The March 8, 2008 issue of New Scientist magazine published articles on “dark matter” and “dark energy.” We’re told that 22 percent of the cosmos “seems to be made of invisible dark matter, whose extra gravity helps to bind stars together in galaxies, and galaxies together in clusters.” Seems quite scientific, doesn’t it, although it does sound a bit like the Force in Star Wars? Here comes the kicker: “While we have seen dark matter’s effects in space, no one has actually detected a particle of the stuff.” To put it simply, dark matter exists, but no one has seen it.
There is some equivocation later in the article about actually seeing the effects of dark matter. “According to our best cosmological theories,” the article states, “dark matter is made of hypothetical particles called WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles).” Now the evidence for dark matter is getting squishy since catching WIMPs will not prove that dark matter actually exists. “If the new experiments see nothing, or show that WIMPs do not have the correct properties for dark matter, we’ll be back to square one.”
Even with all this ambiguity, cosmologists still believe that “dark matter is a vital ingredient of the universe.” Without dark matter’s unseen and unproved “extra gravitational glue, galaxies would not form quickly enough, nor form the galaxy clusters and superclusters we observe today.” Get this: “Even though no one has yet detected a particle of the stuff, new results are automatically interpreted according to the tenets of dark matter.” Sometimes there is too little dark matter, and sometimes there is too little of the enigmatic stuff.
So what’s the excuse, I mean reason, for why no one has ever observed a particle of dark matter? It seems that “their interactions with ordinary matter are so puny.” Of course, if you can’t find one of these undiscovered invisible particles, you can always make one in the laboratory. Problems still persist, however. As one scientist explains it, “Particles do not come out wearing labels that say ‘I’m supersymmetric.'” What they hope for is something left behind, a “deficit of energy and momentum as telltale footprints,” to use for evidence that these “unseen ghosts” actually exist.
I don’t know about you, but I love science; I always have. Recently, however, science is being used as a way to dismiss God. We’re constantly being told that since the existence of God can’t be proved empirically, any talk about God is outside the realm of science. Stephen J. Gould (1941-2002) described the two realms of inquiry as “Nonoverlapping Magisteria”:
The net of science covers the empirical universe: what is it made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory). The net of religion extends over questions of moral meaning and value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for starters, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty). To cite the arch cliches, we get the age of rocks, and religion retains the rock of ages; we study how the heavens go, and they determine how to go to heaven.
After reading these articles on dark matter, I’m confused. Scientists believe in an entity that they have never seen or measured. They are so sure it exists (maybe) and that it binds the universe together. If dark matter didn’t exist, so the claim goes, the cosmos would fly apart. I can anticipate the response: Of course, at the moment we can’t offer empirical evidence for the existence of dark matter, but we’re sure that someday we will. Do you remember this part?: “While we have seen dark matter’s effects in space, no one has actually detected a particle of the stuff.” Actually, they have seen certain effects in space that scientists are attributing to an unseen force they call dark matter. Scientists are willing to build a scientific system on the “effects” of an unseen entity they call “dark matter.” So when someone asks me to account for an “invisible God,” I can say the following:
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world” (Ps. 19:1-4).
The effects of God’s work in the universe are present everywhere, and yet “dark matter” atheists would rather reject these in-your-face effects and put their faith in a cosmic binding agent that no one has ever seen. Of course, the atheist is still in a bind on the issue of dark matter since if he ever finds a particle, he will still have to account for where it came from.
Proponents of dark matter will say that they are being very scientific. They’ve put forth a theory based on what they know about the universe. Someday they hope to prove the theory with empirical data. Of course, a theist can say the same thing. One day we’ll all come in contact with the source behind the effects of the cosmos. I dare say that even then some will say that it’s not enough evidence.
Stuart Clark, “Cosmic enlightenment,” New Scientist (March 8, 2008), 19-31.
Stephen J. Gould, “Nonoverlapping Magisteria”: www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_noma.html.