We often say things like ‘they were meant to be together’ or ‘it’s written in the stars’, but often we do so without really thinking through our views on destiny and fate and whether we really believe that events and even our actions are guided. If you choose to believe in destiny then this would of course have some rather large implications for the way the universe works and it would encroach on many of your other beliefs about life. Here we will look seriously at whether destiny is really something you should believe in, and what the associated risks are with leaving your life in the lap of the gods.
Why Do We Believe in Destiny?
Many of us believe in destiny as a kind of security blanket or a way to make ourselves feel better. When something goes wrong for instance we can often reassure ourselves by simply saying that ‘it was meant to be’. Meanwhile if we are worried about an interview or a date, we can simply say that ‘what will be, will be’, and that would be a good way to help us to feel better and less nervous about everything. By imagining that there is some pre-set plan for our lives and that our destiny is already forged, this allows us to sit back and feel safe in the knowledge that everything is happening for a reason and that it will all turn out well in the end.
Evidence for Destiny
And on top of this there are some instances and examples of evidence that suggest destiny may be real. Many of these are somewhat esoteric and not highly scientific. For instance there are people who claim to be able to read the future, or who claim to have seen the future in dreams, and many of us feel that we have done so ourselves when we get feelings of dejavu. Of course for us to be able to see the future, there must be a predefined destiny and as such a belief in tarot cards essentially necessitates a belief in destiny. If you take the view that the cards show ‘one future’ and that you are able to change that future, then this ignores the fact that if destiny exists then you were always going to see those cards meaning that those cards were always wrong. So I’m sorry, but it’s either destiny and psychic readings or neither. Those who are religious and believe in God meanwhile will also often believe in destiny. This is partly because some Christians believe that God controls destiny, but even those who don’t are aware that God is ‘omniscient’ meaning that he can effectively ‘see into the future’. That again would suggest that the future is pre-written, and then you get into theological arguments about whether it’s really fair to punish those who aren’t religious – seeing as they were always destined to be that way (but that’s for another article).
The more scientific and concrete evidence for destiny lies in a study that demonstrates that our muscle fibers start to fire for movement before we are consciously aware of the decision to move. This then suggests that we are not consciously in command of our actions as we mostly believe, but that rather our conscious thought is the result of some predetermined biological urge to move, speak or think something. Consciousness is simply a ‘by-product’ by this view. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that our actions are controlled by ‘fate’ it is one of the only pieces of scientific evidence that suggests that our actions could be outside of our control. By this view we might also think of our decisions as something dictated purely by biological processes in the brain, which could theoretically be somewhat more predictable than ‘choice’. If you accept that other events are also ultimately predictable and that they could be boiled down to mathematics then you might realistically have an argument that in a way our course is pre-destined. Just as a computer can’t truly pick a random number (it instead relies on using milliseconds of a clock) things that appear random or predictable might in fact be able to be boiled down to a pattern.
But of course there’s also plenty of evidence against destiny, and certainly intuitively it feels as though we are in control of our actions. More importantly though there is certainly a danger to acting as though everything is predestined as it could potentially lead us to become somewhat lazy as we lose our internal locus of control. Your locus of control essentially refers to whether you think that events are dictated by yourself or external factors and this in turn makes you more or less likely to be a go getter and to strive to better yourself. If you have a belief in fate, that certain things are pre-written, then of course this takes away the same responsibility that you might previously have felt and he same sense of possibility. If you believe everything if pre-ordained then you might well stop going after your dreams because, well, what’s the point? In fact if destiny is a reality, then what’s the point in anything? At the same time, if you don’t get an interview, then saying ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ is fine and well, as long as it doesn’t prevent you from looking into what went wrong and then trying to improve yourself for next time.