A Universe Made for Humans is Laughable – Tue 17th Jul 07

An e-mail was sent to me a while ago that I’d like to share with you, the beloved intelligent reader (for my blog has no other kind!) It ties in very nicely with something I wrote recently.

earthinperspective.pdf

Obviously the author intended it as more of a “have a nice day” chain e-mail, which is fair enough. But my point is more philosophical: look at the sheer size of the universe in which humanity is, it is not even fair to say, a mere grain of sand on a beach. For all intents and purposes, we are totally alone. Check the PDF out (you’ll need Adobe Acrobat reader) and then think about this: Antares is a supergiant star. But the Milky Way contains hundreds of billions of stars. And there are billions of galaxies; so many in fact, that if you could zoom out far enough you would see “clouds” of galaxies. Such a thought is virtually incomprehensible for our small primate minds that evolved to survive in the middle of Africa.

I guess that’s another good point that can be gleaned from a simple size comparison like the above: some believe that it was all, everything(!), designed for us! In the days when the “known earth” was a continent or two you could forgive such ignorance. But in this day and age, where the edge of the observable universe is 46.5 billion light-years away, the idea that someone or something made all of this specially for a puny group of lifeforms on a tiny planet, orbiting an average star, one of billions in an ordinary galaxy, which itself is such a speck of dust amidst them all, makes talk of an anthropocentric universe laughable.

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8 Responses to “A Universe Made for Humans is Laughable – Tue 17th Jul 07”

  1. tobe38 Says:

    Truly amazing. If I think about it for too long though, I’ll start feeling queezy!

  2. Lyndon Marcotte Says:

    Very well articulated. Faith is great I guess but at the expense of facts? One of the things that further caused me to devolve from my religious upbringing was my fascination with astro-physics. I haven’t resigned faith to be irrelevant or useless but am still struggling to reconcile it with science and life experience.

  3. evanescent Says:

    Hi Lyndon

    cheers for the comment.

    I agree with you of course that faith should never be at the expense of facts, but then I don’t think anything should!

    Unfortunately what many “people of faith” forget is that faith is, by definition, in spite of facts and evidence. If evidence and facts supported what you wanted to believe, there would be no point of faith.

    This to me, does actually make faith irrelevant and useless. And also irrational. But it’s also one of the hardest things to reject after any length of time depending on it. (I was raised a theist).

  4. Lyndon Marcotte Says:

    I could probably find out at wikipedia, but are “theist” and “deist” basically the same? How would you define it based on your experience? I’ve seen “deist” used more frequently lately often by people trying to put themselves between “Christian” and “atheist.” I’m not so interested in the semantics or even in grouping people into blocks of beliefs, but I’m just trying to get a perspective on where they’re coming from. Thanks.

  5. evanescent Says:

    A theist is someone who believes in a personal creator being that takes an interest in humans. So Christians, Muslims, Jews etc, are theists. A deist is someone who believes in a deity, i.e.: a godlike being; a being that isn’t personal or isn’t necessarily interested in humanity… so Zeus and Thor and Neptune etc are Gods, just like many Pagan gods, but they’re dieties.

    I think deism is a more reasonable position than theism, but that’s not saying anything. Deism still has the problem of being unnecessary to explain anything, and the problem of there being no evidence for any god(s) is also a problem for the deist.

    The difference with deism is that it isn’t linked to mainstream organised religion, whereas you’ll struggle to find a theist who doesn’t believe in one of the “great” Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. In other words, you can be a deist without having a religion, but for theism this is extremely rare.

    Agnosticism is offered as a middle ground between belief and non-belief, but agnosticism is really the position that god is unknowable either way. So, an agnostic may or may not still believe in god.

    An enlightening way of looking at it is that all humans are born with no belief in anything until it gets taught to them. So we’re all born atheists!

  6. The Exterminator Says:

    Nice try on the deist/theist difference, Evan, but you’ve not included the most salient contrast, which is their attitudes toward evidence vs. revelation.

    A theist is a person who believes in a god, usually a creator and ruler of the universe, whose existence is known primarily through some form of revelation.

    A deist is a person who believes in a god, usually merely as a prime mover and creator, whose existence is evidenced through reason and nature only, and most definitely not through revelation.

    The geniuses of the Enlightenment were mostly all deists, although none actually referred to himself using that term. Cut those guys some slack on the faulty evidence-gathering, though, because they lived in the days before Darwin, when learned people still found “proof” of divine intelligence through their studies of Nature. The deists, by the way, were vociferously opposed to using the bible as an authority on anything, even ethics and morals.

    Today, deists like Voltaire, Hume, Paine, Jefferson, and Franklin would likely be full-fledged atheists. They would certainly no longer be proponents of Intelligent Design.

  7. Lyndon Says:

    Thanks, that helps. I think the deist position comes up short. The only deity that remotely makes sense is a creator or divine source, but even such a “god” would by default take interest in its creation, be it things or people.

    I think your point about being “unnecessary to explain anything” is a good one. The equation works without needing a deity to balance it. Life can be explained scientifically all the way back to the big bang and then some, thanks to quantum mechanics. I don’t see a place in that equation for a deity. Coincidentally, while typing I just heard House on tv where he said “either God is immeasurably cruel or he doesn’t exist.” Ironic timing.

    Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel reminds me of an agnostic position when he said that “what God does with me when I’m dead is his business.” Anyway, it’s good stuff. Thanks for stimulating thought.

  8. Darren Says:

    Lyndon said:

    “but even such a “god” would by default take interest in its creation, be it things or people.”

    Why? You’re anthropomorphising that entity. Think bigger.


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