A Word About 'Sizeism'


‘Sizeism’ is a coined term to describe the prejudice which seems in-built in a modern conception of the universe and its nature. As we continue to explore space through increasingly sensitive technologically capable devices, we commonly come across the viewpoint C. S. Lewis describes in his book Miracles about the immensity of the cosmos:

Many people say, 'They could believe in miracles in olden times because they had a false conception of the universe. They thought the Earth was the largest thing in it and Man the most important creature. It therefore seemed reasonable to suppose that the Creator was specially interested in Man and might even interrupt the course of Nature for his benefit. But now that we know the real immensity of the universe—now that we perceive our own planet and even the whole Solar system to be only a speck—it becomes ludicrous to believe in them any longer. We have discovered our insignificance and can no longer suppose that God is so drastically concerned in our petty affairs' (chapter 7, A Chapter of Red Herrings).

However, this view rests upon the myth that the immensity of the universe is a recent discovery. The truth is that Ptolemy, who was alive in the second century AD, taught that in relation to the distance of the fixed stars, the whole Earth must be regarded as a point with no magnitude. Ptolemy’s astronomical system became the basis of that of the Dark and Middle Ages. The modern idea of an ignorant Middle Ages is the falsehood; the spatial insignificance of Earth had been asserted by Christian philosophers, Christian poets, and Christian moralists for one and a half millennia.

Lewis goes on:

It is a profound mistake to imagine that Christianity ever intended to dissipate the bewilderment and even the terror, the sense of our own nothingness, which come upon us when we think about the nature of things. It comes to intensify them. Without such sensations, there is no religion. Many a man, brought up in the glib profession of some shallow form of Christianity, who comes through reading Astronomy to realise for the first time how majestically indifferent most reality is to man, and who perhaps abandons his religion on that account, may at that moment be having his first genuinely religious experience.

From the modern misconception come various other idly held beliefs.

One is that, if the Earth is so small, it must therefore be insignificant and unworthy of the attention of a universal God. This brings in the question of size: something tiny must, goes this argument, be something correspondingly meaningless or unworthy. Lewis addresses the idea that merit has anything to do with the size of things in two ways:

If it is maintained that anything so small as the Earth must, in any event, be too unimportant to merit the love of the Creator, we reply that no Christian ever supposed we did merit it. Christ did not die for men because they were intrinsically worth dying for, but because He is intrinsically love, and therefore loves infinitely. And what after all, does the size of a world or a creature tell us about its 'importance' or value?