How science is letting people down

Each day, there is some new break through, some new understanding of the world around us, brought to us by science. There are new developments in health and medicine, new revelations about the universe – and much more.

But, with each of these discoveries many of us ordinary folk are increasingly feeling that we are an even smaller part of the world around us than before. Even less connected, sometimes even less worthy – and with less meaning in our life.

The flip side (or equal reaction as per Newtown’s Third Law) of the increasing number of scientific revelations is that many of us no longer understand how we fit into the world, what our meaning and role in it is.

For example, the expanse of the universe is now clear for us all to see – and the latest astronomical observations show just how big it is and how infinitesimally small we are in it. And also that there is no visible sign of a creator. While trying to understand various theories of physics is becoming more and more mind-numbing.

Not that long ago, religion was able to suggest to each of us why we are here and what we needed to do in our lives. Science has clouded that in just a few decades.

Religions have also done themselves a disservice by continuing to try and discredit each other, with the latest Israel-Palestine conflict being yet another example of a religion being more about humans than any merciful God.

Einstein appears to be right, again, when he said he did not believe in a God that was concerned about individuals. “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind,” he is quoted as saying.

Can science fill the void?

I am not sure that it can – without concerted and collective effort.

For example, I personally have objectively researched esoteric subjects such as love and spiritually and through examination of a wide range of various research been able to explain these in somewhat scientific terms of energy flow and interaction. But the resultant summary books – while well received – have not been best sellers. People want to know the answers, but most don’t want to do the reading.

They want the answers handed to them in social media grabs.  The problem, the challenge, is that these big topics are not easily distilled into a Trumpesque four word phrase or TikTok video (which I have tried)

The above is not surprising when you consider our human needs. In the 1940s, American psychologist Abraham Maslow identified that we each need to fulfil five specific needs during our lives.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

See image: Note that the progression up the pyramid is not a competition, but rather an individual journey and requires meeting previous levels of needs as a foundation for progressing.

Filling basic physical needs such as thirst and hunger are a priority for each of us, as without water and food we would quickly die.

The next physical needs to be fulfilled are obtaining security and safety, including shelter (housing), a safe family and neighbourhood – this can include a job for financial security.

Fulfilling our emotional and mental needs are best met through connection with family, friends, work colleagues or the wider society around you. It is why good family and friends are so important. It also explains the importance of social media communities, clubs and sporting groups in modern society, they bring people together in modern tribes. Online connections are myriad with LinkedIn, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, X (formerly twitter) among others including a range of scientific groups and websites.

With these physical levels of human needs being somewhat satisfied today, many people are seeking to satisfy their fourth need – often without realising it.

This is the need for self-esteem, for self-worth. More and more people are realising that social media is not a true measure of self-esteem; that buying an expensive handbag or luxury item and promoting it to others in real life or on social media does not show we are worthy individuals.

Low self-esteem contributes to a wide range of social problems including alcoholism, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, crime, child abuse, chronic welfare dependency and poor educational performance. In fact, three out of five people around the world report that they wished they had more respect for themselves, according to a survey by retailer The Body Shop. In other words, more than half the world’s population has a problem with their self-esteem!

This need has always been there. It is just becoming more important to more people.

Self-esteem is a personal estimation which is often battered by social media and advertising and work is not the contributor it used to be. Gallup’s Global Workplace 2023 report (June 2023) found that only 20 per cent of Australia and New Zealand employees were thriving at work, with 67 per cent reporting low engagement.  Meeting the mental and psychological needs of all people provides a huge opportunity for companies and organisations.

In science, we each feel valued when our findings are published.  But what do those findings mean for people. How will they make their lives better? It is a question we need to answer more.

What is your meaning?

Back to the question of is there a meaning to life?

Yes, there is a meaning to life, to every life. Life in its myriad forms taps energy and helps it flow. Everywhere you look on this planet life is able to extract and use energy to develop, reproduce, evolve and more. On earth, this is clearly in abundance. Out there in space, it is sparse.

This flow of energy, coupled with randomness and uncertainty principles, creates an amazing array of life, each interacting and building – or subtracting from others.

Your life adds to that. It builds on what was before. And what will come next.

How you do that is very much up to you. You can add or subtract to the world around you – and yourself and your individual energy flow and path. In other words, you create part of that meaning for yourself.

Some philosophers suggest that the universe may value what you have added to the flow of energy along the way. This is not to say that the universe is anthropomorphic (human focused). But, given the principle that energy cannot be destroyed and continues infinitum (just like God does) and that information is energy and vice-versa, then the universe must contain all information that ever way.

If, and it’s a big ‘if’, the universe is sentient to this vast knowledge it might realise that one day it will not continue to exist. And, if like most sentient beings, it would seek ways to continue beyond its forecast heat-death demise.

One way to do that would be to invoke randomness and uncertainty to come up with new ways of doing and thinking that could solve this challenge. It’s a stretch, but so is the universe.  It’s a thought, and thoughts can turn into reality.

And here’s a thought: while we continue to think about life, the universe and everything that science is revealing, maybe we can also think about how each revelation impacts people. Maybe researchers, and publications, can ask for and carry a line in each major article on what the development means for people…

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