Scientists and philosophers have been examining, pondering, and defining humanity’s existence for thousands of years. To this day, our very own existence still baffles and intrigues us.If existential questions are your cup of tea, here are 21 thought-provoking questions about humanity’s existence and your very own existence for you to think about:
1. Are we alone?This is a question that we have all pondered throughout our lives. It’s a very exciting possibility to think about—that we may someday meet an alien species from another planet. But so far, Earth looks like the only planet that supports sentient beings. Only the future will tell whether or not there are other planets like Earth out there.
2. Are we in The Matrix?Besides The Matrix being a blockbuster movie grossing Warner Bros over $450 million at the box office, it was also a thought-provoking movie that stirred a lot of discussion. The movie was the topic of many philosophical discussions on college campuses and internet forums. The question of whether the reality we are living in is actually a reality at all is the question the movie poses.
3. What’s after death?We will all get there at some point; death. It’s inevitable. But what’s after it? Heaven? Hell? Purgatory? Nirvana? Or is life on Earth all there is to us? If so, what is our purpose for living?
4. How did the universe begin?Where did this all come from? How did we all get here? Science has answered many questions about life but the one that is still far from being answered is the question of how it all began. Science has postulated that life began with the big bang theory. This theory of the universe is so solid that the Catholic Church even stated officially that the model is in accordance with the Bible. But the big bang model still does not answer how it all came about. Theoretical physicists are currently working on a theory known as the theory of everything, which attempts to fully explain all known phenomena in our physical realm of existence, including how it all began.
5. What is the purpose of (your) life?What is the purpose of this thing called life? And on a more personal level, what is the purpose of your life? It seems that those who have answered these two questions are the ones that can live a truly fulfilling and happy life.
6. Is there a god?Religions are plentiful and all claim to have a deity (or deities). But there has yet to be any convincing (scientific) evidence of a supreme higher being watching over us. I suppose that is why it is called faith; having a profound belief that a higher being exists without having (scientific) proof.
7. Is time travel possible?Many futurists and theoretical physicists swear that we will eventually get to the point of time travel. However, those that think that time travel is possible must first solve what is known in the scientific community as the grandfather paradox. The paradox was coined by science fiction author Rene Barjavel. The paradox describes a time traveler going back in time to kill his yet-to-be-married grandfather. But if the grandfather is dead, then the time traveler is never to have been born at all and thus brings us full circle and makes the situation implausible.
8. Do I exist in a parallel universe?A parallel universe is a hypothetical and self-contained separate reality coexisting within our own, or an alternate reality if you will. This hypothesis of a parallel universe is a possible answer posed to the grandfather paradox that was talked about earlier. In quantum mechanics, there is a many-worlds interpretation implies that all possible alternate realities (histories and futures) are real and each reality represents a world in and of itself.
9. Is there such a thing as free will?Is there such a thing as free will? Maybe the decisions we make aren’t really decisions at all but rather a predetermined path. The theory of free will has been one of the most-discussed topics in all of philosophy. Perhaps this is so because there is really no way to prove or disprove the notion of free will without resorting to a mere tautology (wherein the conclusion is ultimately the restatement of the premise).
10. If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like?The human life, in the greater scheme of thing, is infinitely short. So why then, do we do so many things that we dread? Shouldn’t we live our lives doing the things we love, with the people that we love?
11. Would we want to live for eternity?Death scares us. But with modern medicine, people have lived longer than ever before and will continue to live longer as modern medicine becomes more advanced. It may even be possible, in the very distant future, that we may have the option to live for eternity. But when that day comes, would you want to?
12. Is the world a better place with humans in it?Many of us would agree that life is a blessing. As far as we are concerned, we are the only sentient beings in this vast and endless universe. However, have you ever stopped yourself for a bit and wondered—is this world a better place with the human race in it? Technological and medical advancements have helped the human race. But at what expense?
13. What is truth?The notion of truth is rarely questioned. But what is it? The dictionary defines truth as “that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.” However, what qualities make something true or “in accordance with fact or reality”? Fact is a human conception and reality is a broad term used to define our view of the world; not everyone views the world through the same reality. And your reality and my reality can be vastly different. Additionally, does truth need to be proven? If so, how does one go about proving the truth? Does one prove the truth using the scientific method?
14. Do we have souls?The notion of soul or spirits is not just a religious conception. It is also a philosophical, psychological, and even neuroscientific concept. Different schools of thoughts might have different conceptions of what a soul is; but it is pretty much agreed upon that the soul is independent of the body. If the soul is independent of our bodies, then how do we know we have them? And where does it go after our bodies no longer function?
15. When does life begin?Although this question has large religious implications, it is still a question we should ask ourselves regardless of our religious affiliations (or lack thereof). When does a life truly begin? Does it begin at fertilization? Or does it begin when the heart first beats?
16. What will happen to the future of the human race long after we are gone?This isn’t a terribly metaphysical question to ponder but it still deserves some thought. Earth can only sustain so much human life. What will happen to the human race once Earth becomes overpopulated? Or what if something catastrophic happens to the planet? How will the human race carry on if such events happen? The theory of terraforming other planets to make them habitable is still extremely nascent.
17. Do ghosts exist?The belief of manifestations of the dead has gone back to pre-literate cultures. And although ghosts have largely been dismissed as fictional folklore by modern society, there have been some ghost hunters that have said Albert Einstien’s theory on the conservation of energy proves the existence of ghosts. Do you believe in ghosts? Have you seen one?
18. Can the future be predicted?From Nostradamus to Miss Cleo (yes the fake psychic that was arrested), the notion of psychics have excited humans for centuries. Although clairvoyance is largely dismissed by the scientific community, the ability to see the future poses another question for us non-scientific minds to ponder. If seeing the future is possible, then does that mean that there is no free will and the future is predetermined?
19. What is morality?The question of right and wrong boils down to our moral compass. And for the most part, we as a human race do agree with what is generally right and what is generally wrong. But have you ever stopped to wonder what morality really is? After all, morality is a very human construction. What gives government authority to decide what is moral? Why is something wrong? And why is something right? How about those grey moral areas, what guides your moral compass then? Is it okay to steal from the rich and give to the poor? Is there ever a just killing? Is a war ever just?
20. Why do we do the things we do?Most of our actions are based on the way society has framed it. Society values money, so we value money. Society likes it when we help an old lady across the street, so we help an old lady across the street. But have you ever stopped for a minute to examine why you do what you do? What is your reason for getting up and going to your job? Why are you giving up your seat to that old man on the bus? Why did you give that bum on the street your spare change? Is it because it is the “right” thing to do? Or is it because it makes you feel good inside? And if it makes you feel good inside, why does it?
21. If you had one month left on Earth, what would you do?Am I treating my friends and loved ones the way they should be treated? Is this how I should be spending my time? Would I be angry about this if I knew I was going to die in one month? Putting our mind in the frame of a person with one month left to live really puts everything in perspective about what is really important in life. Every once in awhile, try to think of what you would and how would you react to things if you only had one month left to live.