The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Hubble Telescope - Atheism's Greatest Weapon

If Dinosaurs are atheism's gateway drug, then Astronomy is almost certainly atheism's crack cocaine.

While Dinosaurs let me in on the secret that the Bible could be wrong, Astronomy convinced me that God almost certainly didn't exist.

Dinosaurs showed me how incredibly old and unbelievably ancient our world was.  Astronomy showed me how unfathomably small and utterly insignificant we are in the cosmos.

The image to the right - the Hubble Ultra Deep Field - is an image of a patch of the night sky the size of a grain of sand held out at arms length that appears to be completely empty.  In that almost microscopic patch of sky, Hubble was able to capture images of thousands of galaxies.

Thousands of galaxies in a seemingly empty patch of sky no larger than a grain of sand.  Pictures of galaxies as they existed almost 13,000,000,000 years ago.  Pictures of events that took place before our star or our planet had even formed.  Pictures from near the birth of our Universe.

The images sent back by Hubble place our existence in perspective like nothing the ancients could ever have imagined.  The ancients who wrote the Torah, the Talmud, the Bible, the Quran had no understanding of what they were looking at.  They had no idea of the size or scope or scale of even our planet, let alone the Universe - so they can be forgiven for believing that we are somehow privileged, somehow special, somehow important.  Their narcissistic and egotistical assumption that the Creator of the Universe is interested in us might make sense in a world where it was believed that the Earth was the center of the Universe, that the sun and planets orbited it, and the stars were simply a sparkly sphere surrounding it.

But we know better.  And that knowledge renders the ancients' concepts of divinity ludicrously small.  That knowledge renders the idea of an interventionist deity pathetically parochial.

When we look up at the entire night sky, our eyes can see about 3,000 stars.  When Hubble stares at a tiny, insignificant and empty patch of sky, it can see over 10,000 galaxies.

Each of these galaxies contains hundreds of billions of stars like those captured by Hubble in the image to the right.

The ancients' concept of divinity, their concept of God having a special relationship with humanity, a covenant with mankind stems directly from the misplaced assumption that Earth is somehow lies at the center of creation.

The Hubble Telescope shows us with remarkable clarity that this assumption is completely, utterly wrong.

We do not lie at the center of creation.  Our planet, wondrous as it is to us, is, as Carl Sagan said, nothing but "a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."

The idea that the Creator of hundreds of billions of galaxies and countless sextillions of stars (300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 at last count) and innumerable planets beyond is somehow obsessively interested in our species, intervenes in our lives and answers our prayers is so narcissistic, egotistical and arrogant as to border on madness.  It is akin to a human taking an interest in the moral dilemmas of atomic particles and answering their prayers.  It is utterly ludicrous.

Hubble has shown us images from near the birth of the Universe.  And the pictures it provides do not show the work of a divine hand, but the work of physics, chemistry and time.  Our ancient conceptions of God cannot stand in the face of what we know.  Our religions cannot maintain their arrogance and self-importance in the face of what we can see.

Even if the images from the earliest epochs of the Universe cannot disprove the existence of God, they drive a stake in the heart of the egotistical, anthropocentric nonsense of all our Earthly theistic beliefs.

Indeed, in many ways, the Hubble Telescope is atheism's greatest weapon. 


  1. Now wait a minute, momma didn't tell me about all those stars and grandma wouldn't lie to me either, they said the Bible is true, you're just making all that stuff up!

  2. ...and where did this 'physics, chemistry and time' come from ?
    You also claim that 'our ancient conceptions of God cannot stand in the face of what we know.'

    To the contrary :
    "To whom will you compare me? Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name.
    Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."