Dark energy refers to the self-stretching property of the space-time fabric of the universe. Space, because of dark energy and independent of matter and of any heat or light, stretches itself. Moreover, the larger the space-time envelope of the universe grows, the more stretching energy it gains. This gaining of stretching energy causes some science writers to refer to dark energy as an anti-gravity factor. The effect of dark energy on the space-time envelope of the universe is to make two massive bodies appear to repel one another. Moreover, the farther apart two bodies are from one another, the more strongly they will appear to repel one another.
In contrast, gravity acts as a brake on cosmic expansion. In junior high physics classes we all learned that, according to the law of gravity, two massive bodies attract one another and that the closer two massive bodies are to one another the more strongly they will attract. Since the universe contains a lot of mass, gravity works to pull the massive bodies together and thereby slows down cosmic expansion.
When the universe is young and more compact, gravity’s effect on cosmic dynamics would be powerful while dark energy’s would be weak. However, when the universe is old and more spread out, dark energy’s effect would be strong while gravity’s would be weak. Thus, if gravity alone influences cosmic dynamics, astronomers will observe that throughout cosmic history, the expansion of the universe slows down. The slowing down effect will be seen to get progressively weaker as the universe ages. However, if both gravity and dark energy are operable, astronomers will see cosmic expansion transition from slowing down to speeding up.
For more than two decades, many atheists and virtually all young-earth creationists have been adamant in denying the existence of dark energy. Atheists reject dark energy because it implies a relatively recent cosmic beginning. It implies a beginning so recent as to defy a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life and a history of life that makes possible the origin and existence of human beings who attain a global high-technology civilization.
Another reason they do not like dark energy is because of the fine-tuning design it implies. In 2002, Philip Ball (an atheist physicist and former senior editor for Nature) conducted an interview with theoretical physicists Lisa Dyson, Matthew Kleban, and Leonard Susskind about a paper1 they had just written and quoted them as saying in regard to dark energy, “Arranging the cosmos as we think it is arranged would have required a miracle.”2 In the same interview the three physicists said the existence of dark energy would imply that an “unknown agent intervened in the evolution [of the universe] for reasons of its own.”3
The three physicists, all of whom are nontheists, concluded their paper with these words, “Perhaps the only reasonable conclusion is that we do not live in a world with a true cosmological constant.”4 Cosmological constant is another term for dark energy. They felt compelled to deny the existence of dark energy because the alternative was an Agent beyond space and time performing miracles for reasons of his own.
Young-earth creationists, too, wish that dark energy would go away. They wish it, however, for a reason opposite to nontheistic scientists. If dark energy is real, it makes the universe too old for their interpretation of the Genesis 1 creation days and the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies.
Like it or not, dark energy is real. With a measure as accurate as dark energy comprising 70.8±1.2%5 of all the stuff of the universe, there no longer is any rational basis for doubting its existence. It makes up more than two-thirds of the universe. Those who believe in the God of the Bible should really like it. It implies that the universe had a beginning in finite time just like the Bible repeatedly declares. Furthermore, the fine-tuning design it implies means that a known Agent who can operate from beyond space and time has miraculously intervened in the history of the universe for reasons of his own.
Featured image: Artist’s impression of the influence gravity has on space-time. Image credit: Phys.org.