Sunday, June 14, 2015

Dark Matter Dogma

Maybe I’m the only one who would find this ironic. Two seemingly unrelated articles in the July/August issue of Discover magazine had me scratching my bald head. Hold on while I attempt to tie an article on irrational thinking with one of the deepest darkest conundrums found in the cosmos.

In “How to Fight Science Skeptics (The Irrationalist in You)” Christie Aschwanden stated that “irrational thinking stems from cognitive biases that strike us all.” People “hold the belief they want to believe and then they recruit anything they can to support it.” Christie went on to add, “Being science-literate won’t protect you from such biases . . . people who score high on measures of science comprehension tend to be more polarized than others.”   

Hmm . . . polarizing scientists? Never!! 

A few pages over in the magazine, I found an article titled “Dark Matter Deniers.” Author Steve Nadis interviewed cosmologists Stacy McGaugh and Mordehai Milgrom who have put forth a theory for observed properties of galaxies and star movement that runs afoul of the current cosmological orthodoxy regarding Dark Matter.

In a CliffsNotes definition of Dark Matter, astronomers have strong evidence that in “countless observed galaxies, stars orbit the galactic centers so quickly that gravity alone shouldn’t be enough to keep the galaxies from flying apart.” The solution?  There must be some invisible matter holding the galaxies together. Dark Matter. The Catch? No one has ever detected a single dark matter particle after decades of searching. According to cosmological orthodoxy, dark matter is estimated to constitute 84.5% of the total matter in the universe. So, as the theory goes, the majority of the universe is made of matter that no one has explicitly proven to exist.

In Nadis’s article, McGaugh and Milgrom’s alternative blasphemous (italics mine) theory called MOND (Modified Newtonian Dynamics) tweaks Isaac Newton’s laws of gravity instead of relying on unseen hypothetical matter. Since MOND was introduced over 30 years ago, it has been greeted with indifference and ridicule in the scientific world, the cosmologists exposed to professional hardship and a barrage of criticism. All that, despite MOND holding up well in explaining many observed galactic behaviors. One scientist uses the term “idea zombies - bad ideas that refuse to die” in describing theories like MOND. To this day, many, if not most, in the scientific community view the two cosmologists as crackpots.

Why am I discussing this? I’m not touting MOND over Dark Matter, nor am I advocating the existence of Dark Matter. I’m not smart enough to even begin an intellectual conversation on the subject. No, I simply want to shine a light on what I perceive as scientific hypocrisy. For over 30 years, cosmologists have vigorously tried (and failed) to disprove MOND. They’ve ridiculed it while steadfastly adhering to a belief in something that hasn’t been seen, touched, or proven to exist.

How ironic that many of those same scientists routinely bash people of faith who believe that an unseen God spoke the universe into existence as the ultimate cosmological First Cause. Is a belief in Dark Matter different from a belief that “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made”? Many may disagree with me, but I think they're the same. Granted scientists are trying to solve an extremely difficult and perplexing mystery. There is so much in the universe that we don't understand. Yet, why do cosmologists steadfastly adhere to a theory that relies on some dark unseen matter to the exclusion of all other theories? 

Ultimately, belief in unseen Dark Matter will be either proven right or wrong. The same will be true for me and my belief in an unseen God . . . in the end. I'm just trying to keep an open, rational mind until then.