July 23, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

Exomoon Seen Forming in Astronomers’ Imaginations

Progressive bias misleads scientists into
mistaking circular reasoning for fact


Darwin was a child of the Victorian age of progress. Watching the growth of British culture and technology, he began to see everything as improving over time, evolving upward and onward, whether finches, barnacles or chemicals. No one has infected scientific thought with this bias more than Darwin. It even infects astronomy.

Astronomers and physicists should know better. They know that the laws of thermodynamics preclude “progress” toward higher states of order except in very special circumstances. Without energy directed toward progress, orderly states (like hurricanes or snowflakes) are temporary and low in information content.

But because the astronomy consensus believes that we humans came from a big bang, the myth of progress is evident in astronomy and cosmology. From lifeless clumps of matter, stars evolved. From stars, galaxies evolved. From galaxies, planets evolved, From planets, moons evolved… which brings us to our exercise in critical thinking for today.

PDS70 star and disk, with putative exomoon forming around a planetary disk inside. One frame from a movie does not reveal the story.

Astronomers may have spotted a distant alien moon being born (New Scientist). Leah Crane cannot think outside the box. A dust disk is observed around a planet. It must be evolving into an exomoon!

We may be watching the birth of a moon for the first time. Astronomers have spotted a disc of debris around a distant planet called PDS 70 c, and it is massive enough that the young exoplanet might be in the process of forming exomoons.

These expectations flow directly from the myth of progress. Astronomers are not watching a moon form, because the dust disk is a single frame in a movie. How do they know the disk is not disintegrating? Maybe a pre-existing moon is breaking up.

When a new stellar system is forming, the planets coalesce out of a cloud of debris called a circumstellar disc. Then, the planets can suck gas and dust from that cloud to form their own circumplanetary discs, which feed the planets’ growth and provide the material for moons to form.

But if astronomers cannot build planets from dust disks without extreme hurdles, how can they expect dust disks around planets to form moons? Remember the problems with planet formation theories:

  • Start Over: The Evolution of Planets Is All Wrong (5 July 2014): Core Accretion Theory faces innumerable problems.
  • Planets Defy Bottom-Up Assembly (15 Aug 2015): Building blocks of lie make imaginary planets as well as life.
  • Planet Origin Theories Contradict Physics (28 June 2018): Despite major problems, astronomers cling to accretion theory.
  • Exoplanets Are Young, Too (22 Dec 2018): Disk instability theory tries to account for a contradiction to core accretion theory.
  • Energized Dust Bunnies Make Planets? (12 Dec 2019): Trying to overcome an obstacle in theory, a shocking new idea fails.
  • Star Warts: Planets Rebel Against Theory (5 Aug 2020): Rebel armies of anomalies battle against the empire.

Exomoons do indeed exist. Observations of exoplanets and exomoons are not controversial. The question before us is whether they are accreting or disrupting, evolving or devolving. Gravity can certainly draw particles together, but when they collide, they grind each other down to fine dust. Getting up to the 1-to-10-meter size barrier so that a mass can grow has been such a theoretical difficulty (24 Aug 2015), astronomers have trended toward the heretical disk instability theory. That theory is like a miracle: planets form almost instantly from instabilities in the dust disk (21 Aug 2009).

Additionally, astronomers have been pushed to believe that planet formation must be rapid to keep from a “death spiral” into the star caused by drag in the dust disk. Observations of gas giants close to stars (i.e., the “hot Jupiters”) have forced them to give up on a slow-and-gradual Darwinian view of progressive formation of planets and moons. Astronomers are in no position, therefore, to gloss over the difficulties of getting from a disc of dust bunnies to a moon or a planet. Theory does not make it so. Believing that an exomoon is forming from dust because one believes that planets and moons form from dust illustrates a case of circular reasoning.

Planetary Science since Darwin: the myth that dust bunnies turn into real bunnies, given billions of years.



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