Lately, I have been reading through philosopher Peter van Inwagen’s book Metaphysics. (Metaphysics is a fancy word that describes a branch of philosophy that asks about the ultimate nature of reality.) He has a chapter where he asks whether human beings have a purpose or not—really, whether anything has a purpose or not, which is one of the quintessential questions people have been asking for millennia.
What are we here for?
One thing that is interesting about the world we live in is that it seems like it was designed. If certain things about the universe were even only slightly different—things like the charge of elementary particles, their mass, or the strength of different fundamental forces—then the universe would not be able to exist, chemistry would not work. This makes it seem like someone or something made sure all those different aspects of the universe were set up just right, or fine-tuned. This is especially the case if we consider human life. For life to exist, it seems like the universe had to be very finely tuned indeed.
So, the universe appears fine-tuned. Does this prove that God exists? Well, no. Unfortunately, it does not. Rather than God being the source of the fine-tuning of the universe, someone could also argue instead that there are just many, many universes—perhaps an infinite amount—and that by statistical probability one or many of that very great number of universes will by chance appear to be fine-tuned and produce you and me and everything we see around us. (There is another argument that there is only one universe and that it is by chance fine-tuned, but I agree with van Inwagen that this is not a very reasonable hypothesis.)
At this point we have these two reasonable philosophical explanations for the fine-tuning of the universe, God or chance, and we cannot prove one or the other to be the true one. Where does this leave us? Well, even if we cannot prove one or the other, they both still have vastly different implications for your life and the meaning of your existence.
Van Inwagen puts it this way: on the one hand there might be Logos underlying all things and on the other Chaos. If the universe is fine-tuned by a Logos, in other words an underlying reason and order, then your life is meaningful, you matter, and you should strive to live a life that accords with that underlying reason and order.
However, if the universe only appears fine-tuned because of random chance, if it is “fine-tuned” by Chaos we could say, then there is no underlying reason and order, and your life is meaningless. There is no goal, no story. Nothing matters. Maybe you could come up with your own reason why your life matters and live by that, but even this is ultimately meaningless and arbitrary. Whether you live your life well or poorly, overcome the obstacles set before you or not, whether others take care of you or hang you out to dry, none of these things matter. The concepts of “evil” and “good,” “justice” and “injustice,” are equally as meaningless. Perhaps, in this case, we should just stop fooling ourselves.
From a philosophical perspective, if the fine-tuning of the universe suggests to you that there is a Logos, the argument cannot tell you who or what this Logos is or what it is like. But if you think that life is meaningful, that anything matters, that concepts such as justice and injustice are not just socially constructed façades but have enduring meaning, then maybe it is time for you to start searching for the Logos that underlies it all.