The “Science” of
the Big Bang
Astronomer Halton Arp has called it “science
by news release,” and some of the most disturbing
examples come from statements “confirming” the validity of
the Big Bang.
Many critics of modern theories in the sciences have noticed
that science editors (newspaper, magazine, and television)
appear to have lost the ability to separate fact from
theory. When discussing the trademarks of popular cosmology,
such as the Big Bang, the science media incessantly report
that new discoveries confirm them—even when such
reports are far from the truth.
One reason for this pattern is simply the momentum of
archaic beliefs. But it is also apparent that good news
is essential to the funding of exotic projects.
At the heart of conventional cosmology lies the dogma of an
electrically neutral universe governed by gravity alone.
Without the benefit of this dogma, the Big Bang hypothesis
could never have achieved its present prominence. And it is
here that we see most clearly how, under the necessities of
funding, scientists are eager to “confirm” a theory that,
according to many critics, has already failed. Editors, in
turn, desiring to retain valued relationships with the
spokesmen for established science, only rarely dig deeper
than the latest news release delivered to them.
In popular discussion of the Big Bang, the most frequent
statement made is that discovery of the
microwave background radiation (CMBR) “confirmed” the
hypothesis. But this interpretation requires a gross
distortion of history—
In 1964 physicists Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias, while
working on a new type of antenna at Bell Labs in Holmdel,
New Jersey, detected an unexplained noise. By removing all
other potential sources of noise, they determined that it
was the cosmic microwave background, with a calculated
temperature of 3.5 K. For this discovery they received the
Nobel Prize in Physics in 1978.
Later, in 1992, based on COBE satellite data, a team of
scientists reported a refined [or revised] temperature—2.73
K— for the cosmic microwave background.
So how did various scientific institutions deal with the
Here are a few historical examples (some taken from a Bell
of the Bell Labs web page tell us, “The discovery in
1963 by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of the cosmic
microwave background of the Big Bang set the seal of
approval on the theory, and brought cosmology to the
forefront as a scientific discipline. It was proof that
the universe was born at a definite moment, some 15
billion years ago.”
investigator of the COBE team, Dr. John Mather: "The Big
Bang Theory comes out a winner. This is the ultimate in
tracing one's cosmic roots."
leader George Smoot: "What we have found is evidence for
the birth of the universe ... It's like looking at God."
a professor of astronomy at Harvard University: ‘The
discovery of the 2.7 degree background was the clincher
for the current cosmological model, the hot Big Bang.”
of Bell Labs: “Its precise black-body spectrum and
uniformity over the sky have ruled out many theories of
the evolution of the Universe.”
a leading astrophysicist and professor of natural
sciences at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study:
"The discovery of the cosmic microwave background
radiation changed forever the nature of cosmology, from
a subject that had many elements in common with theology
to a fantastically exciting empirical study of the
origins and evolution of the things that populate the
Astrophysicist Michael Turner: "The significance of this
cannot be overstated. They have found the Holy Grail of
Carlos Frenk: "It's the most exciting thing that's
happened in my life as a cosmologist."
certainly think from such pronouncements that the Big Bang
theory had predicted the temperature with a
reasonable degree of accuracy. But George Gamow, credited
with the prediction from Big Bang assumptions, estimated 5K
in 1948. In the 1950s he raised that estimate to 10K, and by
1961 he was predicting 50K.
Robert Dicke’s microwave radiometer was key to the
discoveries of Wilson and Penzias. In 1946 Dick predicted a
microwave background radiation temperature of 20 K. Later he
revised the predictions to 45 K.
When the COBE satellite measured it to be only 2.7K, the Big
Bang proponents claimed victory.
But the fact is that predictions by other theorists, who did
not base their estimates on the Big Bang, were a good deal
closer. Based on the study of narrow absorption line
features in the spectra of stars, astronomer Andrew McKellar
wrote in 1941: "It can be calculated that the ‘rotational
temperature’ of interstellar space is 2 K."
The first astronomer to collect observations from which the
temperature of space could be calculated was Andrew McKellar.
In 1941 he announced a temperature of 2.3K from radiative
excitation of certain molecules. But World War II occupied
everyone's attention and his paper was ignored. In1954,
Finlay-Freundlich predicted 1.9K to 6K on the basis of
"tired light" assumptions. Tigran Shmaonov estimated 3K by
In 1896, Charles Edouard Guillaume predicted a temperature
of 5.6K from heating by starlight. Arthur Eddington refined
the calculations in 1926 and predicted a temperature of 3K.
Eric Regener predicted 2.8 in 1933.
In the course of two decade’s Gamow’s predictions were the
most inconsistent and included the single guess farthest
from the mark. One must keep in mind as well that the
“temperature” of interstellar space does not give you the
energy density of the universe. The “temperature” is the
square root of a square root of energy density. So as a
measure of the energy of the universe, Gamow's estimate of
50 degrees K is 12,000 times too high.
(It should be noted that, in 1956, Gamow adjusted his
prediction to 6 K, which is certainly better than his worst
guess, but others were considerably closer without
reference to the Big Bang.)
So what are we to think of the well-publicized statements
noted above, by those invested in the Big Bang hypothesis?
It is for good reason that critics have called this response
“science by news release”—a convenient cover for the fact
that Big Bang cosmology failed to anticipate any of the
landmark discoveries of the space age.
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