About six weeks ago, NASA posted this news release: WMAP 9-year Results Released, which says, with emphasis added by us:
The WMAP [that's the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe] science team has determined, to a high degree of accuracy and precision, not only the age of the universe, but also the density of atoms; the density of all other non-atomic matter; the epoch when the first stars started to shine; the “lumpiness” of the universe, and how that “lumpiness” depends on scale size. In short, when used alone (with no other measurements), WMAP observations have improved knowledge of these six numbers by a total factor of 68,000, thereby converting cosmology from a field of wild speculation to a precision science.
That’s impressive. They also say:
WMAP observations also support an add-on to the big bang framework to account for the earliest moments of the universe. Called “inflation,” the theory says that the universe underwent a dramatic early period of expansion, growing by more than a trillion trillion-fold in less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a second. Tiny fluctuations were generated during this expansion that eventually grew to form galaxies.
Remarkably, WMAP’s precision measurement of the properties of the fluctuations has confirmed specific predictions of the simplest version of inflation: the fluctuations follow a bell curve with the same properties across the sky, and there are equal numbers of hot and cold spots on the map. WMAP also confirms the predictions that the amplitude of the variations in the density of the universe on big scales should be slightly larger than smaller scales, and that the universe should obey the rules of Euclidean geometry so the sum of the interior angles of a triangle add to 180 degrees.
An article on the same subject in PhysOrg, WMAP team releases final results, based on nine years of observations, adds this:
Recently, Stephen Hawking commented in New Scientist that WMAP’s evidence for inflation was the most exciting development in physics during his career.
Unlike Hawking, the creation scientists at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page — aren’t easily fooled. Their new article explains why this WMAP stuff is bunk: Do New Measurements Confirm Big Bang Predictions?
They describe the NASA news release and quote the part that says: “thereby converting cosmology from a field of wild speculation to a precision science.” Seizing upon that nugget they mined from NASA, they wave it around and do what creationists always do. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
Of course, this is a tacit admission that cosmology up until now has been wild speculation! Why, then, have Christians been browbeaten to accept these admittedly speculative origins stories?
Despite the unfortunate wording of the NASA press release, modern cosmology hasn’t been “wild speculation” in the sense implied by ICR. Let’s read on:
Although such an increase in the precision of these numbers is technically impressive, the heart of the origins debate is in the assumptions used to interpret the data, not the precision of the measurements themselves. Even high school science students are taught that measurements can be precise without necessarily being accurate.
A NASA press release claimed that the determined values for these six cosmological parameters were both precise and accurate. They may indeed be precise, but they will only be accurate if the assumptions behind the interpretation of the data match reality.
Uh huh. It’s all about the initial assumptions. ICR continues:
Creation scientists are quite open about their presuppositions, while many evolution scientists refuse to admit that they even have starting assumptions.
Not quite. We are well aware that science has assumptions — axioms, really — like logic and the validity of sensory evidence (augmented by the evidence of our instruments). Creation scientists reject such things and prefer to rely entirely on scripture. We discussed this in The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Creation Science. So ICR is correct in declaring that if logic and sensory evidence are abandoned, then everything learned by science is worthless. In that case, all that’s left to us is Oogity Boogity! — upon which ICR steadfastly relies. Here’s more:
The claim of support for inflation is based upon the fact that fluctuations in the CMB have properties predicted by the simplest model of inflation. At first glance, this might seem to be good news for the Big Bang model and inflation theory.
However, although the press release claims that the results “support” inflation, it does not state that inflation itself has been confirmed, and for good reason. Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University, as one of the world’s leading inflation theorists, has produced another version of the Big Bang model that makes similar (and in some cases, identical) predictions about fluctuations in the CMB, even though his model does not include inflation.
We know that Steinhardt continues to favor the oscillating universe (you know, the model that endlessly cycles between a big bang phase followed by a big crunch, and then another bang, etc.) but we haven’t seen his comments on the latest WMAP results. Moving along:
If two different Big Bang models (one with inflation and the other without) make similar predictions about fluctuations in the CMB, then the confirmation of such predictions cannot be used as an argument for inflation.
Note that ICR is focused only on the inflationary phase of the big bang, and not the fact of the big bang itself. Let’s assume that the WMAP evidence is consistent with both the inflationary and the Steinhardt predictions, and further evidence is need to distinguish between them. Nevertheless, the overall big bang theory seems to be in excellent condition. Genesis, in contrast, isn’t doing too well — at least not according to scientific standards. Another excerpt:
Moreover, there is often a great deal of circular reasoning involved in the interpretation of cosmological data, so even a claim that inflation theory has been confirmed should be taken with a “large helping of salt.”
Does ICR offer a specific example of this alleged circular reasoning? No, they don’t. Besides, as we’ve pointed out before, creationists actually endorse circular reasoning (see AIG’s Logic: Prepare To Lose Your Mind). Here’s the end of ICR’s article:
Thus, the announcement of these precise measurements is really a non-event, as far as the creation-evolution controversy is concerned. Big Bang cosmologists are still getting the wrong answers, but they are now getting those wrong answers to many more decimal places.
There’s not much we can add to that. It’s obvious (at least to ICR) that Genesis is the only viable theory.
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