The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Great Chain of Existence

A few people have asked me what the pictures in the bar at the top either are or what they represent.  They represent the Great Chain an idea I discuss in much greater detail in earlier posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and also here.

The quick summary, however, is that they represent the unbroken chain of association between the smallest objects and phenomena and the largest.  The basic idea is that everything that exists in the Universe is only really able to meaningfully associate with objects and or phenomena that are on a relatively close level of existence.  Atoms do not meaningfully associate with people, individual cells do not meaningfully associate with people, planets do not meaningfully associate with stars, stars do not meaningfully associate with galaxies, galaxies do not meaningfully associate with superclusters, and humans do not meaningfully associate with the Creator of the Entire Universe.

My purpose in discussing the Great Chain is to give us a sense of perspective as to where we fall within the Cosmos, how far down we are in something the size and scale of the Universe and then show what kind of objects and phenomena fall below us.  We as individuals are but one of billions of humans, amongst a billions other species, on one planet in a single star system that is itself but one of hundreds of billions of others in this galaxy, which is in turn but one of countless hundreds of billions of other galaxies in the portion of the Universe that we can actually see.

Assuming arguendo that some supra powerful entity caused and created the Big Bang, the levels of association between ourselves and that being number at LEAST ten.  To give ourselves some kind of perspective on how unimaginably vast that gulf truly is, I examine what kind of objects and phenomena dwell ten levels below us.  Turns out that the things that dwell ten levels of association below us are subatomic particles.  While I am reasonably sure that a being powerful enough to cause the Big Bang would certainly be capable of associating with us, that just seems a tad narcissistic, a tad egocentric, a tad presumptuous on our part.  Much as it would be presumptuous for a subatomic particle to expect me to be interested in its ethical quandries, or respond to its mundane and trivial needs.  Anyway, I basically use this to argue that even if we assume that there IS in fact a god, the idea that such a being would be the slightest bit interested in our incredibly trivial and ephemeral existence is ludicrous.

In case you are wondering what the specific pictures are, from left to right:

Cosmic Dark Matter Web of approximately 1.5% of the Universe's Diameter
Galaxy Merger (Hubble)
Infrared Image (WMAP, Hubble)
The Sun
Times Square

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