Monday, June 5, 2017

P4E.269 Dark Matter

The intersection of science and religion has always interested me. An exchange between CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and his guest Brian Greene, a week ago (May 28, 2017), really caught my attention.

Fareed Zakaria introduced Brian Greene as “one of today's foremost scientists, a master of super-string theory, the host of Nova shows and the co-founder of the World Science Festival, which kicks off this week in New York City.”

Here’s a part of the transcript of the show:
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ZAKARIA: …for example, I'll give you one that even I struggle with, dark matter.


ZAKARIA: I just don't understand it. It's one of these things where you're told, "OK, most of the universe is actually made up of dark matter, and we can't see it; we can't touch it; we can't feel it; we don't know, kind of, know what it does and we don't know why it exists."


ZAKARIA: So what am I to make of that?


GREENE: Well, that's actually a thrilling idea, if you can wrap your mind around it. So you mind spending 30 seconds on dark matter, just for the heck of it?


GREENE: So when we observe galaxies, we find that they're spinning around at such a rate that stars on the edge should be flung outward, sort of, like water droplets on a bicycle wheel that's spinning fast. The water gets flung out. But the stars aren't getting flung out. Something must be holding them in. We don't see anything that can do that. But we know gravity has the power to hold things together. So we imagine that maybe there's some matter out there that we don't see, dark matter -- that's why we don't see it; it doesn't give off light -- and that matter is exerting a gravitational pull, holding those stars together in these spinning galaxies.

And when we make that hypothesis, it explains observations so spectacularly well that we begin to gain confidence that maybe the stuff that we haven't yet seen and we haven't yet touched or smelled yet, maybe it's real. So we build big detectors and we try to capture one of the dark matter particles. We haven't succeed yet, but I think that we will.

So this is a beautiful example of how observations drive rational thinking to explain the facts and ultimately verify it through observation and experiment that can be replicated. That is what science is. And that is what can get your heart pounding, when you realize that the human intellect can figure out things about the universe that you wouldn't expect, based on casual observation.
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What caught my attention was that a foremost scientist found it a thrilling idea that “maybe the stuff that we haven't yet seen and we haven't yet touched or smelled yet, maybe it's real.” (italics and underline mine)

I rarely quote Scripture in response to situations such as these, but this seems to relate so concretely to the subject at hand, that I can’t help but point it out. Speaking of God, Paul says in Colossians 1:16-17

“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible… all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (italics and underline mine)

It’s also very interesting to me that scientists have chosen to call this unseen phenomenon, “dark matter.” Another related phenomenon is called a “black hole.” On the other hand, God is light (I John 1:5). John 3:19 says, “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light…”

I believe that science and religion will ultimately be resolved. We now have in common that both scientists and Christians believe in things unseen. I find that for me, rather than dark matter and black holes, it’s easier and a much more comforting, enjoyable, stretch of the imagination to believe in the unseen personal, loving, Creator God.

“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers