In this post I’ll build off my previous post where I asked the question, “Did the Big Bang Really Happen?”
I’ve been a longtime critic of the Big Bang theory. It’s bad science. Although the theory wasn’t initially welcomed (it sounded too much like biblical creation), some would argue it became accepted based on observable evidence. It was science. Cosmologists made predictions that were later confirmed. However, not everything was as rosy as it appeared. There have always been fudge factors built into the theory that were never substantiated. Dark matter and dark energy, for instance, were inferred, but all experiments to identify these hypothetical entities failed.
This post focuses on a debate featuring a theoretical physicist, a particle physicist and philosopher of science as they discuss the theory in some detail, and what they said should be eye-opening, particularly for those who think the Big Bang is settled science.
The first question was right to the point. Chairman Philip Ball asked if the Standard Model is fatally flawed, if it needs modified, if a new theory is needed, or if we should learn to accept all theories.
Sam Henry jumped all the way in and affirmed he likes “the sound of the next great paradigm shift” because, he says, “there are too many unanswered questions”. He points to dark matter and acknowledges it “can’t be explained with known forms of matter, so there must be some new invisible particles out there, or else something else we don’t understand.”
Henry brings up another important point when he refers to the use of assumptions in science. According to theory, he says, we shouldn’t exist. We should have been “annihilated after the Big Bang”, but since we’re here, a new set of assumptions are required to make these missing particles exist. Voila! Just alter your assumptions. This is revealing because there are many who refuse to admit scientists assume anything. They wrongly think science is purely objective and can’t be questioned.
Sabine suggests that maybe the real problem is with our “understanding of gravity”. Wow, that’s a jaw-dropping statement from a physicist. Many laypeople think they understand gravity, even though the best and brightest scientists don’t.
Bjorn Ekeberg wasn’t as forgiving. He says the standard model of cosmology is flawed… “even deeply flawed”. But he went on to make a fascinating point. He wouldn’t go so far as to say it was “fatally flawed” because that “supposes the science will sort of die out the moment it is shown to be wrong or inconsistent in some way”. But he calls this as a “very idealist notion”. The reason why the model keeps persisting, is not because it’s right, but firstly because it’s the best model out there, and, second, “it’s become too big to fail”. He says it would take an enormous amount of funding to develop a better model, and since that’s not going to happen, “there will never be a paradigm shift”. Remarkable.
Chairman Ball then asked if there’s a crisis in physics, and Sebine affirms this with two points, which would shock many who treat physics and science as infallible. According to Sebine, “physicists have not been as careful in thinking about what they’re doing as they should have been”. What she means is that physicists fell in love with certain models that didn’t work, but they wouldn’t give up on them. Instead, they kept wasting money by doing the same thing over and over, thinking if they could just build bigger and better detectors, they’ll find what they’re looking for. So, she says there’s a “self-reflection missing”. As long as physicists keep doing this, there will be a crisis in physics. Sad.
Henry admits progress has stalled; physicists are still searching for new particles based on ten-year old research, and they’re not finding anything, so there’s a “disconnect between the theory and the experiments.” But wait. Here’s something even more shocking. By the time scientists have finished building their latest and greatest machines and are ready to conduct their experiments, the theory is outdated by 30 years! The theory “has moved on”, and Henry doesn’t’ see an easy solution.
I was pleased when Ekeberg differentiated between operational science and historical science. There are some who won’t acknowledge the difference between the two because that would be akin to admitting science has some kind of weakness, which is not the point. It is what it is. With operational science, for example, scientists can conduct controlled experiments in the present and make new discoveries. But when it comes to the origin of the universe, we can’t conduct controlled experiments the same way. There’s definitely an advantage conducting controlled experiment in real time. For example, no one has witnessed the birth of a star, so star evolution is theory and not fact. Yet those who refuse to distinguish between the different methods of conducting science would try to convince us that the mainstream model of stellar evolution is a scientific fact. But if we understand how science works, then we’ll realize that isn’t true, and we’ll have a better appreciation for science and its limitations, and we’ll be better off in the long run.
From Ekeberg’s vantagepoint, scientists are “fumbling in the dark”, using a map they’re “afraid to let go of”, and if they tried to replace the map, they’d “risk being lost altogether”. This is profound. Few people wish to view science in this kind of light because it conflicts with what they’ve been taught. After all, who wants to argue against science?!? But if we have a healthy understanding of science, then we have freedom to explore and learn new things. What’s good for science, says Ekeberg, is realizing there’s a limit to what is knowable.
Another problem Henry points to is that the separate fields of physics are looking to one another to solve things, like the dark matter conundrum. Consequently, nothing gets resolved. In addition, there are so many competing theories that “go in and out of fashion”, and some of those theories include new gravity or modifications to gravity, which may surprise a lot of people.
Sabine tells us there’s a problem with theory development in that one “can explain everything by using theoretical methods”. But what’s wrong with that? Well, Sabine says we “shouldn’t pay any attention to those predictions. They’re entirely worthless.” Wow, those are strong words. Second, she points to bias. Physicists become “obsessed” with some anomaly “currently on vogue”, or find favor with a particle they like, but by the following year those are gone, and the cycle repeats as new ideas arrive. She says all this “leads nowhere,” and what they need to do is throw out what didn’t’ work, but they won’t because they have this “past dependence” on a particular method of making new predictions. But she emphasizes how hard it is to find support for a fundamentally new approach.
Ekeberg referred to “the nature of evidence,” which is very insightful. People often use the word “evidence” as if it’s a magic word. If they see evidence for their theory, then it must be true. Here, dark matter is often thought of to be proven to exist because there’s evidence for it. Yet Ekeberg explains “there’s no direct evidence for dark matter at all.” He’s right. And good physicists agree, pointing out that it’s really an inference based on a theoretical model. He says this is a common problem throughout physics and cosmology. But the bigger problem is that when such discrepancies are found, the parameters are adjusted, or new ones added to fit the observations, and this is done to “preserve the core assumptions”.
What would you think if scientists, when their experiments failed, decided to make their theory more complicated to accommodate the observations? Sabine says physicists see this happen “over and over and over again”, and the axion is a prime example.
Sabine offers three solutions for updating the foundations of physics. 1: Be more careful in theory development. 2: Write down what the assumptions are. 3: Ask whether they are justified. But the problem with all this is, “it’s a question you’re not supposed to ask”. Very telling.
In the end I think it’s fair to say that the Big Bang should have been buried long ago, but it won’t be because it serves a political purpose rather than a scientific one. And that’s important to note. Much of what we learn from science concerning the distant past is conjecture and cannot be substantiated. Therefore, I think it’s a mistake to put our faith in these human models. Instead, I put my faith in God’s word, and believe it when he tells us he created everything in six days.