The New Ptolemaic System:"How the Big Bang Theory"Came to Dominate Modern Cosmology

Speaker: Categories: Mar 08, 2003


[1hr, 19min, 30sec / 1hr, 8min, 23sec]


Have you ever pondered what it might have been like to live among God's people in the days when they knewwith certaintythat the earth wasflat, that the sun made its daily orbitacross the domeof the heavens, most often followed by the moon? If challenged, they could always cite God's Word for evidence. Of course, the belief of these, God's people, was pretty much the same as the various cultures which surrounded them. Why would their God permit them to have such erroneous understandings of the earth and its surroundings? Does this same God permit us to hold erroneous understandings today, some of which might even be supported by Scripture?

The content of the next AAFSD meeting will most likely prompt some dictionary research - so be prepared.

Lee Greer states:"Cosmology in a sense is the study of the world (Gr.kosmos) and everything in it, the nature and origin of the universe, and of necessity the nature and relation of humankind to the cosmos - Where do we come from? Why are we here? Why is the world the way it is? Is there meaning to it all? How do human beings relate to that world? Historically, whoever has controlled cosmology has specified the underlying world-view of peoples and civilizations, and so indirectly influenced the religious faith, philosophy, politics, socio-economic order, and the self-perception of the populace. The battle to control modem cosmology has similar stakes."

"[My presentation] will seek to tell the story in a nontechnical manner, illustrated with many magnificent astronomical images from the Hubble Space Telescope, the ROSAT X-ray observatory, the Chandra X-ray observatory, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, etc., noting the following:

1. The earth-centered view of the universe of Ptolemy (2nd century AD) prevailed in the west for more than 1000 years. Many Christians (in both the Catholic and Reformed traditions) tied their theologies to the Ptolemaic system and resisted the more correct sun-centered Copernican system (16th century AD) which began modem astronomy.

2. Modem cosmology began early in the 20th century with the discoveries that the Milky Way Galaxy is only one of many'island universes'and that the galaxies are receding away from each other (Hubble redshift-distance relation; 190001930) and, therefore, we seem to live in an'expanding'universe.

3. Explosive or hot'big bang'cosmologies (HBBC) and the alternate classic'steady-state'cosmologies (CSSC), both with strengths and weaknesses and making their own observational predictions, were proposed to explain these discoveries (1930-65). We will examine these observational tests.

4. Like the history of cosmology itself, the big bang model's battle to gain dominance (1945-1970) and maintain it (1970-present) has been marked by colorful personalities, genuine triumphs, stupendous claims based on assumptions and meager or inconclusive data, and even outright suppression of conflicting data and competing explanations. Politically'the war of the world-views'has affected allocation of government research funding, observatory positions, telescope time, the popular portrayal of astronomy, and possibly even the awarding of the Nobel Prize.

5. Prominently Christians and their institutions have been quick (starting in 1951) to endorse the big bang model apparently for theological reasons relating to creation. Over the years many have built whole exuberantly confident theologies of creation on aspects of the big bang such as a single cataclysmic beginning when physics'breaks down,'the so-called'fine-tuning'of initial conditions and expansion parameters. A number of the'fine tuning'parameters are actuallyad hocadjustments to make the big bang work at all. Apologists, both religious and secular, have hailed the theory with almost mythic fervor,ad hocassumptions and all. The big bang theory has indeed become the New Ptolemaic system.

6. However, a growing body of evidence (scattered,'discordant'-intrinsic, and quantized redshifts, rapid active galactic nuclei, apparent clustered galactic ejection phenomena, inferences from scale-invariant gravitational equations, etc.) assembled by courageous, independent-minded astronomers and cosmologists has been accumulating for more than 40 years. These findings suggest the need for alternate models of an'expanding'universe that may well be very different, older, and more vast than the standard HBBC view. Sadly, the outcome seems likely to be determined in a highly Ptolemaic (political-cultural-religious) fashion rather than scientifically. Happily, of course, the cosmos remains grandly indifferent to whatever we may think. The presentation will summarize these findings.

7. The story is a cautionary tale for Christians against closely linking theology or personal faith to any particular scientific model or restrictive world-view - a warning specifically applicable to the current debate among Seventh-day Adventists on creation-evolution and the age of life on earth. Can Christians, including Seventh-day Adventists, freely allow the scientific data and Scriptural inferences to lead where they will? To use a molecular signaling term,do we allow'crosstalk'in our understanding of God's books of revelation, nature, and historical experience?[Emphasis supplied]

8. We will conclude with a number of cosmological evidences for a"designed"preparation for the existence of life that are not'big bang'dependent.


As a son of missionary parents, Lee Greer grew up in the Middle East (Iran) and West Africa (Sierra Leone). He earned his BA degree in History and English from Southwestern Adventist College, Keene, Texas, and his MS in Biology from SuI Ross State University, Alpine, Texas .He presented two papers at the 1999 Biblical Research Institute Science Council and two papers at the International Faith and Science Conference in Ogden, Utah, in August, 2002. He is an active member of the Campus Hill SDA Church.

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