One of the books that has had the most influence on me is “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins.
For me “The Selfish Gene” was ultimately a scientific clarification of Richard Carlson’s multi-million seller “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” with it’s strange subtitle “… and It’s All Small Stuff”.
The premise of Dawkins’ book is that life is merely a mechanism for our genetic code to spread itself. We as human beings can be thought of as simply gene factories, and our success not only spreads ourselves, it spreads our genes too, and that is the crucial factor.
When we raise animals, be they dogs, cows, or battery hens, we are helping one group of genes outlast and outgrow others like the Dodo or the shark. When we provide a means for HIV and SARS and influenza to spread worldwide, we are helping another group of genes too.
Human beings are just the most visible of genes. We are nowhere near the most successful. Each human body is just 1 set of genes which means there are less than 7 billion human gene copies around. Microbes get 7 billion into a pool of water and are ready in moments to get more billions spreading further.
Humans are in fact a rather fragile gene container, balanced precariously on the top of a whole ecosystem, that has the same potential to collapse for us as it did for the dinosaurs. We could disappear in any one of a variety of ways, and life, and genes, would continue on.
Until the Earth succumbs to forces that rip every molecule back into atoms and pieces of atoms, this planet’s genes will continue replicating and spreading themselves. Humans are useful only in the sense that they are one more way that Earth genes could spread out to the rest of the universe. Space travel inevitably carries genes, be they human, monkey or microorganism, out away from our planet and would allow genes to escape potential local destruction by supernovas or black holes or the like.
Does it all his genetic competition get lost anyway when the whole universe collapses on itself billions of years from now? … I’m happy to hang around with you to wait and see.
Intelligence and human beings ourselves are just side effects of genes replicating themselves into every available niche and permutation. Humans could be wiped clean out of the universe and genes would just keep evolving other ways as inevitably as gravity makes water pool into dips and crevices.
Your life problems would be gone in an instant, if humans disappeared forever. However the universe and genes wouldn’t miss a step.
Might not seem uplifting or helpful to think of yourself as an irrelevance. In fact one of the reviews on Amazon.com explains the depression and existential crisis he went through after reading Dawkins’ book.
But it can also be a release. Much like a scientific Buddhist philosophy.
It is then a secure foundation to start to make your personal choices for life. Cheers to irrelevance.
-Dr Martin W. Russell