In an age of hope men looked up at the night sky and saw "the heavens." In an age of hopelessness they call it simply "space." – Peter Kreeft
"The Universe is Really Big" – Compared to What?
This may sound silly, but the universe (or if there is a multiverse, then the multiverse) includes everything in physical reality, so there's literally nothing else to compare it with! Size is a relational property; nothing can be described as being large or small without using something else as a reference. Have you seen other, smaller universes to know that ours is particularly large? Often the response to this objection is, "Well, it's really big compared to us." Oh, so we're the standard of size and mass that everything else should be compared with! In this case, the objector is guilty of the same human-centrism that he accuses religious people of. Also, the argument has the weakness of being based on a matter of degree. How small would the universe have to be for human beings to be significant? One-half of the size it is now? One-thousandth? One trillionth? Human beings have known for literally thousands of years that they are very small compared to the great expanse of nature around them, and this was hardly an obstacle to their believing in gods. What difference does it make to know that there are billions of galaxies out there if you already knew that you were a measly 160 pounds of flesh within an entire solar system, or even just planet Earth? The size of the Pacific Ocean alone is enough to make me feel like a grain of sand in comparison.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established; what is man that you should be mindful of him, and the son of man that you should care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4).Size ≠ Value
The argument makes the assumption that value or significance is somehow determined by size or mass. This I find particularly strange, because in everyday life this standard is almost never used. Is 16 million pounds of scrap metal in a junk yard somehow better than a 16 million dollar fighter jet? Is a sequoia tree (the largest species of tree on the planet) more important than a cow? Is a golden retriever worth more than a seven-year-old girl? Is a mountain range more valuable than the native villagers who live at its base? Is a 40 ton boulder more significant than a human embryo? Clearly, the difference between all of these examples is one of kind and not simply degree. In other words, the difference between them is qualitative, not quantitative. When you try to compare things that are qualitatively different, there is no use in trying to multiply one to make it comparable to the other – it doesn't work. This is especially clear in the examples comparing inanimate (nonliving) matter to animate (living) matter, and those comparing unconscious living things (trees) to conscious living things (human beings). Here, the dedicated materialist will object that there really isn't any qualitative difference between, say, the boulder and the human embryo – both are only the products of the laws of nature working on matter, even if one happens to result in an evolutionary process that produces beings who are capable of a "phenomenon" where they "seem" to be conscious. I say seem because it is very common (and actually, consistent) for materialist philosophers today to deny human consciousness and thought, since they are ordinarily defined as immaterial realities, and therefore, impossible within the materialist worldview. Rather than questioning his or her own consciousness or ability to think, the person hearing claims like this should question the sanity of the person making them! However, philosophy of mind is admittedly a deep and highly complex area of study that I plan on spending more time studying and hope to write about in the future. Suffice it to say for now that, even among prominent unbelieving philosophers, the understanding of the human mind is a highly debated and controversial subject. Take this statement from the well-established agnostic philosopher Thomas Nagel for example:
My guess is that [the] cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about human life, including everything about the human mind (Nagel 130-131).
Mind Over Matter
If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning. -C.S. Lewis
Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, 1994. Print.
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. Harper: San Francisco, 2009. Print.