Thursday, May 17, 2007

Significance in Insignificance

On George Stroumbolopoulos' CBC programme, The Hour, I had the peasure of watching an interview between the man himself and a certain Alister McGrath, last night. It really was a genuine pleasure; regardless of his funny ideas (stupid religion...), he is a genuinely intelligent and interesting man with some valid points to make. He did, however, say something that struck me as... Well... Being the opposite of the truth.

The claim that made me raise an eyebrow was the claim that theism somehow improves or increases the appreciation one can have of science and nature; he added that this was because science is not equipped to answer the question "do we matter?"

I am afraid I must disagree with him on both points. Science is not only equipped to answer the question, it already has; if, by some horrible accident, mankind suddenly ceased to exist right this minute, the universe wouldn't change at all. We are so insignificant that the effect wouldn't even be noticeable further out than Jupiter. The reason that this fact increases our appreciation of science and nature is that this very insignificance makes us important.

I've already expounded this briefly in previous posts, but basically it goes like this; if we're the product of some great supreme being who has a plan for us that we cannot circumvent, then for all the meaning that imparts on us - being His chosen people, yadda, yadda, yadda - we're still just matter hurtling along a course it cannot alter. But if we look at the reality of the situation; if we're just the freak consequence of an even more freakish chemical reaction in an isolated corner of the universe, then the fact is that we're something absolutely unique; a new type of matter.

Until now, all matter in the universe has done the same thing; cause & effect, action & reaction, basically just stuff smacking into stuff and making other stuff. Until us, that is. We're matter that sees the other stuff coming and can avoid it. We can think and we can conceive and we can create. We're matter with our own little universe inside. We can appreciate science more through its telling us of our insignificance because we can appreciate science.

It is discouraging to me that so many people simply write us off as meaningless unless we act according to some Grand Plan. There is so much meaning for us to make for ourselves, so much for us to see and learn and acheive that abdicating the right to that glory and majesty, giving it up to some deity - regardless of that deity's existence or non-existence - is absolute folly. We are better than that.

We are so awesome.

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