Sunday, November 16, 2014

On The Scale of the Universe & Human Value

Scientistic Atheists nowadays tend to point to the scale of the universe as proof that humanity has no inherent value (most atheists will assign instrumental or emotionally imparted value to human life). They also use this as evidence that there is no God out there who cares about humanity. Given the size and age of the universe, and the relatively small place intelligent life occupies both temporally and spacially, it seems to some people to be insane to think that there is some Creator God out there that cares about humanity. Human life seems, on the face of it, rather insignificant in the universe. Our existence doesn't make much difference.

It is interesting to note that these concerns are not new. They dominate the Book of Job. At the end of the Book, God picks Job up and shows him the sum total of all of Creation in one grand cosmic vision, a vision that finally crushes Job to the ground. The message in that vision is that God's primary center of concern is NOT humanity, but the cosmos as a whole, and human concerns do not seem very significant when placed against the totality of the universe. This is God's answer to Job's questions about why the innocent suffer. Most of the universe is good, and beautiful, and awesome and there is much, much more of that universe than there is of humanity, and so humanity's problems don't seem that important by comparison.

Yet, the Book of Job begins with an affirmation by God that the moral uprightness of a person like Job is what makes all of Creation worth the effort. And, after all, God does take the time to lift Job up and give him that vision. However, it is hard to deny the truth in God's words at the end of the book. Moreover, the Christian message is that God was willing to suffer and die for humanity, not something one is likely to do for an afterthought in one's creation.

It seems to me that the scale of the universe is only a crushing defeat to belief in human significance IF the Gospels are untrue, and if God has not revealed to humanity His concern for them. Moreover, these concerns disappear when you give up the idea that God is in control of everything. There are chemical processes that require huge amounts of chemicals to produce very small, very precious amounts of substrate. If I create a process that requires swimming pool size vats of some chemical, so that I can produce (relatively) small amounts of gold, and yet the gold production is the point of the process, then it is wrong to think that because I have vastly greater amounts of chemical X, it is the chemical I value and not the gold.

It may be that this long evolutionary journey we are on is the only way God can produce the kinds of beings He desires. We may be the tiny substrate in the vast pool of experience that is what God was looking for. If God's concern has been REVEALED to a person, that is enough to justify one's belief in one's significance.

But the ending of Job cannot be denied, at least not completely. I do not think that humanity is the central concern of God, though I do think God is concerned about and with humanity. If we take the process view seriously, then all of creation adds to God's stock of experience. Thus no experience is without value, as long as it is positive in its attainment. As long as it accomplishes the KINDS of things God wants it to. Yet not all experiences are the same, and complexity and intricacy of experience increases as you move up the evolutionary ladder. God must be presented with a unique and special opportunity with us, to experience a depth and breadth of life He wouldn't otherwise have. That doesn't mean he doesn't gain from the experience of other things and beings, and certainly, His concern for the sum total of that experience must be far greater than any concern He has for one part of it. That doesn't change the fact that He could have a unique and special opportunity in us.

I think God has both a universal and particular sphere of concern. We should not deny our own worth, but we should not overestimate it, either.

No comments:

Post a Comment