"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."
From the perspective of naturalism, the fact that we live on such a small stage in such a vast universe isn't particularly surprising...or at least any more surprising than the alternatives. It's simply an accident of the circumstances. It is, however, extremely humbling. We are small. We are insignificant. That is not a very comfortable concession for most people, but we'd be making a huge mistake to think that just because it's uncomfortable, that makes it less likely to be true. Whether we like it or not has no bearing on the truth of the claim whatsoever. What does? Evidence.
So what of the evidence? Well, with regard to the notion that we live on a "small speck of dust" in a vast universe, the evidence is overwhelmingly strong. But more importantly is the evidence for naturalism itself. What if the evidence for theism is stronger? What would that "small speck of dust" mean then? What would we mean then?
In this article I will look at only one characteristic of the universe that relates to this discussion: the mass density of the universe. Mind you, there are over 400 characteristics of the universe that scientists have discovered are finely tuned for advanced life. Mass density is only one of the more basic characteristics in that list and, truth be told, not even close to the most impressive.
How big is the universe? The diameter of the universe is estimated at 93 billion light years. That is to say that a particle of light beginning at one edge and traveling across the universe would take 93 billion years to make the one-way trip. To give a small frame of reference for that, the sun is averages a distance of almost 94 million miles from Earth. How long do you think it takes for light from the sun to reach the surface of Earth? It takes 8 minutes. Just 8 minutes. We'll skip diving further into the algebra lesson, but if light travels 94,000,000 miles in 8 minutes, how many miles would it travel in 93 billion light years? The answer is roughly 5,500,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles. It's really starting to make sense why they measure these distances in light years instead of miles.
One more, and we're done. I promise. Now, with that universe that is 93 billion light years across, there are a lot of physical things. There are galaxies, which contain nearly countless stars and planets, there are black holes, there are meteorite belts and comet belts, there are gasses and clouds. There's a lot of stuff. Given what we know about when the universe began, its history, and the rate at which it's expanding, we've been able to pin down relatively accurately how much stuff there actually is (that's 10^53 kg...I'll spare you and not write out 53 zeroes this time) and what the that mass is compared to the size of the universe from the previous paragraph. Which means we can finally arrive at the ever important mass density of the universe. We did it! Well, almost. The mass density of the universe is 3e-28 kg/cubic meter. Notice the "-" there. That's a very small number. As much stuff as is out there, there's a lot of space in space which has practically no density at all, of course. That is 27 zeroes between the decimal point and the 3 at the end. Very small, indeed.
As small as that mass density is, in order to shed light on whether this speaks to chance or design, we'd need to simulate what the big bang looks like if that very tiny number is changed by even the tiniest of margins. How fine-tuned is it? What if the mass density was slightly higher or lower? Well, it's good news and bad news. The good news is that the number is perfect as it is. The bad news is that if we were to change it by something as small as one part in 10^59 (yeah...that's 60 zeroes total), life would be impossible everywhere in the universe for its entire history. A little more mass to increase the density, you end up with nothing but black holes and neutron stars. Take a little mass away from the universe, we end up with a universe that has nothing but hydrogen and helium gas. No chance for life either way. Some scientists have illustrated this by saying that if you were to change the mass of the entire universe by as much as a dime (which is a little over 2 grams) in either direction, life would be impossible in the universe. It's very possible that it would take even less variance than that.
What does it all mean?
From a naturalistic perspective, well, "lucky" doesn't come close to doing it justice. From a theistic perspective, it's exactly what we'd expect to see. If the Creator described in the Bible, for example, who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-benevolent is behind this marvel of a creation, we'd expect to see some impressive design features.
"For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made."
Paul writing in Romans 1:20
But couldn't God have made a smaller, more efficient and economical universe? Of course He could have. Why didn't he do that? Well, I think there are several good reasons. Why do people spend over tens of thousands of dollars and over a year of time planning a wedding? Because it's important to them. Why does someone buy an engagement ring that costs a small fortune? Because the person is trying to express how much they love the other person. In Contact, Carl Sagan talks about if there isn't other life out there, this universe "seems like an awful waste of space." I'm not sure God sees it that way. Maybe God spent all of this "wasted" time, space, and energy to tell us how much He loves us. To show us how special He thinks we are. Maybe this "pale blue dot" is the greatest engagement ring ever made. If that's true, we should say "yes."