We are so insignificant that you can not believe the whole universe exists for our benefit. This belief derives from a worldview that presupposes such insignificance, with even the further implication, that humanity is the meaningless product of evolutionary processes.
It took intelligent life roughly 4 billion years to develop on Earth. We do not know the range of nurturing conditions that allowed intelligence to thrive, but we do know that our planet is unique within the Solar System. Its environment should not be taken for granted.
No other place in our Solar System is even close to being like it. But the universe is a big place, and our galaxy alone has nearly a trillion stars. It is possible that a paradise like Earth will randomly develop somewhere in the universe. In this way of thinking, we are not lucky. We are just in the place where we can be.
Even though the Earth is not at the center of the universe, its luxuriant environment could nonetheless make it a rare oasis. Perhaps we can appreciate that humanity, too, could be unusual, even special and not mediocre, at least as far as we are likely to know for a very long time.
The discovery of primitive life forms elsewhere in the universe would help us reconstruct how intelligence on Earth evolved, but unless a species can communicate with us, we will still be unique and alone, with no one to teach or learn from, no one to help us solve our problems, or – in the fanciful extrapolations of filmmakers – no one to battle with.
It has taken 13.8 billion years of cosmic history to develop the biosphere that we enjoy and sometimes take for granted. If our World is just an evolved collection of atoms, then perhaps its future health and welfare are not a great concern; in a cosmos abundant in life, it is possible some alien civilizations will survive even if the Earth’s does not.
But if the Human race – as far as we are likely to know for millennia – is singular, then we must consider the possibility that neither our planet nor ourselves are products of common happenstance. This thought adds urgency to the cause of protecting our rare planet and its precious inhabitants.
At first, realizing that we are so ignorant and insignificant to the universe might feel dismal, but it can actually be quite liberating. When we recognize this, life becomes a little more light-hearted and the things that don’t matter, matter a little less.
The need for Love, compassion, happiness, and fun matter a little more. And the thrilling pursuit for knowledge and understanding continues to keep us moving forward.