Is the Universe Trying to Tell You Something?
Sorry, the universe is not capable of sending you messages.
Posted March 20, 2023 | Reviewed by Vanessa Lancaster
- Some people try to deal with surprising situations by saying that the universe is trying to tell them something.
- The universe has no ability to communicate. Communication requires enough neural power to form messages and the intention to pass them to others.
- Surprises usually have scientific explanations and accidents happen as intersections of previously unconnected causal chains.
According to chopra.com and other websites, the universe often sends us messages we struggle to understand. When people are puzzled about how to go on with their lives, they sometimes remark that the universe is trying to tell them something. This puzzlement can be prompted by surprising events in everyday life, such as dreams, coincidental meetings, and other occurrences. But there are two good reasons for rejecting the claim that the universe is communicating with people.
First, the universe lacks the capacity to tell you anything. The universe is everything that exists, the entirety of all matter and energy, including all the stars and planets. It includes particular individuals who can send you messages, namely the people who are capable of generating sentences or images that can be transmitted to you through speech, writing, and other media. But particular planets, stars, galaxies, or all of them together, do not have the intelligence to communicate.
The animals on planet Earth are the only known agents in the universe that communicate. However, someday we might acquire reason to believe that other intelligent beings could communicate with us. Communication requires enough neural power to form messages and the intentions to pass them to others. The universe as a whole is cognitively incapable of generating and sending any messages, let alone ones we might be able to understand.
Second, the various occurrences that make people suspect that the universe is trying to tell them something can all be explained much more simply by more sensible means. One website lists 21 signs that the universe is trying to tell you something. Yet most of these are easily explained by well-known causal processes: losing or finding things, breaking or malfunctioning objects, sudden unexplained emotions, recurring pain, gut feelings, smells, weather, sudden chills, unexpected delays, health issues, and technology malfunctions. These have explanations provided by physics, biology, medicine, psychology, and other sciences.
Other alleged signs are best explained as accidents, which are intersections of previously unconnected causal processes: synchronistic meetings, fast and furious manifestations, repeated numbers or patterns, repeated animals, repetitive experiences or déjà vu, relevant song lyrics, recurring words and phrases, unusual words, and unexpected solutions or gifts. For example, if two cars collide on a busy street, the only explanation needed is that their previously independent paths had a surprising convergence.
Are dreams possible communications from the universe? I argued that even weird and surprising dreams have no special significance. Dreams are side effects of neural activity during sleep, which is an unusual state because bodies have no sensory stimulation: the brain has to make sense of neural activity caused by memory consolidation by trying to come up with some coherent interpretation. Our brains are very active during random-eye-movement sleep when the brain processes the day’s occurrences in order to figure out what is worth moving into permanent memory. The resulting dreams may tell us something about our concerns, such as family, work, and travel. But the particular details are of no significance.
Similarly, coincidences occur because they are just accidents of intersecting causal chains, not because everything happens for a reason. That saying is an instance of motivated reasoning because we want to suppose that our lives make sense in some ultimate way. But it's better to recognize that accidents and coincidences just happen.
People often need advice about how to go about their lives but should listen to their friends, family members, or psychotherapists. Don’t expect to hear from the universe.
Thanks to Zoë Aqua for suggesting this topic.
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