Big Bang Intelligent Design

Rob Sheldon on a claim that the Big Bang did not happen

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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

A friend sent round a video denouncing the Big Bang, and we asked our physics color commentator, experimental physicist Rob Sheldon, for comment.

Here’s the vid:

Here’s Rob:


Let’s just say that the science is minimal. The speaker, Wallace Thornhill, has a bachelors degree in physics from the University of Melbourne (his bio just calls it a degree, but he earned it at age 22, which is a bit young for an advanced degree.) He has a decent grasp on undergraduate physics but it is very clear that his grasp on quantum mechanics, particle theory and relativity are very weak.

He begins by presenting a montage of science journo articles claiming “Crisis”. On that, we are in agreement. There is a crisis, and he is right to criticize the scientism that afflicts science journalism and some scientists. But when he engages in negative criticism, like similar organizations that critique mainstream science, his arguments are always an attack on the schematic physics taught to undergraduates, not on the graduate physics that appears in the scientific literature. That is, he is shooting fish in a barrel. For if undergraduate physics were entirely correct, I would not have needed an additional 9 years to get my PhD.

This is why he attacks gravity from a Newtonian perspective, why he sweeps nearly all of QM under the rug of ignorance, why he misrepresents space-time and four-dimensional curvature, and why he doesn’t grasp the virial theorem and so many other fundamental aspects of theoretical cosmology. But he did find an audience that really appreciates what he has to offer.

Among others, Thornhill aligns himself closely with “Electric Universe” of Eric J. Lerner. And both of them cite Hannes Alfven’s “Cosmical Electrodynamics” as inspiration. The late Halton Arp was an astronomer who also didn’t like the Big Bang model, and joined a few holdouts like Sir Fred Hoyle and the Burbidges. While both Hoyle’s and Burbidge’s steady state theories have not held up, Arp’s “Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies” have been often resurrected as a disproof of the Big Bang. With such esteemed company, Thornhill felt encouraged to develop his own theory of a steady state universe invoking Alfven’s plasmas.

Curiously in his web bio, he puts a picture of himself taken with Immanuel Velikovsky, another controversial character, which suggests that he sees himself as inheriting Velikovsky’s mantle.

The Long Ascent: Genesis 1–11 in Science & Myth, Volume 1 by [Sheldon, Robert]

Genesis: The Long Ascent Now Velikovsky’s book “Oedipus and Akhnaton” interpreting Oedipus Rex as a retelling of Pharaoh Akhnaton is simply brilliant, but his 1950 book “Worlds in Collision” sank his reputation, which was never regained. Upon his death, Velikovsky donated his collection to the Princeton library. In that collection, a curious letter emerged from Whitcomb and Morris, the authors of “The Genesis Flood”. They reached out to him for help in defending their own book, and Velikovsky responded indignantly that he couldn’t afford to ruin his reputation by collaborating with them.

So in some fateful twist, Thornhill’s steady-state theories with Velikovsky’s mantle has provided the collaboration Whitcomb never achieved.

What do I make of it?

The Long Ascent, Volume 2

We need to go back to Philip Johnson’s insight 30 years ago. At that time the creationists were all attacking each other over local/global flood, the meaning of “yom”, the historicity of Adam, etc, whereas the Darwinists had a united front–Darwin was a genius. What Johnson discovered, was that the Darwinists had a huge internal battle over nearly every assumption of their model, but politically were unified in their opposition to Creation. By putting his finger on their critical assumption of Methodological Naturalism, which was contrary to nature and to nature’s laws, Johnson was able to unite the creationists behind this cause and turn the tables.

In a like manner, the problem with the Big Bang model is not with its descriptive nature—the galaxies really are flying apart. The problem is the metaphysics that motivates most of the unwanted sequels—inflation, dark matter, dark energy, string landscape, multiverses.

As you well know, the Big Bang is highly tuned, with the explosive power matching the gravitational pull to one part in 10^60 (that’s 1 with 60 zeroes after it.) Since there are about 10^80 protons in the observable universe, that means a lump of 10^80 / 10^60 = 10^20 protons will unbalance the universe, causing it to collapse into a black hole. But 10^20 protons is a milligram, about the size of a grain of sand. So one grain more on the beach and we wouldn’t be here. The metaphysics of this balance is what has motivated “inflation” and the whole zoo of bad sequels dominating our cosmology theater. Like Philip Johnson, we should put our finger on the bad metaphysics, and demand that design be taken seriously.

What we should not do, is to get into internal squabbles about whose replacement for Big Bang is best, or even that the original Big Bang could never have happened. None of these approaches deals with the critical flaw in cosmology, and that is a metaphysics that denies design. It is for this reason primarily, and Philip Johnson is my model, that I would not promote either Velikovsky or Thornhill as supporters for ID, irrespective of their unorthodox physics.


Rob Sheldon is the author of Genesis: The Long Ascent and The Long Ascent, Volume II .

One Reply to “Rob Sheldon on a claim that the Big Bang did not happen

  1. 1
    ScuzzaMan says:

    the galaxies really are flying apart

    What’s Sheldon’s estimated age of the universe?
    For what fraction of this age have we been observing the red shift that (merely) implies expansion?
    In what other branch of intellectual inquiry would Sheldon accept such a statistical nonsense as to extrapolate from such a minuscule sample to such a monstrous result?

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