The Meaning of Life
Amy Timmins is a PhD student at the University of Manchester specialising in Biochemistry. She loves exploring new places, seeing the science in day to day life and dancing with her friends. Today she gives us her take on the meaning and purpose of life:
When I move to a new place, one of the first things I love to do is go exploring. I get out and go for a walk to see the world around me and find my feet. My first time exploring Norwich I unintentionally ended up leaving the city because I got lost and had failed to bring my trusty navigation device, my phone, with me. When I moved to Manchester I was more prepared: I had my phone. But what I failed to realise was that my internet data wasn’t infinite. Sure enough it ran out and, again, I was lost.
These moments can be scary as your brain desperately tries to make sense of every single piece of information your eyes are seeing in order to try and get you back on track. But whilst initially nerve wracking, I have come to see these experiences as a blessing: a chance to explore, to take all the details in and see the beauty in everyday surroundings. When you walk around a place you realise that it has a unique character and pace shaped by those who have lived there both past and present. It demonstrates the wonderful creativity and innovation of human beings.
In exactly the same way, when I see the world around me in all its natural glory I realise how creative and innovative God is. As a biochemist, I am constantly in awe of God as my mind struggles to understand how a few relatively simple chemical elements, like carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen can be bonded together in complex arrays to produce life in all its staggering diversity.
© Sam Hempenstall
It is mind blowing. How is it that these elements which themselves cannot think or feel, come together to form beings such as ourselves that can hear, see, touch, taste, smell, talk, think and reason? What is it that makes us something beyond a collection of ingredients? Where does life come from?
As a Christian I believe that life comes from God. In the first book of the Bible (Genesis 2:7) it is said:
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living being.”
But why? What is the purpose of life? I believe that one of our purposes is to look after what God has given us (Genesis 1:26):
“God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'”
Later on in the Bible Jesus adds to this, telling us first to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and second to “love your neighbour as yourself”. Encompassed within this purpose is our ability to make sense of the world through hearing, sight, touch, taste, smell and to think and feel on an emotional level. Without these abilities how would we fulfil these purposes well?
© Pamela Soo
Individually, the way in which we are to obey these commands, to fulfil the purpose of our God given life, may not be so clear. For me, as a biochemist I am able to research, make sense of and learn more about some of the incredible processes and mechanisms underlying the everyday world around us. The discoveries we make during scientific research can help us to better love each other: through creating new life-saving drugs; designing earthquake-proof buildings; or making early warning systems to protect people from deadly natural disasters; as well as better looking after the plants and animals that we share the planet with, through conservation science; new, more energy efficient, technologies; and other efforts to lessen or reverse the negative impact that humans can have on nature. This is one of the reasons that I love working in science. But, as it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1:
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven”.
We will each find our individual purpose in each stage of our lives. We are more than just a collection of atoms; we are unique, individual and awesome. We are here for a purpose and I for one am excited to keep learning more about this and the world in which we live.