Alan Guth concocted inflation theory in 1980 to avoid evidence for a 10,000-year-old universe. For his wild, evidence-free speculation, he may win a Nobel Prize.
In a profile on National Geographic, cosmology guru Alan Guth describes his college experiences that led him to invent inflation theory. The velvet-glove interviewer, Dan Vergano, treats Guth like a rock star, aided by photographer Deanne Fitzmaurice, who presents the 67-year-old physicist as supercool for a new generation – an appropriate description, because his speculations about supercooling of the universe in the first fractions of a second were his ticket to stardom.
Inflation theory began with two hard facts that challenged big bang theory, but would make believers in Genesis quite comfortable. The first was the fine-tuning of the universe:
In 1978, he learned in a talk by Princeton physicist Bob Dicke of a problem with the universe—it was too perfect. All sorts of factors, from the workings of atoms to the gravity holding stars together, seem too exquisitely fine-tuned for creating a cosmos in defiance of both rational explanation and what chance would predict.
“One second after the big bang—and I’m pretty sure that is the example he used—the expansion rate had to be just right to an accuracy of 14 decimal places or our universe would look nothing like it does now.” Just a smidge more expansion and the universe would have blasted itself apart. A tiny bit less and it would have fallen in on itself. Instead it had unfolded just right, balanced on a universe-friendly knife-edge, seemingly for no reason.
Guth filed away this “flatness” problem in his mind as interesting but too big to tackle. “It just stuck in the back of my mind.”
Guth began thinking of ways to rescue secular cosmology from the flatness problem. Later, after he first conceived of inflation, he speculated that it would also solve another conundrum: the horizon problem (the unexpected uniformity of temperature in regions that never had contact).
The second hard fact concerned the age of the universe:
In the spring of 1979, Guth attended two lectures by physics Nobelist Steven Weinberg, then at Harvard, about problems with the big bang in its first instants, less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a second. “I decided that if Steve was willing to work on these crazy things, maybe they weren’t so crazy.”
The answer that Guth and Tye found that year, however, was still crazy: The universe should be swimming with cosmic defects.
In fact, these defects should have been so numerous and so massive that if they actually existed, the age of the universe “would turn out to be about 10,000 years,” Guth says, with a laugh. “This doesn’t turn out to be the case, scientifically.”
Guth laughed. He dismissed as unscientific the notion that the universe might fit within a Biblical timeframe. But he couldn’t ignore the problem. He began speculating. Maybe, if the universe supercooled in those tiny fractions of the first second, the defects would go away. “A 100,000-fold drop in temperature might have given the forces inside the early universe a bit more time to line up nicely with each other, essentially producing fewer defective cracks in creation,” the article states, with no explanation of how or why it would undergo supercooling. But the idea was pregnant with imagination.
Guth began figuring on paper. His imaginary supercooling, he speculated, would also make gravity repulsive, expanding the universe exponentially. As by-products, it would solve the flatness problem and the horizon problem. His imagination led him to the analogy of phase transitions when water boils into steam. He got so excited, he wrote “Spectacular realization!” on his paper. Secular cosmology could be saved from the appearance of design!
Problem: he couldn’t figure out how to stop inflation once it started. That and other pesky details were mopped up over time, once he and others took off and ran with the idea of inflation. Guth was noticed by his peers. Job offers rolled in. He was high in demand as a speaker by others wanting to hear the radical new idea.
Inflation compelled the interest of physicists because it kept all the advantages of the big bang as an explanation for the origin of the universe while filling in a uncharted spot in explaining how it actually started—in other words, what put the bang in the big bang.
Intelligent causes were clearly left out of the equations.
Unfortunately, Guth’s model of inflation was falsified the next year, in 1981. It didn’t produce the smooth universe he anticipated. He almost gave up, but others, charmed with the notion of inflation, came up with patches and fixes to keep the dream alive. It didn’t seem to matter that the new versions got crazier and crazier:
And at the end of the year, Stanford’s [Andre] Linde did find another answer, and he was followed shortly afterward by other researchers. The wholesale makeover of inflation, called “chaotic inflation” or “eternal” inflation, produced by Linde and colleagues in 1983 has become a standard for the field. In this model, inflation is occurring somewhere in the universe all the time, far beyond the 92 billion light-year expanse of the cosmos we can now see.
Most often the model also sees inflation producing a proliferation of universes, a multiverse filled with a cornucopia of realities.
Guth’s fame has not dimmed with each new observational challenge. There’s the lumpiness problem, for instance – the observation that very large structures exist throughout the universe. Guth dismisses these with evidence for tiny fluctuations in the incredibly-smooth CMB (cosmic microwave background radiation) that might have given birth to galaxies, provided there was ample unobserved dark matter available. There’s the entropy problem: such low entropy today presupposes incredibly, unbelievably low entry at the beginning. And there’s the conclusion by Sean Carroll (5/11/06) that inflation solves nothing, because to get inflation to work requires even more improbable initial conditions: “It would seem that the conditions required to start inflation are less natural than those of the conventional Big Bang,” Carroll noted.
Inflation is so useful to atheists, though, that it has survived all empirical challenges, including the CMB measurements and the “discovery” of cosmic acceleration (requiring occult “dark energy”). Guth is optimistic that worries about the dust clouding the BICEP2 announcement (see 6/24/14) will dissipate, so that he can point to it as confirmation.
For now, as he awaits an expected Nobel Prize in September, Guth lives comfortably at MIT, counting his blessings, Vergano writes. He already got the Kavli Prize ($1,000,000) shared with Linde and Starobinsky (other inflation rock stars). Conveniently for him, the Planck project data that could tip the evidence against inflation will probably arrive after Guth and his accomplices have laughed all the way to the bank.
Did you know that the inflation model so often described in popular reports and animated on TV, like Cosmos, is wrong? Inflation underwent a “wholesale makeover” in 1983 when Linde and others made it even more speculative and irrational. Now, inflation occurs all the time, they say – conveniently, in places that can never be seen, like regions beyond our cosmic horizon, or in other universes that are not observable even in principle. Inflation is the ultimate shell game, the ultimate ad hoc proposal concocted only to prevent the evidence for a created universe to shine through in glory. (Recommended reading: Bruce Gordon shows why inflation explains nothing, Evolution News & Views 4/04/14).
Alan Guth (Grand Unified Theory Huckster) is a charlatan who doesn’t deserve the fame and fortune showered on him from fawning reporters and willing accomplices in academia who use his “spectacular” evidence-free “realization” to promote materialism. Don’t be fooled by this BICEP2 confirmation talk. Because of the under-determination of theory by data, there are an infinite number of theories that can explain whatever turns up from the BICEP2 and Planck instruments. This article reveals that the evidence supported creation when Guth made up his story, and it still does. Laughing off God’s word that accounts for the fine-tuning of the universe and its age, Guth made a deliberate choice in 1980 to trust in the imagination of his own heart. Strong words? See Guth indict himself in our 2/21/05 entry, where he spouted evidence-free speculation non-stop, admitting that “Without inflation, this large-scale smoothness appears quite puzzling” – confessing therein that he knew the evidence supports design.
The blessings he’s now counting should have included gratitude to his Maker for giving him breath, a brain, and the ability to live in a beautiful designed world. Instead, he turned against his Maker and led a generation astray. He should also count it a blessing that more philosophically rational men have not booted him out of academia for engaging in self-refuting ideas (which, by definition, cannot possibly be true). If Guth’s mind is the product of chaotic, irrational forces, then we cannot trust a word he says, including inflation and the idea that his mind is the product of irrational forces. No amount of math skill can overcome that.
Would that Guth had learned to follow the evidence where it leads. After hearing Dicke’s lecture in 1978, he could have realized, “Wow! That sounds like intelligent design!” After finding his own model predicted a 10,000-year-old universe, he could have said, “Wow! That sounds like Genesis!” Instead, he sold his soul to do evil (note: thinking irrationally is evil). The devil, ever prowling for dupes, in a Faustian bargain, gives him rock star fame and fortune – for a little while.
“Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of their heart run riot” (Psalm 73:7) “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21; see 1/21/07 commentary). Alan, Andre, Robert and the rest of the cosmic cabal, while you walk God’s green Earth, there is still time to repent.