‘One funeral at a time’: Big Bang denial and the search for truth

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We are living in an era of science denial. An era when well-established facts are disputed, fake experts are interviewed by the media and blog posts trump science papers.


It’s an era of vaccine denialevolution denial, and of course,climate change denial.

I’d also add Big Bang denial to that list. Sure, it might be more esoteric than climate change denial, but it’s attracting increasing amounts of attention, thanks to the efforts of people such as US congressman Paul Broun, who declared late last year:

All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.

In living memory, the most vocal opposition to the Big Bang has gone from the realms of legitimate scientific debate to that of science denial.

But how did this come to pass? What are the origins of Big Bang denial? And does it provides clues about the future of science denial generally?

Written By: Michael J. I. Brown
continue to source article at theconversation.edu.au

17 COMMENTS

  1. Science denial always makes me want to get my testament up to date and find a low balcony at high altitude.

    That being said, denying the Big Bang is a new low, and I don’t expect it to go far this time. Denying evolution (which most perceive to be 100% like the deductions of a detective visiting the scene after the murder) or anthropogenic climate change and the like is one thing. But going after something which is mostly solid math and (astro)physics is just folly. Well, even more so than science denial in general that is.

  2. Well, there goes science overreaching again. I refuse to believe all static on television sets and radios comes from cosmic background radiation. Back when I was a child in the 50′s and 60′s, if it was static you wanted, I’d put my mom’s old Hoover vacuum cleaner up against all the Big Bangs you can muster.

  3. In reply to #2 by rjohn19:

    Well, there goes science overreaching again. I refuse to believe all static on television sets and radios comes from cosmic background radiation. Back when I was a child in the 50′s and 60′s, if it was static you wanted, I’d put my mom’s old Hoover vacuum cleaner up against all the Big Bangs you can muster.

    You’re right to believe that. It’s not all cosmic background radiation, I understand only 10% of it is.

  4. In reply to #2 by rjohn19:

    I never claimed all the static came from the cosmic background radiation. Instead I noted that “a tiny bit of the static seen on an analogue TV is from the afterglow of the Big Bang”.

  5. Good article – especially for me as a non-science head.

    “The tiny minority of climate scientists who are vocal critics of anthropogenic climate change are mostly over 50. Younger climate change deniers are often amateurs, bloggers and ideologues. The number of scientists questioning anthropogenic climate change is going to decrease in the coming decades.”

    I hope so, but we would all have said the same about young earth creationists 75 years ago (even 150 years ago) and yet today there seems more than ever!

  6. In reply to #7 by joeshunt:

    Is the Big Bang is still a theory or it now an immutable fact? Should I not entertain new ideas about the theory or other theories that may contradict it?

    Theories are never “immutable facts”. They explain facts according to the evidence. Only religion claims to have immutable truths.

    Steve

  7. Erik Verlinde, the Dutch physicist who claims that gravity is an emergent force, thinks the concept of the big bang contradicts the law of preservation of information. He therefore thinks it is a highly illogical concept and he is working on an alternative. We’ll see…

  8. In reply to #8 by Agrajag:

    In reply to #7 by joeshunt:Is the Big Bang is still a theory or it now an immutable fact? Should I not entertain new ideas about the theory or other theories that may contradict it?Theories are never “immutable facts”. They explain facts according to the evidence. Only religion claims to have immutable truths.Steve

    A point well worth making – repeatedly: “Theories unite and explain facts about matter.” Kenneth Miller.

    Yes, I know, he’s a Catholic, but he’s also an excellent scientist who spoke up strongly and successfully against Michael Behee and the other Creationists at the Dover Trial.

    S G

  9. The Big Bang theory, if interpreted as meaning there was a singularity in the distant past is an open question, and maybe the necessity of such a singularity can be removed by a better understanding of quantum gravity. Theories such as string theory,the epkroyotic universe, and Penrose’s cyclic universe proposal provide legitimate avenues that might do away with the singularity.

    However the physics after the big bang (specifically after inflation, which is largely though not universally accepted) seems pretty well set and has good experimental justification (the cosmic microwave background, nuclear abundances etc).

  10. The funny thing about Big Bang denial is that science does not yet hold particularly strongly to the Big Bang theory anyway. So attacking Big Bang is almost a straw man in itself.

    What I would like to see is a 10 point scale applied to the word “theory” which would aim to measure and factor in the scientific concensus. So the Theory of Evolution would get a 9, say, and be known at “The Theory (9) of Evolution” Big Bang would get a 6, other life forms in the universe a 5 or something, the theory that they have visited Earth 3 and so on. There would be a bit of argument, but still.

  11. In reply to #7 by joeshunt:

    Is the Big Bang is still a theory or it now an immutable fact? Should I not entertain new ideas about the theory or other theories that may contradict it?

    The standard theory is the Hot Big Bang Model + Inflation. Like others have said, these two ideas simply explain the data better than any alternative. Other theories such as the Cyclic Model (Steinhardt-Turok) do not really compete with the HBB but rather replace the inflation part. The HBB part simply states our universe was in a hot dense state very early on. The HBB part is described by Einstein’s Field Equations and amazingly we have data to compare calculations to back when the universe was a trillionth of a second old. What happened before that (where did the heat and matter come from?) is what is up for grabs. Inflation seems the best candidate though those like Steinhardt and Turok don’t like it because it is simply tacked onto the HBB model. They would like a single idea to explain everything.

    Anyway, the short answer is for conservation of brainpower and time: If anybody claims to have an alternative to the HBB+Inflation model, and they do not have a functioning Ph.D. in physics/astronomy/cosmology/related and are not breathtakingly good at mathematics, ignore them. They are probably wrong.

    By the way, those who are functioning Ph.Ds and good at mathematics are probably wrong too. Just far less probably wrong than the bored mechanical engineers with bachelors degrees and their own arithmetic based theories of gravity.

  12. In reply to #7 by joeshunt:

    Is the Big Bang is still a theory or it now an immutable fact? Should I not entertain new ideas about the theory or other theories that may contradict it?

    Of course, if you have some facts that contradict it.

  13. I can understand this.
    Until I moved to South Carolina, I’d never met anyone that believed that the moonlandings were fake. I now know two (future mother in law and a co-worker’s brother). The probability of 40+ years of secrecy among thousands of people sucessfully pulling such a scam just rings on deaf ears.
    So, it doesn’t surprise me that people have a problem with something that voids a portion of their belief systems that were constructed during childhood, much less voids the time they spent creating an alternative hypothesis.

  14. In reply to #7 by joeshunt:

    Is the Big Bang is still a theory or it now an immutable fact? Should I not entertain new ideas about the theory or other theories that may contradict it?

    New theories can certainly be plausible but they are limited by the increasing number of observations of the Universe.

    There is a great deal of evidence that the Universe billions of years ago was very hot and dense (to the point where nuclear reactions took place) and that it has rapidly cooled and expanded since. As a consequence, pretty much all theories that match/approximate the current observations have an event like the Big Bang billions of years ago.

    That said, there are many details that definitely aren’t understood or have yet to be verified by observation (e.g., cosmological inflation). There are also valid alternate theories such as the cyclic model of Steinhardt and Turok (which still has a Big-Bang-like event billions of years ago).

  15. Actually only 1% of it is.

    In reply to #3 by msloane:

    In reply to #2 by rjohn19:

    Well, there goes science overreaching again. I refuse to believe all static on television sets and radios comes from cosmic background radiation. Back when I was a child in the 50′s and 60′s, if it was static you wanted, I’d put my mom’s old Hoover vacuum cleaner up against all the Big Bangs you can muster.

    You’re right to believe that. It’s not all cosmic background radiation, I understand only 10% of it is.

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