Reasons to Believe

Hubris or Humility?

Reasons To Believe has long asserted that the universe seems designed specifically for the benefit of human beings. While not alone in this observation, RTB has certainly incurred the ire of some skeptics who charge that it is the height of arrogance to maintain that humans occupy the figurative center of such a vast cosmos.

Those critics might contend that, first of all, many scientists are not willing to concede that life does not exist on other planets. The explosive rate of extrasolar planetary discoveries alone provides hope and serves to check premature judgments, especially those based on religious texts. It's better to hedge than risk embarrassment.

Second, nonreligious people wonder why a strictly human perspective of the universe is the correct one. It smacks of speciesism. Here again, the argument is that a religious holy book has provided justification for the abuse of not only other species but also of the planet itself. Fixation on an afterlife breeds contempt for other life.

Popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (host of NOVA scienceNOW), when asked the same question posed in the last post (Does the universe have a purpose?) answered in part:

To assert that the universe has a purpose implies the universe has intent. And intent implies a desired outcome. But who would do the desiring? And what would a desired outcome be? That carbon-based life is inevitable? Or that sentient primates are life's neurological pinnacle? Are answers to these questions even possible without expressing a profound bias of human sentiment? Of course humans were not around to ask these questions for 99.9999% of cosmic history. . .

How about human life itself? If you are religious, you might declare that the purpose of life is to serve God. But if you're one of the 100 billion bacteria living and working in a single centimeter of our lower intestine (rivaling, by the way, the total number of humans who have ever been born) you would give an entirely different answer. You might instead say that the purpose of human life is to provide you with a dark, but idyllic, anaerobic habitat of fecal matter.

Personally, I'll take my existence over the intestinal bacterium's any day, but is it mere human hubris borne of religious superiority to espouse that humans were in view during the formation of a 14-billion-year cosmos? Christianity affirms that the image of God separates humanity from the rest of creation, but that creation care (stewardship) remains a foremost human responsibility.

And what of humility? Doesn't the Christian violate this biblical edict every time he raises his nose by proclaiming grand status on this tiny pale blue dot?

Cosmologist Michael Heller, winner of the 2008 Templeton Prize, in a statement after the announcement, seemed to captured the idea of the image of God when he said that the human brain was the most complex and sophisticated product of the universe, and that science was "but a collective effort of the human mind to read the mind of God." As for humility, Heller concluded:

The true humility does not consist in pretending that we are feeble and insignificant, but in the audacious acknowledgement that we are an essential part of the Greatest Mystery of allof the entanglement of the Human Mind with the Mind of God.

So, what do you think? Humility or hubris?