The Argument From Scale

Debunking Christianity has “recently” put up a blog using what is called the argument from the scale. The argument claims to be about the size of the universe, but in reality, this is simply a rehash of the Problem of Evil. Why did God create the universe the way he did? Now I want to center on one point though. The idea that the size of the universe disproves God’s existence.

Those interested in seeing the argument can see it here:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2008/02/argument-from-scale-of-universe-my.html

Now my first thought is, what size does the universe have to be for God to exist? The universe if I’m correct is about 20 billion light years across. Would God exist if it was 15? If it was 10? If it was 25, does that make his existence even less likely? This is a completely arbitrary scale and as such, it has no basis.

But this is seen as if this discovery is news. Why, the people at the time of Christianity didn’t know any better. They thought that the universe was small and that they dwelt at the center of it. Really? Is that what they thought? I would ask my readers to see if they recognize the name Ptolemy.

Ptolemy was the astronomer whose work was the textbook of astronomy for centuries. It was written in the second century and was called the Almagest. Here is what is said in Book 1 and Chapter 5.

“The Earth, in relation to the distance of the fixed stars, has no appreciable size and must be treated as a mathematical point.”

Translation: The universe is a big place and the Earth is just a tiny dot in it.

What follows?

This was known for centuries. The church knew it and taught it. No one ever thought of it as being seen as an argument against Christianity. The size of the universe was no big deal to the people of the past. However, moderns come along and use Christian science that was known for years and make a big deal and try to cover up the fact that the church knew all about this.

Dante would have said the same thing. Earth wasn’t at the center of the universe. Earth was the cosmic dump of the universe. At the center if anything would be God’s throne. It was, in fact, the Enlightenment that made man the center of the universe. (Incidentally, while I believe the sun is the center of the solar system, it’s worth noting it has never been conclusively proven.)

The church did not get their astronomy from the Bible. They got it from Ptolemy. It was when Copernicus came along and the new theory was established that they switched. The Ptolemaic system worked. The Copernican system though was much more simpler and thus, more beautiful.

As for the response to this, it should be noted that the idea of a history of warfare between science and religion is a modern myth first put forward in books like those of Andrew Dickson White called “A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom.” I’ve managed to read the first volume of the set at this point. Right now, schoolwork keeps me from part 2.

Alister McGrath though has argued persuasively that this is not the case. Ingersoll, for instance, has claimed to have a quote of Magellan saying that the church taught that the Earth is flat. They did no such thing. You have to search hard in the medieval period to find a thinker who thought the Earth was flat. It is simply a trick to try to remove the authority of the past and the best way is to convince people they were idiots. They’ll hardly go and read the ancients themselves after all.

It is in fact Christianity that is the basis of science as we have built in a belief that the universe is rational, that it was made for discovery, and that our minds correspond to it. Science cannot prove any of these. It must assume them. As Aquinas would say, it is a lesser science. That doesn’t mean it’s important. It just means it’s less. If there is no theology, there is no basis for science.

Now as for the idea of the size of the universe, I would suggest getting a copy of the Privileged Planet. When I see arguments based on the nature of the universe, I prefer to do something strange and leave that part to the scientists. I figure they could tell me more on why the universe has been around for as long as it has been around and why it’s the size that it is. (by the way, consider G.K. Chesterton’s point that we say we live in a big universe. How do we know? We have no other universe to make size comparisons to. All we know is that it’s bigger than us.)

If anyone is also interested in the trumped up case of Galileo, I definitely recommend getting a copy of Dinesh D’Souza’s work “What’s So Great About Christianity?” and if someone wants to complain about all the evils done by the church (When they acted in an unChristian manner), then I would like to know about the evils of Mao, Stalin, and Pol-Pot. What central tenet of atheism were they violating?

In conclusion, the argument from scale is simply taking something that has been known for years and trying to make an argument out of it simply due to an ignorance of what the ancients believed. I will wager a bet that while they may have had less “knowledge” than us, the ancients were far wiser than us, and we dare not leap off of their giant shoulders.