‘Does the Universe Have a Purpose?’

Does the Universe Have a Purpose? Leading scientists and scholars answered:

Not Sure.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist and the Director of New York City’s Hayden Planetarium.

Lawrence M. Krauss is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Case Western Reserve University.

Peter William Atkins is a Fellow and professor of chemistry at Lincoln College, Oxford.

David Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale and a National fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Paul Davies is a physicist, cosmologist, and astrobiologist. He is the director of the Beyond Center at Arizona State University.


Nancey Murphy is Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Owen Gingerich is Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and of the History of Science at Harvard University and a senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

Very Likely.
Bruno Guiderdoni is an astrophysicist and the Director of the Observatory of Lyon, France.

Christian de Duve is a biochemist. He received the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.

John F. Haught is Senior Fellow, Science & Religion, at the Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University.

Jane Goodall is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and a UN Messenger of Peace

I Hope So.
Elie Wiesel is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and University Professor at Boston University.

* My answer is ‘no’. What about yours?


  1. roger ivanhart says

    Of course the universe has a purpose.

    The purpose of the universe is to produce supposedly intelligent organisms that believe they know that the universe has a purpose. It then sucks their knowledge into black holes to carry that knowledge into new universes so that even more supposedly intelligent organisms believe their universe has a purpose.

    The universe is the ultimate joke. It says as much on the message from the creator. ‘Sorry for the inconvenience.’ For further information please read the bible, otherwise know as The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, the great tome that carries the message from the creator as dictated by the angel Slartibartfast to the prophet Douglas Adams.

  2. says

    Funny question, don’t you think?

    Funnier still when you ask it of yourself: “What is my purpose?” while washing up the dishes, sweeping the floor, emailing friends to invite for dinner, doing work….

  3. says

    The universe could have a purpose known to some alien being or beings that are not knowable nor even imaginable to humans, and is probably not a physical nor a biological being.

  4. lpetrich says

    Most likely not.

    As far as we can determine, the most fundamental features of the Universe are impersonal and non-teleological. It might be that we will eventually run into features that are conscious and purposive, but given the track record so far, I don’t think that one should expect it to happen.

  5. DLC says

    Short answer; No.
    Long answer, No, not under conventional definitions of the word “Purpose”, I don’t believe there is any grand design or overarching reason for being.

  6. mnb0 says

    Though I can’t be entirely sure I’d say no.
    Once I’ve seen a video of the Lion Family happily and cosily nibbling at the belly of an antilope they just caught. It was still alive and I could see the agony in its eyes. If the Universe has a purpose the suffering of the antilope must have one too. But nobody has ever managed to tell me which one. I can understand this suffering in terms of causation, but not in terms of purpose.
    Since at least 200 years science has abandoned teleological explanations. The whole idea of external purposes stems from Aristoteles or earlier and hasn’t brought mankind anywhere, either good or bad. On the contrary, because of this thinking science stagnated in Europe several ages.
    So we neither can understand suffering properly nor develop our scientific knowledge further if we assume that things have a purpose. Then why should the Universe have one?
    We could say that our Solar System has a purpose as the Sun will eventually burn out. But I don’t think that’s what the Templeton Foundation had in mind with this question.

  7. sumdum says

    Just like life, I think its purpose is what you give it.
    Right now my purpose is eating this chocolate and surfing the web.

    • nathanaelnerode says

      OK, long answer: for normal definitions of purpose, no. Purpose involves humanlike, or at least animal-like, intent, and the last 200 years of science has shown us that most of the universe operates in a manner incompatible with the hypothesis that there is an intent behind it.

  8. left0ver1under says

    Purpose requires an intent, a consciousness outside the Earth capable of affecting stars and planets. Since no such thing exists, the answer is obviously No.

    Take note of each person’s field of study and their answer. All those listed who said “yes” either studied nonsense (theology), arts (philosophy) or if they studied science at all, in fields that don’t force religious bunk to confront scientific fact about the origin of the universe and origin of life (e.g. computer science, which is only a branch of mathematics).

    The ones who actually deal in the dirty details of science (e.g. chemists, physicists) said no. Astronomers are the only fence sitters – some said yes (those who “think” a “godidit”), some said maybe and some said no (those who don’t need fairies at the end of the garden).

  9. mynameischeese says

    Also, the question only refers to one universe, so are we assuming that there’s only one universe (as opposed to a multi-verse) or are we assuming that our one universe has a special purpose among universes?

    But anyway, the answer is still no.

  10. patricksimons says

    Even if the universe has a purpose, it does not follow that we are capable of determining what that purpose is. In attempting to determine the “purpose” of the universe, we have a far greater liklihood of getting it wrong than getting it right, and therein, lies the danger. Let’s follow the facts, where ever they lead us.

  11. RKHB says

    “Not sure” is how the Templeton foundation ‘interpreted’ Neil deGrasse Tyson’s answer. That comes pretty close to breaking the 9th commandment. I would also like to see Lawrence Krauss’ full answer. I’m sure he was more on the side of ‘No’ than ‘unlikely.’

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