Belief in Dark Matter Propelled by Theory, Not Evidence
Behold a scientific theory costing millions that has no evidence, but is clung to with unremitting tenacity.
When are the dark matter searchers going to give up? Every search has turned up nothing. Costly experiments around the world continue to fail. “Candidate” dark matter particles keep getting falsified. And then there’s dark energy, which is even more mysterious. Nobody has a clue about that, and now the supernova data that initially led to it has been called into question. Has science ever seen such repeated failures in spite of tenacious belief? Does that happen in other fields of science? Here’s the latest news.
Strange stars that go supernova may be dimming because of dark matter (New Scientist). The operative word is “may,” because the dimming is not conclusively linked to dark matter. “Might” pops up twice in Leah Crane’s opening paragraph:
There is a problem with some stars that have exploded in supernovae, and it might point to new, exotic physics. They do not seem to have been as bright as they should have been, and particles called axions might have dimmed them before they blew up.
Crane’s experts propose axions as candidate dark matter particles to explain the unexpected dimming. Axions have never been observed. But they wouldn’t help answer the big questions about dark matter anyway:
“If this discrepancy that we find originates from axions, they will be found in the next decade,” says Straniero. That would explain not only the discrepancy with type II supernovae, but the much bigger strong CP problem [charge/parity] as well.
Unfortunately, even though axions are a dark matter candidate, finding them in red giant stars might not solve the question of dark matter, says Straniero. “There are different ways to make axions, but the highly energetic environment one won’t produce enough axions to explain the dark matter density,” says Chanda Prescod-Weinstein at the University of New Hampshire. “This is not how we expect a dark matter population to arise.” That had to happen in the early universe, well before stars and supernovae.
How fast is the Universe expanding? Cosmologists just got more confused (Nature). We were told two decades ago that precision measurements of supernovas by the Hubble Telescope would resolve the age of the universe, which (we were told) was 13.7 billion years. That settled it. The Hubble Constant was now known to 3 significant figures, and with it, the age of the universe.
The Universe is just messing with us at this point, right?
Did you know that, “For much of this decade, the two most precise gauges of the Universe’s rate of expansion have been in glaring disagreement“? That’s how David Castelvecchi begins this article. Worse, “Now, a highly anticipated independent technique that cosmologists hoped would solve the conundrum is instead adding to the confusion.” And Wendy Freedman, the astrophysicist behind the 13.7-billion-year consensus, is among the confused.
In results unveiled on 16 July and due to appear in the Astrophysical Journal, a team led by astronomer Wendy Freedman at the University of Chicago in Illinois presents a technique that measures the expansion using red-giant stars. It had promised to replace a method that astronomers have been using for more than a century — but for now, the speed measurement has failed to resolve the dispute because it falls half way between the two contentious values.
“The Universe is just messing with us at this point, right?” tweeted one astrophysicist about the paper.
“Right now, we’re trying to understand how it all fits together,” Freedman told Nature. If the cosmic-speed discrepancy is not resolved, some of the basic theories that cosmologists use to interpret their data — such as assumptions about the nature of dark matter — could be wrong. “Fundamental physics hangs in the balance,” Freedman says.
See also Live Science‘s article about the tension between theory and observation, “Exotic ‘Early Dark Energy’ Could Be the Missing Link That Explains the Universe’s Expansion.” One cosmologist told Live Science that there are “many models on the market that could” produce so-called “early dark energy” that turned on at the big bang and then turned off somehow after 100,000 years. “The one we suggested is inspired by string theory,” he says. String theory also is lacking in evidence.
Tracking down dark matter (Phys.org). This is a typical fluff article that claims dark matter makes up 80% of the universe, and we don’t know what it is, but scientists are looking for it. Try that on unicorns, gnomes, or fairies in the garden. It might be axions, a searcher at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) thinks. They’re very hard to see, but he promises that his team is getting warmer:
The team at Mainz University have now combed through the range of frequencies from a few oscillations per year up to 18 oscillations per hour—as yet, without finding evidence of the effect of dark matter. “It’s rather like looking for a lost ring in a vast garden,” said Budker. “We have already searched part of the garden, so we now know this is where the ring—the axion—is not to be found. This has allowed us to considerably narrow down the range in which we hope to find the axion, and we can now focus our search on other ranges.”
So he knows where the unicorn is not. Science is supposed to be about observing what exists.
NASA Delivers Hardware for ESA Dark Energy Mission (JPL News). Intelligent design can be found in this story. JPL prides itself that it overcame major obstacles with a project to supply instruments for the European Space Agency’s upcoming Euclid mission to look for dark matter and dark energy, because “it is extremely challenging to design and build very sensitive and complex electronics that function reliably at very cold operating temperatures.” As for the mysterious stuff, we’ll have to wait till 2022 to get data.
Euclid will conduct a survey of billions of distant galaxies, which are moving away from us at a faster and faster rate as the expansion of space itself accelerates. Scientists don’t know what causes this accelerating expansion but have named the source of this phenomenon dark energy. By observing the effect of dark energy on the distribution of a large population of galaxies, scientists will try to narrow down what could possibly be driving this mysterious phenomenon.
‘Dark Matter Bullets’ Could Tear Through the Human Body, Wild New Study Suggests (Live Science). Anything is possible when you raise the perhapsimaybecouldness index high enough. Why, the dark matter (about which science knows nothing) could be speeding around like bullets. And if it is, it could be tearing right through your body right now! Observation: You aren’t dead. Hum. Problem. Space.com‘s headline reads, “Dark Matter Hasn’t Killed Anybody Yet — and That Tells Us Something.” Heineke Weitering’s article starts out with hilarious confusion based on strong affirmations that the stuff must exist:
Nobody has stumbled into an emergency room with an inexplicable lightsaber wound, as far as we know — and that tells us something about dark matter, a new study suggests.
Dark matter makes up about 85% of the material universe, meaning it’s about six times more abundant than the “normal” stuff that makes up stars, planets, people and everything else we’re familiar with.
But nobody knows what dark matter actually is; the mysterious substance appears to emit no light, so it’s incredibly hard to study.
In other words, human bodies don’t work as dark matter detectors. But they know dark matter is true! Keep looking! Has science ever been so dogmatic about something with no evidence? Read on.
Some atheists are probably worried we will link this story to Darwinism somehow. Their predictions are correct. As for dark matter and dark energy, we will reserve judgment. The mysterious unknown stuff MUST be found to preserve a favored cosmological theory. Perhaps it will be found. The point is that scientists are willing to spend many millions of dollars, and work for decades, looking for things that might not even exist. Another point is that they will confidently tell the media that a theory is a fact (“dark matter makes up 85% of the universe”), without any evidence for it. In a strange circularity, the theory itself becomes the observation supporting it!
Historian of science Steven Goldman at Lehigh University tells of a case when physicists calculated a quantum effect that appeared to violate conservation of energy. They were so beholden to their quantum theory, they were about to ditch the best-known law in all of physics—conservation of mass/energy—in order to preserve their theory. Fortunately for the physics, an error in the calculation was later found, and conservation was saved.
We see a similar thing going on now. Cosmologists are so wedded to the hot big bang model of the universe, they have entered the occult world (“beyond the range of ordinary knowledge or understanding; mysterious”) in order to preserve it against the evidence. Galaxies and galaxy clusters are not moving the way cosmologists think they should in a billions-of-years-old universe, so they invent dark matter. Galaxies are flying apart faster than they should in a billions-of-years-old material universe, so they invent dark energy. Better to concoct dark things than to threaten a beloved theory with facts visible in the light.
Is that not the case with Darwinism? The simplistic Stuff Happens Law that Darwin imagined could explain life has become a cornerstone of secular biology. It must survive at all costs; facts notwithstanding. Since Darwin’s Day, multiple revolutions of biological science have occurred in biochemistry and genetics. The observational facts from repeatable experiments about DNA and molecular machines cannot be allowed to take scientists away from their beloved Darwin. Facts become subservient to the theory, and must be forced to serve it. We see the same dogmatism about what natural selection can do, but total silence about how random mutation and natural selection can do it.
Michael Behe gives a good example in the Appendix of his new book, Darwin Devolves. Twenty years ago he proposed the bacterial flagellum as a model of irreducible complexity. Only one highly-cited paper tried to answer it, but went off onto irrelevant data about gene comparisons without ever attempting to explain how random mutations and natural selection could build this highly-complex molecular outboard motor. The silence from observational, experimental, logical scientific quarters, meanwhile, has been drowned out by affirmations that evolution is a fact, and therefore the flagellum evolved. A similar situation occurred with Behe’s example of the blood-clotting cascade as an irreducibly complex system. One of the world’s leading experts on blood clotting, Russell Doolittle, attempted a half-hearted response referring to another paper, but it turned out he got his facts wrong from that paper. And yet his response paper has been referenced ever since as an answer to Behe. If Doolittle could not refute irreducible complexity in this case, Behe says, then nobody can.
The Dark Matter/Energy situation is a current case of ideology driving observation. It will be interesting to see how it turns out after the Euclid Mission and other attempts, but the believers are running out of space in the garden to find the mysterious micro-unicorns. If they never turn up, what them? Chances are, the dogmatism will remain, and they will keep looking, affirming that everything we know represents only 5% of what actually is there.