Dark Energy Controversy: Part 3

21Oct10

The third aspect of what makes dark energy a controversy is sort of a cumulation of some of the issues I’ve raised in past posts. There is a clear aversion to a dark universe and to a cosmological constant; some scientists are so unhappy with the situation that they actually hope that they’ve got it all wrong.

Here’s a selection of rather despairing quotes from both popular magazine articles and journal articles that I’ve pulled out from the hundreds that I’ve gone through (so I’m sorry that I can’t pinpoint the reference right now, although I’ve noted the scientist I think it came from for a couple):

▪   It smells wrong

▪   At some point you can’t patch a theory too much before it gets too ugly to accept

▪   We could be wrong about cosmology for the next thousand years; deeply wrong

▪   The standard model is horribly ugly, but the data support it

▪   For every complicated physical phenomenon there is a simple, wrong explanation

▪   This is the biggest embarrassment in theoretical physics

▪   My own reaction is somewhere between amazement and horror (Brian Schmidt)

▪   It’s crazy, who needs all this stuff in the universe? (Rocky Kolb)

Kuhn does say that one of the indicators of a pre-paradigm shift period (as is what may be happening here) is despair, but overall, Kuhn’s controversy as a scientific revolution framework doesn’t fit here. Instead, Joseph Gusfield proposes a framework for scientific controversy based on moral orders (seen in Gross, A. (2005) Scientific and technical controversy: three frameworks for analysis. Argumentation and Advocacy, vol. 42, 43-47). He talks about decisions based on feeling overpowering reason and rationality; the aversion to dark energy and a cosmological constant based on perceived ugliness screams of a clash of moral orders.

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