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Apologetics Press :: Reason & Revelation
June 2003 - 23[6]:49-63

The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique [Part II] [Section 1]
by Bert Thompson, Ph.D., Brad Harrub, Ph.D., and Branyon May

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Section 1 - Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation
Section 2 - The Homogeneity of the Universe
Section 3 - Can Inflationary Theory Save the Big Bang?
Section 4 - References

[EDITOR’S NOTE: With the May issue of Reason & Revelation, we started a three-part series investigating the Big Bang Theory. Part I began with a historical introduction, moved on to an examination of some of the scientific concepts upon which the Big Bang has been constructed, and ended with a section on why the Big Bang is scientifically flawed. Part II, below, picks up where Part I concluded, in examining additional reasons why the Big Bang Theory is not a valid option for the origin of the Universe.]


In 1978, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were honored with the Nobel Prize in physics for their discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation (referred to variously in the literature as CMB, CMR, or CBR; we will use the CMB designation throughout our discussion). The two researchers from Bell Laboratory serendipitously stumbled onto this phenomenon in June 1964, after first thinking it was an equipment malfunction. For a short while, they even attributed the background noise to what they referred to as “white dielectric material”—i.e., bird droppings (Fox, 2002, p. 78). The electromagnetic radiation they were experiencing was independent of the spot in the sky where they were focusing the antenna, and was only a faint “hiss” or “hum” in its magnitude. The microwaves, which can be related to temperature, produced the equivalent of approximately 3.5 K background radiation at 7.3 cm wavelength (“K” stands for Kelvin, the standard scientific temperature scale; 0 K equals absolute zero—the theoretical point at which all motion ceases: -459° Fahrenheit or -273° Celsius). Unable to decide why they were encountering this phenomenon, Penzias and Wilson sought the assistance of Robert Dicke at Princeton University who, with his colleagues, immediately latched onto this noise as the “echo” of the Big Bang. A prediction had been made prior to the discovery, that if the Big Bang were true, there should be some sort of constant radiation in space, although the prediction was for a temperature several times higher (see Weinberg, 1977, p. 50; Hoyle, et al., 2000, p. 80).
Figure 1
Figure 1 — Artist’s concept of crucial periods in the development of the Universe according to Big Bang inflationary cosmology

Previously, in our section on the Steady State Theory, we referred to the fact that a “new theoretical concept” eventually would be responsible for dethroning that theory. Our reference was to Penzias and Wilson’s discovery of the existence of the cosmic microwave background radiation. Described by some evolutionists as the “remnant afterglow of the Big Bang,” it is viewed as a faint light shining back to the beginning of the Universe (well, at least close to the beginning...say, within 300,000 to 400,000 years or so). This radiation, found in the form of microwaves, has been seized upon by proponents of the Big Bang Theory as proof of an initial catastrophic beginning—the “bang”—of our Universe. However, the temperature estimates of “space” were first published in 1896, even prior to George Gamow’s birth in 1904 (see Guillaume, 1896). C.E. Guillaume’s estimation was 5-6 K, and rather than blaming that temperature on some type of “Big Bang” explosion, he credited the stars belonging to our own galaxy.

The cosmic background radiation spelled almost instant doom for the Steady State Theory, because the theory did not predict a background radiation (since there was no initial outpouring of radiation in that model). Plus, there was no way to introduce the idea of such background radiation into the existing theory. Therefore, the Quasi-Steady-State Theory, a slight variation by Hoyle, Burbidge, and Narlikar, was formed to try to make sense of this “chink” in the armor of the Steady State Theory. The British science journal Nature stated it well: “Nobody should be surprised, therefore, if the handful of those who reject the Big Bang claim the new data as support for their theories also” (see “Big Bang Brouhaha,” 1992, 356:731). The prediction made by Nature was right on target. The CMB radiation data have indeed been used by almost all theorists as an ad hoc support for their views. A logical question to ask would be: “Do these various groups all claim it on the same scientific grounds?” The answer, of course, is no.

Speaking of the CMB radiation, Joseph Silk referred to the results as “the cornerstone of Big Bang cosmology” (1992, p. 741). There can be no doubt that there exists a cosmic electromagnetic radiation on the microwave order, and that its temperature correlation is approximately 3 K (technically 2.728 K; see Harrison, 2000, p. 394). This fact is not in dispute—verifiable data have been compiled from the numerous experiments that have been conducted. As David Berlinski observed: “The cosmic hum is real enough, and so, too, is the fact that the universe is bathed in background radiation” (1998, p. 30). The ground data have been collected using the Caltech radio millimeter interferometer and the Owens Valley Array. Low-atmosphere instruments also have recorded CMB radiation using two balloon flights: MAXIMA (which, in 1998, flew at a height of approximately 24.5 miles for one night over Texas) and BOOMERANG (which, in 1998, flew at a height of around 23.5 miles for ten days over Antarctica), as well as from the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) and the Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP) satellite missions by NASA [see Figure 4] (Peterson, 1990; Flam, 1992; Musser, 2000).

What is in dispute is the explanation for the phenomenon. The late Sir Arthur Eddington—in his book, The Internal Constitution of the Stars (1926)—already had provided an accurate explanation for this temperature found in space. In the book’s last chapter (“Diffuse Matter in Space”), he discussed the temperature in space. In Eddington’s estimation, this phenomenon was not due to some ancient explosion, but rather was simply the background radiation from all of the heat sources that occupy the Universe. He calculated the minimum temperature to which any particular body in space would cool, given the fact that such bodies constantly are immersed in the radiation of distant starlight. With no adjustable parameters, he obtained a value of 3.18 K (later refined to 2.8)—essentially the same as the observed “background” radiation that is known to exist today.

In 1933, German scientist Erhard Regener showed that the intensity of the radiation coming from the plane of the Milky Way was essentially the same as that coming from a plane normal to it. He obtained a value of 2.8 K, which he felt would be the temperature characteristic of intergalactic space (Regener, 1933). His prediction came more than thirty years before Penzias and Wilson’s discovery of the cosmic microwave background. The radiation that Big Bang theorists predicted was supposed to be much hotter than what was actually discovered. Gamow started his prediction at 5 K, and just a few years before Penzias and Wilson’s discovery, suggested that it should be 50 K (see Alpher and Herman, 1949; Gamow, 1961). As Van Flandern noted:

The amount of radiation emitted by distant galaxies falls with increasing wavelengths, as expected if the longer wavelengths are scattered by the intergalactic medium. For example, the brightness ratio of radio galaxies at infrared and radio wavelengths changes with distance in a way which implies absorption. Basically, this means that the longer wavelengths are more easily absorbed by material between the galaxies. But then the microwave radiation (between the two wavelengths) should be absorbed by that medium too, and has no chance to reach us from such great distances, or to remain perfectly uniform while doing so. It must instead result from the radiation of microwaves from the intergalactic medium. This argument alone implies that the microwaves could not be coming directly to us from a distance beyond all the galaxies, and therefore that the Big Bang theory cannot be correct.

None of the predictions of the background temperature based on the Big Bang was close enough to qualify as successes, the worst being Gamow’s upward-revised estimate of 50 K made in 1961, just two years before the actual discovery. Clearly, without a realistic quantitative prediction, the Big Bang’s hypothetical “fireball” becomes indistinguishable from the natural minimum temperature of all cold matter in space (2002, 9:73-74, parenthetical item in orig., emp. added).

Matter, whether on Earth or in space, absorbs radiation, and the CMB electromagnetic radiation is very likely the result of that absorption. Matter is known to absorb and emit radiation (known as blackbody radiation) caused by a change in temperature. Space is not an “empty” place, as some once thought, but is filled with stars, planets, nebulae, comets, asteroids, interstellar particles of dust and gas, and galaxies, all of which both absorb and emit varying amounts of radiation (see Akridge, et al., 1981, 18[3]:161). Fred Hoyle, Geoffrey Burbidge, and J.V. Narlikar, in their book, A Different Approach to Cosmology (2000), and Eric Lerner, in his book, The Big Bang Never Happened (1991), support the possibility of simple absorption and re-emission of the cosmic radiation. [Hoyle, et al., also suggested: “It seems very reasonable to suppose that the microwave radiation might very well have arisen from hydrogen burning in stars” (2000, p. 313).] Hoyle and his colleagues added to this thought when they stated that the “radiation field is generated by discrete objects and becomes smooth through scattering and diffusion in space” (p. 306). This, then, portrays a practical reason for the overall isotropy [spread out evenly in all directions] of the CMB radiation through thermalization and the scattering effect, also known as the Sunyaev-Zeldovich Effect (Humphreys, 1992, p. iii).

Despite their strong words of affirmation declaring to the world that they now had “proof,” Big Bang supporters have had to admit that their theories about the CMB radiation are not really as concrete as they would like us to believe. Evolutionist Karen Fox confessed: “This radiation in and of itself doesn’t require the big bang theory per se be correct” (2002, p. 134). Hoyle, et al., were a little more blunt: “...[T]he existence of the microwave radiation does not necessarily have anything to do with a big bang” (2000, p. 313). In fact, while the Big Bang Theory predicts that cosmic background radiation should exist, it does not necessarily predict that it should exist in thermal equilibrium. As Berlinski went on to note: “Although Big Bang cosmology does predict that the universe should be bathed in a milky film of radiation, it makes no predictions about the uniformity of its temperature” (1998, p. 30).

There was one thing, however, that cosmologists did recognize regarding the “uniformity of temperature” found in the background radiation. Initially, it represented a serious problem for the Big Bang Theory. It was “too” uniform—as science writers pointed out in articles with titles such as “Too Smooth a Universe” (see Folger, 1991). The formation of stars, galaxies, etc., during the early years of the Universe’s formation, required that variations be present in the earliest distribution of the matter so that the matter ultimately would coalesce into those stars, galaxies, etc. And, as everyone acknowledged, the existence of these variations should have had some effect on the background radiation (see Lipkin, 1991, p. 23).

And that was the problem. When NASA sent up its COBE satellite in 1989, it found, at that time, a 3 K (or, to be more precise, a 2.735 ± 0.06 K) temperature—measured to an accuracy of 1 part in 10,000 (Peterson, 1990). In order for the early Universe to actually have formed in the manner in which they thought it did, scientists recognized that there must have been variations, however slight, in the background radiation. Yet, the background radiation seemed more pristine with each new look at the skies. Until 1992, the evidence of any serious fluctuations in the background radiation had been conspicuously absent, leaving the Big Bang concept riddled with problems for which there were seemingly no solutions (see Folger, 1991).

Perhaps you have heard that old saying: “That was then; this is now.” Big Bang supporters now are suggesting that there is clear-cut evidence that the “cosmic egg” did, in fact, possess the necessary variations that allowed matter to coalesce into stars, galaxies, etc. A second survey was performed using NASA’s COBE satellite, and was carried out to an accuracy, not of 1 in 10,000, but to 1 in 100,000 (see Flam, 1992). Astrophysicist George Smoot, and a team of scientists from the University of California at Berkeley, documented what seemed to be minor variations in the background temperature of the known Universe, thereby establishing the “fact” that there were variations present in the matter formed in the early stages of the Big Bang—variations that are presumed to represent the early defects that could explain how the Universe got to be so “lumpy” (see Smoot and Davidson, 1993). Smoot remarked to the Associated Press at the time, “If you’re religious, it’s like looking at God.” On the front cover of Smoot’s 1993 book, Wrinkles in Time, British astrophysicist Stephen W. Hawking is quoted as saying that the findings represent “the scientific discovery of the century, if not all time.” And on the back cover of the book, the reader will find in big, bold, blue letters, “Behold the Handwriting of God,” followed by the statement: “George Smoot and his dedicated team of Berkeley researchers had proven the unprovable—uncovering, inarguably and for all time, the secrets of the creation of the Universe.” WOW! Talk about fanfare!

In discussing the anisotropy of the radiation field, however, three things need to be considered. First, the temperature being measured is only a couple of degrees above absolute zero, the point at which all motion ceases. Yet this radiation is alleged to have had its origin from an initial temperature of 1032 Celsius (Fox, p. 175). Second, most people likely are unaware of the infinitesimal nature of the variations being reported. In fact, these “variations” differ by barely thirty-millionths of a Kelvin! Some scientists doubt that these are even large enough to account for the large-scale structure of the Universe (see Flam, 1992, 256:612). In an article titled “Boomerang Data Suggest a Purely Baryonic Universe” that he authored for Astrophysics Journal, astronomer Stacy McGaugh of the University of Maryland wrote:

[C]osmic microwave background is very smooth. Structure cannot grow gravitationally to the rich extent seen today unless there is a non-baryonic component that can already be significantly clumped at the time of recombination without leaving indiscriminately large fingerprints on the microwave background (2000, 541:L33, emp. added).

But, as one scientist acknowledged, “the large fingerprints are just not observed” (Hartnett, 2001, 15[1]:10). Third, while the variations that have been measured have been documented in 1 part in 100,000, cosmologists have stated that variations greater than 1 part in 10,000 are necessary for galaxies and clusters to form in the cosmological time that is allegedly available for gravity to carry out its work (see Rowan-Robinson, 1991).

Halton Arp likewise is skeptical of the significance of the new COBE results showing that the Universe displays a very slight anisotropy in the background radiation, which then is supposed to account for the rather clumpy distribution of matter in galaxies, superclusters, strings, etc. In his 1999 book, Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology and Academic Science, Dr. Arp noted that in spite of these extremely slight irregularities of 1 part in 100,000, the background radiation is still too smooth to account for the clumpiness of the Universe (p. 237). The British journal, Nature, commented with subdued understatement: “The simple conclusion, that the data so far authenticated are consistent with the doctrine of the Big Bang, has been amplified in newspapers and broadcasts into proof that ‘we now know’ how the Universe began. This is cause for some alarm” (see “Big Bang Brouhaha,” 1992, 356:731). There is indeed “cause for alarm.” Allow us to explain.

Milky Way Galaxy
Figure 2 — Image at top left allegedly represents a “baby picture” of the Universe taken by the COBE satellite, first launched November 18, 1989. [Oval shape is a projection to display the entire sky, similar to the way the globe of the Earth can be projected as an oval.] Colors indicate “warmer” (red/yellow) and “cooler” (blue) spots. Image at top right (taken by NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe [WMAP], launched June 30, 2001) brings the COBE picture into sharp focus, similar to refocusing a camera lense after taking an infant’s snapshot, as in examples above. The high-resolution WMAP image supposedly depicts the microwave light from 380,000 years after the Big Bang, which is said to have occurred 13.7 billion years ago. This would be the equivalent of taking a picture of an 80-year-old man or woman on the day of his or her birth. CMB images courtesy of NASA.

With the aid of a weather balloon, a telescope known as BOOMERANG spent ten days in December 1998 taking pictures of the Universe while flying over Antarctica. A few months earlier, a similar telescope called MAXIMA had flown high above Texas for a single night (see “MAXIMA, a Balloon-borne...,” 2000). Both telescopes were designed to perform the exact same task, which was to observe the cosmic microwave radiation.

The telescopes were constructed to make precise maps of the “background radiation glow” on scales finer than one degree, which, according to researchers, would correspond to the size of the observable Universe at the time the radiation is thought to have been released. The design behind these experiments centered on the alleged random fluctuations (referred to as “hot” and “cold” spots) generated by cosmic inflation in the first split second, which would have caused some regions of the Universe to be denser than others. As Ron Cowen summarized the matter in the September 28, 2002 issue of Science News: “The hot and cold spots represent the slightly uneven distribution of photons and matter in the early universe, which scientists view as the seeds of galaxy formation” (162:195).

Supposedly, the telescopes could capture this difference in densities, which is said to have been caused by the ensuing battle between pressure and inertia that caused the plasma to oscillate between compression (an increase in density and pressure) and rarefaction (a decrease in density and pressure). As the Universe aged, so the theory goes, oscillations between compression and rarefaction developed on ever-larger scales. The fine detail in background radiation provided by these telescopes was supposed to provide a “snapshot” of the sound waves during those oscillations. Areas of compression would be slightly hotter, thus brighter; areas of rarefaction would be cooler, thus darker. So, scientists spent many hours analyzing bright and dark areas captured by the telescopes.

Initially, it appeared that the data fit quite nicely into researchers’ theories. Cosmologist Michael S. Turner of the University of Chicago told a press conference in April 1999: “The Boomerang results fit the new cosmology like a glove” (as quoted in Musser, 283[1]:14). Additionally, a team of researchers, led by Paolo de Bernardis of the University of Rome, and Andrew E. Lange of the California Institute of Technology, declared in the April 27, 2000 issue of Nature that each of the BOOMERANG findings was “consistent with that expected for cold dark matter models in a flat (Euclidean) Universe, as favoured by standard inflationary models” (de Bernardis, et al., 404:955, parenthetical item in orig.). The MAXIMA team concluded similarly.

Once again, however, that was then, this is now. As it turns out, the images these two telescopes projected have challenged the very core of the Inflationary Big Bang Model itself. Three months after the Nature article appeared, George Musser penned an article (“Boomerang Effect”) for the July 2000 issue of Scientific American, in which he wrote:

[W]hen measurements by the BOOMERANG and MAXIMA telescopes came in...scientists were elated.... And then the dust settled, revealing that two pillars of big bang theory [the current status of the microwave background radiation and the necessity of a flat Universe—BT/BH/BM] were squarely in conflict.... That roar in the heavens may have been laughter at our cosmic confusion (283[1]:14,15).

Why is the Universe laughing at evolutionary cosmologists? What is this “confusion” all about? As Musser went on to explain, the BOOMERANG and MAXIMA telescopes

...made the most precise maps yet of the glow on scales finer than about one degree, which corresponds to the size of the observable universe at the time the radiation is thought to have been released (about 300,000 years after the bang). On this scale and smaller, gravity and other forces would have had enough time to sculpt matter.

For those first 300,000 years, the photons of the background radiation were bound up in a broiling plasma. Because of random fluctuations generated by cosmic inflation in the first split second, some regions happened to be denser. Their gravity sucked in material, whereupon the pressure imparted by the photons pushed that material apart again. The ensuing battle between pressure and inertia caused the plasma to oscillate between compression and rarefaction—vibrations characteristic of sound waves. As the universe aged, coherent oscillations developed on ever larger scales, filling the heavens with a deepening roar. But when the plasma cooled and condensed into hydrogen gas, the photons went their separate ways, and the universe abruptly went silent. The fine detail in the background radiation is a snapshot of the sound waves at this instant (283[1]:14, parenthetical items in orig., emp. added).

The data collected from BOOMERANG and MAXIMA were expected to show a profusion of different-sized spots—large spots would represent oscillations that had begun fairly recently, spots half that size would represent oscillations that had gone on for longer, spots a third that size would represent oscillations that had gone on longer still, and so on. Musser continued:

On either a Fourier analysis or a histogram of spot sizes, this distribution would show up as a series of peaks, each of which corresponds to the spots of a given size. The height of the peaks represents the maximum amount of compression (odd-numbered peaks) or of rarefaction (even-numbered peaks) in initially dense regions. Lo and behold, both telescopes saw the first peak [representing compression—BT/BH/BM]—which not only confirms that sounds reverberated through the early universe, as the big bang theory predicts, but also shows that the sounds were generated from preexisting fluctuations, as only inflation can produce (283[1]:14).

The data from both BOOMERANG and MAXIMA did indeed seem to be thrilling. Then, reality set in. The first significant problem with the information from the telescopes was that the data revealed only the “merest hint of a bulge where the second peak should be” (Musser, 283[1]:15). This was really bad news for inflationary theory, because it meant that the so-called “primordial plasma” contained numerous subatomic particles that weighed down the rarefaction of the sound waves and thereby suppressed the even-numbered peaks. Musser commented on the implication of this when he wrote:

According to Max Tegmark of the University of Pennsylvania and Matias Zaldarriaga of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., the Boomerang results imply that subatomic particles account for 50 percent more mass than standard big bang theory predicts—a difference 23 times larger than the error bars of the theory (283[1]:15, emp. added).

Twenty-three times larger?! Whew! Where did those extra “subatomic particles” come from? No one knows. And inflationary theory cannot function with them present.

Just as the initial shock was beginning to wear off concerning the massive amounts of “extra subatomic particles” that the data revealed, more bad news began to pour in. Researchers needed (as required by inflationary cosmology) to find those “spots” (i.e., oscillations) moving outward and slightly upward at a very slight angle from an imaginary starting point on an imaginary flat plane (Euclidean geometry again—think “a sheet of paper”). The angle—according to the theory that is intended to predict a flat Universe—could be no more than 0.8°. The data from BOOMERANG, however, indicated an angle of 0.9° (see Figure 3). If the Universe were flat, and if the rules of Euclidean trigonometry applied (both of which, the researchers agreed, would be the case), then the angle at which the “spots” propagated outward should have been no more than 0.8°.

Additional examination of the data revealed that this discrepancy in angles indicated that the Universe actually is spherical, not flat, because if anything starts out completely flat, then as it expands, it will not show curvature comparable to what the BOOMERANG telescope reported. As Musser wrote in Scientific American:

...[F]ollow-up studies soon showed that the lingering discrepancy, taken at face value, indicates that the universe is in fact spherical, with a density 10 percent greater than that required to make it flat. Such a gentle curvature seems awkward. Gravity quickly amplifies any deviations from exact flatness, so a slight sphericity today could only have arisen if the early universe was infinitesimally close to flat (283[1]:15, emp. added).

“Close to flat”—even “infinitesimally close to flat”—is not the same as “exact flatness.” And therein lies the problem for inflationary theory. According to the BOOMERANG and MAXIMA data, then, there were too many subatomic particles present “in the beginning.” And, to make matters worse, the Universe is spherical, not flat, as inflationary theory predicts.
Figure 3

Figure 3 — The possible shapes of the Universe—closed, flat, or open—are based on how imaginary pairs of parallel lines might act. The bottom simulations represent the data that would result if each were correct, since BOOMERANG measures “hot” and “cold” spots (i.e., cosmic microwave background radiation) in the Universe. The top image depicts the actual BOOMERANG data.

If the Universe were “closed,” the parallel lines eventually would converge upon each other (see bottom left). If the Universe were open, the parallel lines would diverge from each other (see bottom right). If the Universe were flat (like a sheet of paper), the parallel lines never would meet (see middle image).

Evolutionists (and those sympathetic with them) who have “put all their eggs into the inflationary theory basket” are understandably upset with the BOOMERANG and MAXIMA data and the obvious conclusions stemming from them, since, as Musser noted, this placed “two pillars of big bang theory squarely in conflict.” But the remaining alternatives are not much better. The only feasible alternative would seem to suggest that the trigonometric calculation used to account for “cosmic expansion”—couldn’t! Such a scenario would occur only if: (1) the radiation did not travel as far as assumed (meaning it had been released later in cosmic history than expected); (2) the famous Hubble constant were significantly larger (which would indicate that the Universe actually is younger than predicted); (3) the Universe contained more matter (which would hold back the expansion); or (4) the cosmological constant (discussed in detail later) were smaller (which would put the brakes on the current theory of cosmic acceleration).

And, unfortunately for Big Bang theorists, that still is not all the bad news. In its on-line “Science Update,” Nature posted an article on Monday, March 31, 2003, titled “Sharp Images Blur Universal Picture.” The author of that article, John Whitfield, remarked that

physicists’ notions of the Universe could be in trouble. New measurements from the Hubble Space Telescope hint that space is smooth, not grainy. Without graininess, our current theories predict that the Big Bang was infinitely hot and dense—tough to explain, to say the least (2003).

“Tough to explain” happens to be another one of those “mild understatements.” Richard Lieu of the University of Alabama at Huntsville (upon whose research Whitfield’s report was partly based), admitted: “The theoreticians are very worried. There could be quite a lot of missing physics to be found” (as quoted in Whitfield). “Missing physics”? “Quite a lot” of “missing physics”? Robert Ragazzoni of the Astrophysical Observatory in Arcetri, Italy, agreed. “You don’t see anything of the effect predicted” (as quoted in Whitfield). In short, things right now aren’t looking very rosy for Big Bang inflationary theory. As nucleosynthesis expert David R. Tytler of the University of California at San Diego observed: “There are no known ways to reconcile these measurements and predictions” (as quoted in Musser, 283[1]:15).

Interestingly, not so long ago, adherents of the Big Bang held to a smooth Universe, and pointed with pride to the uniform background radiation. Then they found large-scale structures, and revised their predictions. Now, they have found infinitesimally small variations, and are hailing them as the greatest discovery of the twentieth century. We must urge caution when a theory, claiming to be scientific, escapes falsification by continual modification with ad hoc, stopgap measures.
Figure 4

Figure 4 — Representations of NASA’s COBE and WMAP satellite probes, used to detect cosmic microwave background radiation. Images courtesy of NASA.

Let’s face it: the Big Bang is a survivor. It never is falsified—only modified. David Lindley (1991) compared the efforts to revive existing cosmological theories with Ptolemy’s work-around and fix-it solutions to an Earth-centered Solar System. Equations can be manipulated ad infinitum to make “messy” theories work, but Lindley warned, “skepticism is bound to arise.”

And the skeptics are having a field day. In an article with a byline that reads like a Who’s Who of Big Bang dissidents, Halton Arp and his allies have introduced a modified Steady State Theory. Not being able to resist taking a jab at their competitors, they wrote: “As a general scientific principle, it is undesirable to depend crucially on what is unobservable to explain what is observable, as happens frequently in Big Bang cosmology” (Arp, et al., 1990, 346:812). Elsewhere, Geoffrey Burbidge quipped: “To the zeroth order [at the simplest level—BT/BH/BM], the Big Bang is fine, but it doesn’t account for the existence of us and stars, planets and galaxies” (as quoted in Peterson, 1991, 139:233). No, it certainly does not.

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