Matters of Life and Death: 2
The fundamental question for a human being is this: do I die when I die? If yes, then it might be fair to assume everything is physical, that matter is all.
If the answer is no, then we have a far bigger implication. Matter is not everything. Other stuff exists – call it spirit, mind, non-material reality, whatever. The point is, we suddenly have a massive unexplored meta-universe.
This is what people have generally believed, everywhere, always – heaven, hell, the afterlife, the beyond, bardo, tir na nog, spiritual realms, and so on. But not now. The prevailing western attitude can be summarised in a conversation between Ralph and Piggy in Lord of the Flies. Here’s the how it goes:
Ralph raised the conch to his lips and then lowered it. “The trouble is: Are there ghosts, Piggy?..”
“Course there aren’t.”
“Cos things wouldn’t make sense. Houses an’ streets, an’ – TV – they wouldn’t work.”
And that’s it, more or less. We live in a manufactured world of houses, streets, TVs, footwear, cars, computers – all the material objects that insulate us from other realities. None of them survive death, so why should we?
Technology has persuaded us. Science has persuaded us. Nothing exists except matter. Which is odd, because science says no such thing.
Here’s what science really says. Our sort of matter (baryonic matter) makes up about 4% of the universe. That’s right: 96% of the universe is other stuff. We can’t emphasise this enough. All the resonant certainties of St Dawkins and his fellow prophets are based on one basic assumption: that matter is all.
And they are wrong.
The rest of the universe is made up of dark energy (73%) and dark matter (23%). And the point of the word ‘dark’ is that we scarcely know anything about these things. Nonetheless, putting a label on them can fool us into thinking we have some understanding, so it is good to shuffle the synonyms around, just to jog ourselves out of complacency. And when we do that, we find some very interesting synonyms for the ‘dark’ component of dark matter: hidden, undetected, unseen, occult.
That’s right: 73% of the universe is occult energy and 23% occult matter.
Now, we mustn’t get carried away and immediately conclude that all the mystics, shamans, yogis and spiritualists have been right all along. It may or may not be the case that all this occult matter and energy corresponds to heaven, hell, the afterlife, the beyond, bardo, tir na nog, spiritual realms, and so on. We are in no position to know.
But it is interesting to note the congruence:
- Religion says there are vast other realities we cannot detect by physical means
- Science says there are vast other realities we cannot detect by physical means
It is a fascinating parallel, although in our present state of knowledge we can say no more than that.
A while ago I was experimenting with twitter. What sort of items did I like reading? Offbeat thoughts, wit’n’wisdom, snippets of this’n’that. Maybe I should try a few such things myself. So I came up with a series of dark matter tweets.
- Gosh, there's a lot of dark matter in the kitchen today. Can hardly push past it to the fridge...
- Sod it – fridge full of dark matter too. Now is that a bottle of milk or...?
- Some fascinating galaxies floating through this lounge...
- Really kicking off in Dark Matter right now. Good and bad angels having a right set-to. Woops, nearly knocked over a saucepan there
- Oh come on now, this is silly – good angels lobbing lifetron bombs at bad angel patrol – yikes, what about our stair carpet!
- Think I'm back with proper matter now (baryonic). Mind you, I do appear to be tweeting. (Remind me, is that normal?)
And so on. The basic idea is that every room, every house, every street, car, bus and train is likely to contain vastly more dark matter and dark energy than anything else. If computer screens exist in dark matter (uncertain, I grant you) then there could be six dark matter screens in each room for every one of ours. (Have a look: can you see them?) And if dark energy could configure itself into the likeness of computer screens (even more uncertain) then there would be eighteen such screens for each of ours. (Eek: hardly space to breathe!)
‘Dark’ computer screens are, of course, unlikely. Far more likely to have angels and demons battling it out over the kitchen stove. Or bleeding ichor (the blood of angels) onto the stair carpet.
Or, well, we can’t really guess. And that’s the point of calling it ‘dark’.
We just don’t know. But when someone trots out the weary old ‘wenyer dedyer ded’ they don’t know either.
So let’s be cheerful and relaxed about science. It’s good stuff, it’s great stuff, but it does have its limits. And real science is honest about this. So if anyone tries beating us over the head with it – saying we’re nincompoops for wondering about this or that – well, they’re just not being scientific.
May I invite you to make certain purchases? (I may? Why, thank you...)
(a) The Salamander Stone (by my most excellent and trusty pal, Mrs Me) from one of these outlets:
Direct from the publisher, Burst Books: click here
Amazon UK: click here
(b) The Two Worlds of Wellesley Tudor Pole (by Mrs Me’s most excellent and trusty pal, Me):
Amazon UK: click here
Amazon.com (US): click here
(You’ll be getting both of them? Well, that is an admirable choice, if I may say so...)