The following is a rebuttal to the essays on the John Templeton Foundation website (http://www.templeton.org/purpose/) that responded to the question, “Does the universe have a purpose?”
Most of the articles analyzed the physical nature of the universe, from sub-atomic particles to galaxies, and concluded the cosmos has no consciousness, intent or purpose. I agree, physical objects are not sentient, but that is not the question.
Other papers claimed the mechanical universe is a grand design and created by a God. Opposing arguments asserted these phenomena are not evidence of intelligence, but the result of accidents or the product of a multiverse (infinite parallel universes) that generates incredible wonders. I concur, physical phenomena cannot prove intelligent creation. Even if there is a God, we must still discover his intent.
Additional essays proposed that if humans have a purpose, then so does the universe, because we are part of it. This assumes humans have a reason for existing. This argument is circular and therefore invalid. In any case, this thinking does not help to determine a goal.
To discover the purpose of the universe, we must ask a question that points to a meaningful answer, i.e., “Does the universe influence humanity and what are the results?” I think it does and I propose a few examples of how our world guides humans.
The universe shapes humanity by generously rewarding people who work together towards a common goal. Consider a football game, where a team of eleven players competes against one person. Obviously, the group is stronger than the single person.
People who form teams and apply coordination, synchronization, collaboration and other social skills are rewarded with greater benefits than if they worked as individuals. On Earth, species that work together are the most likely to survive. This powerful natural law has selected honeybees and many other social species as evolutionary winners. Consequently, humans are profoundly social.
Preferential treatment of teams does not occur in all environments. I can imagine conditions where teamwork would have little or no advantage. Consider a universe populated by omnipotent gods, where each individual has the power to create and do whatever he or she wants. Under these circumstances, working as a team would not be beneficial and may be detrimental. Climbing Mount Everest is a situation where climbers do not have the strength to help each other and must focus on self-preservation or die.
I concede there are exceptions to the superiority of teams, as stipulated by the proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others.” However, the majority of human history has shown that working together is more successful than working alone.
The universe is vast, powerful and destructive. At any moment, an asteroid could hit planet Earth and pulverize it into cosmic dust. The world treats humans as if they are insignificant and not entitled to anything. The universe challenges, threatens and demands that humans be humble, respectful, aware, intelligent, adaptive, progressive and self-reliant; encouraging specific character traits and discouraging others. Some consider our world cruel, but I wonder if it is too gentle to teach humility and other qualities, or are we just slow learners?
If we ever discover our world is part of a multiverse, then we should study the nature of other universes. If teamwork is preferred everywhere, then I believe the multiverse is a massive experiment designed to teach species how to create successful societies. I hope humanity is among those that learn to live in peace.