Yesterday I put out a post that involved Psalm 8, one of the great passages of the Old Testament.  And I remembered that I posted a reflection on it many years ago, since it had made me think about something, well, rather significant: where we (I) fit into the universe.  OK then!  I’ve decided to come back to it here, because it still sometimes reflects in my head.

Here is the psalm

Unlock 4,000+ Articles Like This!

Get access to Dr. Ehrman's library of 4,000+ articles plus five new articles per week about the New Testament and early Christianity. It costs as little as $2.99/mth and every cent goes to charity!

Learn More!


2023-12-28T13:55:50-05:00January 4th, 2024|Public Forum|

Share Bart’s Post on These Platforms


  1. Judith January 4, 2024 at 8:03 am

    It’s all beyond comprehending. But then, so is how each snowflake differs from
    every other snowflake.

    • BDEhrman January 6, 2024 at 2:38 pm

      I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always had a hard time with that one but I read an explanation of it and it appears to be true!

  2. Alfredgrad January 4, 2024 at 8:04 am

    In a recent Good Omens episode, the character Crowley created the Horsehead Nebula and got upset that it was going to get blown up after a few thousand years and that the trillions of stars in the universe were going to be a fancy wallpaper for people to look up at from a blue-green planet somewhere over there.

  3. brenmcg January 4, 2024 at 9:23 am

    It could be that within the greatness and magnitude the only ones gazing in wonder at the enormity of it all are paltry human beings on little ole earth. What else would there then be for God to care about?

  4. seahawk41 January 4, 2024 at 9:43 am

    I agree to the feeling of awe at the scale of the universe, though I’m not sure which of the responses I’d give! To me, probably the most powerful way of getting it across has been the series of deep fields done by Hubble and now by JWST. Everything in these pictures is a galaxy, except for “spiky” items. Those are nearby stars. Just google “deep field” and you’ll get a bunch of links. Pretty amazing!

  5. Sashank January 4, 2024 at 10:06 am

    Hi Bart, speaking of our place in the universe and our evolution within it (there are also 100 billion neurons in our brains), you mentioned in your latest podcast that you were considering naming your book the Origin of Altruism. Speaking as someone raised in an Eastern karmic religion (which emphasizes the oneness of all), and a fellow human, I’d highly recommend you DO NOT name it that … Maybe a revolution in (Western) altruism?

    It’s strange how morality is a mix of emotion (a sense of right and wrong) and logic, and that people like Plato and Jesus have galvanized revolutions in that logic. My cousin had a major stroke in his late 30s at the end of 2021 and my mom passed away last February. These experiences have left me wondering basic questions like whether god exists? What’s right? What’s wrong? Why? It has me reading all sorts of books like the evolutionary basis of morality. It’s also had me listening to your podcast regularly. Which all leads me to say that I’m really looking forward to your book as you compare Jesus’s teachings to classical ethics.

    • BDEhrman January 6, 2024 at 2:39 pm

      I’m going to be very clear what I mean by the title. The subtitle will be mentoining the Concscience of the West. And ther eality is that there has been altruism from the get-go, since otherwise humans would not have survived as a species.

      • sLiu January 19, 2024 at 7:51 pm

        I don’t fit in the uSA society,despite my “do no evil” daily life. & where’s the Holy Spirit? 1988 Billy Graham was ?ing this interview with Larry King. Then a Buddhist Chant where there are no devotions, but tongueless chanting [Eastern GOD OF NO NAME] where I don’t understand any of it, just do it & the pentecostal sense has stayed with me since.

        “Was God bored with nothing so he made something? ”

        YES, God failed in creation. Not communicating to Eve; clearly to Adam of “sinning” John Locke’s blank State theory. Genesis 6:6 repent/relent should be no 8:14. & Noah creating racism w/ his bawling out his sons. Before Jesus’ resurrection only the Jews were condemned to Hell as the chosen people, but after 400AD w/compiled “Bible” rest of creation condemned.
        So ignorance is bliss?

        The other day I saw my heart beating on a sonogram & it terrified me! As for Job. I would ask GOd why is the world so screwed up.
        new non orthodox Christian religion in America? That ain’t biblical X-ianity, clearly racism & bigotry.
        But sure what ever a decently popular preacher spouts, even if it is clearly far from biblically decent [DR James Dobson].

  6. Hormiga January 4, 2024 at 10:22 am

    There’s lots room for bogglement at the small scale too. The two hundred billion trillion (2e23) stars are as numerous as the molecules in one and third teaspoon of water.

    • BDEhrman January 6, 2024 at 2:40 pm

      Yup, I think of the micro and the macro a lot. What an amazing place we weneded up in.

  7. mini1071 January 4, 2024 at 11:09 am
  8. Randybessinger January 4, 2024 at 12:24 pm

    I am curious how Christians would react to a discovery of life (any kind of biological life) on other planets since there is no mention of this in the Bible.

    • BDEhrman January 6, 2024 at 2:42 pm

      Well, there’s no mention of a galaxy or universe either, so I don’t think it wold throw them for a loop. C.S. Lewis, the hero of most evangelicals, certainly had no problem with it (Perelandra)

  9. Apocryphile January 4, 2024 at 1:30 pm

    Einstein once famously said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” I tend to share physicist Paul Davies’ view that the universe and the mind, or consciousness, can’t be understood or conceived of apart from each other, perhaps each giving rise to the other in a sort of self-contained, causal loop. One of the greatest, philosophically deep yet accessible books I have ever read is his The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life?

    • Stonefeather January 8, 2024 at 3:47 am

      Most of the universe is entirely wrong for life. We know of only one relatively infinitesimal speck of it that isn’t.

      • BDEhrman January 10, 2024 at 1:33 pm

        Regrettably, we don’t know much!

      • Apocryphile January 17, 2024 at 11:55 am

        I’m talking about conditions like the basic forces and constants of nature (especially the fine structure constant) with values that don’t change – the “laws” of the universe that allow for life to exist to begin with. I’m sure the dinosaurs would agree with you that conditions weren’t too hospitable for them when they were visited by a six-mile wide asteroid one very bad day, but I’m talking about conditions being right for life on a much deeper level.

  10. Tom48 January 4, 2024 at 1:55 pm

    The last few posts have been fascinating, but I am somewhat of a Devil’s Advocate, so allow me to make a few comments. (Since Bart mentioned that this passage was non-inclusive, I presume the issue is still under discussion.)

    First, the terms “he” and “man” can refer to a biological male or to either a biological male or female. They are not exclusive terms, rather they are, at least partially, inclusive. The terms “she” and “woman” refer only to a biological female, they are totally exclusive. So, anyone wanting to be inclusive would never use these later terms.

    Second, let me say that I find it very strange, to say the least, that in a text that condones genocide, slavery, selling wives into prostitution, infant genital mutilation, stoning sodomites and adulteresses, and other crimes against humanity, some people are mainly concerned about which pronouns are used.

    Third, when I read a text and I see a phrase that has obviously been (mis)translated in order to make it consistent with current political thought, it makes me wonder if there are other mistranslated passages that I do not recognize. And that have changed the meaning in ways the author did not intend.

  11. Tom48 January 4, 2024 at 1:56 pm

    Fourth, this trend will not end here. For instance, Bart writes, “in the Ten Commandments, the law against “coveting” – the law is not to covet your neighbor’s wife, … There is no law telling the woman not to covet her neighbor’s husband.” I doubt if any of us have any difficulty understanding this passage, but in twenty or thirty years, when the next translation is being worked on (perhaps the Revised New Revised Standard Version?), the translators may say that it is homophobic and transphobic to assume “you’ and “neighbor” are biological male, or that “wife” is biological female, or that your neighbor’s wife could not covet your wife. How will they translate this passage then? This is an extreme example, of course, but we are headed in that direction.

    And finally, Bart implies that our language influences the way we think and changing our language can change the way we think. Linguists used to feel that way, but I believe the consensus is now the other way around. Languages change over time, that is the nature of languages. Biological sex is important to humans, and will therefore be reflected in language, whether we will or not.

  12. MarkWiz January 4, 2024 at 2:01 pm

    As an agnostic who has evolved from a Roman Catholic, I am flummoxed with this philosophical area. On one hand, it’s very hard for me to wrap my head around so expansive, diverse a universe happening by chance. Big Bang (the theory, not the excellent sitcom) just puzzles me even more… something floating in nothing explodes into an expanding, seemingly limitless something? But then, the idea of a Creator existing in nothing isn’t any more comprehendible. And what would that make us, some kind of divinely constructed arts and crafts project or simulation? Was God bored with nothing so he made something? Does he dabble with the universe if he’s bored? But if God is as we conceptualize him, he’d know the outcome of it all anyway, so what’s the point? Or does God build in random outcomes and shield himself from the foreknowledge so he’ll be surprised? I will admit that when I begin to contemplate these things, my reaction is to go eat a Snickers or cruise Facebook. I settle for the theory that seems to present the most possible impossibilities. 😉

  13. Duke12 January 4, 2024 at 2:27 pm

    I’m all for gratitude! And regarding the stars above: on my “favorite” aforementioned religious podcast, the hosts reminded their listeners in the latest episode that when the sun, moon, planets, and stars are referenced in the Bible, what’s really being referenced are the individual angels in charge of them (they cite passages from Philo of Alexandria as a source). Every time I hear them say something like this I keep wondering: so does that mean every single star (let alone planet and moon) in the universe has a sentient angel associated with it (as in 100 billion times 2 trillion)? I guess it might be pretty to think so, but I’m just a tad skeptical. Especially in considering that one of the angels ranking above them all, Lucifer, fell because of whatever God did on this tiny planet. Regardless: do I still feel awe? Indeed I do!

  14. Stephen January 4, 2024 at 2:40 pm

    Awe, and curiosity.

  15. geofff January 4, 2024 at 2:59 pm

    Thankyou for this reflection – on taking the time to observe & think about what we CAN observe if we do indeed take the time – and experiencing an appropriate reaction! For many years now my go-to example of this, from one who, unlike most of us, is / was an expert in cosmology, is Carl Sagan & his famous reflection on the image of the Pale Blue Dot. (Very much worth looking up) He’s also another example (along with your good self Prof Ehrman) of just how influential can be the pairing of expert intellect with great communication skills, from which the rest of us benefit enormously. Thankyou.

  16. RickR January 4, 2024 at 3:54 pm

    I, and many scientists, believe that we don’t even know the right questions to ask about the universe, the mystery of life, consciousness, time, etc. If you believe this, why not believe in God? If suffering is your obstacle, isn’t it presumptuous to think that a supreme being doesn’t have an answer to this? One can look at the majesty of our existence and choose to be agnostic, but why not take the side of a divine being, maybe a leap of faith to be sure, but isn’t being an agnostic also a leap of faith?

    • BDEhrman January 6, 2024 at 2:51 pm

      I don’t see why it’s presumptious any more than believing in God. Either way you’re taking a position based on assumptions. Why would one leap of faith be presumptious but the other not?

  17. nanuninu January 4, 2024 at 4:13 pm

    And the average human body is comprised of 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms.

    • BDEhrman January 6, 2024 at 2:52 pm

      Whoa. I was wondering about that the other day (when thinking about 36 trillion cells)….

    • FrankLoomer February 6, 2024 at 9:12 pm

      And, perhaps more to the point, how do the properties we understand of atoms and molecules, play into the amazing self-organizing abilities of living things? Ask any organic chemistry, there is never any reference so anything other than well understand chemical properties the specialties have worked out over the past few centuries. Just “how” does this managed to scale up into self- organization? How much do our brains just intuitively not “cope” with?

  18. cooperr January 4, 2024 at 6:51 pm

    I sometimes feel horror regarding the unfathomable vastness of the universe and how insignificant I and human concerns are, and on the other hand knowing how insignificant I am sometimes gives me comfort.
    I must mention that “enormity” means enormous evil, such as the enormity of the Holocaust, and is not a synonym for enormousness (although a rather awkward word). Right?

  19. Stonefeather January 4, 2024 at 11:49 pm
    • BDEhrman January 7, 2024 at 5:01 am

      VERY interesting. Thanks. (At least I didn’t fall for that 1000/1 billion trick…)

  20. Travelman January 5, 2024 at 4:03 am

    The size of the universe is something I can never get my head round. Every time I visit the beach I’m reminded of the statistic that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand in the world. Wow! Then again, another statistic demonstrates how strange is the universe: there are more molecules in 10 drops of water than there are stars in the universe.

  21. OmarRobb January 5, 2024 at 7:09 am

    This is the vast from the outside, but also, there is a huge vast from the inside (as mentioned in the comments here): In the human body there are 100 giga (billions) neurons, 37 thousand giga cells, 7 giga-giga-giga atoms, and the length of the DNA attached from all the cells is far more than the distance to the sun (etc).

    But let us look at this matter from a different puzzling angle: there are two types of activities in this universe (as far as we know): natural activities and program-based activities. The first one is based on the confrontations and collaborations of the laws of nature. Thus, the explosion of starts, the formation of new stars, storms, and rain all fall within this type of activity.

    The second type are activities that are governed by pre-installed programs. A program is a set of instructions in the form: “do this, then do this, and if this happened then do this”.

    The mechanical programs, the computer programs, the business manual of a company and the culture of a nation are all examples of programs.

    As far as of our current knowledge, all programs in this vast universe have originated from DNA-based organisms.


    • OmarRobb January 5, 2024 at 7:11 am


      So, mechanical and computer programs are designed by humans, who are DNA-based organisms. The work activities performed by ants are program-based, and ants themselves are DNA-based organisms.

      But the DNA itself is a program (or a set of many programs). The DNA in a human body consist of 3 giga bits of code (scientifically called base-pairs) which is ironic considering that the Windows OS would be about 10 giga bytes equal to 80 giga bits.

      The simplest living organism has 150 mega (i.e. million) bits of code which would still be a complex code.

      Now …. a program can be developed and improved by coincidences (hence the DNA can be developed by evolution), but a program cannot be created first time by a coincidence.

      So, it would be a metaphysical statement to say that God created the first DNA string. BUT it is not a metaphysical statement to say that the first DNA string couldn’t have appeared by a coincidence.

      It is still a puzzle how life started, and some have considered that the first DNA string have reached Earth form out-of-space, but the question is still on: how the first DNA string was created?

      • BDEhrman January 6, 2024 at 3:00 pm

        I don’t understand the last bit. The problem is not how a DNA string reached earth but how a DNA string appeared *anywhere*.

        • OmarRobb January 6, 2024 at 3:54 pm

          Yes, this is exactly what I meant: If someone is considering that the first DNA string in Earth came from space then they have a serious question to answer which is: how the first DNA string in space was created?

    • BDEhrman January 6, 2024 at 2:59 pm


  22. petfield January 5, 2024 at 7:36 am

    Such a great post! I too have very often very similar thoughts. To me, the incomprehensible vastness of the cosmos is such a glaring indicator that there can’t be a God – at least the way He’s described in the monotheistic religions. It seems to me flat out stupid to believe humans have the importance these religions ascribe to them, if you consider the fact there are 200-400 billion stars in our galaxy and there are 2 TRILLION galaxies in the known universe, which may very well be (for me, the multiverse is inecapable according to physics [see inflation models, string theory cosmology etc.] ) one of trillions others! Also, if you just sit and think for a moment the fact that it took nearly 14 billion years for man to appear and to occupy a such fantastically miniscule fraction of space in the universe! In comparative terms, it’s as if I (=God) want to have a dog (=creation of humans), for example, when I’m 18, and I first create a place as big as North America for it to live, but I wait until I’m 95 years old and then I adopt one! Don’t know, it just doesn’t register.

  23. 2380 January 5, 2024 at 10:37 am

    Dr Herman,
    Thank you for a great article among all the other great ones.

  24. flshrP January 5, 2024 at 10:52 am

    I think about the Universe in the way you describe: Super immense and probably infinite in expanse and duration.

    So, to me the word “God” actually means “I don’t know”. I stopped worshiping my ignorance a long time ago.

    I just marvel at the Universe and realize how insignificant I am even though I can know something about it.

  25. Swwiener January 5, 2024 at 11:57 am

    The ancient Greeks called the visible universe “cosmos” and marveled at its beauty and order. Cosmos meant order or sometimes harmony. Cosmos or order was created out of chaos. Cosmos and chaos are best understood in relation to one another. We now have instruments allowing us to see farther in space and time but the beauty we see is within that which we can’t, chaos. As the universe expanded from the Big Bang it had to expand into something. What is it that’s outside of the universe?

    • BDEhrman January 6, 2024 at 3:02 pm

      Apparently physcisits say it did not and does not expand “into something.” It’s another thing that defies our experience and common sense. It *is* the something and so as it expands the entire something expands (and not from a center; at ever point it expands from *there*. There is no center.)

  26. Seeker1952 January 5, 2024 at 12:09 pm

    I suppose my immediate, half-conscious response is metaphysical terror. But then I quickly conclude that the present moment is the most important thing there is. And something to, if not always enjoy, at least to be mindful of. And to do so without craving or grasping—perhaps in part because craving and grasping tend to take one outside the present moment. A certain amount of passiveness helps keep my life peaceful.

    On the other hand, I ask myself whether this inconceivable vastness is my own, personal experience of the universe. I’m not sure what my own personal experience is. Maybe it’s just the people, the parts of nature, and the human artifacts within my immediate perception, including my perception as shaped by being part of several social groupings.

    Despite my profound respect for and awe of science, what does the universe as a whole mean to me? Why should I care?

    Somehow what I’m told by others whom my society certifies as trustworthy needs to be understood as part of own personal experience. For example, what needs, emotions, desires are served by me taking seriously things that I don’t truly understand but accept based on socially certified trust?

  27. ChristopherK January 5, 2024 at 12:53 pm

    Dr. Ehrman, do you have a resource like an FAQ or blog post addressing common criticisms you get from apologists? I was talking with someone who brought up the old nugget that you exaggerate how many differences there are between manuscripts. According to them, you hide that most are misspellings and other minor changes, and they you only admit it when pressed in debates.

    To my knowledge, there’s nothing for you to “admit” as you don’t claim otherwise. Indeed, I can think of half a dozen times where you’ve freely said that the majority of variations are minor, but the point remains that they prove there are variations. More importantly, there are big ones that matter.

    This and a handful of others keep coming up. Invariably, it is from someone who knows more about what your critics say than what you actually say. Is there a quick resource to point people to since I doubt they’re going to buy your books any time soon?

    • BDEhrman January 7, 2024 at 5:06 am

      No, I don’t have something like that, but I do answer every questoin I get.

      I don’t understand this person’s criticism. I assume they haven’t read my books or listent to my lectures. Every time — repeatedly — that I say there are hundreds of thousands of differences in the manuscript I say, in the next sentence, almost always using these precise words, “but the vast majority of them are insignificant, immaterial, and don’t matter for *anything* other than to show that ancient scribes can spell no better than my students can today.”
      I really don’t mind people having informed objections to what I say. But I get really irritated when peole say things that aren’t true based on what someone else has said, when neither of them has heard or bothered to read what I actually say. Sigh… Maybe I should post on this.

  28. hillside-seeker January 5, 2024 at 1:00 pm

    So now we learn that our universe possibly has trillions of galaxies, and we have long known that it is expanding. It all brings to mind George Carlin’s question . . . “What is it expanding into?”

    • BDEhrman January 7, 2024 at 5:10 am

      Yup. And it’s an answer physicists answer clearly. It is not expanding *into* anything. It itself is the thing. It’s hard to get our minds around and it’s against our commonsense, but, then again, so is a lot of physics. If we based science on what we thought made sense we never would have had modern science (starting with Newton, who first realized this).

  29. blache January 5, 2024 at 1:26 pm

    Do you find that focus as intriguing as Genesis 1:1-3? I ask the question because I am reading “Moby Dick, or The Whale,” and those verses seem to imply that God called the earth forth from the face of the deep waters. I have read that other sources have similar teachings about the deep. I think Melville pondered the vastness of the oceans in the same vein as we look today to the universe. I often wonder if something non-sentient could produce sentient beings! Poor Job rebuked when asked, ““Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? ” It is interesting to ponder the desire for immortality from the perspective of Father Mapple’s sermon in Moby Dick when he says, ” I leave eternity to thee, for what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?.” Thank you for letting me muse.

  30. FAM55 January 5, 2024 at 2:19 pm

    Makes one wonder also, if there’s so much room in the universe and if there is a Creator God who thinks humans are the best part of the creation, why that God wouldn’t have populated more of it with creatures who could add to the great throng of God worshippers and make the party mega sized. You’d think that would be more fitting for an infinite being who seems to enjoy getting lots of praise and attention from creatures such as ourselves. Maybe there’s more of us doing a better job of things out there somewhere. Who knows?

  31. Elkojohn January 5, 2024 at 3:25 pm

    Beauty in the Sky Above me
    Beauty in the Valley Below
    Beauty All Around me
    Music Paintings Writings Kindness
    Created –by Nature –by gifted humans
    Beauty surrounds my intentional focus
    Yet within All that is Beauty
    There resides
    war famine cruelty greed hatred
    Inflicted –by malicious humans
    How can my sentient mind comprehend
    –Beauty in Creativity
    –truth in awareness
    –Sorrow in suffering
    –banality of evil

    The Unknowable Unknown

  32. scotthaskin January 5, 2024 at 3:50 pm

    An estimated 2 trillion galaxies in the universe, likely more, each containing 400 billion stars on average. Our feeble minds really can’t fathom that size an scale. Heaven forbid we try to imagine how many planets there are around each star or the added enormity considering multiverses. This result all came from science which has (or should) increase our wonderment (awe), even more than the Psalmist. Yet, this also increases our understanding of how small we are and, perhaps, insignificant. Should we consider, or conclude, this is all a natural revelation from a higher order being(s)? It’s an age old question. Maybe it is, but then 100,000 “why” questions follow that can’t be answered with any authority. As an engineer I think about how the universe could create a conscious mind (through an evolutionary process) by randomness. That blows my mind as much, or event more, as the size and scale of the known universe. Lastly, what I absolutely love about the scientific enterprise is mankind can’t get his grimy little hands on it (like the Bible). He can try, but over time his error (sin) will be exposed.

  33. drkdowd January 5, 2024 at 4:41 pm

    Brian Cox says we are just clever apes who have had the time to evolve cosmic awareness on a planet in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ of an average star in the quiet outer arm of an average galaxy. What amazes him is that we can know this.
    Carl Sagan said we are a way for the Universe to understand itself.
    As far as we know, and it is looking like we are correct, we are the only surviving advanced form of life within 100 light years, and possibly this entire galaxy.

  34. mycat999 January 5, 2024 at 4:44 pm

    I’ve been listening to Tim Alberta’s book “The Kingdom, The Power, and The Glory. About Evangelicals and extremism.

    It does seem this Christian nationalism has been gaining steam since the 70s early 80s.

    Do you thing we may be witness a birth of a new non orthodox Christian religion in America?

    • BDEhrman January 7, 2024 at 5:16 am

      One never knows! And one should never be surprises…. This one, from where I stand, would be scary.

  35. Stratovaari January 5, 2024 at 5:31 pm

    Thank you for this post.

    I have also looked at those JWST images with amazement and wonder. What I see there is the continuos generation and destruction of stars and worlds. Since the start (if there ever was one) of the universe the forming of the stars and everything has continued and is continuing. There never has been a God who created the world in six days an rested on the seventh after completing his work.

    But to me this does not diminish the glory of the wonders of the universe or the tiny matters and things in our flash our short existece. Actually, it makes them even brighter in their glory.

  36. Brew0981 January 5, 2024 at 7:39 pm

    There are so many galaxies that their number can’t be determined by counting. But I think most recent estimates are in the range of a few hundred billion. And that’s only the observable universe.
    And speaking of numbers. Here’s one that that rivals the galaxy count. Cranking away on psalm 8 in the psalmist’s brain were 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synaptic connections. So the psalmist really isn’t that paltry number wise, if God’s counting neurons.

    • BDEhrman January 7, 2024 at 5:17 am

      I believe they are now saying at least 2 trillion. And boy, I sure wish I had a few more neurons….

  37. HomoSapien January 5, 2024 at 9:29 pm

    Yes, exactly, imho. My opinion matters not, I know, because I am not a scholar in this area (or any area ; – ). So, as a common citizen of this world, I attempt to find scholars in whom I can trust. Am I wrong in my selections? I cannot know without digging deep beyond my abilities. So, I must make judgments.

    My judgments, the two scholars upon whom I trust based upon my personal reasoning, are:

    1 – Bart Ehrman
    2 – Neil De Grasse-Tyson

    Bart, have you ever had a conversation with Neil? If so, I’d love to have access to the link.

    Brian Chapman
    Cedar Rapids, Iowa / USA

    • BDEhrman January 7, 2024 at 5:17 am

      I’m afraid not. But he’s one brilliant fellow.

    • SteveHouseworth January 7, 2024 at 10:20 pm

      And Neil has said that the universe has no obligation to make sense to us.

      Understand that size, wonder, awe, complexity, etc. are from our perspective but are not necessary for our awareness of the universe. Similarly, we think that humans are a unique species on this third rock from the sun. This colors our perspective of our place on earth, e.g. to dominate and control it. Truth is that we are only one species on this third rock. Other species such as bacteria and fungi have destroyed millions of humans and will probably continue to do so while humans are helpless against them. Viruses are not even living organisms and they have destroyed millions of humans. However, humans don’t share the same wonder and awe about these other species.

      Go figure.

  38. RD January 5, 2024 at 10:29 pm

    Good question. During my upbringing in a Christian fundamentalist household and church I was taught about our place in the universe as follows:

    God created the universe approximately 6000 years ago. Included was the planet earth on which humans and other living beings were created. God knew that the humans would fail to do his will and would sin so he had to prepare a place of punishment for them. The punishment involved torment in fire, first in Hell and eventually in the Lake of Fire where the torment would continue on forever. However, he provided a means for the humans to avoid this punishment which would take effect provided they accepted it. Unfortunately, the majority would not and would therefore wind up in the Lake of Fire. The chosen few that did accept it would wind up in eternal bliss in Heaven.

    So there you have it. Our ultimate place in the universe is either in Heaven or in the Lake of Fire.

  39. revgeoff January 6, 2024 at 6:49 am

    Your post Bart links in to my personal wrestling with the wonder of the universe, and if there is a creator God the lack of involvement he has with the humans who live on planet earth.
    The evangelicals, of which I was one go on all the time about how God loves us, and how he has a personal plan for us, when in reality the amount of pain and suffering that goes on in the world proves that is codswallop.
    Somebody surely though made these solar systems. I think I am considering more and more the thoughts behind Deism. Would love to hear some of your views on Deism Bart.

    • BDEhrman January 9, 2024 at 8:50 pm

      I have nothing against deism or people who hold to it. I”ve just never seen any reason to myself. I’m not an expert on it, but it seems to me that deists are often people who want to hold on to the idea of there being a god out there but knowing that a God active in the world doesn’t make sense. So they say there’s a god not active in the world. But I can’t think of any reason to think there is a god like that….

      • AngeloB January 11, 2024 at 3:43 am

        Are there deists outside of the Western context?

        • BDEhrman January 14, 2024 at 2:07 pm

          Great question. I don’t know!

          • AngeloB January 15, 2024 at 7:28 pm

            Okay. I might find that out myself!

  40. tcasto January 6, 2024 at 10:47 am

    Hi Bart. Can you explain the significance of “man” and “the son of man”? What do these terms mean?

    In your work on the NT, you’ve said that Jesus’ use of the phrase “son of man” referred to an angelic figure that was coming to oversee the apocalypse. Pretty sure that’s a separate discussion.

    • BDEhrman January 9, 2024 at 8:52 pm

      Huge question. “Man” used to be used as a generic term for “human beings.” “Son of man” sometimes refers to a male. In the Bible it can refer to a mortal being; or in a technical sense to a divine judge of the earth (Dan. 7:13-14); and in the Gospels to Jesus (as a self reference)

  41. mechtheist January 7, 2024 at 8:13 am

    When Apollo 11 took off, I was already a veteran launch watcher for years, on our little B&W TV no less. One of my favorite pastimes as a kid was perusing Time/Life books, especially The Universe and Mathematics. It’s amazing what we’ve learned just since then, the universe has expanded almost as fast as it did during its inflationary phase back at a sub-atto second age.

    Compare the convictions held by believers vs nonbelievers. Think about a god that could create this universe, and the even far more complex life, something vastly more above us than we above bacteria, and it did all of that with us as the end product? AND expects us to worship it? Really? BUT, lets just assume that’s true. Consider the power, the knowledge and capabilities needed to pull such thing off, the unfathomable finesse required to get to this stage and not show a shred of a fingerprint in all of the cosmos or evolution? And STILL, this is the best it could do? Really? This much evil, this much suffering? Who could believe that without something warping their ability to think rationally?

  42. Old_Agnostic January 7, 2024 at 9:25 pm

    I used to feel painfully small and insignificant when looking at the stars or Hubble’s deep field image.

    But the law of impermanence rules all. Now I look at the stars and know they too will die. The universe might collapse or Big Rip, it will certainly go dark. Even black holes radiate away. Everything is temporary.

    The iron in your blood came from an exploded star, and the oxygen it carries might have come from another exploded star billions of years ago. How did those stars fit into the universe?

    This topic takes me back to Ecclesiastes. Vapors, vanities, meaninglessness, chasing the wind… There will come a day when it will be impossible to show I ever lived, even if I build a pyramid, set foot on Mars, or whatever.

    But I find a mortal’s worth of meaning because there’s a time to mourn and dance, love and hate, gather and scatter…

    This thing called Life that make copies of itself, I’m a member of that in a universe where everything is temporary. That’s how I fit into the universe, and I love it. I embrace my mortality. Living forever sounds kind of awful anyway.

  43. Jimmy January 8, 2024 at 11:09 am

    I am in awe of the vastness of the known universe.
    I also appreciate the beauty of it. The mountains,oceans ,snow , rain, trees/flowers and different kinds of animals. From dogs to cats from fish of the sea to birds of the air and everything in between.

    Humans having conscientious and the ability to feel love and appreciate the things around them is awesome!

  44. stevenpirog January 8, 2024 at 2:49 pm

    Here’s another kicker- “you” are less human than you probably think. The number of cells from micro-organisms in your body is thought to outnumber the amount of human cells in your body by approximately 1.3:1, some estimates are more.

    Of course your human cells make up much more biomass, but still a bit suprising.

  45. Hon Wai Lai January 9, 2024 at 9:14 am

    Liberal Christians are open to the idea humans are not the only sentient creatures in the universe, capable of relationship with the creator. Even some conservative Christians have theologies not predicated on uniqueness of humans in the cosmos, though they may have difficulty entertaining the notion of Little Green Christs incarnating into alien worlds to save fallen aliens.

    Our observable universe is unimaginably vast. Within cosmology, it is an open question whether our universe is finite or infinite in size. The latter suggests an infinite number of planets, making it inevitable of supporting infinite number of intelligent species. The vastness of our universe, is multiplied if our universe is merely part of a multiverse. All these are further multiplied if “many worlds interpretation” of quantum mechanics is true (, implying numerous parallel universes resembling our own.

    I wonder does the firmament picture includes a water cycle. After all, it should be obvious to the ancients that water on earth evaporates. If flow of water was entirely one way, from the firmament onto the (flat?)earth, surely eventually all water from the top will run out, and water at the bottom will be saturated. Then again, I doubt ancient scientists thought that far.

  46. fizikci January 10, 2024 at 1:52 pm

    This post reminds me of this quote from Richard Feynman (Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965):

    “It doesn’t seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil—which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.”

  47. SBrudney091941 January 11, 2024 at 9:51 pm

    And our galaxy is 100,000 light years across! That alone boggles my mind. When I hear believers talk about the awe they feel over God’s creation, I think of my primary philosophy teacher who pointed out to us that wonder or awe (with which philosophy begins) has no idea whence came what gives him awe. He has no words; it is the awe of NOT knowing. Once you say it’s God’s doing, you’re leaving the territory of awe.

    • BDEhrman January 14, 2024 at 3:00 pm

      Yeah, that happens to lot of people. But I know a lot of others who stand in awe at God’s doing….

  48. kellygene63 January 12, 2024 at 1:10 am

    I often ask why so many humans think we are so special that a god is here to serve us. God will make things fair and punish the bad for us at some point not. It’s an amazing miracle that life has evolved from nature over billions of years. I don’t believe we have any purpose or reason other than the purpose humanity defines for ourselves. Chaos theory says the universe is a massive, unpredictable mess, just like us humans.

  49. fragmentp52 January 17, 2024 at 4:43 am

    Our existence, our consciousness, the universe, life itself, are complete mysteries. No person (past or present) understands why we’re here. Humans are good at finding things to fill in the time whilst we’re here, but in terms of understanding the purpose and meaning of existence, it will always be a mystery. Why do we even exist ?

    In terms of the universe, we are a speck of a speck of a speck. I would have thought this fact alone would make all humans incredibly humble and self effacing, bu that’s clearly not the case.

    The only thing that makes sense to me, and that eases the pain and sadness, is to help others and to work towards minimal suffering and pain for all. And that includes animals and the earth itself.

Leave A Comment