Dark matter? (part one)

Did you know that the concept of “Dark Matter” was actually invented by primarily American novelists?


Belief in Dark Matter has roughly the same validity as a small child’s belief that there is a monster in his closet. He can’t see anything, his parents aren’t home, the closet is dark, and its properties don’t fit with his explanatory theory which has been accepted by his epistemic peers in the scientific community. Therefore there must be this ridiculous substance to explain his yucky feelings.

Thinking I’m out on a limb on this one? Well, don’t take my word for it. According to smartest man in the world and noted scientist Noam Chomsky,

Physics is in a situation in which something like 90% of the matter in the Universe is what is called dark matter — it’s called dark because they don’t know what it is, they can’t find it, but it has to be there or the physical laws don’t work. So people happily go on with the assumption that we’re somehow missing 90% of the matter in the Universe.

There you have it, from an official and mainstream scholar of the natural sciences. What more do you need?


[EDIT: See part two in this series, here.]


21 thoughts on “Dark matter? (part one)

  1. “Belief in Dark Matter has roughly the same validity as a small child’s belief that there is a monster in his closet.”

    Except that Dark Matter has observational evidence (spiral galaxies, gravitational lensing, etc).

  2. Greetings, Sophismata!

    Thanks for your comment. The “observational evidence” that you speak of is indeed observational, but it is not evidence for dark matter. Dark matter is understood by way of inference from inexplicable phenomenon. It’s more or less a conceptual Band-Aid, useful until something better is discovered. This is conceded by scientists, a la carte the Chomsky quote.

  3. Greetings once again, “urdumb”!

    How I wish you would reveal your true identity! I take it your comment is sarcasm? Or have you really come around to see the value in my thinking!

    As the great poets have said, “Nimo Nisi Per Amicitiam Cognosciter!!!!”

  4. “The “observational evidence” that you speak of is indeed observational”

    So if you admit that, then your analogy with the monster in the closet and the “yucky feelings” doesnt apply anymore.

  5. Sophismata:

    I do not admit this, for the following reason: The child no doubt sees the closet, its general shape, its size, perhaps some of its color. But the child cannot see part of the closet – and in his primordial fear he can’t understand it. Why is it so dark? Why is it so scary? It doesn’t fit with his worldview to just say, “There is nothing there.” So he conjures a monster. The analogy works. Your “observational evidence” is only observational in the same way that the closet itself counts as “observational evidence.” Indeed it does count, but it isn’t evidence for dark matter or monsters.

  6. Sorry, but no.

    In your analogy, dark matter is the monster, and the universe is the closet. The unknown in the closet gets explained by a monster; the unknown in the universe gets explained by DM. However DM has evidence (which you agreed), while the monster only has “yucky feelings”.

    If there were observational evidence of the monster (some unexplained infrared emission, or a weird sonar bounce), then the analogy would be ok. Otherwise the analogy goes down the drain.

  7. Sophismata:

    I am sorry this is so difficult to understand.

    The explanans in both cases:
    1) Dark matter
    2) The monster(s)

    The explanandum of both cases:
    1) Missing matter (and other indirect evidence) needing to be there to make overall theory coherent. See the Chomsky quote.
    2) Missing matter in the closet where it is dark which needs to be explained, otherwise trustworthy numinous perception of a presence, overall theory made incoherent without monster.

    Both cases are structurally identical, no matter how loathe you are to admit it. In fact, one could argue that the child can make a better theoretical case, as he/she utilizes a greater diversity of epistemological tools, and additionally posits an entity which is already in the conceptual lexicon. The term “dark matter” itself (developed by fiction writers no less!) corresponds to the lack of substance of the concept.

  8. dark matter, energy is all bullshit. made up so the mainstream pseudoPHDcommunity will be walking in a circle forever before they discover the true nature of universe.

  9. I’m surprised no one mentioned this before, but Noam Chomsky has no business giving his opinion on dark matter as an expert. He is not and never has been a physicist or cosmologist. He is a linguist and cognitive scientist (if you’re not sure what that is, it’s an interdisciplinary study involving psychology, anthropology, and several other social sciences along with studies in AI and neuroscience). Again, there no mention of physics, or more importantly cosmology here.

    This is beside the point anyway, there is ample indirect observational evidence for the existence of dark matter (the examples posted above). Indeed, there is also evidence for the existence of dark energy (accelerating cosmic inflation). And for the record, just because one is not sure what something is does not mean it doesn’t exist. By that logic stars and galaxies could have been said to not exist in the past because no one was sure what those points of light in the night sky were. To date, I have yet to hear an expert on the matter of dark matter/dark energy actually say what they are. There are competing theories of course, but as of now, nothing conclusive.

    Hopefully in the future, the LHC in Europe can shed some light on the subject.

  10. Sweet Stephen,

    I apologize for your confusion, although I had no part in it. Noam Chomsky is a natural scientist, with special expertise in social sciences as well. Thus he is more than qualified to discuss philosophy of science, and from there evaluate the validity of theoretical postulates. In this case, the theoretical postulate, while in some contexts empirically adequate, is not approximately true. These are the two conditions for scientific knowledge, which everyone has known since Hans Kung discovered paradigms.

    Your conflation of dark energy and dark matter is typical, evidencing an overexposure to Hawking’s shill, Brian Greene. Second, the “observational evidence” you speak of is an interesting fabrication. The real structure of the argument for Dark Matter is that over 90% of the matter in the Universe is missing. So, we postulate “We know not what” in its place, and call it Dark Matter, a term fittingly taken from fiction.

    Unfortunately I can’t speak about Dark Energy, a topic in which I have no interest.

    Thank you for your interesting questions!


  11. Myrmidon,

    You seem to be confused, which is not surprising. I am not committing a “genetic fallacy,” because I’m talking about a topic in theoretical physics, not biology. Do you have any comments on the content of the post?

    As for the Wikipedia study, it literally provides the sources of the concept of Dark Matter, so I can’t see how you are reading it.


  12. Dear Doubtyoucare,

    Your accusation is as unfounded as it is lacking a foundation. If the closet were rattling and roaring, then we would have evidence for monsters. However, we don’t have such non-circumstantial evidence for dark matter. Ergo sum, dark matter is not analogous to real monsters.


  13. For the record, the “genetic fallacy” has nothing to do with DNA. It’s the fallacy of assuming that the origins of an idea (“genetic” in that sense) tell us enough to either accept or discard that idea.

    So far example, even if dark matter existed in fiction prior to astronomy, that wouldn’t mean that dark matter “is fictional”. Heavier-than-air flight was first proposed in fictional contexts; that doesn’t mean it “is fictional” and can’t or doesn’t exist. Similarly, there may be life elsewhere in the universe “despite” the fact that (for humans) the idea of aliens first came out of fiction.

    In the case of dark matter, there is plenty of other evidence, but obviously the author here is not likely going to accept it.

  14. I do not believe the current observational evidence supports the existence of dark matter at all. Dark matter is only a hypothesis to explain certain observations that contradicts certain observations that contradict the currently accepted theory of gravity, General Relativity. It is actually a poor hypothesis, because to a large extent it is not falsifiable. By definition it does not interact with normal matter other than through gravitational effects. I believe that this is somewhat contradictory due to the lack of certain observations however. For example, I would imagine that dark matter would coalesce, much as normal matter does: into compact spherical bodies similar to stars and planets. If there is 4 times as much dark matter than matter, why should it be distributed “evenly” throughout a galaxy? Why should there be none in our solar system? Why shouldn’t earth be 4 times more massive than it is for some unexplained reason? It is completely absurd if you really think about it.

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