In my last post, I discussed the principle of the conservation of matter, that matter cannot be created or destroyed. This principle was clearly stated by the Prophet Joseph Smith long before science stated it explicitly.
It is obvious that our physical bodies are matter. However, it is a unique (as far as I know) teaching of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that our spirits are also physical, they have matter—they are composed of real substance. Or as a techie guy like me (i.e., a person who has studied too much chemistry and physics) would say, spirits have mass. Our spirits are physical and real in a strictly scientific and literal sense. Again…a spirit is something real—it is not an “idea” or a concept or a theory. Presumably we could weigh spirits if our instruments were sensitive enough and we could get enough of spirits to sit still on a scale for us. 🙂
By the way, in Dan Brown’s recent novel The Lost Symbol, he has his heroine, a scientist named Dr. Katherine Solomon, measure the mass (“weight”) of the spirit of a dying man as he dies—in order to prove the existence of the soul. (A confession: I read all kinds of books—strictly for their intellectual content, you understand. :))
I had the idea for Dr. Solomon’s experiment a long time ago, but never carried it out. My proposed experiment was more humane and useful, I think, and perhaps even more informative. I was going to measure the weight a few hundred thousand cockroaches as I gassed them, thereby ending their little buggy lives and liberating their buggy spirits from their buggy bodies. “Mormonism” teaches that all creatures have spirits, so I should be able to detect the mass of a cockroach’s spirit, if my scale was sensitive enough. That experiment would provide evidence that all life, even the “lowest” forms have spirits, and the cockroaches would have gone to a better world. So, everyone wins, including the cockroaches. 🙂
OK, so much for that digression into Dan Brown’s novels—which I enjoy even if he lets his imagination run wild. I have no problem with imaginations running wild. My own imagination runs wilder than about anyone else’s that I know of. 🙂
In the Protestant church in which I was raised, I could never get a satisfactory answer about the nature of our spirits from my well-meaning Sunday School teachers (we called spirits “souls” in that church). Bless the patient hearts of those teachers, I am afraid I pestered them with a lot of questions to which they simply didn’t have the answers. I think they dreaded seeing me show up on Sunday morning. That sober, skinny Dale kid with a big nose, crooked teeth, glasses… and a ton of inconvenient questions.
But when I became a Mormon, I found many of the answers I was looking for…buckets of answers.
Here is one of the crucial answers for me. We are two part beings. We have a spirit and that spirit is real and physical. We also have bodies, and they are obviously real and physical. If both the spirit and body were not both “real”, that is, physical, they could not interact. Two things that do not have something in common can never interact. Death separates the spirit from the body, but the resurrection joins them back together, never again to be separated. The spirit of the person is the real person, the authentic person, with all of his or her own experiences, knowledge and abilities.
I am going to come back the pre-existent nature of our spirits in another post, and revisit some other reasons why the fact that we are all eternal beings is so important to me, but I want to focus on one interesting question about the nature of spirits in this post.
Here is the question: if spirits are real, why can’t we see them? Once again, the Prophet Joseph Smith gives a clear, unambiguous response “All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure and can only be discerned by purer eyes. We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.” (Doctrine and Covenants 131: 7-8).
So, is there any evidence that there is matter that we cannot see with our eyes (or instruments?).
Yes. Absolutely yes! In fact, over 90% of the mass of the universe is composed of matter-energy that cannot be seen nor detected by our instruments. It does not emit electromagnetic radiation on any wavelength that we have yet monitored. (Remember that matter and energy are equivalent, according to Dr. Al….Einstein, that is). Scientists call this invisible stuff “dark matter” (not to be confused with antimatter).
This Wiki link is a good discussion of the evidence for dark matter. You can Google “dark matter” for more information.
There is lots and lots of evidence for dark matter. Dark matter is not a wild speculation of a couple of lunatic fringe physicists.
By the way, some of the most powerful evidence for dark matter is based on galaxy rotation curves. That evidence was collected by a great scientist, Dr. Vera Rubin. Rubin’s work was neglected for decades because she was a woman. Princeton University wouldn’t even send her a catalog for graduate study, because she was a woman. I think she deserves the Nobel Prize for this and her other work. But the Prize is handed out by a committee…mostly of old white men.
So if you think scientists are god-like creatures without prejudices, think again. If you think that scientists immediately change their views based only on the evidence presented to them, think again. It isn’t always so. The great scientist Max Planck once quipped that science advances one funeral at time. By this he meant that scientific progress does not occur by winning over people to new ideas, but only when the defenders of the status quo die off and are replaced by younger people who have already been exposed to the new ideas. Planck is exaggerating…but not by much.
Back to the subject: the fact that we can’t see or detect most of the mass of the universe ought to make us a bit more humble about what we know and what we don’t know. The correct attitude for any scientist (or anyone taking science seriously) is humility. We have no cause for arrogance when we cannot see most of the matter that actually is.
Good call, Joseph! There is a lot of matter out there in the universe that we simply cannot see, just as you stated, although we can detect the presence of dark matter from other evidence. Oh, you clever kid. You, clever, clever kid.
I likewise believe in a God that I cannot see today, but whom I hope to see someday when I am purer. In the meantime, I have faith that He is there.
As the Apostle Paul teaches us, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…just like dark matter.