Dark Matter and Joseph Smith’s Statement on the Material Nature of Spirit

My latest post over at the Nauvoo Times (Orson Scott Card’s LDS project with a good variety of writers) is “Mystery of the Hidden Cosmos: Something Big is Missing from Our Everything,” wherein I use a recent cover story from Scientific American to speculate a bit. I’ve discussed dark matter and dark energy a couple of times here at Mormanity, but recent analysis of dark matter is making things even more interesting as the possibility of complex forms of dark matter become more plausible. Your feedback is welcome here or there.

Mysterious, invisible dark matter and dark energy both appear needed to explain the strange attributes of the cosmos. We know so little about the universe, but thanks to the steady progress of science, each big discovery seems to help us know even less. Or rather, to better appreciate how much we don’t yet know. The cosmos is such a marvelous mystery, and so filled with evidence of miraculous intervention to make all this possible–but that’s another story.

I really love Joseph Smith’s statement in Doctrine & Covenants 131:7-8 about the materiality of spirit, insisting that it is actually a form of matter that is “finer” than the ordinary matter we know and invisible to us, but still real and physical. That seems at least compatible with the surprising finds of scientists in recent years poiting to the existence of much more “dark matter” than the ordinary matter we know. In fact, the ordinary matter (and energy) that we thought was pretty much all there was turns out to only account for about 4 or 5% of the universe. To me, that’s stunning and even humbling.

By the way, I hope you’re a regular reader at NauvooTimes.com, where many interesting topics are raised each week in areas such as history, movies, literature, and many aspects of LDS life.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

21 thoughts on “Dark Matter and Joseph Smith’s Statement on the Material Nature of Spirit

  1. I've discussed this with my daughter, too that our spirits could be composed of dark matter. However, I had forgotten a key detail that dark matter does interact with gravity so if our spirits are dark matter, there is so little of it as to be undetectable when one passes away as doctors have already tried to weigh the body before and after one's passing away.

    But, there could also be an entire standard model of "dark matter" type matter that does not interact at all with the forces of nature that we all know and love.


  2. Just to make something very clear:

    Dark Matter is indirectly detected through the motion of galaxies and galaxy clusters. Basically we use something called the mass to light ratio to estimate how much mass should be in the galaxy based on how much light it is emitting. But based on the motion of the galaxy the mass estimate is low by one or two orders of magnitude. We can also determine the distribution of dark matter based on the galaxy's motion, and it doesn't always match up exactly with visible (light emitting or absorbing) matter.

    Dark Energy on the other hand is simply an extra term stuck in the cosmological equations to make them work with what we observe of the large scale motion of the universe.

    The take away is that dark matter is something that affects the motion of normal matter, apparently through gravity, but does not interact through electromagnetism (light). Dark energy may only be a spurious result of our current theories of physics and with a new a better theory it may disappear in a puff of logic.

  3. Joseph Smith donated a book called Epicureo to the Nauvoo library. Most likely, the book had something to do with Epicurus, the philosopher, who postulated before 300 BC that the soul is composed of matter made up of "fine" particles. In his letter to Herodotus:

    we must recognize generally that the soul is a corporeal thing, composed of fine particles, dispersed all over the frame, most nearly resembling wind with an admixture of heat, in some respects like wind, in others like heat. But, again, there is the third part which exceeds the other two in the fineness of its particles and thereby keeps in closer touch with the rest of the frame. And this is shown by the mental faculties and feelings, by the ease with which the mind moves, and by thoughts, and by all those things the loss of which causes death.

    Epicurus was a strict materialist, which influenced his theory of the soul. Any discussion about Joseph Smith's materialistic views of the spirit are incomplete without mention of this.

  4. Off topic, but I saw this article today and thought it relevant on Jeff's blog:


    "Most genetic studies to date have basically found that all North and South Americans come from a single ancestral source population. That's not what we found — we found a more complicated scenario."

    It doesn't necessarily say that anyone in Mezoamerica came from the the middle east, but it does mean that native American genetic research is still wide open and it is nowhere near the damning missing link that critics constantly use it as. It also throws another wrench into the Great Lakes theory where it is assumed that it is the only place in the Americas where a non-Asian-originated gene pool exists.

  5. I've found the Electric Universe (EU) theory to ring mostly true and to more easily resonate with doctrine.

    Our institutionalized theories, ironically, seem more heavily based on math than on observation, contrary to good science, which is another issue.

  6. I wish more research would be done on the electric universe, which apparently doesn't require dark matter or dark energy to explain the behavior of the cosmos. Unfortunately, diversity of opinion is not much tolerated within today's academia. The real problem with the electric universe, of course, is that it erases the Big Bang, a central tenet of scientism.

  7. Dark matter and dark energy are relatively recent explanations based off of observations. Diversity of opinion in academia is marginally tolerated in the form of peer reviewed papers in the various journals. Eventually, seemingly "crack pot" ideas become mainstream if others see the same results based off of experiments. "Crack pot" ideas fall by the way side after enough scientists explore those ideas further and find the hypotheses wanting. An example that I can think of is the concept of Ether that was once believed to fill space. After the idea of Ether was tested, it became apparent that the understanding of Ether was wrong and that light creates its own medium in which to travel.

    I am sure that the ideas of the EU will be researched and if found to be valid, could replace the current understanding of the cosmos. However, after reading a little bit about the EU idea, I doubt that it will replace any scientific theory that currently exists.

  8. Sometimes the data from observations is swept under the rug, such as Dayton Miller's observations of ether drift and Halton Arp's observations of red shift anomalies. Were these guys crackpots or pioneers? It's almost impossible for anyone know, because in today's post-rational scientific establishment data does not always win the day.

  9. Epicureo might not have anything about the views of Epicurus on the spirit. A search of Google Books leads me to think that it is either The Epicurean by Sir Thomas Moore, or a translation into another language. Epicureo is the title of that work after translation into Spanish or Italian. I may be missing something, of course. Anyone have any clues what this mysterious work was? Moore's book can be read at the Gutenberg Project: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/49332/49332-h/49332-h.html

    It does not appear to discuss the materiality of the soul.

    The Epicurean has some content that might have been of interest to Joseph or his peers. On page 105, it speaks of the pre-existence of the soul. Continuing through page 101, we encounter the concept of souls coming to earth with a divine nature but with their memory of former glory forgotten, yet possibly having traces remaining that give us hope. But there's no disucssion that I can find touching upon the material nature of the soul.

  10. I have to admit that I knew nothing about these scientists so I did a little bit of reading. From what I can tell, their observations were not swept under the rug but were peer reviewed and found wanting. As time goes on, if there is any validity to their research, their ideas will triumph.

  11. The ignoring of data is one indication that the system is broken, and there are others. If you can't collect data, you can't expect to accurately model. And including any "fudge factor" in a model shows that you're not done at the drawing board. An enormous amount of misplaced resources has and continues to be exerted on straining to prove unobserved theories.

    And as long as a scientific orthodoxy is enforced, times will not change. Ideas that are promising will continue to be ignored and maligned while faulty ideas will continue to flourish.

    Bias, dogma, money, and politics stifle progress. Among others, Rupert Sheldrake discusses modern science in light of these corruptions, and Miles Mathis has voluminously picked apart equations and concepts (and his own ideas are not without error).

    We know that spirit matter is finer than physical matter, but the missing principle is that there is one who acts and that which is acted upon. Spirit matter does not affect physical matter by virtue of its presence. Either a spirit or a resurrected being, a mortal not having the requisite ability, must act upon spirit matter to cause it to affect physical matter.

  12. "…but were peer reviewed and found wanting…"

    And therein lies a dilemma. Peer review can do two things: it can be used to expose flawed methods, and it can also be used to enforce orthodoxy. It would be preferable if the scientific community were capable of a diversity of opinion in order to more fully investigate alternate ideas. Unfortunately, a scientist today cannot expect to have a career unless one hops on the bandwagon.

  13. Agreed that it does take a long time to change orthodoxy but any scientific hypothesis worth anything will eventually be recognized which is why, in some case, Nobel prize winners win decades after their initial publication.

    Here is a list of obsolete scientific theories which shows that science grows as we learn more:


    Could we build a nuclear fission reactor using ideas from the EU?

  14. Labeling an idea "scientific" does not guarantee its veracity, clearly. Science is a process, just a process, and one limited to any constraints put upon it. It's a shame that one specific method has become something of a religion. This, the present dogma, is useful while it's limited.

    For one contrasting example, consider the abilities, accomplishments, publications, and discussions of the late Ingo Swann and his associates.

    The Nobel prize has become tantamount to an Oscar–little more than a popularity contest.

    Are you saying that fission couldn't have been achieved without the theories that I have implied are fundamentally flawed? The thing is, EU addresses cosmology, not atomic theory, so it doesn't offer an alternative to the Standard Model.

    However, there is at least one atomic theory based on EU: The Primer Fields, and I think it appears promising. So, had plasma cosmology been pursued instead of relativity and quantum mechanics (to say nothing of string theories), I think it's entirely possible that we could have bypassed fission for something in every way superior.

  15. Ingo Swann appears to have nothing to do with EU so I will leave that one be.

    If a theory is fundamentally flawed, it would not produce correct results. You will never launch a rocket with Aristotelian Physics because Aristotelian Physics is fundamentally flawed. With atomic theory, there have been a number of competing hypotheses over time as to what made up matter. The hypotheses were tested, some hypotheses were discarded, new ones formulated, math was produced to bolster the claims, observations were made and ultimately a nuclear reactor demonstrating all the theories involved. In addition, atomic theory isn't just something that is applied terrestrially, it applies to the process that happens in the sun and the observations confirm this.

    Relativity has been postulated, tested, and observed to be accurate so there wasn't anything wasted in its pursuit. Likewise for quantum mechanics. It looks like plasma cosmology and EU have a ways to go before they can accurately describe what has been observed.

    I'm curious about your assertion that the Nobel prizes are just popularity contests. What prizes in the sciences have been awarded to undeserving individuals with incorrect theories?

  16. It should be pointed out that having math that works doesn't mean it's a correct representation of reality. Ptolemy's epicycles constituted a model that matched observations, but that didn't make the model correct. Quantum mechanics is another bizarre example of presuming a model to be correct because the math matches observation: in every other field where statistics are involved, it is understood that the statistical modeling does not describe causes and effects, but rather serves as a somewhat crude tool for placing bounds and predicting behaviors. Yet in quantum mechanics, somebody apparently decided that the statistical description of particle behavior is the ultimate reality of the behavior (i.e. cause and effect cease to be correlated at the quantum level). That strikes me as a lack of imagination and creativity. But if you want a career in theoretical physics, you have to pledge allegiance to the orthodoxy.

  17. Epicureo might not have anything about the views of Epicurus on the spirit. A search of Google Books leads me to think that it is either The Epicurean by Sir Thomas Moore, or a translation into another language. Epicureo is the title of that work after translation into Spanish or Italian.

    Maybe it isn't about Epicurus, maybe it is. Regardless, Epicurean use of the word "fine" in discussing the particles that make up the soul was enough for me to recognize its influence on Joseph Smith's thinking. I could see that before I ever learned of the existence of Epicureo, which was just the icing on the cake.

  18. Interesting. So observations increasingly found problems with the Ptolemaic system and another system was proposed? Probably took a while for the Ptolemaic system to be jettisoned and a new, heliocentric system to be adopted.

    I agree that quantum mechanics is bizarre. Maybe additions to quantum mechanics are in order in much the same way that relativity added to Newtonian physics.

  19. Another off topic: The August 8, 2015 Scientific American published an article about a sink hole in Wyoming being excavated.

    Bones from Bison, Gray Wolf, Cheetah, and Horse were found. The bones are dated well before Spaniards brougt horses to the new world.

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