Recently I’ve been getting a lot of arguments that dark matter and dark energy are unscientific because they aren’t empirical, and only used to keep the Big Bang Theory alive which goes on to make the Big Bang Theory unscientific. This is something I too had thought before I recently observed the evidence and decided Theistic Evolution made more sense than YEC. As always when presented with a problem like this, I begin doing a bunch of research for myself and I send a question to this wonderful site. While I don’t think I’m going to be winning any YEC over with what I find, I hope I can at least find a way to defend my views in a religious climate that is remarkably hostile to it. So basically the question is, do you think Dark Matter and Dark Energy are unscientific (because they aren’t empirical)?
The question of dark matter or dark energy is not a religious one or a Christian one, but it is a scientific one.
First of all, the Big Bang theory does not depend on whether or not dark energy or dark matter exist. The theory stands on its own. This is a small but significant question of detail about the theory, but the question of the origin of the universe–and the theory that it began as a singularity about 13.5 billion years is not in doubt in the discussions about the nature of the debate over dark matter or dark energy. Theistic evolution vs YEC has absolutely nothing to do with this debate. YECs do not believe in the big bang by presupposition. Therefore, any evidence about the big bang or dark matter or continuous creation or Guth’s initial expansion theory are irrelevant. YECs reject all of this, not because of the evidence, but because their presupposition does not allow any of these proposals. They are ruled out, not on scientific grounds but by a presupposition.
This gets me to your question. Are dark matter and dark energy “scientific”? The answer is that the existence of these are proposed as part of a theory which is used to explain two basic observations. The first is that galaxies appear to have insufficient mass in them to explain the gravity that holds them together. Scientists have proposed the existence of a thing which has not yet been directly observed to explain this. The “thing” which has been proposed is dark matter. Is dark matter real? The scientific answer to this scientific question is “I do not know, but this is the best hypothesis proposed so far to explain the observation.” There was a time when the existence of electrons and the existence of neutrinos and the existence of many other phenomena were rather speculative. Eventually, scientists accept or reject such proposals based on further research and based on other proposed explanations. At one time, ether (the substance light supposedly traveled through) was a scientific proposal to explain the passage of light. Was “ether” scientific? I suppose so. That depends on your definition of “scientific.” Were neutrinos “scientific” before they were first actually observed? What about the Higgs boson. Was it “scientific” before its discovery two years ago.
The same discussion can be had about dark energy. This “energy” is proposed to explain the apparent empirical fact, which is that the universal expansion appears to be accelerating, when we would expect gravity to slow down the expansion.
Are dark matter and dark energy “scientific” because they are not empirically demonstrated? My answer is that these phenomena are devised by scientists to explain an observed phenomena. By this definition, I guess they are “scientific”. A better question is whether they are real. The answer is “I do not know.”
No matter what, this is a scientific question. Do not plan on convincing a YEC believer one way or another based on dark matter or energy. The reasons they invoke a young earth are not scientific but theological. Therefore, scientific evidence will not affect their conclusion. I do not say this to condemn this view. A theological presupposition is a reasonable place to start in some cases. However, a scientific argument will not defeat a theological one. You cannot use science to disprove that God loves us.