Big Bang in Trouble? Physicists Challenge Key Component of Cosmological Theory

A team of physicists from Harvard and Princeton universities recently ignited a controversy among the scientific community by pointing out apparent weaknesses in a key element of the Big Bang theory.

Physicists Anna Ijjas, Paul Steinhardt, and Abraham Loeb wrote a critique of the standard model of the universe’s beginnings in an edition of the Scientific American earlier this year. Recent scientific measurements, they wrote, have “cast doubt” on a key element of the Big Bang theory and “exacerbated long-standing foundational problems with the theory.”

The key element of the Big Bang theory that the physicists call into question is the theory of “cosmic inflation.” Cosmic inflation is the widely-accepted idea that, immediately following the Big Bang, the universe grew exponentially, expanding in size much faster than it is today.

In their paper, however, Ijjas, Steinhardt, and Loeb cited several pieces of evidence that they believe undermine cosmic inflation, later writing, “the prospect that inflation did not occur deserves serious consideration.”

“Yet even now the cosmology community has not taken a cold, honest look at the big bang inflationary theory or paid significant attention to critics who question whether inflation happened,” they asserted. “Rather cosmologists appear to accept at face value the proponents’ assertion that we must believe the inflationary theory because it offers the only simple explanation of the observed features of the universe.”

Not only have recent astronomical observations “shaken the foundations” of the Big Bang theory, but the theory of inflation has “theoretical problems” as well, the physicists wrote. Thus, they reasoned, “The prospect that inflation did not occur deserves serious consideration.”

The physicists’ paper elicited a response from a group of 33 physicists, including Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss. Even though they conceded that “no one claims that inflation has become certain,” they noted that they “disagree with a number of statements” in the original Scientific American article.

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“By claiming that inflationary cosmology lies outside the scientific method, IS&L are dismissing the research of not only all the authors of this letter but also that of a substantial contingent of the scientific community,” the physicists wrote. “Moreover, as the work of several major, international collaborations has made clear, inflation is not only testable, but it has been subjected to a significant number of tests and so far has passed every one.”

“Inflationary models, like all scientific theories, rest on a set of assumptions, and to understand those assumptions we might need to appeal to some deeper theory. This, however, does not undermine the success of inflationary models,” they asserted. “The fact that our knowledge of the universe is still incomplete is absolutely no reason to ignore the impressive empirical success of the standard inflationary models.”

However, Ijjas, Steinhardt, and Loeb did not back down, remarking in an online blog post that they are “disappointed” by the response from the physicists.

“We firmly believe that in a healthy scientific community, respectful disagreement is possible and hence reject the suggestion that, by pointing out problems, we are discarding the work of all of those who developed the theory of inflation and enabled precise measurements of the universe,” they wrote.

“Unlike the Standard Model, even after fixing all the parameters, any inflationary model gives an infinite diversity of outcomes with none preferred over any other. This makes inflation immune from any observational test,” the physicists noted. “We advocated against invoking authority and for open recognition of the shortcomings of current concepts, a reinvigorated effort to resolve these problems and an open-minded exploration of diverse ideas that avoid them altogether. We stand by these principles.”

Weighing in on the cosmic controversy, Jake Hebert, a physicist with the Institute for Creation Research, said that the Big Bang theory is “riddled with serious scientific difficulties, some of which have been highlighted by this recent spat among leading theorists.” Not only that, but the theory “flatly contradicts Scripture,” he stated.

“Many Christians are tempted to accept that the Big Bang was the means God used to create the universe,” he wrote in a blog post. “But … where would it leave Christians if secular scientists should ultimately abandon the Big Bang? Christians should resist the temptation to accommodate Genesis to the fallible, ever-changing ideas of secular scientists.”

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  • Colin Rafferty

    This is a very interesting article. But a quick reminder of definitions: a theory is something that we use to explain observed facts. The observed fact is that about 13 billion years ago was what is colloquially called the Big Bang. The Inflationary Model that is being discussed in the article is part of a set of theories that try to explain this fact.

    So even if science threw out the Inflationary Model completely, it would not change the fact of the Big Bang occurring about 13 billion years ago.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    We know the patterns how the non-believers behave. Big Bang theory was invented by a Catholic scholar to oppose the idea of universe always and for-ever existing. Now atheists use the same theory to deny God. Scientists should look into the possiblity that God created a finished universe, as Adam’s full-grown body, and the universe having started deteriotating because of the Fall. Genesis 1 alone flawlessly matches the current observation of our universe. Robots are fashioned and not evolve but deteriotate over time, although God made humans and not robots; it’s highly likely that the universe has existed with a finished form the beginning.

    • BuckeyePhysicist

      No, Grace. The Big Bang was theorized, not invented, by Fr. Georges Lemaitre, a French priest. The Bible says God existed forever but He created the heavens and the earth somewhere in time.

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        Yes. It’s his original idea; that’s what I mean by invention.

  • Ray Black

    those three Ijjas, Steinhardt, and Loeb scientists have been ridiculed like they were juveniles by about 35+/- scientists of very staunch support for existing Inflation theory, they even used the fact that it IS unmeasurable as a grounds to prove its verity.

    • Sisyphus

      Scientific American is not an example of a rigorous peer reviewed journal. Perhaps Ijjas, Steinhardt and Loeb could publish the mathematics they believe brings an inflation model into question in a scholarly journal. Then other physicists could also test to further confirm or refute an existing model. That is how actual science works​.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    The universe seems to say to mankind that there is another world. “In the beginning, God created the heavens (plural) and the earth.” (Genesis 1)

    • Amos Moses – He>i

      you know Grace ….. in the scriptures it usually says “heaven” …… singular … but looking at the original Hebrew ….. you are precisely correct ….. it is heavens and a plural ….. Amen ….

      שָׁמֶה שָׁמַיִם
      shâmayim shâmeh
      shaw-mah’-yim, shaw-meh’
      The second form being dual of an unused singular; from an unused root meaning to be lofty; the sky (as aloft; the dual perhaps alluding to the visible arch in which the clouds move, as well as to the higher ether where the celestial bodies revolve): – air, X astrologer, heaven (-s).

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        Yes, Amos, thank you. We are boundlessly blessed to know what lies ahead, beyond our observable universe and in the different dimention. The Throne. The Kingdom of our blessed Lord and Saviour God. Revelation chapter 4.

        • Amos Moses – He>i

          amen ………

  • Sharon_at_home

    Moderator please help us know what people have been doing to be deleted or banned?
    Shouldn’t there be written rules for us to follow before we can be banned for anything. If you don’t know why your posts are being deleted that are not rude or argumentative how can you change the way you post? Where are the rules, I’ve looked for them and cannot find any. Please direct us to the new rules that has affected the posters so much.

    I’d sure appreciate it and I am sure others here will too. Otherwise you are punishing us for something we did not know not to do.

    • james blue

      At the bottom of each article there is a paragraph that starts with “Commenting Guidelines” and ends with ” Read More” which you can click on for the full guidelines. Hope this helps

      Of course it doesn’t explain why comments that do not appear to break any rules are deleted, but it’s their site and I support their right to delete for any or no reason.

  • Amos Moses – He>i

    1:1 In the beginning (time is created) God created the heavens and the earth (all matter is created).
    1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (God enters the creation).
    1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light (all energy is created and added to the creation).

    the reason the creation is so large and our place in it is so small …… is so that man understands mans place in it ….. just this little bit …… and that God is far bigger than man can imagine ……….. and yet God cares for man above all else ……….. all praise too Him …………

  • Tangent002

    If one element of Big Bang cosmology is imprecise or incorrect, that doesn’t make Biblical Creationism automatically true by default. Scientific theories are constantly being refined and revised as the evidence dictates.

    • Sisyphus

      Argument from ignorance…we can’t explain this with 100% certainty, so it must be god, or something metaphysical.

      • Ambulance Chaser

        I believe that’s called the God of the Gaps argument. But you’re right, it’s a subset of Argument from Ignorance.

        • Sisyphus

          There is a show on the History Channel that employs the same logic error RE: aliens. Your semantic point is well taken.

      • Oboehner

        Argument from ignorance…we can’t explain this with 100% certainty, so it must be random chance, or un-provable “bazillions of years”.

        • Sisyphus

          And science continues to look for answers, religion claims to have all the answers.

          • Oboehner

            Right, evolutionism claims there was this exploding dot followed by some kind of speciation nobody has ever seen. That’s their story and they’re sticking to it.

          • Sisyphus

            That is somewhat of a description of the current paradigm, if you don’t agree, you are free to conduct your own science.

          • Oboehner

            That much I know, but my intelligence is constantly insulted by evolutionism being pushed as fact.

          • Sisyphus

            Your intelligence is not equally insulted when YEC is pushed as fact?

    • Oboehner

      Bringing up Creation doesn’t by default make evolutionism any less a religion with no proof whatsoever.

  • Oboehner

    “rest on a set of assumptions” Highly scientific!

  • PilgrimGirl

    Really?!?! LOL!! Scientists keep trying to nail it down but The Book already has it all in writing.

    • Cady555

      Yeah, who needs astrophysicists? Let’s just read the book with the talking snake and the “waters above the firmament” and the fruit trees created before the sun and every living creature (includung the insects that pollinate fruit trees).

      Have you ever actually read your book?

  • Sharon_at_home

    @James Blue; Thank you you are a good man. Be Blessed!

  • Ivan Kos

    The same goes for the rest of the theoreticians …. Here is what Tesla thinks of Einstein and “his ” theory o relativity ( it was stolen from Olivio de Pretto who published it in Italian science magazine 3 years earlier)…..”Since action and reaction are coexistent, it follows that the supposed curvature of space(Einstein’)s is entirely impossible ..Today’s scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality. The scientists from Franklin to Morse were clear thinkers and did not produce erroneous theories. The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.”
    At times, Tesla’s criticism of Einstein was even personal in nature, suggesting that Einstein was not merely mistaken, but actually a fraud:

    “Einstein is a beggar dressed in purple clothes and made king using dazzling mathematics that obscure truth”…

    “Relativity is a massive deception wrapped in a beautiful mathematical cloak.”

    “The theory of relativity is a mass of error and deceptive ideas violently opposed to the teachings of great men of science of the past and even to common sense.”

    “The theory, wraps all these errors and fallacies and clothes them in magnificent mathematical garb which fascinates, dazzles and makes people blind to the underlying errors. The theory is like a beggar clothed in purple whom ignorant people take for a king. Its exponents are very brilliant men, but they are metaphysicists rather than scientists. Not a single one of the relativity propositions has been proved.”

    “Relativity is a beggar wrapped in purple whom ignorant people take for a King.”

  • MCrow

    So I read the article. All they are saying is that there needs to be more effort put into cosmology and not accepting the Plank model as it currently stands. They are not saying that the Big Bang is necessarily incorrect, but are presenting alternatives to it. None of which involve the supernatural, btw.

    That’s how science works: you create a hypothesis, test it, refine it, test it again, send it into the community to conduct further studies and research, etc. They are offering competing naturalistic models to try to shore up some of the weaknesses of the current model, which is what a lot of researchers do because it is literally their job

  • InTheChurch

    As long as the Big Bang remains a theory, it’s all good.

    • Bob Johnson

      We probably disagree on the definition of “theory.”

  • Cady555

    Number of times a supernatural explanation has been replaced by a scientific explanation (examples – the causes of various diseases, earthquakes, lightning, conception, inheritance of traits, etc. etc) – too many to count, and more everyday.

    Number of times a scientific explanation had been replaced by a supernatural explanation – Zero.
    Never. Not once, ever.