Chronicles in Ordinary Time 18: Dark Matter and Faith

I was watching an episode of PBS’ “Scientific American Frontiers” the other night; an episode created while the Large Hadron Collider was still under construction. Physicists believe that the majority of the mass in the Universe is composed of ‘dark matter’–subatomic particles we cannot see or really understand. As you sit here reading this, thousands of neutrinos, again subatomic particles, are passing through your body, without your awareness of them.

At the atomic level, most of our bodies are composed of ‘nothing’–gravitational force whose origin isn’t really understood. The center of the atoms that compose our bodies is like some grains of sand in the middle of a football stadium, with a handful of electrons whirling around in the seating area. Our solidity, the solidity of your keyboard, is an illusion of gravity.

Physicists now believe that our expanding Universe is expanding at a faster rate than it was 5 billion years ago; the expansion being the result of the forces called ‘dark energy’–the companion of ‘dark matter.’ String theorists suggest that in reality, Reality is composed of 11 dimensions; 4 of which are known to us. The three dimensions of geometry plus time.

I know a lot of Christians who have a very hard time swallowing all of the above comments; as if they were stuck somewhere past Galileo; or perhaps stuck in the 19th Century…

I don’t have a problem with modern Physics and Faith. Having been interested in science long before I came to faith, for me it was a matter of integrating the teachings of the Church into what I already believed to be true. As a result, for nearly 40 years I have been walking down a long and winding road between the world of The Church and the world of The World. The Apostle Paul wrote about our being players on a stage, viewed by an unseen audience. I once heard a description of neutrinos, from a physicist in Antarctica, that sounded like a description of angels… I believe that I am a soul who has a body, rather than the reverse. No one has yet measured the soul. Some find that a reason to believe we do not have souls. I am of the opinion that somewhere among those 7 hidden dimensions is a dimension of the soul; the dimension of oneness with the Creator.

People get all bent out of shape over stories like Jonah and Great Fish; as if the most important part of the story was the fish. This story was told around campfires for ages before it was written down. There were no ‘eyewitness news’ cameras around to capture the event; no investigative journalists… How often have I heard the equivalent of ‘I felt like I was trapped inside a great fish’ become ‘he was trapped inside a whale for three days!’ Just read Facebook on any given day… The important part of the story is the Creator reaching out to the people of Ninevah. Who cares whether or not there was a big fish that could swallow a man for a long time and spit him out again? That’s not the point. The real story is just as True regardless of whether the details are factual.

Perhaps it’s my artistic temperament; I’ve never believed that Truth has to be factual. There are a lot of believers who somehow think that Truth only comes packaged in Facts. The entire point of the Newer Testament is that the Creator of the Universe entered time and space; and said that we really don’t have to live like the idiots we are… The rest is commentary.

The landscape should be far smaller; and the universe much larger. In truth, our full-blown, pain-filled lives are the scale of wood lice under a rock; the size of an ant farm, enlarged by a magnifying glass. Or probably more like the scale of the mites that crawl around on the heads of houseflies–I have a photo of these mites in my office, taken through an electron microscope. In the fabric of the Universe, our sometimes awful and barely-bearable lives are as miniscule in scale as the mites on the head of a housefly.

and yet…

Scripture says that we are created a little lower than the angels. More of the Universe that we usually can’t see. As we know it today, energy never dies; it merely transforms. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James and John saw Moses and Elijah standing with Jesus. Again, there was no ‘eyewitness news’; the Jewish faith forbade visible likenesses of that which was Holy. How did Peter, James and John know these guys were Moses and Elijah? They’d been dead for centuries. Name tags? A formal introduction? They apparently weren’t ‘dead men walking.’

The Bible and Faith make a lot more sense if one understands the concept of Eternity and Infinity from the standpoint of modern Physics. It’s only when one tries to fit Scripture into little wooden boxes, so that all of the questions can get answered,  that things start getting messy.

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