Issue 97 / January - February 2014
The Human's Unique Position in the Universe
Mehmet Necip Gumushanevi
Can an apple move the earth? Physics says it can. The power that gave an apple the ability to move the world, also gave us humans the capacity to make use of the natural laws and be a true vicegerent on the earth.
In a universal arrangement of objects, from the smallest to the largest, in terms of length, time, and mass, where is the human located? In between the diameter of an atomic nucleus (10-14 meters) and the distance of the farthest galaxy from the earth (1026 meters), the human being occupies a zone between one and three meters. The human lifetime can be measured to be around 109 seconds in temporal length, to the duration of a ray of light passing through a proton (10-24 seconds), to the age of the universe (1017 seconds). And the human mass is located around a 102 kg zone, on a scale from the mass of an electron (10-31 kg), to the mass of the Milky Way galaxy (1041 kg).
Based on this data, understanding the human that is trapped in this enormous universe is crucial. Humans are just a speck, jammed between mote and sphere, living in a frail state of weakness and poverty. "Do not strut about the earth in haughty self-conceit; for you can never split the earth (no matter how hard you stamp your foot), nor can you stretch to the mountains in height (no matter how strenuously you seek to impress)" (Qur'an 17:37).
Humans, who need a vast amount of grace and support, are in search of answers to improve themselves. "Who am I?" they often ask; "where am I?" As scientists and researchers discover the excellence of the universe's artistry, we begin to comprehend just how blessed humans are. Within the laws of science lie the answers to our questions. Laws are relative principles that operate according to the constants wisely built into the universe. These laws are veils to the majesty of creation. Each law is created anew every moment, thus we perceive them as if they are eternal patterns. For example, the human body gravitates to the center of the earth with a force equivalent to their mass multiplied by the average gravitational velocity of the earth, which is 9.8 m/s2. The law of gravity is created every moment in such fine measures that it is possible for us to walk on the ground.
It helps to remember Newton's three laws in physics. The first is the principle of inertia, which states that unless there is an external force, or if the sum of all forces cancel each other out in direction and size, then an object is either at rest or moves at a constant velocity. The second law is that force equals the mass of an object multiplied with its acceleration. And the third is the action-reaction principle, which states that when a force is applied to an object, the object exerts a force in opposite direction, equal in magnitude. This means that when an apple is thrown into the air, and the apple accelerates in opposition to gravity, the earth is distanced from the apple with the same amount of force. Similarly, when the apple falls down because of gravity, the apple is also pulling the earth with the same magnitude. If this was to repeat constantly, theoretically a movement like the one made by a yo-yo should have happened between the apple and the earth. Because of its huge mass, the earth's acceleration is very small, thus this yo-yo movement would not be felt. An object as small as an apple actually moves an object the size of the planet. This means that the power that gave an apple the ability to move the world, also gave us humans the capacity to make use of the natural laws and be a true vicegerent on the earth.
Nothing in the universe has been created in vain ÔÇô all phenomena occur because of a purpose they are assigned to fulfill. In a universe in which everything is bound by a complicated web of laws that are created without a moment's lapse, humankind surely has a significant role to play in the unique position with which they are graced. This position undoubtedly requires a sense of humility in the face of all the grandeur around us, yet also being aware of our given capacities, which enable us to master over all existence.