Dark Matter Realism

Niels C. M. Martens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


According to the standard model of cosmology, Λ
CDM, the mass-energy budget of the current stage of the universe is not dominated by the luminous matter that we are familiar with, but instead by some form of dark matter (and dark energy). It is thus tempting to adopt scientific realism about dark matter. However, there are barely any constraints on the myriad of possible properties of this entity—it is not even certain that it is a form of matter. In light of this underdetermination I advocate caution: we should not (yet) be dark matter realists. The “not(-yet)-realism” that I have in mind is different from Hacking’s (Philos Sci 56 (4), 555–581, 1989) anti-realism, in that it is semantic rather than epistemological. It also differs from the semantic anti-realism of logical empiricism, in that it is naturalistic, such that it may only be temporary and does not automatically apply to all other unobservables (or even just to all other astronomical unobservables, as with Hacking’s anti-realism). The argument is illustrated with the analogy of the much longer history of the concept of a gene, as the current state of the concept of dark matter resembles in some relevant ways that of the early concept of genes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number16
JournalFoundations of Physics
Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


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