Preface to the Vintage Edition xv Introduction 3 Part One THE COSMOLOGICAL DEBATE 9 1. The Big Bang Never Happened 11 2. A History of Creation 58 3. The Rise of Science 85 4. The Strange Career of Modern Cosmology 113 5. The Spears of Odin 169 6. The Plasma Universe 214 Part Two IMPLICATIONS 281 7. The Endless Flow of Time 283 8. Matter 328
9. Infinite in Time and Space 382 10. Cosmos and Society 405 Appendix 425 Bibliography 431 Index 441
PREFACE TO THE VINTAGE EDITION
Four hundred years ago Galileo broke the bonds that had entangled science with religion. Defying his fellow scientists' near unanimous commitment to Ptolemy's finite, earthcentered universe, Galileo defended Corpernicus's unlimited, sun-centered cosmos. He argued that observation, not scientific or religious authority, must be the test of cosmological theory. Science and religion must be separate, he declared: "Religion teaches how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go." But now, four centuries after the Scientific Revolution, we seem to have come full circle. "Historic Big Bang Discovery May Prove God's Existence" reads the headline of an Associated Press story dated April 25, 1992. Leading cosmologists are quoted as saying that recent astronomical discoveries "are like looking at God," that they prove the reality of the Big Bang—a scientific version of the Biblical story of Creation. Cosmology again seems to be entangled with religion, at least in the headlines and in the minds of some cosmologists. To be sure, these newspaper headlines have told a confusing story. In January 1991 the headlines boldly stated that the idea of an explosive birth of the universe, the Big Bang, was dead: "Big Bang Theory Goes Bust" read one in the Washingxv
PREFACE TO THE VINTAGE EDITION
ton Post. But in April 1992 another headline in the New York Times reported "Astronomers Detect Proof of Big Bang—profound insight on how time began." What accounts for this sudden turnaround in the heavens? According to the reports, this decisive proof of the Big Bang, this "scientific discovery of the century, of all time," this key evidence of the Creation and of the Deity, was the discovery of tiny ripples in the intensity of the microwave background, a sort of universal radio hiss. Thus, if we are to believe the reports, the finding of tiny fluctuations in the background radiation overshadows in importance the discovery of nuclear energy, DNA, antibiotics, the theory of relativity, and the quantum theory of matter, among other more minor scientific ideas.
But reality is different from headlines. In fact, the overwhelming mass of scientific evidence still contradicts the Big Bang, as this book endeavors to show. As of this writing—May 1992—the Big Bang remains in just as deep trouble as ever, with even wider divergence from observation than when the first edition of this book was completed in late 1990. The blizzard of press releases that accompanied the discovery of these fluctuations by the Cosmological Background Explorer (COBE) Satellite are not mere objective statements of fact but a salvo in the developing cosmological debate, a debate that is steadily growing and that has profound implications for science, and indeed for society. In the year and a half since this book was written, the evidence against the Big Bang has grown stronger, and the COBE results, far from "proving" the theory, have not in any way resolved the problems raised by other discoveries. The key problem, as I describe in Chapter One, is that there are objects in the universe— huge conglomerations of galaxies—that are simply too big to have formed in the time since the Big Bang, objects whose age is greater than the age Big Bang cosmologists assign to the universe itself. These conglomerations stretch over a billion light-years of space and were first discovered in 1986. In January 1991, while the first edition of this book was at press, a team of astronomers led by...