Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dark Matter: Where For Art Thou?

I have read a number of times in creation science textbooks that there is "no evidence" for the big bang. One of their common arguments against a "big bang" origin of the universe involves the so-called absence of "dark matter" and "dark energy." I wanted to take a few minutes to share some thoughts about this issue.

First of all, what is "dark matter" and "dark energy"? Einstein's equations predicted that the universe must have a certain critical mass in order for it to have the features that we observe (such as spiral galaxies and planets). The "problem" is, when you add up the mass of visible matter in the universe, 76+ percent of all the mass and energy in the universe seems to be "missing." Dark energy and dark matter were proposed as a way to account for this.

Although there was no observational proof for the existence of dark energy and dark matter, scientists knew it had to be out there because it logically flowed out of Einstein's equations.

Sadly, young-earth creationists frequently use this uncertainty as a point of ridicule against the scientific community. Because scientists don't have a good grasp AT THIS TIME on how to observe or measure dark energy and dark matter (largely due to limitations on our technological know-how), young-earth creationists consistently conclude that this uncertainty means that dark energy and dark matter don't exist AT ALL.

While it is certainly true that dark matter and dark energy are two of the more vexing problems in science today, scientists are continuing to increase in their understanding of it. This is a great clip explaining the "problem" of dark energy and dark matter and the methods scientists are developing to study it.

"Dark Matter," Nova | Science NOW

Ok, now for my commentary about all this. When Christians make these kinds of hasty generalizations, in my opinion, it just makes us look scientifically illiterate and unsophisticated. Doesn't it go without saying that just because scientists don't have an understanding of a certain phenomena at the moment, it doesn't mean that they don't have any valid understanding of it or that given enough time, they won't eventually have a rigorous understanding of it? And I'm seriously doubting universities and private science foundations would throw away millions of dollars studying a phenomena for which there is "no evidence." That doesn't even make sense.

It has taken many scientists working together to figure out new and innovative ways to study an object that doesn't emit light. Here is one scientist's effort to develop a map for dark matter.

Christians should support such efforts, rather than ridiculing scientists. They are studying God's creation and in so doing being exposed to His glory.

So, the next time you read in a creation science book that there is "no evidence" for the big bang, dark energy, or dark matter, slow down and send up a red flag.

1 comment:

Karen Leuenberger said...

A great analogy to the prediction of dark matter is the 19th century (if I'm remembering correctly) prediction of the existence of an 8th planet. Before we had telescopes powerful enough to view Neptune, its existence was already predicted due to irregularities in Uranus' orbit. The greatest leaps ahead in science tend to occur with the development of better measuring tools, and the present lack of such a tool never can invalidate a well-founded prediction.