Does the Universe Have a Purpose? [2:33]


Neil deGrasse Tyson asks whether the universe has a purpose, with the help of a simple animation.  Spoiler Alert: he’s not sure. He is also skeptical of anyone who claims to know. They are going beyond established empirical foundations, according to Tyson. Such assertions are common to religions and some philosophies, despite repeated failures to understand and thereby predict the operations of the universe. Does the idea of purpose even make sense? What exactly is desired? By whom? And do our observations of the universe support any of these claimed purposes?

Discussion Questions

  • Why is empirical evidence important?
  • Should religious beliefs be challenged/questioned/tested?  What about revealed truths?
  • Why does Tyson bring up the vast time scale of life on Earth, the tiny survival rate of life, and the recent appearance of human life?
  • Could the universe itself have desires (as opposed to a deity)?
  • Is it valid to ask about purpose from the perspective of humanity? From the perspective of your gut bacteria? If your answers are different, explain why.
  • Tyson says he’s not 100% certain. Should we have 100% certainty before we make conclusions?
  • Are humans guilty of ‘hubris’?
  • How is confirmation bias (the tendency to focus on things that support our beliefs) related to the arguments considered in the video?

Keywords: Nature, scientific method, Humanism, Religion, existentialism, meaning, purpose, empiricism


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