Enormous In Significance

I came across an image on Reddit, and decided to make a different version of it. The original and the altered version are shared below. I would be interested to hear whether readers think one or the other (or perhaps both) follows from the logic presented. I think this gets at the heart of the question of how scientific data is incorporated into a worldview – and the important fact that what is often claimed as the implication of science is not always self-evidently so.


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  • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

    I see a similar distinction in the way that people view eternity. I’ve heard some Christians (such as Roger Olson) basically argue that, without heaven, life is insignificant and meaningless. A worldview without eternity somehow (by their logic) would be nihilistic.

    But to me, an eternity of life would have the opposite effect, making the “brief candle” of our “earthly” lives eternally insignificant by comparison. Knowing that my life on earth is all that I have, makes every second enormously precious and significant to me.

    And if you see time as a dimension of the space-time continuum, then I will always exist at this moment in space time. I don’t think that I can (like Dr. Who’s Rory) ever cease to have ever existed.

    • arcseconds

      I’ve actually heard similar arguments from transhumanists, who want people to live forever as software.

      It seems intuitive to a lot of people that things only have significance if they are permanent, and unless you’re permanent or contributing to something permanent, you can’t be doing anything worthwhile.

      But to my mind, something has to have value at a particular moment if it’s to have value at all. An eternal valueless thing is, if anything, even more of a waste of space (or whatever) than a transitory one.

      • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

        Well said.

  • guest

    I think what’s significant or not is determined by humans. So, both images are true, depending on who you ask. I’m very significant to myself, slightly less significant to my family and totally insignificant to someone living on the other side of the world. I would not even be a footnote in a history book if I died not, so to a historian my death would be insignificant, but to my family it would be a major, life-changing event.

  • Robert Fisher

    I applaud avoiding “Solar system” here. (Although, there actually is a good argument for it being a generic term, much like “moon”.) But I believe that “planetary system” would be a better choice than “star system”.

    In any case, I think the juxtaposition of the two images says more than either does by itself.

  • arcseconds

    The space around enormously in your one gives it marginally better typesetting — so I’m convinced!

  • summers-lad

    What is significance (as Pilate might have asked) and who determines it? Small doesn’t have to mean insignificant – for the want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for the want of shoe, the horse was lost, an so on until the country was lost.
    “You are enormously significant” s, I believe, a true conclusion from Christian faith. It cannot, I think, be concluded from science, although science doesn’t negate it either.
    I believe that the value and the potential of any life even moderately well lived far exceeds the short time we have on earth. This, to me, is a pointer to (though not, obviously, proof of) eternity: our lives are meant for much more.

  • Just Sayin’

    Significant to what or whom? Without that addition, neither statement makes much sense.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    As Rabbi Simcha Bunim said: Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into the one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and, there, find the words: “For my sake was the world created.” But when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: “I am but dust and ashes.”

  • Greg

    The leap from quantitative to qualitative analysis or discussion is a leap of belief in either case, which makes it a leap of faith, whether you want to call it that it not.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

    I’m going to whistle Monty Python’s Galaxy Song.

  • R Vogel

    ….I’m Zaphod Beeblebrox…..