Skepticism about science and medicine

In search of disinterested science

Scientific consensus vs. the evidence: Big-Bang theory and fudge factors

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2017/09/02

The scientific consensus is that the universe began in a “Big Bang” around 13 billion years ago.

As with the scientific consensus on most matters, the media and society at large treat this consensus as unquestionable truth. Serious and competent dissenters are almost invisible, and much of the media depict people who don’t accept the consensus as Flat-Earthers, crackpots.

Again as with the scientific consensus on many matters, the actual evidence, the facts, do not support the consensus unequivocally. Sorely missing from society’s respect for “science” is an appreciation of the difference between facts and theories.

Concerning the Big Bang, the facts are the differences in colors of the light emitted by the chemical elements as observed on Earth and on cosmic objects.

“Color” is the human sensation experienced when visible light of particular wavelengths (or frequencies, inversely proportional to wavelengths) hits the eye’s retina. A well established physical phenomenon is the Doppler Effect: an observer moving away from a source of waves registers a longer wavelength than an observer at the source itself (and vice versa, an observer traveling towards a source of waves registers an apparently shorter wavelength). The example typically given in schools, long ago in the days of steam-engine trains, was that the whistles from the train’s engine sounded a higher tone when the train was approaching the station and a lower note when moving away from the station; the Internet offers many illustrations of this, for example “Brass band on train demonstrates Doppler effect”.

All observations of distant cosmic objects show a “redshift”: the colors of light emitted by the chemical elements on the objects are shifted to longer wavelengths, to the red end of the spectrum of visible light. According to the Doppler Effect, that means the objects are moving away from Earth, in all directions; the universe is expanding, in other words.

However: Is the Doppler Effect the only possible reason for the cosmic redshifts?

No, according to observational evidence accumulated by astronomer Halton Arp, which suggests that the light emitted by quasars has a redshift that is only partly a Doppler Effect, the other part possibly characteristic of newly formed matter. Quasars are “quasi-stellar objects”, emitting much larger amounts of energy than would stars of apparently similar size, and they are key components in calculations of the distances and speeds of cosmic objects. If Arp was right, then Big-Bang cosmology might well be replaced by the Steady-State theory of the universe promoted by Fred Hoyle and others. Since quasars are far from fully understood (Frequently asked questions about Quasars ), Arp may turn out to have been right.

At any rate, that the scientific consensus on Big-Bang cosmology is almost universally accepted, that the common conventional wisdom has no doubts about it, illustrates how a scientific consensus can become popular public dogma even when there are substantive reasons to doubt its validity.

There are actually many reasons to doubt the validity of the Big-Bang hypothesis, set out for instance by the late Tom Van Flandern (The Top 30 problems with the Big Bang Theory) or more recently and succinctly by “Tanya Techie” (Top Ten scientific flaws in the Big Bang Theory).

What has seemed to me the kiss of death for Big-Bang Theory is the need for the fudge factors of “dark matter” and “dark energy” to explain the calculated rate of universe expansion; fudge factors that seem utterly absurd given that they are supposed to represent amounts much larger than the known amounts of normal matter and energy (Rethinking “Star Soup”) but have never actually been observed, they are postulated to exist solely to make Big-Bang Theory work.

An additional ground for doubt is that the calculations on which dark matter-energy are estimated appear to be seriously flawed: Donald G. Saari, “N-body solutions and computing galactic masses”, Astronomical Journal, 149 (2015) 174; “Mathematics and the ‘Dark Matter’ puzzle”, American Mathematical Monthly, 122 (2015) 407.

*                     *                   *                   *                   *                   *                   *                   *

Big-Bang Theory is far from alone as an almost universally accepted doctrine that in reality conforms only doubtfully with the actual evidence. Close examination of the actual facts on quite a number of other topics reveals that there are reasonable doubts about the validity of the scientific consensus on how to interpret the evidence about

Ø      the extinction of the dinosaurs

Ø      the mechanism of smell

Ø      the efficacy of anti-depressants

Ø      the cholesterol theory of cardiovascular disease

Ø      the blood-pressure theory of strokes and heart attacks

Ø      the cause of AIDS

Ø      when and from where the first human settled in the Americas

Ø      the hazards of second-hand tobacco smoke

Ø      whether nuclear fusion is feasible at ordinary temperatures (“cold fusion”)

Ø      whether human-generated carbon dioxide is responsible for climate change

Ø      whether continental drift (plate tectonics) adequately explains all the facts about earthquakes and other geological phenomena

Ø      the cause(s) of Alzheimer’s disease

Ø      the potential danger of mercury in vaccines and in dental amalgams

and more; see Dogmatism in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth


4 Responses to “Scientific consensus vs. the evidence: Big-Bang theory and fudge factors”

  1. mmacg said

    Fudge factors are very useful when reasonably used. When used beyond their reasonable applicability, they cease to be fudge factors and become an entirely different kind of mathematical manipulation.

    May I suggest that “dark matter”and “dark energy” might be more accurately described as “epicyclic factors”.

    • Henry Bauer said

      By epicyclic factor presumably you refer to Ptolemy’s adding smaller cycles onto circular orbits to conform better to the way the planets move. This is adjusting empirical observations, correcting observations. But that was not introducing new concepts or postulating the existence of things never observed, which dark matter and energy are. So I would not agree to call them epicyclic factor; they are fudge factors in the pejorative sense of that phrase.

  2. Loránd-Levente Pálfi said

    If I understand the message in the article above correctly, you, i.e. Henry Bauer, seem to dismiss the concepts of dark matter and dark energy (do correct me, if I am wrong!). I find that very interesting. I wish, you had written more about this. Have you written an article within this online domain (or elsewhere?) about dark matter and dark energy? I am very interested to read that. If not: Maybe you could be persuaded to write a piece about dark matter and dark energy?

    • Henry Bauer said

      Loránd-Levente Pálfi:
      Sorry, I can’t add anything useful to what Tanya Techie describes as Problem 6 with Big-Bang Theory:
      “Dark Matter and Dark Energy have never been proven, or observed in any way whatsoever, yet the Big Bang theory depends on the existence of such potentially mythological substances. Not only that, but in order for the Big Bang theory to even be valid, dark matter and dark energy would have to be the most abundant things in the universe.
      The ‘dark’ in ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’ doesn’t mean color. It means, ‘unknown’. In other words, the proponents of the Big Bang theory couldn’t figure out how it could possibly happen so they said, let’s make up some fictional matter and energy that ‘made it happen’.
      It’s kind of like me saying I am the most powerful person in the universe. My power is everywhere and can do everything! You just can’t see my power but it’s there! And then someone with common sense saying, pfft whatever man, yeah right.”

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