Abstract: Proof that black holes exist will likely require confirmation of the existence of event horizons. The common assumption that the mere existence of large compact masses proves the case for black holes is an unwarranted extrapolation of General Relativity into a strong-field regime where it has not been adequately tested. Neither the large compact masses of galactic nuclei nor the massive compact objects of stellar mass in the x-ray binaries prove the existence of black holes. In contrast to the case for galactic nuclei, we have the necessary tools for obtaining either proof or disproof of event horizons in the x-ray binaries. Observations of kHz QPOs may decide the event horizon issue very quickly. If not, we can still obtain proof by comparing predictions of gravity theories that differ primarily by the presence or absence of an event horizon. Detailed analysis of models of x-ray binaries would then decide the issue.
One factor that one needn’t be a physicist to see is that black holes became a “thing” in popular culture, in a way that “red dwarfs” and “white dwarfs” never did. No one says that red dwarfs, for example, are a gateway to another universe. That sort of thing may affect people’s willingness to evaluate the evidence base critically. Cf Darwinism.
See also: Rob Sheldon takes aim at black holes: How much is really known? It is most unfortunate that both scientists themselves and the popular press discuss black holes (bh) as if they are (a) a scientifically defined object; and, (b) an experimentally observed one.