Who hasn’t walked outside under dark sky conditions and felt insignificant against the black vastness of space? It’s perfectly reasonable to wonder: If we are such tiny specks in the overwhelming cosmos, why would God (if there is such a being) care about us?
But surprisingly, over the past fifty years astrophysicists have discovered that the universe needs to be this vast in order for us to be here. The right chemistry and delicate environment for life require that the universe’s early expansion rate, mass density, charge balance, and a variety of other factors must be “just right” – in some cases to better than 1 part in 1055! One consequence of this life-friendly recipe is a spatially vast universe. So rather than feeling lost in the cosmos, we should think of ourselves as living in a custom-crafted mansion (with a huge backyard).
But there is more to the universe than physical size: If you look at the structures in the universe, the “vastness” picture reverses: The cells in your body are far more complex than all the rest of the universe because of their sophisticated biochemistry, molecular machines, and information processing ability. And beyond the chemical computers and machinery of life, you have the mental ability to reflect upon and contemplate the universe: no galaxy, star, planet, rock, ocean, tree, or mouse can do that. The fact that you are asking questions like this implies that you are vastly different from the rest of the universe, and that you are uniquely significant in ways that the rest of the universe is not.
The theological implications of these recent astronomical and biological findings are powerful and affirm the traditional view expressed in Psalm 8: There is Someone behind all this. The vastness of the universe gives us a sense of the Creator’s immense power and transcendence, we exemplify his handiwork in how we are forged from simple elements and engineered with awesome biochemical complexity, and we are given the mental spark to ask big questions. Thus, our goal should be to seek to answer them and to seek to know our Creator.
John Bloom, Ph.D. is a professor of Physics and the Director of the Science and Religion Program at the Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
Professor Bloom's recommended reading on this question:
Ross, Hugh, Why the Universe is the Way it is.