Secular cosmologists claim that our Universe formed in a Big Bang, about 13.8 billion years ago.
Then, right after that Bang, our cosmos had a brief period of explosive expansion known as inflation. During this time, our Universe exploded outwards in size, many times faster than the speed of light.
Many non-cosmologists scratch their heads over this. How could the Universe have expanded faster than the speed of light? What was powering this alleged expansion? How did it overcome gravity?
These are excellent questions. But if you ask them, you’ll usually be told that although inflation sounds strange to the uninitiated, it’s actually a sound scientific model—a model which all cosmologists believe.
But this isn’t true.
As I’ll discuss below, inflation is not a sound scientific model. It’s a non-scientific story about mysterious, never-observed, anti-gravity energy—a story invented only because the Big Bang model has several problems, which need inflation to solve them.
Nor is it true that everybody believes in inflation.
Obviously, scientists who accept Biblical creation reject this story. But even among secular cosmologists, there is a fierce debate about inflation.
Some of it has spilled out into public view, in the pages of Scientific American magazine.
It started with an article entitled, “Pop Goes the Universe,” by three cosmologists who reject inflation. The authors pointed out some of the serious problems that inflationary theory has developed.
First, inflation is outside of known physics. “Inflation requires that the universe be filled with a high density of energy that gravitationally self-repels, thereby enhancing the expansion and causing it to speed up. It is important to note, however, that this critical ingredient, referred to as inflationary energy, is purely hypothetical; we have no direct evidence that it exists.” (The emphasis here was added; ditto for the quotes below.)
The Planck mission, which has given us the most precise measurements of the CMB (cosmic microwave background), has not provided the expected support for popular inflationary models. Instead, “the Planck data disfavored the simplest inflation models and exacerbated long-standing foundational problems with the theory.”
Inflation makes predictions which have failed. For example, inflation, if it had occurred, would have produced waves of spacetime distortions in the early cosmos. These would have left visible patterns of polarization in the CMB today. If these patterns existed, the Planck mission would have observed them. But none were observed.
For inflation to start, the universe must have been in an initial state that is extremely unlikely. The overall story has become so contrived that it’s not credible. “It is more difficult than finding a snowy mountain equipped with a ski lift and well-maintained ski slopes in the middle of a desert.”
Plus, inflation was supposed to explain how a random, non-finely-tuned Big Bang could have produced our extremely finely-tuned Universe. But now, Planck has shown that inflation needs to have a ridiculous amount of fine-tuning in its own right—which just recreates one of the main problems for the Big Bang that inflation was supposed to fix.
And once inflation starts, it’s impossible to stop. The result is a “multiverse”: an infinite number of universes. But as the authors point out, this is not a robust scientific idea:
“Eternal inflation may devolve into a purely quantum world of uncertain and random fluctuations everywhere… We would like to suggest “multimess” as a more apt term to describe the unresolved outcome of eternal inflation… the multimess does not predict the properties of our observable universe to be the likely outcome. A good scientific theory is supposed to explain why what we observe happens instead of something else. The multimess fails this fundamental test.”
But despite inflation’s numerous problems, secular cosmologists are not willing to question it. Instead, they have slapped on a series of bandages. Unfortunately, these bandages have made things worse instead of better. “Theorists rapidly rushed to patch the inflationary picture but at the cost of making arcane models of inflationary energy and revealing yet further problems.”
As a result of these and other problems, inflation is not merely an incorrect scientific theory. It’s actually not a scientific theory at all. It has deteriorated into something outside of science altogether. “Inflationary cosmology, as we currently understand it, cannot be evaluated using the scientific method.”
I discussed inflation in Volume III of my astronomy series. Viewers of that video will know that inflation has even more problems than the ones discussed here.
Nevertheless, it’s gratifying to see some secular cosmologists openly admitting that as a scientific proposal, inflation has failed.
In fact, one of these authors (Paul Steinhardt) was one of the original architects of inflationary theory. So, his rejection of it now is noteworthy.
In the article, Steinhardt and his co-authors ask their colleagues to re-consider their support for this failed idea. In fact, recognizing that inflation is incorrect is a good thing, because it brings us closer to the real truth, whatever that might be. “The fact that our leading ideas have not worked out is a historic opportunity for a theoretical breakthrough.”
So… did their colleagues in the secular community welcome these insights?
Of course not.
Instead, the secular cosmological establishment circled the wagons. Four authors (Andrei Linde and three others) immediately fired back an article of their own.
They insisted that inflation is doing just fine. They said it is well-supported by current observations.
But that’s not true, for multiple reasons. Steinhardt and his co-authors posted an extensive rebuttal to the rebuttal. They showed that the “evidence” that Linde et. al. claim to support inflation today, is the opposite of what many inflation theorists (especially Andrei Linde) had originally predicted that inflation would produce.
And as they note, “In normal science an observation cannot be counted as evidence for a theory if the theory would be compatible with the opposite observation as well.”
But inflation isn’t normal science. Inflation is a magical, mystical anti-gravity energy that only exists in the minds of secular cosmologists.
It was invented only because it was supposed to solve certain problems for the Big Bang model.
If inflation is false, then these problems have not been solved after all. And each of these problems are serious enough to disprove that the Big Bang happened.
So the battle over inflation is not a minor quarrel. At stake is the very Big Bang model itself.
But the anti-inflation advocates have a tough fight ahead of them.
As we’ve seen, the secular cosmological community would rather believe in magical things like inflation than to face the reality that their Big Bang model is a failure.
Image credit: ESA – C. Carreau