My last post offered a perspective on a common challenge by atheists: if man is the point of creation - the reason why everything was made - why is the universe so fantastically immense? It seems wasteful in the extreme to have created so much for so few, and a bit egotistical for us to claim that all this was created simply to provide a temporary habitat for human beings.
A commenter to the post amplified that point, making this comment:
The human race does not just live on one-grain-of-sand at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
They actually live on one Proton . . . in one atom . . . in one molecule . . . inside one-grain-of-sand . . . . among a trillion, billion, trillion other grains of sand.
Now if you want to say that Paris, London, New York, the Andes Mountains and Panda Bears were all created for the benefit of these microscopic creatures living on that one proton at the bottom of the sea – well give it a try! But it sounds like a slight stretch to me. The term ‘oversized-ego’ comes to mind.
This comment has considerable intuitive appeal. As with most arguments from ridicule, it highlights what appears to be absurd – that cities or mountains were made for the benefit of one proton at the bottom of the sea. But this of course is not an apt analogy, for two reasons: the universe appears to be fine-tuned to support the existence of life, so that the various laws of nature that can be discerned throughout its expanse play a necessary and integral part in allowing for sentient life. More importantly, we – unlike an inanimate proton – are sentient beings, who are observing what has been created. But even if we were to consider the analogy on its own terms, it continues to miss the point. Implied in it is the notion that building cities and mountains takes work – wasted toil from the perspective of the proton. But an omnipotent being does not have constraints, either in terms of power or in terms of resources, that would make his desires difficult to achieve. He can simply think them into being, no matter how long or how difficult similar work would be for us mortals.
The challenger went on:
And who’s touting the idea that these microscopic beings are the ‘chosen creatures’ for whom Paris and New York were built? Wouldn’t you know . . . it’s the very creatures themselves who boast their lofty position! With all due respect, and in complete seriousness – my dog Harry also believes he’s the center of the universe. In fact, every sentient creature on earth honestly believes they’re the center of the universe!
Here again we have an argument from ridicule. How foolish for man to consider himself the center of creation. He’s no more than a dog. Of course, this isn’t quite accurate. The "microscopic beings" in the analogy don’t have minds, and even the dogs who "think" they are the center of the universe are not actually entertaining such abstractions. This is simply the projection of a human thought onto a non-thinking animal. Dogs may wish for things that comfort them; they may follow their desires and instincts. But reflecting on their place in the scheme of things is simply beyond their capacity. Come to think of it, such reflection is beyond the capacity of every living thing man has ever encountered. Of the billions of forms of life that have inhabited this tiny blue dot, only man has the capacity to plan, to imagine, to think abstractly, to create and contemplate the exquisite beauty of art and music, to ponder questions of morality, to reason logically, to develop mathematical equations that actually describe the nature of the universe he perceives around him. And despite decades of scanning the skies for telltale emissions of other intelligent sources, we are – it seems – quite alone, at least as far as our instruments can tell us.
The commenter concludes:
Here’s an idea. Let’s show that we’ve definitively figured out the secrets of existence, and then, just maybe then, we can properly place ourselves in the hierarchy of existence.
So far, we’ve barely peaked out beyond the pile of sand just next to us.
That, I fear, will be a long wait. It’s a tall order to ask that we explain everything before we come up with theories that make sense. I will agree as to one thing, however: man’s place in the center of creation does not give him bragging rights. He was made for a purpose, and as Christianity teaches, he rebelled against his creator and rejected that purpose. He now finds himself in a very tough spot- both figuratively and literally. The credit for his salvation – no, further, the credit for his very existence in the first place – does not go to him. Indeed, the one who created us, left us here, and loved us enough to pave a path for us back to him, is deserving of the credit.
So, I would agree that we approach this subject with the humility fitting for those who has been given a great gift. Ignoring the gift, and its giver - pretending that there is no gift - would not make us humble – it would simply make us unwise.