Does human life have meaning in an unfathomably vast universe?

The late astronomer Carl Sagan immortalized the 1990 NASA photo in the title of his book, "The Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space"

Humanity is nothing more than a microscopic blip in the universe. But does that mean we are insignificant?

The American astronomer Carl Sagan put the point vividly in 1994 when discussing the famous ‘Pale Blue Dot’ photograph taken by Voyager 1. Our planet, he said, is nothing more than ‘a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam’.

The pessimistic view, then, is that, because we occupy such a small and brief place in the cosmos, we and the things we do are insignificant and inconsequential.

When we ask if human life has meaning or significance, [philosopher Simon Blackburn at the University of Cambridge] simply responds: ‘To whom?’

The ends that matter to us, the things that we care about most – our relationships, our projects and goals, our shared experiences, social justice, the pursuit of knowledge, the creation and appreciation of art, music and literature, and the future and fate of ours and other species – do not depend to any considerable extent on our having control over a vast but largely irrelevant Universe. We might be distinctly lacking in power from the cosmic perspective, and so, in a sense, insignificant. But having such power and such significance wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway. To lament its lack and respond with despair and nihilism is merely a form of narcissism. Most of what matters to us is right here on Earth.

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