Philosophical Conversations on the Meaning of Life

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Philosophical Conversations on the Meaning of Life with Joel Bouchard | Dead America Podcast

Join Ed Watters in an enlightening discussion with Joel Bouchard, a doctoral student in psychology and host of the podcast ‘From Nowhere to Nothing’. They dive deep into philosophical and psychological questions surrounding the meaning of life, the relationship between humans and their environment, and how modern technology impacts our cognitive abilities. Joel explores various theories, including Stephen Hawking’s viewpoint on the universe and the concept of intelligent design, while also discussing the implications of new technologies on our mental health and societal structures. Tune in to this thought-provoking conversation that challenges current understandings and encourages a deeper exploration of life’s big questions.


00:00 Introduction: The Power of Education

00:54 Meet Joel Bouchard: A Multifaceted Scholar

01:48 Exploring Psychology and Philosophy

02:03 The Big Questions: Why Are We Here?

04:50 The Anthropic Principle and Multiverse Theory

25:02 The Hedonic Treadmill and Technology’s Impact

27:18 Cultural Differences and In-Group Identification

34:03 The Beginning of Everything: Big Bang vs. Intelligent Design

47:00 The Cyclical Nature of the Universe

52:13 The Importance of Open-Minded Conversations

56:57 Conclusion: Embracing the Journey of Understanding

Joel Bouchard

[00:00:00] Ed Watters: To overcome, you must educate. Educate not only yourself, but educate anyone seeking to learn. We are all Dead America, we can all learn something. To learn, we must challenge what we already understand. The way we do that is through conversation. Sometimes we have conversations with others, however, some of the best conversations happen with ouourself. Reach out and challenge yourself; let's dive in and learn something right now.

[00:00:54] Today we are speaking with Joel Bouchard. He is a doctoral student of psychology, he is the podcast host of From Nowhere to Nothing. Joel, could you please introduce yourself? Let people know just a little bit about you, please.

[00:01:15] Joel Bouchard: Yeah, sure. So, uh, like you said, I'm a doctoral student in psychology, uh, the host of the philosophy podcast From Nowhere to Nothing, um, I'm a musician. I've got a few albums online if you want to check them out, just under my name. The most recent one is, um, All We Are. Uh, and I've got a bunch of other side hobbies that I do. I just finished writing, uh, my first novel, so that'll probably be published, um, this coming summer. And I like to paint and 3D print and, um, a bunch of other stuff.

[00:01:48] Ed Watters: Alright, well, we're going to talk a little bit about psychology and philosophy today. My big thing today I want to speak about is, why we're here. It's the big question of the universe and many, many men think and dwell on this simple question, why are we here? And also, how do we relate to our environment? And not only our environment, but our perceived environment, because I feel that we have a natural environment and then we have this made up perceived environment that we actually live in today.

[00:02:36] And I believe that might be the root cause of a lot of the mental illness that we suffer in our world today. Because in our modern world, we're not, uh, neurologically programmed the way we used to be. But our biological program still has those natural tendencies and I think there's a conflict there going on. So what are your thoughts on that?

[00:03:09] Joel Bouchard: Yeah, my thoughts are this is probably going to be one of, my most favorite podcast I've been on because you've hit on a lot of the things that are really important and interesting to me, um, both on a professional level from what I'm studying in school, um, and also on a personal level from the things that I, I look at in my own podcast. So, um, yeah, you've touched on, on a bunch of interesting stuff. Um, uh, I think, you know, just to start out the conversation broadly, I think that the meaning of everything is, uh, can be encapsulated sort of by the, uh, career arc of a famous physicist, Stephen Hawking, Ed, that you can follow throughout his written books.

[00:03:59] Um, as you watch his writing, um, you know, early in his career, he started, uh, with just hard science, you know, he was, he was adamantly against philosophy and philosophers. And, um, you know, anything that wasn't empirical and reductionist. And then in the middle of his career, um, as, as science sort of evolved, um, there was, you know, some discrepancies that came in that made people start to question how far Reductionist science could take us, which is the paradigm that, um, reality can be reduced to constituent components, atoms and quarks and these sorts of things. That at some basic level there is, um, uh, discrete pieces of information that make up reality.

[00:04:50] And, um, as some of these things were thrown into doubt, he sort of didn't want to, but accepted the anthropic principle, which is this idea that the reason the universe is the way that it is, is because we're here to see it. Um, and then the last book that he was working on with, um, Simon Hertog, when he died, um, brought a new perspective into it, which is where he looked at it.

[00:05:21] And because the problem for lay people, right, is that when we look out into the universe as scientists, what we see is, there's a lot of aspects of the universe that appear to be finely tuned for us, right? Um, whether it's, um, you know, the measures of the inflationary epoch at the beginning of the universe, or, you know, just, just various measures. You go, you'll cut it and you'll go, Man, there's a very small chance that things would turn out this way. It'd be like dumping out a barrel of pennies and they all land heads up, like, a billion pennies land heads up. What are the chances of that, right? Um, And so the anthropic principle says, well, really, the reason that that happened is because it couldn't have happened, we wouldn't be here if it didn't happen that way.

[00:06:12] And so some of the scientific ways they used to get around that is, um, what people are familiar with through pop culture nowadays, the multiverse, right? Um, if you were to dump out a barrel of pennies one time and all billion of them landed heads up, you'd go, There's no way. There has to be a God that orchestrated that whole thing, right?

[00:06:33] But if there's an infinite number of universes and you dump out the barrel an infinite number of times, well, at least one of those times they'll all land heads up. And really, if you look at the mathematics, there's an infinite number of times it will land heads up. So that's sort of a mathematical way to get around it.

[00:06:52] But not all physicists and philosophers really feel that that's a legitimate way of, um, looking at the issue. So, um, some of Hawking's viewpoint on it was, uh, well, a lot of the things that presuppose this are nonsensical, right? The idea that there was time before the universe, or there was, there was something that happened before the universe.

[00:07:19] You know, if you just look at it as a self contained thing, um, the problem with humanity is we want to take a God's eye view. We want to step outside of our bodies and say, Oh, look, it's so weird that everything unfolded the way that it did. Um, and in their last book, um, Hertog and Hawking said, You need to take a worm's eye view, right?

[00:07:39] Which is, from just within our own context, um, and, and when you look at it that way, you say, Well, things just unfolded the way that they, they did. There, there is nothing else to compare it to, because this is the only universe that we have access to. The only point of reference that we have and so this, there's no, there is no, um, overarching, um, big question or mystery. It's just, this is the way it happened and that's not completely satisfactory to everybody either.

[00:08:15] Ed Watters: Well, you know, nobody truly knows.

[00:08:19] Joel Bouchard: Yeah, yep. And so that's kind of the long answer. I apologize, um, I'm normally not somebody who consumes caffeine and I, I'm, I'm on some coffee today, so I'm over the top. But yeah, no, but nobody knows,

[00:08:34] right? And so that's the important part for a philosopher is, um, you'll never hear me mock somebody's religion. Um, because for all I know, you know, somebody might believe that the flying spaghetti monster created the world and all of this happened, all that stuff. But if it's outside of the realm of scientific inquiry, then I can't prove that it's not true. And that's what science is about is proving things that aren't true. So,

[00:09:00] Ed Watters: Yeah. And we live in a scientific based world, STEM, you know, it drives our world. And a lot of people don't take the time just to sit and ponder on these simple questions that nobody truly knows the answer to, but wouldn't it be nice to know the answer?

[00:09:21] Just think of the leaps and bounds we would take if somebody actually knew the answer, it's overwhelming at times to think about. So, when I point to my belief, it's my belief. And like you said just a few seconds ago, I'm not ever going to mock somebody's belief or what they think. Because I truly don't know the magnitude of what is encompassed in their thought,

[00:09:55] because everybody is different. And I can tell you, [00:10:00] I'm a very simple man. I, I take life day by day and I don't expect much from life, but I expect a lot from myself in life. Because to me, yeah, we don't truly know what life is about. But to sit back and just let life control you, and that's through institutions, or, you know, whatever controls you, your thoughts can control you at times,

[00:10:34] however, if you don't take action, when the time comes, that if, well, you'll be unprepared in many different ways. But if you ponder the simple questions and really try to seek the answers, I think you're in for a better life per se. And as we stated earlier, A lot of these mental illnesses that we are dealing with today, I've watched progress, but yet I'm only watching my generational time span.

[00:11:13] So to really understand that, we have to do a broad exploration of time and circumstance. And still, after we do that, it's like those infinite number of buckets, you'll never truly understand because over time things change. So, perception changes and everything changes with time. So, is this a cycle thing? Because I, I really tend to ponder on that a lot. Are we just in this big reboot cycle in life as generations come and go? It's an interesting thought.

[00:12:05] Joel Bouchard: Yeah, no. This, this leads directly into the second part of your first question. Um, which I got off on a huge tangent on the first part, so I'll try not to do it with this one, but yeah, it leads directly into it.

[00:12:16] Um, there's some interesting aspects, right? One of them is, um, what I'm currently studying, um, in my doctoral program is functional neuroscience, biological basis or behavior, right? Um, so the part that I'm currently looking at is, uh, your sensory systems, right? How you see things, how you hear things. Um, and what's fascinating about that is when you get into the nitty gritty neuronal details.

[00:12:42] Um, what you find is that your senses, um, pick up a very inaccurate picture of the world. And then various, um, sensory and cognitive processes integrate that information and kind of smooth it over and present you with a picture of it that is more detailed and more meaningful than what your senses can pick up, right?

[00:13:14] So it's very similar to, you know, what we're doing right now, right? So, um, our, our internet connection isn't great. So I see you as being a very pixelated blur, right? And then some of your audio is delayed, and on your end, it's probably very similar for me. Um, but the recording program we're using is on the internet, so it's uploading your stuff on your end, and it's uploading my stuff on my end, and then it's integrating them together and smoothing them over and adding the details in.

[00:13:45] Your brain does the exact same thing, right? Because, just the location of sound, right? Your, your right ear and your left ear don't hear things at the same time. And so your brain uses some of that information and says, Okay, well, we're going to use that to locate a sound. Okay, you're, this sounds located slightly to your left, but it's not going to give you two separate sound sources.

[00:14:06] It's going to integrate the sound source so, so that it, you perceive it as a coherent thing. So that is part of the, like the reality part, right? Your reality, um, what your brain says is really out there, um, is not what's really out there, right? We see a very small sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum.

[00:14:25] Um, we hear a very small sliver of the audio spectrum and our brain sort of, um, gives meaning and coherence to these things and says, Hey, here's reality, right? Um, and it's not. And our scientific instrumentation has given us a very good picture that, why it's not. Um, but to your second point, talking about, um, some of the challenges that we face, um, on both an individual and societal level with mental illness and with other things, um, it is definitely cyclical, right?

[00:14:57] Because if you go all the way back to the beginning, um, uh, back in ancient Greece, man, I forget if it was Plato or Socrates, but one of them said that writing was going to be the downfall of man. Because if you could write things down, you no longer had to remember them, right? Well, obviously writing was not the downfall of man, writing

[00:15:19] vastly augmented our cognitive capabilities. Um, and Ed, with the introduction of any new technology, there's always been that fear that the new technology is going to suddenly turn our brains to mush. And to this point, um, there hasn't been any evidence that that's taken place. Now there's, there's a qualifier to that, right?

[00:15:42] Um, with modern research, what they found is that, you know, and the current example that, that people like to use is phone numbers, right? If you grew up in the pre smartphone era, everybody will say, Well, I remember when I had, you know, eighty phone numbers memorized and I could type them in. And now kids these days, they don't even know their own phone number.

[00:16:02] It's not because kids these days don't have the cognitive capabilities to, to remember phone numbers, it's just that their brain has identified that there's no need for it. So it doesn't waste cognitive energy on it, you know? And so that is the history of technology. New technology has allowed humans to sort of outsource cognitive processes to technology and then use the freed up space for new things.

[00:16:29] Now that freed up space can be used for increased cognitive or higher level cognitive abilities, or it can be used on Social media, or video games, or on and on and on, whatever. So technology is a tool, right? It's a tool that helps you do certain things more efficiently, but it doesn't dictate how you're going to use your new freed up time.

[00:16:52] Ed Watters: Yeah. I think that's huge because we are stuck with the choice, do I do something or do I hit those pleasure sensories? And that's truly what Facebook, and Twitter, and all of those social atmospheres do to us because they're programmed that way. It's a good point. And, you know, to your point, as, as we grow and we augment these technologies into our lives, we can actually see that a lot of people take that time for, like, uh, invention and creation.

[00:17:42] So I think we've missed out on a lot of that during our lifetime, because we did not have the ability to let technology do a lot of these things for us. And it's funny that a lot of people are thinking technology is going to take our jobs, it's going to rob us of so many cultural things. To your point that you just stated, that, that delivery mechanism is going to be different, but how we cope with it

[00:18:21] is really our choice. And it's part of our behavioral, you know, how we have been raised in the world. So I know I was raised where you didn't spend a lot of time worrying about schooling or anything like that, you worry about getting a job and taking care of the family. And there was no time for philosophical thought.

[00:18:53] That's where we actually build is in that thought. I think this technology is giving us the time now to build and strengthen that a little more than it has been in the past few decades, you know, since the technological revolution started. So, what's your feeling about the shift that's actually taking place because of technology. We're living in a unique time.

[00:19:27] Joel Bouchard: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Um, and I think that, you know, it's, it, it's very interesting because the technology that we're seeing now is a little bit different from in the past, right? When we were talking about writing, or computers, or radio, or television, these sorts of things, um, in a lot of cases, you could use those technologies, you could leverage them to offload cognitive processes. And then you could use that freed up time to engage in further invention or that [00:20:00] sort of thing. Social media is a little bit different because it hacks your dopamine system, unlike previous technologies. And the dopamine system,

[00:20:10] um, you know, it's, it's used for reward. But what a lot of people don't realize is that you don't get dopamine with a reward, you get dopamine with the anticipation of a reward. So as a result, what happens is, when you are anticipating something, whether it's social media use or the high from, uh, getting drugs, or sex, or eating a good meal, or whatever it is, that's when you get the dopamine.

[00:20:38] Once you actually have the thing, um, the dopamine decreases. Which is what explains drug addiction, right? When you talk to a lot of long time addicts, the reason they're engaging in, in addictive drug use isn't for the high anymore, it's just because of the anticipation of the high and to avoid withdrawal symptoms, right?

[00:21:00] And so social media use is very much the same way. People aren't experiencing a lot of joy from using social media, um, but their brains, when they're not using social media, their brains are giving them dopamine in the anticipation of looking at their phone. Um, so it, it's a very dangerous thing on a physiological level, the new technology.

[00:21:25] With that being said, um, technology, as we just mentioned, is a tool and tools can be used for good and for bad, right? So I think that as, as AI and technological tools increase, um, there's a couple different ways things can go. I think that we see some people whose lives seem to be increasingly busy, they seem to have less and less free time, um, especially to engage in philosophical pursuits. And then there's other people who are leveraging technologies, um, in such a way that they have more free time to engage in philosophical pursuits. The way we are right now, right? Podcasting, especially on a philosophical level, like what we're doing, uh, wasn't something people were doing not too long ago,

[00:22:14] right? So the tools are allowing people to do, um, a variety of different things. Um, and I, I almost said the tools are allowing people to do what they want to do, um, but as is demonstrated by the hacking of the dopamine system, um, sometimes what your lizard brain wants to do is not what your higher level cognitive self enjoys. So, um, yeah, it's a, it's a difficult time and people have to be very careful about being attentional in the things that they decide to participate in.

[00:22:56] Ed Watters: Yeah, that's, that's so true. You know, the educational value of the internet is being wasted, in my opinion. You know, other people may see that in other ways, but when I go online, I don't have time to play games and, you know, all these other things that you do online. But when I do take that time, I do get that pleasure out of it. But

[00:23:26] I realize that if I take pleasure all the time in my life, that's going to be a pretty destructive life because you're a pleasure seeker. And pleasure is great, I, I enjoy pleasure, but if we seek pleasure all the time, that's that addictive behavior. It can be very devastating not only to yourself, but to your family and their, you know, everybody around you and your family, it has ripples so big.

[00:24:04] So taking the time to develop ourself and understand that we can take control and moving into a better life takes work and energy. And it really does take that deep dive into understanding the love of wisdom. That's, that's really where we start finding our true self is when we identify with the world that we are around, or that we are in, and the people and places that we are around.

[00:24:45] Joel Bouchard: Yeah. I think that that, that was really well put. And, um, you know, I like, you know, use the term love of wisdom, which is the literal, um, definition of philosophy. Philosophy, you know, philo, love, and then osophy, wisdom. So, um, yeah, it's very important. And then what you were referring to before, um, this idea of only seeking pleasure, um, there's a psychological term for it called the hedonic treadmill.

[00:25:12] Um, which is essentially once you start seeking pleasure, it's almost like you're on a treadmill and you can't get off. It just keeps going and going and going. And, and this is, you know, it's carefully selected for by natural selection, right? Um, cause our, our ancestors had to deal with environments where, um, food, and, and, you know, mating resources, and, and all resources really, right, were very scarce.

[00:25:40] And so your, your brain developed in such a way to get pleasure from those things in order to increase your seeking out of them. Well, again, with technology being a two edged sword, as technology, and has allowed us, has increased our food supply, and has increased our availability to, um, mates, and increased our, you know, our availability to really any, anything that, uh, stimulates dopamine,

[00:26:09] um, it's very easy to get on that hedonic treadmill. But the problem is that pleasure does not equate to meaning, right? And, um, you know, I, I think that it's meaning results from, from attention. Um, and so I think that pleasurable things can be meaningful, um, if it's something that you've thought about and you're giving some attention to. Um, but I think that what a lot of people find is that they're going through life, um, with no reflection, right?

[00:26:44] No reflection on what they're doing or, or why they're doing it. Um, and so that's why you can scroll social media for, for three hours, and at the end of it, you're much less happy than you were. Yet you feel like you have no control over doing it, right? It's this strange paradox that is explained by biology, yet our higher level cognitive abilities don't really serve us very well in, in talking ourselves out of, we can't rationalize our way out of it in a lot of cases. So it's, it's very difficult.

[00:27:18] Ed Watters: Yeah. You know, the, the world is funny because as we move around the globe, the different cultures, can shock us. And I find it fascinating that it's happened forever. That as we look around the world to different cultures, different colors, different textures, we find that to be, uh, I don't know the word to even

[00:27:59] say, fearful or frightening to us. So therefore we take offense to these cultures. But how much of that is psychological? How much of that is because we were told this? And I really wonder why we have the separation that we do, because we're all human beings, we all bleed red blood, inside we look the same, but because we look different, we find that as a threat to us somehow. Do we have understanding about that?

[00:28:50] Joel Bouchard: Yeah, yeah. It's, um, it's a pretty well researched area of psychology. Um, and you know, yeah, it's basically comes down to in group identification, right? Um, humans are social creatures and so we seek out social relationships. And what's the easiest way to form a social relationship? Um, it's to find somebody who has similar properties to you.

[00:29:18] And the easiest way to find somebody who has similar properties to you is to look at who is in closest proximity to you. Um, at least in the past, right? Um, before the advent of technology, the people in your immediate area were very similar to you. You had a tribe, you had, uh, familial connections, which familial connections, um, stimulate certain parts of your brain.

[00:29:39] Oxytocin, right, which, uh, is a bonding neurotransmitter, um, allows you to have special feelings towards your family versus the rest of the world. So a lot of these things, um, again, it's a two edged sword, right? They, they have a positive effect, which is to increase bonding with, um, uh, an individual or [00:30:00] a group, but any time you increase bonding with an individual or a group, you're by definition, creating an out group, creating somebody who is separate from you. Um, and so the opposite of, of the feeling of love and bonding and connection in your brain is, um, this, you know, disgust or hatred or, or identification as an enemy.

[00:30:23] Um, and so, yeah, it's biological at a, at a very basic level. And this is something that has been, um, integrated into, um, philosophies and, and religions even before modern psychology, right? I think the best example is, is probably Buddhism, which takes us to a much deeper level. It even goes beyond human differences, um, where they, they say that, you know, Really everything at its core is, is one.

[00:30:54] It's either one or it's nothing at all, right? And it's just our mind that makes the differences. And I remember listening to, um, a Buddhist sensei when, talk about, when he started his journey down the route. Um, and he was walking through a woods with one of his friends and he saw a mushroom growing on a tree.

[00:31:13] And he said, Oh, that's disgusting. And his friend said, No, the mushroom is not disgusting, your brain is disgusting, right? And that's, that's the truth of the matter. The mushroom is just the mushroom, but your brain's interpretation of it, how it identifies the visual pattern or the olfactory pattern, how it smells, how it looks, how it, how it lives, you know, it decays things, it does this sort of stuff.

[00:31:36] Your brain identifies that as disgusting because there is a benefit to that, right? Your brain says, Oh, this thing eats decaying stuff, um, it's probably poisonous and toxic for you. So you want to stay away from it, which is a very valuable insight to have if you don't have higher level cognitive processes, right?

[00:31:55] If you're a basic animal, you want to have that feeling because it keeps you alive. You don't want to eat it. But as humans, right, with our ability to reflect and to look at things, um, that feeling of disgust, uh, really inhibits us and hinders us in some ways from seeing the essential nature and beauty in other living things.

[00:32:18] And that includes humans, and mushrooms, and, and anything, right? Um, and I think that that's part of the struggle of, of being a, a philosopher is, um, trying to separate your internal biases. And, um, you know, the, the things that you, you have strong positive or negative feelings for out of the gate. And look at them and say, Why, why do I feel this way?

[00:32:42] And, and to try to rationalize it and determine whether or not those feelings are valid. And, um, you know, from a psychological point of view, one of the hardest things to do is to change your mind, right? There's this, um, there's this principle called cognitive dissonance, which it's very well studied in the, in the psychological field that says if you hold a belief strongly and you were presented with contrary evidence, rather than being convinced to change your mind, most people try to concoct an argument why the evidence isn't right.

[00:33:16] And they actually hold stronger to their initial beliefs than to the beliefs that they should accept. So it's, it's basic biology that we're struggling with, um, which highlights the problem, but it doesn't exempt us from not using rationality to, to progress on an individual and societal level, right? We, we need to make an effort at some point to look at people and ideas that we find to be wrong or repulsive and actually rationalize with them and talk with people. And, and find the good and the bad in their arguments and attempt to have dialogues in order to come to new understandings.

[00:34:00] Ed Watters: Yeah. Yeah, really that, that's the key. So I want to go into understanding the beginning of everything because I, I really, you know, this is where a lot of religions come in that, you know, they, they can't take that something can't come from nothing. And that, what was there before this? It's a complexed issue to actually even wrap your mind around.

[00:34:38] That's where this Big Bang theory comes from, you know, that it all started with the Big Bang and then started to expand the universe. I find it hard to start something from nothing, but yet there's always gotta be a start. So this is why, uh, in religion we struggle with, you know, religious topics versus scientific topics, because our brain tells us, well, what came first, the chicken or the egg?

[00:35:17] Well, answer that. You, you really truly can't answer that, but there's got to be a start to something. An idea, or some chemical reaction, something has to be there, whether it be simple gases floating in the darkness, and then when they interact, it is a catalyst for a big bang or intelligent design. A lot of people believe in intelligent design,

[00:35:51] I, I'm one of those. Because I have this hard time to wrap my head around, how did it come from nothing? I'm always open to the answer to that, and believe me, I dive deep into many different philosophies and writings, especially religious writings. Because that's where a lot of the dogmatic things come from, is those religious values. But yet, we all start from the same place.

[00:36:23] We're just, you're here and you're cold, you're wet, you're crying, and you are very dependent on somebody for the first stage of life. That, that tells me that there's got to be some sort of intelligent design behind this. What's your thought on intelligent design, and how can we relate it to the Big Bang Theory? If it's even possible.

[00:36:53] Joel Bouchard: Yeah, it's a real complicated issue. And I think that the part that makes it the most complicated is, once again, our human physiology, right? We just have this three pounds of meat inside our head that's trying to understand things that are, is vastly far beyond us, right? And so it's very difficult, um, but that difficulty is part of the reason that we have trouble knowing.

[00:37:23] Um, and, but it's also part of the reason that, like I said at the beginning, I'm never going to disparage somebody's religion. Um, you know, because once you get beyond science, you're into metaphysics and nothing in metaphysics can be proven or disproven, right? Now that isn't to say that we can't use science to support some theories, right?

[00:37:49] So, um, here in the Western world, you know, Christianity is the dominant religion. And so, um, there's varying flavors of Christianity, you know, you have, um, young universe people who believe that the whole universe is, is 6, 000 years old. Everything happened in that timeframe. Um, and I think that using modern, um, scientific theories, it's sort of easier to not accept that.

[00:38:16] And that's not to say prove it false, right? Because if, if God decided, you know, if He created the world 6, 000 years ago and He stretched starlight from billions of years away to suddenly make it appear like it looked old, but it was really only 6, 000 years old and if He planted dinosaur bones in the earth, even though the animals never existed, He could do that because He's God.

[00:38:40] Now it seems kind of like a cruel trick, right? Why would you do that to people? Um, so I struggle with that, but there's nothing to say that it couldn't have happened. Um, so if somebody is a young earth creationist, I'm not going to, I'm not going to disparage them. You know, I can't, I can't argue with it. I can't say that it's false, but the current scientific theory seems to point to the fact that that's not true.

[00:39:05] So we can use Big Bang cosmology, um, which a lot of people like to say, Oh, well, it's just a theory, you can't prove it. And that's sort of, um, a lot of people who say that aren't familiar with science. Science never proves anything. Scientist is not a, you know, science is not a collection of facts,

[00:39:27] it's a process. So what you do is you can disprove things, um, and then you can find evidence that supports theories. Um, and so it's very interesting because in a scientific theory, all it takes is one data point that proves it false to invalidate the entire theory. Um, but you can have all the supporting evidence in the world and it doesn't prove the theory.

[00:39:52] Because at any point in the future, you could have a new data point that proves that it's wrong and then you need a new theory. So science, [00:40:00] by its nature, is uncertain. It's just the process of trying to discover more and more accurate theories about the world. Some people these days have a religious faith in science, which is unhealthy, right?

[00:40:16] Trying to say that science can explain things that it can't explain. Um, so that's the complexity of the issue. That's the context of, of, of the problem in determining what happened at the beginning. Um, as far as what, you know, what I think the best picture of it is, is, okay, the, the Big Bang seems to give us a pretty good picture down to at least the Planck length. The Planck length is the very first fraction of a millisecond in which, um, everything came about.

[00:40:51] Um, and you know, science is still debating on, on what happened there. You know, they can't unify all the theories and these sorts of things. But yeah, so, um, you know, intelligent design, um, I don't, I don't fault people for, for believing that there must be some intelligence behind the universe. As a matter of fact, you know, I go back and forth about it all the time, right?

[00:41:15] Whether it's God, or whether it's an alien species, or whether it's an advanced human race that's creating a simulation of us, or whatever it might be, it sure seems like there's a lot of order out there, which in scientific terms, we call it a low entropy state. Things seem to be very ordered. And there's a law, quote unquote, of physics that says that shouldn't happen. As time goes on,

[00:41:40] things should become more and more high entropy. They should become more and more messy, right? If I were to leave my room right now and come back a hundred years from now, it wouldn't be in a better shape than it is, right? It'd be covered in dust and there'd be water damage and there'd be all this stuff.

[00:41:56] Um, so when we look in the universe and we see, Oh heck, everything looks really organized, that seems to indicate that there's some intervention by something creating the order. Um, now the flip side to that, right, is that that law of thermodynamics is not a law, because like I said, science doesn't, doesn't actually have laws, right?

[00:42:23] We just have supporting evidence. So the, the caveat to the, the law of thermodynamics is that if you dump out the barrel enough times the pennies land heads up. And so, um, when we look at the universe, you know, there's, we're talking vast timescales and so the, the longer the timescales, the more time that barrel has to tip out the pennies.

[00:42:48] Um, so there's lots of postulations as to what happened at the beginning to spark the big bang. Um, you know, there's M theory and string theory and these sorts of things to say there's, uh, fields that, that interact in certain ways. Um, and really the best explanation right now is, is that they're of quantum fluctuations. And quantum fluctuations are something that we have a lot of scientific support for.

[00:43:17] Um, as a matter of fact, it's like 99. 9 to seven decimal places, right? That's pretty accurate that we see these quantum fluctuations, which are, um, at, at the micro, micro microscopic level. Um, you have particles that pop in and out of existence. Uh, an interesting aspect of the mathematics is that in our reality, right,

[00:43:46] these things seem very, very small. They're at a very small level of particles pop in and out of existence all the time. And this quantum wave collapse, um, determines what state, uh, other, other particles, and, and atoms, and molecules are at, and that, that's what constructs reality. If you go back to the pre Big Bang, um, what you can see is that things can pop in and out of existence, uh, these particles can pop in and out of existence in a vacuum, in, in nothingness.

[00:44:21] And so, what determines what the particle is that pops in and out of existence? It's probabilities. Um, so there's, uh, you know, a teapot could pop into existence in orbit around Jupiter, right? Without, you know, it doesn't have to be a microscopic particle, but the probabilities just dictate that it normally is because simpler things are going to pop into existence more often than complex things.

[00:44:49] And so there's nothing to stop a big bang from popping into existence right now. And although that's exceedingly improbable, it could happen. And so when you, it's, it's sort of, um, it's based on a scale, right? So our universe will eventually die about a hundred trillion years from now, right? Um, the stars won't have enough gravity to collapse, and so everything will get sucked into black holes, and then the black holes evaporate, and then the whole universe is this diffuse energy state.

[00:45:26] And the interesting about, thing about that is that diffuse energy state has the same mathematical identity as the universe before the Big Bang started. So it's almost as if we think about the Big Bang starting from this infinitely small, dense point of space, but the moment right before that has the same properties as an infinitely large, empty piece of space.

[00:45:55] So it is almost cyclical in like a Mandelbrot, um, Fractal kind of way where the farther you zoom in, you sort of see the same pattern over and over again. And that, that theoretically lands, lends some support to this sort of cyclic universe type thing where, well, maybe there's a Big Bang and then things expand out endlessly.

[00:46:16] And then once they're endlessly expanded, you're back to the beginning again, right? And there's, there's, oh, you know, elements of mathematics and physics that support, and also that we're, you know, go against it. So there's nothing that is confirmed, but I think that that's a very interesting, um, aspect of it that, that seems to indicate that, you know, if there's a cyclical thing going on, then it sort of makes you wonder if there's a beginning at all. Is there a beginning? Is there an end? Um, is there a need for an intelligent design? You know, it's just interesting, right?

[00:46:59] Ed Watters: Yeah. Well, that, that's a big question that I always ponder because I really do believe in that cycle, it's cyclical in many ways in our life. Everywhere you look, there's cycles, we live, we die. You know, a tree, it, it does the same thing, everything around us. And, and, you know, you state when you look deeper in microscopic level, it emulates and it, it just keeps going. So I often wonder about that myself. Is it just like the rain? You know, there's, you pick it up on the ocean, you drop it onto the plains, and then it flows back.

[00:47:50] Everything about our life, in our universe seems to be this cycle, like clockwork. So it's a very interesting thing to ponder and nobody on this planet has the answer to it all. But if we keep accumulating thoughts, I really think we can compile this understanding of what's happening to us in many different ways.

[00:48:20] And that's where, you know, the written word comes in because we can catalog and we can actually go back and read what, so, yeah, it's very interesting to ponder. And, I, I really enjoy these conversations because I'm constantly thinking like this off camera. My wife and I, we talk about things so deep and we're just simple people.

[00:48:52] So if, if we all come together with our thoughts and don't be shy about our thoughts because that's all it is, is thoughts. You don't know, I don't know, and neither does anybody out there. So if we can accumulate the thoughts and go over them without our own bias and we just look at the data that's put out, we can understand our world a little bit better. Because none of us agree with each other a hundred percent. But it's nice to be able to think about what somebody else thinks about, because it opens your world to a broader range of variety.

[00:49:44] Joel Bouchard: Yeah, absolutely. You know, and, and the big thing is anytime you're talking with somebody else, you're going to get some insight into something that helps you change the way that you think. And, and like you said, what it takes is, once you have that new insight, [00:50:00] that'll help you create new theories. And somewhere along the way, even if it's not you, somebody is going to find a way to test that theory and add to the existing body of knowledge.

[00:50:09] And that's going to create new theories and new interactions with new ideas. And that is the history of, of human progress, right? And a good example is the current, um, kind of thought about how things started is sort of a crossover between, um, classical physics and, um, evolution, right? So, you know, there's a group of physicists that said, Why would evolution have to be limited to living things?

[00:50:44] Why couldn't it extend to, um, you know, molecular things? And when you start to look at it, it makes a lot of sense, right? Because, you know, atoms and molecules, you know, you have these shells, your protons and neutrons are in the middle and you have these electrons spinning around the outside. But not just any electron can spin just anywhere, right?

[00:51:05] If you, depending on what the nucleus is made of, you can only have electrons in certain shells. And so therefore only certain atoms and molecule combinations can exist. And those few building blocks create everything in the universe, right? So, you know, if only certain atoms can line up to make molecules and only certain molecules can make amino acids and only certain amino acids can make certain proteins,

[00:51:33] well, then you're sort of seeing evolution all the way from the beginning of time, all the way from the diffuse energy that was, you know, when at the Big Bang, when it exploded. Hydrogen, helium, and just a little bit of lithium, right? Those just, few things combined with gravity and radiation pressure and this sort of stuff create everything we know through molecular evolution, right?

[00:51:58] Which is a cool idea. Is it right? Nobody knows yet, but like you said, if we keep finding ideas from different people and keep integrating them and trying to find ways to test them, maybe we'll get somewhere someday.

[00:52:12] Ed Watters: That's right. You know, and this is why I, I take offense to people of religion being so closed off. You know, even, for instance, the Christian concept, it says, Seek and you shall learn. That means something people. And if you're unwilling to seek, you're not going to learn. There's a reason for all of this. And for some unknown reason, I would like to kind of drive the bus towards figuring it out so we can have harmony. It's just, that takes time. And if people are unwilling to open up and seek, we're never going to find the truth that we're after. So yeah, I really don't like when religion closes people off. It's sad and I understand, you know, I understand their values and they don't want to challenge that. But yet, to me, it's, it's a closed off world.

[00:53:33] Joel Bouchard: Yeah. It's a difficult place to be in, right? Because, um, it does necessitate certain things that are difficult for growth. I was on a podcast with a guy who, um, he was a Catholic, um, and a young earth creationist. Great guy, had awesome thoughts, we had a fantastic discussion, um, just excellent. I'm looking forward to being on his show again, he's going to come on my show. But, you know, partway through he, he was getting a little bit frustrated because he was asking me questions, and I was giving him answers,

[00:54:07] but at the end I was always saying, But nobody knows, right? And, um, you know, he said, Well, tell me three things, three core values or beliefs that you have that don't change. And I said, I really only have one and my one, uh, core belief or value is that I always want to be open to change, right? Everything should always be able to be changed.

[00:54:31] And, and, but that highlights, um, sort of the, the difference between, um, you know, religiously dogmatic people and, um, people who are philosophically, um, open to, um, new information is that, you know, part of religious dogma is the notion that you have the answers. And Philosophy is predicated, philosophy and science, right,

[00:54:59] are predicated on the fact that you don't have the answers and you may never have the answers. And that makes people very uncomfortable. We have a deep seated need to know, to want to know, that we are right. And it takes some deep thought in order to say, I don't, and I might not never, I might not ever know, you know, it's difficult.

[00:55:24] Ed Watters: I think that's the most important lesson in life, you may never know. Never close yourself off to the possibilities of what if, because once you do that, you're, you're going to lessen the burden of your mind because we don't want to distract it so much with a conflict. I don't want to argue about life, I want to figure life out.

[00:55:52] And that, that means I have to learn to listen. And that's very hard for people to do, is that listen, because, especially today in our fast paced world. We, we have to come together and we have to really be able to listen to people. And conversation is what changes the world. It changes the minds, hearts, people.

[00:56:18] So I think what we're doing today, Joel, is very important. We might not be able to give people answers to these mysterious questions of the universe and our own existence, but at least we're looking at it and we're trying to understand the what ifs and the whys. This, this is a good healthy life to live. Is there anything that we've missed today that you'd like to add to our discussion?

[00:56:57] Joel Bouchard: The only thing that I would add would just be, right at the end there, um, which is that, um, an easy, uh, something that will help change your perspective in this sort of thing is the way that you view uncertainty, right? Um, when you're thinking about death, or when you're thinking about the beginning of the universe, or you're thinking about religion, or, or politics or, or other things that,

[00:57:20] that scare you, or areas that you, you want to believe you know the answers, um, it's confronting that fear a little bit. And rather than saying, this is something that scares me, you should say, this is something that interests me, right? Cause I've gotten to the point now where the mystery of not knowing is the most important, fulfilling thing to me, trying, trying to find the answers.

[00:57:45] It, and that's life, right? It's about the journey, not the destination, right? It's about the journey to, of looking at the questions rather than whatever the answers might be. And so, you know, again, I think that you've, you've highlighted really well that the way you get there is through discussion. It's not through grandstanding,

[00:58:04] it's not through monologuing, it's not through talking at people, right? It's about knowing what you think and what you believe and being able to express that. But also, yes, being able to listen to what other people say and being able to actually give it an honest chance and being able to look at the ideas and then integrate them with your own and try to come up with something that is a new and novel and, and helpful. And yeah, you know, I think that the conversations that you're having are, are, are doing a good job of that.

[00:58:37] Ed Watters: Well, I hope we can keep having those great conversations, Joel, because really it's given my life meaning. And once you find meaning, you can actually enjoy life and that's what it's about. Enjoyment, not the pleasure of it, but like you say, just the, I'm here, this is exciting, it's, it's something I want to understand. And, and our world is confused because they don't want to understand. So I really enjoy these conversations and I hope more people start conversations like this, it's much needed in our world today. How can people reach out and find you? And do you have a call to action for our people?

[00:59:30] Joel Bouchard: Yeah. So I'm known for being the world's worst marketer, you know, like a lot of the stuff I do, I'm just doing for, uh, my own personal enjoyment. I, I'm never trying to sell anybody anything, but yeah, if you want to listen to my music, uh, you just, you can just look up my name and, uh, you'll find the music. If you want to listen to my podcast, it's From Nowhere to Nothing,

[00:59:50] um, and we're always open to answering questions on there. So if you have a particular topic or idea that you want to know more about, you can email us at [01:00:00] and, uh, we'll do an episode. We'll, we'll cover your question. But yeah, that's pretty much it.

[01:00:07] Ed Watters: All right. Joel, you've got a fantastic podcast. The, the enlightenment that you can gain just from listening to you too, it's incredible. I've marked it, I've added it to my listen list, and I hope our listeners go over and listen to your podcast. It's great. Thank you for being part of the Dead America Podcast today and I've really enjoyed our discussion. Thank you.

[01:00:36] Joel Bouchard: I have too, thanks for having me on.

[01:00:42] Ed Watters: Thank you for joining us today. If you found this podcast enlightening, entertaining, educational in any way, please share, like, subscribe, and join us right back here next week for another great episode of Dead America Podcast. I'm Ed Watters, your host, enjoy your afternoon wherever you may be.