fact that everything we know dies, and most things that live never procreate, that hardly seems correct. In fact one could easily say the opposite, based on statistics.
    And you might as well say the purpose of a rock is to just sit there.

    Sitting there may be what it does, but that doesn't imply a purpose.
    A purpose is not what it does, its why it does it.
  9. Apr 10, 2009 #8
    Survival isn't purpose. If you're the car, survival is the highway, not the destination. Each living vessel on this planet is serving some purpose. Survival has allowed them to accomplish that.

    As far as our purpose? To each their own. Every single individual has a different answer to that question. I see no reason to believe that there is some overarching scheme in which we're cogs playing a role. We're not cells making up an organ, we're not organs making up an organism. Society could possibly be considered as a super-entity in which our participation dictates a larger unseen outcome, but as we look back through history and the chaos and disorganization of past cultures I find that difficult to believe.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2009
  10. Apr 11, 2009 #9
    I don't know if this will help but, my definition of consciousness is :
    The state in which an entity is unwillingly/unconsciously recalling any aspect of its prior state which it unwillingly/unconsciously memorized.

    for example :
    a plant turns to face the sun as a tree sprouts leaves in the spring because that's what its genome codes it to do.
    The tree here is unwillingly/unconsciously recalling an aspect from its genome but, as the tree itself didn't unwillingly/unconsciously memorize it, the tree is unconscious in regard to this aspect.
    But according to the definition, there is something conscious here !, but what is it !!?....
    The two functions (unwilling/unconscious recalling and unwilling/unconscious memorizing) must be in one entity to be considered conscious.
    So, I think the conscious entity here is the evolution of this tree's species that is unwillingly recalling the mutations which it unwillingly memorized in the genome of this tree's ancestors !.
    What also assists this theory is that, when you examine species, you will find that they fit their environment very well, it's like they are created by a super-conscious being , which actually very true but it just happened to be evolution !.

    So, our super-conscious god is actually super-conscious evolution.
    This should reconcile religion with science !, shouldn't it ? :smile:.
  11. Apr 11, 2009 #10
    So by this a rock is also conscious because it always falls down hill.
  12. Apr 11, 2009 #11
    You know, I have a strong feeling that consciousness is related to the law of conservation of energy ! :smile:.
  13. Apr 11, 2009 #12
    Evolution is not an entity however. It's a mechanism of nature, a law so to speak that we've given a label to describe the process in which through countless generations of entities the ones that are most fit for survival tend to.

    This would be akin to saying gravity, time, physics, mathmatics or any other label that we have created to describe our existence is conscious.

    I believe you're trying to make this a chicken or egg scenerio. Did evolution create involuntary physiological actions, or are involuntary physiological actions the driving force of evolution?

    Since evolution is not an entity then I believe the answer to that is obvious.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2009
  14. Apr 11, 2009 #13
    From a personal standpoint, I find the purpose of living is to keep evolving "spiritually" (through your consciousness and soul, or however you'd like to put it), and to continue the process of evolution through the means we have available to us. To help others to evolve "spiritually" with us. Not necessarly in a religious sense, but if you want to use that as an analogy, it's not a bad place to start. Every religion has the same underlying concept. I.E. do unto others as you would have others do unto you. To be a good person because it's the right thing to do. Some religions achieve this by incorporating a higher power, like Catholicism and Judaism, and some do it through other means like Native American religions and Paganism. In the aforementioned ones, they use Heaven as a representation of the next level of "spiritual" evolution. From there you can continue through the stages of "spiritual" evolution.

    Mind you, I don't mean any of this in a religious sense, at least not as far as the standard religion means it. Think more along the lines of Buddhism and reaching Nirvana. Reaching Nirvana, according to Buddhist beliefs, ends the reincarnation cycle of death and rebirth. Think of that as achieving the next level of our "spiritual" evolution. And there are many stages to this evolution.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2009
  15. Apr 11, 2009 #14


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    The same as the purpose of a rock, perhaps?

    We are so bio-centred in our thinking, ecologists are the worst of the lot.

    I say we need to treat granite with more respect than we do today, and empathize with their lot and purpose.

    I know, they are slow to anger, but we should try to placate them nonetheless.
  16. Apr 11, 2009 #15
    While this is quite eloquent, I don't see how it differs from the idea that any form of adaptation and evolution constitute purpose.

    It's difficult to evaluate ourselves. Let's for a moment step down a level and apply this concept to something that's easier to see.

    Does a cell's ability to adapt to new hostile environments constitute purpose? Of course not. Regardless of what the cell's purpose is, it's ability to survive its surroundings is merely a method to continue it's original goal. If the cell is successful at adapting to this new threat then it stands to reason that the cell has improved. It has become more fit and successive generations of that cell will be stronger for it. It will perform it's purpore more effeciently. That does not however equate to survival/adaptation/evolving/learning being it's purpose.

    If one really wants to talk about the purpose of humans then we need to be prepared to face the concept that perhaps our existence here isn't benign. The only thing that we as a society have brought to the table of nature has been destruction. We have taken a planet that is a perfect picture of balance and harmony and have spread to every corner of it with our endless consumption. We consume, from the beginning of time that has been our purpose, and we're accomplishing it with frightening effeciency.

    Agents of Entropy... interesting.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2009
  17. Apr 11, 2009 #16
    Well within that reasoning, then the purpose of that evolutionary chain would be to become "perfect". In the "spiritual" sense in which I wrote, you would keep evolving until you reach "perfection".

    The problem that humanity has is its sense of use. Everything is seen for its usability (is that a word? lol). Historically speaking that hasn't always been the case. Neanderthals meshed well with their environment. They created a balance between them and their environment, just like almost every other organism in nature.

    Some peoples still follow traditions similar to that. Read up on Native American culture and how they balance their beliefs with nature. If they use something they give thanks, make sure they use all of it, and balance what they use with their environment.
  18. Apr 11, 2009 #17
    I see the point that you're making. It does not however change my point. No matter how "perfect" a fly becomes, it still serves a use. It has a purpose. That purpose is not to become the greatest garbage disposal unit possible. It's purpose is waste disposal period.

    While we as a species strive towards perfection, it does not define our purpose. As far as I'm aware we're the only thing, living or not, that has yet to have a purpose defined.

    Ants irrigate, Bees pollinate, Trees oxyginate... ect ect.

    No matter how effecient (perfect) they become at their purpose, it does not superscede it. It only enhances their ability to accomplish it.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2009
  19. Apr 11, 2009 #18
    I see what you're saying. Although what I describe is still a purpose, it just may not necessarly be the purpose.

    I have more to my response, just not enough time to type it lol I'll be back to finish the thought though :)
  20. Apr 11, 2009 #19
    This is pretty far out there, I might get reprimanded for throwing an idea out there that is beyond speculative. I feel it is worth consideration however, if nothing else as a stimulation for thought.

    I've briefly touched on the concept of pieces that make up wholes. At the most basic level of our current understanding are Particles.

    Particles combine (yeah, yeah) to form Atoms, that combine to form Molecules, that combine to form Amino Acids, that combine to form Proteins, that combine to form Cells, that combine to form Organs, that combine to form Organisms, that combine to form Societies.

    I admit that Society is a much more abstract concept then the physical layers that precede it. For the moment, lets put this aside and continue with our chain.

    Planets/Stars combine to form Solar Systems, combine to form Galaxies, combine to form Universes.

    Do you notice something here? Our chain is broken. Societies do not combine to form Planets.

    I believe it's going to be all but impossible (all but mind you) for us to discover our purpose through conventional observational means. We're too close. We are unable to see the forest through the trees so to speak.

    In lieu of that perhaps a different approach is needed. If we assume for a moment that this chain is whole then we need to figure out a few things. How do we go from societies to planets, and secondly how we as a society play a role on the planet. By observing the systems around us instead of ourselves perhaps we can fit the puzzle together to see what part it is we play.

    Lets look at our own body for an answer. Our body is made of organs, and we've determined that organs combine to form organisms. Yet the organs are not all that our bodies our made of. There are bones, and there is blood, there is hair and many other things that do not constitute organs. They are the systems in place that support the organs. They are the infrastructure that allows the organs to do their job.

    With that being said we could claim that the land, rivers, oceans, and such of the planet are the infrastructure that is in place to support the "organs" of the Earth. Which would be it's societies.

    Still with me? As systems grow they become more complex. The layer below each is unaware of the layer above it. Cells float around and they're oblivious to the organs they create. Organs have no understanding of the Organism. Organisms are blind to the societies that they part of.

    Are ants aware of their society? They may have a basic understanding that they serve a role, they probably understand that they are part of something larger. To concede that they have an understanding that their society is responsible for the irrigation of this planet however is beyond the stretch of even my imagination. They are unaware of their purpose.

    Sure, we know that there is a society. Being able to say the abstract word and understanding it however are two entirely different things. What is our purpose within our society? What is our society's purpose within the planet?

    This is what we're hunting for. Not our personal purpose, yet the purpose that we as a collective serve to whatever layer is above us. We can call it planet for visual representation purposes.

    I know this sounds trite. Giving Earth some humanistic characteristics. Giving it life. Consider what I've written however and then ask yourself again just how far fetched it really sounds when you consider this chain of life and how it doesn't stop with us, but continues into infinity for all we know.

    It should be noted that there is a certain organ in our body that consumes. It reshapes it's landscape. It creates networks of information passage. The brain accounts for roughly 2pct of our total body weight, yet consumes about 20 percent of the body's resources. Sound familiar?
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2009
  21. Apr 12, 2009 #20
    Is nature an entity ?. if so, then I think evolution can be considered an entity because it's part of nature ?.

    No, I didn't say that, I said :
    Also there is a degree of consciousness, and it varies from time to time. After all we were in the past (and still can be) as conscious/unconscious as a rock.

    I must say that I have a hard time with the terminology, as I must use our conscious language to define consciousness. Maybe when it becomes an equation, it will be unambiguous.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2009
  22. Apr 12, 2009 #21
    Nature is not an entity, it's a label. Evolution is not an entity, it's a label. We have created these concepts to help explain the world around us. We know that through random mutations any given life form will either a) become more fit, b) become less fit, or c) have no change in their fitness.

    If that life form becomes more fit then it has a higher rate of survival and a greater chance to reproduce and pass that mutation to it's offspring. That's it. That's evolution in a nutshell. Natural selection and survival of the fittest. It's just a label we've stuck on that process. Evolution does not imbue life with anything. Mutations do.

    I'd like to say that I'm seeing what you're getting at here, but the truth is I'm just not getting it. We as a species have always had some form of consciousness even if it was less then we possess today. Never was it at the level of nothing, which a rock can claim. If you're referring to our biological ancestors of lipids and proteins then I think you might be missing one critical difference.

    The chemical stew that sparked life on this planet was capable of recomposing it's makeup. A rock is not. A rock may weather, it might be smoothed by a river, but it's composition never changes. It is incapable of adaptation. The chemicals floating around that started this entire "life event" didn't require consciousness. It is not a prerequisite for life. It merely required probability, and the ability to adapt.

    The http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller-Urey_experiment" [Broken] experiment was conducted in 1952. It shows how base chemicals can come together to create amino acids required for life. It's an interesting study that goes a long way towards supporting the the theory of Evolution.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  23. Apr 12, 2009 #22
    Not according to the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entity" [Broken] :smile:.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  24. Apr 12, 2009 #23
    "An entity is something that has a distinct, separate existence"
    Via your link.

    I'm not sure I follow your meaning. How does nature have any existence? Trees have existence, animals have existence, even rocks have existence. Nature however is just the label we place on the culmination of all of these things. It is not distinct or seperate from the parts that make it up.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  25. Apr 12, 2009 #24
    you forgot to add the part in bold font :smile:.

    Remember, for an entity, "separate" here doesn't mean from parts that make an it up , rather from other entities. You know that a tree/rock is not separate from its parts, yet it's an entity. An entity can be abstract, for example, a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme" [Broken] is not a physical entity, yet it acts exactly as one.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  26. Apr 12, 2009 #25
    Our purpose is linked to the laws of physics for it is these laws alone that have given rise to us. If we were not required in the great scheme of the universe, then physics wouldn't have came together to form the first lifeform on this planet.
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