This Week in Intelligent Design - 19/02/12

| 53 Comments

Intelligent design news, commentary and discussion from the 11th of February to the 19th of February, 2012. 

So, it happened again: the Discovery Institute decided to notice something I wrote about them. I’m not sure if it’s because I write for The Panda’s Thumb and they see me as the weakest, undergraduate link in its strong chain of esteemed, proper biologists, or because my criticisms of their ideas are annoying, but they seem to focus on me quite a lot. Ah well, any recognition is good recognition, right?

This week I’ll be focusing mostly in their response to me, but also on the Discovery Institute’s move into the iAge (which must be very exciting for them), as well as a curious post that highlights yet another major problem with the way the intelligent design movement operates.

53 Comments

So, it happened again: the Discovery Institute decided to notice something I wrote about them. I’m not sure if it’s because I write for The Panda’s Thumb and they see me as the weakest, undergraduate link in its strong chain of esteemed, proper biologists, or because my criticisms of their ideas are annoying, but they seem to focus on me quite a lot. Ah well, any recognition is good recognition, right?

Congratulations! You matter to them, and are a real fly in their ointment…

ID, like Darwinian theory, has a positive and a negative aspect. Saying that life’s development, from non-existent to simple to complex, is best explained as the product of either intelligent design or purposeless Darwinian churning assumes that you are making a comparison between competing hypotheses. Defending either theory, Darwin or Design, means you have to argue for your explanation and against others.

To say this is to assume that “intelligent design” is a hypothesis, and moreover, to assume that it is the only competing hypothesis.

Several people have pointed out that “intelligent design” has never been described in a positive, substantive way (telling us “what happened and when”, for example, or what distinguishes things that are “designed” from those that are not). That the advocates of “intelligent design” spend their time on “something, somehow must be wrong with evolutionary biology”, rather than giving an exposition “intelligent design”. A negative advertising campaign.

Rather than spending more time on this point which should be obvious by now, I’d like to point out that there is very little said about other possible “competing hypotheses”. They may not be very good hypotheses (after all, they don’t have large numbers of scientists working on them for decades), but they are competing hypotheses at least as much as is “intelligent design” (not a very high standard, I agree).

There is the hypothesis that there is a vital force in matter which generates living things.

There is the hypothesis that the existence of complex living things is just a figment of our imaginations.

There is the hypothesis that the universe has always existed in more or less the present form, so that there are no origins (or development) of living things, or of species, or of complex structures, which need explanations.

Who knows what other hypotheses a smart person could come up with, given enough time and motivation?

Agreed, I don’t have much in the way of evidence for any of these “hypotheses”.

Rolf said:

So, it happened again: the Discovery Institute decided to notice something I wrote about them. I’m not sure if it’s because I write for The Panda’s Thumb and they see me as the weakest, undergraduate link in its strong chain of esteemed, proper biologists, or because my criticisms of their ideas are annoying, but they seem to focus on me quite a lot. Ah well, any recognition is good recognition, right?

Congratulations! You matter to them, and are a real fly in their ointment…

Jack, I agree with Rolf. Consider it a badge of honor, considering that you are in a most distinguished company that includes the likes of Genie Scott, Federal Judge John Jones and countless others, including yours truly. As for me, I’ve been a target of Dembski (who tried a rather crude form of censorship against a harsh, but accurate, book review I had written of one of his books - with Amazon’s support - until I issued him an ultimatum to have the review he didn’t like restored by Amazon or else suffer the consequences) and Klinghoffer (who had once referred to me in third person as an “obsessed Darwin lover” at his Dishonesty Institute blog). In your case you have been a most persistant and effective critic exposing the latest breathtaking inanity of their samizdat “newsletter”, and I guess they no longer regard you as some insignificant “mosquito” of an undergraduate biology major posting from the land of OZ.

TomS said:

There is the hypothesis that there is a vital force in matter which generates living things.

There is the hypothesis that the existence of complex living things is just a figment of our imaginations.

There is the hypothesis that the universe has always existed in more or less the present form, so that there are no origins (or development) of living things, or of species, or of complex structures, which need explanations.

All that stuff is illusion. The universe was created last Thursday, complete with created “evidence” of the past and false “memories” in your own head of past “events.”

Prove it wrong.

I think I would disagree with you. As philosopher of science Richard Dawkins argues, evolution made it possible to be an intellectual atheist. This is because there was only one other theory - the ID theory proposed by William Paley.

Now, one man’s modus is another man’s ponens, and so if ID succeeds in undermining the evolutionary syntheses, it is logically evidence for ID! In fact, this is how science works generally.

Unfortunately, we see a violation of this recently with the advent of dark energy/matter. Even though scientists have discovered the falsehood of their physics, they posit mysterious non-entities to preserve it. But I suspect this won’t last long. The anomaly is too big!

Cheers, NS

Just Bob said:

TomS said:

There is the hypothesis that there is a vital force in matter which generates living things.

There is the hypothesis that the existence of complex living things is just a figment of our imaginations.

There is the hypothesis that the universe has always existed in more or less the present form, so that there are no origins (or development) of living things, or of species, or of complex structures, which need explanations.

All that stuff is illusion. The universe was created last Thursday, complete with created “evidence” of the past and false “memories” in your own head of past “events.”

Prove it wrong.

“If we gift them with a past, we create a cushion or a pillow for their emotions, and consequently, we can control them better.”

notedscholar said:

I think I would disagree with you. As philosopher of science Richard Dawkins argues, evolution made it possible to be an intellectual atheist. This is because there was only one other theory - the ID theory proposed by William Paley.

How tragic that a “noted scholar” would lose all capacity for logical thought and/or degenerate into rank dishonesty.

You make a silly argument from authority, using Dawkins as the authority. I don’t agree with doing that, but if you are going to do so, be consistent and accept all of Dawkins’ pronouncements as binding words of authority.

Also, what is the ID theory proposed by William Paley - 1. Who is the designer and how do you know? 2. What did the designer do? 3. Exactly how did the designer do it, and what test can we use to rule out alternate designers, such as Allah? 4. Exactly when did the designer do it, and how did you arrive at this date? 5. Can you give an example of something that is not designed by the designer, and explain how you can tell?

Now, one man’s modus is another man’s ponens, and so if ID succeeds in undermining the evolutionary syntheses, it is logically evidence for ID! In fact, this is how science works generally.

No, science does not work by setting up false dichotomies. Neither does the formal logic construction which you refer to, incorrectly. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modus_ponens

Unfortunately, we see a violation of this recently with the advent of dark energy/matter. Even though scientists have discovered the falsehood of their physics, they posit mysterious non-entities to preserve it. But I suspect this won’t last long. The anomaly is too big!

The trolls used to pretend to be physicists. Now they pretend to “know that all of physics is wrong”.

Scanlan has an issue with Casey Luskin’s describing the papers in question as “pro-ID” when many, instead of making a positive case for intelligent design, actually focus on Darwinism’s inadequacy in explaining crucial features of life. But this objection makes no sense.

This objection not only makes sense, but it was one of the major findings of Judge Jones at the Dover trial. Arguments against evolution are not arguments for a specific alternate theory.

notedscholar said:

Unfortunately, we see a violation of this recently with the advent of dark energy/matter. Even though scientists have discovered the falsehood of their physics, they posit mysterious non-entities to preserve it. But I suspect this won’t last long. The anomaly is too big!

Cheers, NS

Do you have any clue about how the presence of dark matter is detected?

Mike Elzinga said:

notedscholar said:

Unfortunately, we see a violation of this recently with the advent of dark energy/matter. Even though scientists have discovered the falsehood of their physics, they posit mysterious non-entities to preserve it. But I suspect this won’t last long. The anomaly is too big!

Cheers, NS

Do you have any clue about how the presence of dark matter is detected?

You know the answer to that …

Mike Elzinga said:

notedscholar said:

Unfortunately, we see a violation of this recently with the advent of dark energy/matter. Even though scientists have discovered the falsehood of their physics, they posit mysterious non-entities to preserve it. But I suspect this won’t last long. The anomaly is too big!

Cheers, NS

Do you have any clue about how the presence of dark matter is detected?

Black light?

:p

Do you have any clue about how the presence of dark matter is detected?

From what I’ve read, it has something to do with the gravitational fields we can associate with visible matter (and some estimate of invisible baryonic matter), to produce various observed phenomena like galectic coherence despite spin rates. My understanding is that the simplest proposal is that something out there, present in impressive quantities, interacts with baryonic matter ONLY through gravitational distortions of spacetime, or some such.

But in this case, notedscholar has it correct. Galaxies and galactic clusters are not supposed to act like they do. Dark matter is then kind of cobbled up to correct these observations and MAKE them fit physics as we know it. So now we have (1) Direct observations, theories explaining them, and predictions based on them; (2) observations in violation of these theories, refuting the predictions; and (3) mysterious, unobserved “stuff” whose sole purpose is to force-fit the observations to the theories. Dark energy (and both of these “dark things” together, to make observation fit theory, must be about 96% of what “is”, whatever the meaning of “is” is in this context) is cut from the same cloth. The theory must be defended from mere observation.

And who knows, maybe the theory is correct, and dark matter and energy exist in an almost-alternate universe of virtually no interaction with ours except gravitational for some reason. But in one sense, darkstuff is like the intelligent designer - we can’t directly observe it, we’re not quite sure what it is, we have no explanation of its origin, history, or nature. But it DOES act to preserve understandings we’d prefer not to discard.

The existence of dark matter has been suspected as far back as the 1930s by Fritz Zwicky and Sinclair Smith, but their ideas were largely ignored.

In the 1960s Vera Rubin and Kent Ford did a long series of observations that produced the flat rotation curves for stars in M31. That was extremely strong evidence for a distribution of matter in M31 that could not be seen.

She continued studies of the galaxies in the Virgo cluster and NGC 4550 in the late 1980s, again with similar conclusions.

The gravitational effects of something on the orbit of Uranus led in 1612 to a similar discovery of “unseen matter” which turned out to be Neptune.

Gravitational effects on the motions of stars and galaxies, and on the bending of light traveling from distant sources is now very easy to observe. Using the modeling of general relativity on a big computer, these effects can be used to calculate where this dark matter resides. One can actually make maps of the dark matter distribution in and around clusters of galaxies.

So it is not “force fitting” the data. Even with Newtonian physics it is obvious that there is more mass around a galaxy than what can be measured from what is visible.

Mike, I’m asking, and I speak under correction.

But I thought matter is visible, either by direct or by analogue observation. What you appear to be saying is that more than 90% of the matter in the Universe is observable only by gravitational effect. It produces gravitational effects on galaxies, shaping them. It also bends EMR, apparently - as described and explained by Einsteinian physics - but does not otherwise interact with EMR. It is not simply dark, it is transparent to all spectra. It does not provide a spectrometer absorption pattern. Doesn’t that mean that it consists of none of the elements we know, but remains stable? It doesn’t condense into elements - hydrogen? Isn’t that, well, impossible to explain on current theory?

If this is correct, even calling it “matter” seems to me to be a bit iffy. We assume that it’s matter, because it has gravitational effects and we know only one means of creating a gravitational effect - mass. Mass is an intrinsic property of matter, and only of matter, so it must be matter. We think.

Could it be time to think again?

Dave Luckett said:

Mike, I’m asking, and I speak under correction.

But I thought matter is visible, either by direct or by analogue observation. What you appear to be saying is that more than 90% of the matter in the Universe is observable only by gravitational effect. It produces gravitational effects on galaxies, shaping them. It also bends EMR, apparently - as described and explained by Einsteinian physics - but does not otherwise interact with EMR. It is not simply dark, it is transparent to all spectra. It does not provide a spectrometer absorption pattern. Doesn’t that mean that it consists of none of the elements we know, but remains stable? It doesn’t condense into elements - hydrogen? Isn’t that, well, impossible to explain on current theory?

Suppose dark matter is simply neutrinos? Dark matter is likely electrically neutral. I’m not saying it is neutrinos, but its not ordinary matter for the reasons you give above. I’m just saying that there are candidates for the composition of dark matter.

If this is correct, even calling it “matter” seems to me to be a bit iffy. We assume that it’s matter, because it has gravitational effects and we know only one means of creating a gravitational effect - mass. Mass is an intrinsic property of matter, and only of matter, so it must be matter. We think.

Could it be time to think again?

Energy fields also exert a gravitational force. Hence the nonlinear nature of Einstein’s field equations.

bigdakine said:

Energy fields also exert a gravitational force. Hence the nonlinear nature of Einstein’s field equations.

Actually, the FE’s are nonlinear regardless, but the above doesn’t help.

Dave Luckett said:

Mike, I’m asking, and I speak under correction.

But I thought matter is visible, either by direct or by analogue observation. What you appear to be saying is that more than 90% of the matter in the Universe is observable only by gravitational effect. It produces gravitational effects on galaxies, shaping them. It also bends EMR, apparently - as described and explained by Einsteinian physics - but does not otherwise interact with EMR. It is not simply dark, it is transparent to all spectra. It does not provide a spectrometer absorption pattern. Doesn’t that mean that it consists of none of the elements we know, but remains stable? It doesn’t condense into elements - hydrogen? Isn’t that, well, impossible to explain on current theory?

If this is correct, even calling it “matter” seems to me to be a bit iffy. We assume that it’s matter, because it has gravitational effects and we know only one means of creating a gravitational effect - mass. Mass is an intrinsic property of matter, and only of matter, so it must be matter. We think.

Could it be time to think again?

Yup. Neutrinos have been suspected, but the calculated emission of neutrinos from all the stars that make up the galaxies is far too small. Also suspected is simply cold matter that doesn’t emit enough radiation to be seen. If it absorbed radiation, it would show up as dark areas in the sky that obliterated the stars behind them. There are in fact some highly absorbing clouds of cold gas or other matter out there, but this has recently been detected in the far infrared.

Another suspect is called non-baryonic dark matter. These are particles that don’t interact with light and baryonic matter, but they do show up in some of the theories currently under investigation at the Large Hadron Collider and in a number of other deep underground experiments. They have mostly gravitational effects and perhaps extremely weak interactions with some forms of matter under the right conditions.

Energy concentrations have gravitational effects because of the equivalence of mass and energy. Thus, in general relativity, energy and mass bend space-time which in turn tells how matter and energy move. The equations of general relativity are highly nonlinear and have to be solved by massive computer programs.

The bridge between “matter” and energy gets a bit murky. Most of the mass of protons, for example, comes from the binding energy of the gluons that bind quarks. We don’t normally think of mass as energy; but the mass of an electron in units of energy is 0.511 MeV. Protons have a mass of 938 MeV, and most of that comes from the energy that binds the quarks.

It gets weird down there. But the Standard Model, even though acknowledged to be incomplete, is accurate enough to explain nearly everything we currently know about elementary particles.

We physicists live in interesting times. So little money, and so many questions still unanswered.

By the way; Lawrence M. Krauss has a new book out entitled “A Universe from Nothing.”

I finished it a few weeks ago and found it quite good. He has improved his writing considerably. It may be a little tough going in places for the layperson, but certainly worth the effort.

This is the kind of stuff that is difficult for any physicist to write for the general public.

Unfortunately, we see a violation of this recently with the advent of dark energy/matter. Even though scientists have discovered the falsehood of their physics, they posit mysterious non-entities to preserve it. But I suspect this won’t last long. The anomaly is too big!

Scientists see in dark matter/dark energy a challenge to be solved. Creationists see a god-of-the-gaps hiding place.

Mike Elzinga said:

By the way; Lawrence M. Krauss has a new book out entitled “A Universe from Nothing.”

I finished it a few weeks ago and found it quite good. He has improved his writing considerably. It may be a little tough going in places for the layperson, but certainly worth the effort.

This is the kind of stuff that is difficult for any physicist to write for the general public.

Thanks for the tip. I have to add it to my list. Speaking of books to read, I highly recommend Lisa Randall’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”, which should interest some PT regulars since she does discuss evolution denialism.

So it is not “force fitting” the data. Even with Newtonian physics it is obvious that there is more mass around a galaxy than what can be measured from what is visible.

Uh, isn’t this a conclusion and not an observation? What we SEE is explainable, among other ways, by a gravitational field of suitable size, shape and density necessary to produce our observations. It might NOT be gravity, of course, but gravity can be used to fit the observations to the theory. Possibly there are other forces besides gravity, operating at very large scales. So gravity isn’t an observation, it’s a hypothesis.

And once we have assumed gravity, we assume mass. Can anything else besides mass alter the gravitational structure at large scales (assuming it’s gravity and not something else)? We don’t know. So mass it must be. And if it’s mass, it must be due to matter. Can anything besides matter have mass? Well, yes, we already know that energy can. Anything else? We don’t know.

So where are we? We observe anomalous motions. We can “explain” these anomalies by placing gravitational fields where they need to be to do so. No evidence exists for this, but it WORKS and no evidence exists for anything else that we know of. Next, whence these fields? For this, must place some sort of mass where it needs to be to generate these fields. No evidence exists for this mass except that we need the gravity, and we know of no way to get the gravity except with mass. If it’s not gravity but instead something as yet unknown, then the mass will join the aether in the hall of failed models.

And to get mass, we need matter. LOTS of matter, for the amount of mass necessary to produce the amount of gravity necessary to produce the observations. But wait, that much matter out there would make it effectively impossible to make our observations in the first place, unless it were, well, some special kind of matter that has no detectible effect on light or anything else in our universe, except to be massive enough to produce enough gravity, etc. All of which gives a curious outsider the sensation that we have a hammer, so we’re seeing nails.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if something entirely different is going on. Maybe space on very large scales is shaped by a currently unsuspected fundamental force. But I appreciate that we have to start with what we know, make predictions based on it that can be tested, and iterate. And it’s not easy to do lab experiments on scales where galaxies are not much more than noise in the system.

Flint said:

Mike Elzinga said: So it is not “force fitting” the data. Even with Newtonian physics it is obvious that there is more mass around a galaxy than what can be measured from what is visible.

Can anything else besides mass alter the gravitational structure at large scales (assuming it’s gravity and not something else)? We don’t know. So mass it must be. And if it’s mass, it must be due to matter. Can anything besides matter have mass? Well, yes, we already know that energy can. Anything else? We don’t know.

Creationists love to knock dark matter, Gish especially.

Karen is correct in her assessment. They claim if Man’s Science can’t explain everything, then all of Science is wrong. Therefore their myths of creation, the flood, etc, etc, must be right.

And they love to change the Newtonian equation for gravity, at long distances, to explain the light curves of the galaxies and galaxy clusters. This ad hoc ‘correction’ is called MOND (Modified Newtonian Dynamics). (And Einsteinian physics is suspect amongst many creationists as being a plot of the devil. Thus the focus on Newton, a true creationist. Nevermind he was a spiritualist of the first water.)

MOND is especially unsatisfying to genuine physicists. It’s completely ad hoc, which doesn’t make it wrong, but we have a better theory of gravity today.

Dark matter remains the best explanation until someone can come up with a better one.

A natural one.

John said:

Mike Elzinga said:

By the way; Lawrence M. Krauss has a new book out entitled “A Universe from Nothing.”

I finished it a few weeks ago and found it quite good. He has improved his writing considerably. It may be a little tough going in places for the layperson, but certainly worth the effort.

This is the kind of stuff that is difficult for any physicist to write for the general public.

Thanks for the tip. I have to add it to my list. Speaking of books to read, I highly recommend Lisa Randall’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”, which should interest some PT regulars since she does discuss evolution denialism.

Yes. I’ve read that also. Thanks for mentioning it.

Flint said:

So it is not “force fitting” the data. Even with Newtonian physics it is obvious that there is more mass around a galaxy than what can be measured from what is visible.

Uh, isn’t this a conclusion and not an observation? What we SEE is explainable, among other ways, by a gravitational field of suitable size, shape and density necessary to produce our observations. It might NOT be gravity, of course, but gravity can be used to fit the observations to the theory. Possibly there are other forces besides gravity, operating at very large scales. So gravity isn’t an observation, it’s a hypothesis.

And once we have assumed gravity, we assume mass. Can anything else besides mass alter the gravitational structure at large scales (assuming it’s gravity and not something else)? We don’t know. So mass it must be. And if it’s mass, it must be due to matter. Can anything besides matter have mass? Well, yes, we already know that energy can. Anything else? We don’t know.

I think you are asking if there could be some better theory than general relativity that would account for what we observe. The answer yes, but it would be a pretty bizarre theory just to account for those data alone.

But general relativity is the best working theory we have at the moment. Quantum mechanics and general relativity have not been satisfactorily combined into a better theory yet, but special relativity and quantum mechanics are combined in Dirac’s equation and in quantum electrodynamics.

The way progress is made in physics is to use current models and theories out to a precision where they can be distinguished from other proposed theories that make predictions out to that same precision. At the moment, the physics community is exploring all sorts of things, including theories that have multiple dimensions. Some of these are being looked at experimentally. No results yet.

Physicists are always working at the extreme limits of technology and trying to push beyond. That is where much of the new technology is developed.

The technology in the current satellites and telescopes and the current detecting systems are considerably better than they were just ten years ago. These are the systems currently gathering data.

Mike Elzinga said:

The existence of dark matter has been suspected as far back as the 1930s by Fritz Zwicky and Sinclair Smith, but their ideas were largely ignored.

In the 1960s Vera Rubin and Kent Ford did a long series of observations that produced the flat rotation curves for stars in M31. That was extremely strong evidence for a distribution of matter in M31 that could not be seen.

She continued studies of the galaxies in the Virgo cluster and NGC 4550 in the late 1980s, again with similar conclusions.

The gravitational effects of something on the orbit of Uranus led in 1612 to a similar discovery of “unseen matter” which turned out to be Neptune.

Gravitational effects on the motions of stars and galaxies, and on the bending of light traveling from distant sources is now very easy to observe. Using the modeling of general relativity on a big computer, these effects can be used to calculate where this dark matter resides. One can actually make maps of the dark matter distribution in and around clusters of galaxies.

So it is not “force fitting” the data. Even with Newtonian physics it is obvious that there is more mass around a galaxy than what can be measured from what is visible.

We should also point out that there are two independent methods for estimating a Galaxy’s mass, rotation curves and lensing effects as mentioned above. So the mass of a large galaxy can be estimated from its lensing effects and independently from its rotation curve. The two estimates are in good agreement. As Mike implies above, the debate over the existence of Dark matter has been supplanted by the debate over what it is.

As Mike implies above, the debate over the existence of Dark matter has been supplanted by the debate over what it is.

Clearly, something is producing anomalous observations, based on what we can observe directly and what current theories say about what we can observe directly. What “dark matter” IS, is a set of anomalous observations. As Mike says, physicists are looking at theoretical changes, maybe to general relativity and maytbe something new that includes general relativity as a subset or implication, much as general relativity explains all of Newtonian theory and more besides.

I just get a little uncomfortable when we see the unexpected, and we immediately construct the chain unexpected -> gravity -> mass -> matter. Each arrow is an assumption, a series of IF statements. Pile up too many IFs in series, and you ought to get at least a little bit nervous.

The ID perps are still going on about peer reviewed ID science? What did Behe and Minnich both admit to in their Dover Testimony? Could they present a peer reviewed scientific article supporting intelligent design?

I recall Meyer in some TV debate claiming that his Sternberg aided publication was a peer reviewed paper that supported intelligent design. Did Meyer even mention intelligent design in the paper? How many peer reviewed papers by the ID perps at the Discovery Institute actually mention intelligent design by name? Can we search for ID euphemisms in those publications to throw back in their faces when the switch scam goes to court and ID isn’t even mentioned in the switch scam, but junk in the switch scam sounds a lot like the wording of the peer reviewed scientific papers supporting intelligent design?

They are claiming that the articles support intelligent design, and they should know.;-)

Flint said:

I just get a little uncomfortable when we see the unexpected, and we immediately construct the chain unexpected -> gravity -> mass -> matter. Each arrow is an assumption, a series of IF statements. Pile up too many IFs in series, and you ought to get at least a little bit nervous.

Physics research is not for the faint-hearted.

As I have said before, working at the frontiers forces physicists to become very conscious of matters epistemological and ontological. We just don’t talk about it much in public because there are too many obsessive/compulsive word-gamers and philosopher wannabes that attend our seminars and colloquia and try to latch onto us.

But you can be sure that the discussions among ourselves are excruciatingly detailed and intense.

“Dark matter”, in this context, is just the English term for an observed phenomenon. A hyper-literal interpretation of the English phrase only leads to frustration and confusion.

Since this phenomenon is observed with the tools of physics, those who are intensely curious about it would be well-advised to get started on a physics education, and see if they could work themselves up to and through a PhD. By doing this, they would familiarize themselves with all the ideas that are current, and also gain the knowledge to dismiss many wrong ideas out of hand, rather than wasting time obsessing. Then they could get down to the work of contributing something valuable to the study of dark matter.

“Dark matter”, in this context, is just the English term for an observed phenomenon. A hyper-literal interpretation of the English phrase only leads to frustration and confusion.

Aww c’mon, man. You sound like the ID people saying that “intelligent design” only refers to a set of observations, and literally interpreting “intelligent” to imply intelligence, or “design” to imply designs, only leads to confusion! Do you not think it’s possible that labeling the observed phenomenon “matter” might influence one to think in terms of matter? Maybe physicists, properly educated, know better than this and the assumption of matter never crossed their minds.

Suppose dark matter is simply neutrinos?

Wouldn’t most neutrinos produced by stars have way more than escape velocity from their respective galaxies?

Henry

Henry J said:

Suppose dark matter is simply neutrinos?

Wouldn’t most neutrinos produced by stars have way more than escape velocity from their respective galaxies?

Henry

Many will have escaped, but many will still be in transit from stars that are only a few million years old. The distances between galaxies are on the order of hundreds of millions of years.

As I recall, the calculation of the amount of neutrinos in the vicinity of galactic clusters is far too small to produce the effects observed. The flat rotation curves for stars require an enormous amount of additional mass. So does gravitational lensing.

Given that dark matter and dark energy between them comprise 96% of the mass-energy of the universe, I wonder if any dark-based intelligence could even notice our insignificant influence on their territory.

Thiet ke web the calculation of the amount of neutrinos in the vicinity of galactic clusters is far too small to produce the effects observed

Flint said:

“Dark matter”, in this context, is just the English term for an observed phenomenon. A hyper-literal interpretation of the English phrase only leads to frustration and confusion.

Aww c’mon, man. You sound like the ID people saying that “intelligent design” only refers to a set of observations, and literally interpreting “intelligent” to imply intelligence, or “design” to imply designs, only leads to confusion! Do you not think it’s possible that labeling the observed phenomenon “matter” might influence one to think in terms of matter? Maybe physicists, properly educated, know better than this and the assumption of matter never crossed their minds.

Except that the term Dark matter is used as a placeholder for something (or things) with very well defined properties, even if its nature is not yet understood. Maybe a new term will be coined in the light of future discoveries, but even so what is wrong with the idea that it “might influence one to think in terms of matter”. This may still be useful just as the concept of an electric current is still useful even though it is completely opposed to the reality of the underlying physics. Maybe Dark Matter will turn out to be just as descriptively flawed as Big Bang, but I think the “fixing” of these terms owes more to Star Trek than star gazing. Does worrying about the chain “unexpected -> gravity -> mass -> matter” not presuppose those terms are forever constrained to the meaning given to them by Newtonian Mechanics? Maybe all the terms will acquire a wider meaning in the light of new physics.

Flint -

“Dark matter”, in this context, is just the English term for an observed phenomenon. A hyper-literal interpretation of the English phrase only leads to frustration and confusion.

Aww c’mon, man. You sound like the ID people saying that “intelligent design” only refers to a set of observations, and literally interpreting “intelligent” to imply intelligence, or “design” to imply designs, only leads to confusion!

1) This is not a good analogy - no-one is playing games trying to change the meaning of the term “dark matter”. Suboptimal nomenclature? Possibly. Deliberate effort to be vague and dissembling - no. “Except that the term Dark matter is used as a placeholder for something (or things) with very well defined properties, even if its nature is not yet understood” - Thank you, Dave Lovell

2) I’d like to see a direct quote of an ID/creationist directly saying ‘that “intelligent design” only refers to a set of observations, and literally interpreting “intelligent” to imply intelligence, or “design” to imply designs, only leads to confusion’ Any crickets reading this may want to tune up their stridulatory organs, because I predict [sound of crickets chirping] will soon be heard, as Lenny Flank used to say.

3) I know you’d never indulge in the “physicists don’t know everything, so what they do know must be wrong” game. What they do know, as we both realize, can put humans on the moon, generate nuclear explosions, build MRI machines, etc. Learning more and more as you go along, in a constantly improving and self-correcting manner, is not the same thing as always being wrong.

I don’t disagree with any of this. I repeat I’m uncomfortable with the chain of IF statements that finally resulted in using the term “matter” for this placeholder. If it is “matter”, it certainly seems to have properties so different from baryonic matter that the term is misleading. And I’m a bit concerned that the search for whatever is causing these anomalies IS largely a search designed to detect baryonic matter, by seeking the sorts of interactions with baryons that baryonic matter would probably produce. I wonder if such detectors would be considered if instead this phenomenon were called “limitations of the theory of gravity at very large scales.” Not nearly as catchy, of course, and perhaps equally misleading. How about “cosmic surprise”? How about “matterless matter”?

But anyway, back to the top, notedscholar strikes me as correct in saying that these large scale observations are quite incompatible with predictions based on existing theories. Nobody really understands what’s going on, but he’s right that attempted explanations are constructed to preserve the theories. I suppose that’s the best explanation based on what is known.

Flint said:

And I’m a bit concerned that the search for whatever is causing these anomalies IS largely a search designed to detect baryonic matter, by seeking the sorts of interactions with baryons that baryonic matter would probably produce.

IANAAP, but I an sure you are completely wrong about this. Dark Matter is by definition the majority of mass in the universe which does not interact with normal matter, so why would any scientist expect to so detect it?. My understanding is that studies of colliding/merging galaxies show lots of hot matter resulting from the collision of most of their normal matter (which is in gas/dust clouds), but the excess gravity associated with the mass of the Dark Matter of one galaxy does not interact with either the gas cloud or the other galaxy’s Dark Matter. No doubt Mike will correct me if I am wrong.

Harold,

First, thanks for thoughtfully engaging my comment! I’ll address your points in order.

You accuse me of arguing from Richard Dawkins’ authority; however, I was merely corroborating Richard Dawkins’ authority. I apologize for not making this clear!

You ask several questions about Paley, which only Paley can answer. However, I would just say that Paley thought one could “perceive” design, and used an argument by analogy. But it’s important to note - I do not advocate for Paley! Rather, at the time of Darwin, it’s just important as a matter of intellectual history that Paley’s theory was the only one going.

You say that “science does not work by setting up false dichotomies.” Here we certainly agree! You say I refer to the modes incorrectly, but then refer to the authority of Wikipedia; surely Wikipedia is less an authority than Dawkins!

I don’t know what the intentions are of your troll remark. I am not a physicist, and do not know that “all” of physics is wrong! On dark matter, energy, and quantum physics, I am more with maths expert Peter Woit than anyone else. But this is not a thread about that! If you want to know what I think about dark matter/energy, see my two studies, here and here.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments!

Best, NS

Hi Mike. First, let me say: it’s an honor to be interlocuting with you!

You ask if I “have any clue” about how dark matter is “detected.” First, let me say, thank you for your charitable assumption that I am speaking out of ignorance and not dishonestly! But you would be wise to be more charitable still, for I speak out of knowledge!

Dark matter is not “detected” in any sense of the word; rather, it is inferred to. According to current theoretical universe models (UMs), 80-90% of the Universe is missing! So, scientists postulate dark matter to explain the (enormous!) hole in the theory. But according to philosopher of science Hans Küng, this “anomaly” is too large, and will eventually catalyze into a “scientific revolution.”

For a fuller account of what I think of dark matter, with special reference to Brian Greene in part 2, see here and here.

Best, NS

Karen,

Thanks for commenting. I can only speak for scientists, and not creationists, so I’ll just deal with the first part of your interesting comment. You say that scientists see dark matter and energy as “a challenge to be solved.” But I must (humbly!) correct this, for dark matter/dark energy is their solution to the challenge, which is the missing matter in the Universe.

Cheers, NS

Flint,

Thanks so much for fighting the good fight on this one. I surely didn’t intend to make this thread all about dark matter/energy! The original post was on ID!

Anyway, as Gould proved with “intelligence,” scientists have a tendency to “reify” their social constructs (where the “society” in question is, in Küng’s phrase, the “scientific community”). And in this case, the construct is there merely as a placeholder for an improved theory.

By the way, if anyone in this thread supposes that I am sympathetic to ID, think again. Not only have I refuted the theory whole sale, but I have personally taken on Dembski himself here and here.

Best, NS

Dave,

Dark Matter is by definition the majority of mass in the universe which does not interact with normal matter, so why would any scientist expect to so detect it?.

This is really not my understanding at all. Mike may know more. But my reading is that “dark matter” is a proposed, hypothetical “substance” confected to “explain” otherwise anomalous observations without changing our current theories. It is NOT mass by definition at all. It bears the same relationship to our theory of gravity, that “aether” bore to prior theories of light.

notedscholar:

But I must (humbly!) correct this, for dark matter/dark energy is their solution to the challenge, which is the missing matter in the Universe.

No, not quite. “Dark matter” is their solution to unexpected behaviors of the dynamics of galaxies and galactic clusters. We have NO CLUE whether what’s causing these unexpected observations is actually “matter” or mass, or even gravity! But you are quite correct that “dark matter” is an inference, not an observation, and that it’s an inference based on theories which work well within the scope of most observations. But it’s not the only possible inference, and currently we can’t do much more than speculate about our inferences, the limits of our knowledge and theories, and the validity of our observations.

The physicists, cosmologists, and astrophysicists are light years beyond this layperson “critique” of dark matter.

The maps of the distribution of matter are produced from both the motions of the stars in galaxies and from the bending of light from gravitational effects. What are being mapped are anomalies in the gravitational potential wells out in space. Gravitational potential wells in Newtonian physics and in general relativity are correlated with mass.

The stars and light we see moving in these regions of space are the detectors of this phenomenon. We know the properties of this normal, baryonic matter and we know what kinds of forces they respond to. In that respect they are little different than the other particles that are used as detectors in other contexts.

Gravitational theory has been under investigation for at least a couple of hundred years now. There has never been an assumption that gravity must behave at large and small scales as it does on the scale of, say, a solar system. These questions continue to be investigated.

Other phenomena, such as magnetohydrodynamic drag, have also been considered. Magnetic and electric fields in space and among and between galaxies are measured routinely by observing the polarization and line splitting in the spectra emitted by elements and molecules in space.

The modifications to a general theory of gravity that would produce the effects observed are far more drastic and ad-hoc than dark matter. Whatever modifications one makes to general relativity must also take into account all the other effects we see locally and elsewhere. We can’t simply apply ad-hoc theories to answer the gravitational anomalies without messing up everything else.

But both the theorists and the experimentalists are far, far ahead of the criticisms being leveled here. And they have been far ahead for well over a century. There is not the naiveté among researchers that is implied here.

Even high school scientist students are taught to consider alternative theories and to cross-check evidence. One should not assume that experienced scientists don’t think of these things also.

Dave Lovell said:

Flint said:

And I’m a bit concerned that the search for whatever is causing these anomalies IS largely a search designed to detect baryonic matter, by seeking the sorts of interactions with baryons that baryonic matter would probably produce.

IANAAP, but I an sure you are completely wrong about this. Dark Matter is by definition the majority of mass in the universe which does not interact with normal matter, so why would any scientist expect to so detect it?. My understanding is that studies of colliding/merging galaxies show lots of hot matter resulting from the collision of most of their normal matter (which is in gas/dust clouds), but the excess gravity associated with the mass of the Dark Matter of one galaxy does not interact with either the gas cloud or the other galaxy’s Dark Matter. No doubt Mike will correct me if I am wrong.

Cosmologists and physicists use a very precise language to discuss their theories, conjectures, and hypotheses - the language of mathematics. Words are not suitable. Their meaning changes with time, across cultures, and with different contexts.

What you or I or we think ‘dark matter’ means is irrelevant.

Physicists aren’t stupid. They’ve studied all the possible candidates for the mass that might be responsible for the flat rotation curve of galaxies and clusters of galaxies.

So far, the consensus seems to be that some exotic kind of matter is responsible. This is in preference to altering our understanding of gravitational interactions over great distances.

I would really like to know what this stuff is.

I would like to propose a new theory: IM or “Intelligent Mass” The missing mass is the weight of God. How do I know this? Well, of course, I don’t. But like ID, the theory is based on my not knowing something, and using that ignorance to “prove” the existence of God. I’ll even publish papers and do research. After you ID, you came first!

cwjolley said:

I would like to propose a new theory: IM or “Intelligent Mass” The missing mass is the weight of God. How do I know this? Well, of course, I don’t. But like ID, the theory is based on my not knowing something, and using that ignorance to “prove” the existence of God. I’ll even publish papers and do research. After you ID, you came first!

Cool, really brilliant!

Surely IM will fit in with other models as well. Yep, good ole IM will assist IF - Intelligent Falling - in explaining those gaps in gravitational theory.

Flint said:

Dave, This is really not my understanding at all. Mike may know more. But my reading is that “dark matter” is a proposed, hypothetical “substance” confected to “explain” otherwise anomalous observations without changing our current theories.

Regardless of whether or not this is true, could the same not have been said of the neutrino 60 years ago, and can still for a while longer be said of the Higg’s Boson?

It is NOT mass by definition at all. It bears the same relationship to our theory of gravity, that “aether” bore to prior theories of light.

Surely that depends entirely on your definition of Mass? Are the statements “Dark Matter has Mass” and “Dark Matter behaves exactly like something that has Mass” not equivalent, especially when we don’t yet know exactly what gives a particle Mass to create the gravity in the first place? Is it not the Higg’s field that is more like aether than Mass. I don’t even begin to claim to know, but I have no worries that the physics community might be barking up the wrong tree, and only the wrong tree. If I do have a gripe against them, it’s the ones who appear on popular science shows pedaling “scientific” opinions on ever more ridiculous “multiverses” based on nothing more than the fact that the current maths doesn’t preclude them that annoy me

Dave Lovell said:

I don’t even begin to claim to know, but I have no worries that the physics community might be barking up the wrong tree, and only the wrong tree. If I do have a gripe against them, it’s the ones who appear on popular science shows pedaling “scientific” opinions on ever more ridiculous “multiverses” based on nothing more than the fact that the current maths doesn’t preclude them that annoy me

You have placed your finger on what also annoys researchers about the popularizers of science.

While we admit that someone has to try to keep the public up to date, we find that it is often the case that the ones who do it are too much attracted to this task for reasons of celebrity.

Having once tried to write a book for lay audiences on even some of the more solid ideas in physics, I gave up as I got deeper and deeper into trying to lay the foundations for the topic at hand.

Essentially I came to the conclusion that what I was ending up writing was a textbook; and there were already lots of those.

So I relaxed and poured myself into my research.

Flint said:

Dave,

Dark Matter is by definition the majority of mass in the universe which does not interact with normal matter, so why would any scientist expect to so detect it?.

This is really not my understanding at all. Mike may know more. But my reading is that “dark matter” is a proposed, hypothetical “substance” confected to “explain” otherwise anomalous observations without changing our current theories. It is NOT mass by definition at all. It bears the same relationship to our theory of gravity, that “aether” bore to prior theories of light.

notedscholar:

But I must (humbly!) correct this, for dark matter/dark energy is their solution to the challenge, which is the missing matter in the Universe.

No, not quite. “Dark matter” is their solution to unexpected behaviors of the dynamics of galaxies and galactic clusters. We have NO CLUE whether what’s causing these unexpected observations is actually “matter” or mass, or even gravity!

In this respect you are most certainly wrong. As was pointed out earlier in the thread, we have two independent ways of measuring a galaxy’s mass. One is by lensing, and the other is by rotation curves. Likewise with respect to galactic clusters we can weigh them (approximately) using the virial theorem and lensing. There is no earthly reason why the two measures should agree on the mass of the galaxy/cluster if there was some fundamental flaw in GR. So we are seeing the effects of “unseen mass” on the geometry of space and the Keplerian orbits of stars around the Galactic hub or providing additional gravipotential in a Galactic Cluster. Should we consider this agreement just a coincidence? I don’t think so. As stated earlier the use of the term “mass” or “matter” is just a place holder. Matter was the term first used, as it was thought the missing mass would turn out to be ordinary cold baryonic matter like faint brown dwarfs or even black holes. Later this acquired the catchy acronym MACHOs (Massive Compact Halo Objects). Certainly MACHOs contribute to some of what is termed *dark matter*. But not nearly enough. On the other side of the coin we have WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles), for which there are theoretical candidates but to my knowledge none of these have been found experimentally. Of course it might neither be WIMPs nor MACHOs. Which is why, as they say, we play the game. I suggest for now, we call it unobtanium.

http://iopscience.iop.org/0004-637X[…]2737.web.pdf

I also think the anology to the Aether is weak. Aether was proposed because it was inconceivable at the time that waves could propagate without a medium. In reality the Aether was wholly unnecessary. There were not any independent observations suggesting an Aether. In fact the opposite existed. For example, the MM experiment was a shot across that bow. In the case of *unobtainium* the influence on space is not in question. There is something that distorts space, increasing the amount of lensing over what is expected given the available luminous matter, affecting the Keplerian orbits of Suns around galactic centers and increasing the gravipotential in a galactic cluster in a manner consistent with GR. There’s no question something as yet undetermined is present. But whatever it is, its gravitational effects are unmistakeable.

This stuff is hard to describe. Perhaps because I’m too ignorant of what I’m talking about, which would probably be the normal case anyway. I’ve read that what the lensing and rotation curves imply is some kind of “frame dragging”, most easily explained by unexpectedly large gravitational fields, which are generated by…well, very large amounts of some sort of mass is the only thing that works for us. So the Standard Model seems to be, well, it turns out that we can duplicate these observations by distributing large amounts of mass in certain ways in our models. And indeed, we can generate a fit as close as our observations permit by doing so. We just can’t see any indications of this mass OTHER than the way it bends space. It doesn’t seem to interact in any detectible way with either baryonic matter or electromagnetic radiation, escept through gravitatinal influence.

So OK, since we require matter to generate mass which we require to generate gravity which we can observe implicitly, we must propose some very exotic sort of matter indeed. And we must propose about SIX TIMES as much of it as there is baryonic matter in the universe. To me, this “most likely” explanation represents a rather extraordinary claim. But I’ll keep following this as well as I can understand it.

There is something that distorts space, increasing the amount of lensing over what is expected given the available luminous matter, affecting the Keplerian orbits of Suns around galactic centers and increasing the gravipotential in a galactic cluster in a manner consistent with GR. There’s no question something as yet undetermined is present. But whatever it is, its gravitational effects are unmistakable.

But whatever it is, it’s more transparent than it is dark.

Henry

Flint said:

This stuff is hard to describe.

Yup. I know a few things about physics and math but I still find it difficult to explain to the layperson without all the equations.

But I understand the layperson’s frustration because in most areas I am also a layperson. Just having taken up classical guitar after I retired reminds me of what a novice I am compared to a professional guitarist or a professional musician of any sort.

There are only so many hours in a day, so one has to choose which things to work on and what to leave to others.

Why do we let creationists do this? There’s nothing in the OP about “dark matter”, yet we’ve ended up making almost the entire thread an argument about it. The whole thread has been sidetracked into a discussion that has almost no relationship to the OP, except in a vague analogy introduced by “notedscholar”. Atheistoclast does it. Flint does it. Byers does it. They all jump on some irrelevant side issue or analogy and sidetrack the whole thread. Please. Tell NS to take his “dark matter” to an astrophysics forum and let them deal with it.

OK, I’m off my soapbox.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jack Scanlan published on February 19, 2012 4:23 PM.

Freshwater: Is Hogwarts a religious school? was the previous entry in this blog.

Chrysaora fuscescens is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.38

Site Meter