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Speculations: Does Matter Itself Have a “Life Cycle?” — 4 Comments

  1. Congratulations Father James, for being the new contributor to this amazing blog. Well, I have no answer to your question. I hope someone here can tell us more about it. However, your post reminded me Br. Guy recent conference “What is life?, that I saw on video,” and Engels’ point of view he mentioned, that went something like: “Death (is) an essential factor of life”, which brought me immediately to the next question: What is death? Both are important questions to define the life cycle, I think. Both are realities and truths that our limited previous concepts make them difficult to understand and define. From our Catholic faith, we have known what life is, or rather Who Life is. And we have a similar notion or knowledge for what death is, and how it came to us. But, can we apply these words to the whole universe, to the whole creation? Or is it just that we want to adapt a limited vocabulary or concepts to other realities? Do we need to wait to see other example of life more than that from our planet, to have a better framework for defining life itself, as I recall Br. Guy said? I hope we can have some answers and that we do not get tired too soon looking for them.

    • Thank you for your response Carlos. You are correct that the key to this discussion is how we understand the use of the word “death.” For this post, I intentionally used substantial change language because of how I would teach the Eucharist to my high school students. To try and explain the mystery of the Eucharist, we use the language of substantial change – there has been a fundamental, substantial change of the elements into the Body and Blood of Christ, but the “accidence” or appearance (in every sense of the word appearance) is bread and wine. The only analogy I could think of as a high school teacher to draw some type of parallel was the death of a human being (the analogy would obviously limp because in the Eucharist there is something that gives life that is at the heart of the substantial change where in death there is the loss of life). When someone dies, their appearance is the same, but we know that there has been a substantial change in that an essential part of who they are is gone (the soul). That lead me to think, plants go through substantial change, animals go through substantial change, and we go through substantial change that we call death. From there, the dark matter “wonderings” started to make me think that, even though we would not call it death as theology understands death, is there, in the natural world, a substantial change or “death” where an aspect of matter still remains, but something fundamental to its existence has changed to the point where you have a new reality in which an essential part of its identity is gone – similar to the person who died. I, too, am curious to hear from others for clarification!

  2. An analogy I have used at times – warning that it is just an analogy and one that breaks down if you push it too far – is that of two identical computers where the only difference is a tiny change in the arrangement of a few atoms on the hard drive (perhaps caused by a cosmic ray) which alters one vital instruction in the operating system.

    Even though all the matter in both computers are identical, nonetheless one computer can boot up while the other one can’t… and you couldn’t tell by any gross physical measurements of either machine, say, for example, by measuring the mass of one computer compared to the other, which computer is broken. Information is real, even though it does not have size or mass or other material attributes.

    • I like your analogy! In regard to the Eucharist, I can see the issue… even if you have a rearrangement of a few atoms, that would be a perceptible change to the “accidence” of the Eucharist. However, when it comes to the speculation of “can matter ‘die,'” there does seem to be an interesting connection in that very small variations could create something completely different and new. Could a tweak to a few atoms “turn off” matter’s ability to absorb and reflect light (along with other changes) that would make it imperceptible to our way of finding matter, but still show the effects of its presence through gravity? Fun speculations!

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