Our Cosmic Insignificance is Significant
The evolution of human understanding has done quite a number on our ego—we’ve gone from being primal self-interested beings to members of a society in the cosmic blink of an eye. We realized that not only are we not the center of the galaxy, our galaxy isn’t even close to significant compared to the infinite universe. Beyond that, Carbon, Nitrogen, and Oxygen, three of the most abundant elements crucial to life as we know it barely represents a fraction of the makeup of the Universe. In fact all the known elements and molecules—the grand total of all matter and energy known to man represents roughly 5% of the entire Universe. In other words, Earth is a grain of sand on the cosmic beach, so where does that leave you and me?
Max Tegmark, Associate professor of Physics at MIT and a researcher in Precision Cosmology, responds that while human beings may be a blip on the radar compared to the infinite, that blip very well could be the beginning of something new and amazing: cosmic consciousness. His take really struck me:
“…consciousness is, essentially, the way information feels when being processed. Since matter can be arranged to process information in numerous ways of vastly varying complexity, this implies a rich variety of levels and types of consciousness.”
The idea being that the very fact that we exist and are consciously self-aware is in and of itself evidence to suggest that conscious beings could exist in a wide array of possible scenarios. In other words: we’re proof of something much much bigger then us.
Now that’s a pretty cool way of looking at our place in the cosmos!
Then again, perhaps we should remain skeptical. Perhaps we’re inclined to “believe it when we see it” and aren’t quite willing to take the leap of faith that human existence is the missing link to extra-intelligence. To wit, we’ve yet to discover evidence of any observable extra-terrestrial consciousness so perhaps it’s best not to get too ahead of ourselves.
Fair enough… but consider this: of all the infinite forever that is the universe, for our galaxy, we are the only beings that actually get to see it. We are the only eyes blessed enough to observe this beautiful world and everything around it. And in turn, our galaxy is the only one significant enough to be seen. That makes human beings, Earth, the Milky Way, and everything we do the most significant thing in the Universe.
Least, that’s how I like to think about it.