Cosmologists Reverse Their Dogmas
Oops! The Previous Astronomical Conclusions May Be Wrong:
The universe’s expansion may not continue forever,
but “could stop expanding ‘remarkably soon’.”
by Jerry Bergman, PhD
According to an article in Live Science, the “oscillating universe” might be coming back in vogue. A paper in PNAS by Paul Steinhardt, Director of the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science at Princeton University in New Jersey, and two of his colleagues, Cosmin Andrei and Anna Ijjas, have announced that, in contrast to the previous view, the expansion of the universe will soon cease. By ‘soon’ they mean “remarkably quickly” in astronomical terms, which is in “the next 65 million years — then, within 100 million years, the universe could stop expanding altogether, and instead it could enter an era of slow contraction that ends billions of years from now with the death — or perhaps the rebirth — of time and space.”
This is a major rethink of what cosmologists have been teaching for the last two decades. Reporter Brandon Spektor describes the new view: “After nearly 13.8 billion years of nonstop expansion, the universe could soon grind to a standstill, then slowly start to contract, new thinking published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests.” The astronomers admit that their theory “hinges on past observations of expansion alone — and because the present nature of dark energy in the universe is such a mystery — the predictions in this paper are currently impossible to test. For now, they can only remain theories.”
About Dark Matter and Dark Energy
The standard big bang theory has been massaged with a couple of dark things that work against each other. Cold dark matter was added to explain the lumpiness problem (i.e., why matter clumps into galaxies and galaxy clusters). It adds gravity, binding matter together, but cannot be detected by telescopes or spectra. Dark energy, on the other hand, was postulated in the late 1990s as a label for a mysterious force that causes the universe to expand faster and faster as time progresses. If the force exerted by dark energy is unchangeable, the universe should continue and accelerate outward forever.
Fritz Zwicky was the first to postulate ‘dark matter’ from observations of the large motions of galaxies in clusters using both radio and optical telescopes. Observations from rotation curves of galaxies, and of motions of galaxies in clusters, that there must exist an enormous amount of matter in the universe that does not give off measurable levels of electromagnetic radiation. Therefore, this matter cannot be detected directly from Earth by existing methods. The consensus today believes that some 90 to 99 percent of the universe consists of dark matter and dark energy which cannot be directly observed. Steinhardt et al. estimate that “dark energy makes up approximately 70% of the total mass-energy of the universe” and acknowledges that “its properties remain a total mystery.”
Dark matter, often called ‘cold matter,’ is believed to be non-radiating because of its low ability to absorb energy, and also because the cold matter particles are slow-moving in contrast to ‘hot matter.’ Matter that does not produce light or radiation, i.e., is not energized by the means normally used to produce light such as heat, is detectable only by its gravitational effects on visible matter. A press release from the planetarium of the University of Louisville says of dark matter, “it is true that much of this information is speculative.”
For matter in outer space to be observed directly, it must emit light or other forms of radiation that can be sensed by instruments. Because X-ray, gamma ray and other electromagnetic radiation detectors are unable to detect it, it can be inferred indirectly. One goal of the Hubble space telescope was to search for clues that might explain dark matter.
Dark matter was first postulated in the 1960s from the study of spiral galaxies. The calculations indicated then that these enormous collections of billions of stars were rotating at such a high rate that the outer regions of the spiral galaxies should have spun off into intergalactic space eons ago. The estimates that led to this belief were derived from rotational-speed calculations, specifically both the speed of the spiral stars in the outer part of the galaxy and calculations of their required gravity level. The conclusion of this research was that there was not nearly enough matter in the galaxy to produce the gravity level necessary to keep spiral galaxies together.
In developing his theory of relativity, Einstein introduced an arbitrary factor in his equation called a cosmological constant to stabilize the universe — otherwise his calculations supported the view that the universe was expanding as illustrated by the Big Bang theory. The cosmological constant is claimed to be an unchanging form of energy that was woven into the fabric of space-time. When Edwin Hubble found evidence that the universe was indeed expanding, Einstein was able to remove the arbitrary factor, and his equations worked out. He later called adding the correction factor “the biggest blunder” in his life.
The Doppler Redshift of Light
Certain absorption lines in spectra from stars are associated with colors. When these lines are shifted toward the red, they are interpreted as evidence that the object is moving away from us. When fainter objects have larger redshifts, this is interpreted as a universal expansion: the farther away an object, the faster it is moving. This would become a major support for Big Bang Theory because then all of the matter in the universe could be viewed as having moved away from a single point of origin. If the scenario were to be reversed, all the matter in the universe would be interpreted as collapsing into a small spherical volume.
Astronomers compare this with the Doppler effect in sound. Train horns go down in pitch as they pass. As the train moves away from an object, the distance between its waves becomes greater, producing a Doppler shift. Similarly, with light, it is believed that waves became farther apart as an object such as a galaxy moves away from us. In the opposite direction, objects emitting electromagnetic waves become compressed as the object moves closer, producing a blue shift. When the light is analyzed with a spectroscope, objects that display a red shift are moving away (receding) from the viewer. Conversely, objects that display blue shift are moving towards the viewer. Most stars and galaxies produce a red shift. A few, such as the Andromeda galaxy, produce a blue shift. These spectral deviations are interpreted as strong evidence for the Big Bang theory.
The requirement for movement to produce stability, causing the universe to expand, is a separate issue from the supposed validity of Big Bang cosmology. Both the expansion and the rotation of planets and galaxies could be a result of a designed stability process built into the universe at its creation.
Does Dark Energy Decay with Time?
In the 1990s, astronomers were astonished to find evidence that the universe is not just expanding, but accelerating in its expansion. This came from observing redshifts of distant quasars. Astronomers theorized that the fabric of spacetime would rip apart many billions of years in the future if this acceleration were to continue.
The basis of a new theory published in PNAS on April 5, 2022 is the assumption that dark energy can decay with time, causing its strength to weaken. If this is correct, the anti-gravitational property of dark energy would dissipate over time and become more like ordinary matter. This would cause the universe expansion rate to slow down. In time, the universe would contract until it collapses in on itself, causing a big “crunch,” ending spacetime as we know it. The other scenario is the universe may contract enough to return to its original condition, setting up the possibility of another Big Bang — or a big “bounce” — creating a new universe from the old one.
—Ed. note: These are old scenarios that Andrei et al. are resurrecting. The “oscillating universe” idea has a long history.
For now, cosmologists believe the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, a conclusion based on observational evidence interpreted favorably toward that assumption. The Princeton professors propose a mechanism called ‘quintessence’ which results in a form of dark energy that changes over time. This dynamical dark energy would slow the acceleration, resulting in a transition from rapid expansion to slow contraction. Quintessence is a hypothetical term to try to explain the origin of dark energy and its dynamical evolution.
The new theory raises many questions, such as how soon could this transition occur? And at what point would it be detectable on Earth? As noted, Andrei et al. speculate that the transition could be less than 100 million years from now, and yet, for reasons described, it is not yet detectable today. The scenario, though, fits naturally with recent theories of cyclic cosmology and modern conjectures about quantum gravity.
The main idea that has inspired the new theory is that the universe will not continue to expand forever, as once commonly thought. But the idea that it will eventually stop expanding and begin to contract, producing the so-called ‘big crunch,’ is strictly hypothetical. Although cosmologists have been claiming with confidence that the expansion of the universe has been accelerating for billions of years, now these cosmologists believe that the repellent force of dark energy which causes the expansion may be weakening. No direct observation, such as any evidence that the expansion has been slowing, was given to support this new theory.
Likely, part of its motivation was psychological because it opens up the possibility that an oscillating universe can potentially exist forever. As Robert Jastrow had shown in his book God and the Astronomers (see Illustra short film about this), most secular astronomers were very uncomfortable with a ‘big bang’ because it led to thoughts of a Creator. In an oscillating universe, life could evolve again in the far distant future on a new universe created from the rebound. That view would also raise the possibility that the universe has eternally existed via an endless series of oscillations. Thus, it did not have a beginning ex nihilo as postulated by the earlier standard Big Bang model.
One wonders if this new proposal is yet another attempt to discredit the Genesis account of the origin of the universe.
—Ed. note: It doesn’t help materialists. One can always ask where the original universe came from. It cannot be eternal, because the Second Law of Thermodynamics survives the rebound; there had to be a beginning. Philosophically, it leads to despair, because nothing lasts. Our lives, our efforts, our dreams have no enduring significance. Both the eternal-acceleration view and the oscillating view end in despair.
 Specktor, Brandon. 2022. The universe could stop expanding ‘remarkably soon’, study suggests. In just 100 million years, the universe could start to shrink, new research suggests. https://www.livescience.com/end-cosmic-expansion.
 Andrei, et al. 2022. Rapidly descending dark energy and the end of cosmic expansion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.2200539119..
 Specktor, 2022.
 Specktor, 2022.
 Andrei et al., 2022.
 “The Birth of the Universe.” HS Module 1, Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium. Louisville, KY: University of Louisville. https://louisville.edu/planetarium/research/implementation/visualization-scripts/high-school/hs-module-1.
 Andrei et al., 2022.
 Doran, Michael, et al. 2001. Quintessence and the separation of cosmic microwave background peaks. The Astrophysical Journal 559(2): 501–506, October.
Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.