The Illusion of Knowledge Revisited
|March 30, 2007||Posted by Barry Arrington under Intelligent Design|
This morning the New Scientist web site posted an article entitled Ã¢â‚¬Å“Is Dark Energy an Illusion?Ã¢â‚¬ÂÃ‚Â See here:
Here is the lead sentence: Ã‚Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“The quickening pace of our universe’s expansion may not be driven by a mysterious force called dark energy after all, but paradoxically, by the collapse of matter in small regions of space.Ã¢â‚¬Â
This article brought to mind a wonderful debate we had in September about what it means to Ã¢â‚¬Å“knowÃ¢â‚¬Â a scientific theory is true.Ã‚Â I used the standard model of cosmology and especially its reliance on Ã¢â‚¬Å“dark matterÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“dark energyÃ¢â‚¬Â as a jumping off point for the discussion.Ã‚Â See
In my first post I noted that Professor Mike Disney is skeptical of the standard model, and he says:Ã‚Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“The greatest obstacle to progress in science is the illusion of knowledge, the illusion that we know whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going on when we really donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t.Ã¢â‚¬Â
I take no position on the controversy over the standard model.Ã‚Â The point of my posts was the Disney quote. Ã‚Â The greatest obstacle to knowledge in origins science is the illusion of so many adherents to NDE that they Ã¢â‚¬Å“know,Ã¢â‚¬Â when what they have really done is “infer.”
Epistemology (the philosophy of how we know and what it means to know) is tricky stuff. Ã‚Â But there is clearly a category difference between direct observation of a phenomenon and inferring the existence of the phenomenon based on observations of something else.
Both Darwinism and the standard model are based upon inferences from observations, not direct observations.Ã‚Â They are in a different epistemic category from, say, the heliocentric solar system, which has been observed directly.Ã‚Â As I said in September, much of the Neo-Darwinian edifice is constructed upon a foundation of inferences (inferences compelled by metaphysical, not scientific, commitments) masquerading as undisputed facts.Ã‚Â But to assess NDE critically, we must be able to distinguish between facts and inferences
My (I thought) rather modest observation was met by howls of indignation by some of the commenters, who claimed that even though the standard model is based upon inferences and key elements of it (e.g., dark matter and dark energy) have not actually been directly observed, we nevertheless know that it is true as certainly as we can know anything is true.
I wonder what those commenters would say now in response to the New Scientist article.Ã‚Â Is it really a fact that something we could know was true AS CERTAINLY AS WE CAN KNOW ANYTHING IS TRUE back in September may now be nothing more than, as the article says, an illusion?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“EpicyclesÃ¢â‚¬Â were necessary to make PtolemyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cosmology work.Ã‚Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“EtherÃ¢â‚¬Â was necessary to make 19th century cosmology work.Ã‚Â As Newton and Einstein demonstrated, neither of these things was real.Ã‚Â They were artificial constructs created in the minds of researchers to prop of false theories.Ã‚Â
Are dark matter and dark energy real?Ã‚Â Or are they like epicycles and ether, artificial constructs propping up a false theory?Ã‚Â I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know the answer to this question.Ã‚Â I do know the science community should hold its inferences (both cosmological and biological) with a little more humility than I have observed.Ã‚Â
Here is a quick synopsis of dark matter and dark energy:Ã‚Â The standard theory of gravity predicts that the further an object is away from a massive object, the smaller the gravitational effect the massive object will have on the object.Ã‚Â In the solar system this means that the distant planets will orbit the sun much more slowly then the closer planets, and sure enough empirical observations confirm the theory.
Problem 1:Ã‚Â In the 1970Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s it was observed that the theory does not work at the level of galaxies.Ã‚Â The stars and gas at the outer edge of galaxies orbit at the same rate as the ones closer in.Ã‚Â
Solution 1:Ã‚Â The concept of dark matter (objects with mass that do not consist of atoms) was developed to account for this.
Problem 2:Ã‚Â Experiments to measure the amount of dark matter revealed there was not nearly enough to account for the data.
Solution 2:Ã‚Â Observations designed to find out how much the expansion of the universe is slowing found out just the opposite.Ã‚Â The universe is expanding at an increasing rate.Ã‚Â The concept of dark energy was developed to account for this, and it turned out that the amount of dark energy was exactly the right amount to account for the Ã¢â‚¬Å“missingÃ¢â‚¬Â dark matter.
From these observations came the so-called Ã¢â‚¬Å“standard modelÃ¢â‚¬Â of cosmology.Ã‚Â The universe consists of 4% regular atoms, 21% dark matter, and 75% dark energy.