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10 September 2007 @ 05:12 pm
Pondering Eschatological Cosmology  

In an article that opens by retelling the story of Alvie Singer’s childhood existential crisis (from Annie Hall), Jim Holt interviews a number of prominent cosmologists and eventually works his way around to this thought:

  • Why should we want the universe to last forever, anyway? Look—either the universe has a purpose or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then it is absurd. If it does have a purpose, then there are two possibilities: Either this purpose is eventually achieved, or it is never achieved. If it is never achieved, then the universe is futile. But if it is eventually achieved, then any further existence of the universe is pointless. So, no matter how you slice it, an eternal universe is either (a) absurd, (b) futile, or (c) eventually pointless.
    —Jim Holt, “How Will the Universe End?” in The Best American Science Writing 2005, Alan Lightman (editor), Jesse Cohen (series editor), Harper Perennial, New York, 2005, p.56.


Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
sethb on September 10th, 2007 10:28 pm (UTC)
A purpose needn't be something that is either achieved or not.

Suppose the purpose is to have the maximum total number of people live happy lives. That number can keep increasing, but the purpose is never (fully) achieved (whatever that would mean). But that doesn't mean it's futile.
Peter Hentgesjbru on September 10th, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC)
And why must the universe have a single purpose? It could certainly have more than one simultaneously and could very well have a sequence of purposes.
Skylarkerskylarker on September 10th, 2007 11:58 pm (UTC)
Good point. My point is, why should the Universe need a point when so many people are happy to assign it one (or more)?
Fred A Levy Haskell: Fredcritter eyes onlyfredcritter on September 13th, 2007 11:35 pm (UTC)

So… What you're all saying, essentially, is: "You don't need a point to have a point." Right?

Skylarkerskylarker on September 14th, 2007 01:55 am (UTC)
If by that you mean "You don't need a preassigned point when you can supply your own," eh?
Shannonbuttonlass on September 11th, 2007 04:26 am (UTC)
It's not the destination, it's the journey there.:)
kip_wkip_w on September 11th, 2007 02:18 pm (UTC)
"Has a purpose"? I'm not sure what this means. Is it like having a big red clown nose? Either it has one of those, or it doesn't. If it does, it's silly and deserves to end. If it doesn't, it has no sense of humor and deserves to end.
Fred A Levy Haskell: Fredcritter eyes onlyfredcritter on September 13th, 2007 11:36 pm (UTC)
Squeeze the wheeze!
Many people like to…
ex_kiota on September 12th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
...scares the shit out of me that things won't exist. Me, the earth, the universe. I don't like thinking about it D:
Fred A Levy Haskell: Fredcritter eyes onlyfredcritter on September 13th, 2007 11:49 pm (UTC)

Yeah. I know the Sages and Rabbis say I'm supposed to believe in our eventual resurrection in the flesh, but I really can't quite believe that. Which leads me to have to ponder, at least momentarily, my eventual non-existence. Which, as you say, scares the shit out of me. It's probably good that I really can't get my mind around that concept. But even so, I know that I will live on, in some way, in the memories of the people who have known me, and in whatever ripples down through the years my life and actions will have caused. And even the small solace that thought provides is blown completely away if someday everything will cease to exist. Which scares even more of the shit out of me.

Uh. So let's move on to more pleasant thoughts. Have an apple. And some honey…

Skylarkerskylarker on September 14th, 2007 01:57 am (UTC)
our eventual resurrection in the flesh,

You don't even have to believe in God to believe that; you only have to believe in Philip Jose Farmer. :)
lynnparkslynnparks on September 14th, 2007 06:53 am (UTC)
Infinite Universe...not
My favorite Woody Allen quote is "I don't want to become immortal through my work. I want to become immortal through not dying."

Kind of skirts around the whole issue I think.