October 6, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Modern Cosmology Is Clueless, Astronomy Columnist Says

A letter to the editor in the latest (November) issue of Astronomy tipped us off to something we missed in the July issue.  The subscriber wrote,

Kudos to Bob Berman for bringing up the slipperiness of modern cosmology in ‘Theory chaotic’ (July 2004).  He must be one of the first to do so.  As he makes clear, a healthy skepticism can and should be a necessary part of the scientific method.

This we had to see, and Berman’s editorial surpassed expectations.  In his monthly column “Bob Berman’s Strange Universe,” he was ruthless.  After detailing the flip flops of cosmologists over the last ten years, and their parade of wacko pronouncements (see 07/27/2004, 02/10/2004, 01/23/2004, 06/20/2003 and 06/18/2003 headlines, for instance), he has had enough.  Wit meets dead seriousness:

Suddenly, we’re imbedded in a frothy quantum foam of unlimited possibilities.  It’s a free-for-all where each solemnly presented theory is soon changed or rebutted.
    In one sense, it’s very cool.  Imagination rules!  It’s a unique period in cosmology’s history.  Throw the math this way, that way, tweak the equations, set fire to the physics building, nothing matters.  It’s Alice in Wonderland meets Stephen Hawking.
    Unfortunately, cosmologists are starting to resemble naked emperors parading before the mass media.  Hey, we love you, but you have no clue about the universe’s true origin or fate, and little knowledge of its composition.  Yet each pronouncement is delivered with pomp and flair.  Maybe you need a serious “time out.”
(Italics in original.)

Berman distances real astronomy, the kind that “deals with optics, gadgets, software, planets and nebulae, observations, beauty, and real science” – from the fantasyland that he feels modern cosmology has become.  He suggests the following disclaimer before any cosmology articles in Astronomy: “Warning: The following contains contemporary cosmology.  Reading it can produce disorientation and confusion.  Nobody knows what’s going on and nothing you read here is likely to be true.

This is a howler; read the whole thing if you can get it.  It encapsulates all you need to know about modern cosmology, because why study it in detail when it is like the weather in Cleveland – if you don’t like it, wait 5 minutes.  Such bold honesty is refreshing.  Dear Mr. Berman: would you like a side job as a guest columnist for Creation-Evolution Headlines?
    Only one recent cosmological suggestion seems to have any staying power, the trend toward viewing information as a fundamental property of the universe (see 08/14/2003 headline).  Otherwise, let this editorial be a lesson for all those who think Biblical cosmology should be linked to the secular cosmology du jour.  One day you feel honored to be invited to the elite cosmological convention.  Next thing you know, you’re at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, where you learn six impossible things before breakfast and the cosmic Cheshire Cat grins and disappears as everybody laughs.  Only if imagination rules will you think this is very cool.

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Categories: Cosmology

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