In astrophysics and cosmology, dark matter is a hypothetical form of matter that [cannot] be observed directly, but whose presence can be inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter . . . The composition of dark matter is unknown. . . (Wikipedia).
Ah yes. Dark matter, that holy grail of cosmologists, that elusive, invisible something that explains how the universe can be what it is. In fact, it supposedly comprises the largest chunk of stuff in the universe. It cannot be observed; it is only inferred from what can be seen. So how to express hard science’s conviction of its existence? As Berkeley astrophysicist Martin White says, “We believe that most of the matter in the universe is dark.” The current challenge is to discover what these scientists are already convinced is there. Call it faith seeking understanding.
So here, then, is the pattern of such scientific investigation:
1. Look at what you can actually see.
2. Notice the inability of what is seen to explain itself.
3. Conjecture an Invisibility to explain the visible and unify the whole.
4. Believe in that Invisibility.
5. Seek to understand that Invisibility which belief has identified.
6. Hope nobody notices that this belief precedes discovery.
Explanation motivates both science and religion. For both, observation is a vital, but limited resource. Invisibility is no argument against actuality. To bridge the gap between the established and conjectured, the visible and invisible, belief is necessary. There is no substantive difference between scientific and religious belief. Belief is belief.
So let’s chase after the elusive Dark Matter. From what we’re told, it has to be there; its enigmatic smile is written in the very structure of the universe. Even so, our faith doesn’t compel it to condescend to our rigorous equations and hyper-sensitive apparatus. Some things—some very big things—seem unimpressed by our insistence upon scientific reductionism. Perhaps science and religion are not so different after all. Each is a way to wander through an inexhaustible Wonderland, each leading us to an inevitable conclusion: “Curiouser and curiouser!”
And the Dark Matter on the menu? Welcome to Alice’s restaurant, baby. Here you can get anything you want.
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime – Macavity’s not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air -
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!