Additional Comments on Big Bang


Because the Big Bang is an issue of such importance to so many people, I owe some additional comments on the subject, after posting a title like this.

            First – I personally would not want to make any kind of commitment for or against the idea, either in public or in my own thinking. In Pribram’s workshop, Prigogine took a rather similar position. He said, roughly: “I am not saying that I agree or that I disagree with the idea. I am merely saying that people who think we need to have a Big Bang, to explain how life is possible in the face of the Second Law of Thermodynamic, are wrong on that point.” Prigogne went on to say that he now believes that self-organization and life would emerge in time, and persist, in almost any reasonable dynamical universe. I am making the same claim here as Prigogine about the Big Bang – but I don’t go quite so far about life emergin in any reasonable universe. In my view, the dynamic laws of hat universe have to have certain properties, in order to allow the emergence and persistence of life. It’s harder to get life than Prigogine claimed – but it’s a lot easier than old misunderstandings of thermodynamics seemed to imply.

            But I have to admit, when I wrote this paper in 1994, that I personally didn’t really believe in the Big Bang. It sounded like just another Creation Myth to me, and it even originated from Le Maitre – an example of theological science, something which I really didn’t trust. At age eight, when I read the popular paperbacks of Hoyle and of Gamow, the one by Hoyle baiscally struck me as more sane and more rational. In later years, I felt (and still feel) that people jumped onto the pure Doppler interpretation of the cosmic red shift a bit too carelessly and quickly. In graduate school, I read several of the papers by Arp in Ap. J. (Astrophysics Journal), showing very clear and very strong evidence of a major nonDoppler component to the red shift – and I could think of a whole family of alternative models (as in this self-organizatoin paper). In 1994, there was a lot of evidence consistent with the kind of story Eric Lerner painted in his very serious (albeit emotionally charged) book questioning the Big Bang. And finally, Huw Price’s description of the various changes and edits in Hawkings’ Brief History of Time , plus the assorted “inflationary models,” reminded me more and more of how things were done under Tycho Brahe.

            This past year (2005) has reminded me of the need to be a bit more detached on this issue. On the one hand, new empirical arguments for the “expansion hypothesis” have appeared (yea even unto Scientific American), based on how certain astronomical events appear to be compressed in time when we see them billions of light years away. That is much stronger evidence in favor of the Big Bang idea than anything I have heard before, and it does demand an open mind. On the other hand,  new observations relatd to Dark Matter seem to fit the general kind of picture I was talking about in 1994 (before the first significant early empirical work on dark matter), and they even tend to confirm and fill in more of Arp’s picture. I don’t know how it all fits together, and my time is too constrained lately to let me focus on that question more seriously.

 If the Big Bang hypothesis should turn out to be true after all, then – like Huw Price – I would consider the time-symmetric version of it (“first edition Hawkings”) to be more plausible than the correct politically correctified edition. It should be possible to prove that version, using new experimental approaches to quantum measurement discussed with Price and Shih. If I really believed in the Big Bang, I would be pushing very hard to carry that forward – but I still have enough doubts that I would not want to stake such a large part of my limited time and energy on that direction. I have much more confidence, for example, in space solar power. But perhaps someone else will try, and perhaps they will succeed. Or perhaps the whole idea of a Big Bang will vanish… if not entirely, recede more than 100 billion years away…