The Re-Thinking of Dark Energy

Some scientists are beginning to reconsider the concept of dark energy. Christians can learn a few things from this possible change.

Dark energy is described in various ways. Here is the Wikipedia description:

“In physical cosmology & astronomy dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy that permeates all of space and tends to increase the rate of expansion of the universe. Dark energy is the most popular way to explain recent observations that the universe appears to be expanding at an accelerating rate. In the standard model of cosmology, dark energy currently accounts for 74% of the total mass-energy of the universe.” says it this way:

“New evidence has confirmed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating under the influence of a gravitationally repulsive form of energy that makes up two-thirds of the cosmos.”

galaxyThe April 2009 edition of Scientific American magazine, written by University of Oxford cosmologists Timothy Clifton and Pedro G. Ferreira, notes that slight deviations in the brightness of exploding stars could have a different explanation which does not require the exotic (their words) idea of dark energy. ((Timothy Clifton and Pedro G. Ferreira, Scientific American, April, 2009, Vol. 300, #4, pg. 48)) The details are, for our purposes here, not terribly relevant. But in essence, some are doubting whether the universe is perfectly uniform and consistent throughout its expanse. This “fundamental postulate” ((ibid)) has lain as one of the bedrocks of science reaching back to its earliest vague beginnings with Copernicus in the 16th century. It was this idea of the uniformity of the universe which led astronomers to theorize the concept of “dark energy.” If this very old theory of uniform density (homogeneity) and uniform appearance (isotrophy) is untrue then dark energy is no longer indicated.

Dark energy has never been seen, tested or adequately demonstrated. It has been required however to make other measurements fit the accepted norm. It has been a very widely accepted theory for the past 11 years or so. Where did it come from? It arose because something was amiss in the calculations of the size and rate of expansion of the universe. If the universe was really accelerating its expansion then there had to be some other “thing” causing it. Since no one knew of any other “thing” causing it, science created it and called the new “thing” “dark energy.” That is an extremely simplistic explanation but is, I believe, painfully true.

What A Move Away from Dark Energy Shows

To be fair, dark energy has never achieved the widespread acceptance that evolution has. In fact, most people are not even aware of this theorized component of the universe. Children are not routinely taught about dark energy in grade school and boards of education do not battle over its inclusion in textbooks. However it is, nonetheless, a part of the foundation of science along with other supporting theories. All of this is now being re-considered in light of better and stronger scholarship.

Should dark energy eventually end up on the trash heap of rejected scientific theories it will remind us of a few vital facts.

  1. Science is not infallible. Science must be understood as an ever evolving process whereby theories are constantly challenged and subject to modification or outright rejection when new information becomes available.
  2. Science can and must change. The true scientist will never hold so closely to his pet theory that he is unwilling to change it. To be ethical, professional and honorable scientists must be always willing to take a second look and discard their previous thinking. In reality, there is no such thing as having the “last word” in a scientific discussion.
  3. Science must never be arrogant. Science has brought untold benefits to humanity and will continue to do so. But because change lies at the heart of science its practitioners must never assume that they alone are the sole keepers of knowledge.
  4. Science and Religion Both Are Faith-Based. Although dark energy was never seen or directly tested scientists believed it existed. To borrow a Bible phrase, their belief was the “the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Now, rave and complain as they may, at the end of the day certain things must be assumed or accepted. Dark energy was one of them.
  5. Religion does not change. Jesus Christ died “once for all” (Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:10; 1 Peter 3:18). Our faith was “once for all” delivered unto us (Jude 3). While religion and faith certainly do change, they ought not. God has given us all we need and man cannot improve upon it.

I do not know what will happen with the dark energy debate. Much research and study remains. Even if it is completely discarded many will still cling to the supposed infallibility of science.  But the mere fact that it is possibly changing helps us put science and research into a proper place. I am not anti-science. I spent 10 years working on the cutting edge of medical science as an RN in critical care and cardiac nursing. But we must understand that science really does have serious limitations. That’s a lesson many scientists who are quick to ridicule religion ought to learn.

2 thoughts on “The Re-Thinking of Dark Energy

  1. Hm. The problem with this interpretation is that we can say we have observed dark energy, via its effects on the expansion of the Universe. What it actually is, we do not know yet, and the term “dark energy” is, in a sense, a catchphrase for some phenomenon that so far remains unclear.

    And, of course, the fallibility of science is what makes it so much more productive and desirable as a frame of reference than religion, which, by your own admission remains unchanging. I am not sure how one can describe holding on to one’s beliefs even in the face of (possible) evidence to the contrary in positive terms.

  2. Thanks for your view Jorg. I appreciate and even encourage dissenting voices. It helps me stay sharp and make sure I getting the message out.

    I would argue that we have not seen dark energy. We have inferred its existence and we may, or may not be in error. That’s the point. What science has largely promoted as fact for the last decade is now under assault. Change or modification is probable at some degree. Science must simply understand that it is not suited to be the final arbiter of truth. That doesn’t mean science is bad – just limited.

    True religion is just that – truth. While it is beyond the scope of this particular post I would argue that there is an unchangeable body of truth presented in Scripture. Man’s interpretation may be in gross error but that is not the fault of the Creator.

    I think both science and religion ought respect one another and recognize that there is no conflict between true science and true religion.

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