Philosophy Monday (5).

By Revival Ojedapo.

Going through five more “philosophical questions about human nature and the human condition” found on https://conversationstartersworld.com/philosophical-questions/

21. What do you think would be humanity’s reaction to the discovery of extraterrestrial life?

Anyone who’s considered the vastness of our universe would have wondered about alien life. With this wonder comes the question of how to react if we finally find evidence of life outside our own earth. It is a question that has been creatively imagined by science fiction enthusiasts in movies and novels. While there have been positive reactions portrayed, several science fiction works have made grimmer speculations.

In real life, it is more difficult to say what reaction would follow the discovery of alien life. There’s been researches conducted to make a less fictional, more realistic guess. Researchers try to draw the reactions of members of the public through news articles about discovery of extraterrestrial life (mostly old, now debunked or largely inconsequential, news).

The discovery of aliens has been limited to microbial life, rather than intelligent life. It came with positive reactions, as people would dream up the possibility of the sustainability of life on other planets, especially those on our solar system. However, this reaction can quickly change depending on the kind of alien life that’s eventually discovered. If we somehow found intelligent life, our reaction to it would vary depending on our interactions with them, and the interpretations across different cultures. As Michael Varnum, a psychologist at Arizona State University, said, “the sort of stranger it is, the more excited people would be”.

22. Will religion ever become obsolete?

With the increasing number of atheists around the world, there’s been more and more speculations that religion will soon be overtaken and forgotten. There are usually two factors that are brought to the fore to support this notion. They are science and what I’d call existential prosperity.
The first argument is that prior to the recent leap in scientific research, religion was the only go-to for probable answer to several mysteries. However, the continuing devotion to religion in the face of recent scientific theories would seem to have dispelled this factor. After all, there is a large number of religious people who are scientists and lovers of science. As Martin Luther King Jr claims, “There may be a conflict between softminded religionists and toughminded scientists, but not between science and religion… Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary”.

The second argument is that the political and economic stability of a nation makes its citizens to overlook the promises of religion. That is, religion thrives when people suffer some forms of injustice, therefore, in a thriving environment, religion wouldn’t hold up. Statistics show that countries with greater economic stability and material wealth have more nonbelievers compared to nations that are relatively less stable.

Existential prosperity would also have to account for the unlikelihood of natural disasters or wars, as these are considered catalyst for religion. Despite these conditions, the argument is still farfetched. While there are many professed nonbelievers around the world, there’s still the innate capability of humans to deal with. Hand in hand with our experiences and learning process, we have instinctive and intuitive capabilities that allows to make supernatural inferences to the things around us. This capacity helps to sustain religion against every other factor. Let’s say it draws us toward God, even if we have to get there by asking questions. Hence, it is highly unlikely for religion to become obsolete.

23. If you could teach everyone in the world one concept, what concept would have the biggest positive impact on humanity?

To find such a concept, you’d like to factor humanity’s biggest flaw (or challenge). And what bigger flaw is there than the susceptibility of mankind to perpetuate evil. It is universally perplexing that humans cause harm to other humans. It is more easy for us to come to terms with the fact that dangerous things happen in this world. However, when human beings become the danger, which we very often are, it is bewildering.

You’ll find it hard to imagine any new concept doing the trick of solving this flaw. Everything you can teach is already known. Talk of love, kindness, compassion, charity and the likes. Perhaps, let’s say you decide to teach everyone how to love. How would you do it? How would you encourage empathy and altruism alongside self-love? How do we love others even when they seem unlovable?
It is almost like evoking a concept that’s far beyond us. To us, it is as old as mankind, and even as valuable as it is old. It is the most worthy concept to grasp.

If you have ever felt real love, you know it has little to do with being worthy, and you realize you owe it to the world to love. Victor Frankl wrote, “love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance”.

24. Is suffering a necessary part of the human condition? What would people who never suffered be like?

Right from birth, humans become accustomed with pain, or what the psychoanalyst Otto Rank referred to as the trauma of birth. It appears that being born itself is a form of suffering. But, it is from this pang of birth that we proceed to live. It is not uncommon to hear people talk about the regenerative and inspiring benefits of suffering. As Victor E. Frankl puts it, “if there is meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death.

Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete”. But, our attitude to suffering also counts. Our attitude is what determines if our suffering was even necessary in the first place. Frankl also said, “in some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice”.

So, the point is not to see suffering just as a necessary condition, but to understand where we ought to be through our personal and collective sufferings.
A state of bliss where suffering is nonexistent is not very hard to conceive. However, it’s difficult to imagine the people living in such state not knowing the value of suffering. Maybe it’s because our minds have come to terms with the reality of suffering, but people who never suffered would seem to me to be people with little appreciation of this life.

25. Does hardship make a person stronger? If so, under what conditions and at what point is it too much hardship? If not, what makes a person stronger?

Not very dissimilar to the previous question, hardship also has to be endured. When pursuing success, it is mostly believed that one can find strength in hardship. However, like suffering, one ought to have the right attitude about it. First of all, try as much as possible not to bring unnecessary hardship upon yourself. Remember, we go through some hardship today, so we don’t have to go through bigger ones in the future.

One could say, make your own hardship for yourself now, or have it tougher. Secondly, you should know when to stop, take a break or ask for help.
Sometimes, hardship is a personal burden, and you just have to keep going. Because you owe it to yourself or others to make it. During this journey (especially when it’s long) you’ll find strength. It might come from within you, or from someone’s helping hand. Thus, it is not the hardship that should occupy your mind, but the destination. Think of it this way, you have to get to a place, you’ll need strength, and you need the necessary strength by showing resolve.

What are your thoughts?

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