No, The Size of the Universe Does Not Prove God Doesn’t Exist

Neither does the size of one's ego

By William M Briggs Published on November 6, 2017

Some philosophers are claiming God doesn’t exist because the universe is big and mostly humanity-free.

These academic philosophers look across the vastness of space and say, “God would not have made something so big and yet so sparse in humanity. Therefore God doesn’t exist.”

From the Real Clear Science article “Does the Size of the Universe Prove God Doesn’t Exist?” by philosopher Emily Thomas we learn:

Philosophers of religion such as Michael Martin and Nicholas Everitt have asked us to consider the kind of universe we would expect the Christian God to have created, and compare it with the universe we actually live in. They argue there is a mismatch. Everitt focuses on how big the universe is, and argues this gives us reason to believe the God of classical Christianity doesn’t exist.

What’s big?

Thomas says,

Our own planet is 150m kilometres away from the sun. Earth’s nearest stars, the Alpha Centauri system, are four light years away (that’s around 40 trillion kilometres). Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains anywhere from 100 to 400 billion stars. The observable universe contains around 300 sextillion stars. Humans occupy the tiniest fraction of it. The landmass of planet Earth is a drop in this ocean of space.

(Incidentally, it’s a good bet many of these same academics say there are too many people in the world.)

Thomas appeals to scripture to say, “God is human-oriented: human beings are like God, and he values us highly.” But then Thomas wonders why God did not “create a universe in which humans feature prominently.” She expected “humans to occupy most of the universe, existing across time,” which of course we don’t.

The mistake is what we can call the If I Were God Fallacy.

Quoting Everitt, Thomas says, “The findings of modern science significantly reduce the probability that theism is true, because the universe is turning out to be very unlike the sort of universe which we would have expected, had theism been true.”

The fallacy here should be obvious: How can they know why God made creation the way He did?

You aren’t God.

The mistake is what we can call the If I Were God Fallacy.

Step one of the fallacy: Suppose you had the Infinite Mind of God. Step two: Create your own imaginary universe. Step three: Compare the beautiful utopia of your imagination with what you see out the window.

Step four: Pronounce the comparison unfavorable.

Finally, step five: Say that because God did not create the perfect universe you envision, God doesn’t exist.

Not only is this argument silly, it is arrogant. It is to accuse God of sloppiness and of lacking in imagination. It is to say that God is less intelligent than your fine self because it didn’t occur to Him to make fewer cockroaches. It’s silly because it is impossible to comprehend the mind of God. Impossible, and not just unlikely.

Nouveau Golden Ratio

To say that the fraction of the universe occupied by humanity is “small” is to say one knows what the proper ratio of people to space should be. “God exists,” you must claim, “if people take up at least 32% of usable space. Anything less than that, and God could not have created this universe.” You have to defend that “32%,” or whatever number you choose, as being the only cutoff that proves God’s non-existence. Yet it’s obvious no such number can exist.

Even if you could figure what this new Golden Ratio must be, your job has just begun. Because then you have to declare how you would create your perfect universe. Nobody knows how to do that.

For instance, no scientist knows where the so-called laws of physics come from, even if they can crudely sketch how some of those laws work.

The Impossible Task

Now you can mentally toy with formulations for new laws, but once you settle on them you are left with two insurmountable difficulties:

(1) You have to specify how, starting from absolute scratch, which is to say having nothing in hand except your laws, just how humanity can (eventually) arise. It’s no good waving your hands and saying something like “They must.” You have to show in the most rigorous way how. We can’t even do that now with the laws we have guessed. Saying “It’s evolution” is not saying how. It’s sweeping the problem under a label.

(2) Even harder, you have to say how your laws were created out of nothing. By what power do the laws arise if there is nothing, not even you? You won’t be there at creation. You are the result of it. So who makes those first laws, whatever they turn out to be?

There has always been only one good answer to that question.

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  • Ken Abbott

    ‘She expected “humans to occupy most of the universe, existing across time,” which of course we don’t.”

    Yet.

    Who’s to say all that space and stuff wasn’t made for us to explore and fill and subdue after the sin problem is put away? Eternity is a very long time.

    • Hannah

      My husband and I often speculate about what heaven will consist of. We both hope that we can explore the universe with the Creator and have our own amazing tour.

      That and Guinea Pig Hill is a must. (We’ve owned several guinea pigs and speculate that they all live on a cacophonous hill in heaven)

      • Ken Abbott

        Mockers and skeptics frequently like to “complain” about how boring heaven must be based on popular misconceptions and myths–sitting around on clouds strumming harps and the like.

        For my part, I believe the new heavens and the new earth will open up the universe to resurrected and glorified humanity for discovery and creative work that will far surpass our wildest dreams. We’ve no idea of the adventure in store for us!

      • As I was saying…

        Heaven is the throne room of God and our home we were built to live in. The universe is the playground.

      • Linda

        Funny!! Are guinea pigs noisy? I’ve only been around one or two in my life, and I thought they just softly squeaked!

        • Hannah

          They can get very shrill when they want you to know they’re hungry. My little brat Panda can be heard on the opposite end of the house when she has a mind to inform the world of how mistreated she is. xD She’s woken up my husband on the second floor – an unheard of feat given that he needs an especially loud alarm to wake up at all.

    • As I was saying…

      You are correct. Mankind is meant to name things as well as subcreate.

      We are His children and He has decided to live among us.

  • jgmusgrove

    “The observable universe contains around 300 sextillion stars. Humans occupy the tiniest fraction of it.” Do these scientists have absolute certainty that there are not human-inhabited planets orbiting each of these 300 sextillion stars, or just 1% of them. Our inability to communicate across such vast distances does not preclude the existence of human-inhabited planets elsewhere in the universe. Trying to limit God because of our own limitations is fruitless and silly.

    • Why “human-inhabited”? From an evolutionary perspective it is virtually certain that such intelligent creatures would look NOTHING like us. There seem to be certain rules that guide the evolution of higher animals, such a bilateral symmetry. But it’s the height of arrogance to assume that “humans” exist elsewhere in the Universe.

      • As I was saying…

        You are correct. Humans are the only beings made in the Image of God.

        We are also the only beings with both a rational soul and a body.

        • Ah. So the “god” that is allegedly eternal, existing outside of time and space, is roughly humanoid in appearance. Gotcha.

          • Ken Abbott

            Um, that’s not what being made in the image of God means. Nothing to do with the appearance of the physical body.

          • More theological gymnastics.

          • Ken Abbott

            No, Mr. Anziulewicz. The concept of the imago Dei has a defined biblical and theological meaning. In your post above, you demonstrated that you do not understand what the term means, interpreting it in a crassly physical sense. Recall that God is Spirit, which means that when he created men and women in his image he did so as to their noncorporeal being.

          • Madam

            Old woman.

          • No, Chuck.

            Think of it more in terms of a disc image used in computing. No disc image looks like a disc, right? That’s because it isn’t a disc, it’s information; information that gets stored in a computer and, when accessed by that computer, makes the computer behave in particular ways. The image of God is information that gets stored in our spirit, and, if uncorrupted, will make us Godly in our behavior, desires, and comportment.

          • As I was saying…

            We are made in the Image of God, yes.

            That means more than just form.

        • Alice Cheshire

          We don’t know that. We ASSUME that.

          • As I was saying…

            No, it is official dogma.

            We are the only beings with rational souls and bodies.

            We are also made in the Image of God.

        • Kneel

          How many images do you think He made?

          • As I was saying…

            Man is made in the Image of God. That makes us unique.

            Just like only we have rational souls and bodies.

          • Kneel

            Unique that we know of.
            Stop putting limits on God.
            We may or may never know they exist and may, or never be able, to talk to them or meet them, but there is no reason why He could not have created other beings with “rational souls and bodies”.
            Hence “How many images do you think He made?”

            There may be very good reasons for Him to make sure we never meet these “others” – better for them, better for us. If what we think we know about the “speed limit” of the universe is true, and there is no such thing as “faster than light”, then it’s possible the Sun would die before they got a message, let alone responded! Would you bother responding to a 5 billion year old message?

          • As I was saying…

            Man is Made in the Image of God.

            Mankind are the greatest creations of God and we are the only beings with both a Rational Soul and body.

            I am not arguing against your ignorance and conspiracy crap, I am informing you for your own good.

            You have fallen under the spell of science fiction and is has done you no favors. You think you will make yourself unimportant and absolve yourself of being held accountable for your sin you claim you are one among many.

            No.

            You are more important than anything as men are more important than anything. We as mankind are made in the Image of God and that is unique.

            This means you will be judged.

          • Kneel

            Other beings with rational souls does not absolve me of my sins, any more than your existence does. My contention that such others exist does not mean that men are not an important part of God’s creation, nor that we have a special place and He cares for us.
            As I said, stop placing limits on God and His abilities. Are you so arrogant that you believe you know His plan for us, that you know His mind or can limit Him?
            Yes, I will be judged, as will we all. I hope that the good out weighs the bad in His judgement. Your judgement of me does not concern me, nor those of any man, so spare me your holier than thou attitude.

      • Andrew Mason

        What a faith based statement! The fact that everything on Earth follows particular design principals in no way requires any life created elsewhere to follow the same principals, assuming such life actually exists, which is highly doubtful. Agree it’s beyond unlikely that humans exist elsewhere in the universe.

      • Madam

        Judging from your photo, I see a strong resemblance to reptiles.

  • Brilliant, William! Concise and to the point.

    There is, though, one thing that you failed to mention: Their argument fails because they think God would have created a universe that is a reflection of His creation. It isn’t. It IS His creation, which is a reflection, not of us, but of Him. It is about Him, not us.

  • From the perspective of theoretical physics, the Universe does not require “gods” to exist.

    And even if you cling wistfully to the notion that some intelligence being(s) HAD to create the Universe, or at least the physical laws that allowed the Universe to inflate into being, and assuming that nothing could pre-date such an intelligence, isn’t it rather arrogant to assume we had any way of comprehending it?

    • As I was saying…

      That’s because your “theoretical physics” is just bad philosophy pretending to be what it is not.

      All I contingent, that is so easy to observe that even you could see it. All contingent things trace back and are dependant upon the uncontingent. God is the uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover.

      If you deny that, then you are claiming that everything is uncontingent and created itself, which is easily refuted by observation.

      You have no way of comprehending God, that is an unfortunate side effect of what is called a “reprobate mind.” That means you have been divided from God so badly that you have lost your intellect.

    • Andrew Mason

      We would have a very limited capacity to comprehend a God who creates a universe but doesn’t communicated with His created beings true. Fortunately He has communicated so we have some capacity to comprehend.

    • GPS Daddy

      Theoretical physics still requires the universe to be fined tuned. The fine tuning is the most important in the first few milliseconds of the big bang. Even if a multi-verse exists the multi-verse must be fined tuned. Or more specifically, the multi-verse generator must be fined tuned. But we degrees into faith issues when we speak of multi-verses.

      This is what we DO know, Chuck:

      Life ALWAYS comes from life.
      Intelligence ALWAYS comes from intelligence.
      Person-hood ALWAYS comes from person-hood.

      This is what biology is now discovering:

      Biologists use to think that life was bottom up. DNA defined the cell, the cell defined the organism, etc…
      But now we are discovering that its the cell that defines how a gene is expressed.
      The body defines what a cell means in the body.

      So the question then becomes: what defines the body? Body planes are NOT in DNA. We do not know where the body plan comes from.

    • davidrev17

      Science doesn’t DO God/god’s Chuck! Nor does science DO morality, values, politics etc. However, atheist or agnostic scientists themselves, routinely abandon the scientific method, and openly engage in their subjective [materialist] ideological speculation, in order to impose their view of morality, politics, values etc., upon an unsuspecting public at large. Big, big difference!

      The scientific method proceeds from the ‘a priori’ (faith-based) perspective called Methodological Naturalism – aka “materialist philosophy masquerading as science.” BTW: “physical laws,” or the “laws of nature,” don’t DO anything either – they’re invoked in scientific research for “descriptive” purposes alone. (Great post below by GPS huh??)

  • GLT

    I always ask those who say God would not have done it this way, or God should have done it this way because the way it is is a bad design, to explain what changes they would make to the design to improve it. I also require them to explain the consequences of their design changes. What will be the trickle down effect of their design changes. I have yet to receive a single response.

  • bb_959

    Having went to college back in the day and learning about some of the Laws of Thermodynamics we (class of students) asked the professor about the 1st one: ‘Matter can’t be created or destroyed.’ thing and he simply answered that ‘We use them because they work’. A law is a law in several spheres. Natural as well as spiritual. God supersedes them. He did when he was on the earth and stopped the winds, rose people from the dead, many more to where St John said that all of the books that should be written about Him (Jesus) said ‘I suppose the whole world couldn’t contain them.’ He went on to say ‘but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31

    The God who created the universe saw our need and sent His only begotten Son that we may have life through Him. His death, burial and resurrection are after all historic facts. Do you know Him personally? Eternity depends on this question.

    • ArthurMcGowan

      “Having went to college…”

      • bb_959

        lol, going, going, gone. Was a blooper for sure. My IQ was showing.

  • ArthurMcGowan

    It is standard practice for economics professors to begin a course by asking their students what multiple of the smallest income the largest income in the economy should be. Usually, the students will give a ratio of 10 to 1. From there they proceed to imagine a “just” economy in which the highest earner makes no more than 10 times the wage of the lowest earner.

    Imagine a biology professor asking his students how many species there ought to be.

    These “philosophers” are engaged in the same sort of nonsense.

  • John Tuttle

    Another point the argument fails to consider is that man is fallen. Who knows how much of the universe we would have populated had Adam and Eve not eaten the apple. Perhaps the size of the universe is an indication of what could have been had not man not been denied the tree of life and had increased and multiplied as God commanded. We are contracepting and aborting ourselves into extinction. Perhaps one of those lost souls was destined to discover faster-than-light travel?

  • Jones Howell

    The problem is not whether or not God exists, the problem is not liking the standards such a God would set for individuals.

  • Alice Cheshire

    How do these geniuses KNOW what the universe contains? The whole, entire vast universe to which they refer. How do they KNOW without any doubt that there are no other humans or human like creatures out there? Also, just looking at humans themselves, they love their spouses, their kids, their dogs and cats. Seems these geniuses made God smaller than their tiny minds are. Not much of an argument. Maybe it should be called the “Grasping at Straws” fallacy.

  • I’ve said several times before (albeit perhaps only to myself) that creating and sustaining the universe, no matter how big, is no strain on God’s omnipotence, and given that His Son would have gone to the Cross had only one (!) of us had been so saved, I think it’s fair to say that he would gladly make the whole thing for just one of us. Creating and sustaining the universe would certainly involve far less suffering for Him than the death of His only begotten Son.

    • Nate Winchester

      OT but I see you finally got banned from CAEI. That’s what happens when you speak the truth. I’m rather impressed you made it that long. Congrats. 😉

  • Yes, but apparently the ancient Israelites believed a far smaller and younger cosmos most clearly illustrated the centrality of divine-human interactions via a storied cosmos with holy heavens lying directly above a solidly situated earth.

  • Trilemma

    The size of the universe doesn’t prove God doesn’t exist, but it’s a good indication that God didn’t create it. Christians can’t seem to agree on the age of the universe. Is it thousands or billions of years old?

    • Michael Siddle

      The Catholic Church, which Jesus founded, has no problem believing that the Universe is billions of years old. Remember that is was a Catholic priest who came up with the Big Bang Theory. Christian fundamentalists do not follow Jesus Church or many of its teachings so it is not surprising that they pick and choose what they want to believe. What logic do you use to declare that the size of the Universe is a good indication that God didn’t create it? If anything the size and order in the Universe is evidence of an infinite intelligent Creator. You are a creation so how can you even conceive of the mind of your Creator. The pot cannot question the work of the potter.

      • Trilemma

        An infinite intelligent being strikes me as an impossibility, therefore, I believe God is finite. The bigger the universe, the less likely a finite God could create it.

  • davidrev17

    Terrific stuff Dr. Briggs, as usual. I couldn’t help but smile while reading this! Don’t ya’s just love it when these brilliant materialist ideologues boldly (not to mention incoherently) pontificate upon what’s been called “Theological Naturalism,” (I believe)? Ain’t the purposeless processes of mindless/unintelligent, inanimate mass/energy in “chaotic billiard-ball motion,” simply something to behold? After reading this sorta stuff, it almost calls for a wholehearted Gomer-Pyle “Shaaazaaammmmm”!

    I remember when molecular biophysicist, Dr. Cornelius Hunter & (Blogspot owner), “Darwin’s God: How Religion Drives Science and Why it Matters,” authored a very insightful (’07) book of which touched-upon this very slippery, almost undetected subject in his: “Science’s Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism.” Thank you so very much for continuing to expose modern science’s insidious version, of “The Great Oz” – just like Dorothy did in “The Wizard of Oz.”

    • • •

    “The really amazing thing is not that life on Earth is balanced on a knife-edge, but that the entire universe is balanced on a knife-edge, and would be total chaos if any of the natural ‘constants’ were off even slightly. You see… even if you dismiss man as a chance happening, the fact remains that the universe seems unreasonably suited to the existence of life — almost contrived — you might say a ‘put-up job’.… Taken together they provide impressive evidence that life as we know it depends very sensitively on the form of the laws of physics, and on some seemingly fortuitous accidents in the actual values that nature has chosen for various particle masses, force strengths, and so on. If we could play God, and select values for these natural quantities at whim by twiddling a set of knobs, we would find that almost all knob settings would render the universe uninhabitable. Some knobs would have to be fine-tuned to enormous precision if life is to flourish in the universe.”

    — Dr. Paul Davies (non-theist), world-renowned theoretical physicist, astrobiologist, and popular science writer, Arizona State University.

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