Is Inflation Theory in Trouble?
For more than a quarter of a century, “inflation” has been viewed as the savior of the Big Bang theory. The Big Bang was in trouble in the late 1970s because of the flatness problem and the horizon problem: our universe appeared to be too homogeneous and isotropic to be an accident. If a runaway inflation occurred within the first second of the expansion, cosmologist Alan Guth calculated, it would even out any differences and produce the nearly-uniform universe we all know and love. It seemed an elegant, simple solution.
Many argued in the meantime that inflation was untestable. Some said it was an ad hoc “rescuing device” to save a theory in trouble. Nevertheless, Guth and others have claimed that it has passed every test thrown at it (02/21/2005). Astronomers have pretty much incorporated one of the varieties of inflation into the standard model. This week in News at Nature, however, a study was reported that doesn’t need cosmic inflation.
Could the Big Bang have come not at the beginning of the universe, but after a long, slow period of shrinkage?
That’s one theory bolstered by a new analysis of the Big Bang’s afterglow, which shows that the early universe did not inflate with the smoothness that many theorists expected.
“The standard, canonical models will be ruled out if this holds,” says Amit Yadav, an astronomer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “The simplicity is gone.”
There’s a lot at stake in the result, the article states: “it could also lead to a radical reinterpretation of what the Big Bang was and whether it marked the universe’s beginning.”
On another campus, a different study is calling inflation into doubt. According to Science Daily, Lawrence Krauss at Case Western Reserve University failed to find the expected noise pattern in the cosmic background radiation expected from inflation theory. The article, in passing, questions the testability of inflation:
Inflation theory arose in the 1980s as a means to explain some features of the universe that had previously baffled astronomers such as why the universe is so close to being flat and why it is so uniform. Today, inflation remains the best way to theoretically understand many aspects of the early universe, but most of its predictions are sufficiently malleable that consistency with observation cannot be considered unambiguous confirmation.
The team claims the polarization pattern that had been used by inflationists as confirmation could be produced by a different mechanism.
If the universe is older and more complex than a recent inflationary Big Bang, other questions arise. According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the universe cannot be infinitely old. It would have gone to its heat death infinitely long ago.
The only solution appears to be a controlled expansion done by intelligent design. Enter the Bible, that claims a dozen times that God stretched out the heavens. That fits not only the expansion evidence, but the fine-tuning as well. Materialists are left totally baffled trying to account for these observations without design.