Choose Your Language

Friday, 12 March 2010

Nothing Matters! (Dark Matter)

You may recall a few weeks ago that I was inspired to write about the topic of Infinity after watching a "Horizon" programme about the subject on TV. Today, after watching another "Horizon" programme, entitled, "Is Everything We Know About The Universe Wrong?" I have once again been inspired to write, but this time on the subject of Creation, which I hope will be as much of interest to fellow bloggers/builders as myself. After all, as builders, do we not have our own stories of creation for our own worlds? Much of my own world's creation and governing aspects are loosely based upon some of these ideas I share with you now. I would truly like to know what inspires the background to your own worlds and I ask a few questions at the end of this post. If this sort of thing bores you however, then please forgive my ramblings this week too. It will probably be the last such blog for a while, as I don't think there are any more Horizon programmes left to see this season. (Normal blogs will continue.)

Truly It Does!

Once again, I made the title of this blog deliberately ambiguous. Hopefully, it will be clear now that I meant the title to read in the sense that the consideration of what we call "nothing" does actually matter, as opposed to the sense that we should have no concern about anything.

Interestingly, this week's programme also supported my own argument that I made in my last blog that there is no such thing as nothing and that in "nothing" there is actually "something": Dark Matter! The maths and science gets rather complicated and is way outside my own ability to discuss, but I was encouraged to discover that even scientists have come to the same conclusion I had, myself having just giving it some thought. By the way, I have heard the term Dark Matter before, but I did not know the scientists had considered it as something that existed as a substitute for "nothing" (something even inside a vacuum).

The same programme also discussed other related topics such as Dark Energy and Dark Flow: two other ideas put forward by scientists to help explain why the universe behaves the way it does now. The problem for scientists is that the standard model they have for creation and the universe at the moment does not fit as smoothly as they had hoped, and so they have had to introduce these concepts to help explain their theoretical model. The point I find interesting, however, (and without trying to sound arrogant) is that it seems obvious to me that humanity would not yet have discovered everything there is to know about our universe. Go back only a few hundred years and our world did not even know about the gases that are around us today, which we all take for granted as common knowledge nowadays.

The Spiritual Equation

A point I am trying to make, however, is that we have already been told that there is more to the visible eye in the universe from such texts as the Bible. I don't just mean in the form of "invisible matter" but also in the form of the spiritual, which the Bible teaches us is "invisible". It seems to me that science simply appears to be making discoveries about something that the Bible has already taught us!

We could even apply biblical knowledge in a way that might help explain some of the problems that science is struggling to resolve. For instance, if we take the stand that God created the universe out of love, we can also believe that the universe is more than just a system of matter that follows specific laws of physics. I hasten to add that I am not saying the universe is on the back of a tortoise or something like that, but that a form of life flows through the universe in ways that we do not yet understand. And where there is life, we can also recognise organic behaviour such as growth and change. If we can believe that the universe is like this in some way, (especially in the areas that the scientists currently call Dark Matter, Dark Energy or even Dark Flow but the Christian would call the spiritual world), then changes in the speed of galactic expansion and even unexpected events can simply be interpreted as a change in motion of an organic entity, potentially stretching in all kinds of directions like a growing plant. Furthermore, if we believe in the spiritual realms and principalities of which the Bible speaks, then the impact they might have on our universe should not come as a surprise.

Not Ghosts!

I know how quickly one can start thinking about ghosts when talking about the spiritual, and so I wanted to quickly clarify my own belief on such matters. In this case, I believe in a spiritual world that can and does have an impact on our own physical world, but I do not believe in "ghosts" in the traditional sense. That said, I am not saying it is impossible for ghosts to exist, but I do not believe that any such manifestations are edifying of the true spiritual realm and, in fact, only serve to lead people away from the spiritual truth of the Bible. I won't say anything more on this subject as I do not want to possibly offend people. However, I am happy to continue a discussion of such in a blog comment if you wish.

The Canvas of Creation

For a long time now, science has held on to the Big Bang Theory as a working model of Creation, and even in the Horizon programme they touch on the point that prior to the Big Bang, the scientists believed there was/is nothing. It is only in the light of the recent "Dark" theories (if you pardon the pun) that they are beginning to revise the theory. I find it interesting to think that if the "Dark" concepts of science (or what I would refer to as spiritual) existed prior to the physical universe coming into existence, then, once again, the Bible has already told us this was the case: For, according to the Bible, God and the spiritual world existed before our world and the universe was created. Knowing this, I also have no problem in believing that something outside of the universe I know (God in my case) could have created it in the way I see it now without the dimension/involvement of time. In other words, I see it as quite possible that God could have fashioned the design of creation, like a painting on a blank canvas, with all the stars and galaxies the way we see them now and then set the whole thing in motion when He delivered His creation as the completed physical universe we know today. Furthermore, a design in thought can be completed and presented in an instant without the need to pass through a period of time in a sense of being created. For example, when I say think of a car, you do not draw the car into existence inside your mind as a slow process, but have created a full and complete car image in an instant. Not only that, you could also imagine many of them of different sizes and colours as quickly as just the one.

Continuing the analogy of a blank canvas, if we paint a picture of the night sky and asked a child to describe it to us, they may say the picture is one of stars only. Yet, we know we have used a dark colour to paint in the sky where there are no stars. Or, if we paint a picture of a snowy scene on a white background, is it not also possible that we may leave the canvas blank in those areas to give the effect of snow. These are obvious examples I mention where there is actually "something" in the "nothing" or where "emptiness" in the design is still actually part of the design! However, if we can consider this same concept in our own universe, but at a level far beyond our current understanding, then some of the references of the Bible start to make more sense, and even help to explain the scientific observations. Only belief separates acceptance of this knowledge or not.

From Beyond To Within

As I said at the start, these types of programmes, along with my own personal beliefs, do help me to think about life, the universe and everything! After all, aren't we all trying to work that out deep down? And when presented with a tool like D&D (or NWN), are we then not prone to think about these topics some more if we are to create a believable world of our own in which the adventures take place? I went through two campaign designs before I realised the importance of background and history for my third and final design of Althéa. Then, when I started to investigate the reasons for the way things are in our own world, I started to gain an appreciation for certain things.

For me, it was after I read The Silmarillion (source for The Lord of the Rings) that I realised the importance of having a good and solid historical background for my own world. Later, when I became a Christian, I also recognised the importance of differentiating between fantasy and reality and to ensure there was no confusion left to the player with respect to such and avoided real world references within my own fantasy world wherever and whenever possible. In situations that conflict, I have always tried to impress the difference between what I believe is truly fantasy and what may have historically occurred. (E.g. Resurrection.)

As module builders, I believe we have a responsibility to provide an entertaining game without offending people of any creed or race. Yet, as builders, we are also in the unique position to put forward ideas and suggestions in such a way that make people think a little more about those things that previously may have been taken for granted. I am not saying we should preach in any way, but I do believe we can share our ideas in such a way that is encouraging and possibly enlightening.

With that in mind, my questions this week are:

1) What inspired your world design or currently inspires you?
2) Do you have a specific world background? (Is this your own design or by a third party?)
3) Have you written your own World Creation for your world?
4) What is the main idea or concept you are trying to demonstrate or share?
5) Or, is this too involved for your game design?

POLL: What Turns You Off A Module?

If you haven't voted for last week's poll yet, then please do and feel free to comment.


Michael A. Sinclair said...

Hey there, Lance. Been a longtime follower, but haven't commented until now.

The reconciliation of the rational and the mystical is an intriguing concept for me. I was raised in a charismatic Christian home, but recently I have come to question my beliefs. I've got an urge to ensure that what I believe comes from careful, rational thought rather than the dictates and mantras of others. Posts like yours provoke me to thought, and remind me that science and faith are not mutually exclusive.

Shadows & Silver started out for me as quite the opposite as it is now. At the time, I was obsessed with the beauty of the mystical. I wanted to show a world in which slavery to science and rationalism had made life into an ugly affair, devoid of hope and meaning. As my own attitudes have changed, so has S&S. Now it's a world where man's ignorance and greed destroy the salvation that rationalism could have bee. I'm inspired by the abuses of Darwinism as exhibited by so many of modernism's great struggles. Science can be a beautiful refuge, but it can also be twisted to serve the perverse whims of evil men.

I've been trying to take the world's background slowly, partly out of a fear to commit to something I may want to change later and partly out of a wish to not overdo it. Specifically, I haven't settled on a creation story, though I've come to the conclusion that creation stories are simply myths to explain the evolutionary processes.

How do you go about background? Do you like to start with general ideas that you slowly solidify? Or do you get inspired about a particular idea and work on it until it's done?

Kamal said...

Count me as "Too Involved". I just decided to have my setting be Faerun so I could take advantage of all the existing lore. I've got enough scope I didn't want to burden myself with yet more work detailing a custom world.

Quillmaster said...

Hi Lance,

I saw that Horizon program too. It was very interesting, although I think the sheer scale of what they discussed leads men to a rather arrogant conclusion that there can't be anything beyond it. I've read a few books on Fractuals having been inspired by a documentary many years back that changed (or should I say reinforced) my outlook on the universe. Fractuals provide proof that on a large scale, quirky things happen to chaos that give the illusion of law (they also give us a glimpse of infinity, but it's all terribly complicated and I don't have the time or patience to go into detail here). Suffice to say, it enables one to look at things such as... hmmmm... the recent event of someone seeing a face in a frying pan is a good example. I can look at it and think "Yep, that's cool, it does look like a face, but let's not forget that on the scale of things, it's inevitable that someone, somewhere, will end up with a random collection of burnt fat that resembles something. No matter how striking the image may be, we should not lose touch with the fact that it is simply a coincidence.
For me at least that same way of thinking had me frowning at the Horizon program. Sure, the universe is doing some strange things, but maybe that's because there's variables beyond it that are beyond our comprehension. Fractuals show us that if you go into infinity, you eventually return to the starting point... well... it looks that way, but in fact there are subtle differences almost invisible to the untrained eye. This is often demonstrated in science, where small scale experiments duplicate how physics behave on a larger scale, so for example, as mentioned in the Horizon program, Saturns Rings provide clues as to how the Solar System was born. With all this in mind, who's to say there wasn't one big bang, but an infinity of them, and the reason we are expanding faster, is because they are affected by the gravitational pull of a neighbouring big bang?

I'm not for a moment suggesting that this is the case... I guess I'm just trying to demonstrate, like you so rightly say, that man assumes he knows everyting, inventing little things to fill in the holes that mess with their understanding such as Dark Matter. Incidentally, interesting that they failed to mention black holes. We know they exist, and that they are extremely heavy. Who's to say that they aren't more common or larger than anticipated? We already know that super volcanos exist (Yellowstone National Park, all of it, is a volcano), so it's perfectly feasible there'd be super black holes... indeed, maybe it's these that reach a point where they have to snap and release a big bang?

Uh oh, I think I might have hit waffle mode. Maybe I should just answer your questions. ;)

1) What inspired your world design or currently inspires you?

Difficult to say. Mythology has always fascinated me, so I wanted to create something where the fantastic was real.

2) Do you have a specific world background? (Is this your own design or by a third party?)

Yes. It's my own creation.

3) Have you written your own World Creation for your world?


4) What is the main idea or concept you are trying to demonstrate or share?

I guess I wanted to create an epic fantasy, where the mytholgy was fantastical while still making sense. I wanted my creation to be immersive, and for me to have full control over what can and cannot happen in my own creation.

5) Or, is this too involved for your game design?

Yes, but it hasn't stopped me! *LMAO*

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Michael,


Good to hear you have been following some time now. :) And great to have a comment ... I sometimes worry I might drive people away. ;)

As a Christian, I think we all question our beliefs now and then; it's only healthy (and biblical). I think the main stance to take, however, is that we ask God to help us understand more in our failings and questions. After all, its not in our strength that we learn anything, but in Gods! In this, we are in the mercy of God.

I also read some of your blog now and then (about society in particular) and was going to reply about "sin" being an active force, but as this falls into a very Christian remit and concept, I felt it might provoke in the wrong way. However, I do believe this is what affects people to do wrong.

I agree that science can be a very useful tool to try to relate to some of God's works and that it is only the heart of men that makes something evil or not.

As for a Creation story, that is a difficult one to define. After all, it depends on how we interpret our own (Earth's) to a degree as to how we might define our own campaign. Referring to our own world, there are obviously different cultural beliefs with their own stories, but I do believe there is a point at which some truth shines through all of them. By the Grace of God, I happen to believe the story of Genesis has more truth about it than any other. Indeed, I believe it to be all truth and interpretation of it is something that is very interesting. You may have read between the lines of my original post (and that on "Infinity") that I do believe in literal Creation as opposed to any form of evolution theory. NB: Don't forget that the Evolution Theory is only a theory! It cannot be proven and one day (if the truth is revealed to us), it may well be laughed at as another myth of mankind.

This view may appear bizarre in a modern science world, but so would the Resurrection (in the biblical sense) to any "scientist".

However, once we allow ourselves to admit we do not really know much about ourselves and the universe (there are lots of theories), different thoughts and perspectives open up to us.


Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...


Now, as for becoming a "believer" of God and His works, with hindsight, I can see that becoming a believer is nothing to do with the person, but all to do with God. In other words, I did not choose to become a Christian and believe in Creation, but (pardon the cliches here) "God chose me" and "opened my eyes" to see the wonders of His Creation. As a believer, the word of Creation is real and true, to a non-believer, it will be considered a myth among many. A myth is only a myth to a non believer.

This is why I use the "thought" description as an analogy of something coming into existence in one instant (Creation) rather than over a period of time (Evolution). God "thinks" the universe into existence as it stands, without the need to provide a time scale for development.

If by maths and calculations scientists have recognised there is more to the universe than we can see, the Bible has already told us *what* that is. Indeed, the Bible has even told us *why* that is.

In my opinion, "Background" stems from Creation. My own campaign takes a stance similar to the Christian one of Good and Evil. (I do not refer to sin as it is too close to our own world's issue.) And to help me use this axis as a tool, I also introduce the element of Balance (or neutrality). From the struggles of good, evil and balance comes the struggles of the world. (The struggles of the Outer Realms spill over into Althea, not unlike the Spiritual World falling over into our own.)

Once we recognise the "energies" or "spirits" that drive a life into action, so we can see how motives and objectives are created and backgrounds flow from that.From the simple mindless attacks of those selfish to have something for themselves, to the more scheming minds looking for more power to wield over others.

In this sense, thinking about what motivates our own D&D world can help us understand our own. After all, why do the characters act as they do in our worlds? There really would be no point unless there was an outside/internal influence motivating them ... and I don't just mean something other than basic needs like hunger.

As I say, in our world, we know the strongest motivations are love of God, or a sinful nature (lack of love of God). I have transposed this onto Althea as Good and Evil for their own sake, which is as far as I can take it back without bringing Christianity into the game. For this reason, my own world falls short of a really good reason for existence, but I have tried to compensate this by having a "special" triune god that reflects all sides of Good, Evil & Neutrality with which a player may be able to relate to in ways that may still help to explain why things happen the way they do. This obviously differs from Christianity by the fact that God is only Good (in the absolute purest sense), who allows Evil to happen for perfectly Good reasons, which itself will be justified by the Day of Judgemnt.


Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Kamal,

I can understand that. :) For me, it was a choice between studying a third party world to ensure I got all the facts correct, or going one of my own design. I thought the latter would be easier, but am beginning to wonder about that now. :)


Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Geoff (Quillmaster),

Did you see the programme about "Infinity" as well? Some of the comments you make in this post would have been well placed in the Infinity blog as well. :) If you didn't, check out the link in the post I made a few weeks back, as you may still be able to see the programme through IPlayer if it is still available.

By the way, do you mean "fractals", as I could not find anything on "fractuals"? (No "u" in the term.) From your description, I think this is what you were referring to, but I want to make sure I am not missing out on something else. :)

Black Holes ... Yes, I did wonder about that as well. I believe it is quite possible for there to be more and bigger than they already know. And if this is the case (of a very large Black Hole just past the ability to see), then it may explain some of the behaviour in question .... perhaps?

"Fantastic and real" ... You know all us Christians would say you have both in this world too. :) Not all mythology, but I believe there are some truths accidentally chucked out with the mythology bath water. ;)

What a tangled web we weave when it comes to creating a world of our own eh? ;)


Quillmaster said...

Sorry yep, I meant Fractals.

Missed the infinity episode, I'll check out Iplayer later. Busy weekend ahead :(

Anonymous said...

1. I guess I have been influenced by some things but I don't really have an inspiration source.

2. Yes, my own design.

3. I guess you mean "what do people in this world believe" instead of "how the world was actually created". Due to historical events religion in this world is a very controversial subject and there are many different theories about the creation of the world. However, most of them assume that both God and Devil had a part to it, which is in many of them equal.

4/5. Everything was created to serve a specific plot, so it's too involved for me. However, there is the concept of humans misusing the powers of both magic and science, leading to many catastrophic events.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Anon,

You touch upon a point that I bring into my own world: The differences between "beliefs" and the actual "means" of creation. Obviously, as the DM, I know the way my world was created and I then populate the world with the different races and their beliefs.

Each faith has some truth to it, but the actual truth is only held by the few. In this case, it does not matter, as each "believer" in their own faith is rewarded for such, and the main "creator" actually takes more of a back role.

I assume this is what you are referring to in your world when you say "assume both God and the Devil had a part in it"? I was unclear at this point whether your reference to "this" world was to the world in which we live, or the world of your fantasy campaign. I am guessing you mean your world as (unless you believe differently) I assume we both believe only God (and not the devil) created our world? Assuming this is the case, your dual creation for your fantasy world is not unlike my own triune creation for my own. :)

I think as long as the background for your world is alluded to in some way, then the feeling of depth to your world also comes through. Being able to use this in any productive or useful way (other than a plot device) can be something too hard to do and I can quite appreciate the amount of involvement would be too much.

Let me know if I have misunderstood you at all. :)


Anonymous said...

You are right, I was referring to the world I created, though it's supposed to be our world after a "magic fallout" which brought the civilization several centuries back, with only basic technology left. The events leading to this fallout were understood as a fight between God and Devil taking place in our world where God lost, so religions were very much altered (with minorities still believing in their unaltered versions), and new ones were born. That's where the "both God and the Devil" comes from.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Anon,

I think you have fallen into the same trap I did when I first created my campaign world - that is extending our own (this) world's "purpose and design" as part of a fantasy one. The problem is that it is mixing "reality" with "fantasy", and that can only offend people with faiths. I quickly add that I do understand where you are coming from as a fellow builder, but can also recognise the problems it can cause as a Christian. I even rewrote my book, "Deep Within" because of this realisation. It sat on the shelf for 5 years not being written because I was uncomfortable with the pretext of it starting in our world before going to another. In the end, after a sudden realisation of the problem, I reset the start of the book in another fantasy world (that may be comparable to Earth but without any references to our own world faiths) and everything fell into place.

From experience, I have recognised that the best way to not offend people is to establish one's fantasy world completely separate from our own - even if we are to assume a parallel universe, but without the same references to "God" and the "devil".

The terms "god" and "devil" are fairly safe to use in themselves, but not in the context or any reference to our own world, otherwise it flies in the face of religions, belittling them to no more than a "myth". Even if this is not done intentionally, the potential offence is still made.

The bottom line is (I suppose) is if you do believe in God of our own world, then to extend the "history" of our own world to show God in defeat to the devil is both illogical and blasphemous. Blasphemy speaks for itself, but the illogical point is that to have any reference to God at all shows God has already defeated the devil and is spoken of as such in the Bible. And the same Bible even prophesies events to come in Revelation, which would also contradict any other rendition of the time to come.

As I say though, if you do not believe in any of that, then any "future" could, I suppose, be possible, but the God and devil of which you speak would have to be completely different from the God and devil we know about now. Therefore, even using such terms (as god and devil) are redundant as they are not of the Bible we know.

To me, the logic does not fit even if I was not a Christian, which was the same conclusion I came to before I was a Christian.

I know there have been a number of stories where such reality and fantasy do mix, but logically it always feels wrong to me. That is why I do not like the Harry Potter stories, and even have some reservations about the Narnia series (written by a Christian), but have no problems with Lord of the Rings, simply because it keeps the fantasy in the correct realms and does not step into the already complicated realms of reality. :)


Anonymous said...

To clarify, the "God" and "Devil" I was referring to are not supposed to be the real God and Devil. People just interpreted what they saw as their fight, and due to the destruction caused afterwards the only logical conclusion they could think was that Devil won. This is doubted or outright denied by many religions, and the fact that according to history Devil was later defeated by a simple group of seven humans supports this opinion. Also, there’s the logic problem you mentioned: if God exists, then he couldn’t have possibly been defeated. Most people wouldn’t believe in that story if they hadn’t seen angels and demons with their own eyes (or what people think is angels and demons), as since the “fight” there are rifts to our world (or reality or whatever) which (again, people think that) are openings to the (supposed) spiritual world. (That’s not a world mentioned in any religion, just a generic world of magic, spirits, incorporality etc.)

Now about the reality-fantasy mix, that’s something I’m concerned about. I hadn’t originally planned the plot to be on our world, but later I came up with a plot device with this, which later became an essential part of the plot and now half the protagonists are from a society unaffected by the events, hidden from the rest of the world. Basically a society from our world, if the rest is fantasy. I’m considering making it just a fantasy world which was once very similar to ours to solve this problem, as the plot, though not eliminating the possibility of God (from our religion) existing, surely indicates so by the fact that there are spirits, magic etc, and that’s something I don’t like.

Anyway, thanks for the advice and your thoughts. I really appreciate it.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Anon,

Thanks for discussing it. :)

I also appreciate being able to discuss this type of thing, as it helps ideas grow and develop.

You said, "I’m considering making it just a fantasy world which was once very similar to ours to solve this problem ... "

That's what I did with my book. :) It solves a multitude of problems as well as keeps the reality and fantasy apart so as not to offend anybody. After all, its good to have a large an audience as possible when we get our stuff released eventually. :)

Thanks for clarifying. And interesting reading ... :)