Is Bigger Better? C.S. Lewis, Atheism, and the Argument from Size - page 1

 


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From the Winter 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Is Bigger Better? C.S Lewis, Atheism, and the Argument from Size

by Paul M. Gould Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Christian Apologetics
at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

an exists on a little blue speck, hurtling through space, in a vast cosmos that is filled with billions and billions of planets, stars, and galaxies. Given the immensity of the universe and the smallness of Earth, it would seem foolish of humans to think they are somehow the focus of God’s creative activity, the pinnacle of His love, and the image of His very character. It is far more likely, argues the atheist, that man is merely the accidental (and lucky) product of chance and necessity over time.
 While reflecting on an image of Earth taken by Voyager I in 1990 from the vantage point of 4 billion miles, the astronomer Carl Sagan pushed this point when he said, “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”1 More recently, given all the hoopla about the so-called multiverse, the late atheist scientist and philosopher Victor Stenger opined,

The picture of the multiverse today starts with our own visible universe of 100 billion galaxies, each containing 100 billion stars, 13.8 billion years old…Besides that we also have the eternal multiverse containing an unlimited number of other bubble universes of comparable size…Surely, then, it is ludicrous to think that humanity…is the special creation of a divinity that presides over this vast reality.2

Can I Get an Argument?

  The “Argument from Size” seems to be in vogue today among New Atheists and popularizers of naturalistic science. But what exactly is the argument? Or, more to the point, is there an argument to offer? How, exactly, would it go? The key premise would be something along the lines of “bigger is better” or “value is proportional to size,” as in a creator God, if there were such a thing, would value the big, the whole, not the individual planet or creature. But a moment’s reflection helps us see that that line of argument is pure folly. Value is not proportional to size. As C.S. Lewis argues in his book Miracles, “we are all equally certain that only a lunatic would think a man six-feet high necessarily more important than a man five-feet high, or a horse necessarily more important than a man, or a man’s leg than his brain.”5 Moreover, many of the things we value most in life, such as goodness, truth, and beauty, are not, strictly speaking, measurable in physical terms at all. Sure, there are good cookies and kids, true statements and beliefs, and beautiful paintings and platypuses, but these are concrete instances of something transcendent, something beyond the cookies and kids, statements and beliefs, paintings and platypuses. Goodness, truth, and beauty—values one and all—find their source beyond nature, beyond space. They cannot be measured by a yardstick, scale, or tachometer. In short, there is no philosophical “Argument from Size” to atheism.

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