Big Bang Denial Lives

Scientist Holding onto Eternal Universe Model Has a High Evidential Hurdle to Clear

All cutting-edge science raises new questions and may provoke others to controversy. In August, 2022, shortly after the first galaxy cluster images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) were released, physicist and science writer Eric J. Lerner, who is President and Chief Scientist of LPP Fusion, published a sensational article with the provocative title, The Big Bang Didn’t Happen. It caused quite a stir on the internet as thousands of scientists across the world, overcome with curiosity, fell for the clickbait.

Lerner, who is author of a 1992 book with much the same title as his article, said that the JWST image of a galaxy cluster known as SMACS 0723 was “too smooth, too old, too small” to be consistent with the Big Bang model. He claims the Universe is not expanding. He said the first JWST images of SMACS 0723 show that the galaxies were smaller than one would expect if the Universe were expanding. He also contended that the Universe appears to have had too many disc galaxies when it was 400 million years old. According to his reasoning, if cosmic expansion were real, the galaxies would actually get larger with distance because, on his view, we would be seeing them as they were in the distant past when they were closer to us. He believes their small size is good evidence that there was no expansion.

Astronomers and cosmologists working in the field quickly dismissed Lerner’s comments as “dishonest” and “opportunistic.” They said his comments had nothing to do with affirming or refuting the Big Bang, but merely emphasized some unexpected findings that seemed to be at odds with particular models of the theory, of which there are many.

The irony is, JWST’s observations actually support the Big Bang model in that they show that the first galaxies were smaller and grew larger over time, just as the theory predicts. Moreover, the first JWST shots of this galaxy cluster are not what astronomers would really call “deep images,” as deep images would require much longer exposures to capture the light of the most distant galaxies.

So, what Lerner actually did was erroneously associate the JWST images with what he might have expected from a much longer exposure, which hasn’t yet been carried out. What’s more, the surprising finding that galaxies in the early universe are more plentiful, and a little more massive and structured than expected, doesn’t mean that the Big Bang model is wrong. It just means that some of the details of the theory require a little bit of tweaking

It’s particularly telling that Lerner has completely ignored the impressive body of evidence in favor of the Big Bang model of cosmogenesis, some of which was provided after the publication of his controversial 1992 book. Let’s review the evidence.

Four Lines of Evidence for the Big Bang [1]

Hubble’s Law: In 1929, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble found a simple relationship between the distance to a galaxy and its redshift. Redshift is a kind of Doppler effect. Just as sound waves from an ambulance siren increase in pitch as it approaches and decrease as it recedes, the same thing happens with light waves. Pitch is to sound as color is to light. The light from a galaxy moving away from us is shifted to the red end of the spectrum, whereas a galaxy that approaches us shifts to the blue end of the spectrum. The faster the speed of recession or approach, the greater the color shift.

Hubble discovered that the further away a galaxy was located, the greater its redshift, and so, by implication, the faster it was moving away from us. It follows that if we were to turn back time, the galaxies must have been much closer to each other and at some time in the finite past, all the matter and energy in the Universe must have been concentrated into a minuscule space, a kind of ground-zero point cosmologists call a singularity.

The Helium Problem: Helium accounts for about 24 percent of the elemental mass of the Universe. Astronomers have long known that this is far too much to have been created in the cores of stars over the eons, but by modelling the early conditions of an explosive, hot Big Bang, this helium excess is readily accounted for.

Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation: Have you ever noticed that a very hot furnace is blue or white hot, but as it cools, the colors progress through progressively longer wavelengths – first yellow, then orange, and finally red before becoming invisible? The same goes for the radiation that permeates the cosmos. If the Universe truly began in a hot, dense explosive event, the resulting torrent of radiation would cool as it expanded, gradually lengthening the wavelength as cosmic expansion ensues.

Theorists realized that if you begin with a hot Big Bang and let the Universe expand for billions of years, the resulting radiation would be stretched out to wavelengths corresponding to the microwave region of the spectrum. That radiation was first detected in 1965, but since then, orbiting microwave observatories such as COBE and WMAP have mapped it all over the heavens. These observations strongly support a fiery beginning to our Universe. The cosmic background radiation is sometimes called the “afterglow” of creation.

Olber’s Paradox: Why is the sky dark at night? It’s an innocent question, but one that has profound cosmological consequences if considered in the right way. If the Universe is infinitely old and the starry heavens extend ad infinitum, then everywhere we would cast our gaze, our eyes or telescopes would meet with the light of a star. The sky would be uniformly bright with no gradations in light or darkness. The darkness of the night sky can be explained, however, if the Universe is expanding such that the most distant stars are moving away so quickly that their light is redshifted out of the visible spectrum and is becoming invisible.

Philosophic Disquiet

When solid evidence for the expanding Universe was first discovered, it was received with disdain by many scientists, who had long believed the Universe had always existed and so, by implication, had no need of a beginning, much less a creator. Indeed, the British astrophysicist, Sir Fred Hoyle, coined the phrase “Big Bang” as a derogatory term for something he profoundly disliked. Lerner’s sensationalist article falls into the same category.

You see, the reality is, despite many brilliant minds lining up to take their shots at the Big Bang theory over the years, all have failed miserably. Some alternative hypotheses may have some merit, but none come even close in terms of explaining so many observed features of our Universe.

The evidence consistently supports the proposition that the Cosmos had a beginning, just as the writer of Genesis 1:1 told us thousands of years ago. Furthermore, basic cause-and-effect reasoning dictates that something or someone must have caused it to come into existence – a non-contingent being that had to have existed outside of space and time. The most current observations are consistent with the God we Christians know as the God of the Bible, the Great I AM who is from eternity and who entered his own creation as the God-Man Jesus Christ. The heavens do indeed declare the glory of God and our most sophisticated science affirms it!

Image credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI 1 Galaxy cluster SMACS 0723; from NASA.gov

[1] Evidences for an expanding universe taken from Zeilik, M & Gregory, S., Introductory Astronomy & Astrophysics, Saunders College Publishing, 1998.

is working on a new book, Choosing Binoculars: A Guide for Stargazers, Birders and Outdoor Enthusiasts, which will be published by Springer Nature in late 2023.

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