Dover Bitch

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Memo to Bush: You're not a scientist

DB is so profoundly disturbed by the Bush administration's attempts to inject itself and its ideology into NASA's presentation of the Big Bang in teaching materials, that this blog has awoken from a month-long slumber. Let's get a few things straight:

1. Arguably the first proponent of a cosmological theory of expansion from singularity, based upon Einstein's Relativity, was Belgian physicist Georges LeMaitre, who also happened to be a Catholic priest. After he proposed his theory, he was criticized and even ridiculed for it because there was little evidence to support it at that time. Some members of the scientific establishment pointed to LeMaitre's position with the church and accused him of trying to bring religion, in the form of creationism, into cosmology. From this, we should realize two things: Scientists can be close-minded and stubborn sometimes and, second, religious ideology has no place in science, either in driving it or in obstructing it.

2. While the probability is relatively high that someone who disagrees with the Big Bang theory is either ignorant or just plain stupid, it is possible to be highly intelligent and still take that position. Fred Hoyle, not only gave the Big Bang theory its name (actually, in an attempt to mock it), but he had one of the greatest intuitive leaps in scientific history, when he used deductive reasoning and the anthropic principle to determine that there was a particular excited state of carbon that would be necessary for heavier elements to exist in the universe. Despite exhaustive analysis of carbon, this state wasn't discovered until he directed researchers to look again, at which point its existence was confirmed. His prediction and its confirmation shored up a large hole in Big Bang (and his own Steady-State theory), but Hoyle went to his grave in 2001 still believing that Big Bang was incorrect.

3. The Big Bang theory has a mountain of evidence in its corner. Not only has the theory survived every discovery and more detailed analysis of the universe, no matter how groundbreaking or revolutionary, but all these discoveries have strengthened the basis of the theory. From Einstein's upheaval of Newtonian physics to Hubble's discovery that all galaxies outside our local cluster are receding... From our understanding of the nuclear processes in stars to the detailed mapping of the cosmic background radiation... Each piece of the puzzle has revealed a clearer picture of the processes that have been in motion since shortly after time (and space) began. People challenging the Big Bang theory better have more on their side than just faith. Otherwise, they have no real business getting into the debate.

If you're interested in reading about the theory, which has to be considered one of if not the greatest collective accomplishments of human thinking, DB recommends "Big Bang" by Simon Singh.

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