Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Philosophy sans Sophistry, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism, Technology > Existence of Dark Matter is the Astrophysical Equivalent of Belief in God

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

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?

  1. MikeCA
    October 13, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    This is something I actually know something about.

    Astronomers and astrophysicists attempt to use the laws of physics we understand on Earth to explain the stars and galaxies they observe.

    The fundamental assumption of this is that the laws of physics we observe on Earth and in our solar system apply to distant galaxies. This is an assumption. There is no way to verify if it is true, but if it is not, then what laws do apply in distant galaxies?

    Maybe gravity does not scale like other fundamental forces?

    Dark mater is a place holder that astronomers and astrophysicists use to explain observations with the existing laws of physics we know. It is not that astronomers are sure it exists, it is the least disruptive theory that explains the observations. It does not require postulating that the laws of physics do not apply in external galaxies. It just requires postulating that mater we cannot observe exists in galaxies.

    Is that why ‘famous’ universities issue almost weekly press releases that their employees have come close to discovering Dark Matter or have discovered conclusive evidence for it. And then we don’t hear anything about that ‘discovery’ again..

    Maybe the observations are wrong. Maybe there are objects out there we cannot see. Maybe to laws of physics we know here don’t apply in remote galaxies. Dark matter is the place holder that says we can’t explain everything we see. We need to discover new physics and/or refine out observations and understanding of the universe.

    Reproducible and independently verifiable observations made without a perverse financial or ideological incentive are usually far more trustworthy than theories and hypothesis put forth by human beings. The universe does not (and cannot care) about what humans believe anymore than termites.

    • balu
      October 14, 2018 at 12:14 am

      “Dark matter is the place holder that says we can’t explain everything we see.”
      Exactly. Physicists are keen to tell you current physics is a mathematical model, an extremely complicated one, that happen to match observations, and has a quite strong predictive power (Eg. see the Higgs boson), but they are quite openly state that reality may be very different. You even need the model to explain observations. (Just to get the taste of it: no one has ever seen an electron.) There is no “faith” in dark matter, and presenting this as a kinda “belief” demonstrates an inability to grasp science.

      Here is a hint.. what I do for a living involves some aspects of QM. So take that “no one has ever seen an electron” argument elsewhere. For others, here is a link.

      Regarding climate, the post is categorically mistaken. Apart from the fact that relevant science is not “based purely on computer models”, climate science is quite coherent and match observations very well.

      I too can fit bad models into existing data by fudging and introducing variables.

      It is true that currently we cannot handle well nonlinear phenomenon with strong feedbacks, but we cannot predict well the path of an individual snow flake either. Our understanding is better and better in climate, and yes, computer models give us bigger and bigger help in understanding these things, but this is a quite recent development. Scientists knew about the very basic problem of CO2 greenhouse effect decades and decades ago.
      —-

      Oh ya.. let us see a good internally-consistent model for ice ages and inter-glacial periods during the last one million years- especially the last 500,000 years.

      • balu
        October 14, 2018 at 10:09 am

        “I too can fit bad models into existing data by fudging and introducing variables.”
        Congratulations. For your information, climate models have been criticised endlessly in the last two decades or so, thus I find it extremely unlikely that manipulations could go unnoticed. All the “scandals” turned out to be BS (like the hockey stick “controversy”).

        “Oh ya.. let us see a good internally-consistent model for ice ages and inter-glacial periods”
        And what? Even climate reconstruction is a problem, ie. what we have is mostly a rough estimation about climate in the past. Lack of data _is_ a problem, and these are “proxies”, so even if we have data, the reconstruction is not straightforward. All in all, a good, internally consistent model for that currently is not a requirement. Besides, they are better and better explaining paleoclimate. Anyway, they are concerned with describing what’s going on _now_, with considerable success. Note: the same holds for evolution. A lot of intermediate forms are missing from the record. Nevertheless, no serious person questions evolution.

      • balu
        October 14, 2018 at 10:18 am

        Oops, I didn’t see this.
        ” what I do for a living involves some aspects of QM”
        So I’m glad you understand what I’m talking about. For the rest: the electron is a mathematical abstraction that is so closely matches measurements that we are extremely sure it is what we think it is. No one has really seen an electron in the literal sense (ie. with his eyes), only its effects.

  2. Gp
    October 13, 2018 at 11:32 pm

    You used to link quite a few videos of Stargate, why do u call it mediocre now?

    A couple, and they were about the rare philosophical snippets from that series.

    like this one.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgFdeg7hDYM

  3. MikeCA
    October 14, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    “Is that why ‘famous’ universities issue almost weekly press releases that their employees have come close to discovering Dark Matter or have discovered conclusive evidence for it. And then we don’t hear anything about that ‘discovery’ again..”

    I remember reading announcements of discoveries in Astronomy in the NYT in the 1970s. They didn’t make any sense. Everyone always waited for a pre-print of a journal article describing the discovery. Those would make sense. Even a paper with the resources of the NYT could not a afford a science writer who could get the facts right. I’m not sure whether the science writers or the astronomers they talked with were responsible for distorting and over hyping things. Probably it was both. Very few astronomers know how to explain things to non-scientist.

    I don’t take anything I read newspapers about science discoveries very seriously.

    As I said, dark mater is a place holder. They postulate that dark mater exists to explain the observation. It seems like the leased radical postulate to explain the observations.

    I would recommend you study the 1920 Shapley and Curtis “Great Debate” on scale of the universe and the nature spiral nebulae. Both Shapley and Curtis were right about some things and wrong about others. There were things that astronomers just had never imagined in 1920, like interstellar dust clouds that block much our own galaxy. There were measurements by leading astronomers that were incorrect and confused the debate.

    The issues of the Great Debate were largely understood by the 1930s through more observations with larger telescopes.

    Astronomy is a very different science than chemistry, physics or biology. Astronomers cannot bring stars or galaxies into the lab and perform experiments. Astronomers can only observe the radiation that reaches the earth from stars and galaxies and try to use physics to explain what they observe. In the last hundred years astronomers have made remarkable progress in explaining the universe. The existence of observations they cannot explain just means we have more work to do. We need to observe more and maybe improve our understanding of physics.

    FYI- Astrophysics was my second career option, and I used to do a lot of visual astronomy. Nowadays, it is just easier to get robotic telescopes situated in AZ, NM or somewhere in southern hemisphere to image the area of sky you want to observe- especially in winter.

  4. botterd
    October 15, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Not just dark matter, but dark energy as well.
    One of the most hilarious things I ever read about as an undergraduate were the towers erected on the shores of Lake Eerie to measure the wind in the space-time ether continuum due to the earth’s rotation. It reminded me of Freud, who thought that we would eventually find correlates in brain physiology to analytical concepts such as the ego, the id, and the super-ego, etc.
    The fact that quark spin can be instantaneously related across millions of light years is also difficult to imagine as something “physical”. Newton himself stated of gravity that it remains an absurdity to human reason that a body can exert a force on another body without intermediation through a vacuum. At least he was clear about his concepts.
    Physics has long ago left behind anything that can be charactertized as “physical”, matter itself has not lead back to simpler indivisible elements and particles, but to a more and more bewildering plethora of nano-second sub-particles and a lot of theory. Physical matter has basically dissolved into the stuff of thought.

  5. Robert A. Lindsay
    October 15, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    Hi fellow Male Sexualist. My blog was just shut down by WordPress, possibly for Male Sexualist content. Can you show me a site that has no freedom of speech or could you possibly blog about my case? Thank you!

    • P Ray
      October 15, 2018 at 9:19 pm

      Well … I’d be the first one to tell you the Incels are right.
      It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you!

      • Robert A. Lindsay
        October 15, 2018 at 9:47 pm

        Yeah, they really are! I suspect the feminists might have gotten it taken down. There is a group of them out there who have an almost psychotic hatred of me and all men and I think they might be behind it.

        Feminists got me banned from Alternet, and feminists/SJW’s/Zionists got me banned from Daily Kos twice and SJW’s (trannies) and the male sexuality hating Feminist-Puritans got me temporary bans on Facebook.

        I have finally started to realize the depth of the hatred that many feminists, especially radical feminists, have for us men. It is absolutely terrifying how much they hate us. And these radical feminists now run Women’s Studies Departments at universities all over the US. They also run all the battered women’s shelters.

        Also most of the new bullshit sexual harassment (anti-flirting), sexual assault (anti-dating) and rape (anti-heterosexual sex) laws and rules are being formulated by radical feminists and the theory that all shit is based on came right out of Dworkin and the rest of the manhating psychos.

        In fact, sexual harassment theory that all these rules are based on was thought up by Dworkin and Catharine McKinnon, two of the most evil manhaters that ever lived.

        The radicals have wormed their way into power and sort of taken over movements and are using their newfound power to institute radical pro-feminist change in laws and rules and most people don’t even realize how radical these policies actually are or their provenance.

        I am surprised that you did start running it as a self-hosted blog years ago, given what you posted on it. Hope you archived it regularly.

      • P Ray
        October 16, 2018 at 1:22 am

        They’re actually selective manhaters.
        If you looked like Paul Giamatti, Steve Buscemi, Eddie Izzard, Ken Jeong, Kevin Hart …
        you will spend your life walking on eggshells around them.

        If you looked like Chris Hemsworth, Travers Beynon, Dan Bilzerian, Edison Chen, Mike Colter, Sendhil Ramamurthy … you can speak your mind and only a minor blip comes up.

        The reality is women enjoy being part of a group, but more importantly, hate ugly guys. If being part of the group means hating on an ugly guy, it takes very little effort AND gives them mental satisfaction which is why they do it.

        The only real way to retaliate against them is to keep your wallet closed, go where the women want you and don’t give them favours for free … but remember to record yourself always like the Apostle Gable Tostee.

        May Saint Blackops2cel and Elliott guide you on your journey through this nest of vipers that is modern life and endless-female-outrage-against-ugly-and-regular-men.

  6. 1stlaw
    October 15, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    I don’t know why you think “fancy computer models” are the only evidence for global warming. Perhaps it would be better if you spelled out in detail what parts of it are suspect. What variables have they introduced that you think are bogus? I’m not a full expert but the basics behind global warming seem like they could be modeled by a simple energy balance equation to me. The fancier modeling shit is just building upon the basics. I assume you have coded some kind of physics simulations before? What makes you skeptical about climate simulations in particular?

    Also, the incentive to lie or make shit up about global warming just isn’t there. Especially when the majority of corporations give zero fucks about curbing their carbon footprint except for bullshit marketing purposes. Climate denial is far more profitable.

    As for dark matter, I don’t think scientists are really married to the idea as much as you say. For instance, this article from a pop-science publication (http://www.astronomy.com/news/2018/09/what-is-dark-matter) even suggests similar hypotheses as you (e.g. that scientists could just be wrong about gravity). I honestly don’t see anything close to suggesting people have “found” dark matter within the top results on google, so I don’t see where you are getting these ideas from.

    • thegenius
      October 23, 2018 at 3:23 am

      there’s no evidence a few degree of warming will cause any sort of catastrophe.

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