WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?

Order and design in the universe

Program 10

by Ernest O'Neill

What is the meaning of life? What we have been asking ourselves is the question, "Is there any clue to the meaning of life in the earth itself and the world and the universe?" We've asked the obvious question, "Have you ever been able to decide where it's all come from, for instance?" That's pretty important in relationship to the meaning of life. We really need to ask ourselves the question, "Well, where has the whole thing come from? I mean, this earth, this sky, these stars, and this sun, where did it all come from? It's pretty big. It's a pretty big thing to ignore or to take for granted. Where did it all come from?"

It's the kind of question we'd ask if we found a beautiful Rolls Royce outside our door some morning. We'd say, "Where did it come from?" We wouldn't leave it sitting there day after day and not bother finding out where it came from. We'd want to know where it came from.

Of course, when we look at this earth, it's very obviously an incredible piece of existence and of life. It's amazing, isn't it, when you think of the way the seasons come so regularly? We know they come regularly because, in fact, the earth travels around the sun in orbits that are so absolutely accurate and regular year after year, month after month, quarter after quarter, that it takes us to use very highly developed atomic clocks and computerised equipment at Houston to begin to match the accuracy of the orbiting of our earth and, indeed, of all the other planets in the universe. When we send up space shots we find that they operate in extremely accurate and regular orbits, too. We notice that the fact that we all get up at certain times each morning, the fact that we bother with British summertime or with daylight saving is because, again, the very turning of the earth on its own axis is equally accurate and regular. We set our watches by it. That old sun keeps coming up and we can prophesy exactly when it's going to come up according to the time of year that we're in.

We,also, can prophesy exactly when springtime is supposed to begin and even, in some countries like our own, where we say that you can't tell when it's summer here or when it's going to be winter, yet we know fine well that we can. The farmers plant their crops in absolute confidence that the seasons will be more or less there. They may be a little late or a little warmer one year than the other, but the seasons will remain more or less the same year after year after year. We all plan our days, our getting up and our going to sleep on the basis of the fact that the earth's relationship to the sun is absolutely regular and uniform and is absolutely predictable.

What we see with our own earth is repeated a thousand times over in space because there are all kinds of planets in our solar system that operate in exactly the same kind of regular pattern. This is amazing when you think of the size of these massive spaceships and the huge distances they cover. It's incredible to think that all the construction that has been done by us men and women in the world amounts to about 98 cubic miles. The earth itself is actually in volume about 260,000 cubic miles, so it gives you some idea of the vastness of even our earth compared with the minimal construction that we have been able to create. We've constructed about 98 cubic miles of buildings and roads in all the history of mankind, but the earth itself is 260,000 cubic miles. Then when you go out into space and you begin to look at the size of the sun, the sun could contain 1-1/2 million earths. You could put 1-1/2 million of our earths in the sun itself and our earth contains 260,000 cubic miles compared with the 98 cubic miles that we have built.

When you look at the sun and you consider that it itself is only one of four hundred such stars that form a little corner of the universe, you begin to realise how vast the space and the universe is, and you suddenly realise that all of it is turning through space and turning around itself in all kinds of regular orbits that are precise and exact and perfectly timed, then you consider that all we are talking about is our Milky Way that forms a little corner of the universe, only a little corner of the universe.

For instance, the constellation called the Pleides moves through space and the 1,681 stars in it move around a common centre of gravity. Yet on a small scale picture, no larger than the disc of the moon as we see it with the naked eye, we can see another 5,000 stars beyond that again. One scientist has said that space is so vast that when you compare the stars in it with space itself, it's as if you spilt a quart of water over the whole earth. When you consider the stars in the universe and compare them with the space in the universe, it would be the same as if you spilt a quart of water over our earth.

That gives you some vague picture of the massiveness of our universe and the massiveness of the space and the planets in it. You begin to realise that all of the this moves in a beautiful harmony and a beautiful rhythm with no collisions and no massive crashes and with things so perfectly timed that even over a period of hundreds of years we can tell when Haley's Comet will come closest to our earth and where we will be able to look in the sky to see it. It is amazing, isn't it, when you think of the complexity and the order and the regularity of this huge universe in which we live?

Then you come down from those vast spaces and you come down into this room and you think of the 2 complex TV cameras you have in your head called eyes which have automatic focusing mechanisms that make a Polaroid or an icon look like a child's toy. Your eye is constantly moist. There is an automatic lubricating system through blinking that keeps the surface of your eye moist all the time. It's incredible how often those blinks take place every minute. Then you think of the sub-miniature computer system that registers the colour brown in your mind and the memory discs that compare it with other similar images. You think of the blood circulating system in your whole body that carries over 60 different substances thousands of miles around your body every day with never an oil change for 70 years.

Then you consider that you haven't yet touched the self-conscious mental and emotional personality that distinguishes us from the animals. So, whether you look at the massiveness of the universe or whether you look at the detail of your own eye or whether you look at the incredible blood that carries more than 64 substances in it without becoming sludge and travels around your body thousands of miles a day, you begin to realise from the most massive thing in the universe to the most minuscule thing in the universe that there is an incredible complexity and incredible order and regularity in it.

Is there any clue in this magnificent universe that we live in about its origin? Well, next week I'd like to share with you some of the clues that seem to be built into it.

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