Intriguing alternatives

[Reprint from 2009 Knowledge of the Glory.] In Proverbs there is a wise observation that says, The first to present his case seems right until another comes forward to question him. History has shown this to be true in the sciences. Scientists are not always the best practitioners of the scientific method. Like the rest of us, they can ride hobby horses and develop blind spots.

One of the things I love about this universe that God created is its many possibilities. And I am glad that he makes Galileos who question reigning paradigms. 

Three new proposals ask if we have the picture right. Whether their proponents will prove to be Galileos is doubtful; nonetheless their opposition to the Big Bang, Wegnerian plate tectonics, and dark matter are intriguing.

Those who dispute the Big Bang seem to me to be in the weakest position. Led by pioneers such as Irving Langmuir and Hannes Alfven, this coterie of scientists suggest plasma currents in space as an alternative explanation for many of the features we see in the universe. However, their theory does not seem to offer the simplicity and predictive power of the Big Bang.

The great weakness of plate tectonics is its non-intuitive demand that plates are subducted. Somehow a large, floating mass must be forced or drawn down to occupy a smaller, denser space, as if forcing icecubes under water into a tray smaller than they emerged from. This has led to an alternate proposal that expansion of the earth and rotation of plates can better explain observed changes than the dominant theory—especially the chronological record of sea-floor spreading. I like this idea, put forward by Karl Luckert and others, which seems to offer no more insuperable difficulties than those demanded by subduction.

Another interesting alternative proposal to a dominant idea is put forward by physicist Georgi Dvali, who says gravity leakage into extra dimensions can explain cosmological observations better than the problematic theory of dark matter.

Will any of these theories supplant the reigning wisdom? Will the questioners prove more right than the first to present their case? I do not know, but as long as scientists are allowed to question, tests will suggest themselves, and truth will advance.

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