This is a short post to announce that I have added a further page to the “talks” section of this blog. This is a sermon that I gave two weeks ago at Lady Margaret Hall college, Oxford, at the kind invitation of the chaplain Dr Doig. The sermon is an approximately twenty minute talk which looks at cosmology, and briefly discusses the structure of scientific explanation in general, with a view to showing that these things point towards further layers of meaning in the world, without being able to provide them. It can be found here.

I included in the sermon a brief reaction to something that I know bothers many people, and I decided to display that part here as a “thought for the day” for anyone who does not want to read the sermon. The thought is about whether we matter to God.


 

… I think I may be able to help with one issue that bothers many people, and that bugged me in the past.

Here it is.

In view of the vastness of the cosmos, is it reasonable to suppose that any Originator or Supporter of that vastness would be particularly interested in, or concerned about, affairs on planet Earth? Our Sun is just an ordinary star, after all. Our planet is just one mote of dust among a billion billion others. Isn’t it unreasonable to suppose that anyone with a cosmic vision would care about us?

To answer this, I offer three strands of argument. The strands are in the areas of scientific enquiry, justice and compassion.

First, scientific enquiry. It is in fact the case that Earth is special because it has life on it and most planets do not. Of course I admit that many other planets in the universe may also harbour life; my point is simply that any that do are a legitimate focus of interest over and above those that don’t.

Next, justice. It is a fundamental principle of justice that everyone be treated equally. Just because planet Earth is ordinary in many respects, that does not imply that injustices done here should be ignored or treated as any less important than any other injustice.

Finally, compassion. Compassion gathers where it is needed. Love is drawn to the supposedly insignificant and asserts significance.

Altogether then, it is quite reasonable and not at all pompous to suppose that human affairs matter to God. The attempt to deny this is not humility, but a form of false humility or untruthfulness. Or maybe the idea that you and I do not matter to God is simply an easily forgivable ignorance.

 

(Nolana aplocaryoides) Pan de Azucar National Park

(Nolana aplocaryoides) Pan de Azucar National Park

image from http://www.atacamaphoto.com/newsite/index.php/desert-flora/desert-inbloom