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God: The Failed Hypothesis
The Uncongenial Universe, Waste
Victor J. Stenger
Earth is one planet among ten or so revolving around an atypical star, our sun. On the distance scale of human experience, the solar system is immense. Earth is one hundred and fifty million kilometers from the sun. Pluto is some six billion kilometers away. The Oort cloud of comets, which marks the edge of the solar system, extends to thirty million kilometers from the sun. Although the space between the planets contains smaller asteroids, comets, and dust, the solar system consist mainly of empty space that seem to serve no purpose.
On this distance scale, the planets are tiny points. Yet they are huge on the human scale. The diameter of Earth is 12,742 kilometers. The largest planet, Jupiter, is 139,822 kilometers in diameter.
Beyond the solar system, we find even more space. The next closest star (after the sun), Proxima Centauri, is forty billion kilometers away. This is part of the triple-star system called Alpha Centauri. On this scale we should start using light-years as the unit of distance, where the light-year is the distance traveled by light in a year (9.45 trillion kilometers). The Alpha Centauri system is 4.22 light-years away. Note that multiple-star systems, which are very common, do not provide the kind of orbital stability we experience on Earth that is very important to our survival. It would seem that only single-star systems are likely to support life, another indication that life is not high on the universe's agenda.
Our sun and its planetary system are well away from the center of a galaxy containing an estimated two hundred to four hundred billion other stars. Call the "Milky Way," after the band of stars we see across the sky on a clear night, our visible galaxy is a flat, spiral disk one hundred thousand light years across, and about ten thousand light-years thick.
The Milky Way is but one of perhaps a hundred billion galaxies in the visible universe. We have two satellite galaxies, just outside the Milky Way, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. The next galaxy nearest to us, Andromeda, is 2.44 million light-years away.
And, you might ask, how big is the universe? The farthest observed galaxy at this writing, Abell 1835 IR1916, is 13.2 billion light-years away, Since it has taken 13.2 billion years for its light to reach us, and the current estimate of the age of the universe is 13.7 billion years, we are seeing this galaxy as it was only five hundred million years after the start of the big bang. Because the universe has been expanding since the light left Abell, this galaxy is now about forty billion light-years away.
The farthest distance we can ever hope to see, what is called our horizon, is 13.7 billion light-years from Earth. Beyond that, light would take longer than the age of the universe to reach us. As vast as is the universe within our horizon, cosmology suggests that a far vaster one lies beyond. If the inflationary big bang model of the early universe is correct, then in a tiny time interval (something like 10-35 second, the universe expanded in size by a factor that is almost impossible to imagine. Here is one estimate of that factor: Write down the number 1 and follow it by a hundred zeroes. Then raise the number 10 to that power (10 to 10100). I have not been able to think of any analogy from common experience or science to help visualize that number. The size of the visible universe (1026 meters) is only 1061 times larger than the smaller distance that can be defined, the Planck distance (10-35 meter).
In short, if God created the universe as a special place for humanity, he seems to have wasted an awfully large amount of space where humanity will never make an appearance.
He wasted a lot of time, too. Instead of six days, he took nine billion years to make Earth, another billion years or so to make life, and then another four billion years to make humanity. Humans have walked on Earth for less than one-hundredth of one percent of Earth's history.
In fact, when you think of it, why would an infinitely powerful God even need six days? Wouldn't he have the ability to create everything in an instant? And, why would he have to rest when he was all done?
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