People often say that Earth must have been created because it is so conducive to life. There are several physical constants that – if varied by even 0.0001% – would make life absolutely unsustainable; the atmosphere would be too hot, too cold, or devoid of oxygen. Clearly, there must be something special about us and our planet. Did an omnipotent creator will it so? Maybe… but there certainly isn’t any compelling evidence. Let’s flip our perspective.
Given the universe’s infinite expansion, what are the odds that these conditions never align? Within infinite permutations, pseudo-randomly assigning values to such constants (gravity, temperature, available biomass for evolution, etc.) ad infinitum, you should surely create life-sustaining conditions. So then, what are the odds that none of these life-sustaining parameters ever align? Given the universe’s size and ever-expansion, they should surely align somewhere. That might be how you get Earth.
Similarly, consider the example of my desk. What are the chances that all of the items on it are arranged precisely as they are now? Any of those items could be arranged ever so differently. There are infinite permutations, and yet, here we are. No creation story necessary.
This underlines the incredible rarity of life. There are so many planets out there. And even looking directly at Earth at any random point in time, the current chance of seeing a resemblance of humans (around 6 million years) is roughly 0.13%, or a 99.87% chance of failure. This is because Earth was around eons before we arrived – and could exist for eons after we leave/expire. Not only would you need to find the right planet, you’d need to look at precisely the right time.
If space and rarity of life interests you, I recommend investigating the Fermi Paradox. For now, simply take the following: Our answer-seeking human nature constantly rewards us with discovery, but simultaneously curses us with obscured truth – a curse to frequently accept possible explanations that stifle discovery. The problem is that reality doesn’t care about our interpretation of it. The Earth orbits the sun (or doesn’t), regardless of whether or not we’ve discovered that. There’s no room for faith in the matter.
The correct answer to the creation question is: We don’t know, and we may never know. But if someone claims a theory, they need a very compelling case. Hitchen’s razor suggests that what can be asserted without evidence, can also be dismissed without evidence.
Religion features and celebrates many logical inconsistencies, no doubt. But switching perspective again, be careful not to attribute malice to it. There is great credibility to the argument that humans cannot directly access archetypal learning, and that religion is the canonical vehicle for transmitting great wisdom across generations (hence it is widespread and withstands time). Some argue “they’re guiding fictions, but they’re still fiction” versus “they’re guiding fictions, but they’re still guiding”. Maybe we dismiss religion at our own extreme peril.
Nevertheless, sacredness is a fiction. Discuss and question everything. Employ Hitchens’ razor. It is you who can choose what you do with any contention that you encounter. And remember to let others enjoy their blissful ignorance. After all, it could actually be you who is mistaken!
Create and cultivate your own theory. Discuss and test as much as you can. Correct yourself and others when theories conflict. That is how we discover truth. Then finally, when you are absolutely convinced of your correctness, remember that we still refer to Newton’s 1687 work as the “Theory of Gravitation”. We maintain this title, Theory, despite that if it were not correct, you couldn’t currently be reading this.
Studying Education (Secondary – Mathematics Extension and Physics)
President – Society of Education and Learning QUT
Chairperson – QUT Guild Council