Adam Frank confronts the question at NPR: One difference, he says, is data:
There are literally thousands of studies now of those rotating-too-fast galaxies out there — and they all get the same, quite noticeable result. In other words, data for the existence of dark matter is prevalent. It’s not like you see the effect once in a while but then it disappears. The magnitude of the result — meaning its strength — also stays pretty consistent from one study to the next. The same holds true for studies of dark energy.
No such luck with ghosts.
Sure, but a true believer in ghosts would be sure to point out that ghosts are considered intelligent, not inanimate. So seeing them is harder if they don’t want us to. Yes, yes, we know, but Frank’s analogy doesn’t quite work at this point.
But here is the rub. For years now, people have been looking for direct evidence of dark matter. This is the equivalent of seeing a ghost with your own eyes rather than seeing the kitchen drawers it keeps opening. After a whole lot of work, no one has found conclusive evidence for a dark matter particle (dark energy is different kind of story in terms of direct searches).
It’s still early in the game but, at some point, if nothing is found, scientists may have to re-evaluate their “belief” in dark matter. More.
Yes! That’s just the point: People who believe in ghosts tend to believe no matter. The physicists’ willingness to rethink the belief if no evidence turns up is what makes it science.
See also: Scientific American: Dark matter explanation flawed, but what should replace it?
How do dark energy and dark matter relate to ID?
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