The Argument from Scale - Island of Sanity

Island of Sanity



Defending Christianity

The Argument from Scale


In ancient times, people believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, and was the biggest thing in the universe. So it wasn't hard to believe that if there was a God who created the universe, that his primary concern would be the Earth and the people on it.

Today, of course, we know that our Earth is just a tiny dot in a vast universe, that there are many stars and planets far bigger than the Earth, and that there is nothing particularly central or otherwise special about our location. Thus, if there is a God who created the universe, it is absurd to think that he would take any particular notice or interest in us.

Huh?

I've heard that argument many times. Apparently some people find it convincing. I do not.

To find it plausible, you have to start with the assumption that something's importance to an intelligent being is proportional to its size or weight.

Suppose your house was on fire, and you feared you would have time to save only one thing. Which would you be more likely to save: a pile of cement blocks in the basement, or your six-month old daughter?

By the reasoning of the Argument From Scale, the "right answer" is the pile of cement blocks. For clearly, the pile of cement blocks is far larger than your baby daughter and weighs far more. Therefore, it is obviously more important and more worthy of your attention and concern.

Even to the strictly pragmatic, someone totally free of naive notions of sentimentality, value is not determined simply by weight. Suppose your house is on fire and the only question is which material possessions to save. Which would you save first: that pile of cement blocks, or a diamond ring? Again, the cement blocks weigh far more, but the diamond ring is surely far more valuable.

The whole point of Christian belief on this subject is not that God cares about human beings because of our ability to do something that might help or hurt him, but rather that he is concerned about human beings simply because he loves us. I do not love my children because I think I will somehow make money off this relationship. I suppose it is possible that someday I may face some terrible crisis -- health, finances, whatever -- and my children will help me out. But the odds are that I will spend far more time and money raising my children then they will ever return to me. And I couldn't care less. I don't love them for what they can do for me; I love them because I love them. If there is any "because" to my love for my children, it is because they are cute and fun and give me love in return. The highest love has no "because" to it at all. I doubt I ever loved my son more than when he was two years old lying helpless in a hospital bed and we wondered if he would be crippled for life.

(Lest you worry, today he has one mis-functioning kidney, but he seems to be getting along just fine with the other. Having said that, why did I find it necessary to mention? Right after I wrote that my son had problems, it occurred to me that some readers might be concerned and wonder how it turned out. We naturally reach out in love, not to the big and strong, but to the weak and hurting. That's what love is all about. Do we expect God's love to be less than our own?)

Love is not at all proportional to the size or weight of the person involved. Do you think that a man would obviously and inevitably love his wife or girlfriend more if she gained a hundred pounds?

Of course this does not "prove" that there is a God who loves human beings. But it does point out that it is not at all implausible to suppose that God would be vitally interested in the affairs of tiny people on a tiny planet in a remote corner of his universe. Perhaps there are other beings on other planets who God also loves and cares about. But I am quite sure that God does not love the Rocky Mountains or the planet Jupiter more than he loves people.

© 1997 by Jay Johansen


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