Workshop: Philosophy of Dark Matter Workshop (Online)


29-30 March 2021

Online – via Zoom

Registration deadline: 22 March

Further info & registration:

Following up on the 2019 conference in Aachen on dark matter & modified gravity, and a special journal issue (in progress) on the same topic, the DFG-funded research unit Epistemology of the LHC and the Lichtenberg Group for History and Philosophy of Physics are organising a two-day workshop on the philosophy of dark matter. This workshop will take place on 29 and 30 March 2021. Philosophers, physicists, historians, sociologists and other interested scholars are invited to attend.

According to the standard model of cosmology, ΛCDM, the mass-energy budget of our universe includes roughly five times as much dark matter (DM) as the baryonic matter familiar to us from the standard model of particle physics. On the one hand, ΛCDM manages to connect an impressive range of phenomena at various scales, and has achieved a high degree of empirical confirmation. On the other hand, structure formation simulations involving dark matter run into a number of small scale challenges and fail to account for observed galactic correlations. Moreover, the exact nature of dark matter remains shrouded in mystery, despite particle physicists developing a cornucopia of ingenious particle dark matter models. In light of a persistent lack of non-gravitational detection of dark matter, the landscape of DM candidates spans 90 orders of magnitude in mass (!), ranging from ultralight bosons to primordial black holes. Some have gone as far as to suggest that it is a modification of the gravitational field rather than postulating a new form of matter that is required to account for all the data.

Despite the hunt for dark matter having been a large and important research programme in physics for decades now, the humanities have largely ignored it. However, dark matter, lying at the intersection of cosmology, astronomy and particle physics, provides a rich topic for philosophical exploration. This workshop will address some of the following research topics related to dark matter:

Descriptive questions:

  • Which of the following factors have shaped and are shaping the DM research programme, and how: empirical data, theoretical virtues, idealisation, philosophical motivations and guiding principles, historical factors, sociological factors? 
  • How do constraints from cosmology, astronomy and particle physics interact?
  • Which notions of direct and indirect observation/detection are relevant?
  • Is the DM research programme in a crisis?
  • Is the development of the DM research programme best understood via a Popperian, Kuhnian, Lakatosian, Laudanian or other analysis?
  • What kind of underdetermination, if any, is there between dark matter and its modified gravity alternative?


 Simon Allzén (Stockholm)

“Dark matter, evidence, and theory confirmation”

 Antonis Antoniou (Bristol)

“Reliability, informativeness and sensitivity in dark matter observation”

 Siska de Baerdemaeker (Stockholm)

“Exploratory observations with stellar streams”

 Niels Martens (Bonn/Aachen)

“Dark matter realism”

 Helen Meskhidze (Irvine)

“(What) Do we learn from code comparisons? A case study of implementations of self-interacting dark matter”

 Robert Rynasiewicz (Johns Hopkins)

“Dark matter and referential handles”

 William L. Vanderburgh (San Bernardino)

“Multi-messenger metaphysics: Evidence and inference in astrophysics and cosmology”


Siska de Baerdemaeker (Stockholm)

Melissa Jacquart (Cincinnati)

Christopher Smeenk (London, ON)

Adán Sus (Valladolid)

For further questions, please contact the organizer, Niels Martens, at