Recent Excitement over Cosmos and Cosmic Inflation

Things eventually settled down here at Answers in Genesis after the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate last month, but last week things heated up again, at least for me. First, I’m sure that many of you have been watching the new Cosmos TV series on the Fox Network and other channels. I’ve enjoyed the show, though, of course, there are many things that I disagree with. I’ve done several interviews about the show. One of these was on the Janet Mefferd Show on the Salem Radio Network Thursday of last week, March 20 (listen to the audio).

The following day, The Wire reported that I (or alternately, the Creation Museum) allegedly had demanded equal time on the Cosmos show. They even provided the audio clip where I supposedly made this demand. I say “supposedly,” because if you play the clip, you’ll easily notice that I made no such demand. Other websites quickly picked up the story, such as the Examiner.com. The International Business Times further embellished the story, having me making my alleged demand in an interview with Right Wing Watch. That detail isn’t true either, because the interview was with Janet Mefferd, not Right Wing Watch, which has since been corrected on the International Business Times article. Right Wing Watch has never interviewed me, but I had better be careful, because they might use my words to claim that I’m demanding that they do interview me!

Responding to the Supposed Evidence for Cosmic Inflation

But there was another big event last week. You probably heard about the announcement on Monday, March 17, about the claim of the discovery of evidence for cosmic inflation in the early big bang universe. I quickly prepared a very brief initial response that went up on the Answers in Genesis website the same day. TheBlaze.com took notice and ran a piece on my article.

Additionally, though he didn’t mention my name, Dr. Karl W. Giberson published a rebuttal to my brief response to the inflation announcement at The Daily Beast. Giberson, a professing Christian but who believes in evolution, began with this statement:

The “Big Bang” theory of the origin of the universe got a big boost this week when scientists reported the discovery of 14-billion-year-old echoes of the universe’s first moments—the first proof of an expanding universe, and the last piece of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

It’s a little late to be the first confirmation of an expanding universe, because Edwin Hubble did that 85 years ago. I think that Giberson has confused expansion with inflation. These are very different terms, with specific definitions. Expansion refers to the rate at which the universe is getting larger. That rate is far slower than the speed of light, and we can measure that in the here and now. Inflation is the hypothetical hyper-expansion that the early universe experienced. Inflation supposedly was far, far faster than light. Inflation is a rescuing device to explain away two large problems for the big bang model, the flatness and horizon problems. Since this is an alleged past process, it is not observable today. Apparently, Giberson doesn’t know the difference.

Properly Understanding Last Week’s Announcement

In my short article I made three points. Giberson commented on the first point:

The leading evangelical anti-science organization is Answers in Genesis (AIG), headed by Ken Ham, the guy who recently debated Bill Nye. AIG’s dismissive response to the discovery is breathtaking in its hubris and lack of insight into how science works. They call for Christians to reject the discovery because the “announcement may be improperly understood and reported.”

No, we’re not an anti-science organization. Here at Answers in Genesis we love science, but we understand the difference between observational and historical science. Giberson starts with man’s ideas as his authority and not God’s Word for understanding the past. Unfortunately, like so many other anti-creation critics, Giberson likes to lodge that accusation against anyone who dares to differ with him on evolution and a billions-year-old universe. It’s a shame that he can’t make an argument without insults such as this. Yes, this announcement is improperly understood. Giberson’s confusion indicated above proves my point.

Model-Dependent Evidence or Evidence-Dependent Models?

Leaving out his snide remark about the lost airplane, Giberson continued with his second point:

Secondly, Answers in Genesis complains that the predictions being confirmed in the discovery are “model-dependent.” They fail to note that every scientific prediction ever confirmed, from the discovery of Neptune, to DNA, to the Ambulecetus transitional fossil is “model-dependent.” The whole point of deriving predictions in science is to test models, hypotheses, theories.

Giberson totally fails to understand my point here, because he doesn’t seem to understand the nature of the claim made last week. The researchers collected a huge amount of data, but they can’t pinpoint any particular polarization data supporting their conclusion. Rather, their argument is based upon statistics gleaned from the data, which introduces an entirely new model in addition to the particular model of the big bang that they used. (The big bang is not a single model, but rather there is a large range in the values of parameters within the model, such as inflation, but there are limits to those values.) And the researchers admitted that one aspect of the amount of polarization, the value of r (the ratio of gravitational wave perturbations to density perturbations), is much higher than the model would predict. It’s been my experience with the big bang model that when the prediction fails to match the data, they alter the model to match the data, and then claim complete agreement between predictions and data. But if a model can be modified indefinitely to match any and all new data, can it be falsified? If a theory cannot be disproved, then it hardly is observational science.

The comparison to Neptune’s discovery is baseless. The discovery of Neptune was the result of a search at the position of a hypothesized eighth planet on the basis of Newton’s law of gravity used to explain oddities in the orbit of Uranus. That search easily and quickly revealed an object in the proper position. The model stood or fell on the basis on that one datum–either the predicted planet was there or it wasn’t. If that planet were not there, then the model was disproved. This announcement last week doesn’t resemble this in the slightest. I’ll leave it to others to comment on Giberson’s further examples.

Concluding Ignorant Assertions

In attempting to refute my third point, Giberson wrote the following:

Finally, AIG suggests that “other mechanisms could mimic the signal,” implying that, although the startling prediction was derived from Einstein’s theory of general relativity and the inflationary model of the Big Bang, it could have come from “some other physical mechanism.” No alternative mechanism is suggested.

B-mode polarization on a small angular scale can come from gravitational lensing of CMB radiation as it passes large masses, an effect already detected. The question is whether B-mode polarization exists on a larger angular scale, which is the prediction of inflation theory. I don’t know if anyone has yet suggested a model of how this larger scale B-mode polarization could come about, but I expect that they have or soon will. (Indeed, someone has: as I was writing this post, this article came to my attention.) This assumes that the large angular scale B-mode polarization even exists, which was the point of the announcement last week. The signal was very weak, which is why there is some doubt about the reality of the signal. The fact that the result was announced in probabilistic terms is testament to that.

But Giberson’s ignorance is not restricted to this recent announcement about the supposed discovery of evidence of cosmic inflation. He went on in his article to claim that the Hebrew word raqia means “bowl” or “dome.” The noun raqia comes from a verb that means to stamp, roll, press, or stretch out. It does not mean “bowl.” In Ezekiel 1:22 raqia could refer to a dome, but in the context of Genesis 1, it cannot. Giberson also went on to repeat the common misunderstanding of how in the Galileo affair the Roman Catholic Church opposed Galileo’s scientific theories on theological or biblical grounds. Actually, it was other scientists, quoting Aristotle and Ptolemy, who led the charge against Galileo. It was years before the scientists were able to enlist the help of the theologians. Thus, it was a scientific squabble, not a theological one.

According to his biography at the Daily Beast website, Giberson has a PhD in physics. Frankly, I’m very disappointed with Giberson’s rebuttal.