The Soul of Science
In science, a fact is something confirmed to such a degree that it
would be reasonable to offer our assent that it is true, provided
that the assumptions on which it rests are intact. In life, purpose
is provisional for the same reason—there is no Archimedean
point from which we can authenticate final Truths and ultimate
Purposes. In its stead, we have to validate our own facts and
determine our own purposes. The self-correcting machinery of science
corroborates provisional facts, and life itself provides the
template for provisional purpose.
Life's most basic purpose is survival and reproduction, and for 3.5
billion years, organisms from the pre-Cambrian to us form an
unbroken continuity. This alone ennobles us, but add the innumerable
steps from bacteria to big brains and the countless points at which
our lineage could have died and we conclude that human beings are a
glorious contingency in the history of life.
Humans have an evolved sense of purpose—a psychological desire
to accomplish goals—that developed out of behaviors that were
selected for because they were good for the individual or the group.
The desire to behave in purposeful ways is an evolved trait; purpose
is in our nature. And with brains big enough to discover and define
purpose in symbolic ways that are inconceivable to millions of
preceding and coexisting species, we humans are unique.