Are dark matter and dark energy the gods of physics?

Hello to everybody out there with access to a computer,

After telling a fellow free-thinker that god was essentially a “Hey! What’s that? I guess god did it” fill in for what we don’t know he replied to me with what is a very good question, “Then aren’t dark energy and dark matter just the gods of astrophysics?” and I had to think about this one, but I did find one key difference between the two.

First of all, what is dark matter? Well, nobody knows for sure, but we do know about its properties, and it has been observed. It is a type of matter which only interacts with other matter through the fundamental force which is gravity, it does not interact through any of the other three forces.  It was first hypothesized in 1932 to account for the large difference between the spin of galaxies predicted by physics and what was actually being observed. At the speed that galaxies where spinning, stars should be flung from the galaxy willy-nilly, but they weren’t, so it was theorized that there was more matter in these galaxies than what we could see. The other line for the theory of dark matter is that the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) shows that there should just be more stuff that what we could see. Dark matter is that extra stuff.

Dark energy is the same. It is an explanation for the accelerating expansion of the universe, and is thought to be the opposite energy to gravity, it makes up about 73% of the stuff in the universe. A lot less is known about dark energy than about dark matter but it explains a heap of the observations we have made about the universe.

Now, to the difference between god and dark matter and dark energy. The main difference, I think, is the intent of the label. When a christian or philosopher says something to the effect of ‘goddidit.’ (its one word now) then that is the end of their investigations, they look no more into the matter, because it is rude to intrude upon god’s mind and creation.
When the scientific community decided upon the two labels of dark matter and dark energy, they had already looked as deeply as the could have at the time into the subject, and after genuinely not being able to come to any other conclusion they decided that there was more stuff there, but that wasn’t the end of their endeavors. Labeling what they found was not the end for them, the label ‘we don’t know what this is’ was not the end of the road, when new technology or ideas come along they investigated the dark matter and dark energy with those new ideas, and we are starting to get a better understanding of these two things now. If when scientists were baffled by how galaxies stayed together they just said “Well, I guess god is holding them all together then, isn’t he?” Then we would know nothing about it.

That’s it for today’s post, I will leave you with a quote from Linus Pauling, “Facts are the air of scientists. Without them you can never fly.” Linus Pauling, Chemist, Biochemist, peace activist, author and educator of some note.

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An argument from beauty

Today, I had an Ethics and faith lesson with our school father (I go to an Anglican school) and he reminded me of an argument that I have been hearing for a long time. It’s actually three arguments, the first is, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”, the second is “Why do humans and other animals exist?”, and the third is “The earth is so beautiful, it can’t have happened by chance.”His answer to all of these questions is that there must be a supreme being or god who designed it intentionally for us, so it is beautiful and appealing to us. All of these arguments are of the kind ‘post hoc, ergo propter hoc’, and I have covered that in my brief of logical fallacies which can be found on the home page. I will answer these questions in my blog post today.

The first argument, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” This can be explained easily with chance. Simply, there is only one way in which there is nothing, null and void, but there are infinite ways in which something can exist, and seeing that 1/∞ = 0, (1/2 = 0.5… 1/10 = 0.1… 1/100 = 0.01) it just has to happen. No god is needed to explain everything because something must happen. It would be more surprising if there was nothing, and we would need to have a god to explain it, but there would be nobody around to ask the question, and that leads me to the next argument.

“Why do humans and other animals exist?” This is the second question asked by my Ethics and Faith teacher. He says that there must be a god who put life on a planet to explain this. There isn’t a need for this. It has been estimated that there are about 150 billion galaxies in the known universe. There are also anywhere from 10 million to 200 billion stars in a galaxy, I will take an average of 100 billion stars in a galaxy. That comes out at about 15 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 (15 000 billion billion stars.) That means about that many rocky planets, so that means a lot of possibilities for life. The odds are slim for an individual planet, but with that many dice-rolls 10 heads in a row is not un-common.Once there is some sort of self-replicating organism, then evolution takes over and does its thing.

Now, the third argument. “The world is so beautiful, this can’t have happened by chance.” First of all, yes there is beautiful things like rainbows and forests and mountains, but there are equally bad things like some fish species or snakes or spiders and other animals which may kill you, not to mention all of humanities problems. There is as much beautiful stuff as there is not beautiful stuff. This is because the definition of beautiful is ‘the top 50% of things in the world on a scale of beautifulness’. There will always be beautiful things. But just for my teachers sake let’s try and explain why some things are so beautiful. Our subjective grading of what the most beautiful things are is taken from a data set of one.

Say the world was a little less beautiful than what it is, we would still think of the most beautiful things as ‘the most beautiful things’ and the least beautiful things as ‘the least beautiful things.’ If the world was a little more beautiful than what it is, we would still have the same titles for the most beautiful and least beautiful things. We get used to what is beautiful and what is not because we grow up in our world, not another world.

What I’m essentially saying is that things are the way it is because they are the way they are, and we wouldn’t be asking these questions if the world was different. I will leave you with a quote from Richard Dawkins, “The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the existence of organized complexity.” Richard Dawkins, Evolutionary biologist, skeptic, atheist and author of some note.

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