Recently, a video came across my Facebook page titled The Known Universe, prepared by the American Museum of Natural History. you can jump to the video by following this video link. This film purports to show “the known universe as mapped through astronomical observations.”
My comment after watching the video was, “Fascinating, although the Quasar and Big Bang pieces are not correct.” Now a friend of mine, Bill W., left a comment asking, “What did the Museum of Natural History get wrong?”
My response was, “1. Quasar redshift as a distance indicator is in doubt by many. 2. Big Bang never happened. Evidence against it is conclusive. But Astrophysicists don’t have a better theory, so they keep saying the same thing. Much disarray” A little later, Bill then asked what was the evidence against the Big Bang. Not liking to type much in Facebook, I answered, rather flippantly I felt later, “Read The Big Bang Never Happened by Eric Lerner.” (I’ve listed my references at the end of this article, so you can check them out on Amazon or your book store.)
And that was it. But the more I thought about it, my answer wasn’t a good one. This is a complex and important area for our times, and it is is surrounded by a lot of misinformation. So I want to take more time here to answer Bill and anyone else who reads this. To start, let’s go back to the video.
I watched it, and it certainly has high production values. Starting on Earth’s surface, the camera moves ever farther away, past the planets, the entire Solar System, the galaxy, eventually out over 100 million light years. Inexorably on, to 5 billion light years, where the first hiccup appears. It says “Quasars, the farthest objects we can see.” This statement is disputed, but let’s let that go for now.
The next sentence we see is, “Light from a younger universe … the afterglow of the Big Bang.”
Uh oh. We’re in big trouble now because this Big Bang – that we’ve all heard of – has not been astronomically observed, which is what the film purported to show: “the known universe as mapped through astronomical observations.” The camera has gone out to what looks like the “edge” of the universe, with the caption, “Our cosmic horizon in space.” This is a bit confusing, because the Big Bang was supposed to have been a singularity, a single point, at some sort of center of the universe, not at its edge. So they’re a bit confused here, but let’s let that ride also. The camera begins to zoom back in, with the caption, “And now back to the future.” After a few more moments, we’re back to Earth, and the video is over.
Here’s the problem: The video implies the Big Bang is an astronomical observation. It is not. It is a theoretical and purely hypothetical event that is supposed to have happened about 13.7 billion years ago. In point of fact, there are no physical observations that support such an event. On the contrary, most observations are at odds with the Big Bang. I’d like to outline a few of the circumstances around this controversy, for that is indeed what it is.
The Party Line
Modern cosmology is a complicated subject – although it’s not as complicated as some would have you believe. It’s problems and likely solutions can be stated in ordinary language, without any math. Nonetheless, here I will just touch on one or two points. If you want to find out more, try one or two of the references I’ve listed below. WARNING: Standard books, or TV shows on The History or Science Channels will only give the party line. That is, the accepted explanations that get grant money, and keep scientists in their tenures. The party line in cosmology is called the Lambda-Cold Dark Matter model, and it’s essentially a model of an expanding universe, with the Big Bang in the distant past as its central feature.
But is it true?
In The Static Universe, Hilton Ratcliffe lists eleven requirements of the Big Bang, none of which are observably met. How this model of the universe has withstood being contrary to observable facts is a point I’ll come back to below, but first I’d like to give two simple examples that prove the Big Bang theory can’t be true.
The Universe Isn’t Expanding
An expanding universe it at the heart of the Big Bang theory. If the universe is expanding, then it was smaller in the past, and long ago, logically, it must have been a tiny point, yet one packed with unimaginable energy. This was the singularity that “exploded” and created space-time.
But is it true the universe is expanding?
No, the universe isn’t expanding in the way required for the Big Bang theory, on the say-so of the originator of the concept, Edwin Hubble.
In 1929, Hubble measured the spectra of light coming from distant galaxies. He found they were shifted toward the red end of the spectrum, compared to sunlight. He was not sure the reason for this, but other cosmologists made the inference this redshift was caused by the Doppler effect, meaning these galaxies were receding from our own. We are to picture a loaf of raisin bread, rising in its pan. As the bread rises, each raisin gets a little farther from each of the other raisins. Replace the raisins with galaxies, and we have the picture of an expanding universe. This came to be called the Hubble Law, but Hubble himself remained skeptical.
Skipping over a lot of the details (they are well-explained in the references below), this idea that distant galaxies are receding from us became Gospel. This ship had left the dock, and there was no bringing it back. It became the bedrock of the Standard Model, as it remains today. In 1942 Hubble wrote an article explaining that the redshift he originally described clearly proved that the universe was static and not expanding at all! He rejected the conclusions so many others had run with, but it was too late for Hubble.
Tom van Flandern, in Dark Matter, Missing Planets & New Comets, said, “But if some large redshifts are not due exclusively to velocity, then we must question whether any of them are. Indeed, we must question whether it is reasonable to continue assuming that the universe is expanding at all.”
Ratcliffe asks, since the universe doesn’t expand, why doesn’t he just rest his case right there? He says, “Well, you try telling them what Edwin Hubble said, see how far you get …”
The myth of the Big Bang had begun. It was a powerful locomotive barreling down the track and even Hubble couldn’t stop it.
Superclusters of Galaxies, and Beyond
Fast forward to 1986. Based on detailed optical observations, Brent Tully at the University of Hawaii found that almost all the galaxies within a distance of a billion light-years of Earth are concentrated into huge ribbons of matter about a billion light-years long, 300 million light-years wide, and 100 light-years thick.
Galaxies, although mostly separated by vast distances, at larger scales form clusters. And in turn, these clusters form superclusters, which may contain dozens of clusters. Tully and his colleagues found gigantic ribbons and later walls of galactic superclusters at the largest scales we can observe. Notice that unlike theories built on mathematics, Tully’s evidence is irrefutable, and is widely accepted among astronomers today.
I am again skipping over a lot of the details, but they are clearly explained by Eric Lerner in his book The Big Bang Never Happened.
But here’s the problem: Even in the eighties superclusters were known to be just too big to have formed since the supposed Big Bang. Gravitational attraction is inexorable, but exceedingly slow at inter-galactic distances. They could not have formed in the (at most) twenty billion years since the Big Bang. They would have taken around eight billion years to form.
Considering the even larger bands of galactic clusters, a pattern that spans over seven billion light-years, it would take them at least 150 billion years to form. Far too long for the Big Bang theory to be correct.
Dark Flotsam and Jetsam
For the universe to be expanding as the Big Bang theory requires, cosmologists found that there just wasn’t enough matter in the universe for this theory to be correct. In fact, they found that visible matter would only account for around 4% of the matter required. The other 96% must be unseen, a.k.a. “dark.”
In the standard Lambda-Cold Dark Matter model, “cold dark” means non-radiating (we can’t see it or detect it) matter. But the Big Bang must be true, therefore dark matter must exist.
How convenient. “We know it’s there, but we can’t detect it. Trust us.” This is exactly like a school child saying, “My dog ate my homework. I did it, but I can’t prove it. Trust me.”
Then we have to add dark energy, because dark matter by itself doesn’t fix the problem. How many times have we heard in the popular press that the Big Bank, dark matter, and dark energy are facts, when really they’re only theories, and flawed ones at that?
I will skip over the other major problems with the Big Bang. You can find plenty of them in the references. Instead, let’s look at the larger, human picture surrounding scientific theories.
Ideological Inertia: Science’s Dirty Little Secret
The central question is: “If a fact is disproved, and no one admits it, is it still a fact?” (This question is attributed to Michael Goodspeed.)
Hilton Radcliffe’s goal in writing his book was part of his effort at “capsizing the paradigm,” meaning to dislodge the Big Bang model of the universe that has gained the approval of nearly all academic scientists, even though it is demonstrably false.
Why is it taught in graduate schools to the exclusion of other theories? Why is it the only such theory permitted in peer-reviewed journals? Why does its momentum keep going despite its flaws? To answer these questions, we have to go outside the theory and look at the people propounding it.
Einstein started a trend in 1905 when he published his first papers on the Special Theory of Relativity. He was the champion of gedanken (thought) experiments, where he famously tried to imagine what it would be like riding a light beam. This was in sharp contrast to the more popular (and more accurate) method of making observations first, then drawing conclusions.
Einstein’s method seem to be working fine for ten years. Then he published his General Theory and everything was suddenly quite different. As Ratcliffe explains, “Cosmology … became the exclusive domain of those select few who could understand and solve complex differential equations.” Einstein was trying to explain the entire universe with mathematics, not with observations. It is true that his earlier Special Theory was (or seemed to be, some jury members are still out) confirmed by observations. Ratcliffe goes on,
Collections of vectors called tensors, held in fragile relief in the mind’s eye, replaced the central role of optical images in determining cosmological reality. The fundamental tenets of large-scale astrophysics were transformed from what is seen to what someone thought up.
Eric Lerner, talking about the 1980s, said,
Theory increasingly took on the characteristics of myth—absolute, exact knowledge about events in the distant past but an increasingly hazy understanding of how they led to the cosmos we now see, and an increasing rejection of observation.
In a decade the field of cosmology was transformed from a small group of squabbling theorists [the theory had gone through many revisions by this time] trying to develop theories that would match observation, to a huge phalanx of hundreds of researchers, virtually all united in their basic assumptions, mainly preoccupied with the mathematical nuances of the underlying theory.
Lerner then delivers the kicker:
It took no great insight to realize that if the Big Bang theory was basically wrong, … then these researchers were simply wasting time and talent. A challenge to Big Bang theory would threaten the careers of several hundred researchers. … It became simply inconceivable that the Big Bang could be wrong—it was a matter of faith.
The myth of the Big Bang had acquired legs of its own; it was a juggernaut rolling down the halls of academia and the pages of their journals. The Emperor Had No Clothes, and here the situation rests today. (How many metaphors can you pack into two sentences?)
I’ve just counted the number of astronomy, physics, and math books on my bookshelves. I have upwards of 130 books, not counting notebooks full of papers and articles. I’ve been collecting and reading them since my college days in the late 1960s. Only a handful—five or six—dispute the truth of the Big Bang theory, so a casual perusal at Barnes & Noble or on Amazon will not tell you the truth. If are an astronomer or physicist and buck the accepted theories, your research doesn’t get funding; if you don’t get published in the right journals, you won’t get anywhere in your discipline. So you go along to get along, and perhaps convince yourself what you believe is correct.
This inner convincing is often (nearly!) unconscious. It’s only a job, you say, and if you have a few quibbles you can keep them to yourself. This is true, and many do it. But however you cut it, if you are aware of evidence that refutes your pet theories—in any field whatever—and you don’t acknowledge it, and change your position, even after many years of work, then this isn’t honest. It is against the spirit of scientific discovery, which today is often observed more in the breech than in the observance.
Of course, there is danger; there always is in important things. Halton Arp said in Seeing Red, “There is now a fashionable set of beliefs regarding the workings of the universe, greatly publicized as the Big Bang, which I believe is wildly incorrect.” He was an observational astronomer, and had hard, concrete evidence that redshift did not necessarily, or ever, indicate distance. In his book he provides ample evidence to support his conclusion.
What happened to him? He was excoriated by other astronomers, and eventually was denied viewing time at any U.S. observatory. You can read a New York Times article about him here.
We will go to great lengths to avoid admitting we are wrong. “Today’s cosmologists,” Lerner tells us, “are creating a perfect edifice of pure thought incapable of being refuted by mere appearances.”
He continues, “They have thus returned to a form of mathematical myth. A myth, after all, is just a story of origins, which is based on belief alone, and as such cannot be refuted by logic or evidence. Neither can the Big Bang.”
Who Ya Gonna Call?
“Back off, man. I’m a scientist.” – Dr. Peter Venkmann in Ghostbusters
Who should we, as laypeople, believe, and how are we to know if the experts are right? The mathematics and scientific jargon are so arcane we need intermediaries to translate their ideas into plain language. Enter the science writers, and screen writers for the Science Channel and the History Channel. but these second- and third-tier people only listen to the most important, most published, and most prestigious scientists, and so we only get the party line.
For starters, we must demand these experts be able to communicate in simple language, and no longer hide behind tensor calculus and the like, which became fashionable with Einstein. And we must demand to hear about alternatives to the prevailing theories. One theory in ascendance now is the Electric Universe. You can Google this topic, or head over to thunderbolts.info for a lot of easy to absorb information.
It really is time to “capsize the paradigm” and come up with something better.
- The Big Bang Never Happened by Eric Lerner
2. The Static Universe by Hilton Ratliffe
3. Dark Matter, Missing Planets and New Comets: Paradoxes Resolved, Origins Illuminated by Tom van Flandern.
- Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology and Academic Science by Halton Arp.