Only 4% of the universe is material

From a review of Richard Panek’s The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality. Richard Panek:

The latest surveys of the universe indicate that only 4 percent of it is made of ordinary matter. Nearly 23 percent is made up of dark matter, which some physicists suspect consists of wispy subatomic particles that may someday be caught in a detector. And the remaining 73 percent is made up of something far more baffling: an energy that is causing the universe to expand at an ever-increasing rate. Scientists call it “dark energy,” and they have no idea what it is.

via Richard Panek’s study of the cosmos,”The 4 Percent Universe”.

Maybe it’s God.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    Or just another type of stuff that can be somehow observed. Let’s not make it another gap for God that will be closed. At least not unless it’s obvious that it cannot be closed.

    I think we Lutherans should be quite comfortable with the laws describing the cosmos and any kind of matter/energy mixture those laws might be governing. We have discovered quite a number of them, after all.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    Or just another type of stuff that can be somehow observed. Let’s not make it another gap for God that will be closed. At least not unless it’s obvious that it cannot be closed.

    I think we Lutherans should be quite comfortable with the laws describing the cosmos and any kind of matter/energy mixture those laws might be governing. We have discovered quite a number of them, after all.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    “We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know”
    -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    “We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know”
    -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • WebMonk

    One of the dangers of the God-of-the-gaps view of the world is that every time a gap closes by further discoveries of the natural world, those who claimed it was actually God in the gap (whatever that gap may be) are shown to be at best merely wrong, and at worst blind idiots.

    And I just deleted three paragraphs of ranting on that subject.

    You’re all welcome. :-)

  • WebMonk

    One of the dangers of the God-of-the-gaps view of the world is that every time a gap closes by further discoveries of the natural world, those who claimed it was actually God in the gap (whatever that gap may be) are shown to be at best merely wrong, and at worst blind idiots.

    And I just deleted three paragraphs of ranting on that subject.

    You’re all welcome. :-)

  • Pete

    I suspect that our being able, on some level, to perceive this “dark energy” disqualifies it as being God. If we can sense it, He created it. I’m pretty sure that, since the Fall, we are completely incapable of sensing (seeing, hearing, touching…) God – purely for our own protection. The exception being those encounters, initiated by God alone and involving (again, for our protection) “limited exposure”. Moses in the cleft of the rock, the transfiguration, Holy Communion, the Bible, the Incarnation come to mind. Sensing “dark energy” is merely sensing another aspect of His creation – not sensing Him.

  • Pete

    I suspect that our being able, on some level, to perceive this “dark energy” disqualifies it as being God. If we can sense it, He created it. I’m pretty sure that, since the Fall, we are completely incapable of sensing (seeing, hearing, touching…) God – purely for our own protection. The exception being those encounters, initiated by God alone and involving (again, for our protection) “limited exposure”. Moses in the cleft of the rock, the transfiguration, Holy Communion, the Bible, the Incarnation come to mind. Sensing “dark energy” is merely sensing another aspect of His creation – not sensing Him.

  • SKPeterson

    Here’s one increasingly fashionable (and so sci-fi!) explanation in brief:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703956604576109891641757806.html?KEYWORDS=multiverse

    Note the last exchange between the interviewer and interviewee.

  • SKPeterson

    Here’s one increasingly fashionable (and so sci-fi!) explanation in brief:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703956604576109891641757806.html?KEYWORDS=multiverse

    Note the last exchange between the interviewer and interviewee.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    WebMonk has it right. It’s very unfortunate that the naturalists have managed to turn the setting upside down, as if the discovery of logic and order in the nature would somehow count as circumstantial evidence for atheism. It’s totally opposite. I dare guess the ancient Greek materialists knew it, the great Christian scientists of the Early Modern times knew it, and many founders of quantum mechanics knew it.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    WebMonk has it right. It’s very unfortunate that the naturalists have managed to turn the setting upside down, as if the discovery of logic and order in the nature would somehow count as circumstantial evidence for atheism. It’s totally opposite. I dare guess the ancient Greek materialists knew it, the great Christian scientists of the Early Modern times knew it, and many founders of quantum mechanics knew it.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Yeah…this sounds suspiciously like aether to me. I’ve never been on board with the dark matter theory, and cosmology is one of my hobbies. I suspect rather that our standard model is wrong, rather than the existence of huge quantities of undetectable mass required to prop up our current model.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Yeah…this sounds suspiciously like aether to me. I’ve never been on board with the dark matter theory, and cosmology is one of my hobbies. I suspect rather that our standard model is wrong, rather than the existence of huge quantities of undetectable mass required to prop up our current model.

  • Rob

    Want to make it more fun? Scientists say that 4% of the universe is atomic matter, the rest is a mystery. Any idea how much of that atomic matter we have the ability to measurably study?

    We all know atoms aren’t the smallest things, but have electrons, protons, and neutrons. Electrons are too small to measure except by their energy (we know they’re there, but we can’t really study them – like dark matter and dark energy). Protons and neutrons are made up of quarks. Quarks in turn are made up of roughly 1% matter and the rest is called gluon – some immeasurable energy that holds together the quarks (we know it’s there, but can’t really study it).

    So, if you’re following along at home: we can observe (by means of atomic matter) about 4% of the universe. Of that atomic matter, we can observe about 1%.

    Upshot? We clever humans can actually, measurably observe 1% of 4% of the universe. Or .04%

    To make the numbers more solid, if we were taking a 10,000 question test, we could expect all the combined human powers of observation to have a shot at answering four questions right.

    I agree that we shouldn’t assume that God is the rest. Instead, we should see numbers like this and recognize that all the wonders of human knowledge, medicine, technology, etc. are but a drop in the bucket.

  • Rob

    Want to make it more fun? Scientists say that 4% of the universe is atomic matter, the rest is a mystery. Any idea how much of that atomic matter we have the ability to measurably study?

    We all know atoms aren’t the smallest things, but have electrons, protons, and neutrons. Electrons are too small to measure except by their energy (we know they’re there, but we can’t really study them – like dark matter and dark energy). Protons and neutrons are made up of quarks. Quarks in turn are made up of roughly 1% matter and the rest is called gluon – some immeasurable energy that holds together the quarks (we know it’s there, but can’t really study it).

    So, if you’re following along at home: we can observe (by means of atomic matter) about 4% of the universe. Of that atomic matter, we can observe about 1%.

    Upshot? We clever humans can actually, measurably observe 1% of 4% of the universe. Or .04%

    To make the numbers more solid, if we were taking a 10,000 question test, we could expect all the combined human powers of observation to have a shot at answering four questions right.

    I agree that we shouldn’t assume that God is the rest. Instead, we should see numbers like this and recognize that all the wonders of human knowledge, medicine, technology, etc. are but a drop in the bucket.

  • Rob

    Makes the incarnation all the more amazing, doesn’t it?

  • Rob

    Makes the incarnation all the more amazing, doesn’t it?

  • Porcell

    Rob, excellent, rather than some spurious god in the gaps theory, better to be in awe due to how little we do know and thankful for the incarnation and resurrection.

  • Porcell

    Rob, excellent, rather than some spurious god in the gaps theory, better to be in awe due to how little we do know and thankful for the incarnation and resurrection.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    I was going to say be wary of the God in the gaps idea, but others already beat me to it. What this is simply an area of silence. It doesn’t mean there is nothing there. It simply means we are not currently aware of the exact nature of much of our universe. There may or may not be anything in these “empty spaces,” but at the moment all we can say for sure is we can’t measure in order to test.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    I was going to say be wary of the God in the gaps idea, but others already beat me to it. What this is simply an area of silence. It doesn’t mean there is nothing there. It simply means we are not currently aware of the exact nature of much of our universe. There may or may not be anything in these “empty spaces,” but at the moment all we can say for sure is we can’t measure in order to test.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    A more literal God-in-the-gaps theory, then? As in “God is the stuff between the things we can observe”? Are you just tweaking the science fans, Dr. Veith?

    I mean, what would it mean to say that “maybe it’s God”? Is that any more reasonable than saying of the wind, “maybe it’s God”? Should we be in the habit of pointing to bits of creation and saying “maybe it’s the Creator”?

    Anyhow, this article suffers from the typical science journalism woes. For one thing, I’ve heard the current estimate is actually 4.6%, which should be rounded to 5%. You’ll also notice that though the article says “only 4 percent of [the universe] is made of ordinary matter”, it doesn’t say what that percentage is of. Doing some digging around, it seems it would have been better to write (as does Wikipedia) that “ordinary matter accounts for only 4.6% of the mass-energy density of the observable universe.” Just sayin’.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    A more literal God-in-the-gaps theory, then? As in “God is the stuff between the things we can observe”? Are you just tweaking the science fans, Dr. Veith?

    I mean, what would it mean to say that “maybe it’s God”? Is that any more reasonable than saying of the wind, “maybe it’s God”? Should we be in the habit of pointing to bits of creation and saying “maybe it’s the Creator”?

    Anyhow, this article suffers from the typical science journalism woes. For one thing, I’ve heard the current estimate is actually 4.6%, which should be rounded to 5%. You’ll also notice that though the article says “only 4 percent of [the universe] is made of ordinary matter”, it doesn’t say what that percentage is of. Doing some digging around, it seems it would have been better to write (as does Wikipedia) that “ordinary matter accounts for only 4.6% of the mass-energy density of the observable universe.” Just sayin’.

  • trotk

    It seems that if only 4% (or 4.6%) of the universe is ordinary matter, we need to change the definition of the word “ordinary.” Perhaps it would be better to say that the 4.6% we can observe is the extra-ordinary or unusual part.

  • trotk

    It seems that if only 4% (or 4.6%) of the universe is ordinary matter, we need to change the definition of the word “ordinary.” Perhaps it would be better to say that the 4.6% we can observe is the extra-ordinary or unusual part.

  • Porcell

    Oh, wow, it’s 4.6%, not 4%. The article is worthless. Just sayin’.

  • Porcell

    Oh, wow, it’s 4.6%, not 4%. The article is worthless. Just sayin’.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@14), if someone can’t do basic math, I’m not exactly inclined to listen to them when they try to explain much more complicated concepts.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@14), if someone can’t do basic math, I’m not exactly inclined to listen to them when they try to explain much more complicated concepts.

  • Porcell

    Todd, only a carping critic would take umbrage regarding Panek’s six-tenths of a point distortion regarding material matter. His essential point is beyond question.

  • Porcell

    Todd, only a carping critic would take umbrage regarding Panek’s six-tenths of a point distortion regarding material matter. His essential point is beyond question.

  • SKPeterson

    Yes, this is all fine and good, but will it make Madonna more or less of a Material Girl? That’s what the public really wants to know.

  • SKPeterson

    Yes, this is all fine and good, but will it make Madonna more or less of a Material Girl? That’s what the public really wants to know.

  • Porcell

    SK, I could enjoy 4%, excuse me, 4.6%, of Madonna”s material assets.

  • Porcell

    SK, I could enjoy 4%, excuse me, 4.6%, of Madonna”s material assets.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@16), speaking of “carping critics”, you’ve now dedicated four comments to my correction.

    “His essential point is beyond question.” Indeed. And what is that, Porcell?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@16), speaking of “carping critics”, you’ve now dedicated four comments to my correction.

    “His essential point is beyond question.” Indeed. And what is that, Porcell?

  • Porcell

    Todd: Indeed. And what is that, Porcell?

    That about 4% of the universe is material. Do you have a problem with that?

  • Porcell

    Todd: Indeed. And what is that, Porcell?

    That about 4% of the universe is material. Do you have a problem with that?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@20), see, when you make sweeping statements like “His essential point is beyond question,” I kind of expect you to display more understanding than can be arrived at by copying the title of a blog post on a newspaper review of a science book.

    Anyhow, I never said I had a problem with that. Except that your number is wrong.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@20), see, when you make sweeping statements like “His essential point is beyond question,” I kind of expect you to display more understanding than can be arrived at by copying the title of a blog post on a newspaper review of a science book.

    Anyhow, I never said I had a problem with that. Except that your number is wrong.

  • Porcell

    Well, Todd, then what in your exquisitely sophisticated judgment is his essential point? Sometimes Ockham’s razor proves true.

  • Porcell

    Well, Todd, then what in your exquisitely sophisticated judgment is his essential point? Sometimes Ockham’s razor proves true.

  • WebMonk

    Rob, I don’t want to be picky because I’ll get jumped on for for that by people who apparently feel it’s wrong to be picky about facts, but I am going to take a chance and advise you that you got most of your major facts wrong in 8.

    Scientists do not say the universe is only 4% atomic matter.
    Yes, we can directly study electrons.
    Electrons are not too small to study except for their energy.
    Quarks are not made of gluons.
    Gluons do not have any sort of “immeasurable” energy.
    Quarks are not made up of 1% matter.

    Hopefully that is a large enough list to avoid being labeled as picky. Sorry to pick on your post.

  • WebMonk

    Rob, I don’t want to be picky because I’ll get jumped on for for that by people who apparently feel it’s wrong to be picky about facts, but I am going to take a chance and advise you that you got most of your major facts wrong in 8.

    Scientists do not say the universe is only 4% atomic matter.
    Yes, we can directly study electrons.
    Electrons are not too small to study except for their energy.
    Quarks are not made of gluons.
    Gluons do not have any sort of “immeasurable” energy.
    Quarks are not made up of 1% matter.

    Hopefully that is a large enough list to avoid being labeled as picky. Sorry to pick on your post.


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