It proved impossible not to laugh at Bad Astronomy in light of the fact that actual scientific experiments are proving the science skeptic, and not the so-called astronomer, correct. Back in 2008, the intrepid space expert wrote:
“I happened to notice I was getting some traffic sent my way from Voxday,
an ultraconservative blogger who has a history of saying ridiculous
things — sometimes so ridiculous it’s indistinguishable from satire.
Unfortunately, of course, willful ignorance has quite an audience these
days, and just in case it’s not satire, I decided to reply….
“Your conclusions are way off the mark, for two reasons: you
misinterpreted/misunderstood what scientists did, and then you
“First, 5% of the Universe is normal matter and energy. About 23% or
so is dark matter. While we don’t know precisely what it’s made of, its
existence has been conclusively proven, and it was using scientific
methods that proved it (its existence was speculated due to odd motions
of galaxies, its impact on observations predicted and then confirmed).”
Needless to say, I was unintimidated by the conventional “you just don’t understand sicence” response to which insecure scientists usually retreat when those they consider to be outside the secular priesthood dare to approach the sacred mysteries they reserve for themselves. How dare anyone point out the lack of evidence for their assumptions! After all, the consensus is settled and the matter is therefore conclusively proven!
At the time I wrote: “I do so enjoy seeing their unmitigated faith in scientific snapshots
landing the stupidly arrogant scientific faithful on their asses yet
again. What passes for science these days is beginning to sound like a
Monty Python skit:
“Dark Matter and Dark Energy…Dark Matter
and Dark Energy…. Our two explanations are Dark Matter and Dark
Energy…and Dark Vapor…. Our three explanations are Dark Matter, and
Dark Energy, and Dark Vapor…and an almost fanatical devotion to Karl
Popper…. Our four…no… Amongst our explanations are such elements
as Dark Matter, Dark Energy…. I’ll come in again.”
But it gets better, thanks to science:
A US team that claims to have built the world’s most sensitive dark matter detector has completed its first data run without seeing any sign of the stuff.
In a webcast presentation today at the Sanford Underground Laboratory in Lead, South Dakota, physicists working on the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment said they had seen nothing statistically compelling in 110 days of data-taking. “We find absolutely no events consistent with any kind of dark matter,” says LUX co-spokesman Rick Gaitskell, a physicist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
Physicists know from astronomical observations that 85% of the Universe’s matter is dark, making itself known only through its gravitational pull on conventional matter. Some think it may also engage in weak but detectable collisions with ordinary matter, and several direct detection experiments have reported tantalizing hints of these candidate dark matter particles, known as WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles). Gaitskell says that it is now overwhelmingly likely that earlier sightings were statistical fluctuations.
Now, with whose hypothesis are the results of this experiment consistent? The astronomer who knows, he just knows, that dark matter exists? Or the skeptic who, while open to the possibility that said material exists, understands the probability is that dark matter is nothing more than a mathematical fudge factor that allows the equations required by the current physics paradigm to balance properly?
Nor is this the first time the hunt for dark matter has failed since 2008. “In 2011, XENON-100 also saw no evidence for dark matter,
but had been criticized for not being sensitive enough to very low-mass
dark matter particles tentatively reported by other experiments. LUX
has five times the sensitivity of XENON-100 in the low-mass realm, which
should allay those concerns, says Gaitskell.”
Bad Astronomy has made a fundamental logical error that is increasingly common in scientistry, which is to adopt a scientific paradigm, accept a theory that is supported by mathematical models rather than by actual scientody, and then assume that the material evidence will eventually be found to support the model. But there are three potential problems there. If there are any flaws in the paradigm, the theory, or the model, then the evidence will not be found.
I don’t know if any of those three things are flawed, as I have neither the training nor the level of interest to delve into the matter in sufficient detail. But logic, combined with a knowledge of scientific history, is sufficient to conclude that if the predictive model repeatedly fails, there is, at the very least, a possibility that there is a mistake in the assumptions somewhere between the overall paradigm and the specific predictive model upon which the experiment is based.
Bad Astronomy’s unseemly scientific arrogance not only invites public humiliation, but indicates an inability to learn from the mistakes of past scientists. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that scientists were certain about the existence of luminiferous aether. It hardly seems impossible that one day, future Bad Astronomy types will attempt to disavow the notion that real scientists ever believed in anything so obviously nonsensical as “dark matter”.
A wiser professional cosmologist wrote the following on Slashdot:
“Any of this could be down to a modification of gravity. We know the
nature of gravity roughly up to the position of the Voyager craft —
call it 300AU to be generous. We are extrapolating that a thousand times
to get to galactic scales, a million times to get to cluster scales,
and a thousand million times to get to cosmological scales, all without
evidence. Of course, without a better theory to replace relativity, it’s
the best we can do, so we do it – but don’t try and claim that
instruments have detected that it is matter (they haven’t), nor that we
are wedded to particulate dark matter.”
UPDATE: A physicist bitch-slaps Phil Plait aka Bad Astronomy in the comments:
“Most scientists do not believe the current model of the universe or anything about it is proven.
That’s Plait’s opinion, and it’s frankly astonishing that anyone with a
PhD from a respectable university would make such a plainly stupid and
irresponsible statement. Plait is grossly misstating the situation, and
his statements do not represent the views of most particle
physicists / cosmologists, who willingly distinguish between that for
which there is ample evidence, that for which there are problems, and
that for which there is proof (nothing).”
Yeah, that’s what she said….