This is one of the most amazing quotes I have ever read by a non-theist.
Physicist James S. Trefil, who describes himself as "[not] a religious man," nevertheless concludes that "we are alone in the galaxy" and that "everything we have learned about life in the past twenty years shows that we are unique, and therefore special in God's sight" (my emphasis)!:
"What if We Are Alone? The most common argument that I have seen advanced against the proposition that we are alone in the galaxy is that it is anti-Copernican, and, therefore, goes against five centuries of Western intellectual tradition. There are a number of retorts that can be made against this argument. First, ideas are not Copernican or anti-Copernican; they are right or wrong. Second, after so many impeccably Copernican books have been written showing that we must be very junior and unimportant members of the Galactic Club, it is time for someone to marshal the rather formidable arguments that can be made for the opposite viewpoint. For, as we have seen in this book, the evidence we have at present clearly favors the conclusion that we are alone. From the formation of the sun as a single G star to the evolution of the earth's atmosphere to the conditions of the earth's recent climate, everything points to the same conclusion-we are special. But we are living on an insignificant speck of rock going around an undistinguished star in a low-rent section of the galaxy. We are not the center of the universe. Maybe so, but we are special. But we share our biochemistry with millions of life forms, from flatworms on up. We are one member of a large family of animals using one particular variant of carbon chemistry known as DNA. Maybe so, but we are special. Why? Because on this particular bit of rock, circling this particular sun, all of the millions of factors happened to work themselves out so that the first fragile molecules had enough time to form complicated chains, and these chains were given just the right amount of protection to form simple living systems, and these living systems changed their environment in just the right way so as to narrowly escape twin catastrophes and put oxygen into the atmosphere. This in turn allowed life to emerge onto land, and since the planet's orbit was just right, the weather changed, forcing the apelike creatures on the African savannah to build tools, fashion shelters, and start to think about the world around them. Because only on this insignificant speck of rock have beings evolved who can look at the universe and ask the question, `Why?' If I were a religious man, I would say that everything we have learned about life in the past twenty years shows that we are unique, and therefore special in God's sight. Instead I shall say that what we have learned shows that it matters a great deal what happens to us. We are not the snail darters of the galaxy-one more life form whose ultimate fate is of little moment in the grand scheme of things. If we succeed in destroying ourselves, it will be a tragedy not only for the human race but for the entire galaxy, which will have lost the fruit of a 15-billion-year experiment in the formation of sentient life." (Trefil, J.S., "Conclusions: James S. Trefil," in Rood, R.T. & Trefil, J.S., "Are We Alone?: The Possibility of Extraterrestrial Civilizations," Charles Scribner's Sons: New York NY, 1981, pp.251-252. Emphasis original).
By "Copernican" above is meant the so-called Copernican Principle or Mediocrity Principle, which in turn is based on the plurality of inhabited worlds doctrine of the ancient Greek materialist philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC). Epicurus was the father of Epicurean materialism, the anti-God philosophy which was "used ... in the Enlightenment as a weapon to undermine Christianity (and continues to be used to the present day for the same purpose)", as Benjamin Wiker, a Roman Catholic theologian and Discovery Institute Senior Fellow, explains, "The assertion of a plurality of worlds both rests on, and reinforces, the assumption that creation of complexity is easy, so easy that the combining and recombining of atoms creates not just one world, but many. So easy, indeed, that invoking a divine cause is completely superfluous" (my emphasis):
"To achieve this reductionism even more completely, Epicurus found another ingenious way to help eliminate our natural awe. It may sound, at first, a strange way to do it, but he reduced the universe by expanding it. The universe, according to Epicurus, is unlimited, both in respect to size and in respect to the `number of bodies and the magnitude of the void.' [Inwood, B. & Gerson, L.P., "The Epicurus Reader," Hackett: Indianapolis, 1994, 10.41-42] That means that, given an infinitude of time with an unlimited number of atoms in an infinite expanse of the void, there will be `an unlimited number of cosmoi [the plural of `cosmos'], and some are similar to this one and some are dissimilar ... [for] there is no obstacle to the unlimitedness of worlds.' [Ibid., 10.45] ... in Epicurus's argument, the hypothetical infinity is useful for asserting that, since there is an unlimited number of atoms and they move eternally and combine easily, then there must be an unlimited number of worlds. This `plurality of worlds' argument is essential to Epicurean materialism, and is used again in the Enlightenment as a weapon to undermine Christianity (and continues to be used to the present day for the same purpose). Why, then, would a plurality of worlds be so useful to Epicureanism? The assertion of a plurality of worlds both rests on, and reinforces, the assumption that creation of complexity is easy, so easy that the combining and recombining of atoms creates not just one world, but many. So easy, indeed, that invoking a divine cause is completely superfluous. There must be a plurality of worlds, the materialist reasons, because an infinite universe during an infinite time using an unlimited number of atoms in perpetual motion, simply must produce a multitude of complexity out of simplicity. This belief is the origin of the `monkey-at-the-typewriter' argument, where even a monkey, randomly pecking away, can produce Shakespearean sonnets, if only it has an infinite amount of time to do it. The goal of this belief is to allow enough time and material so that chance can replace intelligence: if the monkey can replace Shakespeare, then almighty chance can replace almighty God. And so, even though there was no empirical evidence of eternal atoms, no empirical evidence that such atoms combine easily to form complex structures, no empirical evidence that the universe was infinite or the number of atoms unlimited, and no empirical evidence that there actually was a plurality of worlds, the belief in a plurality of worlds actually functioned, for Epicurus, to sustain the undemonstrated arguments on which his system itself rested. That is, the belief in a plurality of worlds reinforced the belief in the simplicity, of the atom and the case with which it could combine to create complexity. Whether for Epicurus or the modern materialist, the circular reinforcement ultimately serves to release adherents of materialism from the disturbing thought that a divine Intelligence is behind it all. Are we surprised to find that the late Carl Sagan, the chief spokesperson for materialism in the last quarter of the twentieth century, calculated that in the Milky Way galaxy alone, there would have to be one million civilizations capable of interstellar communication?" (Wiker, B., "Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 2002, pp.41-42. Emphasis original)
As for example when science populariser (i.e. propagandist) the late Carl Sagan (1934-1996) puts in the mouth of "an ... extraterrestrial observer" that we are "idiots" for thinking that "We're at the center":
"You might imagine an uncharitable extraterrestrial observer looking down on our species over all that time-with us excitedly chattering, `The Universe created for us! We're at the center! Everything pays homage to us!'-and concluding that our pretensions are amusing, our aspirations pathetic, that this must be the planet of the idiots." (Sagan, C.E., "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space," Random House: New York NY, 1994, p.17).
But as Denyse O'Leary astutely observes, "Sagan's alien is, of course, really Sagan himself, an atheist giving his own view":
"In the meantime, another related change was taking place in the way scientists viewed the universe. In the 20th century, it was fashionable to view it as blind, pitiless, and indifferent, and to describe earth as a mediocre planet in a suburban galaxy, far from the center of things. This was one of the most popular themes in the art and literature of the period. As cosmologist Stephen Hawking has said: `We are such insignificant creatures on a minor planet of a very average star in the outer suburbs of one of a hundred billion galaxies. So it is difficult to believe in a God that would care about us or even notice our existence.' [Hawking, S., in "Master of the Universe," BBC TV, 1989] This was also a key theme of Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, by astronomer Carl Sagan (1934-1996). In this book, Sagan muses on the idea that the universe is favorable to us, saying: `You might imagine an uncharitable extraterrestrial observer looking down on our species over all that time-with us excitedly chattering, `The Universe is created for us! We're at the center! Everything pays homage to us!'-and concluding that our pretensions are amusing, our aspirations pathetic, that this must be the planet of the idiots.' [p.12] Sagan's alien is, of course, really Sagan himself, an atheist giving his own view. In the next paragraph, he says that his judgment is too harsh. Indeed, it is. But not just because the judgment isn't polite. Sagan is in fact simply wrong. There is good reason to think that the cosmos is fine-tuned to allow for our existence." (O'Leary D., "By Design or by Chance?: The Growing Controversy on the Origins of Life in the Universe," 2004, pp.21-22).
And also that begs the question that there are "extraterrestrial observer[s]". If there are in fact none, then we are "at the center" of the Universe in the far more important sense that, as Trefil concludes, "only on this insignificant speck of rock have beings evolved [sic] who can look at the universe and ask the question, `Why?'". Then it would be Sagan and his Epicurean scientific materialist ilk who are the "idiots" (to use his own word). Or as the Bible puts it:
"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:22 KJV)!
Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biol).
Genesis 48:3-4. 3Jacob said to Joseph, "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz [Bethel] in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me 4and said to me, 'I am going to make you fruitful and will increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.'