Dark matter in trouble again


Published: 19 May 2020 (GMT+10)

Everyone loves a controversy. There is a new one brewing, and some astrophysicists are very unhappy because their pet paradigm is in trouble again.

Dark matter, the stuff that allegedly comprises up to 85% of the matter content of galaxies in the universe, has just hit another road block:

“ … three physicists claim their observations of empty patches of sky rule out one possible explanation of the strange substance—that it is made out of unusual particles called sterile neutrinos. But others argue the data show no such thing.”

So writes Adrian Cho in the online Science magazine titled “Physicists brawl over new dark matter claim”.1 But sterile neutrinos are totally hypothetical. They are supposed to be new subatomic particles that do not interact with normal matter except that they can ‘mix’ with the other three real neutrinos. The idea is that these exotic neutrinos add a lot of otherwise-unobservable ‘dark’ matter to the halo of galaxies, therefore that extra matter solves the enigma of why stars move too fast around their galactic centres. It is also alleged that these exotic particles can decay into ordinary real neutrinos, and when they do, they emit an X-ray photon with a characteristic energy of 3.5 keV.

But a new analysis of old X-ray data of apparently blank regions between stars in the Milky Way galaxy and some nearby galaxies, just published in leading journal Science,2 refutes the notion that these putative particles fill the void (both of knowledge concerning ‘dark matter’ as well as literally the apparently empty space). Other physicists disagree and claim the new results come from ‘cherry picking’ the data.

But the exact same data was used. One group could see the X-ray emission but those in the new study could not. Who do we believe?

Adrian Cho writes

“Alexey Boyarsky, an astroparticle theorist at Leiden University, is unconvinced. ‘I think this paper is wrong,’ he says. Boyarsky says he and his colleagues performed a similar, unpublished analysis in 20183, also using images from XMM-Newton, and did see a 3.5-keV glow from the empty sky, just expected from peering through a halo of sterile neutrinos.”

If the theory is correct, this faint X-ray glow should be seen everywhere. But now we have specialist physicists brawling over whether they can see it. And the need to see it is indeed very real. Without dark matter filling the universe the big bang paradigm, and even a lot of astrophysics, is in serious trouble.

Why? It is not just relevant to the problem of what holds galaxies together—i.e. whether there is a significant deficiency of matter in spiral galaxies4 (which there is, according to standard Newtonian physics). The dark matter problem extends to all scales in the universe, including clusters, superclusters,5 and the whole universe itself.6 Dark matter is needed everywhere. Without it nothing in the universe as we see it could have formed naturalistically (Why is Dark Matter everywhere in the cosmos? A product of the Dark Side).

Without dark matter, galaxies and stars do not form naturalistically. Hence, dark matter has become the de facto ‘god of the gaps’ for astrophysics and cosmology (Stars just don’t form naturally—‘dark matter’ the ‘god of the gaps’ is needed). It is the new pagan god—the alleged creator of the universe. But like all false gods, in reality it just does not exist.

Let me end with a quote from one of the new study’s authors, Benjamin Safdi:

“I think that for most of the people in the community this is the end of the story.”1

Dark matter is not observed. It does not exist!

References and notes

  1. Cho, A., Physicists brawl over new dark matter claim, sciencemag.org, 26 March 2020. Return to text.
  2. Dessert, C., Rodd, N.L., and Safdi, B.R., The dark matter interpretation of the 3.5-keV line is inconsistent with blank-sky observations, Science 367(6485):1465–1467, 27 March 2020. Return to text.
  3. Boyarsky, A., et al., Surface brightness profile of the 3.5 keV line in the Milky Way halo, 13 Feb. 2019; arxiv.org/abs/1812.10488. Return to text.
  4. Dark matter in galaxies is claimed to comprise as much as 85% of the matter of a galaxy. Return to text.
  5. In some cases it is claimed the dark matter content of clusters and superclusters is of order 99.9%. Return to text.
  6. The common figure for the fraction of dark matter in the universe is about 24% of total mass/energy as compared to about 4% normal matter. That is about 7 times the amount of dark matter as normal matter. The rest of mass/energy content is claimed to be the other exotic stuff called dark energy, comprising about 72% of the total. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Dismantling the Big Bang
by Alex Williams, John Hartnett
US $17.00
Evolution's Achilles' Heels
by Nine Ph.D. scientists
US $17.00

Readers’ comments

Ian W.
Boyarsky et al had proof of dark matter but didn't publish, come on !! , thats unbeleivable.
Tim L.
I haven't yet seen a coherent alternative proposed for explaining the speed/distance curves of objects in large formations (e.g. stars in galaxies and galaxies in clusters). From what I've seen, the modified Newtonian methods I've seen struggle to account for the fact that the effect is not consistent across similarly sized formations. Is there an explanation available that can explain the data currently available?
John Hartnett
The problem of the dark matter crisis highlights the failure of the whole big bang paradigm which is predicated on a naturalistic origin for the universe. So one might ask, why do you need an explanation? What of there has not been sufficient time since creation for galaxies and clusters to fly apart? In a created universe one can ask those questions. See Physicists’ dark secret: Fast stars have not had time to fly apart. But if you need a naturalistic explanation, there are several ideas that theorists are looking at. One is explained here Has the dark matter mystery been solved?. I am not saying that a naturalistic explanation is necessarily wrong. The laws of physics are after all the creation of God. But we must realise the limitations of astrophysics and cosmology because we cannot directly test our theories in the cosmos like we can in an earth based laboratory.
And, that means we are "STUCK" with an active God, who in Love, Shepherds and providentially maintains His creation, holding me in the palm of His hand. Not bad for encouragement in the days of a pandemic.
Dan M.
You know, my brother used to be and still is proud of his ability to temporarily repair, (and I use the word repair liberally) any aspect of a mechanical malfunction using baling wire and a pair of pliers. Of course, his repair was only as good as his belief it would last long enough for a more permanent repair. Many a time his belief was unfounded as he spent more time trying to field engineer his repair than just doing it right from the get-go. This exercise in futility reminds me of a dog chasing its tail. You are never going to catch it, dummy! This is similar to how I view secular cosmologists and other secular scientific disciplines in today's current scientific environment. You have a pre-conceived idea and you set out to prove it based on your beliefs, not good observable science. If some evolutionists would just realize and admit their beliefs are of a philosophical, (not scientific) basis and the biblical narrative better explains the observations, we might be able to have a productive discussion. But I do not think it will ever happen? So, the great atheistic inquisition still rages on in our society and in our universities while alternate ideas will not be tolerated! It reminds me of a funny t-shirt I once owned. The graphics included a windows BSOD, (blue screen of death) and read, 'WE ARE MICROSOFT, RESISTANCE IS FUTILE, YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED". Well I am immune to their intimidation tactics, by the blood of Christ, John 8:32.
Jeff M.
Dear Mr Hartnett

This is a very poor article indeed. May I offer a critique?
1." Dark matter is not observed. It does not exist!" If this is the case, what is the basis for your article? It means you are writing about nothing at all.
2.Dark matter may or may not exist. In this respect it is no different from the many particles that have been postulated in the past. The Higgs boson is an excellent example.
3. Scientists argue about something. Get away! Who'd have thought it. It means nothing. Thats just the scientific method - you postulate something and it proves right or wrong, whereupon you either cheer or eat humble pie. Whats wrong with that?
4. To say it is a "God of the Gaps" example is incorrect. It's a reasonable analogy but no more. Dark Matter is a theory to cover a known gap in knowledge. No scientist worships it. If it proves wrong then they'll look somewhere else.
5. And finally, who is the article aimed at? 99.99% of your readers are not going to accept anything that contradicts the Bible so why go on?

John Hartnett
My concluding sentence "Dark matter is not observed. It does not exist!" is offered as the most reasonable explanation to the dilemma presented here. Dark matter is a 'god of the gaps' used everywhere in astrophysics and cosmology. See Why is Dark Matter everywhere in the cosmos?. Sure scientists can propose a model and then test it against observations. But the problem here is that the universe we observe had a Creator and it was not that 'god of the gaps' dark matter nor dark energy nor some big bang. The real Creator is excluded from the majority of scientists worldview.
Norman W.
The assumptions and arguments given by "scientists" border on the absurd. I have difficulty with many of their claims. I, for instance, have an equally difficult time with the arguments of the Big Bang from either a singularity or our of nothing. If there is nothing, it cannot bang (expand). Given the science behind the idea of black holes (singularities from which "NOTHING" can escape) it is even more absurd to think there is anything that could cause a singularity containing all the matter of the universe to overcome the resulting gravity and have anything escape (explode). I do not believe there is any mathematical equation that could explain that. Am I being absurd or ignorant? Thanks.
John Hartnett
Actually what you propose is a 'strawman' argument. Big bang cosmologists do not propose the universe exploded or expanded out of a universe sized black hole. That is incorrect. The idea is that the singularity from which all matter, space and time arose was, by definition, without a boundary (ie. no event horizon) hence there was never any outside of that horizon. The physics is not the same as a black hole. It is closer to a 'white hole' with all matter and energy coming from the centre of the white hole. But also space and time allegedly originated from that initial singularity. Needless to say that concept has many unsolved problems. See The singularity—a ‘Dark’ beginning
Paul W.
Seems like the Emperor's new clothes in reverse! The theory is parading around with no clothes on, but we're all supposed to see them!
Tim L.
I wouldn't characterize it as a naturalistic explanation. I would rather say it is an explanation that describes the universe as being stable. The unstable universe proposal might work (especially if the instability resulted from the Fall), but it would require one to explain why it is only unstable at only the most extreme sizes. For example, the Solar System is extremely stable. Why is it stable, but the Milky Way isn't? The explanation from stellar drag is extremely appealing. Are you aware of any further research into this? I'm surprised it hasn't gotten more attention (from either secular or creation scientists).
John Hartnett
I am not aware of any further research on the idea of stellar drag. All other contenders that I have read propose new physics. Dark matter is a placeholder for new physics so that is included. What I do think interesting though is that there is no reason a priori to assume that because a theory works well in the solar system that it should prove as successful on larger scales like on galaxy, cluster and supercluster scales. The difficulty though is testing the putative theory as we cannot do a local laboratory test like we can with Newtonian or Einsteinian gravity.

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