Babies and Betatrons


What do my daughter and Brian Cox’s latest tv series have in common? Both of them really  bring home to you the fragility and the breathtaking splendour of humans.  Beth’s tiny face is so helpless and yet she is a miracle that my husband and I had a part in creating. And Brian Cox’s explanation of the chemistry and physics that make us out of star dust shows what a miracle and how monumentally insignificant and tiny our lives are.

Of course, it’s possible and for some desirable to view science programmes as nails in the coffin of religion. (Maybe less so than in the past) But If we remove God from the equation of creation we run the risk of two points of view about the relevance and value of humans. Either we legitimise our own selfishness, because after all your life is your own and it’s ok to prioritise yourself – charity begins at home, global warming is just an excuse for the government to tax us etc. In other words we deify ourselves.

Or we come to the conclusion – and this is much rarer since it is much more harrowing to get your head around – that fundamentally there is no intrinsic value to humans at all – read Straw Dogs by John Gray if you want to see the logical conclusions that follow from that path. (But don’t read it if your faith is shakey this month or you feel depressed…it’s like putting your hand on a hot cooker plate just to see…).

But if we have a faith, if we believe we are created then we can neither view ourselves as so important that we can push the resources given to us and our lives into whatever strange shapes we like nor as utterly irrelevant. Instead, in terms of creation we are a bit  like Beth – utterly unimportant in the grand scheme of things but breathtakingly beautiful.

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2 responses to “Babies and Betatrons

  1. I don’t think not believing in some form of creator leads to us being insignificant at all – or that it therefore means we ‘legitimise our own selfishness’.

    The wonder of the universe and our tiny part in it amazing to me. The fact that we are constantly striving to learn more about the physics and chemistry that allowed life to evolve on this tiny spec of a planet in an unimaginably large universe is breathtaking.

    It seems to me that the human condition is one of trying to better itself, to learn more and to progress. Of course, we don’t always get it right, but to jump from that to suggesting Athiesm leads to selfishness is a massive leap that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    As an atheist myself (with a beautiful, wondrous daughter), I have a strong sense of right and wrong and a strong moral code. I don’t like the argument that the absence of belief in a creator makes people selfish or somehow less ‘good’ than they could or should be – unfounded generalisations with no basis in fact never lead to something positive, in my experience.

    For those that believe in a creator, that’s wonderful, and I’m sure S/He offers comfort and guidance to them through their particular scripture – I don’t argue against this – but I do resent the suggestion that people like me are selfish and would lead mankind into some form of nihilistic destruction – the idea has no basis in fact.

    Now I’ve got that off my chest, hope all is well with Beth and family – my little one just turned 1 – I can’t believe how quickly it goes. x

  2. Yes – you are right. It would be nonsense to suggest atheists are selfish and driving us all into a self-created armageddon. I apologise for the sloppy writing and undoubted offense I’ve caused!

    I should have made it much clearer in my post that a world view without a God view can result in 2 different viewpoints that put humans in an odd position in the universe – but don’t necessarily follow from it. I used the word “Run the risk” but should have emphasised that and used more qualifiers “can” etc.

    It can undoubtedly lead directly to a lifechoice for a deliberately small and selfish focus, I’ve encountered it in people close to me. So it is a risk and I think it’s legitimate to write about it.

    But to write in a way that might imply it follows is just wrong. Thank you for pointing it out.

    *Sidles off in shame*

    *Sidles back* Yes all well, we’re six months behind you and she’s a delight.

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