Dark Matter and Dark Energy
hose of us who read scientific literature on physics and cosmology, would have read about the twin puzzles of dark matter and dark energy confronting science today. The puzzles may be briefly summarized as follows. Scientists have discovered that the quantum of gravitational force, that is needed to hold all the heavenly bodies within a cluster of galaxies together, is many times greater than what can be produced by the aggregate mass of all the heavenly bodies in the concerned galaxies in terms of Newton’s or Einstein’s equations of gravity. What is it that supplies the additional gravitational force? Obviously there is some undetectable entity hidden in the inter-stellar/inter-galactic space. In other words, the ‘void’ in the inter-stellar/inter-galactic space is not ‘nothingness’, but it is filled with some form of invisible stuff which supplies the additional gravitational ‘force’ required to keep the cluster of galaxies together. Since this stuff is so far unobservable even with the most sophisticated instruments, it has been dubbed ‘dark matter’.
Similarly, for a long time scientists believed that the mutual gravitational pull of the galaxies would slow down the expansion of the universe and would eventually contract and collapse the universe to a point or ‘singularity’. However, this belief did not last long. Soon it was discovered that, far from slowing down, the universe was actually expanding with an ever accelerating pace. What force was it which was more powerful than the gravitational pull of such massive galaxies? Scientists have revived Einstein’s ‘cosmological constant’, which had hitherto been described by Einstein himself as his greatest blunder, as a possible explanation. Einstein had postulated this Constant in his relativity theory as a countervailing force necessary to prevent the collapse of the cosmos due to gravitational force. In his theory, Einstein is stated to have postulated that empty space was not ‘nothing’. Rather, Space has its own distinct dynamic identity in the sense that it has its own energy and that it (i.e. the space) could expand or add to itself and since every unit volume of additional space that would thus come into existence, would have its own associated energy, expansion of space would not dilute the energy density of the cosmos. Today, the Cosmological Constant, or perhaps some clone of it, appears to be the most widely accepted theoretical explanation for the accelerating expansion of the universe. However, since nothing is known about the nature of this energy, it has appropriately been dubbed, ‘dark energy’.
We must note that there is no positive empirical evidence or ‘proof’ for the existence of Cosmological Constant/dark energy or dark matter. Their existence has only been inferred because current theories of gravity could not explain the phenomena based on the observable data, forcing scientists to incorporate the x-factors of ‘dark’ entities. Scientists today admit that the observed universe (i.e. the universe that is observed either by naked eyes or with the help of the most advanced instruments) constitutes just 5% of the ‘existence’. The rest 95% of it is a mystery. It is interesting to mention that scientists today believe in the existence of more distant galaxies which are moving away from us at speeds greater than that of light(Luminal velocity is a speed barrier only to objects moving in space. However, there is no barrier to the speed for the expansion of space itself. The far-off galaxies are receding from us at super luminal velocity not because they are moving in space but because the space in which they are embedded is itself expanding!). Hence, light originating from these galaxies would never be able to reach us and so they would never ever be observable to us. So, if this part of the universe is included, the observable portion of the universe might be much less than even the 5% mentioned above. It can thus be concluded that modern science ‘knows’ that more than 95% of the objective existence is not only unknown but also unknowable to it. It is unknowable because the limited cognitive faculties of human beings are simply incapable of looking beyond the less than 5% observable window available to them. It is also important to note that ever since science extended its enquiry into domains beyond the reach of our normal sensory and cognitive faculties, its dependence on intuitive speculation, aided by the tools of mathematics, has become almost total in formulating mathematical ‘laws’ that could explain the paradoxical behavior of the nature. True, science does assert that the validity of these laws are subjected to empirical evidence and should they observe any fresh observable evidence which goes contrary to the ‘law’, the said law would be trashed. However, with more than 95% of the universe being ‘dark’ for science, can it ever hope to assert, with any degree of certitude, that its hypothetical models or theories are valid throughout the universe?
Since the universe is expanding, scientists have logically extrapolated the cosmological events backwards in time and postulated that the universe would have been extremely small and dense at the beginning and would have then expanded after a big-bang, inflation etc. What existed before the big-bang? The belief that the universe originated from ‘nothing’ appears to be the most widely accepted opinion in the scientific community. In short, current scientific wisdom tells us that such a massive and vast expanding ‘thing’ as the universe, sprung out of ‘nothing’. Isn’t it kind of a weird hypothesis that the universe emerged out of nothing? Let us recall Einstein’s vision about the amazing properties of space, i.e. its ability to add to itself along with its inherent energy. Obviously, if it is true, the additional space with its associated dark energy/cosmological constant, has to spring out of ‘nothing’. Quantum physics, which deals with the world of sub-atomic particles, is known to have found empirical evidence that these particles continuously emerge from and vanish into vacuum (they are, therefore, called ‘virtual particles’). Science has thus discovered that the invisible vacuum or nothingness (not even space), is not a nihil, rather it is the source of the visible universe.
This brings us to the main objective of this article which is to show that modern science is slowly but surely providing an independent confirmation of what our scriptures had revealed ages ago. Sankhya philosophy says that the objective world issued forth due to the inter-play of Akash (space or primal matter) and Pran (primal force or energy) which, in turn, evolved from ‘Mahat’. This Mahat is an existence, which has none of the attributes, like space-time and mass, which are accessible to our senses, and hence can be described as ‘vacuum’ within the meaning of the limited vocabulary of our spoken language. The Vedas have described this state as ‘neither existence nor non-existence’. Lord Buddha also referred to it as ‘Sunya’ meaning a ‘void’. Abhinavgupta, the great master of Kashmir Shaivism, has stated in the second verse of his ‘Bodhpanchadashika’ (fifteen verses of wisdom) that the external objective world is the expansion of Lord Shiva’s energy. Kashmir Shaivism also holds that Lord Siva and his Sakti (energy) are not different but a single all-pervading existence. When Shiva expands His energy, He reveals Himself as this objective world and when He withdraws it back into Himself, He dissolves the objective world and conceals Himself.
Do we not find a striking similarity between the exposition of the origins of universe as revealed by our ancient scriptures and current hypothesis of science that space (Akash) with its inherent energy (pran), emerges out of nothing (Mahat) and that the universe is expansion of space with its inherent dark energy(as stated by the aforesaid verse from Bodhpanchadashika)? Interestingly, Kashmir Shaivisminsists that the route to realize Siva is through its Sakti (i.e. the objective world). Is this not what science believes in? For, the route taken by Science to search the ultimate reality also began with an enquiry into the gross objective world (the Shakti of Shaivism) and then progressed towards its finer and finer dimensions which revealed to them that the way nature appeared to operate in its gross form was radically different from the way it appeared to operate in its finer and subtler forms. The revelation of subtler forms of reality has forced science to express that reality in mathematical symbols that naturally bear no correspondence to our sensory worldview of gross reality. For example, when quantum physics paradoxically states that an electron is BOTH a finite particle as well as an infinite wave, or when it states that at a given point in time a particle can SIMULTANEOUSLY exist everywhere in the universe, it militates against our commonsense. However, these mathematical models of physics express the same subtle aspects of the reality which find expression in the monistic tenets of Advait Vedanta/shaivism which state that the visible objective world (particles and their collections) with its multitude of finite entities, is not real but only apparent, the result of Maya or ignorance of our limited ego. In reality what exists is only a single undifferentiated all-pervading existence, which explains why a particle appears to be finite as well as infinite simultaneously.
How did our sages realize the same profound truths ages ago? Our sages believed that all knowledge and the means of acquiring it, was within us. For, every human being is a microcosm. The method followed by our sages, therefore, was to meditate deep within themselves, at the very source of their consciousness, which revealed them the truth of the whole existence. How that revelation comes about is impossible for us uninitiated beings to comprehend. I agree that it is difficult for us to accept that meditation could ever be a means of acquiring knowledge. As a primary school student, I was taught by my history teacher that Lord Mahavir and Lord Budha attained enlightenment after decades of meditation in forests/caves. Years later, as I started learning science and became fascinated by its watertight laws and its demonstrated success in technological inventions, I felt convinced that scientific methods alone held the promise of unraveling the mysteries of existence and the claim that knowledge could be acquired simply by meditating in forests or caves, was sheer mumbo-jumbo. However, today after discovering that modern science is restating the same truths in its own language as were revealed to us by our scriptures or by ancient sages ages ago,I am convinced that our scriptures are indeed sources of profound knowledge. I feel grateful to science for enabling me to arrive at this conclusion.
It can be reasonably argued that Hypotheses of scientists like, Higgs, Minkowski, Einstein, Bose, Feynman, Hawking, etc. are the results of their intense intellectual contemplation, which in itself is nothing but a form, albeit a limited one, of meditation. Nothing can illustrate it better than what Einstein stated in his letter to a friend soon after he completed his theory of General Relativity. He wrote, “The years of searching in the dark for a truth that one feels but cannot express, the intense desire and the alternations of confidence and misgiving until one breaks through to clarity and understanding, are known only to those who have themselves experienced them". Note that Einstein had ‘felt the truth’ within and had to struggle only to express it in mathematical equations. Clearly the revelation came to him from within. Does it not clearly establish that the source of knowledge that is tapped by a scientist and a sage or a mystic is the same and it lies within some latent layer of our consciousness? The fundamental difference between a sage and a scientist is that the contemplative energy of a scientist is focused on a limited aspect of the reality. He would focus his enquiry on say gravity, electromagnetism, light, space and time, nuclear force, electron, chemicals, atoms, cell, neuron, heart, lung, bone etc. etc. and would naturally get but only a fragmented and hopelessly partial idea of the reality as manifested in these individual entities. A scientist’s search is thus akin to the method followed by the blind men in the fable, “blind men and the elephant”, with each one describing an elephant on the basis of the information gathered by him by touching only one of its body parts, i.e either its leg (so the elephant is like a pillar) or trunk (Oh! It is a tube) or tail (No, it is a rope) or an ear (come-on, it is like a fan), etc. etc. Significantly, one thing that a scientist totally excludes from his enquiry, is his own conscious self because for him, his conscious self is merely a material phenomenon, a phantom product of neurological chemistry (Munnabhai’s Chemical Lochha). For a sage, consciousness is the means and the end of his enquiry. When he raises his personalized consciousness, hediscovers its unity with the universal God consciousness. This enables him to ‘see’ the reality in its totality (the elephant as a whole), rather than confused pictures of its various fragments, like bits of a jigsaw puzzle. While the monism of science is the omnipresence of matter, that of spiritualism is the omnipresence AND omniscience of a conscious Being, variously called God, Brahm, Shiva, etc.
Incidentally, it is noteworthy that there is a long list of scientists, both present and past, who believe/believed in the presence of an intelligent conscious agency behind this whole drama of creation, sustenance, and destruction. For example, Isaac Newton, the father of gravity, too was aware of an x-factor which prevented the universe from collapsing due to the immense force of gravity. He, therefore, stated that the universe was prevented from collapsing by the will of God. For him, what is called ‘dark energy’ by scientists today, was nothing else but the will of God. So, take heart, if you believe in God, you are in the good company of scientists like Newton.
Before I conclude, let me clarify that the intention of this article is not science bashing. As I said above, it is the modern theories of science and its latest discoveries that provide scientifically accepted evidences confirming the subtle descriptions of the reality narrated in our scriptures. However, the question to be pondered over is, can any knowledge discipline whose access, like that of the proverbial frog in a well, is confined to only 5% of the universe, ever give us answers that demand a complete knowledge of the whole of existence? To me, the answer appears to be an emphatic NO. Spiritualism and the means prescribed by it alone, in my opinion, can completely deliver us from our ignorance. However, that cannot take away from science the valuable contributions it has made in mankind’s understanding of reality.
I would also like to state that it is not my case that all beliefs that go in the name of popular religion are correct. There are many a superstitious beliefs that we unfortunately continue to cling to despite so much advancement made by science. Horoscope and all that voodoo that goes in its name, in my opinion, is one of the silliest amongst them. However, let us keep this topic aside for future discussions.
(Bouquets and brickbats are welcome at email@example.com)
*Deepakkumar B. Kaul is a science and law graduate from Mumbai University and lives in Mumbai-India. He retired from Reserve Bank of India as Deputy General Manager in 2011. Mysteries of birth, death, origin of the vast cosmos etc., have always haunted him, and still do, with varying degrees of intensities. Swami Vivekananda's exposition of Vedantic philosophy shaped his faith in ancient philosophical traditions and Swami Laxmanjoo's exposition of Kashmir Shaivism has further reinforced that faith.
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