When we look at the universe and the vast expanse of space we tend to feel insignificant in comparison. When we consider the billions of years the universe has existed in comparison to our few years strutting on the world stage, we truly feel insignificant.
When we consider the entire length of human existence, it is a drop in the bucket of time that the earth and the universe have existed. If we accept the figures that modern science tell us, “modern humans” have existed for about 200 thousand years[i]. If the earth is about 4.6 billion years old, humans have existed less than one half of one half of one percent of the time that the earth has existed (0.00043%).
When you consider that the universe is about 14 billion years old, our meager 100 or fewer years is absolutely insignificant in comparison. Yet, these numbers and the sheer size of the universe should not make us feel as insignificant as we seem to feel. Just the opposite!
We should feel extraordinary that we even exist!
It’s extraordinary that life even exists at all! According to Dr. Hugh Ross[ii], there are dozens of cosmological constants which, if they were off by the smallest of margins one way or another, would make the universe unfit for life – any life at all![iii] Hugh Ross charts dozens of constants in the sun-earth-moon system of the solar system that are also delicately balanced to allow life specifically on earth.
While we might be strongly tempted to feel utterly insignificant in light of the vast expanse of the universe and yawning eons of time, the very fact that we exist in a universe that teeters on a razors edge of physical laws that are balanced to support life should give us reason to think again.
We are actually quite extraordinary!
Of all the life forms that have ever existed, we are the only life forms that have the kind of intelligence we have. We are the only life forms that appreciate beauty, compose music and create art, have complex communications systems, engage in philosophy and wrestle with conscience. We uniquely think about things like soul and spirit, love and morality and have consciences that urge us to care for each other and our planet, though we often fail at both.
Still, we are unique in all these aspects. We are unique in the way that we have conscience, communicate with subtlety and exercise volition. We choose to do right or do wrong, and we are often torn between things that we perceive to be right and wrong, unlike any other living being.
We are the only beings, as far as we know that can make conscious decisions to do the right thing, though it may be the hard thing or the unselfish thing – even the self-sacrificing thing. We also are the only beings who have the capacity to choose to hurt our fellow beings for no reason other than the pleasure of it, to choose wrong for wrong’s sake and to inflict pain on others when we have nothing to gain from it.
No other animal wrestles with existentialism or worries about having an ism or a purpose in life. No other animal displays a sense of awe or an urge to worship like we do.
We are truly unique in the universe – as far as we know. And, even if we are not alone in the universe, if we are not the only beings with the capacities that we have for love and hate, goodness and evil, intelligent discourse and appreciation of beauty, we are still extraordinary because we are extraordinarily rare!
We have religious literature that tells us that there is a God, and we are made in His image.[iv] It tells us that the earth was intended as a fit habitation for us.[v] It tells us that God loves us and desires us to live eternally with Him.[vi]
When we look at the expanse of space and the eons of time that have come before us, we should not feel insignificant, but extraordinary, as the author of Psalm 8 expressed,
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
[ii] A BSc in Physics from University of British Columbia, and Ph.D in astrophysics from University of Toronto and postdoctoral research fellow at Caltech for five years studying quasars and galaxies, he is now a Christian apologist. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Ross_(astrophysicist)
[iv] Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1-2; and 9:6 among other places.
[v] Isaiah 45:18
[vi] John 3:16; 1 John 5:13-14