size ‘problem’

I have never quite understood what some are on about when they point to the vast size of the universe as some kind of evidence that we are insignificant, and that any notion of  human significance is ‘anthropocentric’ (human-centred).

Poet-king, David, apparently had at least some clue that humans were small compared with the rest of creation (see Psalm 8).  And I also recently read C.S. Lewis’ thorough dismantling of this currently-used argument – in 1947.

If it is maintained that anything so small as the Earth must, in any event, be too unimportant to merit the love of the Creator, we reply that no Christian ever supposed we did merit it. Christ did not die for men because they were intrinsically worth dying for, but because He is intrinsically love, and therefore loves infinitely. And what, after all, does the size of a world or a creature tell us about its “importance” or value?

There is no doubt that we all feel the inconguity of supposing, say, that the planet Earth might be more important than the Great Nebula in Andromeda. On the other hand, we are all equally certain that only a lunatic would think a man six-feet high necessarily more important than a man five-feet high, or a horse necessarily more important than a man, or a man’s legs than his brain. In other words this supposed ratio of size to importance feels plausible only when one of the sizes involved is very great. And that betrays the true basis of this type of thought. When a relation is perceived by Reason, it is perceived to hold good universally. If our Reason told us that size was purportional to importance, then small differences in size would be accompanied by small differences in importance just as surely as great differences in size were accompanied by great differences in importance. Your six-foot man would have to be slightly more valuable than the man of five feet, and your leg slightly more important than your brain – which everyone knows to be nonsense. The conclusion is inevitable: the importance we attach to great difficulties of size is an affair not of reason but of emotion – of that peculiar emotion which superiorities in size begin to produce in us only after a certain point of absolute size has been reached.”

C.S. Lewis, Miracles (1947), 56.


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