Dark matter: should we be so sure it exists? Here's how philosophy can help - Deepstash
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Dark Matter And Philosophy

Dark Matter And Philosophy

  • It has been more than 50 years since astronomers first proposed "dark matter", which is thought to be the most common form of matter in the universe.
  • Despite this, we have no idea what it is - nobody has directly seen it or produced it in the lab.
  • Nevertheless, physicists today overwhelmingly favour the dark matter hypothesis incorporated in the so-called ΛCDM model (Lambda Cold Dark Matter).

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Philosophy to The Rescue

Philosophy to The Rescue

In the case of two competing hypotheses, what determines the final probability of each hypothesis is the product of the ratio between the initial probabilities of the two hypotheses (before evidence) and the ratio of the probabilities that the evidence appears in each case (called the likelihood ratio).

Determining what exactly counts as the "initial probability" of a hypothesis, and the possible ways in which such probabilities can be determined, remains one of the most difficult challenges in Bayesian confirmation theory.

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Dark Matter Hypothesis

Dark Matter Hypothesis

Newtonian laws may work slightly differently when there’s extremely small acceleration involved, such as at the edge of galaxies. This tweak was perfectly compatible with the observed galactic rotation. Nevertheless, physicists today overwhelmingly favour the dark matter hypothesis incorporated in the so-called ΛCDM model (Lambda Cold Dark Matter).

 If the two competing theories of dark matter and modified gravity can equally explain galactic rotation and other anomalies, one might wonder whether we have good reasons to prefer one over another.

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Still Clueless

Philosophy cannot ultimately tell us whether astronomers are right or wrong about the existence of dark matter. But it can tell us whether astronomers do indeed have good reasons to believe in it, what these reasons are, and what it would take for modified gravity to become as popular as dark matter.

We still don’t know the exact answers to these questions, but we are working on them. More research in philosophy of science will give us a better verdict.

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