Tag Archives: Heat Death of the Universe

Why Russell was Wrong VII: The End of the World as we Know it


Having advanced the (in my view, weak) argument that perceived flaws in creation shows us that there is no creator, Russell turns to what could be called the “ultimate” flaw in creation:

Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay you get the sort of conditions of temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system. You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending — something dead, cold, and lifeless.

This is a very odd argument. Christianity has declared, since long before atheists ever did, that humanity’s time in this universe is limited. This is the doctrine of the new heavens and new Earth. It is the atheist who must grapple with the demise of humanity; on the Christian view, there is every reason to have hope.

But Russell is not alone in making this claim; I’ve heard this same argument from Christopher Hitchens (who may well have learned it from Russell). That these men think, millennia after the fact, that Christianity was caught off guard by the idea that creation will die (unless it is renewed by God) is very strange. It is the secularists of the Enlightenment (and their vision of unlimited progress) who’s achilles’ heel had been found.

Given the amount of cynicism in Russell’s speech, it is a little tempting to say that Russell tends to think anything is a point against Christianity so long as it is negative or hopeless. That is merely speculation but, in fairness to the idea, Christianity is an extremely optimistic philosophy. Those who understand Christian beliefs, if they reject them, tend to do so for the unabashed optimism of the Gospel.

Still, this objection clearly requires that we assume Christianity to be false at the outset to have any validity.

Though he doesn’t go so far as to see the logical response, Russell does acknowledge that some will be more, rather than less, apt to believe in God after hearing this. For the sake of keeping my posts shorter than I have been, I’ll address that issue next time.