Astounding as it may be, our solar system barely registers as a blip in the Milky Way galaxy, as pictured above.
As anyone who knows anything at all about astronomy knows, our Earth is one of eight planets (or nine, for those Pluto loyalists!) that orbit that gaseous ball of light and heat at the center of our solar system that we call the sun.
But if one is to take the Book of Genesis literally, the God of the Bible made the planet Earth on Day One and the sun, all of the planets and other bodies in our solar system, all of the stars (and the unmentioned planets that orbit them) in the Milky Way galaxy, and all of the billions of galaxies filled with their billions of stars and planets three days later! However, there is absolutely no evidence outside of the Bible that any such thing occurred at all.
Of course, a Biblical literalist will likely counter that by retorting that there is no evidence that it did not happen that way. If God is all powerful, then God could have made the Earth first before making the sun around which the Earth revolves. Perhaps, but not likely. Maybe it's just me, but when it comes to judging such claims, I have this annoying little quirk of requiring supporting evidence to provide independent confirmation. What criteria might suffice? How about making the Earth the only planet in the solar system, or better yet, the only planet in the Milky Way galaxy? With the discovery of increasing numbers of exoplanets, that is, planets orbiting stars outside of our solar system, it is obvious that planets are a common phenomena in our galaxy, and presumably in other galaxies as well. Therefore, if planet Earth was the first thing created in the universe, then why is it just one among presumably countless numbers of planets orbiting a star?
According to Genesis 1:16-18, "God made two great lights - the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness." In other words, the rest of the universe, according to the Bible, matters only in its relation to the Earth, amounting to little more than some sort of cosmic window dressing. The lesser light that governs the night is generally believed to be the moon, but whoever wrote the creation account in Genesis fails to note that (1) the moon has phases, and in the "new moon" phase it does not provide us any light at all, and (2) quite often the moon appears during the daytime. And while I am in a quibbling mood, the Almighty did not seem to see fit to telling whomever He passed on this tale about the creation that at certain times of the year in the polar regions, there is no lesser light to rule the night sky because the sun does not set.
As for the stars, if they provide any light at all to the Earth, it is but a bare fraction of the light they provide for their own planets. If there are any intelligent beings living on another planet in the Milky Way, I think they would find it quite amusing to be told that the star that gives light and warmth to their planet really only exists in order to provide humans with a point of reference for navigating at night on an Earth that is some hundreds or thousands of light years away. Talk about a geocentric bias!
Beyond that there are all of the stars in the Milky Way that we cannot see with the naked eye, either because they are too far away or their light is obscured by clouds of gas and dust. And then we have the other galaxies in the universe filled with their countless stars. Of course, there are a handful of galaxies that can be seen in the night sky, most notably the Magellanic Clouds. The Andromeda Galaxy can also be perceived without the aid of telescopes, though to the naked eye it appears as nothing more than a tiny fuzzy patch. That Andromeda is a star filled galaxy on the scale of the Milky Way would have been beyond the imagination of anyone before the advent of the telescope. As for the rest of the galaxies and all else that the universe contains, their existence could not even be guessed at by the priesthood of a confederation of semi-nomadic tribes who deluded themselves into thinking that they must be the chosen people of the being they believed created all that they could see. It would be analogous to an ant surveying the visible world from the top of his ant hill and assuming that everything he saw was created with him in mind.
One of my standard answers to the oft' asked question by believers in the Bible "what would it take to make you believe?" is if the Bible got the cosmos right. I mean think about it. The Bible is supposed to be the revelation of the creator of this vast, practically infinite universe to us humans here on Earth. What could this god have revealed to us in revealing the creation to us? How about clearly stating that the Earth revolved around the sun? How about the existence of Australia, Antarctica and the Americas? How about the circumference of the Earth? All of these things, when discovered, would have been devastating evidence in favor of the Bible being a product of divine revelation! Instead, it would not be until the late fifteenth century and onward (the brief Viking presence in Newfoundland aside) that Christendom would even have an inkling of these things. Again, we are told to believe that the Bible is God's revelation to us, but what discoveries has humanity made about the Earth or the universe that were facilitated because of what is written in the Bible? I can't think of anything offhand, though if any reader would care to enlighten me, I should be greatly appreciative.
Below is a video of the Enigma song Morphing Through Time, which contains a softly spoken line by Sandra Cretu that provided the inspiration for the title of this post, "We are just travelers in endless space." I don't know if it was the intention of the creator of the video, but when watching the brief segment that shows a couple of Christian monks walking through their monastery, I couldn't help but think of how small their beliefs are that our affairs on this world are somehow central to the cosmos when compared to the grandeur of the universe that is evoked in the rest of the video. It reminded me of something that Carl Sagan's widow Ann Druyan said at the Center for Inquiry conference I attended in downtown Manhattan last November about what scientists had to offer in their explanations of their discoveries, "We have a much better story to tell."