Rebirth of Reason

The Free Radical
Sense of Life

Forty-Two Will Do
by Anton Kelly

In Douglas Adams' classic comedy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy a city-sized supercomputer called Deep Thought spends seven and a half million years trying to figure out "life, the universe and everything" before coming up with the answer "forty-two". The supercomputer concludes that it didn't really know the question in the first place, and goes on to design an organic computer experiment called Earth to work out what the question should have been.

I developed a thirst for knowledge at an early age and have read widely about science, religion and philosophy in my quest for answers. I am happy to say that my quest has led me to Objectivism. I still have much to learn, but I recognise that in discovering Objectivism I have discovered the tools to find the answers to my questions, and the tools to know whether my questions are even the right ones to be asking.

Many mystics believe the nonsense that they do because they think that life, the universe and everything is so fantastic and complex that it must have been designed and created by a supremely complex and intelligent being. The world's various religions contain many differing assertions as to how and why existence came to be, and I have never been comfortable with any of these assertions as they simply do not tie in with scientific knowledge. Science is the observation of the world around us and any theory dealing with how existence came into being must be able to be supported by the branches of science dealing with physics and cosmology. None of the mystical creation assertions are based on facts able to be verified by science, and therefore the process by which a mystic selects an imaginary creator to believe in is completely arbitrary.

The scientific evidence points towards a "big bang" at the beginning of time. Using the laws of physics scientists can wind back the universe's evolution 15 billion years to the "Planck time", an infinitesimal 5.4x10-44 seconds after the birth of existence, when the universe was extremely small, dense and hot. It is unlikely that we will ever know what happened before the Planck time as all known laws of physics break down before then, and it is pointless to ask what happened before the birth of existence itself as time simply did not exist.

If science has no way of knowing what happened before the Planck time, the whole question of how existence came to be is irrelevant. I am now an atheist who no longer even bothers with this question, as what may or may not have led to the birth of the universe is of absolutely no consequence to me. All that matters to me is that I live my life to the fullest by finding what makes me happy and pursuing it.

Prometheus sums it up well in Ayn Rand's beautiful novel Anthem when he says, "I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the universe or if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know not and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me on earth. And my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it. My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose."

Stirring stuff. And if an arbitrary explanation is still required by some for the answer to life, the universe and everything, then "forty-two" will do.

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