An Assignment

Ponder the question, “Why life?”

This question could be taken a few different ways so let me be more specific. I’m not asking for reasons to be alive (or not.) I’m not asking a question that’s ontological in nature. I’m not asking for theories or speculation about why any intelligent force would create life.

I am looking for a description, in language, of an answer that would exist whether or not there were language to describe it. I am asking why life itself chooses to be alive.

Please ponder the question for at least a little while before giving your response. I’d prefer that you post here, but you may also email me ( your ideas.

5 thoughts on “An Assignment

  1. I'm trying to understand the question. Are we anthropomorphizing life as having a sort of consciousness that would give it a choice to either exist or not?

    My gut reaction is this:
    Life just is.

    Life does not choose to be alive. It has no capability of choice. Life exists as a consequence of physics and/or as a consequence of divinity. It persists and is shaped by physics, choices (instinctual or conscious), and/or divinity.

    I can't really say more until I understand the nature of the question a bit more.

    -Penguin Jim

  2. You have personified life and given it both free will and power: It can choose, and have its choice become so. This is tantamount to defining life as being a God, which isn’t a really useful place to be as an atheist.

    By far the greatest majority of people to live on this planet have believed that there is an ultimate reality that surpasses all other realities and which has always been. Most give it no personality or emotions. It just is. The Classical Theism of Plato, which was adapted by the Neo-Platonists into the God of most Christians is just this sort of ineffable force, only with a personality and in fact often three personalities. Thus a metaphysical God who is at once everywhere and nowhere at all.

    Most people who have lived on this planet have also believed they come from this force and have lived before with it as part of it. Most of them also believe they have lived multiple times here and will reincarnate multiple more times. (Original Christianity and some Gnostic versions reject this, while supporting the notion of pre-mortal existence.)

    A belief is not made more true just because more people believe it (and I know you know this). But the prevalence of this belief can be traced to an Aryan people who broke off of from the group lead by Zarathustra and left Persia to go live in the Indus Valley some 3,500 years ago. Their beliefs came from a tradition of prophecy and monotheism. That leads me to wonder if they brought this belief with them from an older knowledge lost to their cousins the Hebrews? Might this be something lost from our Bible that while changed by contact with the Dravidians of the Ganges still points to a larger reality not yet fully appreciated?

    What is certain is that their religion became the source of many great world religions – Hinduism, and through it, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism – and billions of people have organized their entire lives and society around these ideas.

    Where do we sit in this conversation? Well, as a Latter-Day Saint, you know that I do not believe in the metaphysical Classical God of Plato. My God is personal, organized the Earth out of existing matter (since elements are eternal) and human life out of intelligences (also co-eternal with God). No beginning means no end, and eternity in both directions we look. But that’s all based on time, which may not be an actual constraint when you’ve master (created?) 10 dimensional space, and can see time much like you or I see length.

    But we don’t really know in this cosmology if time is God’s master, or if God is master of time. Or what the real underlying nature of “element� and “intelligence� may be…So what if there is an ultimate reality beyond and underneath what’s been revealed?

  3. naptastic says:

    Dono: Did I really do that poor of a job asking the question?

    Why does something that's alive choose to be alive?

    Penguin: I intended to ask in the sense of individual life forms: basically all life forms "prefer" their continued operation to the alternative. (For the purposes of this question, ignore the exceptions. They will be handled by a later conversation.) Expanding from that point, you can say that life itself chooses to be alive, based on its pattern of expanding to fill every possible biological niche. That's the broader sense of the question, if you care to address it as well. Thanks for responding.

  4. Did I really do that poor of a job answering it?

    Theistic view: God "commanded" living things to preserve their life at practically all cost, and so the wiring and instinctual levels of programming fulfill that commandment.

    Evolutionary view: things that are alive, but not much interested in their own survival are NOT the most fit, and don't survive. Selection of the fittest favors that which has a self interest to preserve its own life.

    Cosmic view: All things are of one life and it is interested in seeing all variations to their uttermost end, so encourages through all living things that they preserve themselves to be further education/entertainment of life itself.

    Folkloric view: It's a rather long story that involves a number of archetypal characters behaving according to stereotype and commences with "Once upon a time…" and ends with "…And they lived happily ever after." which means OF COURSE they won't be dying anytime soon. Only the bad guys died.

    Stand up comic view: Do you know that 48% of Americans do not believe in Evolution? That's like……..half. Of the remainder, something like 38% believe that God directs evolution to his own purposes….Which leaves a very small percentage of Americans who are…right. (Thank you Tim Minchin for that bit.)

    Unless you wish to attribute to life itself (the abstract notion) the status of deity, you cannot speak of it wanting or choosing as those are qualities of free will. If it isn't operating in a God-like manner from freewill, then it prefers continuing to dying because it has no choice regardless of if that is due the will of God or the results of evolution.

    Any better an answer for you?

  5. naptastic says:

    YES!! Actually that's exactly what I was looking for plus about 600% more. Thank you.

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