Sep 05, 2008
Are clusters born in a process of "galactic cannibalism"
or out of the strongest progenitive force in the universe,
ESO press release presents images of four galactic clusters (above) that are
claimed to provide “unique and powerful validation” of the proposal that
clusters form by the merging of small galaxies into larger ones. Based on the
pre-space-age assumption (since
disproved but unacknowledged) that the ubiquitous shift toward lower
frequencies of lines in the spectra of galaxies, called redshift (symbolized by
the letter z), is a measure of distance, these clusters are calculated to be
about four billion light-years away. Adding the assumption that everything we
observe is flying debris from an initial Big Bang explosion, the clusters are
considered to be about the same age.
With these assumptions, the clusters can be arranged in age (from the Big Bang).
This sequence indicates that galaxies in the older clusters are brighter and
therefore are more massive than those in the younger clusters. The older
galaxies (on the left) also have bright companions, which are declared to be
merging with them.
That the observations validate the theory is undeniable. Unfortunately, the
validation is circular. The observed data of the four clusters are interpreted
in the light of the assumptions. Different assumptions of different proposals
would give different interpretations, which then would validate the different
proposals. This codependency of observation and theory is one reason that
verifying a theory doesn’t prove that it’s true.
Also, the validation is fallacious. A logical fallacy originally noted by
Aristotle is affirmation of the consequent, which can be illustrated as follows:
A implies B. B is true therefore A is true. By claiming that the proposal is
true because a consequence of the theory has been observed, astronomers (and
other scientists) overlook other possible explanations for the consequent. The
logical fallaciousness does not mean that the theory cannot be useful, but it
assures that science will always be provisional.
Furthermore, its unique validity exists only insofar as competing proposals can
be excluded from consideration. The consolidation of space research under the
hegemony of NASA has promoted such exclusivity, but competing proposals continue
to struggle for survival on the margins. “If astronomy were a science,” as a
notorious competing astronomer once said, emphasis would be on testing
the assumptions of alternative proposals against each other rather than on
proclaiming self-congratulatory and sterile validations.
So, the “unique and powerful validation” is
unmasked as wanton and a weak pleading.
Several competing theories propose that galactic clusters are not merging
genealogical systems. Because high-z objects have been observed in
association with, even connected to and in front of, low-z objects, the high-z
objects would be much closer than their cosmological distance (which is based on
assuming that z indicates distance). They would therefore be much less luminous
and massive than cosmological-distance calculations indicate.
observed arrangement of these high-z objects around the low-z ones suggests
that the high-z ones are “offspring” of the low-z “parents.” One theory proposes
that they are newly created matter that has been ejected from the parent. Other
theories propose that they are “plasma-gun” ejections or that they form in
pinches in the axial discharge of a galactic plasma circuit. As the newborn
objects age, their luminosities and masses change in a step-wise periodicity.
The image above is not a time sequence of merging galaxies but a family portrait
of proliferating galaxies. The unique and powerful validation of the image
supports the competing proposals as much as it does the standard consensus one.
By Mel Acheson
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