Dark matter, dark energy: Is this a matter of a god or of physics?

I don’t know, and more and more I’m coming to the conclusion that I don’t care. With each new revelation of science, I can’t help being reminded of the persecution of Galileo (who went against the common wisdom, not to mention the prevailing religious beliefs) and the consternation that greeted Copernicus when he overturned Ptolemaic theory.

But the current mysteries that are being uncovered as we discover more and more about the universe  amaze me. This week, the Christian Science Monitor published a composite photo of a portion of the universe arranged from a series of photos from Hubble. The photos purport to show that dark matter, the missing mass of the universe (if you accept the Big Bang theory), is neatly arranged in orderly patterns and that dark matter is what holds the various galaxies together.

Furthermore, on Science Friday, a very eloquent scientist described the war between dark matter, that mysterious unknown substance that appears to bind elements of the universe together, and dark energy, the anti-gravity force that drives the universe to keep expanding.

This stuff is totally mind-boggling. I don’t even care, at this point, what the answers turn out to be. I am relatively sure that they will not be discovered in my lifetime. What’s more, I’m not sure that we puny humans are even capable of discovering them, or if we did, that we could begin to understand them.

My mind refuses to imagine the conditions prior to the Big Bang–how a single point could expand to fill a void, and to keep filling that void as the universe keeps expanding into nothing. I can’t even imagine “nothing,” if the truth be known.

I’m inclined to believe in “god,” but I have no idea what it is. But the alternative is unthinkable, and I mean that literally. Based on what I know today, I cannot comprehend a void. My thoughts are so tied up with sensory experience that to imagine a nothing is outside the realm of possibilities.

But I love this stuff. If we could spend a tenth of what we spend each year on things like weapons and espionage in exploration (and spend the other nine-tenths to make the world a better place and people’s lives better), who knows what mysteries we might uncover. One of the things of which I am convinced is that each new answer will open up another set of mysteries. We are just too inadequate to grasp the whole thing.

I stood outside this evening and watched the Pleiades rise (It’s 24 degrees Fahrenheit outside at the moemnt, so this was no trivial stargazing.). Orion is probably out there right now, chasing the seven sisters across the sky, and Leo will follow later tonight, with Aquarius up there pouring water on his head. So much for my sophisticated knowledge of astronomy. But when I stand outside on a clear night with no ambient light and see how many stars there are to be seen, and when I stop to understand how many centuries some of this light has been traveling toward me, I know that I am greatly enriched.

Or, of course, it may be that the whole thing is a hallucination, a mental illusion. Who  knows?


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