Dark matter? (part two)


Many of you read my first post on Dark Matter. Some people, particularly Miss Sophismata, didn’t quite get it. Therefore in this post I’m going to expand greatly on my thoughts. It will include some overlap, but not very much. It is important that I, for example, am more explicit about precisely how the analogy between a frightened child and a contemporary physicist works. I begin with a little history.

A Brief History of Dark Matter

In the 1970′s it was reported that as much as 90% of the Universe doesn’t exist. Physicists had discovered that their theories, hiding behind very confusing mathematical equations, were simply wrong. Contrary to what you or I would do, the scientific response to this startling revelation was not to abandon the defunct theories. Exercising incredible hubris, scientists decided that their theories couldn’t possibly be wrong. But they needed a large amount of non-existent matter to keep the theories going. So physicists instead chose a more insidious route, and invented one of the most ridiculous ideas of the 20th century:

Dark Matter.

In positing the existence of Dark Matter as an escape from abandoning their theories, scientists fell into the same philosophical fallacy as influential philosopher of biology Alvin Plantinga when he stated that the following form of reasoning is “compelling”:

If X were true, it would be inconvenient for science; therefore, X is false.

The X in this instance is the proposition “Our theories are false.” So there’s a little bit of history, explaining how Dark Matter theorists fell into an egregious logical fallacy, on top of an already absurd empirical farce.

Understanding Dark Matter

It is not difficult to understand Dark Matter, because there is quite literally nothing to understand. No one has seen it, felt it, or heard it. Yet because the Universe is such an eerie place, we are supposed to accept on faith the statements of the high priests of theoretical physics. The Pope of science, Stephen Hawking, explains to us – merely on his own authority – that all “cosmologists” think that the edges of spiral galaxies are “dominated by dark matter that we cannot see directly.” His loyal disciple and lackey Brian Greene simply asserts – again on mere authority – that there is “strong evidence” that our world is “permeated with dark matter.” For these thinkers it is inconceivable that their theories could be wrong. Instead, they blame the Universe.

The Child/Physicist Analogy

Physicists, in this respect, are like children who are afraid of the dark. They cannot explain the empty closets opposite their beds. The child reasons thus:

Why is my closet so empty, so dark? Surely there should be something in my closet; closets are after all, according to my explanatory framework, made for things. Indeed I remember putting my toys away just yesterday. And besides, Stephen Hawking says there just must be stuff in my closet. But I can’t see it! Therefore: monsters.

This is exactly how physicists think about Dark Matter. They see an empty darkness, they haven’t any notion of what is happening, and so they create invisible monsters as explanations.

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10 thoughts on “Dark matter? (part two)

  1. So…you think you’ve somehow hurt the theory of dark matter how? You’ve given a horribly butchered abstract, shown no work done by the people who advocate the theory and thus do no work yourself in showing how their work is wrong. You’re entire article could be replaced with “The scientists say this but only cause they think we should believe them. Well I say they’re wrong, and you should believe me.”

    The reason dark matter is because everything we know about the universe confirms our mathematical models EXCEPT that the gravitational effects of supermassive entities like galaxies. According to our gravitational understanding, the galaxies are having much larger an effect than the observable amounts of mass. Since mass is the only thing we know of to produce gravitational fields, yes we are posed with the not so difficult choice of

    a) some kind of matter is there affecting gravity but does not give off electromagnetic energy

    b) everything we have seen and observed about gravity is wrong

    It’s simple Occam’s Razor – introducing a new form of matter is simpler and leads to less unknowns than thinking that even though EVERYTHING else in the macroscopic world fits current gravitational models, those models are way off.

    Skepticism is great, and I encourage it especially of the scientific community, but if you don’t put any effort into it, it simply comes off as anti-intellectualism.

  2. This whole post is a rather poorly thought out straw man, and a good example of why it’s important to have some kind of grasp of a concept before criticizing it. Forget your complaints about confusing mathematical equations, the point comes down to this: we see strong gravitational effects in regions where we don’t see enough light for stars to account for it. Take a look at some phenomina:


    There is no ghostly things anyone is afraid of here, all we know is that we are observing phenomena which can be replicated by postulating that some form of non-baryonic gravitating matter exists in the universe, and makes up a great deal more total mass than our baryonic matter. But that’s all that anyone’s really said. There is something going on that acts like we would expect a bunch of extra mass to act. This stubbornness and clinging that you project onto physicists is nonexistent, since there are active fields of research trying to supplant General Relativity with a new theory of gravity, or supplant Newtonian/Keplerian effective dynamics with a new theory that removes some or all of the need for dark matter. The latter is exactly the sort of “try to change the theory” approach you seem to be advocating, and guess what? it’s not gained wide traction yet because it has yet to explain things any better than normal gravity with non-radiating “dark” matter thrown in, and no local test has yet shown any discrepancy with current theory, so for now the “standard” viewpoint that people work from is assuming dark matter and working from there in the hopes that in the future we will better understand it.

    I also like how you take the tired old “scientists are just appealing to authority” argument from the Evolution/ID debate and shift it to physics.

  3. And now, upon looking around at other posts (never swung by this corner of the tubes before) I feel I have fallen victim to Poe’s law… well done.

  4. Reading the comments here, I remember a study about how mathematically and scientifically inclined people tend to have less dopamine, which in turn makes them less able to detect patterns in things (or something like that). I find this blog and the, pardon me, idiotic reactions displayed by otherwise informed and rational people, proof of that concept being true or at least very plausible. Unless the comments are an elaborate hoax in themselves, their authors’ inability to detect satire just shows that there’s something wrong with their heads.

  5. There is clearly some effect in place to account for these observations, and dark matter is a theory to explain it. Admittedly it is incredibly vague, however there are several theories accounting for dark matter, my personal favourite being super symmetry.

    The idea of super symmetry is that every particle has an opposite and larger equivalent (opposite in the sense that if the particle is a fermion, a mass particle, then it’s large opposite would be a boson, and vice versa). Now because of the size of these super large partners, they decay insanely quickly, and as the theory suggest, into particles (they’re called neutralinos) that behave exactly like dark matter.

  6. Dear doubtyoucare,

    First of all, I’m starting to take offense at your username. If you peruse my posts, you’ll see that I care very much, much more than other scholars on the web, including the narcissists who run the so-called “Science Blogs.”

    As for your comment, I think you let the Trojan horse into the bag when you write, “Admittedly it is incredibly vague.”

    Your theory of symmetry is somewhat appealing – I’ll admit it is the most appealing account I’ve heard thus far. After all, although few people know it, the Greeks discovered North America long before the Chinese. How did they know? They very much liked symmetry, and assumed there must be a comparable mass of land on the other side of the globe.

    It could be that there are super big symmetrical particles, as you suggest. However, mere conjectures do not constitute proven science.


  7. It’s a theory, a scientific theory, called super-symmetry, referring to a symmetry between fermions and bosons. Look it up. Nothing to do with geometry.

    And don’t be so vain, my user name was chosen before I stumbled upon this blog.

  8. I’m a little confused between this post and the first now. Are you saying it novelists who came up with dark matter or scientists?

    Either way, that’s not really important. As others have pointed out, this is nothing more than a straw man argument. You present no evidence to refute the theory (an analogy is not evidence, no matter how cleverly presented), and merely state that you don’t believe in it so it must not be true.

    Noam Chomsky is also not a physicist, but a linguist (and has an impressive familiarity with a number of other sciences as well, sure), and his qualifications for making such a claim are questionable (he is not a trained physicist by any source I could find about him).

    What happened in 70s was that scientists could not account for the mass and gravity we can observe in the universe. They didn’t “invent” an excuse to explain away this phenomena, they postulated a theory.

    I encourage you to look further into the research that’s been done in the last three years about dark matter. Our understanding continues to grow, and there’s been numerous studies since you posted this observation. I’d recommend you start with 2012′s “A filament of dark matter between two clusters of galaxies”, in Nature, by Jörg, D.

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