Commentary by: Rick DeLanoWhether the universe, as measured by the incredibly powerful instruments and operational procedures of “precision cosmology”, accords with the basic assumption of our scientific worldview- the Copernican cosmological principle- is now established.
President: Stellar Motion Pictures
Producer/Writer: The Principle
President: Stellar Motion Pictures
Producer/Writer: The Principle
“The cosmological principle is not in the sky” is no longer merely an argument of a years-ahead-of-its-time science documentary.
It is the title of an exhaustive study published on the Cornell University scientific preprint site last month.
It may take a few more years, or even a few more decades, for the message to begin to permeate through to the proverbial man in the street, because there is a lot of money, a lot of power, and a lot of influence involved.
There is a worldview involved.
But the Copernican cosmological principle is not found in the sky.
In other words, even the bare photons-impacting-collectors and x-y-and-z axis “hard science” of precision cosmology is now telling us that our present, Big Bang picture of the universe and our place in it is not only wrong- that ought to have become abundantly apparent once 96% of the mass and energy of the universe was added in by hand out of thin air to make the equations come out right- in important aspects, it is the ancient, geocentric cosmology which provides us a more truthful icon of the cosmos, and this remarkable turnabout is suggested even through the scientific operations and instruments of a bare “physical” cosmology.
The implications of this are so profound that they point beyond even physical cosmology itself; more exactly, they point above it.
Recall the remarkable exchange between George Ellis and Bernard Carr near the end of “The Principle”, where it is suggested that the incredible fine tunings required for intelligent life to exist in the universe leave us ultimately faced with two possible explanations, a “multiverse” or a Fine Tuner, a Creator.
Lately, things have started to go very badly for the multiverse, or the “multimess”, as one of inflation theory’s originators, Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University, re-names it in a remarkable Scientific American article covered by us here.
That article has sparked a marvelously long-overdue, good-old-fashioned dust up in cosmology circles- airing it out in public with as amusing a kerfuffle as the scientific Olympians have provided us mere mortals in quite a long time.
Since the release of “The Principle” in fact.
You can read about the latest developments here, but the sign of the times that carries the most import is that more and more theorists are willing to publicly challenge even the most important and basic assumptions of standard cosmology, and they are ready to do so on the basis of the integrity of the scientific method itself.
Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm shift is approaching. Theories which have yielded the standard cosmology “physical universe” (with the exception of quantum physics, which, as anyone who has read Wolfgang Smith’s “The Quantum Enigma” will know, is the key exception) have arrived at last at dead ends, with ad-hoc ex-post-facto patch ups galore and the “multimess” providing the Big Red Flag that something has gone amiss.
Speaking of Wolfgang Smith- and it has been my pleasure to have been speaking with him an immensely enjoyable good deal of late- the matter of the Kuhnian paradigm shift is considered by him in his remarkable “Science and Myth“:
“There remains the question of evidential basis, of verification. It is to be noted, first of all, that in the absence of controlled experiment, verification in the full scientific sense is ruled out in advance: the best one can hope for is that signals from outer space, when interpreted according to terrestrial physics, do not conflict with the theory. It happens, however, that they do, which is to say that it has been necessary to introduce a number of ad hoc hypotheses: i.e., assumptions formulated specifically for the purpose of squaring the theory with conflicting observational findings. What is more, the process of adding extra assumptions in response to adverse data appears to be ongoing; as Brent Tully (known for his discovery of supergalaxies) observed: ‘It’s disturbing that there is a new theory every time there is a new observation.’ To which one might add that Tully has every right to be disturbed: for such a modus operandi in effect eliminates empirical verification as a criterion of truth. Under such auspices it becomes hard to ascertain whether there exists so much as a shred of real evidence in support of the theory.”
The story we tell ourselves about the universe and our place in it is about to change, and whenever a cosmology is changed, a civilization is changed.
It is, in the end, not the “hard data” of cosmology that most concern us.
It is the myth constructed to reify those data into a worldview- universes pop out of nothing, reducing ultimately to aggregations of fundamental quantum particles and fields, eternally inflating infinite multiverses (about which, ironically, physics in the end can tell us not a single true thing)- this is what concerns us primarily.
It is remarkable how so many have of us have been intrigued and even, seemingly, fulfilled by the science fiction universe of standard cosmology. But it is becoming abundantly clear now that the prodigious feat of building a universe out of quantum fluctuations is not going to yield a cosmos, an ordered universe.
The dead ends have been reached, and science is, as if by nature, returning to its business of experimental test and, yes, falsification of even its most cherished assumptions (the very first and most cherished of which is that the quantitative aspects of reality are, in fact, all the reality there is).
The great project to reduce the world to what can be measured and operated upon by the instruments and procedures of physical science is reaching its end, and in reaching its end finds itself confronted by the ancient wisdom of humanity, which wisdom modernity continues to be perfectly persuaded has been banished forever to a pre-scientific age of myth and superstition.
As it turns out, not so much.
Having read the cosmic icon in its barest, physical sense, and seen, as in “The Principle“, the signs of a coming transformation of our cosmology- of our worldview- we can progress beyond what is actually the least important aspect of the cosmic icon: what the remarkable mathematician/physicist/philosopher Wolfgang Smith has called “the debate…over the outer husk“.
We begin to turn to what are, for us, the actually vital aspects of what Smith terms an integral cosmology, one which reconnects us to the transcendent realities that lie beyond and above the photons and the collectors and the graphs and the charts, far beyond the most rigorous scientific studies.
It is toward such an integral cosmology that “The Principle” points, and toward which the luminous writings of Wolfgang Smith will take us further along the way:
“The heavens, I contend, will declare ‘the glory of God’ or the supreme futility of existence: here there can be no middle ground…(i)t is surely no accident that the rise of astrophysics has been accompanied by the advent of post-modernist nihilism in its philosophic as well as cultural manifestations. The drift into nihilism corresponds precisely to the loss of substance implicit in the physicist’s world view: culture and cosmology, it turns out, are intimately linked. In fact, as the cosmology flattens, so invariably does the culture.”— Wolfgang Smith, “Ancient Wisdom and Modern Misconceptions- A Critique of Contemporary Scientism” Angelico Press 2015
The cosmos transcends the domain of physics, and can not be reduced to it.
The disintegrating dream of a “theory of everything” might not be quite yet at the nightmare stage for the theorists, but it is not that far off, either.
The notion of an integral cosmos read as an icon, as a sign, as an “up”, furnishes the key by which we return from an “infinite and expanding universe”, from a “multiverse eternally generated by eternal inflation” concerning which we can never know a single true thing.
We return at last to the real world.