Archive for October 13, 2018

Existence of Dark Matter is the Astrophysical Equivalent of Belief in God

October 13, 2018 13 comments

Here is another one of those posts which I started writing a couple of years ago, but did not get around to finishing till today. Before we go any further, let me clarify a few things. The main point of this post is as follows: belief in anything that is not supported by objective evidence (which can be reproduced by others) is no different from traditional religious belief. The uncritical acceptance of ideas about “catastrophic anthropocentric global climate change” based purely on computer models and string theory based on some clever-looking mathematical equations is the equivalent of blaming storms, famines and epidemics on bearded sky dudes or guys with horns, hoofs and spiky tails- and I plan to write about my thoughts on what passes for “climate change” soon.

Now let us get back to the topic at hand, namely belief in existence of dark matter. Some of you might wonder about my reasons for opposing this idea. Do I not believe that it can exist? So let me quickly clarify that point. In my opinion, there is no reason why dark matter should not exist, in the same manner that matter exists. My problem with the idea of dark matter comes down to two aspects of it that are seldom discussed nowadays. Firstly, scientist invoke dark matter to explain the discrepancy between predictions made by their models about how the universe should behave versus how it actually behaves. This is eerily reminiscent of how people living in previous eras invoked the devil to explain everything wrong with the world that they could not explain.

Did I mention that this type of lazy thinking and attribution has a long history in science. Some of you might have read about how scientists in the 1800s thought that all empty space was filled with Luminiferous aether because their contemporary understanding of electromagnetic wave transmission did not work properly under conditions of a true vacuum. I am not implying that every scientist from those decades believed the universe was filled with this mysterious substance possessing almost magical properties. Yet their equations about propagation of electromagnetic radiation did not square with contemporary experimental data without invoking this concept. Aether met its final demise with Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity in 1905.

But what does any of this have to do with belief in the existence of Dark Matter? Well.. let us start by going back in history to see how this idea came into being. To make a long story short, it all started when astronomers and astrophysicists realized that there might be a discrepancy between mass of observable stars in a given galaxy and their movement within that particular galaxy. Of course, these early observations were full of questionable assumptions and performed using inadequate instrumentation. It was only in the 1970s that astronomers were finally able to say with a high degree of certainty that radial velocity of stars within galaxies (around its center) was far higher than calculated using the approximate mass of all stars or even hydrogen which could be visually observed or measured within each system.

Some other phenomena discovered later such as gravitational lensing of background objects by galaxy clusters, temperature distribution of hot gas in galaxies and clusters and pattern of anisotropies (unevenness) in cosmic microwave background have also been attributed to the presence of dark matter. There are, of course, alternative explanations for these effects, most of which rely on the idea that gravity does not scale like other fundamental forces in the universe. I am not going to go into all of them and their variations, suffice to say that the underlying concept holds reasonably well but many of the derivative ‘complete theories’ do not. But let us be honest about something.. conventional theories about mass, gravity and relativity are also unable to explain observations unless you invoke its Deus ex machina aka Dark Matter.

Which brings me to my second objection to belief in Dark Matter. Simply put, we have not found unambiguous proof for its existence after searching really hard for almost 40 years! And this is really weird because calculations suggest that it should be at least 6-10 times more abundant in the universe than ordinary matter. In other words, we somehow cannot find the majority of mass in the universe even after thousands of academics and their far more numerous slave laborers.. I mean postdocs and graduate students have spent tons of research money, built and operated many new instruments and spent millions of hours on trying to solve this problem. And we are still as far from finding incontrovertible evidence of dark matters, especially its composition, as the day we started down that path. Isn’t that odd?

But.. but.. you might say “wasn’t experimental evidence for existence of neutrons, neutrinos, anti-matter, controlled nuclear fission, nuclear transmutation of elements etc found years after theoretical predictions”? Well.. yes, that is quite correct but with a major caveat. Experimental evidence for all these and more successful came within a decade or so of the first solid theoretical predictions. Moreover, it occurred in an era when there were far fewer scientists and far less research money. Today we have robust and easy accessible instruments to measure them, not to mention that anti-matter emitting and transmuted radioactive elements are routinely used in diagnostic medicine and controlled nuclear fission is used to generate electricity.

So far, first person shooter video games such as Half Life 2 and really mediocre sci-fi shows such as StarGate are the only places where you can see Dark Matter. Do you realize that experimental evidence for the existence and composition of Dark Matter is as scarce as for the ‘Holy Grail’? But why is that such a bad thing, you might ask? Well.. for one, it has become a respectable dogma that justifies the existence of an entire ecosystem of priests and apprentices engaged in constant search for proof. Try getting a job in astrophysics without professing your acceptance of this hypothesis. Better still, try getting funded if you somehow manage to land a job without first expressing your sincere and continuing faith in the existence of Dark Matter.

What do you think? Comments?