Insulting the Hosts
Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Wakler, MI
“And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:16-18).
Max Tegmark is a physicist, cosmologist and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He recently wrote a book, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (2017). An excerpt from this book appeared in the November 2017 issue of Discover magazine in an article titled, “Our Next Billion Years.”
Here’s how Tegmark’s article begins:
Thirteen point eight billion years after its birth, our universe has awoken and became aware of itself. From a small blue planet, tiny conscious parts of our universe have begun gazing out into the cosmos with telescopes, repeatedly discovering that everything they thought existed is merely a small part of something grander ... Although these self-aware stargazers disagree on many things, they tend to agree that these galaxies are beautiful and awe-inspiring.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not in the laws of physics. So before our universe awoke, there was no beauty. This makes our cosmic awakening all the more wonderful and worthy of celebrating: It transformed our universe from a mindless zombie with no self-awareness into a living ecosystem harboring self-reflection, beauty and hope—and the pursuit of goals, meaning and purpose. Had our universe never awoken, then it would have been completely pointless—merely a gigantic waste of space. Should our universe permanently go back to sleep due to some cosmic calamity or self-inflicted mishap, it will become meaningless.
In the rest of the article, Tegmark makes some proposals which he claims are not impossible if mankind’s progress in science and technology continues at its present pace. For example, to ensure mankind’s survival and, thus, the consciousness of the cosmos, Tegmark dreams that, someday, mankind could send space probes to the stars programmed with artificial intelligence. These probes could prepare planets for man’s habitation. Men could follow these probes across space and live on the planets prepared for them or the probes could fabricate people from the matter available to populate other planets. Tegmark speculates man could spread across the galaxy at one-third the speed of light.
Oh, the things men might accomplish in the next billion years! If it weren’t for the promise of walking on streets paved with gold, one might wish to be there to witness the marvels of man’s achievements.
An unregenerate man gazes at the starry host and sees a place fit for the habitation of man. The universe is so large and beautiful that is a suitable setting for man to pursue his goals, find meaning for his existence and give his life purpose.
Man’s pride is so great that he views the universe as being vain and pointless until he evolved enough to take it all in and discover some of its mysteries. It’s as though the universe owes mankind a great debt of gratitude since we finally showed up to make it all worthwhile.
Truly, “They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth” (Ps. 73:9). Tegmark has great hopes that man can populate the galaxy with its diameter of thousands of light-years and do so at one-third of the speed of light. Meanwhile, people have actually travelled less than two light-seconds to walk on the moon and this relatively short trip took three days.
Tegmark refers to the universe as a “mindless zombie.” Scripture uses many active verbs when discussing creation, so creation is not a mindless zombie. Just thinking of Psalm 19, we see the heavens “declare;” the days “utter” speech; the nights “show” knowledge; the sun is “as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber.” In Isaiah 35, the wilderness is glad and rejoices with singing. The creation also waits for its redemption by Christ so it can be cleansed from the effects of sin.
Also, there is no place in Tegmark’s universe for God. The mindless universe simply runs by the laws of physics, not God’s “eternal providence and infinite power” (Belgic Confession 12). The unregenerate live in God’s creation, then act as though God, their Host, doesn’t exist. They help themselves to the food providentially provided, then don’t give thanks for it because they think the food comes of itself as the result of the laws of physics.
Tegmark also says there was no beauty in the universe since there was nobody there to behold it. In the text quoted above from Genesis 1, it’s clear there was Someone there to behold the universe before man was there and the Creator’s declaration was that “it was good.”
Such is the view of the unregenerate. They insult the hosts, both the starry host and the divine Host Himself.
Now it’s our turn to consider His heavens.
Since the evening twilight ended thirty minutes ago and the stars are out, let’s step outside. For us who live in the middle latitudes, if it’s spring, we witness the renewal of life which reminds us of the newness of life God has promised us in Christ. If it’s summer, the coming of night brings relief from the heat of the day, which great heat teaches us of God’s hot anger against sin. If it’s fall, we hear the rustling of fallen leaves which had previously put on such a grand display of God’s autumn palette reminding us that the death of God’s saints is precious in His sight. If it’s winter snow covers the hard, lifeless earth picturing what happens to us spiritually when we turn away from the light of God’s countenance. Each season has its lessons and so do the stars.
Now, let’s look up. There they are, the stars! They are “for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (Gen. 1:14). When we consider the vastness of the universe we humbly admit, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Ps. 8:4). Being aware of our utter insignificance, we are deeply gratified to remember that God really does more than merely notice us. “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” (Ps. 139:17). The great God who formed all the universe merely by His Word and continues to uphold it by His Spirit is, to our great astonishment, our God, and He has made us His children. The great, transcendent Creator is yet immanent enough to take delight in having covenant fellowship with us in Christ.
Tegmark is excited about what he imagines man’s next billion years might have in store. Our fellowship with our Father in His beautiful, recreated heaven and earth will last much longer than that, and it will be grander than we can imagine.