The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Why I Don't Believe - The Great Chain Part 1

Even if the Atheist assumes for the sake of argument that God exists, the simple reality is that God's existence is completely and utterly meaningless.

God is irrelevant to us.  Not because God is irrelevant, but because we are.

I said earlier that the question of what caused or created the Great Singularity that started our Universe is irrelevant. I don’t mean that to be dismissive or coy, it is quite simply that such a question, even if answered most definitely in the affirmative is ultimately meaningless.

Assume for a moment, that the Great Singularity was in fact an act of conscious authorship. Assume that it was a deliberate act of creation, and that at some point some 13.7 billion years ago, some profoundly advanced civilization or being created this Great Singularity and rigged it to explode. If that is the case, that being or civilization would be, for all intents and purposes, God.  The Atheist should certainly recognize that such a being or civilization, as the Creator of our Universe, would be worthy of the title of God.

Even assuming that some incredibly advanced being, that God, created our Universe, so what?  Such a being, assuming it exists, is certainly worthy of praise.  Indeed, we would owe our entire existence to it, but understand that the being that could create the Great Singularity operates on a scale of existence that dwarfs any and all human understanding.

The observable Universe, by which I mean the region of space where light has had time to reach us and that we can actually see contains between 200 to 400 billion galaxies.  Indeed, we can only see a small portion of the Universe.  The Universe is so vast that it is quite literally impossible to tell whether the Universe is flat or whether it is such a large sphere that it only appears flat, or whether it is in fact infinite.  Of those innumerable billions of galaxies, an average galaxy contains anywhere from a few hundred million to tens of trillions of stars. Our own galaxy is a moderately sized spiral galaxy containing between 200 billion and 400 billion stars. While the science is still relatively new, we now have the technology to detect planets orbiting distant stars and it is now clear that the vast majority of those stars have planets. Many of them contain entire solar systems roughly analogous to our own.  Quite simply, the sheer number of stars and planets in the Universe can only be grasped using math. Even quaint analogies like grains of sand on the beach fail to capture the true scale of the Universe.

Assume that God created the Great Singularity, that some epochal being with literally unimaginable technology at its disposal created all of this. Is it in any way credible to believe that such a being would be interested in us in any way shape or form? Such a being would traffic in the birth and destruction of entire Universes. If such a being were really slumming, it might deign to lower itself to consider the birth and death of superclusters of galaxies containing hundreds of quadrillions of stars. The idea that such a being would be interested in one single galaxy out of hundreds of billions of others is the height of egocenticity and narcissism. Moreover, the idea that such a being would be interested not only in one particular galaxy, but one particular star out of the hundreds of billions within that galaxy is patently ridiculous. That such a being would lend even the slightest thought to a single planet, within a single galaxy, within a host of galaxies borders on megalomania. The idea that such a being, that the Creator of the Great All, who traffics in the birth and death of entire UNIVERSES, would take an interest in our species, let alone make distinctions and mete out ‘justice’ amongst our species based on meaningless liturgical or genetic differences is perhaps the most arrogant, self-centered and narcissistic concept possible.  The idea that the Sovereign over the entire Universe who has reigned for tens of billions of years is actively interested in and intervening in the lives of homo sapiens who have existed for a few million years on a tiny isolated world in the infinitude of the Great All is so silly that it borders on madness.

The God that is presented in human religions is at best a planetary God or God of our solar system. At that point, humans might as well worship those gray skinned, black eyed aliens that populate science fiction as they are infinitely more likely to have actually taken an interest in or seeded this planet than the Creator of the Great All. The God presented in human religions is quite simply too small, too parochial and too quaint to encompass the magnificent grandeur of the cosmos. The God that reigns in Earthly Religions who makes distinctions based on creed or color, who rewards and punishes based on archaic criteria scribbled down on papyrus thousands of years ago is quite simply too small to be the Creator of the Great All.

The Creator of the Great All, the author of the Great Singularity, is simply not a being that would have any interest in us or our planet or our galaxy whatsoever.

Ask yourself honestly whether you care deeply about the bacteria growing in the dark amongst the mold spores behind the cabinet in a garage 3000 miles away.  Those bacteria exist.  How often does their existence impinge on your conscious mind? How often do you consider their well being? If those bacteria praised you with all of their might, would you even be aware of it? The answer is clearly no.  We simply dwell on a different plane of existence than bacteria. Bacteria cannot possibly understand the mechanics of our lives, cannot possibly recognize the scale and scope of our individual actions, let alone our civilization. With a simple swipe of a cloth we can destroy an entire bacterial civilization and we give it no more thought than scratching our skin, which also destroys tens of millions of living things.

Understand that compared to the being who could create the Great Singularity, we are far less than that.  The difference between the plane of existence on which such a being dwells and our plane of existence is infinitely larger than the difference between our plane of existence and that of a bacteria half a world away.

Even if we are to make the assumption that some great sentient being created our Universe, so what? The thought that such a being is in any way interested in interacting with, or even concerned with our quiet little corner of the Universe is maddeningly self-centered and egocentric.

An honest Atheist will admit that we cannot know whether the Big Bang was an act of conscious Authorship or simply a natural occurrence.  We quite simply cannot know.  The Atheist cannot honestly hold any strong opinion whatsoever about what caused the Big Bang. The simple truth is that no one , no scientist, no theologian, no mystic, no human being can possibly know anything about what caused such an occurrence. Any and all evidence of what caused such a massive cataclysmic moment of creation was utterly annihilated by the act itself.  While we can understand and describe the evolution of what came after, we cannot possibly know what came before that single point at which our Universe was born.

Is it within the realm of possibility that such an event was caused by an intentional act of some incredibly vast and technologically proficient super-deity? Certainly. While such an explanation is indeed possible, mere possibility is in no way equivalent to plausibility or probability. Personally, I happen to believe that there is no God whatsoever and that the Great Singularity and Big Bang were the result of natural processes, however, I am readily willing to concede the possibility that the Big Bang itself was an act of some impossibly advanced being or civilization.

Even conceding that point makes no difference, however, because ultimately the question of whether 'God' caused the Universe to spring into existence or not is completely irrelevant to our existence. Such a being is irrelevant to our existence.  Not because such a being is irrelevant, but because WE are.  Because we are so small and insignificant in a cosmic sense as to be utterly beneath it's notice.


  1. Hi Jeffrey. Responding to the following: "Assume that God created the Great Singularity, that some epochal being with literally unimaginable technology at its disposal created all of this. Is it in any way credible to believe that such a being would be interested in us in any way shape or form? Such a being would traffic in the birth and destruction of entire Universes. If such a being were really slumming, it might deign to lower itself to consider the birth and death of superclusters of galaxies containing hundreds of quadrillions of stars. The idea that such a being would be interested in one single galaxy out of hundreds of billions of others is the height of egocenticity and narcissism."

    Couldn't we more logically conclude that the height of egocentricity and narcissism is displayed by those who take great pains to paint the picture of a God that is infinitely beyond us, only to afterward stand over that God and explain what He would or would not do? Can you actually logically conclude that such a great being could not possibly, according to the character of His own transcendant personality, take personal interest in the "lowest forms" of His creation? Speaking of which, can you logically conclude, based simply on the magnitude of the universe that man is of the lowest form? For instance, the Bible describes man as created in the image of God (Gen. 1.26-28). If true, no star or cluster of stars in the universe can make that claim, no matter how impressive. The Psalmist muses on this puzzling arrangement when he says, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty!"

    This is an alternative perspective, that, due to its ancient setting, obviously does not take into consideration the vast amount of data that you display here in regard to the heavenlies; yet, it appears to be a perspective that is logically possible. In fact, when one takes into account the historicity of biblical revelation, one may logically conclude that the Psalmist's logical conclusions are more logically concluded than that of the atheist.

    Of course, despite all of the claims to proper perspective, the real test must always be at the presuppositional level. In sum, I think there are some untested presuppositions in your argument that leave all that follows in question. What I quoted above is an example of that. I'm no one significant to be offering challenges, but if I were to offer any challenges, my challenge to you would be to back up and test your presuppositions for logical consistency. I like to ask the question of every presupposition, "Are you absolutely sure?" You may want to try this. Good luck. :o)

  2. I was having a similar problem with the presuppositions. Your proof of gods non-existence/non-involvement seems to stem from the perspective of the humans inability to grasp things beyond a certain scale or removal from frame of reference. Just because we can only fake a conception of infinite doesn't mean that a creator (if there is one) would be lost in the infinite universe to blind to all/any of its creations. The arguments about god being either small and ineffectual or infinite and uncaring have been around at least as long as philosophers.
    Also... just because science says so doesn't mean its actually true. The earth was flat for a while there. I generally believe what I read in science articles, after I can see someone else has reproduced the results and have gotten a good look at the original article. I find that many people who claim to be atheists are just channeling their need to believe into the god SCIENCE. Agnostic seems to be a less pretentious term it admits I am too small to actually know the answer.

  3. @MW - You accept and repeat the presupposition that an ancient tract accurately portrays the personality and mind of God. Are you absolutely sure that man is created in the image of God? Where does this certainty derive from? To argue that simply because an ancient text says that we are created in God's image does not make it so. Are you absolutely sure that the clusters of stars inhabiting the infinite Universe do not possess other planets brimming with life? Do not possess beings far greater than ourselves? To argue that the infinite vastness of the Great All is empty and void has been disproven every single time we gaze deeper into the Cosmos.

    Further, it is worth noting that there are literally hundreds of such tracts all of which purport to protray the mind of God and most of which dramatically conflict with one another. To presume that we can ascribe human traits to such an entity is the height of egocentric anthropomorphism.

    With regard to your question regarding putting a cap on the infinitude of God, I readily concede that it is POSSIBLE that such a being would have the capacity to associate with the entirety of its creation. The question I seek to raise is WHY would such a being bother. Why would it care. Despite your assertion that we are created in It's image, there is no evidence whatsoever of such a presupposition. And if such a being was interested in us, why would it create such a ludicrous hodgepodge of conflicting testaments to It's will. To be sure, I CAN take an interest in a bacteria, but my mind tends to find such things parochial and uninteresting. I certainly have no desire to attempt to explain my will to such creatures, nor do I have any expectation that they would grasp it if I did.

    The reality is that we are incredibly, indescribably small. We are inconsequential in any sort of cosmic sense. Of that there is no doubt. Every single glance we take into the cosmos confirms that our entire star system is merely one of countless sextillions of others. That we are small. Of this I am absolutely sure.

    @Anon - We can literally look at the evolution of the Universe. We can filter the light through spectrometers and analyze its constituent compounds. We can trace the evolution of galaxies and stars by looking deeper into space. We can analyze the speed of galactic recession by measuring the Redshift of its light. The flatness of the Earth was based not on scientific analysis, but empirical observation. Once we possessed the tools to test these assumptions, beginning with Aristotle in 330 BC, educated people quickly rejected this understanding.

    I define Atheism a tad differently than your presupposition. The belief or lack of belief is merely a consequence of the way in which Atheists seek understanding. I don't believe there is any way to PROVE God exists or doesn't exist. Any more than you can PROVE that the Universe is not a solipsism. Or PROVE that Earth wasn't seeded by aliens. Looking at the size and scope of the Universe, however, it just seems the height of hubris to assume that such a being is even remotely interested in us. Are you absolutely sure? Where is your evidnce?

  4. @Jeffrey. I'm sorry for not finishing your comment before replying. I will get to the rest of it. But I have to stop, rather early on, to address the misrepresentation of my point. My intention was to show that there is an alternate perspective, besides the one you present here, that leans on something more tangible than naked speculation. You may question the reliability of the Scriptural text upon which the Psalmist's view is at least partially founded (historically, David also had his own experience of Yahweh as a reference point - again, disputable), but that, in itself, is a presupposition that can be examined. Likewise, your own speculations about the nature of the Being you present must be examined for their logical consistency. In turn, the view that is found to have greater foundational support (unshakeable, that is) ought to be the one upon which we build. In regard to this, I personally, am convinced that the Bible is indeed the Word of God. I am also convinced that no other worldview, such as your own, can present a perspective on existence that is as internally coherent as that of the Bible, as all other views breakdown at the foundational level. I am perfectly willing to put that statement to the test.

    Again, I'll get to the rest of your comment soon. Thanks for your patience.

  5. @MW

    First, thank you for reading. I respect anyone who is willing to make the effort to understand another point of view. I welcome the discussion!

    With regard to internal coherence, Biblical text presents a wealth of internal discord. Instances of both literal inconstencies and contextual inconsistencies are too voluminous to list here, but I would recommend which maintains a small sampling of both varieties coupled with citations to the text.

    Even if I were to grant you that the Bible is internally coherent, however, internal coherence is NOT synonymous with truth. Many works of literature are internally coherent. Indeed, nearly ALL fiction is internally coherent. The Lord of the Rings is internally coherent. Harry Potter is internally coherent. Despite being internally coherent, neither the Lord of the Rings, nor Harry Potter are TRUE in any sense. The mere fact that a work is internally coherent is a sign of good literature, not an indicator of external truth.

    Just out of curiosity, in what way is a reference to the Bible (or the Koran, or the Torah, or the Talmud, or the Book of Mormon) 'more tangible' than naked speculation? The Bible is not necessarily true. It is not prima facie true. It is not a priori true.

    Indeed, the ancient peoples whose oral traditions later became Biblical text were themselves guessing at the nature of the Universe, using their best efforts to attempt to understand the heavens and our place in teh cosmos. Lacking any means of actually seeing the heavens, their work involved FAR more naked speculation than mine. They simply had to GUESS at how the world was created. We can actually describe it and test our theories. And we can describe it without resorting to magic.

    I freely admit that I have no insight into the mind of such a being, but in truth, nothing in the Universe suggests to me that conscious authorship is in any way necessary to account for the grace and beauty and elegance of our Universe. Indeed, I find our existence cheapened by the idea.