On Life - Chez Goodman 
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 Essay  Description
 *On Opinions  A disclaimer and introduction to these essays.
 *On Identity  Some of my thoughts on identity.
 *On God  Some of my thoughts on the nature of God.
 *On Life  Some of my thoughts on the meaning of life.
 *On Humor  Some of my thoughts on humor.
 *On Guns  Some of my thoughts on guns and gun control.

Some Thoughts On the Meaning of Life

Nature doesn't hand you an instruction manual at birth. Finding the meaning of life is something we all have to do on our own. Nature does seem to have evolved us in a certain fashion, and I've tried to glean from observation some ideas on what Nature expects from us.

Listen to your urges (that's listen, not necessarily obey). Your body tells you a lot about what Nature wants from you. Like breathing. You're expected to keep breathing, and when you don't your body screams louder and louder for you to draw that next breath. Nature wants you to live.

Along with breathing come all the other necessities of life: food, water and the other requirements of staying healthy. We're all going to die, but Nature expects us to stay alive as much as possible. Survival is high on our list of goals.

But why does Nature want us to live? Listen to another urge (again, you don't have to obey): the urge to procreate. You wouldn't be here if your parents and every generation before them hadn't obeyed the urge to procreate. Nature has evolved a complex set of mechanisms for helping creatures to pass their knowledge and physical traits to their offspring.

Nature's plan seems to be that we stay with our parents until puberty, learning from them and being protected by them. Then our bodies change and we become rebellious to help us 'leave the nest' and become parents ourselves. Menopause seems to be designed to stop women from conceiving at a time in their lives that allows them to live long enough to raise their children to maturity. Otherwise, they might bear children when they are too infirm to finish raising them.

The simple goals we inherit seem to be these:

  1. Stay alive until the body wears out.
  2. Learn from your environment.
  3. Select a mate who would provide the best chance for the success of your children.
  4. Raise as many children as you can without lowering their chances for success.
  5. Stop raising children when you'll no longer be able to raise them properly.
  6. Diversity allows the species to adapt to differing conditions.
  7. Intelligence allows individuals to adapt to differing conditions or to change the conditions.
  8. Cooperation allows the species to better protect itself.
  9. Intelligence allows us to suppress our urges for overriding concerns.

Nature has given us the intelligence and ability to override our instincts as we feel necessary. In our society, for example, children aren't considered mature enough to leave home when they reach puberty. It is better for all concerned if they stay home for several more years.

Another instinct males tend to suppress is the urge to mate with as many women as possible. In some situations this would be an asset. In our society it is a liability.

On Evolution vs. Creationism

I'm an animal. The only difference that I see between humans and other mammals is a higher level of intelligence which let us cross the threshold from living on primitive instincts and the examples of our parents to a society where language has enabled each generation to build on the learning and accomplishments of its predecessors. Language has given us the ability to reason more logically and remember facts that are more abstract.

Nature has strategies of storing the traits of a species in its DNA and giving the tools to adapt to changes in the environment and reinforce survival traits through breeding and weeding out the weaker members. It's a process that has developed through millions of years of refinements, and even though many mysteries remain, I believe that evolution has the tools that led to the development of our species. If you accept my premise that Nature IS God, then you can say that God created Man, but I say that it was done using evolution.

On Nature vs. Nurture

I don't believe that we are born with a clean slate, and all that we are stems from the environment that we were raised in. Nor do I believe that we are born with all of our traits pre-programmed. I don't see this as an either/or proposition.

I believe that we're born with a set of instincts and predelictions that we inherit from our parents and that are affected by conditions in the womb. I think that the more advanced the species, the fewer instincts we have so that learning becomes more important than built-in skills.

On the Chicken and the Egg

Here's my take on the age-old question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" Now listen close. At some point long ago there was a bird very much like a chicken, but not quite. This near-chicken mated (woo-hoo!) with another near-chicken, and the combination of their traits resulted in one or more eggs which then hatched into *real* chickens. The chicks then mated with near-chickens or other real chickens, but continued to produce eggs of real chickens. So to answer the question, it was laid by a near-chicken, but the egg came first.

On Beauty and Science

I admit that I take a jaundiced view of the established religions. And I admit that my views on life are somewhat curmudgeonly. But that's not to say that I don't see the beauty in the world. On the contrary, I'm filled with wonder and awe at the beauty and mystery of life and existence. It amazes me that the mechanisms of evolution have flowered into such an explosion of diversity and adaptation to the environment.

Copyright © 2004 David K. Goodman. All Rights Reserved.
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