The Big Bang dissenter

3 Jun 2011

At www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Cosmo/bang.txt is a review of Eric Lerner's book, The Big Bang Never Happened - a refutation of the Dominant Theory of the Origins of the Universe (Random House:1991). The review is somewhat negative and written in the context of defend the consensus at any cost, and damn the radicals, which is amusing really as the review was published in a journal with the hopeful title, The Skeptical Enquirer. The objective of the review is established in the first paragraph - Lerner is attacked for publishing his ideas in book form where it is easily accessible to Joe Public (the reviewer seems to think Joe Public is stupid and unable to distinguish nonsense from a nice idea). The Big Bang theory is the standard framework in which cosmologists operate and the reviewer compares it to the Theory of Evolution in biology and Quantum Mechanics in physics. This ignores the fact lots of cosmologists were unwilling to accept it as the dominant theory not so long ago - admittedly most of these have since gone to their graves. The reviewer, in his wholesale demolition of Lerner, does allow the reader to learn a little of what is on offer in the book - and it sounds fascinating. Lerner, for example, says we should believe our own eyes rather than trust in obscure mathematics and is somewhat cynical of the idea of curved space and black holes. Sounds eminently reasonable but the reviewer is clearly impressed by the mathematics - yes, but does he understand it? Lerner, we learn, thinks we live in a plasma filled universe and is persuaded by the ideas of Hannes Alfven (now where have I heard that name before?). He also favours the mathematics of Maxwell and electro-magnetism in space (since verified by the space programme). The most amusing part of the review is where he attacks Lerner with the extraordinary line, that science has taught us to question common sense expectations. It seems that Lerner failed to make much of a dent in the Dominant Theory, the Big Bang, but in time, who knows?