The Universe Is So Big ... Therefore God Doesn't Exist?

by Richard Klaus |

O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is your name in all the earth,
 who have displayed your splendor above the heavens!
 ....
 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
 the moon and the stars, which you have ordained;
 what is man that you take thought of him,
 and the son of man that you care for him?
 Yet you have made him a little lower than God,
 and you crown him with glory and majesty!
—Psalm 8: 1, 3-5

In Psalm 8 the writer meditates on the vastness of the created order and he recognizes his smallness in light of the grandeur of the universe. This leads him into a deeper expression of praise of the living God. Not everyone who contemplates the cosmos enters into such worship. Rather, there are some who look at the bigness of the universe and conclude there must be no God at all! Recently some philosophers have attempted to formulate this idea into an argument against the existence of God.

Statement of Argument

Emily Thomas, assistant professor of philosophy at Durham University, has a recent article in which she summarizes this newer argument for atheism. Her article, "Does the Size of the Universe Prove God Doesn't Exist?" articulates the argument in the following manner:

"Over the last few decades, a new way of arguing for atheism has emerged. Philosophers of religion such as Michael Martin and Nicholas Everitt have asked us to consider the kind of universe we would expect the Christian God to have created, and compare it with the universe we actually live in. They argue there is a mismatch. Everitt focuses on how big the universe is, and argues this gives us reason to believe the God of classical Christianity doesn't exist.

"To explain why, we need a little theology. Traditionally, the Christian God is held to be deeply concerned with human beings. Genesis (1:27) states: "God created mankind in his own image." Psalms (8:1-5) says: "O Lord ... What is man that You take thought of him ... Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!" And, of course, John (3:16) explains God gave humans his son out of love for us.

"These texts show that God is human-oriented: human beings are like God, and he values us highly. Although we're focusing on Christianity, these claims can be found in other monotheistic religions, too.

"If God is human-oriented, wouldn't you expect him to create a universe in which humans feature prominently? You'd expect humans to occupy most of the universe, existing across time. Yet that isn't the kind of universe we live in. Humans are very small, and space, as Douglas Adams once put it, "is big, really really big".

After a discussion of the empirical data regarding the size of the universe, Thomas concludes:

"Clearly, there is a discrepancy between the kind of universe we would expect a human-oriented God to create, and the universe we live in. How can we explain it? Surely the simplest explanation is that God doesn't exist. The spatial and temporal size of the universe gives us reason to be atheists.

"As Everitt puts it:

"The findings of modern science significantly reduce the probability that theism is true, because the universe is turning out to be very unlike the sort of universe which we would have expected, had theism been true."

Analysis of Argument

Note that the argument seeks to posit a tension between the Christian worldview and the state of the world (i.e., the empirical facts regarding its size). In light of this it is important to recognize that the argument needs to take into account the full resources of the Christian worldview and accurately note the relevant background features that impinge upon the discussion. This is something the argument, at least as so far formulated, does not do.

Read more about Christianity and science on The Christian Post.