The Heavens Proclaim the Glory of the Lord

Many people that I have come across say that they believe in God, and might even acknowledge the need to conform to a moral code (quite how they discern it is another matter) but see no reason for ‘organised religion’, which they see as arbitrary creation of mankind. I think that the beauty of the cosmos provides an answer to this question and here’s why.

There is a book (and a film made from book) called the The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed. I show the film regularly to my students. Produced in 2004 by the Discovery Institute and written by Jay Richards and Guillermo Gonzalez, it describes how recent developments in astrophysics impact our sense of the place of the earth in the universe and the chances of life occurring within. It runs through all the conditions necessary for mankind to exist. (For example, we have an atmosphere that both shields us from the harmful part of the solar spectrum and is transparent to the life sustaining part of the same spectrum.) Then it details the chances of all these conditions (and there are dozens) occurring in the same place through the “random” processes that govern the laws of physics and chemistry in the universe. When all these probabilities are taken into account, the mathematics says that the chance of a place existing that can support us is negligible — so low that it is almost certain that there is no other life in the universe at all. The earth is probably the only planet in existence in the universe that can sustain intelligent life. Furthermore, it is surprising given the probable age of the universe that these conditions occurred even once, here on earth.

Then it goes further. The fact that scientists are able to study such things at all depends on the fact that man is able to observe the universe from here on earth to obtain data about the rest of  the universe which he can then analyse and draw conclusions. Surprisingly, it is not a given that he would be able to do this. In order for us to be living within the universe and able to observe the rest of it, another string of specific conditions have to be met (for example a transparent atmosphere through which we can see the stars). It turns out that these conditions coincide with those necessary for the existence of life. That is, the conditions that allow a particular form of intelligent life to exist at all are the same conditions that allow the same form of intelligent life to observe the rest of the universe. The odds of this happening are lower than negligible such that it is even hard to accept that it could ever happen. Yet it has. One conclusion that one could draw from this is that there a forces other than the laws of physics and chemistry in operation here. The case presented doesn’t prove God as Creator exists, but it certainly it supports the idea very strongly.

Furthermore it supports the idea that the universe is made for man. Read the following from a sermon by the 5th century Doctor of the Church, St. Peter Chrysologus:

Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God? Why render yourself such dishonour when you are honoured by him? Why do you ask how you were created and do not seek to know why you were made? Was not this entire visible universe made for your dwelling? It was for you that the light dispelled the overshadowing gloom; for your sake was the night regulated and the day measured, and for you were the heavens embellished with the varying brilliance of the sun, the moon and the stars. The earth was adorned with flowers, groves and fruit; and the constant marvellous variety of lovely living things was created in the air, the fields, and the seas for you, lest sad solitude destroy the joy of God’s new creation. And the Creator still works to devise things that can add to your glory. He has made you in his image that you might in your person make the invisible Creator present on earth; he has made you his legate, so that the vast empire of the world might have the Lord’s representative. Then in his mercy God assumed what he made in you; he wanted now to be truly manifest in man, just as he had wished to be revealed in man as in an image. Now he would be in reality what he had submitted to be in symbol. (Sermon 148, taken from the Office of Readings on his feast day, July 30)

This passage leads us more deeply into the question as to man’s place in this universe. If God made the universe for us to observe, then one can assume that He wanted man to go ahead and observe it. But why? This is not discussed in The Privileged Planet (I think it leaves a place for a sequel video and this is my pitch for it!). If God went to such lengths to make man so that he could see and respond to the cosmos then it suggest that there are profound reasons for his doing so. I put the forward the following reasons speculatively:

  1. The beauty and order of the cosmos point us to its Creator. We are hard-wired to see the divine order that permeates all that is seen, and through this we gain insights into the order that permeates all that is unseen. The cosmos bears the thumbprint of the One who made it and when we see its beauty we are moved to love Him and to praise Him.
  2. The beauty and order of the cosmos are models that show us how to direct that praise. The rhythms and patterns of the cosmos and the numerical description of its beauty (for example, the movements of the sun, the moon) are those upon which the patterns of our worship are based. The seasons of the liturgical year, the patterns of worship in the each week and each day are based upon this. This is the organizing principle behind “organised” religion, which is so detested by modern man. If we all worship in harmony with the cosmos, then we worship also in harmony with each other. That is why when we go to church there are others there, too. They are following the same principle. God gave us this cosmic sign to order our worship. When we worship in harmony with the cosmos, we are in harmony with all the saints and angels in the heavenly liturgy. This is what makes the liturgy the most “effective and powerful” prayer there is (as the Catechism says). Our action of love for God is sychronised perfectly with His gift of Himself for us and His grace. This is our route, therefore, to greatest joy in this life.
  3. The beauty and order of the cosmos are the models upon which all other human activity, beyond the Church, can be ordered. The culture in the broadest sense of the word can be infused with these values. To the degree that man can order time and space, he can do so in harmony with the cosmos, and therefore with the liturgy. All that he creates and does can be graceful and beautiful. When the culture reflects the cosmic order in this way, then just as with the cosmos itself, it can raise hearts and minds to God and to praise of Him in the liturgy. Everything stems from and points back to the liturgy. God is still the ultimate author of its beauty, but is now working through man and inspiring each person in his work. Historically, all Christian culture was founded on this principle and it is an important part of what makes the liturgy the basis of culture. It can be illustrated in so many ways and is the basis of my course “The Way of Beauty,” taught at Thomas More College.

The worship of God in the liturgy is the basis of the deepest personal relationship that it is possible to have; it is an earthly but supernatural participation in the heavenly state for which we are made: a perfect and dynamic exchange of love with God the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, partaking of the divine nature. Therefore, the consideration of man as a human person is founded first on this relationship. Both modern astrophysics and ancient cosmology point to the same idea: that the “heavens proclaim the glory of the Lord” and that it is intrinsic to man’s nature to see this and to respond with praise and worship God. Therefore any anthropology must be founded on the liturgical nature of the human person. It is incomplete if it does not. Similarly all considerations of man and society that rely on anthropology for their basis (such as economics) will also be incomplete if they do not take this into account.

And to come back to the original question posed at the beginning of this article: the beauty of the cosmos is an argument not only for the existence of a Creator but for the liturgy.  It sings the song that calls us to church, and to pray the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours. As was said to me recently, the Mass is a jewel in its setting, which is the Liturgy of the Hours; and the Liturgy is a jewel in its setting which is the cosmos. The heavens, therefore point to Heaven, and we participate in the Heavenly dynamic through the liturgy, which is modelled on the heavens…and so the cycle is completed, forever reinforcing and adding to itself. All of this is for man. He is indeed a privileged person.


This essay originally appeared at

David Clayton


David Clayton is the artist in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts in New Hampshire. He is a graduate of Oxford University, where he gained an M.A. in Materials Science, and Michigan Technological University, where he gained an M.S. in Engineering. He paints and draws in two Christian artistic traditions—Byzantine iconography and Western classical naturalism (training at the Charles H. Cecil Studios in Florence, Italy). He has illustrated three books for children, and his articles about art and education have appeared in Catholic publications such as Second Spring, St. Austin Review, the Catholic News Agency website, and The Catholic Herald newspaper in London.

  • Sarto

    Terrific. Buy yourself a pair of binoculars and look at the stars. Find some place with a dark sky and see wonders. The winter constellations are magnificent; in the summer, incredible views inside the milky way.

  • Tony Esolen

    It is a wonderful thing, how many stars become visible just with a pair of binoculars! You point them at a region that looks like it has a hundred stars, and — wow — there are a thousand, or ten thousand — you can’t count them.

    It was a great thing they did for the students of the Integrated Humanities Program at the U of Kansas — they took them outside at night to look at the stars. In Kansas, no less! I can hardly imagine what the night sky looks like in the winter in Kansas. I find that my students don’t know their way around the night sky, at all. Maybe I ought to do something about that …

    Whether there’s intelligent life on another planet, I don’t know. I do find it intriguing that whenever we portray intelligent life elsewhere, we portray it either as a perverted monster or as a creature oriented towards the good, the true, and the beautiful. We can’t get away from it. If there are Vulcans, then they too are searching for what we’re searching for — or Whom. And it’s difficult to see how, given an intellect and a will, it can be otherwise.

  • Aaron (one of the 23.9%)

    Quite right that the universe proclaims God’s glory, but some of the math/science may be a bit off, here. Probability based on current knowledge makes other life having existed in the universe somewhere at some time nearly certain. The trick is the nearly incomprehensible vastness of time and space involved. Recent discoveries of so many planets in orbits around alien suns has adjusted the probability of habitable planets upward dramatically (there are probably countless worlds in the universe on which life might exist, and quite a few that you could actually live on quite comfortably, once you established a basic ecosystem). But it is also very improbable that there would be any encounter with any extraterrestrial life during the likely lifespan of humanity, barring some major alterations in our current understanding of physics. Frankly, though, the existence or non-existence of extraterrestrial life doesn’t really amount to a hill of beans as far as proving or disproving Christian faith. Still more worlds, cultures, and revelations would only magnify His glory, and nothing I know of in scripture denies the existence of other worlds, once you get past the literalism that suggests the international space station should be surrounded by water.

  • Thank you for this. I’ll take your word for it that the science has been revised since this video was made. As you say, the liklihood of other intelligent life in the universe, although the starting point for the film based upon the science as it stood at the time, doesn’t change the argument I make at all. The key aspect for me is the oberservability of the universe; and that is unaffected. I agree that other forms of intelligent life would in fact add to the glory!

  • dch

    The propobilities of any particular outcome are indeed very low given the timescale and variables at play, but the probilitity of there being AN outcome are 100%. So the DI argument is nonsense and non scientific. Just another god of the gaps argument from antiquity. The logic is beyond stupid. So your magic all powerful god created a universe we know contains something on the order of 200 Billion galaxies (estimates vary). Galaxies each contain on the order of 100 billion stars. Simply put the universe is just too big a stage for the world religions to explain away as our science advances. To say there are no other life forms when there are 100 billion star in our milkyway galaxy alone is just unreasonable.

  • dch

    As for the Discovery Institute, it never updates its work based on new data being added, it really just gets idiots to put creationism into local schools science classes and leaves the local taxpayers with the legal bills when they lose in court. The case cost the school board 1 million dollars. The DI is a political org and not a scientific research org, they don’t fund or conduct scientific studies. They instead act in courts and politics.

  • Shame on you, David.

    You are leaving your readers to the tender mercies of atheists posting directly, observationally falsified drivel.

    You re doing this knowingly; that is, culpably.

    You are, therefore, that man.

  • 1. The largest visible structure in the universe is aligned in absolutely astonishing ways with the Earth:

    2. Models constructed at Oxford University in 2008, along with subsequent, peer-reviewed mathematical derivations, show that the need for “dark energy” disappears- if we dispense with the Copernican principle and place Earth at the center of a cosmic under density:

    3. Peer reviewed studies of galaxy distributions show periodic, concentric, Earth centered structure out at least a billion light years:

    Excerpt from latter (which appears in Physical Review D):

    “A widespread idea in cosmology is that the universe is homogeneous and isotropic above a certain scale. This hypothesis, usually called the cosmological principle (e.g., [1]), is thought to be a generalization of the Copernican principle that “the Earth is not in a central, specially favored position”. The assumption is that any observer at any place at the same epoch would see essentially the same picture of the large scale distribution of galaxies in the universe.

    However, according to a Fourier analysis by Hartnett & Hirano [2], the galaxy number count N from redshift z data (N–z relation) indicates that galaxies have preferred periodic redshift spacings………A natural interpretation is that concentric spherical shells of higher galaxy number densities surround us, with their individual centers situated at our location.”

    There is much, much more to come……….

  • dch

    Geo centrism , yes do please explain to me how the the earth as the 5th planet orbiting a star that is in turn moving around the center of its galaxy which is itself moving outward in the universe relative to other galaxies is at the center. Next up, age of the earth is 6000 years?

    • Umm, dch, in the heliocentric model the Earth would be the *3rd* planet orbiting the star.

      You need to tighten up your game some, if you are going to try the sarcasm thing as the basis of your schtick.

      That approach of course won’t be very effective, once people start recognizing the utterly astonishing implications of the recent cosmological observations linked above.

      Of course, you yourself provide the basic evidence which led more insightful thinkers, such as Einstein, to recognize the impossibility of the heliocentric model, of Newtonian concepts of absolute space, and hence to the adoption of the theory of Relativity as an attempt to explain the failure of all experiments, over two hundred years, to detect the universally assumed motion of Earth around Sun

      Seventy five years ago, Einstein tried to tell you:

      “The struggle, so violent in the early days of science, between the views of Ptolemy and Copernicus would then be quite meaningless. Either CS [coordinate system] could be used with equal justification. The two sentences, ‘the sun is at rest and the earth moves’, or ‘the sun moves and the earth is at rest’, would simply mean two different conventions concerning two different CS [coordinate systems].”
      —“The Evolution of Physics: From Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta, Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld, New York, Simon and Schuster 1938, 1966 p.212

      Now try and grasp that Einstein’s theory depends completely upon its assumption that the Universe is isotropic and homogeneous on its largest scales- there can be bo preferred directions or locations,

      Now try and grasp the significance of the universe-spanning axis, orienting the largest structure in the entire observable universe with *the Earth’s ecliptic and equinoxes*.

      Got that?


      Now try and grasp the implications of the following quote by atheist, creationist-bashing (but, unlike you, scientifically literate) theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss:

      ““But when you look at CMB map, you also see that the structure that is observed, is in fact, in a weird way, correlated with the plane of the earth around the sun. Is this Copernicus coming back to haunt us? That’s crazy. We’re looking out at the whole universe. There’s no way there should be a correlation of structure with our motion of the earth around the sun — the plane of the earth around the sun — the ecliptic. That would say we are truly the center of the universe.” Lawrence Krauss–

      Get back to me.

  • PS: To all of you brights out there- when reading the Krauss quote, please keep the Einstein quote in mind.

    Now perform the indicated coordinate shift.

    In the modern geocentric model, the ecliptic plane is predicted to be cosmological; that is, the ecliptic plane becomes the plane defined by the annual sequence of daily rotations of cosmos about barycenter.

    This prediction was arrived at from first principles; that is, it was deduced as a necessary cosmological condition for the model.

    It is the only model which predicted a cosmological significance for the plane of the ecliptic, and did so long before the observational discovery that the plane of the ecliptic is, in fact……..


    It is built into the universe on its very largest observable scales.

    No wonder Clifton at Oxford, Dr. George Ellis, and others, have been playing with models that abandon the Copernican principle and place Earth in the center….for a long time now, the *real* brights have been thinking about these astonishing observations and what they might mean if “plugged in” to existing models.

    The first thing we have learned is that dark energy becomes unnecessary, once we abandon the Copernican principle and place Earth at the center of the universe.

    There is much, much more to come.

  • dch

    Krauss is not in anyway a geocentrist: direct quote follows

    “What works? Science works. Geocentrism doesn’t. End of story,” Krauss said from Cleveland. “I’ve learned over time that it’s hard to convince people who believe otherwise, independent of evidence.”

  • larry elmer

    A very merry Feast of the Holy Innocents to you, Thomas C. Coleman, Jr. The ‘vow of poverty’ aspect of my comment is that I am afraid that Ron Paul’s economics is going to kill me. Already, I vote for GOP for pro-life reasons, I like to think Ron Paul’s ‘isolationism’ is peace loving, but I truly fear that the gold standard is going to make me more poor. Such is the price of saint hood.

    By the way, Ron Paul is not isolationist like pre-Admiral Perry Japan. Paul seems more isolationist like the neutral Swiss.
    We must regard ‘just’ wars with suspicion. If Lincoln could ‘pre-know’ his election would result in 600,000 deaths, he would be villain rather than hero. 600,000 is too much to pay for abolition.
    Indeed the death of anyone’s spouse, son, or daughter, is too much to pay for most anything. Feed me to the lions, Thomas. It is a cheap price for sainthood.

  • dch: Wow, you figured that out about Krauss, like, all by yourself?

    Maybe the part about “the earth going around the sun” gave it away, huh?

    Happy New Year, dch.

    Maybe once you have learned *how* to think, you will be less prone to look to others to tell you *what* to think.

  • dch

    Your bible-science died in the 16th century. I actually knew who krauss is before reading your gibberish. Why do you quote people who in know way support your crank science?

    Neither Kruass or Einstein support your biblescience
    Stop quoting them as if they do.

  • Lawrence Krauss:“What works? Science works. Geocentrism doesn’t. End of story,” Krauss said from Cleveland. “I’ve learned over time that it’s hard to convince people who believe otherwise, independent of evidence.”

    >>Alas, that would apparently not include the evidence that shows the Earth directly aligned with the largest structure in the observable universe……

    But at least Dr. Krauss attempts to engage with this evidence.

    His response, when recently interviewed concerning the observations of the universe-spanning, Earth-aligned CMB axis?

    “It’s just so strange, I think it’s likely to be wrong”.

    It isn’t wrong:


    “…..the combined probability of the four normals being both so aligned with each other and so close to the ecliptic is less than 0.4% × 2% = 0.008%. These are therefore clearly surprising, highly statistically significant anomalies — unexpected in the standard inflationary theory and the accepted cosmological model.”

    So Lawrence, when he talks about evidence, is simply ignoring a piece of evidence that is >99.99% unlikely within his Copernican principle assumptions.

    This is truly shocking, after all. We are talking about the potential for a direct, observational falsification of the entire standard model of cosmology here.

    It is reasonable to expect, and allow for, a certain skepticism. But it is also reasonable to expect, and allow for, a frank and thorough admission of the fact that the Earth is apparently in a *remarkably unique position in the Universe*- in direct challenge to the standard model of cosmology, and in direct support of the ancient and apostolic Faith of the Catholic Church.

    “Particularly puzzling are the alignments with solar sys- tem features. CMB anisotropy should clearly not be cor- related with our local habitat. While the observed cor- relations seem to hint that there is contamination by a foreground or perhaps by the scanning strategy of the telescope, closer inspection reveals that there is no obvi- ous way to explain the observed correlations.”


    As the authors point out later, there is not only no obvious way, there is no possible way, to account for these results as foreground contamination, *without simultaneously falsifying all of the rest of the CMB evidence that is regularly used to support the standard model*!

    It’s definitely the moment of truth for science.

    Interesting times!

  • dch: Get used to it, chum. You see, *I* am the one posting the science here, and *you* are the one sternly insisting that it be ignored.

    How ironic……:-)

  • David, I thank you.

    I will be writing this episode up after the New Year, and posting it at

    dch: invite your friends 🙂

  • dch

    Please post when you have submitted your work to peer reviewed science journal and passed to publication. Until then you are dude with a blog.

  • dch

    How do you explain the fact that spacecraft routinely transit to destinations in our solar system using orbital mechanics that are a practical application of our scientific understanding of our solar system’s heliocentric arrangemen?
    Please provide a flight plan to mars using your 13th century biblescience that puts a space craft into orbit around Mars.

  • Ruth

    Every year Westminster Sem in Phillie and the Discovery Institute hold a Science and Faith Conference. Drs Richards and Gonzalez were there last year.
    info on 2012 is here