Dark Matter, String Theory, and Heaven

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.

1. 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.”

According 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

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