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Konwersatoria 2020/2021

25.03.2021 — David R. Merritt (Rochester Institute of Technology): Progress in Cosmology: A Philosophical Perspective

There are currently two, viable cosmological theories: the standard (LCDM) model; and a theory due originally to Mordehai Milgrom called MOND. Both theories can claim to successfully explain a wide variety of observations, both on small (galaxy) and large (cosmological) scales; but only the standard model postulates the existence of dark matter. This situation is similar to what philosophers of science call “empirical equivalence”: when two, ontologically distinct theories make the same predictions about observable phenomena. Philosophers claim to know how to decide between theories in cases like this. The essential quality of a true theory is that it correctly predicts facts in advance of their observational determination: that is, it anticipates the data: it makes successful novel predictions. I will argue that only Milgrom’s theory achieves this. The standard model, at least since the addition of the dark matter postulate ca. 1980, can sometimes accommodate new data in a retrospective and statistical fashion but has made few if any successful new predictions. I will discuss the implications for experimental dark-matter searches and for science pedagogy.

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