Re: Big Bang: How widely accepted?

Ben Weiner (
30 Aug 1995 03:02:32 -0400 (Ronald Kunne) writes:

>Iain Coleman <iain> writes:

>> (Robert Roosen) wrote
>>> Anthropologists
>>>study cosmology as the creation myths of each of the various cultures
>>>inhaviting planet earth. The Big Bang is in the curious position of
>>>being promoted as "the" cosmology by a group of physicists who have
>>>wandered into astronomy.

>>What a load of bollocks. The Hot Big Bang model is accepted by virtually
>>all astronomers. It is special because it passes all observational tests.
>>This is called "science".

>The real problem here is that Mr. Roosen is implying that a `cosmology'
>(or any theory) is only acceptable if enough people are convinced it is true.

>Something like: there are only 10000 astronomers `believing' the Big Bang
>happened, while -say- 50000 Papuans still in the Stone Age believe in the
>cosmic egg or some other myth.

It's not a question of numbers, or what the Papuans think. I think,
and I _hope_ that most astronomers would agree, that scientific
evidence for the big bang does not "disprove" any putative Papuan
religious myths of cosmic eggs. Science and religion don't mix, or
should not be mixed. In any case, it would be trivial to situate the
big bang theory in a context that makes it consistent with a "cosmic
egg myth." I note that most mainstream Jewish and Christian sects
consider the big bang reconcilable with a figurative interpretation
of their cosmic egg myth, I mean their "God created the world in
six days, and on the seventh day He rested" story.

(BTW, the big bang would be more difficult for the putative Papuans to
reconcile it if they believed that the universe had existed forever in
a static state. As it happens, nearly all cultures that I know of
have some sort of Creation myth. In this context, Robert Roosen's
fondness for Steady State cosmological theories such as those of Hoyle
and Burbidge is curious, since it goes against the grain of most
human cultures. If there are any anthropologists still reading this
who know of cultures in which the universe is static and there is no
creation event, please drop me an e-mail.)

(As another side note, I would prefer it if you would not drag the poor
Papuans in as a putative example of backwardness. The Papuans are, so
far as I know, perfectly nice people who have never done me any harm.
If you want an example of widely believed cosmological myths, pick on,
say, Christians.)

Robert Roosen's problem is that, despite his protestations to the
contrary, he cares deeply what the astronomers think. Otherwise,
he wouldn't continually be making such a stink over what a relatively
small sect (10,000 astronomers worldwide seems about right) has chosen
to adopt as its belief system. That belief system, it is true, contains
certain elements, such as the ritual of comparison to observations,
which are fairly singular. One might say that this belief system
has a methodology, and that this methodology is similar to that found
in other disciplines, such as physics, biology, or anthropology. Also
that membership in this sect is not exclusive - there are Christian,
Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, atheist, et cetera, et cetera, astronomers.
Even the Papuans are well known to be masters of celestial navigation.

I have tried previously to explain to Roosen that what astronomers
think about cosmology is not so damn important that it's worth getting
paranoid about. Unlike, say, solid state physics, or biology, or
international finance, it doesn't have any great impact on people's
lives. [This is of course tongue in cheek, obviously I think
astronomy is cool or I would quit doing it. Nonetheless, the fact
that astronomy is "neato" does not justify working up a lather over
whatever theory is prevailing.]

I especially don't understand Roosen's worrying about astronomers
versus astrologers. I mean, by any rational yardstick, astrologers
are fantastically MORE successful than astronomers. Compare the
number of newspapers with a daily horoscope to the number with a
weekly Sky Watch column ... I'm willing to bet that astrologers
are better paid, more in demand, less stressed, and happier than
astronomers. Why should anyone care what a bunch of astronomers
think about astrology? It obviously isn't having any effect on the
public. I've explained this to Roosen, but he won't let go of the
issue. The only possible explanation is that HE - not the public -
really cares what astronomers think. The psychoanalysis is left
as an exercise for the reader.

>However, this tendency of saying that `Astrology, Creation, Homeopathics
>must be true because so many people believe in it' is very wide spread.

>Dangerously wide spread, if you ask me. But also the proof that scientists
>do not come often enough out of there Ivory Tower to convince the general
>population of the merits and basics of the scientific method.

"You can't break eggs without making an omelet" -
That's what they tell the eggs. --- Randall Jarrell