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Discussion 4 to Talk Back 21
On Dark Matter and Dark Energy

by Mark Rotchell

Please feel free to add your thoughts to this discussion via the contact page. This discussion has been continued.

As a particle physics and cosmology undergraduate I read with interest your article encompassing Dark Matter and the scientific process in general. I would like to defend the scientific position if I may.

First of all may I point out that the theories of Dark Matter and Dark Energy are simply possibilities. They are theories that fit within our current understanding and observations of the universe and make predictions of how further observation and experiment may turn out. There are currently around 5 existing different main theories that account for the observed phenomena that Dark Matter tries to. Dark Matter has not been discovered. It has not been proven. It is impossible to completely prove a scientific theory.

However as a theory meets observation and experiment more and more it becomes increasingly difficult to completely disprove it as well as to prove it. To prove that a theory is completely wrong is to say that every experiment that has ever agreed with it has also been wrong. Theories therefore are normally only partially disproven, and this normally happens when a completely new type of observation is made that had not been previously made when the theory was formulated. It is the very embodiment of the scientific process to take existing theory and find where the cracks are and update or amend the theory, never to replace it with a completely contradicting one.

I also take your point about the assumptions used in science. The theory of Dark Matter is based on a number of assumptions; all cosmology, and all science for that matter is. We even have a name for the basic set of assumptions in cosmology, "the cosmological principle". It includes such things as "the rest of the visible universe obeys the same laws of physics as we do." These assumptions however are stated in the first chapter of every cosmology text I have ever encountered. We do not pretend, that we know what we say to be true. We merely say that such theory is the logical result and the best fit for observation and certain assumptions. We believe our assumptions to be reasonable, yet if it could be shown that it is likely that they are not we would happily amend them.

Science is not a leap of Faith. It is the decision to take certain axiomatic assumptions and build on them, while accepting that those assumptions are just that.

I have never heard of a Sermon starting 'Assuming that the bible/quran/torah/guru granth sahib/bhudda etc. is correct...."

Science and religion are both based on things which call their validity into question. Science however, does not pretend otherwise.