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Why look for a new theory of gravity if the big bang cosmology is correct?

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Published: 7 February 2017 (GMT+10)

Occasionally we read in the popular press, especially online, that someone has come up with a new theory of gravity. Why is that even necessary if the current theory describing the evolution of the universe is so correct?

The standard ΛCDM big bang cosmology is derived from an application of certain non-biblical boundary conditions to the physics of Einstein’s general relativity theory. But when that was applied to the universe as a whole, two problems developed for the secular model. One is the need to add in dark energy (or the cosmological constant, Λ (Lambda), to Einstein’s field equations) and the other is the need for a significant amount of invisible cold dark matter (CDM).

On the scale of galaxies and even clusters of galaxies Newtonian physics is used as it is the low gravity limit of general relativity. But without the addition of dark matter the resulting theory, using the known density of visible matter in galaxies (see Figure 1) and clusters, does not match observations. But for more than 40 years now dark matter has been sought in various lab experiments with consistently negative results. This has developed into what is called the dark matter crisis.1

Occasionally a claim is made that a theorist has some inkling of what dark matter particles might be; but the crisis remains.2 Dark matter particles have been sought without success in the galaxy using very sensitive detectors deep in underground mines,3 or with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) over 10 years of experiments looking for the lowest mass stable particle in a theorised class of as-yet-undiscovered supersymmetric particles.4

Something is wrong

The observational data from thousands of galaxies together with the negative outcome of all the experiments searching for dark matter particles indicate that either something is wrong with the physics we use or that the expected dark matter is much more elusive than supposed, or, indeed, does not, in fact, exist—which gets us back to something being wrong with the physics.

wikipedia.org fig-1
Figure 1: Typical rotation curve of a spiral galaxy: Speeds (V) in km/s units as a function of distance from the centre of the galaxy (R) in 1000 light-year (LY) units. The upper curve shows the speeds of the stars in disk region determined from their visible light and the gasses beyond that determined from radio frequency emissions. The lower curve shows what standard Newtonian physics predicts should be observed. The discrepancy is made up by positing the existence of invisible dark matter. 

This same type of problem also applies to the concept of dark energy, which was introduced into the big bang to explain observations that were interpreted to indicate that the expansion rate of the universe was actually increasing over cosmic time, that is, the expansion is accelerating. The question of the identity5 of this ‘anti-gravity’ dark energy has also gone unanswered. It has been suggested that the answer may lie with a particle called a chameleon.6 Only in empty space does the hypothesized chameleon particle take on the characteristics which provide a new anti-gravity force in the universe, hence dark energy. But when you look for it near Earth it takes on a new identity and hides itself so you cannot find it.

To explain dark matter, new physics has been proposed. These include Milgrom’s MOdified Newtonian Dynamics (or MOND)7 and Bekenstein’s Tensor-Vector-Scalar gravity (or TeVeS) a relativistic theory of modified gravity.8 Although not initially intended to address the dark matter crisis, I found that Carmeli’s Cosmological General Relativity (CGR) explained the existing observations with no need for either dark matter or dark energy.

No acceleration

Now some have suggested that, when the large-scale observational data9 for the universe as a whole are all taken into account, dark energy does not need to be included, as the observations applied to the standard cosmology are consistent with no acceleration. The author of one such study said:10

“… it is quite possible that we are being misled and that the apparent manifestation of dark energy is a consequence of analysing the data in an oversimplified theoretical model…”

Moreover, it was noted even earlier that:

“[a]n alternative possibility … can explain the observations as a fluke of cosmological geometry. It avoids invoking dark energy as an ad hoc cause but at the price of throwing out the Copernican principle: roughly speaking, it puts the Earth, or at least our galaxy, back at the centre of the observable universe.”11

The Copernican principle is, of course, an arbitrary condition imposed on the interpretation of cosmological observations in order to avoid the possibility that the Earth has a unique location in the universe, something one might conclude from reading Genesis.

Now a new idea has entered this arena.12

“In 2010, Erik Verlinde surprised the world with a completely new theory of gravity. According to Verlinde, gravity is not a fundamental force of nature, but an emergent phenomenon. In the same way that temperature arises from the movement of microscopic particles, gravity emerges from the changes of fundamental bits of information, stored in the very structure of spacetime.”13

This new theory describes gravity as “emergent”, meaning that it is not fundamental but ‘emerges’ from the universe as it cooled from the initial hot big bang fireball. “At large scales, it seems, gravity just doesn't behave the way Einstein's theory predicts,” Verlinde said.13 His approach is new physics. That may be a much more reasonable approach than looking for all the dark sector entities that are now invoked,14 largely to fill in where the standard physics has failed.

Why are they even looking?

My focus here is not to attempt to decide which theory of gravity is correct. I want to ask a different question. If what we are told is true—i.e. that big bang cosmology is essentially complete and the big bang origin of the universe correct—why do these physicists even look for new physics?

Is it not because as time goes by the research problem of the non-detection of dark matter, dark energy, dark radiation15 (a sterile neutrino), dark photons,16 chameleons6 and many more dark entities17 starts to indicate that the whole paradigm itself is in doubt?

Surely the very concept of a universe that created itself from nothing (without a Creator God) must be thrown into doubt. And does this search for a new physics not validate other proposals of new physics that attempt to explain the observed phenomenon in a way consistent with the biblical creation account in the Bible, such as those proposed by Dr. Russell Humphreys18,19 or myself?20,21 The universe needs a First Cause, a Creator, and that just will not do for the unbelieving world.

I conclude that the secular pursuit of new physics to solve big bang cosmology problems, like their ‘god of the gaps’22 dark matter crisis, is really an attempt to stave off acceptance of what the Creator told us thousands of years ago,

“In the beginning God …”. (Genesis 1:1)

Related Articles

Further Reading

References and notes

  1. Kroupa, P., The dark matter crisis: problems with the current standard model of cosmology and steps towards an improved model. adsabs.harvard.edu (accessed November 2016). Return to text.
  2. Hartnett, J.G., Claimed dark matter ‘find’ won’t help end ‘big bang’ crisis, creation.com, January 25, 2014. Return to text.
  3. Hartnett, J.G., Dark matter search comes up empty, biblescienceforum.com, July 2016. Return to text.
  4. Hartnett, J.G., SUSY is not the solution to the dark matter crisis, biblescienceforum.com, August 2016. Return to text.
  5. Identity means what type of agent causes it. Some suggest a particle, the chameleon (see Ref. 6), others a slowly evolving scalar field. The latter then begs question of what that is. Return to text.
  6. Hartnett, J.G., Dark energy and the elusive chameleon—more darkness from the dark side, creation.com, October 2015. Return to text.
  7. Milgrom modified gravity to make the strength of its force inversely proportional to distance in weak gravitational fields. This contrary to standard Newtonian gravity which is inversely proportional to distance squared. Milgrom’s theory can account for the observed orbital speeds of stars and gasses as shown in Fig. 1 without the need for dark matter. But Milgrom has no underlying fundamental reason why such a modification should be made except by tuning it to observations. Return to text.
  8. Bekenstein introduced a relativistic generalisation (hence more fundamental) of Milgrom’s MOND to produce a mechanism why gravity is modified in the limit of weak accelerations. In the weak-field approximation of the spherically symmetric, static solution, TeVeS reproduces the MOND acceleration formula. Return to text.
  9. From type Ia supernovae, which led to the Nobel prize in physics in 2011, for detection of an accelerating universe. Return to text.
  10. Hartnett, J.G., Now the expansion of the universe is not accelerating, biblescienceforum.com, November 2016. Return to text.
  11. Rennie, J., Nothing special, Scientific American 300(4):8, 2009 Return to text.
  12. Verlinde, E., Emergent Gravity and the Dark universe, Preprint at arxiv.org. Return to text.
  13. New theory of gravity might explain dark matter, phys.org, November 2016. Return to text.
  14. Hartnett, J.G., Where materialism logically leads, creation.com, May 2016. Return to text.
  15. Hartnett, J.G., ‘Dark photons’: another cosmic fudge factor, creation.com, August 2015. Return to text.
  16. Hartnett, J.G., Dark radiation in big bang cosmology, creation.com, November 2014. Return to text.
  17. Hartnett, J.G., Why is Dark Matter everywhere in the cosmos?, creation.com, March 2015. Return to text.
  18. Humphreys, D.R., The ‘Pioneer anomaly’, Creation 31(1):37, December 2008. Return to text.
  19. Humphreys, D.R., New creation cosmology, creation.com, June 2009. Return to text.
  20. Hartnett, J.G., Starlight Time and the New Physics, 2nd Ed., Creation Book Publishers, 2010. Return to text.
  21. Hartnett, J.G., A biblical creationist cosmogony, Answers Research Journal 8:13–20, 2015. Return to text.
  22. Hartnett, J.G., Is ‘dark matter’ the unknown god?, Creation 37(2):22-24, April 2015. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Joe B., United States, 13 February 2017

Dr. Hartnett, I agree with you 100 percent when you say:

“I conclude that the secular pursuit of new physics… is really an attempt to stave off acceptance of what the Creator told us thousands of years ago, “In the beginning God …”. (Genesis 1:1)”

I would ask, why do those who do believe God is the Creator, pursue these answers too? Other than curiosity about how our created world works (and why), it may be more about discovering the depth of our Creator’s glory in His creation. As a first pass, I accept the plain reading of the Bible as a historical document. The next level of course is the Lord's message to us; we can go much much deeper and many of us seek to do just that. Perhaps Newton and Coulomb laws could be viewed as the first layer of the physics of Creation. Then we might see relativity, QM and QED as the next level so of course we hunger to know more so we dig deeper, just like we do with scripture.

The confounding fact is that the Lord’s word tells us more than we can digest in a lifetime and there is still no analytical solution to the generalized three-body problem. So what are we to do? Keep praying for wisdom and studying Gods AWSOME Creation. Sometimes the Joy is in the journey.

-Joe

John Hartnett responds

I believe the Creator has put in us the desire to understand not only the Creator Himself but also the creation. The point we make on this website over and over again is that only through God's words can we really begin to understand that creation. Isaac Newton wrote in his book Principia

This most excellently contrived System of the Sun, and the Planets, and the Comets, could not have its Origin from any other than from the wise Conduct and Dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.

But nowadays naturalism, with its commitment to materialism, seeks only answers from the creation, denying the intelligent and powerful Being.

Alex W., Australia, 10 February 2017

Why look for a new theory of gravity if the big bang cosmology is correct? And more importantly, why tell the public that big bang cosmology is correct when the experts know it isn't? Because 'big science' gets billions of dollars of public money and must be seen to be making progress to keep the money flowing. However, the imaginary foundation of materialism cannot produce anything but an imaginary description of the universe and its history. A smoke and mirrors description of the universe can only be improved by adding more smoke and mirrors.

Jared C., United States, 8 February 2017

This article reminds me of a conversation I recently had in an online community with a man explaining why he was an atheist (agnostic, when pressed). For an online conversation it was civil, but it was still about as productive as one might expect an online conversation to be.... seemingly completely futile.

After some back and forth, and a little prodding, he finally summarized his beliefs that, "We don't know the conditions of the universe prior to [or immediately after] the Big Bang, so it could have been anything. And since it could be anything, the simplest conclusion is that the universe has no reason to need a Creator." The saddest part was that he believed his reasoning was completely sound and fully supported by science. He didn't like me telling him his statement was a statement of faith and not of science.

I've seen so many other similar faith statements made by people and especially scientist. The science community's faith in the unknown is remarkable... and the irony of that faith is completely lost on them.

Eddie C., United States, 7 February 2017

I find the extent of the faith that some of these scientist have to be extraordinary. I have heard arguments that, "if God exist why can't we see him?" Of course we know from Romans 1 that he made himself manifest through his creation. Then they'll say, "why doesn't he just reveal himself to us?" Of course he did, not only through Jesus Christ but through scripture, John 1 1:5, John 5:39, 2 Timothy 3:16. Yet despite that, they do not see the hypocrisy in dark matter, dark energy, evolutionary stasis, and so many other hypothetical workarounds to their own theories.

The search for theories that fill the gaps will continue. There is an extraordinary amount of faith that science will "find" these answers eventually. Though incomplete and contradictory, this basis of this faith in science is the desire to be able to intellectually explain a universe without God. Yet, even the autonomy of the universe speaks of a creator. Why would an all powerful, all knowing, all present God, design a universe that he would have to constantly maintain?

Jack S., United States, 7 February 2017

Ah yes, the continuing quest of naturalism (materialism) to explain it all. Question to the naturalism advocate, "Do you believe that all that is observed in the universe can be explained by 'natural processes'"? If the answer is yes, and it should be to be consistent with their world-view position, then the next simple question is, "What natural processes were responsible for the existence of the very first quanta of energy"? If they can give a rational, scientific (observational) answer they win the debate. On the other hand .....

Jack Sofield, retired medical physicist

Gareth S., Australia, 7 February 2017

The mystery of Gravity. Utterly fascinating. I would not be surprised if man never gets to the bottom (or top) of it. Could it be God is supernaturally sustaining His Creation with this force? I may have stepped too far into a field I know little about - perhaps it is actually explainable. What I am even more confused about is how any scientist can really expect the the universe can come from nothing. At some point we have to attribute it's existence to an almighty being that transcends space and time. It is the ONLY option.

John H., Australia, 6 February 2017

It would be so much more profitable and beneficial if physicists would be as accepting of the veracity of God's Word as archeologists, and be as guided in their quests for knowledge. It is a wondrous marvel how otherwise manifestly intelligent, creative, resourceful and determined people can allow themselves to ignore the overwhelming evidence given to them for free.

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