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At RealClearScience: Anti-religious feelings hindered acceptance of the Big Bang

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This image represents the evolution of the Universe, starting with the Big Bang. The red arrow marks the flow of time.
Big Bang/NASA

From science writer Ross Pomeroy at RealClearScience, addressing a point raised in astrophysicist Brian Keating’s Losing the Nobel Prize:

… anti-religious sentiments provided underlying motivation to debunk Lemaître’s theory.

Many atheist scientists were repulsed by the Big Bang’s creationist overtones. According to Hoyle, it was cosmic chutzpah of the worst kind: “The reason why scientists like the ‘big bang’ is because they are overshadowed by the Book of Genesis.” In contrast, the Steady State model was the rightful heir to the Copernican principle. It combined the banality of space with humanity’s mediocrity in time. Thanks to Hoyle, humanity had humility.

Hoyle, however, did not. Over the decades, as more and more evidence lined up in favor of the Big Bang and against Steady State, the aging astronomer dug in his heels. Ironically, he behaved like the believing zealots he scorned, relentlessly defending his debunked theory until his death in 2001. Lemaître, on the other hand, remained humble and equivocal about the Big Bang throughout his life.More.

book cover Pomeroy observes that “entrenched beliefs affect the nonreligious as well as the religious” and takes the view that evidence should rule. That is the only productive approach for science, to be sure. But the challenge is more subtle. Strong beliefs that coincide with majority opinion can provide a powerful bulwark against evidence for everyone involved.

Evidence, after all, does not defend itself. It just sits there, to be explored or brushed aside

See also: The Big Bang: Put simply,the facts are wrong.


Big Bang exterminator wanted, will train

11 Replies to “At RealClearScience: Anti-religious feelings hindered acceptance of the Big Bang

  1. 1
    tribune7 says:

    In fairness, Hoyle was also a skeptic of evolution and gave us the concept of “junkyard tornado” to describe it’s unlikeliness.

  2. 2

    Hoyle is one of my heroes. He was an unabashed materialist, but he considered Darwinian evolution to be bunk, writing a book “The Mathematics of Evolution” to demonstrate how wrong evolution was.
    But this lead to a predicament. Darwinism is the official religion of the atheist materialist. How can Hoyle call himself a respectable atheist if he rejects Darwin?
    And that is precisely the reason Hoyle rejected the Big Bang. Because the only way, the *only* way Hoyle could see a way out, was if the universe had been around forever. You see, no matter how bad the odds for the spontaneous formation of life were, they could be solved by multiplying by infinity.
    If Hoyle were to accept the Big Bang, if Hoyle were to accept the fine-tuning of the Be-8 nuclear levels, if he were to accept the conclusions of his own book, then he would have no choice but to do what his colleague Anthony Flew did, and convert to Christianity.
    But Hoyle didn’t. As one of Hoyle’s close colleagues here in Huntsville said, “He was the son of a stubborn Cornish miner.”
    And that is why he remains one of my heroes. Flawed, but then if he were perfect, he would be a Marvel character and not human.

    But that leads me to one of the dozen reasons I despise modern atheists. Unlike Hoyle, they come up with some feature that attracts them, and turn it into a virtue.
    “Why, it is so virtuous to believe we are not at the center of the universe!”.
    Really? And what is so virtuous about that?
    “Because it is so humble. All you theists think you are special, but we atheists are just so very humble and willing to share the secret of our humility with you arrogant snobs who don’t know astrophysics.”
    Wouldn’t it be even more humble if it didn’t take astrophysics to appreciate your humility?
    “Oh no. Astrophysics is what makes us so enlightened and able to grasp the deep things of the universe.”
    That doesn’t sound humble to me.
    “That’s because you think humility is not talking about yourself, but really humility is all about getting enough education to escape from all those common myths. You need an education to understand humility and how to attain it.”
    So glad we cleared that up. And I suppose with enough education I’d learn how to be ethical too? You know, how to write 3 proposals for the same work, publish 3 papers on the same results, and claim the work of 3 graduate students as mine?
    “Obviously you don’t know the slightest thing about ethics. It’s a product of the community, in this case, run by PhD’s in Ethics. I bet you thought it was written on ten tablets of stone with a magic finger! ROTFL. Yes, you obviously need to be taught both humility and ethics. Then you too can become like us.”

  3. 3 says:

    Big Bang is just a model that fits for now, but we will never be able to test.

    Who cares about Hoyle? He didn’t prove Big Bang false just as Lemaitre didn’t prove Big Bang true.

  4. 4
    groovamos says:

    Big bang is just a model…. Does contributor really believe it is “a model”? There have been thousands of models. And these models would not have been attempted had not Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson experimentally verified that the universe was once extremely dense, by detecting the radiation released when the universe dropped below a particular density threshold.

  5. 5
    tribune7 says:

    What’s funny is that it seems it is less controversial to express skepticism about the Big Bang than Darwin.

  6. 6
    Charles Birch says:

    Robert Sheldon @ 2

    It is my understanding that Anthony Flew did not convert to Christianity; he converted to deism.

    I’m also a fan of Fred Hoyle.

  7. 7 says:


    “All models are wrong some are useful”. Don’t get emotionally attached to models.

  8. 8
    groovamos says:

    Don’t get emotionally attached to models

    A person in my field properly would laugh at such advice. It’s the same as saying “don’t get emotionally attached to your livelihood” I mean really. Since my field is dependent upon there being a cutting edge of continual advancement (like the devices and systems permitting us to post here), trust me without models there would be no jobs in my field. The understanding of behavior of semiconductor devices would be impossible without models. Sheesh

  9. 9
    asauber says:

    Don’t get emotionally attached to models

    I would agree wholeheartedly with this. Models are opinions. Some are worth something. Some aren’t. We need more information beyond “models” to draw conclusions.


  10. 10
    Axel says:

    Beyond models, or that could be incorprated in new models ?

  11. 11
    Pearlman says:

    I suspect basing The big bang on deep-time dependent doctrine dogma assumption/s
    such as the Copernican Principle,
    was able to persuade enough big shot fools over,
    ie as long as Torah scripture testimony narrative and YeC time-line precluded from consideration they can live with 🙁
    thus failure to derive the far stronger science ie a big-bang SPIRAL cosmological redshift hypothesis and model, till now 🙂

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