AND THE SEARCH
David P. Barash
IT is not really surprising that Douglas Adams, a great fiction writer, and Richard Dawkins, a great non-fiction writer, were good friends.
At one point in Adams' hilarious A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a sperm whale plaintively wonders to itself: 'Why am I here? What is my purpose in life?' as it plummets toward the planet Magrathea. This appealing but doomed creature had just been 'called into existence' several miles above the planet's surface because a nuclear missile, directed at our heroes' spaceship, was inexplicably transformed into a whale via an 'Infinite Improbability Generator'. As Richard Dawkins has emphasized so effectively, evolution, too, is a kind of improbability generator, although its range of outcomes is considerably more finite. Because of this, there follows another, considerably more melancholy fact: after being called into existence by natural selection, human beings have no more purpose in life than Adams' naive and ill-fated whale, whose blubber was soon to bespatter the Magrathean landscape.
First, nobody gets out of here alive. This is pure biology. And at the other end, nobody arrived here except because of a chance encounter between a particular sperm and a particular egg. Had it been a different sperm, or a different egg, the result would have been a different individual. Biology again. Finally, as to why we are here, the life sciences once again have an answer: human