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Physicists clash over Big Bang controversy

Posted on Saturday, 13 May, 2017 | Comment icon 14 comments

Inflation theory has come under fire. Image Credit: NASA
Some of the world's most respected scientists have penned an open later in response to a recent article.
The thirty-three-strong group, which includes Professor Stephen Hawking, is objecting to an article published in the February issue of the magazine Scientific American.

Entitled "Pop Goes the Universe", the article, which was written by Paul Steinhardt, Anna Ijjas and Abraham Loeb, maintains that recent studies in to the cosmic microwave background radiation do not support the idea that the universe started expanding exponentially just after the Big Bang.

"The data suggests cosmologists should reassess this favored paradigm and consider new ideas about how the universe began," they wrote. "Inflationary cosmology, as we currently understand it, cannot be evaluated using the scientific method."

The reason the article has attracted so much criticism is not because the authors have suggested that inflation theory is wrong, but because they claim that it is fundamentally untestable.

"They close by making the extraordinary claim that inflationary cosmology 'cannot be evaluated using the scientific method' and go on to assert that some scientists who accept inflation have proposed 'discarding one of [science's] defining properties: empirical testability,' thereby 'promoting the idea of some kind of nonempirical science,'" the group wrote in their letter.

"We have no idea what scientists they are referring to. We disagree with a number of statements in their article, but in this letter, we will focus on our categorical disagreement with these statements about the testability of inflation."

It remains unclear how or when the controversy surrounding the article is ever likely to be settled.

Source: Russia Today | Comments (14)

Tags: Big Bang, Universe

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #5 Posted by Nzo on 14 May, 2017, 1:21
If you cannot scientifically test it, retest, and verify the results over and over then its just a hunch. Could be right on the money hunch but if it cannot be tested, just a hunch. Perfect example where scientists bend the truth to match their results. Perfect example where scientists take 1% and extrapolate to 100% . Perfect example why the scientific method is king and why humans are the flaw. These scientists should get a nobel prize for proving that we know close tonothing at this stage because we cannot scientifically test everything. It's just educated hunches. If you want to fol... [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by Frank Merton on 14 May, 2017, 1:52
This sounds like Popper's effort to define science, and it has problems, mainly in the fact that it tends to rule out the human sciences (cultural anthropology, sociology and especially psychology) and probably a good deal of biology from being science. Indeed, this is the case made by the pseudo-science known as Creation Science. I tend to think the reality is that science is what is done by scientists (people who have spent years at university and so on), and maybe here and there a lucky amateur (say someone who first spots a new comet). If the comet is never seen again, is it science? I ... [More]
Comment icon #7 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy on 14 May, 2017, 2:02
What evidence do you have for that statement ? If you present enough testable evidence for a theory most scientists will accept it. History shows us plenty of times when a new theory was accepted once the evidence was sufficient. The Big Bang, relativity, evolution andquantum mechanics a just a few examples of this. Of course there are allways some people who will resist change, but it is not the majority.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Nzo on 14 May, 2017, 2:09
Higgs deserves his prize because he was proven correct. We are talking the whole creation of this universe. We are talking massive amounts of conjecture. I personally love science and the scientific method when done ethically, morally and done right. There seems to be no other way of finding out what this universe is about. But I seriously hate it when scientists reach with their conjectures. Bad science is infinitely bad and nothing spells bad science like extrapolating 1% of knowledge to untested unverified, unverifiable 100%. Like I said before if you cannot use the scientific method to pro... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by Frank Merton on 14 May, 2017, 2:33
I can only guess what you have in mind when you denounce conjectures. Conjectures are an essential part of science -- of course they should be identified as such but so long as that is done I don't get your complaint.
Comment icon #10 Posted by DieChecker on 14 May, 2017, 4:21
So if it can't be proven or disproven, then it isn't science? To me it seems it would still be science, but would still be just a theory, which is in need of more evidence. Saying inflation will neverbe proven or disproven is saying that we, right now, have all the evidence we're ever going to have on the subject, which is just shear ignorance.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Derek Willis on 14 May, 2017, 9:27
To his last breath Einstein would not fully accept the probability at the heart of Quantum Mechanics (contrary to the myth, he did give some ground).But in one of his last papers, written when he was close to death, he still held out that there must be hidden variables. Max Born -who introduced probability into Quantum Mechanics -used to regularly speak to Einstein, telling himthe world of physics is groping in the darkwithout the man he called their "leader". Born said it was like talking to Moses, and telling him he was wrong about the Promised Land. I believe the resistance to chang... [More]
Comment icon #12 Posted by bison on 14 May, 2017, 17:39
The authors advocatebounce theory in place of the big bangand inflationary cosmology. They emphasize that their scenariodoes not produce a multiverse, the budding of separate domains with constants and 'laws of nature' different from those we experience. The lack of a multiverse raises a problem they don't seem to have considered. If there is only one domain, one universe, instead of a multiverse, the odds of all of the many properties of nature just happening, by chance, to havejust the right values required to permit our existence seem very, very long. In the usual multiverse theories, ... [More]
Comment icon #13 Posted by Codenwarra on 18 May, 2017, 1:55
Some 55 or so years ago an hypothesis emerged that protons and neutrons were composed of three different particles with fractional electric charge, knownsince then as quarks. It emerged from an unlikely source, a 19th century mathematical consideration of certain types of symmetry, which was entirely abstract. This quark hypothesis was not readily accepted by some physicists. In the 1997book "The Whole Shebang: A State of the Universe(s) Report" by Timothy Ferris, Ferris wrote that one academic was denied a post in the 1960s when it was learned that "he trafficked in quarks". Some ten y... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by Frank Merton on 18 May, 2017, 2:41
We don't need to accept or reject any scientific idea, and it is not advisable to do so unless we have spent years study of the area of specialty involved. All most of us can do is go with the scientific consensus, and accept the fact that it will sometimes change. (Rejecting the scientific consensus is a hairy thing to do and generally is spelled "crackpot.") All I would say is it is far more likely to be accurate than some theory someone sitting at a keyboard come up with.

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