What underlies the ability of nature to satisfy a goal? In a word—change. If nature’s dynamism has an aim, physical reality cannot be static, it must be evolving. The universe had a beginning state and will have an ending state, and in transitioning between the two, nature’s purpose must be satisfied. Shortly after the universe was born the various structure and force fields differentiated. The structure fields hosted quarks and leptons and the force fields hosted gluons and (initially) electroweak bosons. As the universe continued to cool, the structure particles, interacting via the exchange of force particles, began to assemble into progressively more complex entities.
Driven by the downhill flow of energy and paced by the density of mass-energy, layers of structure formed from the microscopic to the macroscopic. In the microcosm, the lightest nuclei (e.g., helium and lithium) formed during nucleosynthesis, heavier nuclei in the center of stars, and atoms and molecules in the cooler environs of interstellar gas, meteors, comets, and planets. In the macrocosm, gas clouds condensed into stars and planets, stars aggregated into galaxies and galaxies associated into galaxy clusters that arose at the intersections of the filaments of the largest structure in the universe—a network of mass-energy highways crisscrossing the universe—the cosmic web. A delicate balance between the strength of the fundamental forces predisposed intermediately-large stars to blow up at the end of short lives and distribute elements synthesized in their interiors about the universe. In very large stars the pressure for matter to remain integrated with space was overcome and black holes formed. Supermassive black holes with millions of suns worth of matter arose to anchor galaxies. Many galaxies flattened out to form regions where stars can stably orbit for billions of years away from dangerous to life ionizing radiation. Weak force paced thermonuclear burning of light elements in intermediately sized stars enabled the constant controlled release of radiant energy, which created the energy stable environments required for the evolutionary assemblage of complex molecular systems on orbiting planets. In many of these stable environments came the ignition of life.