Content Copernicus, the Big Bang, and Halton Arp  

Here's a common tale about the meaning of Copernicus' discovery. By discarding the geocentric conception of the Earth's position in the heavens, Copernicus displaced humankind from the center of the cosmos. That upset the ancient theological conception for which geocentric astronomy was the ladder to belief that God created the world to culminate in the creation of Man as the apex of divine Providence (the Great Chain of Being).

The discovery stimulated Kepler, Galileo, and Newton to create modern natural science, whose fundamental postulate is that all natural phenomena obey discovable universal laws. But this mind-expanding, culture renovating revolution was incomplete because living organisms seemed not to fall under physical laws, thus leaving to theology the explanation, by special creation, of the origin and purposive actions of living things. The schizophrenia was ended when Charles Darwin propounded natural selection as a law to explain living organisms. No more miracles needed, and the human species is definitely not the center of things.

Here's Hiram Caton's alternative view. Copernicus didn't discover the heliocentric system. He recycled the concept that originated with Aristarchus of Samos, who calculated the diameter and volume of the Sun to be much greater than Earth; hence (big leap) Earth circulates around the Sun, not vice versa.

Sextant of Tycho Brahe

ptolemys universe

Ptolemy's Universe

The hypothesis didn't persuade other ancient astronomers because it wasn't consistent with observed planetary motion. Geocentrism was systematized by Ptolemy in his massive study, the Almagest, which described observed planetary motions more adequately. Copernicus' De revolutionibus (1543) eliminated all but one of Ptolemy's eighty epicycles, but his description of orbital paths was less accurate than Ptolemy's. However, Tycho Brahe's refined observations, together with Kepler's discovery of the elliptic orbits of the planets, improved the accuracy of the heliocentric model.

Copernicus didn't displace the Earth from the center of the universe, only from the center of the planetary system, which remained the center of the universe.

The Dominican visionary Giordano Bruno proposed the infinity of the universe, and argued, purely on the basis of the logic of heliocentrism, that the fixed stars are objects like the Sun.  But he was also much involved in theological meandering and claimed that Christ was but a magacian, that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the world, and that the Devil will be redeemed.  It was for these heresies, and not his defence of heliocentrism, that he was condemned to death by the Inquisition in 1600.  Even so, Copernicus' book was placed on the Index in 1614.

And Newton, that celebrated champion of natural-laws-rule-all? For him the elliptical orbits of comets and planets meant that the solar system was unstable and required an Almighty fix-up from time to time. That's a miracle, and he knew it. And he liked it, for Newton was deeply religious.

Newton believed that the planets were inhabited by creatures like ourselves. Just about everyone did: Kepler, Bruno, Descartes, all the way down to Percival Lowell's attempt to prove that Mars' 'canals' were created by intelligent beings. (He established the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona to do his Moon work). Of course, Lowell didn't argue that Mars could presently support human-like life, but it once did.

This remnant of the old belief continues to this day.  NASA vigorously touts the idea that there's 'life on Mars'. Promoting the idea rouses public support for NASA's ambitious project of creating a manned mission on Mars, which will in turn be the launch pad for the 'conquest of space'.  And ... contact with extra-terrestrial intelligence! Enter here science pundit Carl Sagan and the SETI project for detecting signals of intelligent life 'out there'. We aren't alone!

Clark Telescope, Lowell Observatory

Gerard Kuiper

Hiram Caton's interest in the stars was inspired by his Dad, who showed him the constellations. In his undergraduate days, he traveled to the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. An astronomer noticed him wandering around and asked what mischief he was up to. When he explained, the astronomer--who was the distinguished Gerard Kuiper!--showed him the telescope and invited Hiram and wife home for dinner. They chatted about many things, including UFOs and Immanuel Velikovsky's belief in the recent origin of Venus. Kuiper dismissed both as popular fantasy.

At Yale Hiram acquired a 4" reflector telescope and joined a team observing grazing occultations of the Moon. Meanwhile he read up on astronomy's history as part of the research for his doctoral thesis on Descartes.

In Canberra he discovered that the Mt Stromlo Observatory was but a short distance from town, and he visited the wonderful Siding Spring Observatory in Warrumbungles National Park.

40" telescope at Yerkes

Nov 30, 2006. LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Humans must colonize planets in other solar systems traveling there using "Star Trek"-style propulsion or face extinction, renowned British cosmologist Stephen Hawking said on Thursday.

"Sooner or later disasters such as an asteroid collision or a nuclear war could wipe us all out," said Professor Hawking.


One big event of those years was a lecture on The Violent Universe. The speaker was the director of Australia's state of the art radio astronomy observatory, who declared that radio astronomy findings overthrow the hitherto prevailing notion of a serene, stable, Newtonian world. It's not that way at all; it's extremely 'violent' and he gave the data on velocities, temperatures, mass, energy.

Hiram was stunned (Wow! variety), and in the question time asked what implications the new evidence had for Earthlings. The lecturer first excused himself by saying that was a question for planetary scientists, but then cautiously speculated about asteroid impacts here and on the Moon, and ventured that in a decade or so we'd know more. Cautiously--because any acknowledgement of a catastrophic thread to Earth history risked association with Velikovsky and loss of credibility with colleagues.

Now, your attention please good reader. Hiram WAS NOT a Velikovskyite. His writing was for him bad prose and worse science. He believed that the geological and astronomical catastrophes described in ancient writings were mythic exaggerations of real events; and that natural catastrophes were a minor element of civilization's history and would remain that way. There lay the change in Hiram's thinking: he was now open to the view that natural events could disrupt the flow of progress. If a thermonuclear war might bring everything to ruin, why not an asteroid impact? Obvious.  But it wasn't obvious in those days. The integration of this change of thought affected Hiram's approach to the history of progress; and to evolution. He molted into a catastrophist, keeping an eye open for evidence. It hit big time in 1980, when Luis and Walter Alvarez postulated the impact of an asteroid 6-15 kilometers in diameter about 65 million years ago, off the Yucatán Peninsula, in the Gulf of Mexico.

Chicxulub Crater, Yucatan
180 km diamete

The reaction was quick and angry: No! No! No!, shouted geologists, paleontologists, and many another. And they behaved this way for fifteen years. One who was in the midst of it, paleogeologist David Raup, wrote The Nemesis Affair describing the sorry, disconcerting misconduct of his science colleagues in what should have been an evidence-based debate.

Hiram became a catastrophist and a critic of the abuse of science by scientists, especially at high levels. He took his first big shot at the 1988 conference of the Australia and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, with a lecture, Truth Management in the Sciences. To his amazement, the editor of the Association's journal, Search, proposed to print it, and did.

Hiram didn't go public with his catastrophism for another decade, and then only in book reviews.

Crater, Wolf Creek, Western Australia

Barringer crater, Arizona

SETI: Velikovsky for True Believers in the Scientific World View

The presiding spirit of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence is the recently (1996) deceased Cornell University astronomer, NASA guru, and science popularizer extraodinaire, Carl Sagan. He began his long association with NASA in the 1950s. He advised on the Mariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileo missions to planets and briefed astronauts on the Apollo missions. His scientific research was directed to planetary science, especially Venus and Mars. His first effort to promote SETI was his 1966 book, Intelligent Life in the Universe. He wrote and co-produced the enormously successful PBS television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. He wrote the novel Contact, which was made into a film of same name, starring Jodie Foster. With like-minded friends, he established Cosmos Studios that brings together scientists, artists, film-makers and others dedicated to broadcasting the message of the new evangel to all humankind ( The evangel is: 'There is a planet-wide hunger for myths, images and dreams that reflect our radically altered sense of who, where and when we are...and where we might go and who we might become'. We are not alone.

Carl Sagan

Myths and dreams? Hiram knew that astonomers dismiss the SETI mission as dead in the water, owing to the immensity of cosmic times and distances. Besides, the detection of a signal purportedly of intelligent origin couldn't be confirmed until it was deciphered, which would require comparative data. The ease with which these hurtles are jumped in the film Contact (Sagan co-authored the script) confirmed Hiram's dismissal of the SETI idea. 'The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere out there is that it hasn't tried to contact us'.

The sublime project to 'conquer space' must overcome a challenge: so great are stellar distances that not much can be done unless we can travel faster than the speed of light, which is illegal on the current laws of physics. The problem was solved in the film Star Trek, whose Starfleet is propelled by 'warp drive', or Faster Than Light propulsion. Weird as it may seem, NASA pursues a warp drive reseach project, called Breakthrough Propulsion Physics!! You, good reader, can experience the marvel of this amazing breakthrough-in-the-making by cruising to NASA's site.

Warp drive is also necessary if the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is to be plausible. Consider the following test, devised by the Danish astronomer Rasmus Bjoerk. Launch eight space probes travelling a tenth the speed of light (1.8 million km/h). Each probe launchs eight sub-probes. This operation, Bjoerk reckons, would need 100,000 years to explore a region of the Milky Way containing a mere 40,000 stars — a long time for a miniscule portion of space. Expanding the experiment to include about five times as many star/planetary systems in our galaxy, the probes would need about 10 billion years to explore but 0.4 percent of the Milky Ways stars. Thus the time required for signal transmission zaps communication. Yet so great is NASA's faith in contact that it conducts a project on the search for habitable planets (wherever they might be). And of course there's warp drive. Hypothetical wormhole propelled spacecraft, NASA
SETI, Hiram believes, is a last-ditch attempt to revitalize the belief in Providence abolished by science. It is a version of the anthropic principle, whose first statement seems to be the evolutionist Alfred Russel Wallace's forgotten Man's Place in the Universe (1904). He argues that our species is the only intelligent life in the universe; that our galaxy is the center of the universe, and that the solar system is near the center of our galaxy. All this extensively argued amateur astronomy culminates in an ode to spiritualism that will suffuse the human species in a not very distant future.

The SETI caper would be for Hiram only a theological gesture were it not for NASA's commitment to the 'conquest of space', a manned mission to Mars in the first instance. The practicalities of the mission are awesome. The flight would need 300 days, as against three days to reach the Moon. The mission would extend over three years and would cost, on one estimate, $400 billion. Since the human body can't endure weightlessness beyond about 100 days, an on-board g-force device would be required. Food and excrement would need to be recycled. How crew psychology would cope with confinement, sexual abstenance, and isolation is not known. Nevertheless, the Mars mission has been authorized by President Bush, at the urging of NASA, and with the strong support of the National Space Society.


The Big Bang for the People The Smithsonian tour guide

Big Bang

Big Bang


'The leading idea is called the "inflationary universe" model. The key assumption of this model is that just before the Big Bang, space was filled with an unstable form of energy, whose nature is not yet known. At some instant, this energy was transformed into the fundamental particles from which arose all the matter we observe today. That instant marks what we call the Big Bang. A remarkable consequence of this model is that, if even a pinpoint of space contained this primordial form of energy, then the pinpoint of space would expand extremely rapidly and would bring into existence more of the same kind of energy. In fact, all the matter in the universe could have arisen from a bit of primordial energy weighing no more than a pea. This amazing scenario is a consequence of applying Einstein's theory of gravity to the inflationary universe model. Thus the known laws of nature can in principle explain where the matter and energy in the universe came from, provided there was at least a tiny seed of energy to begin with'.

The guide goes on to state that the model has been confirmed, in spectacular detail, by NASA's WMAP space probe, which 'shows us what the universe looked like about 300,000 years after the instant of the Big Bang'.

Encounter with Halton Arp

Try though he did, Hiram couldn't generate enthusiasm for the Big Bang. He shared the attitude of Sir Fred Hoyle, who invented the term 'big bang' to disparage the idea that the universe came to be from the expansion of a 'point' smaller than a mite (indistinguishable from Nothing by some physicists), but of infinitely high temperature and density (density of what?). This 'singularity' occurred 13.7 billion years ago. This was a retelling of the creation story, he thought, that dominates mythic stories of origins. The theory was indeed devised in 1927 by Father Georges Lamaître for his MIT doctoral thesis in physics, and was endorsed in 1952 by Pope Pius XII.

Although Hiram preferred Hoyle's Steady State, by 1970 he believed that the mathematics and conceptual structure of cosmology placed it beyond--far beyond--abbreviation to the popular understanding. While he grasped the basic ideas, a critical appreciation wasn't within reach of his physics-vacant mind. Anyway, a decision between the theories depended on empirical evidence that wasn't yet to hand, so cosmology is speculation. Interesting speculation, but still day-dreaming. So he deleted cosmology from his list of Important Things and attended instead to astronomy and planetary science.

All this changed on his discovery, in 1987, of Halton Arp. Hiram was vaguely aware of him as the Caltech astronomer who questioned Hubbles' Red Shift concept, which, together with Cosmic Background Radiation, was crucial to Big Bang theory. Arp was a Steady Stater, but an astronomer, not a cosmologist. The Arp that Hiram discovered was a casualty of the Group Mind Impulse imposing conformity. In1983 Caltech denied him access to the telescope, which was to dump his research as dead weight, although it was the continuation of the research on which he built his high scientific standing! Arp concluded that he was Nonperson and resigned.

Arp's disgrace sent strong messages to cosmologists. For the majority, it vindicated the feeling that they are Right. To the young, it meant DO NOT TOUCH. To the undecided, it meant GET WITH IT. And for NASA, which was hard at work on four observational satellites meant to vindicate the Big Bang cosmology, it cleared away a threatening black hole.

Space orbiter

Hiram read the Arp story as another case of conformity imposed to delete the independent, critical probing to which the scientist is supposed to be

dedicated. Since Caltech's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) is fused with NASA for astronomical observations, he wondered whether NASA's need for stellar consensus and its high amplitude campaign to drum its extra-terrestrial ambitions into the main stream of American dreams dictated the removal of the Steady State from approved thought.

The Arp case seemed to him very similar to Peter Duesberg's hassle with the National Institutes of Health about the cause of AIDS. Having engaged Duesberg in correspondence, he now made contact with Arp. That led to meeting together at the Max Planck Institute of Astrophysics, Garching, Germany (in 1990), where Arp relocated as a Senior Scientist.

Halton C Arp

Arp and wife

Arp and wife

Halton C. ('Chip') Arp took his Bachelor degree at Harvard, cum laude, and his PhD at Caltech in 1953. In that year he commenced at the Mount Wilson and Mount Palomar Observatories as a Fellow of the Carnegie Institute. In 1957 he was appointed to Caltech/Mount Palomar staff, where he remained until 1983. In that year he relocated as Senior Research Scientist to the Max Planck Institute of Astrophysics, where he remains. In 1960 he was awarded the Helen B. Warner Prize by the American Astronomical Society for significant contributions to observational astronomy. He also also received the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize for the best paper presented before the annual AAAS conference. In 1984 he was awarded the Alexander von Humbolt Senior Scientist Award.

Arp and Duesberg got into trouble by carrying out their work according to the very norms praised as the high and noble obligation of the scientist. Something was wrong with the science evaluation system. What was it? Hiram set out his case in his 1988 lecture, Truth Management in the Sciences.

In an Open Letter to the Scientific Community, published recently in the New Scientist, numerous astronomers have rejected the Big Bang as a bogus theory. The statement is available here.

Interacting Galaxy Pair Arp 87

Interacting Galaxy Pair - Arp 87

Arp's main evidence against the expanding universe is his observational disproof of Hubble's Law. Edwin Hubble was a Caltech astronomer who in 1929 proposed an analysis of the red shift in the spectrum of heavenly objects: the velocity of observed objects correlates with their color on the spectrum continuum: the closer to red, the faster it goes. Assuming that there are no privileged places or directions of travel in the universe (the cosmological principle), Hubble's theory implies an expanding universe. Arp claims observation proof--indeed, 338 observational proofs--that objects of very different spectral distribution are nevertheless in physical contact, or very close. The red shift doesn't signify velocity, he says, but the age of the object: the redder, the younger.


Universe: The Cosmology Quest

This film by Randall Meyers is the explores the theoretical concepts and empirical evidence for non-big bang cosmologies.

Astronomers and cosmologists explore the theoretical weaknesses of the Big Bang cosmology and explore the observations and new ideas that have emerged in recent decades. The plasma universe, based on the ideas of Nobelist Hannes Alfvén, is explored. Similarly Halton Arp's steady state universe is considered. The role that media, professional status, and PC conformity play in supporting the Big Bang cosmology is also thematic in the film. The Cosmology Quest advocates rewarding rather than penalizing and disparaging scientists who pursue alternative research and theory.


Finally, I began this page with a summary of a popular understanding of the Copernican revolution which credited Darwin with having extended the mechanical world view to living things: Copernicus and Darwin are the two sources of modern thinking.  This is a brief statement of the 'Darwin Legend', as Hiram styles it.  See the Darwin Legend website for the full statement.

Online Sources


Arp, Halton.  Quasars, Redshifts and Controversies.

Arp, Halton. Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology, and Academic Science

Arp, Halton. Catalogue of Discordant Redshift Associations.

Edwards, M.R. Pushing Gravity: New Perspectives on Le Sage's Theory of Gravitation.

Handberg, Roger. Reinventing NASA: Human Spaceflight, Bureaucracy, and Politics.

Hoyle, F., Burbidge, G., Narlikar, J.  A Different Approach to Cosmology: From a Static Universe through the Big Bang towards Reality.

Kenipe, Jeff and Dennis Webb. The Arp Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies. See

Klerkx, Greg. Lost in Space: The Fall of NASA and the Dream of a New Space Age.

Lerner, Eric. 1992. The Big Bang Never Happened.

Marmet, Paul. 1998. Big Bang Cosmology Meets an Astronomical Death. See

Mitchell, W.C. Bye Bye Big Bang: Hello Reality.

Scott, Don. The Electric Sky – A Challenge to the Myths of Modern Astronomy. See

Van Flandern, T. Dark Matter, Missing Planets and New Comets: Paradoxes Resolved, Origins Illuminated

Zimmerman, Robert. Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel


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