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Today’s blacklisted American: Scientists questioning Big Bang theory protest censorship of their work

Webb's first deep field image
Nothing in Webb’s first deep field image shall be questioned, by anyone!

While the blacklisting described in today’s column has little to do with left vs right politics, it demonstrates clearly that the desire to silence dissent is now culturally pervasive across many fields. In science it has become especially toxic, as this story clearly shows:

Twenty-four astronomers and physicists from ten countries have signed a petition protesting the censorship of papers that are critical of the Big Bang Hypothesis by the open pre-print website arXiv. Run by Cornell University, arXiv is supposed to provide an open public forum for researchers to exchange pre-publication papers, without peer-review. But during June, 2022, arXiv rejected for publication on the website three papers by Dr. Riccardo Scarpa, Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, and Eric J. Lerner, LPPFusion, Inc. which are critical of the validity of the Big Bang hypothesis.

…[quoting the petition] “Without judging the scientific validity of the papers, it is clear to us that these papers are both original and substantive and are of interest to all those concerned with the current crisis in cosmology. It plainly appears that arXiv has refused publication to these papers only because of their conclusions, which both provide specific predictions relevant to forthcoming observations and challenge LCDM cosmology [the standard dark matter/dark energy Big Bang hypothesis]. Such censorship is anathema to scientific discourse and to the possibility of scientific advance.

“We strongly urge that arXiv maintain its long-standing practice of being an “open-access archive” of non-peer reviewed “scholarly articles” and not violate that worthy practice by imposing any censorship. Instead, we encourage arXiv to abide by its own principles, and publish these three papers and others like them that clearly provide ‘sufficient original or substantive scholarly research’ results and are of obvious great interest to the arXiv audience.”

Lerner and Scarpa had attempted to get their papers published in a peer review journal and had been stymied, apparently because the topic of their paper was inappropriate for that journal. They then decided to publish on arXiv, which has for almost three decades been open to the publication of all scientific papers written by credentialed scientists, as noted at the website:

arXiv is a free distribution service and an open-access archive for 2,095,067 scholarly articles in the fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics, electrical engineering and systems science, and economics. Materials on this site are not peer-reviewed by arXiv.

The database was designed as a clearinghouse for legitimate scientists to get their work out quickly, even if it hasn’t yet been accepted for publication. Both Lerner and Scarpa fit that description, so publishing their papers on the web on arXiv should have been routine.

Instead, the anonymous moderators at arXiv rejected the papers. So much for arXiv’s claim it does not do peer-review.

Nor is this the only example of blacklisting at arXiv. The first link above describes the experience of three other scientists who also found their papers blocked because their work raised questions about the consensus Big Bang theory. For example,

Starting in January 2019, a series of papers by Grit Kalies, HTW University of Applied Sciences Dresden and Christian Jooss, Institute of Materials Physics, University of Goettingen, also singers of the petition, were rejected by arXiv and they too questioned the validity of the Big Bang Hypothesis. They wrote in a letter to arXiv, “the anonymous moderators are misusing arXiv to promote their personal or the prevailing worldview in physics.”

In another case, the rejected paper was subsequently accepted by a physics journal and published, strongly suggesting that the rejection by arXiv’s moderators was inappropriate.

I have reviewed the papers by Lerner and Scarpa, and found the questions their raise about the Big Bang theory to be reasonable and at least worth some consideration. (You can read all three papers here.) At a minimum the papers document the many uncertainties behind that theory, many of which have not been confirmed by subsequent observations. Even if the alternative theory they tout is absurd, their work to illustrate the weakness of the current concensus should never be blocked, because without such questioning scientific knowledge cannot be advanced.

Unfortunately, I have found over the years that the scientists in the cosmological community have repeatedly worked to silence doubt about the standard Big Bang theory. While some dissent is allowed, it must be framed very carefully or else it will be squelched, and quickly. Cosmologists quickly learn that if they want their careers to flourish they had better be careful what they say. If not, they will find themselves looking for work in another field.

Worse, that effort appears to be growing more blatant and oppressive, even as these same scientists now have a new and amazing tool — the James Webb Space Telescope — designed to expressly help answer these questions. That this community appears instead eager to silence debate suggests that it will not learn as much from Webb as it should, because it will be blind to results that contradict its assumptions.

That this kind of censorship has now become rampant in many scientific fields, from climate research to cosmology to medicine to planetary science, bodes ill for all of western civilization. For example, the effort in the past two years during the COVID epidemic to silence dissenting medical scientists by government was certainly a root cause of the generally bad policy by those governments during the Wuhan panic. Only one opinion was allowed to be heard, and though its conclusions (the requirement for lockdowns, masks, and COVID shot mandates) were faulty and did not work, those were the only conclusions allowed.

Since the Enlightenment the unrelenting pursuit of truth — no matter whose balloon gets pricked — has been the hallmark of the scientific method, and the foundation of our social order. If instead we now allow authority to determine truth for the sake of power and control, not only will science fail, but so will all the pillars of our civilization. You can’t have good engineering, efficient businesses, good education, and most important of all just rule, if the pursuit of truth is not fundamental.

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  • Chris

    This looks similar to scientists putting forth theories – and data – that question the cause of the dinosaur extinction due to the asteroid hitting the Yucatán peninsula..

    We are witnessing the death of science – after a long prosperous rise.

  • Concerned

    Nothing lasts forever, and lifetimes of civilizations are even shorter. Hence Elon Musk’s haste to expand us beyond this rock. The window may indeed be open a very short time.

  • Phill O

    The big bang theory is just that: a theory. When enough evidence is accumulated, it becomes a law. But even laws have their limitation: eg. relativity vs Newtonian mechanics.

    Now, try and get the leftist leaning folk to admit this, is a whole different story.

  • DJ

    This subject recalls a book titled “The Trouble With Physics” by Lee Smolin. “The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of Science, and What Comes Next. In short, he lays out the financial motivation to develop all the possible string theory models possible. At the time of this writing (2007), the rage (and grant money) was into string theory. It is almost a case of intrigue with mathematical models being churned out in all the Universities, and who could get the grants first or most and largest. String theory lost me once they needed more than 5 dimensions. At last reading (2007) they were at 19, with many parallel universes to boot.

  • Jeff Wright

    No problem with other universes myself. Though La Rouche inspired…I miss “21st Century Science and Technology” as an alternative to the Lomborg bashing “Scientific American”….which is neither.

  • be

    Lerner has a number of videos explaining his theories on YouTube.

  • TMLutas

    The solution seems obvious, make a new open access repository that is a superset of arXiv. Storage is cheap and you just mirror what they have with additions they won’t publish. The technical challenges are few. The financial challenges can be measured by seeing it’s flawed predecessor’s budget here:

  • wayne

    That, is very interesting! (Not quite at twitter-scale when it comes to burning money but giving it the olde college try.)

    “There are Problems with the Big Bang Theory”
    Brian Keating

    Paul Steinhardt –
    “Time to Take the ‘Big Bang’ out of the Big Bang Theory?”
    ironically, a Simmons Foundation lecture…. (May 5, 2021)

  • Sam L.

    What are these people AFRAID of???

  • The part that bothers me most is here:
    “…arXiv has refused publication to these papers only because of their conclusions, which both provide specific predictions relevant to forthcoming observations and challenge LCDM cosmology”
    If scientists are making specific predictions that are likely to be refuted or confirmed by “forthcoming observations”, it is pretty important that their predictions be widely published before the observations are made. Delay could be deadly to their scientific credibility.

  • brightdark

    There is the classic Sydney Harris cartoon of a scientist telling another that he should be a bit more clear in step 2 of a formula on a black board. You know the one where: “…then a miracle happen” acts as the bridge between two sets of equations.

    That’s the way some scientist interpret the concept of ‘dark matter’. That its a fudge to explain why some data just doesn’t fit the classic explanations.. One theory that has the data fit without dark matter is that the speed of light isn’t constant and has changed over the eons.

    It might be wrong but because it challenges the Theory of Relativity its laughed out of the room. No ‘reputable’ scientist is willing to consider it because it upsets the apple cart.

  • Well, I’m no astronomer, and I haven’t yet read the papers you link, but logic led me to ask one question: Am I wrong? You don’t have to know a ton of physics to ask that question. My wife was a chemist who taught as an adjunct professor at community colleges. One year, to support my going back to school, she taught Chemistry and Physics at high school. Asked for a quote for the yearbook, she responded, “Seek to know the truth, not just the answer to the question.” I hope some of her students heeded that advice.

  • John

    Smolin’s book that DJ posted is very good. Whole departments, long careers, prestige, and plenty of funding, all because of string theory. Good luck going against that. Smolin describes issues with the theory very eloquently and in context with history. Science is political by nature, you have to get noticed and support from important people in the field, you need research funding, you have to be accepted for publishing in the right journals- and things can get corrupt.

    I guess LCDM cosmology is now untouchable like climate ‘science’. As is often said here, the science is settled. You know how I know you’re no longer partaking in the scientific method? Settled.

  • Jeff Wright

    There is the JSE…

  • Charles

    The irony here is palpable. The standard history of Galileo was his challenge to the accepted wisdom of a geocentric solar system. The Church’s attempt to control dissemination of the Copernican theory is quite similar to the current scientific community’s attempts to prevent challenges to current dogma.
    “Science” lives by challenge to all theories and it dies by “belief” in any theory. Belief after all is a religious phenomenon.

  • Gary M.

    DJ- Smolin’s book you posted I have just reserved at my local library. Looking forward to the read.

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