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Getting Things Right About Who We Are

Alan S. Miller

March 2005

Several years ago I discovered a good way to regularly remind myself of who I really am in this great and wonderful world. I wish more of the anti-evolution, creationist, intelligent design contingent in America could accept these simple facts.

I have a little chart pinned up in a prominent place in my office. It notes the following facts of life:

Our Solar System has nine planets.

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains 400 billion stars.

The Universe contains at least 130 billion galaxies.

Therefore, the number of stars in the cosmos is 400 times 130 or 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (50,000 billion billion).

All of the sand on the beaches of the earth total 2,000 billion, billion grains.

Toss a handful of sand into the air and the number of sand grains you see will approximate the number of stars in the visible Milky Way at night.

“I wish more of the ... intelligent design contingent in America could accept these simple facts.”

More than 2600 years ago, the Psalmist in the Old Testament posed the rhetorical question to his creator: "What is man that Thou art mindful of him and the son of man that Thou dost care for him?"

That was a great question way back around King David's time. It is perhaps even a better question today.

There is a disturbing tendency these days for many of us to take ourselves a bit too seriously. We act as if somehow everything in the cosmos rotated around our little planet, that the whole purpose of whatever creation is was designed to put us in charge of the whole shebang.

The earth has been here for billions of years and still we act—creationists and, too often, evolutionists as well—as if the whole mechanism of the universe was placed here for our satisfaction.

Plants and animals, lakes and forests, mountains and oceans are simply the backdrop for working out our own little dramas of survival, whatever they may be.

With many folks on both the right and the left, I, too, am a bible reader. The Old and New Testaments have provided me with the keenest insights I have about the nature and destiny of both people and planet.

If I have learned anything from the bible, it is that those of us who live here are called to respect the world around us and be good stewards of all that we have been given.

Arrogance toward the natural world and a lack of humility regarding our own place in that world are routinely condemned by most of the biblical authors. Shakespeare in As You Like It was right as usual in describing our own "brief moment on the stage."

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.

They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his life plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

It seems to me that we would be happier, more content, and better stewards of the glorious riches of the earth if we could more frequently remember our place in the greater scheme of things.

Our time on the stage has been, and probably shall be, limited. The paleoanthropologists are now pretty much agreed that human beings have been around at most for 150-200,000 years.

Perhaps the philosopher Theilhard de Chardin was right in suggesting that all "creative evolution" has been focused upon producing Homo sapiens.

But I doubt it. Millions of species have come and gone. Ours will likely travel much that same path unless we choose through our mistreatment of the environment to speed up this inevitable process.

In the meantime, however, we need to really love our natural world. Wouldn't it be great if we could seriously try to preserve and conserve this very special place that we have been given?

Above all, a bit of humility as to who we are and what we are called to be is increasingly in order. Earth is a pretty tiny place and 50,000 billion billion stars is a really big number.


Copyright © 2005 Alan S. Miller
Last updated: April 01, 2005