Mark Swint

Angels & Demons

In Albert Einstein, Bible, God, Philosophy, Relativity, science, Science and Religion, technology, Uncategorized on October 22, 2008 at 3:45 pm


Mark Swint

author of

 Oculus book cover

With all due respect to Dan Brown, I have borrowed the title of his next movie and last book to continue the discussion started with the last post (Resurrection – You 2.0) as I continue my look at the subject of the Afterlife. Once again I should state for the record – I am a person of faith, I believe I am a person of great faith, and my faith guides my life. I also am a person of considerable scientific background and I have faith in good science. I acknowledge that there is such a thing as bad science and also such a thing as bad theology. My sole purpose in taking your time by asking you to read these blogs is to attempt to demonstrate that the perceived incompatibility between science and religion isn’t necessary and really only exists in the minds of people who adopt stances so immovable and so entrenched that they are unwilling or incapable of considering that they might possibly have taken a position that is even slightly off the mark, thereby leading to conflict with other positions, maybe also only slightly off the mark, that lead to the popular notion that science and religion are completely and irrevocably diametrically opposed to each other. Whew! Talk about run on sentences! Enough of that! The point is I believe there is common ground. In fact I believe religion, like nature and the observable world, gives us exoteric knowledge; it gives us the ‘what’ in life. It, like the observable world, tells us how things are – things like the fact that birds fly, and flew, long before humans understood how something heavier than air could soar gracefully upon the wind currents. Religion, in all its permutations tells us that there is a God and there are angels, and also that there are spirits of people now departed.

We dispute and argue among ourselves as to the nature of God, and to His purposes, but most of us believe that there is someone whose hand is over us. Exoteric knowledge only tells us the ‘what’ of stuff. Esoteric knowledge tells us the why, the how of the what. For the most part the Bible is full of exoteric knowledge. When Moses tells us in Genesis that the waters were gathered together and the dry land appeared, he did not tell us how that happened; oh, he said God commanded it to be so but I mean he didn’t tell us how God did it. Moses was merely an observer, recording what he saw in vision without a vast knowledge of astronomy, geology, physics, chemistry, or even the mind of God. The best Moses could do was say that God commanded it and it was so. I have no problem with this and I adhere to the idea that faith is a requisite commodity to understand and take advantage of the things of God. However, I believe God left clues to his handiwork in everything he made and I think the various disciplines of science, without knowing it, are the efforts dedicated to uncovering those clues, that is, the esoteric understanding of the exoteric truth.

How the exoteric and the esoteric sides of life got so far apart makes for fascinating study but we’ll save that for another day. The bottom line is I believe we can bring them back together, or at least stop the war between them.

Life after death. Perhaps no other aspect of religion raises the hackles of scientists and atheists alike as the idea that we go somewhere when we die – or that we are even continue on in some sentient state after this mortal death. Their principle repulsion of the idea is born of the misguided notion that if we can’t see or sense something, then it can’t really exist. After all, they exclaim, we have measured and weighed the human body as the life goes out of it and we see no measurable difference! Oh, I know, you all remember the movie ‘27Grams’ starring Naomi Watts. The 27 grams referred to the supposed weight loss when a person dies. The 27 grams was supposedly the weight of the spirit. It was a clever plot device but one fabricated solely in Hollywood.

Scientists are loath to acknowledge the existence of anything that can’t be observed, weighed, measured and quantified so how could they possibly believe in the human spirit, or angels, or demons, or ghosts? Or, for that matter, 90% of everything in the universe! That’s right! Scientists cannot find, measure, explain or describe almost 90% of everything – matter and energy – that they know must exist in the universe. All of this stuff, all of this unseen matter and energy is conveniently categorized into two groups with equally non committal names; Dark Matter and Dark Energy.

Scientists know dark matter and dark energy have to exist because of the behavior of the galactic clusters and all of the stuff of the observable universe. They are certain that the motion and the interaction they see between stars and galaxies, and their relative motions to each other, cannot be generated by the relatively measly amount of stuff that they can see. The only explanation that fits is that there must be much more stuff than what we see.

This brings up several intriguing points for discussion but what I would like to focus on here is the idea of unseen stuff. The truth is there is lots and lots of unseen stuff all around us in our everyday world. Let me tell you what is going through your mind right now as you read this. First of all, there are several thousand cell phone signals – actual conversations passing right through you at this moment. That old idea that there are voices in your head is actually more literal than you might think. Next, depending upon where you live, there are several hundred satellite television transmissions all around you (and yes, it even includes porno). Even the cable companies get their signals from down linked satellite transmissions. Don’t forget about air traffic control transmissions between controllers and airplanes flying high over head. We can only guess at the number, quantity and type of transmissions that come from spy satellites and other secure military and government communications. Then there are radio transmissions, both AM and FM, and we haven’t even started on GPS signals that are literally everywhere.

Now, we should also consider all of the various electromagnetic fields that envelope us constantly. Where do they come from? How about your television screen? Or the computer screen you are looking at right now. Did you know your cell phone is constantly sending out pings to locate and lock onto the closest cell tower? Are you sitting by someone right now? How about a pet nearby? Did you know that all living things, or any warm thing for that matter, emit infrared radiation. Then, besides the sunlight that we all see, there is the unseen world of the non-visible light and energy spectrum emitted by the Sun. We are constantly bombarded by ultraviolet light and various types of solar radiation. This goes along with the cosmic radiation that bombards the earth and everything on it constantly and from almost every direction.

Well, you get the point. There is lots and lots of stuff that is invisible to our eyes and to most human senses but which nevertheless exists. Now, here’s the amazing part; all the things that I have listed are detectable not by us but by sensors and receivers specially tuned and calibrated to receive their own special part of the unseen world. The radio in your car can pull AM, FM and maybe even XM or Sirius right out of thin air. You can’t feel it but they can and they can even differentiate between one frequency and another so that you get multiple channels for your listening pleasure. Your cell phone can see the unseen phone calls travelling through the air and through you. It sits and watches until it see one that is addressed to you and then it grabs that one call and alerts you to its presence. And so on and so on for all the various and different devices that clever man has invented to take advantage of the unseen world.

Now, all this stuff is only unseen to us, not to our devices. But none of these devices detect the ‘dark matter’ and the ‘dark energy’ that we opened the discussion with. And remember, that stuff makes up 90% of everything!

So, what about angels and demons? I don’t know and I don’t want to appear that I have all the answers. But this much I do know; cosmic radiation, gamma ray bursts and ultraviolet radiation existed long before mankind had the ability to detect them – or even the suspicion that they existed. Why is it so hard to believe that a departed spirit or an angel or a demon or whatever you visualize couldn’t exist right here right now, standing in front of you this very second. What if all it took was some special kind of glasses that we haven’t invented yet? You know, kind of like the fact that infrared is all about us but we never saw it until we figured out how to make a lens that could sense it?

What if the lens that can detect denizens of the unseen world is actually some sensor within our own bodies? What if that sensor is operated by some process we don’t understand but which we can tap into through the exercise of faith, or belief, or some kind of trance or whatever? I don’t know what the specific mechanism is but the scriptures imply, to me at least, that faith – real faith – has powers that the world doesn’t understand. I am sure that someone reading this blog has had some very sacred experience that they won’t share with anyone – but whoever you are you know what I am talking about! I have experiences I won’t share here. They are sacred to me but I assure you they are real.

One other possibility we haven’t touched on yet addresses the implications of the fact that physicists all accept the fact that besides the three dimensions of perceptible space there is a fourth dimension and that dimension is time. The recognition by Albert Einstein that time was indeed a dimension was described by his theory of Special Relativity (interestingly Special Relativity came before General Relativity). That realization opened up a whole new realm for physicists and philosophers alike to explore. In very simple terms let me give you an example of what the dimensionality of time means to you and me.

We exist right here where we are, in this particular space right now. Some of us live in Cleveland and some live in Calcutta but we all live right here right now – at this very instant. Our existence occupies these particular coordinates of space at this particular instant in time. The moment in time when you started reading this post is now in the past. It is vacated by us and no longer of any use to anyone who lives in our world. It is down the road as they say. Physicists and philosophers alike say that all that means is that a completely different world, inhabited by a completely different set of people could now inhabit these very same coordinates that we inhabit except that they are one minute, or three minutes, or ten minutes behind us. There is no conflict because we have moved out of their way. We are still here but here isn’t here anymore for them. Just like the fact that we may at this moment be occupying a moment that was just vacated but another earth one minute ahead of us with people much happier than we because they aren’t going through elections right now and they don’t have to see political ads every 28 seconds. Now, ponder this! How much time must elapse between worlds? One minute? One second? How about a nanosecond? That is one billionth of a second. A nanosecond is so short that if a nanosecond were one second then one second would be 32 years! Maybe it only takes a nanosecond of time to allow for a completely different universe. Could this allow for the statement that ‘Worlds without number have I created”? Could this allow for life to continue on for eternity without filling up space?

I don’t know the mind of God but, when the scriptures speak of such esoteric things and I have no idea how they work I can at least take comfort in the fact that there is plenty of room for all of the unseen things  – like God, angels, spirits and demons.

  1. Let’s slow down for a minute here and take a look at a few issues here. The issues raised here aren’t as cut and dry as they’re made to seem.

    1. Scientists don’t scoff at the idea of an afterlife. Watch any Discovery Channel or National Geographic documentary about death or the possibility of an afterlife and they will inevitably feature scientists with a story of a patient who died on the operating table or was put in a death-like state for an extreme surgery and woke up with information he or she shouldn’t have. Recalling very unique mannerisms of doctors and nurses, describing highly specialized medical tools in great detail, etc. Visions of heaven, hell, loved ones and so on are usually dismissed because they seem so subjective and easily repeatable under extreme stress. But scientists will be the first to admit that they don’t know if an afterlife exists.

    2. Dark matter and dark energy are assumed to make up 90% of everything in popular science articles for the benefit of the readers. Going a little deeper into it, scientists say that the vast majority of the universe seems to be empty and they don’t know why that is. Dark matter and dark energy are just monikers for seen and detected processes (dark matter can be detected by telescopes and dark energy is seen moving galaxies around). They’re not yet official theories, just ideas.

    3. Dimensions don’t work they way you imply. Dimensions are measurements. You can’t have a universe that exists in height for example. Or width. Or time. They have to exist in all dimensions at once. And as for all those extra dimensions, well, they’re mathematical constructs that will be confirmed or broken in the LHC. We don’t really know how many dimensions the universe (or the multiverse if it exists) has.

  2. Great comments all and I’m glad to hear from you again. By the way I visited your site and I think its excellent. I commend it to all at May I put it on my blog roll?

    I appreciate your comments and agree that there are scientists who do, in fact, pursue issues of afterlife. I also must admit here that it is far too sweeping a comment to say that all scientists are atheists or are opposed to religion. However, within the established scientific community there seems to be a strong humanist bias. This bias extends to peer reviewed journels and to the leadership of various scientific academies. Think of the how Nancy Pelosi controls what even gets discussed on the floor of the House and I think this is how ‘organized science’ is slowly and systematically ignoring anything of a more spiritual nature. But yes, certainly there are researchers how do probe issues of extra-corporeal existence.

    Dark matter and Dark Energy are place holder names for whatever it is that is out there exerting the gravitational influences that astrophycisists measure. The jury is still very much out on just what those forces and matter bodiews are.

    With regard to dimensions of time and space I will point out that I did not delve into the additional 7 or 8 dimensions that are merely mathematical constructs devised to help forward very controversial theories like string theory and others that are still working their way through experimentation and review. However, in dealing with the basic three XYZ dimensions of space and the one dimension of time we are talking about very real dimensions. Within the explorations of Quantum Physics the concept of multiple parallel universes is a very real idea. In fact quantum theory allows for even more bizarre ideas like multiple existences, or, multiple probabilities of the same existences to co-exist. Quantum theory says the existence that we experience on a daily basis is merely the one with the highest probability. It gets more eggheaded from there but you get the idea. Bringing it back to just three space dimensions and one time dimensions, I believe that, yes, multiple universes can and probably do exist lined up one behind the other on the vast conveyor belt of time.

    However, all of this is good conversation but it detracts from what I really try to say here which is that there are structures and theories and probabilities that allow for basically all of the claims made by Biblical prophets and others throughout time.

    By the way, did you know that the early Egyptian symbol for the planet we call Saturn was a man standing inside a ring? There is much ancient knowledge that seems to have come from someplace other than university labs and research institutes.

  3. I would very much appreciate an addition to your blog roll. Thank you.

    When it comes to editorial and peer-review biases among scientists, I wouldn’t call it humanist. Humanism is a feel good interdenominational thing. Science is more about the tangible and the bias is that it has to be seen or touched or conform to an existing mathematical framework. This is why there’s such disdain towards creationism and intelligent design in scientific circles. IDers and creationists try to attack evolution as evil and materialistic but offer nothing in return. No evidence, no experiments, nothing at all.

    Also, parallel universes would function differently. They would be bubbles floating as parts of an infinity, connected through a space/time plane.

  4. I have a question for you as you seem well versed on matters scientific; It is my understanding that the term “intelligent design” was first coined by astrophysicists specifically so they didn’t have to use the word God. In the process of taking the Big Bang all the way back to 00:00:0000000000-> it has become mathematically necessary to conclude that some initiatory motive force “pushed the button”. I am under the impression that forces within the creationist movement co-opted the term and pointed the finger, saying, see see we told you. From that point on the term Intelligent design became the domain of the creationists and the astrophysicists were left termless. I would appreciate your thoughts on this if you have the time.

  5. Actually, the term Intelligent Design is a product of scientists and astronomers during the Enlightenment who followed Deism. They wanted to convey their conception of God, that of a benevolent force that created the universe through means that can be scientifically seen, documented and tested in experiments. He wasn’t just some paranormal force that zaps matter into existence, they said. He was a scientist, the Great Architect of the universe. Astrophysics is a young science, it only emerged in the last 70 years or so, hundreds of years after the term was coined.

    As for something triggering the Big Bang, it’s a major point of misunderstanding for creationists. They believe that the Big Bang attempts to explain the origins of the universe and it’s used as the moment of creation in popular culture. But that’s not what the Big Bang theory is all about. The Big Bang explains how matter formed after the moment of creation (if there was one) has taken place and how space and time expanded a trillionth of a second later. When talking about the moment of creation we need to go into super-string theory, M-theory and other astrophysical novelties which treat the Big Bang as an end result, not the first jump-off point.

  6. I must be related to the early scientists and astronomers then because I too hold to the notion that God is the ultimate scientist. I believe that ancient scriptures and other writings coming to light indicate that, far from zapping things into existence, the creative forces that brought about the Earth, and all things in it, followed processes, which implies that they followed laws and rules of nature. This is demonstrated time and time again in the bible though it is sometimes hidden beneath a patina of mythology and agrandisement that we as humans are all too prone to impose upon our recording of human events.

    Try as I might I do not understand why fundamental creationists hold so strongly to a “Zap, there it is” type of creation story. This is indicated nowhere in the Bible. The very fact that Moses recorded 6 creative periods implies that there was an orderly process i.e. one step upon another. If the Earth and all things in it were zapped into existence then why not do it all at once, a sort of big bang of earth creation? What would be the purpose of diferientiating the process into multiple periods. Interestingly, the Haggadah (Jewish Book of Traditions)says it was 23 creative periods.

    It is sad that the apparent rift over the creation (Other than the issue of Adam and Eve) boils down to a translator’s use of the word ‘day’.

  7. “Try as I might I do not understand why fundamental creationists hold so strongly to a ‘Zap, there it is’ type of creation story.”

    Ah, for that stay tuned. I have a post on that in the works… =)

  8. *breaks out the popcorn*

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