Waste of Space?

Waste of Space? July 10, 2014

I saw the above image on Facebook. It seems to me that, worded this way, it could be an argument for anything from atheism to a religious crusade to conquer and spread.

But when we look at the underlying data – the fact that most of the universe seems to be hostile to life – I would point out that the same proportion of matter is empty space. Yet the combination of subatomic particles and empty space in those proportions is the basis of all that we are and all that we see.

And so these aspects of our cosmos are indeed puzzling – but that reaction on our part seems a dubious foundation for any sort of metaphysical conclusions.

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  • Allan Bevere

    Good point, James. It also seems to me that it is rather self-centered on our part to assume that if most of the universe is not inhabited, it is somehow wasted space.

  • Ed

    Foundation for a metaphysical conclusion? I concur. However, evidence that the biblical understanding of the scale, development and nature of the cosmos was no better than the average illiterate person of that epoch. Yes.

    • David Evans

      Even the average educated person of that epoch (excluding one or two Greek astronomers) would have thought the Earth was the largest single body in the universe (and, furthermore, at its centre).

    • histrogeek

      The cosmic understanding of the Biblical authors was definitely way off on scale (though as Dave pointed out is was consistent with what any educated person would have known).
      However, they did get that the universe was way, way bigger than them. Maybe it was 100x bigger than the area they knew, or 1000x or way past what they had the literal ability to express. This knowledge didn’t always inform their moral understanding, but then again it often doesn’t inform our moral understanding either.

  • David Evans

    I don’t know how he gets that figure. If he’s comparing the surface area of the Earth to the surface area of all the planets in the galaxy (a figure which I would not say we know well enough to give 2 significant figures), he should at most have 13 zeroes before the 1. He has 19. Also he’s being a bit pessimistic, assuming we won’t last any longer than we have done so far. If we stick around another few centuries we may well be using more than just the Earth as living space.

    • arcseconds

      maybe he’s treating the galaxy as a disc, and is considering what a waste of space it is to have all these massive gaps in it?

  • friendly reader

    I remember a while back Niel DeGrasse Tyson was asked if the universe has a purpose. He struggled to give it an answer because the question was so vague, and it wound up sounding to me a lot like the end of the book of Job.

    To me, the answer to the question would be: no, the universe doesn’t have A purpose. The universe has MANY purposes, only a few of which are relevant to human beings.

  • histrogeek

    There’s some sort of metaphysical conclusion to be drawn from it, though I suspect it’s going to lead to that frustrating mystic answer of “We don’t know, we can’t know. Wow!”
    It’s especially annoying since the answer hasn’t change since people were thinking the universe was created out of the slain body of a chaos goddess. We know more than we did, and still we can’t come up with a final answer better than that.

  • arcseconds

    It also could serve well as the start to suggesting that there must be other intelligent life, who must also be God’s other chosen people.

    (also… is he talking about the Jews here?)

  • Gary

    Plus we’re only using three dimensions. What a waste. There’s suppose to be at least eleven dimensions.