There are many examples of fate or predestination in our culture. It was meant to be. If it is meant to happen, it will happen.
The idea of fate has a powerful appeal. It relieves us of responsibility. And in a world where we are drowning in our responsibilities, that can be attractive.
Fate and Religion
Sometimes, the idea of fate is tied to religion. If God has a plan for all of us, then we can have hope for the future, and that things will turn out alright, even if they seem dark right now. We all need hope to get us through trying times.
However, doesn’t the idea of fate, or a grand plan, negate the very foundation of religion? It is important that we have free will, so that our choices, for better or worse, have some meaning.
Fate and Science
Nineteenth-century science promoted the concept of a deterministic universe. If we know the position of all the particles in the universe, and where they are going and how fast, we can predict where they will end up. The universe, in that way, is like a giant, complicated billiard table.
Quantum mechanics changed that. Uncertainty was discovered to be a fundamental part of the way the quantum world of tiny, fast-moving particles works.
So it would seem that science is moving away from the concept of the deterministic universe, which would seem to leave out fate. But we don’t live in the quantum world, and the scientific principles of a mechanistic universe apply perfectly well to objects our size and going at our speed.
Fate and Us
It is easy to see the appeal of fate when an important event is about to happen or a crucial decision needs to be made. If I have an interview for a job that I really want to get, it feels good to believe that the decision is already made and all the players are just going through the motions.
It can also bring comfort at a traumatic time. When someone dies unexpectedly, it feels good to think that it was not a senseless death, but rather that it was part of some larger plan of which we are not aware.
But is that realistic? It’s also important to our sense of self to believe that we have free will. Oftentimes, it seems that people simply believe in fate or in free will as they want, without any larger thought to consistency. But maybe that’s okay.
Do you believe in fate? If so, are there certain circumstances where fate is easier to accept? Or is the idea of fate simply useful as a crutch or as a way to hold on to hope?
Related questions: How much of our thoughts are our own? What beliefs do you have that might be wrong? Are science and religion compatible? Free will or predestination? Is it a cruel world?