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Settled Science?

Inflation_JenStark_615x400Last March, scientists believed they had discovered evidence of the Big Bang.  Early this year, analysis raised new doubts about the soundness of the Big Bang Theory altogether, according to an article in Quanta Magazine.

The issue here is not whether to believe in Big Bang.  I have no skin in the game, since Creationism can work with or without it.  The real issue is the unshakable certainty of so many in the scientific community despite a history of mistaken hypotheses that goes back at least as far as Aristotle.

Whether it’s Big Bang, evolution, or climate change, it is disingenuous for ideologues to quash open debate by proclaiming any of these as “settled science.”  They are not.  Each faces serious logical and scientific challenges that may not refute them but certainly demand acknowledgment and honest investigation.  To claim “case closed” when so many legitimate objections remain unanswered is hardly a responsible application of scientific method.

Which begs the question:  why are so many in the scientific community afraid of the truth?

Read the whole article here.  Here are a few excerpts:

No one has devised an alternative to inflation [the exponential expansion of the universe following the initial “big bang”] that explains so many observations with so much economy. For a decade, Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University, an early pioneer of inflation who has since become one of its most vocal critics, has championed the “ekpyrotic model,” a cyclical picture in which the universe executes an eternal series of expansions and contractions. In this scenario, any unevenness that develops in the cosmos as it expands gets compressed as it contracts. The slate is wiped clean for each cosmic rebirth, accounting in this way for the exceptional uniformity observed early on in this latest iteration.

But the ekpyrotic model has few subscribers. It hinges on the idea that the universe will bounce, rather than bang, each time it shrinks to a point. The theoretical arguments for why it should bounce strike most experts as highly speculative. And the non-bounciness of black holes suggests it would not do so.

At present, inflation has cornered the market on Big Bang theories, and yet there is still room for doubt. “The fact that we don’t have an alternative doesn’t mean we know the truth,” said Avi Loeb, a theoretical astrophysicist at Harvard University.

The theory’s triumphs are undercut by a strange detail: If inflation works the way it’s supposed to, it seems that it should never have happened at all.

Inflation now seems less likely than ever, the critics say.


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