Dark Inferences

Posted: October 5, 2013 in Arguments, Astronomy/Cosmology Related
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dark matter matters

There is a general consensus among layman that science is superior over religion because science deals with fact, and religion relies on faith. Granted, science is mostly driven by observable data. But the conclusions often made by scientists are matters of presupposed world views which often hinge on a form of faith. A popular example is the multiple universe (multi-verse) theory which attempts to explain the fine tuning of our universe by proposing an uncountable number of other universes. Though this multi-verse can never be known, since obtaining evidence of it is impossible, many scientists still adhere to it. This adherence is not because of direct evidence but because of their underlying philosophy that there is no supernatural, only the natural. Thus these scientists essentially have faith in something that cannot be proven because their world view requires it. Similar to the theist’s worldview which requires God.

Recently I’ve noticed there is a somewhat parallel situation with dark matter. Dark matter in the universe is not directly observable, but its effects can be inferred. I believe one can make the argument that this is similar to scientific evidence utilized for the existence of God, in that God cannot be directly observed, but His existence can be inferred.

For those that do not know much about dark matter I’ll provide a brief summary: There is a critical mass density of the universe that is required for the existence of everything we see. If this critical mass were slightly larger or smaller the universe would fall apart (Drees, 80). So there is a critical mass the universe has to have. Yet, the total mass of everything we can see in the universe through a telescope is roughly 0.01 M, leaving the other 99% of mass unaccounted for (Chase). Others postulate it is closer to 80% of the matter in the universe, with the rest bring made up of baryonic matter which is essentially what we’re made up of (O’Neil). So somewhere between 80 to 99% of the universe’s critical mass cannot be seen. So the natural conclusion is that there must be something else out there to account for all this missing mass; ergo, dark matter, (Hartnett & Williams, 110).

There are five main lines of evidence for dark matter:

1. There are at times objects we only see because they are blocking illuminated objects. For example dust clouds, which do not emit light, can obscure stars and therefore their silhouettes can be seen. There must therefore be other objects we do not see because they do not emit light. Stellar evolution would suggest that there would be black dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes and brown dwarfs, all of which do not emit light. (Williams & Hartnett, 137).

2. The galaxies that can be observed seem to rotate way too fast when considering the visible mass that is observed. This is thought to be an indication that there is a halo of surrounding dark matter around each galaxy providing the addition mass driving this high rate of rotation (Chase). Unlike the dark matter from point 1, which is only dark because it is not illuminated, this dark matter is transparent.

3. Galaxies tend to be grouped together in clusters and super clusters, not evenly distributed as one might expect. The illuminated mass each has is not nearly enough to keep the clusters from breaking apart. So it is assumed that there must be more matter (dark) providing the mass that keeps them together in clusters (Williams & Hartnett, 137).

4. As previously mentioned, since the mass we see is not nearly sufficient to obtain the universe’s “critical density,” dark matter must be present to prevent the universe from collapsing (Williams & Hartnett, 137).

5. Warped light bent by dark matter filaments in between illuminated galaxies have been touted by astronomers as evidence of dark matter, (Khan).

The first line of evidence is a form of dark matter different from the last four. And it is the last four that make the “transparent” dark matter that is in question. It is this transparent form of dark matter from which there is no direct observable evidence, only inferences made from the observable data. For example, an AMS (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) in the international space station has been utilized to measure positrons in space which can be caused by a form of theorized dark matter. Recently, claims were made that evidence of dark matter has been discovered by the AMS because such positrons were found. Keep in mind, it is not dark matter that was found, but an inferred result of dark matter that was found. Additionally, it cannot be claimed as proof of the dark matter since positrons come from sources other than dark matter, like pulsars (O’Neil). This is the key issue in this topic; proving something exists based on data inferences versus direct evidence.

Many lines of scientific evidence can be likewise inferred as evidence of the existence of God despite there being no direct evidence of God. This is something the intelligent design movement has been devoted to; providing evidence that an intelligent designer is responsible for life and the universe as we know it, based off of inferences derived from scientific data. Common examples being the fine tuning of the universe, the irreducible complexity of organic machines, the origin of information within DNA, the paradox of biogenesis, etc.

Ray Villard of the Space Telescope Science Institute compares dark matter to H.G. Well’s character the Invisible Man, a person you can’t see, but whose actions are observable (Villard). One can make a parallel statement to the existence of God, who may be impossible to observe directly, but can be inferred based off the effects and actions of God.

Gerald Rau (Ph. D., Cornell) Founder and Chief Editor at Professional English International writes, “Many scientists believe in things that cannot be seen or detected, because theory and the available evidence require it. One prime example is dark matter. No one has ever seen dark matter or detected it with any scientific instrument, but most scientists believe it exists… This is no different from the fact that Christians believe in God, although no one has ever seen him. We are convinced that the evidence we have seen in our own lives, as well as the historical evidence of Jesus Christ, are sufficient to demonstrate that he exists,” (Rau, 188).

So for the skeptic who refuses to accept the existence of God because there is no direct evidence of Him, I would suggest that this skeptic must also refuse the existence of dark matter, or for that matter naturalistic macro-evolution, which likewise has never been directly observed, but only inferred from extrapolation of observable data. In fact, there are many scientific theories we adhere to based on inferences from the evidence. My question then follows, why do some people exclude God from this line of reasoning when they use it to support the truth of other things?

One day we might find direct evidence of dark matter. Or maybe we never will. But at this point the majority of scientists adhere to its existence, not because it has been observed, but because of inference. I believe (as do a large number of theistic scientists) that the existence of God can likewise be inferred from scientific data. And until dark matter is directly discovered, this claim is no less scientific and no more a matter of faith.

References:

Chase, S. I., (1993) “What is Dark Matter?” math.ucr.edu, accessed 10-01-2013.

Drees, W.B. (1990) Beyond the Big Bang; Quantum Cosmologies and God, (La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company)

Khan, A., (July, 04, 2012) “Dark Matter Filament Found, Scientists Say,” articles.latimes.com accessed 10-05-2013

O’Neil, I., (April 3, 2013) “Dark Matter Found? Orbital Experiment Detects Hints,” news.discovery.com, accessed 10-5-2013.

Rau, G., (2012) Mapping the Origins Debate, (Downers Grove, IL: InvterVarsity Press)

Villard, R., (Feb 21, 2013) “Dark Matter Matters, Especially When You Can’t Find It,” news.discovery.com, accessed 10-5-2013.

Williams, A. & Hartnett, J., (2005) Dismantling the Big Bang, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books)

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