I’m going to wander well outside my areas of competence here, armed only with my curiosity and intuition. I’m going to do so because there are several areas of enquiry that have been engaging me, some of them for some time, and I’m beginning to wonder whether they might be connected.
Astrophysicists suggest that around 5% of the universe’s mass is made up of ‘baryonic matter’, matter we can touch with our hands & witness with our eyes & instruments; a little over 68% is presumed to be made of ‘dark energy’ an enigmatic force that seems to be accelerating the ongoing expansion of the cosmos; the remaining 27% is thought to be made up of ‘dark matter’, the particles of which wholly refuse to interact with baryonic matter, so we have no means of detecting it save through its perceived gravitational influence. It emits no light or energy, but is fundamental to everything in the universe, anchoring all structures together. Without it galaxies, planets, our earth and us humans would not exist, yet we know nothing about it. The particles thought most likely to be the constituent of dark matter traverse our livers, skulls and guts in their trillions each second. Its thought that they were created in sufficiently vast quantities in the seconds after the birth of the universe to account for the missing mass. Scientists reckon that to prove and decipher the existence of dark matter, would require us to acquire a whole new way of knowing everything.
In his book ‘Underland’ Robert Macfarlane talked with Christopher Toth, a physicist working in a laboratory more than half a mile under the earth, searching for evidence of dark matter.
“‘My sense,’ I say to Christopher, “is that the search for dark Matter has produced an elaborate, delicate edifice of Presuppositions, and network of worship sites, also known as laboratories, all dedicated to the search for an invisible universal entity which refuses to reveal itself. It seems to resemble what we call religion rather more than what we call science.
‘I grew up as a very serious Christian, Christopher says. ‘Then I lost my faith almost entirely when I found physics. Now that faith has returned, but in a much-changed form. It’s true that we dark matter researchers have less proof than other scientists in terms of what we seek to discover and what we believe we know. As to God? Well, if there were a divinity then it would be utterly separate from both scientific enquiry and human longing. No divinity in which I would wish to believe would declare itself by means of what we would recognize as evidence.”
I am intrigued by a number of things about dark matter:
. The idea that we are not able to touch or quantify something, but assume its existence because of its perceived influence, is one that I recognise. Its like love, which you cant touch or quantify but you can sometimes perceive its influence. Its also like beauty, peace, hospitality, friendship and a while host of other things that are crucial to human happiness and fulfilment.
. Macfarlane sees the search for dark matter as akin in some ways to humans search for God, and the language that is used in both does seem to overlap.
. To understand dark matter will require a new way of knowing, in much the way the mystics of all faith traditions speak of their experience requiring a new way of knowing.
. Dark matter accounts for five times more mass in the universe than the baryonic matter of which we are made. Its particles are traversing our bodies all the time and always have been. It seems reasonable to assume that its likely to have some influence on us, and if it has then it must have always done so, so it would be an influence that we know well & take for granted. What might that be?
My intuition wonders if all this might connect to several other bits of thinking that also intrigue me, some of which I’ve written about before.
. The human brain uses 20% of the body’s total energy, but it would appear to need only about a quarter of that to perform its functions. What is the remaining 15% of the brain’s energy doing?
. Human consciousness is the ability to form a subjective and therefor unique view of the world. It has a rational aspect which engages with baryonic matter, and also a non rational aspect, which uses our imagination and intuition, and which drives both our creativity and our most important personal decisions. I wonder where the insights and ideas of our non rational consciousness come from, and where the silence takes us ? And I also wonder if they might be connected in some way to this dark matter? Perhaps they are even nourished and sustained by it?
There is currently no way of either refuting or verifying this suggestion, but my intuition tells me that there is truth in it. So I apply the “as…..if” principle. If I live and act as if the above is true, is life richer, deeper, more meaningful and satisfying? I find that it seems to be so, and so I am trusting it.