Chemistry And The Meaning Of Life.

Very commonly people ask “why do bad things happen to good people”, “why is there so much [insert bad thing here]”.

I find that the only ways to really explain “why does x happen” questions is by finding a mechanical reason.  Why do people slip in the shower and crack their heads open?  Because a wet shower is slippery and gravity is a constant on earth. 

This may seem unsatisfying, but here’s where chemestry/physics comes in.  If you know anything about physics and chemestry you know that “good” and “bad” chemical reactions happen because of the same elemental properties.  In other words the same properties of carbon and oxygen that allow your house to burn down also allow you to metabolize food and breathe air and allow us to send rockets to the moon and millions of other things.  Just like the same gravity that killed that poor shmuck in his shower and yanked some guy off a scaffolding to his death is the same gravity that allows you to walk across the room and play basketball or just go outside without floating off into space.

See the more I study science the more I realize that whether some spooky god-like being determined the properties of the universe or for reasons we can’t fathom there can only be one or a few types of universes or even if it’s just a crap shoot and we happened to end up in this kind of universe – regardless of how it got to be like this, it’s a package deal.  Good, evil, happiness, sorrow, nuclear bombs and VCRs, you can’t have the potential for one without the potential for the others. 

When we study atomic physics we find that all of the elements that make up all the chemicals and basically determine the properties of everything in the universe, are just different combinations of protons and electrons (and neutrons, but those are just two protons fused together).  So what this means is that the properties of just these two particles determine the properties of everything else.  Which means if you “fine tuned” the properties of one of these two particles, it would change the properties of every single element and chemical.

It’s like a slide-rule:

You can’t change one without changing all the rest.

What this means in philosophical terms is that you can’t have a universe where you can make a VCR but not a nuclear bomb, or you can make penicillin but you can’t get cancer, or any other combination of things.  The universe was no more “fine-tuned” for life or for beauty to exist than it was fine-tuned for assault weapons to exist.  Because the universe doesn’t work that way.  The universe is just nearly unlimited potential.  Nature can make things like us just like we can make things like airplanes and supercomputers and who knows what else.  And you can’t live in a world where anything complicated is possible without there being the potential for complicated bad things too.  Because it’s a sliding scale.

So we will never have a universe where it’s impossible to make nuclear weapons, but we can dismantle the ones we have to make our world a little better.  And we will never live in a world where it is impossible to get cancer, but we can come up with better and better ways to treat it.

So yeah, that’s why shitty shit happens and wonderful stuff happens.  Because it can.  It ALL can.  And will, given enough time.  But we can take care that good things happen more often and bad things happen less and try to enjoy the ride.

Hope you enjoyed this blog, and I hope it makes sense outside of my head.

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About agnophilo

Nerd.
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14 Responses to Chemistry And The Meaning Of Life.

  1. YouToMe says:

    I am recing this bc it makes perfect sense. I totally get it and understand it. but you know i still disagree in part based on what i know and experience. I think we have worth, purpose. I believe all was created by God. I believe we all have potential to do good and evil

  2. When a parent loses their child to a violent crime, your silde ruler is not offering any hope?  A vital missing part for those who suffer.   Where is the justice for all those who have suffered from the effects of evil?  Like the Holacaust?  How does one explain the nature of good and evil?  This slide ruler is your creation of what is good and evil.   Some people (nations, people, etc) have different definitions for what is good and what is evil.  Capitalistic socieities are evil to some and they believe they are doing good by getting rid of the people who believe in it.  Other countries believe in building arms to rid the world of those who are simply different in religion — we think it is evil ….they think it is good.  So why dismantle their beliefs?  Your slide ruler analogy is missing many vital parts to the explanation. 

  3. AOK4WAY says:

    I surely did enjoy this blog, and I appreciate much of the sentiment behind it! On a purely mathematical and mechanical level, I agree with you completely. I just find that those are not a means of explanation, but rather an observable set of effects. It’s like watching electricity… you can’t see it but you can see it’s effects.Take the guy who slips and falls in the shower. Why (now this is just my take on it)? Because he can is true, I won’t argue that lol. But let’s try to explain it with science and see how far it can take us. We can eventually break the entire sequence of events down to a subatomic level (and even beyond), but we’re still left with the question. Why? We can observe the process, we can describe it, but when we get to the most elemental question of all, we come up short. There’s something there that will never be answerable by observation.The perception of the answer to that elemental question, why, requires something else, and I hope you won’t be angry with me for using the “F” word at your site, I enjoy our discussions and I would have a real prob with me if I were to offend you.It requires faith. Just as you admit that settling for the answers that can be found in scientific observation of mechanical processes can seem empty, I’ll admit that to the human mind, my answer can seem a little empty too. But it has it’s strengths too. It’s experiential.My natural human mind is no different than anyone else’s, rationality and intellect fight against my choice to have faith all the time. I choose to believe the impossible because I know that the impossible is my only hope. Everlasting life, man. Glory. Fellowship with the maker of it all. Justification in His eyes simply by virtue of my faith. I choose to believe. And I’m still fascinated by the mechanics and science of it all.Peace to you.

  4. YouToMe says:

    @AOK4WAY - well said, brotha

  5. I always thought my parents shouldn’t have reproduced!

  6. wtf_turmoill says:

    I liked this blog :3

  7. agnophilo says:

    @YouTOme – ::well thought-out response::  : P  But yeah, covered that already.@LifeNeedsProtection –  “When a parent loses their child to a violent crime, your silde ruler is not offering any hope?”  I would hope that the realization that everything bad in the universe is also a force of good in another circumstance would comfort someone in that circumstance, but you and I both know there is no philosophy or theology that will make a parent not mourn the loss of a child.No decent one anyway.”A vital missing part for those who suffer.   Where is the justice for all those who have suffered from the effects of evil?  Like the Holacaust?”  Nuremberg.Again if that’s not enough for you I don’t know what to tell you.  I can’t change the facts to make someone feel better.  And the idea that evil men will suffer infinite torment doesn’t comfort me, except maybe if I’ve been victimized and am at my worst.”How does one explain the nature of good and evil?  This slide ruler is your creation of what is good and evil.”No, the slide rule is a description of the physical facts of our reality.  And the principle I espouse is true regardless of one’s ideology.  If you think murdering kittens is good and murdering goats is wrong, the physical universe still allows for both.  I cannot fathom a good/evil value system in which both are not abundantly possible.  Unless you think it’s wicked to travel faster than the speed of light or make a square circle.  Those are impossible.  But I don’t know any ideology that considers them wicked or virtuous.”Some people (nations, people, etc) have different definitions for what is good and what is evil.  Capitalistic socieities are evil to some and they believe they are doing good by getting rid of the people who believe in it.  Other countries believe in building arms to rid the world of those who are simply different in religion — we think it is evil ….they think it is good.  So why dismantle their beliefs?”Come again?  How am I dismantling their beliefs?  I did not really comment on their beliefs, or any specific ideology.  I explained that whatever is good or evil any universe must contain potential for both.  Or at the very least, our type of universe must.”Your slide ruler analogy is missing many vital parts to the explanation.”I think you’re confusing missing information with “not talking about that”.  Perhaps you think the “meaning of life” title was too ambitious?  I could try to explain every aspect of every kind of meaning in one blog, but I suspect that the blog would be prohibitively long.

  8. agnophilo says:

    @AOK4WAY – I get what you mean.  I suppose it would be more accurate to say that we don’t understand ultimately why things happen (on a quantum level), we dead-end at certain axiomatic laws of science.  But that whatever the “reason” (mechanism) behind something, the same mechanism and properties cause everything, good and evil.  The sodium you need to live in it’s pure form is a military-grade explosive which reacts violently when it comes in contact with water.  The potassium which is nutritious in banana-form bursts into flame when it comes in contact with water.  So many things that allow us to live are so violently bad in other arrangements.  Is a knife good or evil?  Or potential for both?  It can be used to cut bread and eat food or stab someone to death.Such is the universe we live in.  We envision a perfect world which became imperfect, or an evil world that had goodness injected into it.  When both were always here, like yin and yang.  I think there is a difference between evil and sin.  Sin, in a philosophical sense, is knowing something is wrong and choosing to do it anyway.  A wolf can kill a man, it can do evil.  But it cannot sin because it “knows not what it does” : P  That’s the moral of the garden of eden story that I always got.  Anywho.Oh yeah, your other remarks – no you didn’t remotely offend me (have you seen the kind of nuts that comment on my blog, lol?), but I don’t think a mystery demands faith.  I don’t think a lack of understanding of quantum physics demands belief in yahweh any more than a lack of understanding of lightning demands belief in thor.  I think it’s one way to feel like we understand everything and understand our place in the grand scheme, but I think it’s only the illusion of understanding.  Because understanding would be knowing how thor makes the lightning, where thor came from and so on.  Not just invoking a supernatural being and saying “Solved it!”And yeah, my rationality and logic fought against my faith too, only I let them win after I started questioning.  I was only interested in finding out what is true about our situation.  It never occurred to me I might feel bad about it. I suppose if I had any kind of “faith” it would be that whatever reality turns out to be it won’t be too awful.  And it hasn’t turned out to be.  Well, overall.  Reality is as intensely ugly at times as it is intensely beautiful at times.  On one end of the spectrum you have two people in love, the rapture of music and art where life just seems intensely wonderful.  And on the other hand you’ve got a mother drowning her baby in the tub and torture and so on.  But yeah, I so don’t get your thing at the end about you need faith for hope and you need “justification” or eternal life.  I don’t need these things, and I actually think eternal life would be pretty awful (fun for awhile).  Like a movie that goes on for a billion billion years.  What would be the point?

  9. In order for your slide ruler to be profound you would have to come up with a valid definition of “good” and “evil.”  Is there such an universal definition?  A definition that ALL peoples would ascribe to? 

  10. AOK4WAY says:

    @agnophilo – My friend, you may be a bit surprised to learn that you’ve got your finger right on it.And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question. (Mark 12:34)Please allow me to demonstrate.”But that whatever the “reason” (mechanism) behind something, the same mechanism and properties cause everything, good and evil.” Yes!I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7)There surely is a difference between evil and sin, and you have the distinction down perfectly. No, that’s arrogant of me to say. What I mean is that we share a common understanding in that regard. Even so, you’re just a step short of apprehending the moral of the story Whether figurative or literal characters, Adam and Eve had just one law to follow. There was one thing and one thing only that could be sin to them, and it was the eating of that fruit, the gaining of knowledge of good and evil, and more concretely, acting outside of faith. They had to choose to disbelieve God before they could eat that fruit.Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. (Romans 14:22-23)Even with only one law to contend with, they were unable to avoid sinning! How ironic that they were seeking a deeper understanding of good and evil so that they could frame a moral code for themselves to live by, thinking that by identifying evil, they could avoid doing it! I believe they may even have thought that with this new knowledge they could please God better!But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6) My friend, isn’t that exactly where we find ourselves today? We try and try to refine our definition of evil, thinking that in doing so, we are enabling ourselves to do well and be righteous humans, whether or not we believe in God. We endlessly devise new legislation intended to whip society into shape while we fail to enforce or obey the laws written for the same reasons yesterday. Laws to enable us to live together in peace. Laws to ensure fairness in our dealings. And none of them works (if they did we wouldn’t still be writing new laws). Why?Because what Adam and Eve learned is precisely what we need to learn if we wish to understand our current state of affairs and possible outcomes. Laws and knowledge do not enable humans to avoid doing evil, or even to always do good when they see an opportunity to do so.Think back to the first time you ever did _____ (something naughty) when you were a kid. Do you remember a feeling twinge of guilt just before you did it? That was the law working in you. Not the law of man, but the law of God. It’s written on every man’s heart, and it operates just the same way in each of us. None of us has an excuse man, not you, not me, not Julie, no one. We’ve all squelched that little voice within us in order to pursue some pleasure. I remember many such instances in my life, and I remember how I suppressed that little voice, or ignored it. And I remember how it gradually became a little more faint each time I did it again. I knew it was wrong, I felt it in my gut, but I ignored that and went for it anyway. Like Adam, like Tony.For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:18-25)Actually, I find the impetus to legislate paradoxical in light of the way God has been removed from the whole process. If there is no God, then there really is no right and wrong, and if there is no right and wrong, why restrict ourselves at all? If there is no absolute, if there is no ideal, what does it matter… it all becomes subjective  and relative anyway.The story repeats itself in the history of the Hebrew people, Israel. Now get this man, they saw the top of a mountain engulfed in cloud and fire and smoke. They heard God’s voice. They felt the earth quake at His presence. They have all this goin’ on…These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me. (Deuteronomy 5:22)Those words were spoken by Moses, right after recounting the story of how the Israelites received the commandments directly from a visibly present and awe inspiring God. They witnessed this spectacle, they received the law, yet they weren’t able to obey it for very long at all! The entire generation that witnessed that directly was wiped out in the dessert for their transgression, only those born after the transgression occured were allowed to enter the promised land.It’s another one that doesn’t require you to insist on a literal interpretation in order to understand the allegorical intent. Once again, it can be reduced to knowing the law and yet not being able to obey it. And again, the consequence is death. Note that the circumstances are identical… a perceivable presence of God, so there’s no issue of whether or not they believed He existed. They just flat out did. They saw and heard Him. Still, they failed to obey. Check it and you’ll see that pattern throughout the Bible. You’ll also see that in the law was a foreshadowing of the big fix, the sacrifice of atonement. Even within the construct of the law, the price was paid by an innocent victim and the sinner was acquitted. It all works to point us to gospel of salvation from the law. Once you understand the pattern and see the fix, you can understand the beauty of what Father did for us when He sacrificed Yeshua.And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (Revelation 21:5)He returned us to the original state of man, and we seek our justification by faith in our Creator rather than in any human understanding. We’re trying to apply the lesson Adam and Eve taught us.Just one final thing friend, regarding eternal life. I’m not sure you’ll feel so confident when you’re fighting for those last few breaths and your mind grasps the reality that your life is ending then and there. I’ve been there a few times.But imagine what it will be like to be able to explore the cosmos for eternity (or for as long as it lasts). Imagine being able to be present in multiple points in time simultaneously and operate outside of time altogether! Part of the promise we believe is that we are being made one with God, being taken to a point within Him. Imagine knowing it all, understanding completely, perfect knowledge, the quest that science will never attain to.For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)Please consider the following:Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: (Isaiah 46:9-10)He declares the end from the beginning…In the beginning Elohim created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)Elohim is plural For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, (Hebrews 2:10-11)The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:16-18)So what do we inherit with Him?The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. (John 3:35)All things. Matter, time, space, and beyond. That should stay pretty interesting for… oh say… an eternity!

  11. YouToMe says:

    @AOK4WAY - wow. an awesome explanation!

  12. lmaoo8 says:

    makes a lot of sense.  Is this something you’ve learned or are you incoorporating stuff from school into your imagination?

  13. agnophilo says:

    @LifeNeedsProtection – I already replied to this objection in great detail.@lmaoo8 – Well basic chemestry/physics you can learn in school but beyond that these notions are probably informed by some eastern philosophies about good and evil and the ego and separateness being illusions, but the bulk of it is my own philosophy.  A lot of these ideas came from contemplating (and refuting) creationist arguments about cosmic “fine-tuning” to allow for life to exist.

Speak yer mind.

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