Long before the first records of human activity were scratched on rocks or indented into clay, the more thoughtful members of the human race were already wondering about the origin of the world in which they found themselves living, and about its ultimate fate. We know this to be true because these first records indicate that the thinking about such matters had already reached a rather high level of sophistication. That early thinking was, of course, purely speculative; the connection between the premises on which it was based and the conclusions that were reached was too nebulous to justify calling it inductive reasoning. Furthermore, these speculative ideas relied almost entirely on supernatural processes, and they were essentially religious in character.
In the course of time, as various fields of thought split off from religion, and secular branches of knowledge were originated, the questions as to the origin and fate of the universe came to be accepted as philosophical issues. Such subjects as cosmology and cosmogony were therefore defined, until quite recently, as subdivisions of philosophy. Within the present century, however, some physical phenomena have been discovered that are believed to have a bearing on these issues, and as a result, most of the theoretical activity in this area is now carried on in scientific terms, and en though it is just about as speculative as ever, it is regarded as scientific. As expressed by Hermann Bondi, “Nowadays we regard cosmology as a branch of science, or to be more precise, a branch of astronomy.”313
Bondi defines cosmology as “the field of thought that deals with the structure and history of the universe as a whole.” An astronomy textbook gives this somewhat more explicit definition:
- Cosmology is concerned with the nature and origin of the entire universe-its structure today, its past, and its future.
The scope of the subject, as thus defined, is greatly extended beyond the earlier objectives. We may, indeed, regard the modern additions to cosmology as a separate field of knowledge. This is the view taken by the Encyclopedia Britannica, which places cosmology under two separate headings: “Cosmology, in astronomy” and “Cosmology, philosophical.” In this work the subject will be divided in essentially the same way. This chapter will examine the aspects of astronomy that are generally classed as cosmological, and Chapter 31 will then take up a consideration of the implications of our physical and astronomical findings on questions of a more philosophical nature.
Present-day cosmological theories can be described as variations of two themes. Ever since Hubble’s discovery of the recession of the distant galaxies, accounting for this recession has been regarded as the number one requirement of such a theory. The current favorite, the Big Bang theory, assumes that an enormous explosion at some time in the remote past hurled the entire contents of the universe out into space at the tremendous speeds now observed. One variation of this theory sees the expansion as continuing indefinitely, and the ultimate fate of the universe as a condition in which its constituent parts are separated by distances too great for any interaction. An alternative view is that the expansion will ultimately reach a limit, and will be succeeded by a contraction that will terminate with another Big Bang, the cycle being repeated indefinitely.
These theories based on a Big Bang are evolutionary in character. They depict the universe as undergoing a continual change from an initial to a final state, with or without a reversal, depending on the particular version of the theory. The Steady State theories, the only alternatives to the Big Bang that have been taken very seriously, portray the universe as unchanging in its general aspects. In fact, one approach to this type of theory bases it on a “Perfect Cosmological Principle,” which asserts that this uniformity is a fundamental principle of nature. In order to maintain the uniformity, the steady state concept, in its present form, requires the continual creation of new matter from which new galaxies can be formed to fill the spaces left vacant by the outward movement of the previously existing galaxies.
The fortunes of these rival theories have fluctuated as new observational discoveries have posed difficulties for one or the other of them, and as revisions of the theories have been made to accommodate them to the new information. As matters now stand, the steady state type of theory is at a low ebb. It has for years been contending against observational data which are asserted to indicate that there are more faint radio sources at great distances than would be found under steady state conditions. In 1965 it received another blow when an isotropic background radiation was discovered and attributed to the remnants of the Big Bang. The present tendency on the part of the astronomers is to conclude that the Steady State theories are “almost certainly excluded by two independent sets of facts,”315 and to accept the Big Bang theory as having been established by default, there being no other contenders.
In view of the very limited amount of factual data available in this area, and the open questions as to the relevance of these data to the points at issue, the near unanimity of astronomical opinion is clearly a bandwagon effect. As J. N. Bahcall pointed out in a recent (1971) article, “We frequently settle important scientific issues by acclamation rather than observation.” The general acceptance of the Big Bang theory is a prize example of this wholly unscientific practice. A few words of caution are being heard. For instance, Bernard Lovell had this to say:
- No one acquainted with the contortions of theoretical astrophysicists in the attempt to interpret the successive observations of the past few decades would exhibit great confidence that the solution in favor of the hot big bang would be the final pronouncement in cosmology.
Fred Hoyle states the case more bluntly. He tells us, “I have little hesitation in saying that a sickly pall now hangs over the big-bang theory.”351 One of the problems involved in making a critical examination of invented theories is that they are generally vague enough to leave room for differences of opinion on major details-often on vital details. Current scientific literature is full of references to different “interpretations” of various theories of this type. The Big Bang cosmological theory is no exception. In fact, the differences between the interpretations of this theory are so extreme that these interpretations actually constitute different theories rather than different versions of the same theory. For this reason, the comments and criticisms that apply to one are not necessarily applicable to another. To cope with this situation we will first consider the original form of the theory, in which a highly concentrated aggregate of matter “explodes and ejects the galaxies in all directions.”318 Subsequently we will give some attention to the more recent interpretations.
The principal objections to the original Big Bang theory, as seen in the context of conventional astronomical thought, without taking into account the new information derived from the theory of the universe of motion, which will be considered later, can be summarized as follows:
- The Big Bang is pure assumption. There are no physical principles from which it can be deduced that all of the matter in the universe would ever gather together in one location, or from which it can be deduced that an explosion would occur if the theoretical aggregation did take place.
- Theorists have great difficulty in constructing any self-consistent account of the conditions existing at the time of the hypothetical Big Bang. Attempts at mathematical treatment usually lead to concentration of the entire mass of the universe at a point. “The central thesis of Big Bang cosmology,” says Joseph Silk, “is that about 20 billion years ago, any two points in the observable universe were arbitrarily close together. The density of matter at this moment was infinite.”319 This concept of infinite density is not scientific. It is an idea from the realm of the supernatural, as most scientists realize when they meet infinities in other physical contexts. Richard Feynman puts it in this manner: “If we get infinity [when we calculate] how can we ever say that this agrees with nature.”235 This point alone is enough to invalidate the Big Bang theory in all of its various forms.
- The scale of the magnitudes involved is far out of line with experience, or even any reasonable extrapolation from experience.
- As noted in Chapter 29, the results attributed to the Big Bang are inconsistent with the physical and astronomical theories currently employed in application to supernova explosions.
- It is difficult, if not impossible, to account for the isotropy of the observed universe on the basis of the Big Bang hypothesis. As expressed by Dennis Sciama, this is “a headache to the astrophysicist.”320 This problem is particularly acute in reference to the background radiation that is currently supposed to provide the best support for the theory.
- The problem of the formation of the galaxies has never been solved in the context of this theory. “Moreover,” says W. H. McCrea, “those who have explored it most fully seem to be the ones who are most convinced that almost no progress has been made.”321 H. L. Shipman concedes that this is a significant point. ”Since galaxies exist, it is embarrassing that we can’t make galaxies in a hot, Big Bang cosmology.”322
- The theory provides no explanation for a large number of physical phenomena that are directly connected with the evolution of the hypothetical explosion products.
- Because of this lack of tie-in with observational information, the number of deductions that can be made from the theory is very limited. This minimizes the possibility of conflict with observation, and gives the impression that there are few criticisms that can be levied against the theory from the observational standpoint. In reality, however, what this means is that the theory cannot be tested.
This is a devastating list of criticisms to be levied against one of the most highly publicized elements of present-day astronomical thought. Most astronomers are reluctant to subject the currently favored hypotheses in their field to critical scrutiny, but it is obvious that these objections to the Big Bang demolish most of the arguments advanced in favor of that theory in its original form. A large segment of the astronomical community has therefore abandoned the original concept, and has substituted other, very different, ideas, retaining only the Big Bang name. We now find many assertions such as the following in the astronomical literature:
galaxies as due to the explosion of a lump of matter into a pre-existing void, with the galaxies as fragments rushing through space. This is quite wrong… the expanding universe is not the motion of the galaxies through space, away from some center, but is the steady expansion of space.323 (Paul Davies)
This conceptual change eliminates some of the serious objections to the original Big Bang hypothesis, but what does not seem to be realized by its proponents is that it also eliminates the explanatory character of that hypothesis. The original Big Bang is based on an analogy with observed explosions. Matter, we know, has an internal energy content that, under appropriate circumstances, can be released explosively. The Big Bang is assumed to accomplish such a release on a gigantic scale. But this explosive process propels matter through space, the effect that Davies specifically repudiates. In order to produce “steady expansion of space” explosively it would be necessary to have either a means of applying the energy of matter to space, something that is totally foreign to physical science as we know it, or a source of energy in space itself, something of which there is no indication whatever. Consequently, there is neither observational nor theoretical justification for the assumption that the concept of an explosion is applicable to space. Thus the new version of the Big Bang expressed by Davies eliminates the “bang.” In fact, it eliminates all explanatory content from the hypothesis, and reduces it to nothing more than a restatement of the observational situation. It merely asserts that the space between galaxies is continually increasing.
Another alternative to the original hypothesis calls for replacing the Big Bang with a multitude of little bangs.
- The theory seems to call for enormous numbers of small bangs… all essentially simultaneous, close together, and nearly identical. (Lyman Spitzer, Jr.)
This suggestion avoids the fatal weakness of the space expansion version of the Big Bang described by Davies, but only at the expense of introducing many other problems, such as the question as to how the explosions are synchronized, the exacerbation of the isotropy problem, etc. Consequently, the little bang hypothesis has received little attention thus far. The principal significance of the present-day swing away from the original Big Bang concept in all but name is that it demonstrates a recognition on the part of those who are supporting the revised hypotheses that the objections to the original Big Bang are insurmountable.
- In this theory the expansion is a pure assumption. No mechanism for accomplishing it is provided.
- The theory requires the continuous creation of matter, which conflicts with the conservation laws. Like the concept of infinite magnitudes, this is a resort to the supernatural.
- The theory has no explanation for the formation of galaxies, a key factor in the events that this theory purports to explain.
- The theory has no explanation for the observed background radiation (aside from a suggestion by Fred Hoyle325 that approximates what we now find to be the true explanation, but was not taken seriously).
- In this theory the oldest galaxies are removed from the system by “disappearing beyond the time horizon” to maintain the unchanging galactic composition. This hypothesis breaks down when the galaxy from which the universe is being observed becomes the oldest within the observational limits. Thereafter the age of the oldest galaxy within these limits continually increases, violating the basic premise of the theory.
- The theory provides no explanation for a large number of physical phenomena that are directly connected with the evolutionary pattern that it predicts.
- Because of this lack of detail, it is untestable.
A critical examination of this “theory” quickly shows that it is not a theory, nor even a hypothesis. It is merely an unelaborated idea, the idea that is contained in what is known as the Perfect Cosmological Principle. Most astronomers accept, at least on a tentative basis, the Cosmological Principle, which asserts that the universe appears the same, aside from small scale irregularities, from all locations in space. The Perfect Cosmological Principle extends this idea to include the assertion that it likewise appears the same from all locations in time. This extension has considerable appeal on broad philosophical grounds, but in order to give it the status of a cosmological hypothesis that can be subjected to scientific tests of its validity, it is necessary to identify and postulate mechanisms whereby the uniformity that is called for can be maintained. There are four major requirements: ( 1 ) a source of raw material for the formation of new galaxies, (2) a mechanism for accomplishing this formation, (3) a mechanism for implementing the galactic recession, and (4) a means of removing the over-age galaxies from the system.
The Steady State “theory” proposed by a group of astronomers does not come anywhere near providing these details that would convert it from a mere idea into a testable hypothesis. Its protagonists have suggested a continuous process of creation as the source of the new matter, and have offered a process of disappearance over the time horizon as an answer to the problem of removing the over-age galaxies. The latter, as already noted, is unacceptable. No attempt has been made to account for the formation of galaxies, or for the observed recession, in the context of the theory.
The Big Bang is a full-fledged hypothesis-not merely an idea like its competitor-but if cosmology is to deal with the universe as a whole, as indicated by the definitions quoted earlier, it is not a theory of cosmology. It deals only with the origin of the universe and with the galactic recession, aside from a misapplication of the second law of thermodynamics, and says nothing at all about the large number and variety of phenomena that constitute the activities of the universe as a whole. Calling it a cosmological theory is equivalent to asserting, that the galactic recession is the only thing of any significance that occurs in the universe subsequent to its origin.
It should be evident that, even on the basis of previously available observational information, without the benefit of the new knowledge contributed by the theory of the universe of motion, neither of these present-day cosmological theories is anywhere near tenable in its present form. The only justification for giving either of them any consideration at all is the rather tenuous possibility that a continuing effort to overcome, or at least minimize, their many shortcomings might eventually result in the construction of a viable theory by a process of modification. But the case for these theories is not currently being argued on these grounds. What we are being told is that there is no alternative.
- When astronomers express dissatisfaction with both the Big Bang and the Steady State concepts of the universe, they are in trouble, because it is hard to imagine radical alternatives. (Nigel Calder)
On the next page of his book, however, the author makes a statement that illustrates where the trouble lies: why alternatives to these untenable theories are so hard to find. “The only way any anyone has thought of to avoid this conclusion [that the contents of the universe were formerly much more closely crowded together than they are now],” he says, ”is to suppose that… less matter existed in the universe than does now.”
Here again we meet the ubiquitous “only way” argument. As in so many similar cases examined in the earlier pages of this and the preceding volumes, the so-called “only way” has that status only if it is assumed that the relevant portions of currently accepted physical and astronomical theory are correct in all respects. This is a totally unwarranted assumption. Any impasse such as that which exists in this case calls for a critical examination of the premises on which the accepted view of the situation is based. The long list of cases in which the investigation reported in this work uncovered new alternatives where it had been generally accepted, on the basis of assurances from Einstein and other leading scientists, that no such alternatives existed, is a graphic illustration of the need for a more critical examination of the foundations on which the current ideas rest.
What makes alternatives to the existing ideas so difficult to find is that a totally new view of some essential element in the situation is usually required before the alternative possibilities can be recognized. It is quite unlikely that the author of this work would have been able to identify all of the many previously unrecognized alternatives that have provided the answers to longstanding problems discussed in these volumes if he had not had the benefit of a general physical theory that enabled him to arrive at these alternatives by a straightforward process of deduction. The cosmologists have been at a disadvantage, in that they have not had any assistance of this kind. The Big Bang and Steady State theories are the only alternatives that they have been able to see in the context of the current physical and astronomical theories, and they have not explored the possibility that these theories might be wrong. Their inability to see the true picture is understandable, but this does not make their conclusions any more acceptable. As this work has demonstrated, astronomy has not yet produced enough data on which to build a tenable cosmological theory, and there is no indication that it is likely to do so in the foreseeable future.
- The present data in cosmology are still limited, ambiguous, and fragmentary, and they all depend on complex instruments stretched right to the limits of their sensitivity and performance.(Martin Rees)
A significant feature of this situation is that the spectacular increase in the scope and quantity of observational information in the astronomical field in the last few decades has not resulted in any significant progress toward an understanding of the cosmological problem. The case in favor of any cosmological theory is still being argued mainly on the basis of the shortcomings of the alternatives. Each step forward from the observational standpoint seems to introduce new difficulties. This accumulation of unsolved problems is a clear indication of the need for new ideas. In his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn points out that the need for a new and better theory is generally indicated by “a state of growing crisis.”
- The emergence of new theories is generally preceded by a period of pronounced professional insecurity. As one might expect, that insecurity is generated by the persistent failure of the puzzles of normal science to come out as they should. Failure of existing rules is the prelude to the search for new ones.
The existence of such a crisis in astronomy and cosmology is revealed by the current reactions to the inability of accepted theory to deal with the many problems now confronting these disciplines. More and more scientists are coming to realize that some basic changes in the existing structure of theory will be required. Typical of the comments now being made in increasing numbers are the following:
In some places, too, the extraordinary thought begins to emerge that the concepts of physical science as we appreciate them today in all their complexity may be quite inadequate to provide a scientific description of the ultimate state of the universe.329 (Bernard Lovell)
It [radio astronomy] is at present producing more and more data that cast more and more doubt on the big bang and other evolutionary cosmologies, and it will probably continue to do so until someone is able to propose an entirely new approach to cosmology; for example, proposing a new physical law whose consequences can be tested by astronorriers.330 (G. Verschuur)
Clearly, the physics of radio galaxies and quasars, the nature of the red shift, and perhaps fundamental physics itself are being questioned by these measurements [recent radio observations]331 (K. I. Kellerman)
Astronomers are looking more and more toward a revision of physical theory as an answer to their currently outstanding problems. In the statements quoted above, Lovell suggests that the concepts of physical science may be inadequate; Kellerman says that fundamental physics is subject to question; and Verschuur predicts that a new physical law will be required. The physicists do not offer much resistance to these conclusions. They have problems of their own that are equally as recalcitrant as those that baffle the astronomers, and they realize that their theories are in need of some overhauling. Feynman, for instance, tells us that “All the principles that are known are inconsistent with each other, so something has to be removed.”332 He defines the problem in these terms: “We have to find a new view of the world that has to agree with everything that is known, but disagree in its predictions somewhere… and in that disagreement it must agree with nature.” 294
As Feynman concedes, this is an “extremely difficult” assignment. The irony of the situation is that the greater part of the difficulty is not inherent in the problem; it is gratuitously introduced by the investigators themselves. Feynman’s statements show just where the trouble lies. When he says that the “new view… has to agree with everything that is known,” he is using the word “known” in the sense of “positively established.” This is the only sense in which the statement is valid. But when he says that “the principles that are known are inconsistent with each other,” he is using the word ”known” in the sense of “currently accepted.”
The practice of elevating the popular opinion of the moment to the status of established truth is the root of the present difficulty. It not only stands in the way of finding the answers to unsolved problems, but also prevents recognition of those answers if and when they are obtained in spite of all obstacles. Replacement of an erroneous theory of long standing is difficult enough without this unnecessary handicap, as scientists, like their counterparts in other fields of human activity, are reluctant to change ideas to which they are accustomed. In principle, new ideas are welcome, but in practice those that disturb previous lines of thought encounter an atmosphere of hostility. The following comment by Geoffrey Burbidge, reported in a news item, describes the existing situation:
As is always the case when scientific questions are really fundamental, new ideas which, if they prevail, will overturn the old ones, are resisted by all means, in the name of science, but by any means that come to hand.333
The theory derived from the postulates that define the universe of motion, and presented in this work, encounters this antagonism in full force when it is extended into the astronomical field, because it conflicts with many cherished ideas, some of very long standing. The astronomers should realize, however, that when they reach the point where they have to hoist the distress signal, and call for help by way of a “drastic revision” of physical theory, they must expect some similar major changes in astronomical theory. The changes required by the theory of the universe of motion.. are far-reaching, to be sure, but nothing less will serve the purpose.
While the case in favor of this new theory is affirmative; that is, it is demonstrated in the preceding pages that the physical universe does, in fact, conform to the principles and relations derived from the postulates of the theory, the new findings that have emerged from the development of the consequences of the postulates have added still further dimensions to the case against both of the astronomers’ cosmological theories. For example, the finding that matter is subject to a destructive temperature limit precludes the existence of a concentration of matter such as that assumed in the Big Bang hypothesis. Likewise, the finding that the net motion of the galaxies is inward within the gravitational limits, and outward in two dimensions beyond 1.00 redshift, rather than always outward in three dimensions, invalidates the recession explanation in all versions of the Big Bang. These examples could be multiplied manifold.
The universe of motion described in this work is a universe of the steady state type. It conforms to the Perfect Cosmological Principle on which the astronomers’ Steady State theory is based; that is, the large-scale features of the universe are unchanging, both in space and in time. But it is also evolutionary, differing from the Big Bang theory in that the evolution is a continuing process: a cyclic evolution rather than a linear evolution. This cyclic feature eliminates the need for continuous creation of matter, one of the principal objections to the astronomers’ Steady State theory, while it also negates the prediction of a cold and lifeless ultimate state of the universe, a feature of the original Big Bang theory that is philosophically distasteful to many scientists. Thus the cosmological aspects of the theory of the universe of motion combine the more desirable features of the astronomers’ cosmological theories, while avoiding the most objectionable aspects of each.
Unlike its predecessors, which, as noted earlier, are limited to providing explanatory hypotheses for only a few of the cosmological aspects of the universe, the results of the theoretical development now being described constitute a comprehensive cosmological theory in which the evolutionary development of the constituents of the universe—atoms, molecules, stars, galaxies, etc.—is an integral part of the cosmological process. This understanding derived from the theory of the universe of motion participates in the proof of the validity of the theory as a whole that is accomplished by the application of the probability relations. It may, however, be of interest to supplement this proof by a summary of the items that are relevant to the validity issue. Most of the content of such a summary can be expressed by the statement that none of the objections against either the Big Bang or the Steady State theory identified in the preceding pages is applicable to this cyclic theory. The following additional points should be noted:
- No ad hoc assumptions are employed. All conclusions are derived deductively from the postulates that define the universe of motion.
- The expansion of the material sector of the universe, as indicated by the recession of the distant galaxies, is a direct consequence of these postulates.
- The high degree of isotropy of the matter in the universe is a result of the fact that the matter entering from the cosmic sector is distributed in space in accordance with probability considerations.
- The background radiation currently attributed to the remnants of the Big Bang is the cosmic equivalent of starlight and other observed radiation of the material sector. It is isotropic because it is emitted by cosmic sector matter that is aggregated in time but dispersed in space.
- The formation of stars, star clusters, and galaxies is a logical and natural part of the aggregation process deduced theoretically.
- No creation of matter is required.
- No special scheme for getting rid of the mature galaxies is necessary. The existing matter moves in a closed system.
- The cosmological theory is a part of a general physical theory, applicable to all physical phenomena. There are innumerable opportunities to test its validity by correlation with observation.
This item number 8 is the key element in the whole situation. As Martin Rees pointed out in a statement quoted earlier, the serious handicap under which present-day cosmology labors is the lack of an adequate supply of relevant and reliable data. Without a solid base from which to work, no refinement of the reasoning process will enable reaching correct conclusions. Irwin Shapiro makes this comment:
All chains of reasoning in cosmology are elastic. Almost any observation interpreted to support one conclusion can, in the hands of a moderately adroit theoretician, be reinterpreted to support the opposite.334
The availability of a general theory of the physical universe now supplies the solid theoretical foundation that has been lacking, not only in cosmology, but in astronomy as well. This fully integrated theoretical structure applicable to the entire range of physical phenomena throughout the universe enables formulating the general physical principles from purely theoretical premises, and verifying them in areas that are readily accessible to observation. We are then able to apply them with confidence to the fields such as cosmology where the information from observation is meager, or, in many cases, non-existent.