The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Monday, September 6, 2010

Why I Don't Believe - The Great Chain Part 2

Everything in our Universe exists along a continuium, a Great Chain extending from the largest objects imaginable to the smallest.  Everything in the Universe, matter, energy, time, and space interact with everything in their immediate environment.  Meaningful interactions, however, can only occur between objects on a closely related levels of existence. The Great Chain is a continuium encompassing everything.  Atoms, Molecules, People, Planets, Stars, Galaxies, Superclusters of Galaxies all exist on completely distinct levels of existence, and generally speaking, objects can only meaningfully relate with objects on closely related levels of existence.

Humans occupy and are only capable of interacting with a tiny portion of this continuium.  We as humans are only really capable of meaningful interactions with those levels of existence that fall within the range our our experiential existence.  Our associational range extends only a few levels above and below our own level of existence.  While we may be dimly aware of interactions on the levels above and below our own levels of experiential existence, we are incapable of meaningful interactions, because the existential association is simply too attenuated.

Imagine a single hydrogen atom. A hydrogen atom has one proton and one electron. When an atom of hydrogen encounters an atom of oxygen and another hydrogen atom, the three atoms will bond, forming a molecule of water. The hydrogen atom can meaningfully associate with the other atoms because the three atoms exist on the same associational level. By the same token, those three atoms forming that molecule of water can meaningfully associate with another atom or another molecule of water because the physical interactions at play (the strong and weak nuclear forces) still dominate their associations. All of these interactions are meaningful because they all take place within closely related associational levels.

Place that same hydrogen atom at the level of a human being. The period at the end of this sentence could contain 20,000,000,000,000 of those same hydrogen atoms that were able to meaningfully associate with other atoms.  Yet even 20,000,000,000,000 of them put together are scarcely noticeable on our level of existence. Even that molecule of water formed from the meaningful association of hydrogen and oxygen simply does not register on our level of existence. Indeed, 602,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of those same water molecules constitute less than a teaspoon of water.

Going further, place that same atom of hydrogen on the level of a star. Our sun converts approximately 3,700,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 hydrogen atoms into helium via nuclear fusion every single second. On this scale a single hydrogen atom is completely and utterly meaningless because the unimaginable gulf between the levels of association is simply to vast. Even on this level of existence the cosmic and numerical insignificance of an atom of hydrogen is simply incomprehensible.

As the Atheist begins to understand the true scope and scale of the Universe, it becomes inescapably clear that even if our Universe was created as an intentional act of authorship, that there is an incomprehensibly gargantuan gulf between our level of existence and that of the Creator of the Great All.  Indeed, the associational gulf is so vast that it borders on lunacy to believe that such a being, even assuming that it exists, has any interest whatsoever in anything as mundane, transitory and unimportant as our entire galaxy, let alone our humble planet and its collection of clever primates.

We are utterly irrelevant in a cosmic sense.

To illustrate just how irrelevant, it is useful to analyze the levels of existence comprising the Great Chain.  To understand our place on it and view the gulf between the level on which Creator of the Great All dwells and our own level of existence.

Assume for a moment that there is a God. Assume further, that God created this Universe just as it is written in the great Abrahamaic Texts, that He (always He) spoke and existence sprang into being. The Big Bang itself was an act of cosmic creation, the ultimate act of conscious authorship. From that single act, the Universe in all of its magnificent size, scale and beauty was born. It is utterly impossible to know whether God created only this Universe, or a vast Multiverse containing an unknowable number of other Universes. For purposes of clarity, however, let us simply assume that this is the only Universe.

Obviously, no mere human can possibly hope to understand with any precision why God would create the Universe.  The idea that God would create the cosmos solely for our benefit is laughably arrogant and narcissistic, akin to assuming that I am writing this for the benefit of a bacterial cell in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Logically, however, if the Big Bang was an act of conscious authorship, God must have had some purpose in causing it.  So why did God create the Universe?  To what purpose?  What end?

Level 1 - Dark Energy and Everything Else

The first meaningful distinction that can be made within the Universe is the distinction between Dark Energy and everything else in the Universe.  According to the most recent calculations, our Universe is composed of approximately 70% Dark Energy, 25% Dark Matter, 4% Free Hydrogen and Helium, .05% Stars, .02% Neutrinos and .02% Heavy Elements. What this essentially means is that the stuff that we and everything else we consider to exist in the Universe, everything that has ATOMS, make up less than 5% of the Universe.

In other words, 95% of the Universe is not even made up of the same stuff that we are.

Nearly 70% of the Universe is composed of Vacuum or Dark Energy.  This appears to be the single most dominant force in the Universe. Dark Energy is so pervasive, and in the aggregate, so powerful, that it is literally expanding the entire Universe. Not only is it expanding the Universe, but every single second, the speed of that expansion increases slightly. Working against Dark Energy is the gravitational attraction of matter, which causes matter to clump together.  While Dark Energy is powerful enough in the aggregate to drive two galaxies apart, it does not appear to be able to tear gravitationally bound structures like galaxies or clusters of galaxies apart. At least not yet.

By now, those of you who aren't terribly scientifically minded are probably bored to tears and wondering how any of this is relevant. This is only relevant because those who argue that God is interested in our species and presumably intervenes in our affairs, presume that this God is interested in matter.  That conclusion is hardly obvious.

It is equally plausible that God created the Universe in order to harvest the Dark Energy of the Vacuum that comprises the vast, vast, vast bulk of the Universe's energy. That God is actually interested in the expansive power of Dark Energy for some inconceivable purpose. Simply assuming that God is interested in matter because WE are, or because we are made of matter is highly suspect. And this assumption is merely the first in a long line of dubiously self-centered assumptions and inferences leading to the wholly narcissistic and arrogant conclusion that God cares about us.  The Atheist makes no such assumption.  Recognizing the possibility that even if there is a God, such a being operates on a level so far above our own that it may not even be interested in the material of which we are made.  Just as a sculptor is not interested helium gas because it does not further his work, God may not even be interested in the material of which we are made because it does not further its work.

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