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Awarded in Absentia

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

The problem was relatively simple. The Universe was expanding in such a way that the physical matter of which we were aware could not explain the results we were seeing. Thus, scientists concluded that we must be missing a vital component. In an article titled “Cosmology Gets Real” that appeared in the March 13, 2003 issue of Nature, staff writer Geoff Brumfiel wrote about scientists’ efforts to figure out why the Universe is expanding, and observed that certain scientists have made

an extraordinary suggestion: that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating, pushed outwards by some kind of phantom force for which there was no explanation. This phenomenon of dark energy seemed odd. But according to the general theory of relativity, mass and energy are equivalent. And when cosmologists looked at the amount of energy they needed to create the mysterious force, they found that it accounted perfectly for the mass still missing from their picture (422:109, emp. added).

Alas, the idea of “dark energy” was born—something we have never seen or measured, but that simply must be there. Brumfiel continued:

With the addition of the latest data on the CMB [cosmic microwave background radiation—BH], courtesy of NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, our picture of the universe is now clearer than ever. CMB studies have confirmed that the Universe is indeed flat. The Wilkinson probe has now set ratios for the composition of the cosmos: 23% dark matter and 73% dark energy, leaving only 4% for the galaxies, stars and people (422:109, emp. added).

Or, to echo the sentiments of cosmologist Michael Turner of the University of Chicago: “Ninety-six percent of the Universe is stuff that we’ve never seen” (as quoted in Brumfiel, 422:109). David Cline, in his March 2003 article on dark matter for Scientific American, noted: “Dark energy, despite its confusingly similar name [to dark matter—BH], is a separate substance that entered the picture only in 1998. It is spread uniformly through space, exerts a negative pressure and causes the expansion of the universe to accelerate” (288[3]:52). Given that we’ve never seen or measured dark energy, Cline’s comments certainly clear up everything.

Dark energy may have only entered the picture in 1998, but it has made a huge (and much-needed) splash in the evolutionary camp. According to evolutionists, this new energy help explain expansion, and also helps establish an age for the Universe. These “accomplishments” helped this newcomer (which, ironically, has yet to be viewed or measured) become honored by the scholarly journal Science as the “Breakthrough of the Year” for 2003. In announcing this year’s winner, Science editor Donald Kennedy (former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) noted: “Nothing’s bigger than the Universe; the question is, what it’s made of. The Breakthrough is confirmation that it’s mostly dark energy, with some exotic matter; only a few percent consists of the kind of matter we’re familiar with” (2003, 302:2033). Thus, the award goes to a (to use Kennedy’s own descriptive words) “mysterious cosmic force” (p. 2033) that we have never seen.

Forget about awarding the breakthrough to something that actually benefits humankind (i.e. a new drug, disease-resistant plants, etc.). Instead, let’s honor that stuff that we have never even seen. If that were not sad enough, it now looks as though the individuals responsible for voting dark energy as the “Breakthrough of the Year” may wind up with egg on their faces. Just a few short days before that particular issue of Science hit newsstands (thus, weeks after the votes had been cast), the European Space Agency’s (ESA) XMM-Newton X-ray Observatory reported that dark energy might not exist. The report observed: “ESA’s X-ray observatory, XMM-Newton, has returned tantalizing new data about the nature of the Universe.” In comparing distant clusters of galaxies, researchers found some serious inconsistencies. The report noted: “Some scientists claim that this can be interpreted to mean that the ‘dark energy,’ which most astronomers now believe dominates the Universe, simply does not exist…” (see European Space Agency, 2003, ellipsis in orig.).

These latest findings indicate that the Universe must be a high-density environment, which is a clear contradiction to the current theory that postulates 70% of the Universe is composed of dark energy. Alain Blanchard, of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de l’Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, realized that this conclusion would be highly controversial, and noted: “To account for these results, you have to have a lot of matter in the Universe and that leaves little room for dark energy” (European Space Agency, 2003). Controversial indeed. If these findings prove true, the chalkboards will be rolled out again as astronomers try to figure out exactly how and why our Universe is the way it is. The evolutionary argument that the Universe is billions of years old will need to be propped up by new data, as the concept of dark energy is dismissed.

So before the champagne corks ever touched the ground, Science’s “Breakthrough of the Year” found itself under attack. But fear not. Given that no one has seen dark energy or measured it, the odds that anyone can locate it to take the award away from this “mysterious cosmic force” are even slimmer than the possibility that the stuff actually exists in the first place. [For more information on dark energy and dark matter the reader is encouraged to see “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique [Part II]”.]


Brumfiel, Geoff (2003), “Cosmology Gets Real,” Nature, 422:108-110, March 13.

Cline, David B. (2003), “The Search for Dark Matter,” Scientific American, 288[3]:50-59, March.

European Space Agency (2003), “Has ESA’s XMM-Newton Cast Doubt Over Dark Energy?” [On-line], URL:

Kennedy, Donald (2003), “Breakthrough of the Year,” Science, 302:2033, December 19.

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