Is the universe too big?

In a comment on an earlier post, I was asked if I am bothered by the size of the observable universe, that it makes God’s concern for mankind implausible.  As I understand it, the idea that an omnipotent God made a very large universe is not problematic, but the worry is that He seems to have singled out one particular species on one particular planet in an unreasonable way.  I should warn readers that I may be a bad person to address this issue.  Long exposure to large numbers had desensitized me to them, enough that it takes some effort for me to even grasp the issue.

Are humans tiny?  Well, the Planck length gives a smallest length scale of 10^{-35}m, and the cosmological constant is 10^{-122} Planck length{}^{-2}, giving a largest length scale of 10^{61} Planck lengths (latex 10^{26}$m, also about the distance to the cosmological horizon at the universe’s current age), so in log space human size (meters) is around the middle, a bit on the big size.  Could the universe have been much closer to our own scale while still being habitable to us?  To give the universe a finite size, we’re presumably talking about non-trivial topologies.  Stephen Barr takes up this question for (if I recall correctly) a closed, spatially S^3 universe, and finds that, no, the universe must be enormous or it would collapse long before we could have evolved.  I thought maybe this limit could be evaded for a flat (k=0) universe where I just identify x=-L with x=L (similarly for y, z) for a “modest” universe size L (a spatially T_3 universe).  But no, that kills perturbations at longer wavelengths, screws up structure formation unless I keep the universe huge.  So, it would seem that with the laws of nature we’ve got, God had to make the universe big to grow us naturally.  Of course, he didn’t have to grow us naturally.

My problem with this line of thinking, that mankind must be “big” in a theistic world, is deeper, though.  I simply don’t assume that humans, or intelligent life itself, is God’s primary concern in creating the universe.  Why must we believe that?  We are told that God loves us and has a plan for us.  God overlooks nothing, and He values each of His creatures to the exact degree that they are valuable.  As Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  Perhaps there are things more important even than us.  What if God’s main reason for creating man was to give his angels training as guardian angels before moving them up to more important things?

If a person thinks that importance correlates with size or mass, he should have no quarrel with theism itself.  Perhaps God was really mostly concerned with dark matter halos when He created the universe.  Suppose instead that you rebel against such thoughts, convinced that man, that thinking reed, is greater than such lifeless, mindless things.  If you are right, then God knows it, and He cares more about us than dark matter, supermassive black holes, or the interstellar medium.  After all, you were able to overlook mere size or mass to find a truer measure of importance, and if you can do it, surely God can do it.  In either case, it is your belief in the value rank of different creatures that causes you to believe what you do about what is important for God, not the belief in God itself.

Book review: Modern Physics and Ancient Faith

Modern Physics and Ancient Faith
by Stephen Barr (2003)

Trying to relate religion and science is a perilous enterprise; philosophy is supposed to be the glue that fits them together.  Professor Barr avoids many dangers by taking a limited goal.  Materialists, he says, often claim that science shows the universe looking more like materialism would expect it to look like than what religion would expect it to look like.  While not a proof of materialism, it would certainly count in its favor.  Barr contests this claim, saying that while it may have been true one hundred years ago, the last century of developments in physics, cosmology, and mathematics have reversed the situation, and the universe now looks much more like what a Christian would have expected.  Of course, the current picture may change again, and even if it doesn’t materialism would remain logically possible.  Still, the “natural reading” of things has moved markedly in our favor.

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The tribal Catholic’s strange new respect for Pope Francis

Both the Church’s enemies and disgruntled traditionalists are shocked that the Pope doesn’t believe accusations against his clergy on what he regards as insufficient evidence.

“Don’t be led by the nose by the leftists who orchestrated all of this,” the pope said.

If the Pope really said that, I take back all the nasty things I’ve said about him these past years.  It is a brilliantly political statement; it names the enemy, something neither Benedict nor John Paul the Apologizer ever dared to do.

Obviously, I don’t know any more than Pope Francis or the media whether Bishop Barros actually watched Fr. Fernando Karadima sexually abuse anybody.  The accusation sounds far-fetched, but weird things sometimes happen.  A great deal is made of the fact of the accuser’s abuse itself being regarded as credible by authorities.  However, if he is a genuine victim of clerical sexual abuse, then he has an incentive to harm the Church, and an attempt to calumniate a higher-ranking cleric is a distinct possibility.

It is ill-advised to give purported (or even actual) victims of clerical sexual abuse some sort of sacred status.  Most of them are, after all, enemies of the Church.  Yes, I know, you’re shocked that I wrote that.  “But Bonald, they are victims; they are the aggrieved.”  To which I say that you are confusing categories.  “Victim”, “aggrieved” are moral categories.  I am only making a political statement.  People trying to seize Church assets, damage the Church’s reputation, or enact anti-Catholic legislation are enemies.  The suspicion that an enemy has good reason to hate you is even more reason to be wary of him.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of Carl Schmitt’s insight:  we must separate political from moral categories.  The enemy is not necessarily evil; don’t demonize him, but recognize that he is a threat. Regard him emotionally the way you would natural disasters.

In fact, morality is often very difficult to determine.  Contrary to the comic book picture of the world you get from the media, when groups fight, there are usually legitimate claims and grievances on both sides.  Recognizing who wants to damage your group, on the other hand, is almost always straightforward.  And it is usually the most important fact.

In the above article, the anti-Catholic Boston Globe is quoted as saying

When Pope Francis slandered victims of sexual abuse, ironically by accusing those very victims of slandering a Chilean bishop who was complicit in that abuse, he confirmed what some critics have said all along, what I have always resisted embracing: Pope Francis is a company man, no better than his predecessors when it comes to siding with the institutional Roman Catholic Church against any who would criticize it or those, even children, who have been victimized by it.

Properly so, because the institutional Roman Catholic Church is the body of Christ, the arc of salvation, our tribe.  Its survival takes priority over any other consideration.

By saying he needs to see proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the abuse perpetrated by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, Francis has shown himself to be the Vatican’s newest Doubting Thomas. And it’s not a good look.

He wants evidence?  Shocking!  There’s a moral panic to go along with here.  The same people who insist the Church pay out million dollar settlements demand we always operate under the assumption that no one would ever have an incentive to make a false accusation.  Accusers must be believed, with no questions asked!  That’s seriously their position, to be applied only against their enemies, of course.

What infuriates me the most is the hypocrisy of it all.  Laws properly put caps on public school sexual abuse payments, because a community simply cannot allow its ability to educate its children to be held hostage to its least scrupulous teacher and to legal fortune.  Some of us think the Church also has a crucial job to perform.  The journalists say they want us stripped of our communal assets and our reputations destroyed because they care so much more about our children than we do; the world wants to protect our children from the Church.  As if the world were so much safer, so much more scrupulous!  Some of us think we need the Church in a functional state to help protect our children from the world, which knows how to destroy both body and soul.

It doesn’t upset me anymore

So, the Pope has presented an Order of St. Gregory award for meritorious service to the Church to an abortion zealot to honor her holy and humanitarian work in the promotion of baby murder.  And make no mistake, whatever some lowly Vatican official says after the fact, that was the message everybody knew that everyone would take, so it is indeed the real message.  So, all of those dissident priests and nuns who defied John Paul II promoting abortion, sodomy, and communism out of loyalty to a “future Church” of their imagination have been vindicated, right?  The future Church has arrived, and it looks just like they said it would.  And should we say that those of us who were loyal to the faith delivered to the Apostles have once again been shown up as fools?

Well, not so fast.  One could just as well ask why those dissidents didn’t already feel vindicated at the time.  After all, most of Christendom–what were once the kingdoms of France and England, the Holy Roman Empire, and even the Papal States–were already theirs, already their playthings warped beyond recognition.  Why did eventual validation from that little holdout with the Vatican and its minuscule band of supporters matter at all?  And yet, when European civilization, all of which was once the Church, split into the 99% and the 1%, no one doubted that the title of Church, which once belonged to the whole, rightfully belonged to the 1%, and no one doubted that the 99% were the apostate.

Then there is that little technicality that the Church’s official teaching is still that abortion is murder, and this will always be the official teaching no matter how long popularity-hungry progressive clergy decide to ignore it.

Satan and his liberal minions keep conquering territory, one institution at a time and one soul at a time, only to see the authority of his conquests slip away.  Have you noticed that conservative writers can get lots of positive press by endorsing gay marriage, but then the public loses interest in them?  Who’s following Jody Bottum or Wendell Berry these days?  Once an intellectual endorses gay marriage, everybody knows that the Left owns them.  If they’ll sign on to that, they’ll never hold firm anywhere else.  Even the Left finds them boring.  Pope Francis is, as Rusty Reno has pointed out, extremely predictable and thus boring.  One can always expect sentimentality in service of first-world prejudices.  The first time the Vatican praised a sexual revolutionary or a eugenicist it was news, but now nobody cares.  A Leftist Papacy is one that everyone, Left and Right, will ignore.  Only the people and institutions resisting the sexual revolution are real, are independent, are alive.  The rest are just pod people, and the other pod people know it.

So it doesn’t bother me anymore.  Pope Francis isn’t going to infallibly declare heresy or abolish or desecrate the sacraments.  In my little thought experiment, even a pope who did do those things wouldn’t destroy the Church.  There will be a remnant, and no matter how small it is, it will be the locus of attention–of hostility for the Enemy, of hope for us.  For too long, I’ve been fretting as if the Pope has Jesus Christ held hostage the Vatican and can shoot Him at a moment’s notice.  But our Lord is quite a bit too slippery, if you catch my meaning, for that.  Now the Left has the Vatican to play with, excepting the dogmas and sacraments of the Church which even the Pope knows he cannot touch, but they will find it as barren as all their other conquests.

I defy the moral arc of history. The Catholic tribalist and the will to live

One may certainly raise doubts about Locke’s theory that personal identity through time rests on memory, but it surely touches on something true.  Certainly our sense of continuity through time comes through memory.  If someone wanted to replace my memories with those of another person, I would resist it as a kind of death.  When it comes to collective identities, though, Locke’s position is indisputable.  That two generations have the same collective identity means that there is a group memory or perspective that has been handed down from one to the other.  To set aside one such collective mind and embrace another is the death of a people.

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A response to a laxist

Fr. Z. brings this to our attention:

The diocese in Albano, Italy is setting up a shelter for separated or divorced fathers who, having to pay monthly livelihood to wife and children, do not have a house to sleep in. This is Francis’ Church of mercy that Catholic rigorists don’t like.

— Massimo Faggioli (@MassimoFaggioli) January 12, 2018

Given that these men are living arguments for the evil of divorce, and the evil of a legal regime that encourages women to eject their children’s fathers for frivolous reasons. a reply from rigorists is not difficult to formulate.

If we had our way, these men would be living in their homes, their children would have fathers, and the law would not encourage female rebelliousness.

Next subject.

A new batch of deplorables

Quite a crop linked from Arts and Letters Daily just this morning.

Louis-Ferdinand Céline:

Alongside Marcel Proust, Céline is considered one of the greatest French novelists and stylists of the twentieth century, notably for his 1932 masterpiece, Voyage au bout de la nuit (Journey to the End of the Night). He is also recognized as a vile anti-Semite, xenophobe, misogynist, misanthropist, and early pro-Nazi who nourished the general defeatist spirit before and during the war and who, through his writings and articles, infused into French society a deeply insidious anti-Semitism.

Ezra Pound:

Perhaps no other poet in the 20th century presents more forcefully than does Ezra Pound the need to separate the life from the work — and the impossibility of doing so. Pound’s visionary role in leading poetry in English into the modern, after the etiolations of the late 19th century, seems incontestable. So do his generosity and loyalty as a critic and friend (to Eliot, Joyce and others), his tirelessness as a teacher, his unorthodox brilliance as a translator from multiple languages and above all, his supreme ambition for poetry, expressed in his long poem the “Cantos,” and in its animating conviction that poetry not only could but should guide the practical motions of society itself.

On the other hand, Pound was a sort of Antaeus. As long as his feet were on the ground that fed him with images and experiences, he was a giant. In the air, as a seer, a social theorist and a philosopher, he was notoriously vulnerable. He worshiped strong leaders; he indulged in a virulent anti-Semitism; and only slyly, belatedly, offhandedly did he take responsibility for mistaken actions and for detestable opinions that he expressed in writing. His life resists posterity’s best efforts to make it resemble a morality play. His arrogance, his ambition and his hopes for his country led him to record more than 100 radio broadcasts critical of the American government while he was in Mussolini’s Italy between 1941 and 1943.

Also, yesterday they linked to Peter Hitchens’ First Things article on the trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, in which we are reminded that D. H. Lawrence had his characters express some pretty unfriendly attitudes toward Jews and lesbians.  Hitchens raises the wonderfully ironic possibility that future editions of the notorious book will probably be subjected to the new censorship.

So, what are we up to now?  Deplorables gave us the Enlightenment.  Given Frege and Heidegger, one could argue that both strands of modern philosophy, analytic and continental, trace to deplorables.  Then it turns out they gave us the theory of evolution.  Now literature too seems to owe reaction quite a debt.  When these guys are done digging, it may turn out that modernity owes more to those it labels villains than those it credits as heroes.


I’ve just noticed that the other article linked yesterday on Arts and Letters Daily was also about deplorables in the arts.  It’s getting hard to keep up.  Here’s one bit.  George Orwell called Stephen Spender and W.H. Auden “fashionable pansies”, clearly showing insufficient reverence for what Jesuits refer to as the “differently oriented”.