I read with great interest a two-page ad in the NY Times a couple of weeks ago purchased by the John Templeton Foundation. In it, the Foundation, founded as “a philanthropic catalyst for research on concepts and realities such as love, gratitude, forgiveness and creativity”, asks this “big” question:
Does the Universe Have a Purpose?
They asked 12 leading scholars and scientists this question, and part of their answers appeared in the ad. The entire responses are found on the Foundation’s web site. As you would imagine with such a question, the answers were quite varied.
And all fascinating. Wrestling with this question is essentially searching for the meaning of life – quite a brain exercise, to say the least.
Within the passages I found one in particular that resonated with me. I could have written it myself. It was written by Jane Goodall:
“When I was a child, born into a Christian family, I accepted the reality of an unseen God without question. And now that I have lived almost three quarters of a century I still believe in a great spiritual power. I have described elsewhere the experience I had when I first visited Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. When, as I gazed at the great rose window, glowing in the morning sun, the air was suddenly filled with the glorious sound of an organ playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. It filled me with joy, brought tears to my eyes. How could I believe that blind chance had led to that moment in time–the cathedral, the collective faith of those who had prayed and worshiped within, the genius of Bach, the emergence of a conscious mind that could, as mine did then, question the purpose of life on Earth. Was all the wonder and beauty simply the result of purposeless gyrations of bits of cosmic dust at the beginning of time? If not, then there must be some extra-cosmic power, the creator of the big bang. A purpose in the universe. Perhaps, one day, that purpose will be revealed.”
That’s really where I’m at with this question (although I’ve lived only nearly half of a century).
This led me to once again recall my recent reading of a biography of Albert Einstein, and this quote:
“A spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modern powers must feel humble”
Yes, the John Templeton Foundation has fulfilled its purpose, at least with me, as a catalyst for “open minded inquiry” . Check out these conversations on this “big question” and see if it does the same for you.