Saturday, March 18, 2006

Scientific Orthodoxy

The great scientist Richard Feynman once said that “science is the culture of doubt.” Throughout the history of science, from Ptolemy’s Earth-centered universe through the Biblical creation story, orthodoxy has impeded the progress of science and the search for truth. Yet orthodoxy, confirming to established doctrines, has become the rule in much of modern science.

In cosmology, the orthodox doctrine is the Big Bang model of the universe. As a scientific theory it is rich and fine. Yet the institutional faith in the theory has effectively blocked the investigation of alternative models. A group of concerned scientists (rebels) decided that they must do something before orthodoxy again impeded science. The following are excerpts from an open letter to the scientific community published in the journal New Scientist on May 22, 2004:

The big bang today relies on a growing number of hypothetical entities, things that we have never observed-- inflation, dark matter and dark energy are the most prominent examples. Without them, there would be a fatal contradiction between the observations made by astronomers and the predictions of the big bang theory. In no other field of physics would this continual recourse to new hypothetical objects be accepted as a way of bridging the gap between theory and observation. It would, at the least, raise serious questions about the validity of the underlying theory.


But the big bang theory can't survive without these fudge factors. Without the hypothetical inflation field, the big bang does not predict the smooth, isotropic cosmic background radiation that is observed, because there would be no way for parts of the universe that are now more than a few degrees away in the sky to come to the same temperature and thus emit the same amount of microwave radiation.

Without some kind of dark matter, unlike any that we have observed on Earth despite 20 years of experiments, big-bang theory makes contradictory predictions for the density of matter in the universe.

And without dark energy, the theory predicts that the universe is only about 8 billion years old, which is billions of years younger than the age of many stars in our galaxy.


The big bang is not the only framework available for understanding the history of the universe. But in cosmology today doubt and dissent are not tolerated, and young scientists learn to remain silent if they have something negative to say about the standard big bang model. Those who doubt the big bang fear that saying so will cost them their funding.

Giving support only to projects within the big bang framework undermines a fundamental element of the scientific method -- the constant testing of theory against observation. Such a restriction makes unbiased discussion and research impossible.

The full letter and other interesting information about alternative models may be found at the web site Alternative Cosmology
. I have written a short popular account of the topic called “The Big Bang: Believe it or Not” available for the asking.

This sort of stifling orthodoxy is becoming pervasive in science. The most famous case, in the life sciences, is the orthodoxy of Darwinian Evolution. Advocates refuse to accept that it is a theory at all (“It is scientific fact”), do not allow teachers to question the validity of the doctrine, and initiate lawsuits to get their way. Another case is the doctrinaire belief in human generated global warming and the steps that must be taken to avert the looming disaster (ala Al Gore).

Science cannot survive and truth will remain hidden when orthodoxy gets in the way of investigation. We must not let it happen.


4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, those "scientists" need to get off their butts and really look into Noah's Ark and stuff

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Smitty said...

If we believe in the orthodoxy of Darwinian Evolution why do we adopt social programs hostile to it?

"As state policy" we divert resources from the most productive individuals to subsidize and grow the least productive least healthy and least intelligent individuals.

The state shapes human evolution.

Survival of the least fit is promoted rather than survival of the fittest.

In America's case we have a state sponsored diminishing learning curve.

The state acts counter to both God and Darwin depending on your perspective.

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Social Darwinism is an absurd idea that has been long ago abandoned. The idea that there is a "state policy" to let the dumb people breed more is a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. No one talks about being orthodox about evolution, like it's some kind of religion. It's just a description of how nature works. A good way to "diminish the learning curve" is by introducing "intelligent design" into our classrooms. We could also introduce astrology and parapsychology into the curriculum. Why not? These are all non-provable, supernatural concepts.

11:45 AM  
Blogger mike3 said...

smitty:
"If we believe in the orthodoxy of Darwinian Evolution why do we adopt social programs hostile to it? "

Because, for one, Darwinian evolution is a theory about *the development of life on Earth*, not about *how to run a society*.

"Survival of the least fit is promoted rather than survival of the fittest.

In America's case we have a state sponsored diminishing learning curve. "

That has to do with problems with the society's educational system, it does not have to do with "survival" (i.e. life vs death, literally) of the organism in question.

"The state acts counter to both God and Darwin depending on your perspective."

If it acted *with* Darwin it would *kill* those who don't get educated. Now that's one sick society. Rather a _good_ society would try to educate _everyone_ as best as it could.

anonymous:
"We could also introduce astrology and parapsychology into the curriculum. Why not? These are all non-provable, supernatural concepts."

Actually, the existence of "psychic" powers and stuff is *theoretically* provable, it is just that so far all experimental attempts to actually test them have come up negative, so there's no reason to belive that yes they do exist. However, if they did really exist, then an experiment could actually prove it. The existence of ultimate causes of Nature itself (i.e. why does Nature itself actually exist), however, where the question of God comes in, is not in the domain of empirical science, but in that of religion and philosophy. Because in *that* case there is no empirical test -- you could not "put God on a scale" and weigh Him/Her/It even if He/She/It existed.

9:11 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home