Fundamentally Fundamental about the Fundamentals of Fundies: Facepalms of Biblical Proportions

Despite loose usage of the term and the tossing about of its diminutive form, “fundamentalist” is not a pejorative: the word was invented by conservative Christians for purposes of self-identification and bears an exact meaning that has only secondarily to do with attitude. I’m well acquainted with the history of this word because it is my interesting fortune to have been raised in one of the small, fractious, separatist, backwater Christian sects that coined it around the turn of the 20th century.

 

By the time I was born at mid-century, Missionary Baptist churches all over the U.S. South proudly touted their fundamentalist bona fides on the signs that identified them: “Independent – Bible-believing – Fundamental.” While dismissing the historic creeds as the inventions of fallen man, such churches showed not the least hesitation in publishing “statements of faith” (as though “creed” meant something different) sometimes disguised as “church covenants,” and those published statements always included an article such as “We believe the Bible to be the divinely-inspired and wholly inerrant Word of God.” Fundamentalists of the other monotheistic religions hold a similar attitude regarding their various “holy books.” Belief in the divine origin of a “sacred scripture” is essential to fundamentalists of all sects, because it’s the primary premise – often unspoken – in all of their arguments.

 

What I wish I could say to fundamentalists of all stripes (and wish they could hear me when I say it) is that their foundational premise is false. The Bible is most certainly not the Word of God: it has no more to do with the (alleged) creator of the universe than the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon or the Left Behind series.
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Problems on the Forefront of Physics – Part 2: Dark Matter and Dark Energy

The question “What is the universe made of?” is one of the most fundamental questions one could ask about reality, yet the lack of answers leads to one of the biggest problems in modern astrophysics and cosmology. It would first appear that the observable universe is chiefly composed of matter and energy, right? Well, that’s actually not true at all. Everything we can see, the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, every star and every galaxy in the sky, every atom and every photon of energy, constitute roughly five percent of the entirety of the universe. What about the rest? What else is there? Roughly twenty-seven percent is dark matter, and a whopping sixty-eight percent is dark energy. Not a single human on this planet knows what dark matter and dark energy are, unless of course they haven’t told anyone. All we can do at the moment is measure the effects of what we call dark matter and dark energy on the physical universe, and apply these labels to the unknown.

Before we get into the history and details of dark matter, know that the term “dark matter” is a misnomer. We don’t know if what’s causing the observed effects that we call dark matter is actually made of matter (although popular hypotheses suggest that it could be baryonic matter or weakly interacting massive particles), we have no clue what it is. There are observations that we can’t explain, and we call them dark matter. That’s it. We’ll come back to this and go into more detail in just a bit.

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Continue reading “Problems on the Forefront of Physics – Part 2: Dark Matter and Dark Energy”