Dark matter has made the news of late. A detector deep in a mine in Minnesota – an old iron mine – has provided the first hint of an observation of dark matter. Dark matter is a kind of matter thought to comprise about a quarter of the mass and energy in the Universe. Note that only about 5% of the universe is ordinary matter. (The figure is from NASA via wikipedia)
The observation is preliminary – only a 3 out of 4 chance that it is really due to dark matter, but hope runs high that this or another better experiment will provide conclusive observations soon. These observations will help confirm, refute, or choose between several theories in physics.
The story reporting this observation can be found in many places, including the NY Times link here: At a Mine’s Bottom, Hints of Dark Matter. From the article:
Gordon Kane, a physicist from the University of Michigan, called the results “inconclusive, sadly,” adding, “It seems likely it is dark matter detection, but no proof.”
Dr. Kane said results from bigger and thus more sensitive experiments would be available in a couple of months.
Two links for more information: NASA and UC Berkeley.
Interesting stuff … but what does this have to do with heaven? According to Dinesh D’Souza in his new book Life After Death: The Evidence, dark matter and string theory open up a new plausibility argument for life after death, God, and heaven.
Christianity Today recently published an interview (String Theory and Heaven ) with Dinesh D’Souza on his new book. I have not read this book – and doubt if I will – but this interview by Mark Galli raised some questions that
peaked piqued my interest.
According to the publisher’s blurb this book makes no direct appeal
to religious faith, or revelation, rather it draws “on some
of the most powerful theories and trends in physics, evolutionary
biology, science, philosophy, and psychology”
Wow… evidence for life after death from physics and evolutionary biology. This is a pretty bold claim. Could it be true?
The arguments against an afterlife. In the interview D’Souza says that there are two primary arguments against life after death.
Belief in life after death is nothing more than wish fulfillment.
“Freud basically said that we all have this juvenile desire to survive
our deaths, so we made up this idea.”
2. Science has connected mind and brain – “What we call
immaterial things–our thoughts, our emotions–are extensions of material
objects in our brains, and when the material objects disintegrate, the
rest of us goes with them.”
to D’Souza (as quoted in the interview) the concept of hell disproves
the first argument (how could hell be wish fulfillment?). The soul –
and he is a substance dualist – disproves, or at least takes the winds
out of the sails of, the second argument. The fact that “mental events
and brain events are correlated doesn’t mean that the brain is the
cause of the mental events.” The mind and the brain have different
attributes – the brain is physical material, the mind thinks.
Plausibility arguments for heaven and the afterlife. Later in the interview D’Souza connects the plausibility of life after death with recent advances in physics and with ( as yet speculative) theories explaining the observations.
Specifically, the Christian view of the after life is connected to “other matter,” i.e. dark matter.
If we lived 200 years ago in Newton’s time, all of
this would seem impossible because space and time stretch indefinitely
backward and forward, so what it meant to be outside of time was very
hard to articulate. Also, it was hard to posit any other kind of matter.
But revolutionary discoveries in the past 25 years
suggest that there is dark matter and dark energy that make up 95
percent of all the matter in the universe. All materialist
generalizations about matter are immediately rendered partial, because
how can you claim to know something if you’ve seen only 5 percent of it?
And other realms – i.e. the Multiverse (if some one has a good web reference, I’ll add it here).
Scientists now posit through string theory the
presence of multiple realms, multiple dimensions. One of the
implications of the big bang is that space and time had a beginning,
and that space and time are properties of our universe. If that’s true,
then outside our universe or beyond our universe, there would be
different laws of space and time, or no space and no time.
The idea that our universe may not be the only one
and that there may be other universes operating according to different
laws is now coming into the mainstream of modern physics. So the
Christian concept of eternity, which is God outside of space and time,
is rendered completely intelligible. It opens up possibilities that
would have seemed far-fetched even for science fiction a century ago.
Is this a useful Christian apologetic? D’Souza goes on to claim that this kind of argument is a useful way to clear “away debris that blocks the door to faith” but it does not lead to faith. I am convinced of two things – first that God exists, and second that science, what we learn about the universe he created, will point us toward him. But I don’t think that it makes sense to use scientific discoveries or speculations as part of an apologetic for the existence of God or the plausibility of the afterlife. Nor do I think that modern theories of physics provide any useful insight into heaven.
Perhaps you disagree.
Do you find D’Souza’s approach useful?
Is his dismissal of arguments against an afterlife convincing?
Do you think this approach to and appropriation of science a useful form of Christian apologetic?
(The comments on the CT interview also address these issues at length – you may find the whole article worth reading.)
If you wish to contact me, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net