Home » Cosmology » Has cosmic inflation collapsed?

Has cosmic inflation collapsed?

In Scientific American (April 2011), Paul J. Steinhardt asks “The Inflation Debate: Is the theory at the heart of modern cosmology deeply flawed? (April 6, 2011) :

Summary Cosmic inflation is so widely accepted that it is often taken as established fact. The idea is that the geometry and uniformity of the cosmos were established during an intense early growth spurt.

But some of the theory’s creators, including the author, are having second thoughts. As the original theory has developed, cracks have appeared in its logical foundations.

Highly improbable conditions are required to start inflation. Worse, inflation goes on eternally, producing infinitely many outcomes, so the theory makes no firm observational predictions.

Scientists debate among (and within) themselves whether these troubles are teething pains or signs of a deeper rot. Various proposals are circulating for ways to fix inflation or replace it. (You have to pay to read most of the article.)

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

24 Responses to Has cosmic inflation collapsed?

  1. 1
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Turok and Steinhardt’s book is very fascinating.

    There’s also an introduction here:

    http://wwwphy.princeton.edu/~steinh/npr/

    which I think is open access.

    There’a good wikipedia page too:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ekpyrotic_universe

  2. I found this talk by William Lane Craig very informative, as to the fairly humorous history of materialists trying to deal with the transcendent origin of the universe at the Big Bang:

    Beyond The Big Bang: William Lane Craig Templeton Foundation Lecture (HQ) 1/6 – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esqGaLSWgNc

  3. 3
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, Steinhardt and Turok’s model is actually a cyclical model – it posits other universes before ours (or before “our” Big Bang).

    So I’m not sure what William Lane Craig would make of it :)

  4. Elizabeth, actually here is what William Lane Craig thinks about that;

    Formal Proof For The Transcendent Origin Of the Universe – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4170233

    “The prediction of the standard model that the universe began to exist remains today as secure as ever—indeed, more secure, in light of the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem and that prediction’s corroboration by the repeated and often imaginative attempts to falsify it. The person who believes that the universe began to exist remains solidly and comfortably within mainstream science.” –
    William Lane Craig
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org.....38;id=6115

    Inflationary spacetimes are not past-complete – Borde-Guth-Vilenkin – 2003
    Excerpt: inflationary models require physics other than inflation to describe the past boundary of the inflating region of spacetime.
    http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0110012

    “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can long longer hide behind the possibility of a past eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” Alexander Vilenkin – Many Worlds In One – Pg. 176

    And of course Elizabeth, I once again point out that by you appealing to you materialistic metaphysics of a infinite array of multiverses, instead of accepting the transcendent origin of the universe by God as true, have destroyed the very possibility of your doing science rationally in the first place:

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining. The world of space, time, matter and energy is dependent on a reality that transcends space, time, matter and energy. This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world. Neither is it the case that “nothing” is unstable, as Mr. Hawking and others maintain. Absolute nothing cannot have mathematical relationships predicated on it, not even quantum gravitational ones. Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.,,, the evidence for string theory and its extension, M-theory, is nonexistent; and the idea that conjoining them demonstrates that we live in a multiverse of bubble universes with different laws and constants is a mathematical fantasy. What is worse, multiplying without limit the opportunities for any event to happen in the context of a multiverse – where it is alleged that anything can spontaneously jump into existence without cause – produces a situation in which no absurdity is beyond the pale.
    For instance, we find multiverse cosmologists debating the “Boltzmann Brain” problem: In the most “reasonable” models for a multiverse, it is immeasurably more likely that our consciousness is associated with a brain that has spontaneously fluctuated into existence in the quantum vacuum than it is that we have parents and exist in an orderly universe with a 13.7 billion-year history. This is absurd. The multiverse hypothesis is therefore falsified because it renders false what we know to be true about ourselves. Clearly, embracing the multiverse idea entails a nihilistic irrationality that destroys the very possibility of science.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

  5. of related note:

    Materialists also use to try to find a place for blind chance to hide by proposing a universe which expands and contracts (recycles) infinitely. Even at first glance, the ‘recycling universe’ conjecture suffers so many questions from the second law of thermodynamics (entropy) as to render it effectively implausible as a serious theory, but now the recycling universe conjecture has been totally crushed by the hard evidence for a ‘flat’ universe found by the ‘BOOMERANG’ experiment.

    Refutation Of Oscillating Universe – Michael Strauss PhD. – video:
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4323673

    Evidence For Flat Universe – Boomerang Project
    http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Art.....-flat.html
    http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Art.....megal3.gif

    Did the Universe Hyperinflate? – Hugh Ross – April 2010
    Excerpt: Perfect geometric flatness is where the space-time surface of the universe exhibits zero curvature (see figure 3). Two meaningful measurements of the universe’s curvature parameter, ½k, exist. Analysis of the 5-year database from WMAP establishes that -0.0170 < ½k < 0.0068.4 Weak gravitational lensing of distant quasars by intervening galaxies places -0.031 < ½k < 0.009.5 Both measurements confirm the universe indeed manifests zero or very close to zero geometric curvature,,,
    http://www.reasons.org/did-universe-hyperinflate

  6. 6
    Elizabeth Liddle

    I was just pointing out that the Steinhardt-Turok model is a cyclical one.

    It isn’t, as I recall, an infinitely cyclical one, though.

    Doesn’t rule out a transcendent origin of origins :)

  7. Elizabeth, perhaps, instead of buying into every fanciful conjecture that materialists posit for the origin of the universe, just so to avoid the overwhelming Theistic implications, you would do well on focusing on what a single photon is made of, so that you might have a better idea what was actually behind the creation of the entire universe???

    Explaining Information Transfer in Quantum Teleportation: Armond Duwell †‡ University of Pittsburgh
    Excerpt: In contrast to a classical bit, the description of a (photon) qubit requires an infinite amount of information. The amount of information is infinite because two real numbers are required in the expansion of the state vector of a two state quantum system (Jozsa 1997, 1) — Concept 2. is used by Bennett, et al. Recall that they infer that since an infinite amount of information is required to specify a (photon) qubit, an infinite amount of information must be transferred to teleport.
    http://www.cas.umt.edu/phil/fa.....lPSA2K.pdf

    Single photons to soak up data:
    Excerpt: the orbital angular momentum of a photon can take on an infinite number of values. Since a photon can also exist in a superposition of these states, it could – in principle – be encoded with an infinite amount of information.
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/7201

    of technical note:

    Quantum no-hiding theorem experimentally confirmed for first time – March 2011
    Excerpt: In the classical world, information can be copied and deleted at will. In the quantum world, however, the conservation of quantum information means that information cannot be created nor destroyed.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....tally.html

    further note;

    The following articles show that even atoms (Ions) are subject to teleportation:

    Of note: An ion is an atom or molecule in which the total number of electrons is not equal to the total number of protons, giving it a net positive or negative electrical charge.

    Ions have been teleported successfully for the first time by two independent research groups
    Excerpt: In fact, copying isn’t quite the right word for it. In order to reproduce the quantum state of one atom in a second atom, the original has to be destroyed. This is unavoidable – it is enforced by the laws of quantum mechanics, which stipulate that you can’t ‘clone’ a quantum state. In principle, however, the ‘copy’ can be indistinguishable from the original (that was destroyed),,,
    http://www.rsc.org/chemistrywo.....ammeup.asp

    Atom takes a quantum leap – 2009
    Excerpt: Ytterbium ions have been ‘teleported’ over a distance of a metre.,,,
    “What you’re moving is information, not the actual atoms,” says Chris Monroe, from the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland in College Park and an author of the paper. But as two particles of the same type differ only in their quantum states, the transfer of quantum information is equivalent to moving the first particle to the location of the second.
    http://www.freerepublic.com/fo.....1769/posts

  8. 8
    Elizabeth Liddle

    bornagain77, you really must stop ascribing opinions and motivations to me!

    I don’t “buy into” the Steinhardt and Turok model. I’m not equipped to evaluate it for a start, and for a second, it hasn’t been tested yet (although it apparently makes testable predictions) and has some problems (I gather). But I did bother to read it (or the book they wrote) and I thought it was interesting. Inflation always seemed a bit ugly to me.

    As for “just so to avoid the overwhelming Theistic implications” – I have absolutely no desire to avoid “overwhelming Theistic implications!” Sheesh!

    I was a devout theist for half a century, and abandoned it extremely reluctantly!

    Seriously (and, BTW, I’m not offended, I’m actually fairly difficult to offend :)), I do think it’s a huge mistake (and “Darwinists” make it too) to ascribe ulterior, even unconscious, motives to the conclusions people draw from what they see as evidence.

    Most people, I suggest are (and in my nearly sixty years have found to be) essentially honest – prone to bias, yes, but mostly committed to overcoming their own biases.

    And scientific training and methodology, though not perfect, attempts to systematise that minimisation of bias when it comes to trying to find out How Stuff Works.

    It doesn’t make science always right (actually, science, is, in a very real sense, always Wrong), but it does mean that bias-minimisation and correction is built in to the system.

    If ID turns out to be the more explanatory model, it will be adopted. And someone will get a Nobel Prize. It’s quite an incentive :)

    Even if the winner has to kneel…

  9. 9

    cyclical universe is another attempt to explain away fine tuning. it can borrow from string theory if it needs to, add a dimension here, a dimension there, strings or no strings, whatever it needs to do to adjust for future observation to keep the idea alive. no one knows what will happen in a big crunch event, and there is no way to test this.

    the cyclical is in the same predicament as string theory. string theory started out with about five possible theories. now there is 10 t 500 possible theories and no observable evidence for any

  10. 10
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Not really, I don’t think. It’s more a way to “explain away” hyperinflation, which always seems like a bit of a fudge.

    I honestly do think it’s a huge mistake to assume that scientists have any vested interest in (perceived) a-theistic model.

    All the physicists (all the scientists in fact) are simply interested in ever-better, models. I doubt the “fine-tuning argument” even entered Steinhardt or Turok’s heads.

    And while you are right about the empirical evidence for string theory, string theorists would be the first to agree. Which is why Steinhardt and Turok’s hypothesis is interesting, in that it makes an actual empirical prediction, and is derived from string theory.

  11. Elizabeth Liddle,

    I honestly do think it’s a huge mistake to assume that scientists have any vested interest in (perceived) a-theistic model.

    All the physicists (all the scientists in fact) are simply interested in ever-better, models. I doubt the “fine-tuning argument” even entered Steinhardt or Turok’s heads.

    Because scientists are not normal human beings subject to all too common human flaws, and are actually golems animated by the etheric and diluted spirit of the scientific method?

    This isn’t just silly, it’s fantastical – right up there with saying that scientists never let funding, public status, philosophy or otherwise affect them or the course of their work. From the initial reactions to the Big Bang (due to it seeming to imply creation) to Einstein’s reaction to quantum physics (because it was an affront to his philosophical determinism) to otherwise, we have ample evidence of scientists – particularly in far more esoteric fields, like cosmology – being motivated in their consideration of the data at least in part, sometimes in large part, by (a)theological, philosophical, and other extra-scientific considerations.

    It’s a well-used quote, but it’s appropriate to call up Lewontin on this point: “It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

  12. 12
    Elizabeth Liddle

    nullasalus, a couple of thoughts:

    First, of course scientists are prone to the biases and prejudices that all human beings are. However, that’s a long way from saying that it is their primary motivation.

    Even if Steinhardt (or Turok) was bothered by having read a “fine-tuning” argument, there are plenty of ways of rationalizing it without resorting to spending your life’s work concocting an alternative to the standard cosmological model! It seems to me (and while not a physicist, I have, in fact, read their very excellent book) that what motivated them is what motivates most scientists of my acquaintance most strongly – simple, driving curiosity

    Secondly, and this is a much bigger issue – I have a philosophical disagreement with you over this “Divine Foot in the door” thing. You might even call it a theological issue! To quote my favorite theologian (a catholic, and a Thomist scholar to boot, Fr Herbert McCabe, OP):

    Again it is clear that God cannot interfere in the universe, not because he has not the power but because, so to speak, he has too much; to interfere you have to be an alternative to, or alongside, what you are interfering with. If God is the cause of everything, there is nothing that he is alongside. Obviously God makes no difference to the universe; I mean by this that we do not appeal specifically to God to explain why the universe is this way rather than that, for this we need only appeal to explanations within the universe. For this reason there can, it seems to me, be no feature of the universe that indicates it is God-made. What God accounts for is that the universe is there instead of nothing.

    In other words, with McCabe, it is not that I rule out a priori God as a “supernatural” cause of the natural world – it is that if God is actually “supernatural” then there can be no feature within the natural world that be explained by God – to explain something as “supernatural” would be to imply that other explanations were merely “natural” – i.e. it would be to make God only partly responsible for the universe!

  13. Elizabeth Liddle,

    First, of course scientists are prone to the biases and prejudices that all human beings are. However, that’s a long way from saying that it is their primary motivation.

    Who says it needs to be primary? It just needs to be motivation enough. Now, you can at this juncture argue that human psychology is complicated, and that therefore just what motivations impact this or that scientist how much is a thing of speculation. But that’s going to be very far from “All the physicists (all the scientists in fact) are simply interested in ever-better, models.”

    Scientists are humans, and humans are not nearly so ideal. It makes as much sense to say “all scientists are simply interested in ever-better models” as “all politicians are simply interested in ever-better government”.

    Even if Steinhardt (or Turok) was bothered by having read a “fine-tuning” argument, there are plenty of ways of rationalizing it without resorting to spending your life’s work concocting an alternative to the standard cosmological model! It seems to me (and while not a physicist, I have, in fact, read their very excellent book) that what motivated them is what motivates most scientists of my acquaintance most strongly – simple, driving curiosity.

    You say there are simpler ways to rationalize it. My response is: They’re already cosmologists. What else are they going to do? There were simpler ways for Einstein to grapple with the implications of microphysics perhaps – humans don’t always do ‘the simpler’ thing. What drives people is, alas, not always so simple. Even saying “curiosity” leads one to ask, “And what makes them curious about this?”

    Secondly, and this is a much bigger issue – I have a philosophical disagreement with you over this “Divine Foot in the door” thing. You might even call it a theological issue!

    As a catholic myself, my response is simple: Shoving theology or atheology, materialism or thomism or dualism or otherwise, into science and the scientific process, and calling what results “science” instead of “science, merged with this or that (a)theological spin”, is irresponsible, and an abuse of science. That is the case even of the merging comes with the blessings of Fr. McCabe.

    Further, even with my thomist sympathies, I realize – along with many thomists – that theirs is not the only view of God, gods, nature, or mind. This before realizing that words like ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ are horribly empty, particularly nowadays – “naturalism” itself is famously flexible as a word. Moreover, atheism takes aim not only at the God of Thomism, but any God, period – and any God or gods is what Lewontin and others exclude any consideration of.

    Now, if you have a problem with this “a priori of not allowing a divine foot in the door”, that’s an argument you’ll have with Lewontin. I’d be more than happy to keep both the theological and atheological out of science. On the flipside, if the atheological is allowed in, so too is the theological.

  14. 14

    I honestly do think it’s a huge mistake to assume that scientists have any vested interest in (perceived) a-theistic model.

    No need to assume this. The universe is finite and bounded. this horrifies some people…

    Hawkins agrees[admits]:

    “Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention.”
    [A Brief History of Time, pg.49]

    He then states:

    “The Catholic church, on the other hand, seized on the big bang model and in 1951 officially pronounced it accordance with the bible.”
    [A Brief History of Time, pg.49]

    Enter ideology B [Hawking writes]

    “There were therefore a number of attempts to avoid the conclusion that time had a beginning.”[A Brief History of Time, pg.49]

    And it was not just the a-theists opposing the big bang…

    “There was a lot of opposition to our work [Hawkings work on the singularity], partly from the Russians and their Marxist belief in scientific determinism…”
    [A Brief History of Time, pg.53]

    Apparently Marxist hated it too.

    Hawkins then falls to ideology himself…

    “It is perhaps ironic that, having changed my mind, I am now trying to convince other physicists that there was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe.”
    [A Brief History of Time, pg.53]

    This is evidence that scientists dislike the big bang based on philosophical grounds, this is why, based on philosophical grounds, they will jump on any metaphysical train that will take them far away from the finite bounded universe and all its ugly Catholic implications

  15. God is the most natural entity that could possibly exist.

    Nature, on the other hand, is quite un-natural.

  16. 16
    Elizabeth Liddle

    nullasalus, my original point was made in response to the post directly above it by junkdnaforlife, and I should have made that clearer.

    He/she said:

    cyclical universe is another attempt to explain away fine tuning. it can borrow from string theory if it needs to, add a dimension here, a dimension there, strings or no strings, whatever it needs to do to adjust for future observation to keep the idea alive.

    and the point I was attempting to make is that in my view it is extremely unlikely that what motivated the development of the Steinhardt and Turok model was the need to “explain away fine-tuning”.

    I do understand that, in general terms, “multiuniverse” theories are one way of addressing the “fine-tuning” issue (although not the only one), and Paul Davies has written a lot about this, but the Steinhardt-Turok model is not just a well-maybe-there-are-lots-of-universes-and-this-one-is-just-the-shape-of-our-puddle theory.

    It’s a very specific cyclical model that appears to be primarily motivated by dissatisfaction with the apparent “fudge” of hyperinflation, and the fairly universal scientific desire to come up with a more elegant and parsimonious model.

    More generally, however, I would disagree with your point about scientists versus politicians. I do think politicians are, in the main, motivated by the desire for “ever-better government”, although the desire for power also seems to figure strongly.

    But I’ve never met a scientist (and I’ve met a few) who wasn’t primarily motivated by curiosity. Frankly, there are more lucrative ways of earning a living than academic research! And I’ve never met a single one who was motivated by the desire to escape the inference of God.

    The theists I know who are scientists simply don’t find science relevant to their beliefs (apart from inspiring them with awe at the world), and the atheists I know are simply uninterested in the theological implications of their work (for obvious reasons).

    As for the Lewontin, sounds like I disagree with him! As I said, earlier, even from a scientific, standpoint, I think that positing a supernatural explanation is an oxymoron. Positing an Intelligent Designer isn’t, however. Nor is positing a supernatural First Cause.

  17. 17
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, junkdnaforlife, we will just have to agree to disagree on this, which is a shame, because I think you are hugely over-generalising from a couple of somewhat odd sources.

    I don’t know a single scientist who “hates” the Big Bang theory, although I know a few who are bothered by some of its details (e.g. hyperinflation), and I know of none who seriously doubt that the standard model essentially works (i.e. the model that there was, indeed, some kind of beginning to time and space, even if mathematical models of it vary).

    It’s not as though an eternal universe would be a threat to theism anyway. Why couldn’t God have made a universe that has always existed?

  18. Elizabeth Liddle,

    It’s a very specific cyclical model that appears to be primarily motivated by dissatisfaction with the apparent “fudge” of hyperinflation, and the fairly universal scientific desire to come up with a more elegant and parsimonious model.

    And a large part of the reason for the dissatisfaction does in part stem from various aspects of fine tuning – what you call a “fudge” could be expressed here as “unlikely (and therefore tuned) initial conditions”.

    Not to mention the question of what counts as ‘elegant and parsimonious’. For Turok in particular, the idea that time and space could have had a beginning is immediately ruled out because his definition of those things is in essence set up to rule those things out. And if (for example) the BGV theorem weighs against that possibility, well, then the theorem must be wrong, or there must be a way around it.

    More generally, however, I would disagree with your point about scientists versus politicians. I do think politicians are, in the main, motivated by the desire for “ever-better government”, although the desire for power also seems to figure strongly.

    Not to mention what ‘ever-better government’ itself cashes out to. If your point here is that you have a whole lot of faith and hope and generally prefer to assume the absolute best motives for everyone at all times, go for it. I think everything from anecdotal experience to a knowledge of history to even scientific study indicates otherwise, or at least encourages considerable skepticism.

    The theists I know who are scientists simply don’t find science relevant to their beliefs (apart from inspiring them with awe at the world), and the atheists I know are simply uninterested in the theological implications of their work (for obvious reasons).

    I won’t question your anecdotal experience, except as far as this goes: You were a regular commenter at PZ Myers’ blog. Maybe you don’t count Myers as someone you’ve met – but if you’re suggesting that there aren’t numerous atheists who are interested in “the theological implications of their work”, all I can say is “the evidence is abundant.” From Victor Stenger to PZ Myers to Richard Dawkins to otherwise. Maybe you’re somehow drawing a line here between ‘theological implications’ and ‘atheological’.

    Likewise, the same goes for theistic scientists finding science irrelevant to their beliefs. Whether in the modern day or in the history of science, this isn’t some imagined idea. It’s well attested to.

    As for the Lewontin, sounds like I disagree with him! As I said, earlier, even from a scientific, standpoint, I think that positing a supernatural explanation is an oxymoron. Positing an Intelligent Designer isn’t, however. Nor is positing a supernatural First Cause.

    If that is taken to mean that science cannot rule in or out supernatural causes, interventions, etc, I would agree. To admit to as much would go to show, however, that science is far more limited and anemic – however useful it is – than many people try to make it out to be.

    And perhaps that’s the real lesson. Science isn’t equipped to answer the questions many people hope it’s equipped to answer, and that – particularly where cosmology is concerned – any given model should be taken with a heavy grain of salt, rather than treated as either truth, or ‘the best explanation that everyone, bar none, should therefore believe as true for the moment’.

  19. Elizabeth Liddle,


    I don’t know a single scientist who “hates” the Big Bang theory, although I know a few who are bothered by some of its details

    I’m sure that you were saying that you don’t personally know scientists who hate the Big Bang theory, but I’m sure you’d agree that many atheistic scientists in the twentieth century hated the idea (and I’m sure it was because of its theological implications).

    For example, the entire term “Big Bang” was coined as a pejorative term by Fred Hoyle, who strongly advocated for the Steady State model to his death.

    And Sir Arthur Eddington wrote:


    Philosophically the notion of a beginning of the present order is repugnant to me. I should like to find a genuine loophole. I simply do not believe the present order of things started off with a bang…the expanding Universe is preposterous… it leaves me cold.

    BTW, why did you give your Catholicism and become an atheist? I’m just curious. If you’d rather not discuss the issue please feel free to ignore the question.

  20. 20

    “I think you are hugely over-generalising from a couple of somewhat odd sources.”

    The quotes are from Steven Hawking. On matters of physics, I do not think he would be considered an odd source.

    Maybe Wiki is more your flavor:

    “In the 1920s and 1930s almost every major cosmologist preferred an eternal steady state Universe, and several complained that the beginning of time implied by the Big Bang imported religious concepts into physics; this objection was later repeated by supporters of the steady state theory.[80] This perception was enhanced by the fact that the originator of the Big Bang theory, Monsignor Georges Lemaître, was a Roman Catholic Christian priest.[81] Pope Pius XII, declared at the November 22, 1951 opening meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that the Big Bang theory accorded with the Catholic concept of creation.[82] Conservative Protestant Christian denominations have also welcomed the Big Bang theory as supporting a historical interpretation of the doctrine of creation.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang

    “Lemaître proposed what became known as the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe, which he called his ‘hypothesis of the primeval atom.”

    The Catholic Priest

  21. 21
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, I do think that Hawking is a slightly “odd” source! He’s been trying to counteract the impression he left in the last sentence of his first book ever since it was published, I think!

    And I’m not disputing that “Big Bang” theory was resisted in its day, nor that the catholic church was an early adopter.

    It’s the idea that escaping theological implications are a motivator for modern physicists that I strongly dispute.

    Although I would probably agree that cosmologists do tend to have “gut feelings” about their science (not surprisingly). But that’s part of the way math works, I think. Perhaps we could agree to call it a desire for elegance?

  22. 22
    Elizabeth Liddle

    @wgbutler

    BTW, why did you give your Catholicism and become an atheist? I’m just curious. If you’d rather not discuss the issue please feel free to ignore the question.

    Well, it’s a bit too complicated for a blog post about something quite different, but if you are really curious, it happened on this thread:

    http://www.freeratio.org/thear.....ost4518826

    (but it took to post #696!)

    although that’s putting it rather simply. It is true that I don’t self-identify as a theist anymore, but some (not me) would argue I never did, and others (perhaps me) would argue that my worldview hasn’t radically changed.

    But it was nothing to do with Darwin, or Big Bang, or even neuroscience, although the last probably comes closest. It was the realisation (at least that’s how I see it) that consciousness really is explicable in “material” terms, and so there is no reason to ascribe either consciousness or intention to something that does not have a brain.

    What I’m left with is probably closest to Einstein’s formulation here:

    A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

    Which is pretty close to the God I had in the first place!

    Thanks for asking :)

  23. 23

    It’s not the motivator of modern physics. What the theological implications of the big bang, and the philosophical desire to avoid these implications has done is made it easier for many of the forerunners in physics to derail from observation, experiment and prediction and quickly welcome in metaphysical ideas, and in the process they will redefine science. In a cold blast of irony, by loosening the rigor of science in an attempt to avoid a philosophical vomit burp, they will be opening the door for other hypoths to be defined as science that they also find repugnant.

    Perhaps we could agree to call it a desire for elegance

    I agree. Some of them are driven by the mathematical elegance. You also see this in programming, web design etc.

  24. Has cosmic inflation collapsed?

    It’s too big to collapse. Time for a bailout!

Leave a Reply