“Astronomical observations continue to demonstrate,” Victor Stenger affirms, “that the earth is no more significant than a single grain of sand on a vast beach.” What astronomical observations may, in fact, have demonstrated is that the earth is no more numerous than a single grain of sand on a vast beach. Significance is, of course, otherwise.

The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its scientific pretensions by David Berlinski

Let’s consider those folks who believe (and think that we must agree) that science has all the answers to life’s questions. This position is called scientism. We are told by the scientism-ists that we are insignificant because we are a small part of the universe. But, how many there are of something is not a measure of its significance; for example:

  • In a house of cards; there may be many cards, but some of them are significant in that if they are disturbed, the entire structure crashes.
  • There are infinite amount of numbers, and yet the numbers pi and e are quite significant.
  • There may be 100,000,000 sperm in an ejaculation, but the only one that was significant was the one that fertilized the egg and made you.
  • Diamonds have significant value specifically because there aren’t many of them.
  • There are billions of people on the planet, and yet many people have someone they call a significant other.
  • Your significant other may make 1000 gestures in a day, and yet you may find only one of them significant. Someone else makes that same gesture (say, from a passing car) and you might consider it insignificant.

The notion of “cosmic significance” is a category mistake — significance implies choice which implies consciousness. 150,000 people may die every day, but the death of someone you know has increased significance.

Thus, how many there are of something does not determine significance. There may be “billions and billions” of planets in the universe, but how many of them contain you? One. If you’re “one in a million” isn’t that a complement? How about “one in a hundred trillion”?

Descartes famously wrote “I think, therefore I am.” I’m going to change it to “I think, therefore I am… significant.”

 Merzperson at English Wikipedia [Public domain]