Dear Benjamin writes:
I agree that Big Bang cosmology is largely speculative, but I think this is because cosmology itself is a relatively speculative field. There's simply not that much evidence available to give us scientific reasons to favour one mathematical abstraction over another regarding the universe's formation. But string theorists used their prestige to build the CERN particle accelerator to obtain their empirical evidence. If the evidence turns out to be ambiguous rather than decisive, that might have been the biggest waste of money of all time.
You're correct, Benjamin, that cosmology is now "speculative." We are passing through a time similar to the one when much of society was dominated by the unproven fantasies of Ptolemy. To understand how Big Bang cosmology works, let us consider the history of astronomy.
Humans and Astronomy
"For the longest time, man has looked at the stars and wondered ______" is a great way to begin a C- undergraduate paper on anything related to astronomy. For current western purposes, understand that humans have been studying cosmology at least since Mesopotamia. "Mesopotamia" is short for "Iraq," or the place where the oldest available records of human writing and agriculture have not yet been wiped out by zombie empires (page still loading on the current attempt). In Mesopotamia, humans used observation to produce, and record, factual, verifiable evidence about the cosmos, and to analyze that data, they built the base 60 counting systems and writing systems that mothered modern dimensional studies, conceptions of time, geometry, math, and everything else. The Mesopotamians' verifiable observations led them to conclude that the Earth and the heavens were an integrated, three-dimensional system (both ergo and propter the importance of three hundred and sixty degrees).
Me At The Top, You At The Bottom
Astronomy progressed nicely until the Athenian Empire began subjugating other populations, including even other City-States. The wealthy old families who had used lies to motivate young people to fight their wars, and created a culture based around the labor of slaves and impoverished, property-less wage-earners, did not want their employees to have the idea that the verse was integrated. They needed their workers to believe in a world of absolute boundaries. They needed their workers to believe in (1) absolute beginnings and absolute endings, (2) hierarchical structures of order, and (3) the universal centrality of the Earth.
Why are these things important? Because ordered grids justify peoples' positions. In a world with a fixed beginning, a mandatory end, and everything having its place, it makes sense for slaves to labor and masters to command (or employees to labor and managers to command, if you prefer). Comprehensive beginnings and ends are, like the avowed moral of a story, not open to interpretation: they are final. The beginning is the beginning, by definition. Like making someone punch a time card or chart their time to the minute, systems of beginnings and ends complement the control of behavior. They are a fantasy of order; wishful thinking of a timeless everdeath before the beginning and after the end, necessary for the refinement of more detailed hierarchies.
Understanding the relationship between A beginning and master/slave relationships is complex; you may put it aside for now, for purposes of cosmology and the classical empires, and get everything you need at this point from the social-ordering aspects of classical philosophy. Why are hierarchies of order and dominance necessary for societies based around hierarchies and dominance? Self-explanatory, right? To justify why some people are slaves and some masters (and some "foremen" or "managers" in-between), philosophies that argue for the inherent rightness of hierarchies and domination are necessary. Whenever you see absolute beginnings and ends being promulgated, you will see, ultimately, the same people and structures promulgating (2) social hierarchies, and (3) the universal centrality of the Earth.
Why does the Earth need to be at the center of things? Because masters need slaves to think that masters are really, really important and cool. Slaves need to believe in the supremacy of their masters, else they might start contemplating whether other masters (including themselves) would be better obeyed. Ergo it is unacceptable for them to have hope that somewhere, outside their slavery, there exists a different order or a different freedom. Like closing off access to appellate courts, the judicial process, or even public oversight, slaves need to understand that the masters' arbitrary designs are the unique center of the world.
Slaves should be told, for example, that the cosmos orbits the Earth. This makes the current masters of Earth seem not just to be masters of Earth, but masters of the universe: masters of Everything That Is. If that illusion becomes unsustainable after enough time, slaves should be told that the Earth is unique and central for a different metaphysical reason--for example, being the only place life exists. This leaves the slaves' masters as the last possible appeal; the final word. And since there was A Beginning, and will be An End, the masters and their empire really are all you have, if you believe their stories.
(This is also why, over time, masters develop a hostility to paganism. Multiple gods can leave slaves feeling that there are alternate authorities to appeal to. Hierarchical paganism is better than free-spirited paganism, but antilife always causes masters to memetically condense their preferred perspectives toward singularities, be they monotheisms of Christ or of consumer process. More later.)
Justifying Masters and Slaves
To justify their rulership over an expanding empire of tribute and slave populations, the wealthy Athenian nobility commissioned academics to write Great Works explaining that (1) the universe was not an infinite place, full of hope and possibility, but rather, a cold, impersonal clock with a fixed beginning and end; that within this framework, there existed (2) natural hierarchies mandating the control of the inferior masses by an elite class of thinkers, and (3) the Earth, and thereby its rulers, was at the center of creation.
You've heard the names of these honorless viles, no doubt. For the past few thousand years of humanity's flirtation with imperial war and labor enslavement, the biggest empires have based their history, philosophy, and science around Plato and Aristotle. Plato described the Forms that divided existence into a hierarchy of ideal Forms and lesser matter, and he used this as a metaphor for the classes of "gold, silver, and bronze people," who would rule and be ruled. Once the slavery system had become a little more ensconced, with workers ruled a little more by poisonous ideas and a little less by physical force, Aristotle expanded the same lies into the cosmos.
The Greek elites had already destroyed much of the Mesopotamian astronomical records, pronouncing it heretical to advocate for the freedom of workers from the imperial hierarchy. Their armies murdered their way across the cradle of life, extinguishing observation-based inquiry and replacing it with sharp points and blunt objects. When enough of the data had been wiped out, Aristotle stepped in to replace Mesopotamian astronomy with the ridiculous fantasies of the imperial overlords. Relying on Plato's convoluted fantasies about Forms, masters, and slaves, Aristotle extrapolated the social hierarchy into the cosmos: he destroyed scientific observation with the power of faith, declaring that the Earth was not simply one planet among a vast universe, but rather, the center of everything. He made up some really cool mathematical equations that were supposed to explain the ordered cosmos, which equations did not work, but which became the standards elites and their "silver"-souled managerial pawns used to adjudge the rightness of any cosmological theories from then on.
Aristotle's philosophy proved extremely useful to the developers of three other influential schools of thought: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Torah-based genocidal slave-horror religions were all beloved of Aristotle's ordered universe, and the wars, pillaging, masters and slaves it justified.
There was a trifling problem with Aristotle's fantasies, though: they were complete bullshit. Aristotle postulated a lot about human anatomy and medicine, but was afraid to dissect human bodies (although it took western medicine a long, long time, it did manage to disprove Aristotle's medical theories). Aristotle also had a lot to say about the cosmos. His cosmos, though, was a creature of pure fantasy, made up to justify the Athenian Empire. None of the things he said about the sun or the stars were true. The Earth was not the center of the universe, and stars did not move in "perfect circles" around it. These errors were no problem to the Empire, because ordinary people who noticed them were not intelligent enough to be taken seriously, and those who questioned too much could be derided or killed.
One group of people managed to finally convince the Greek elites to allow a minor modification to Aristotle's cosmology, however: merchants who used the stars to travel, bringing the elites nice stuff to use in their homes. Confronted with a need for more-accurate navigation, elites suddenly found themselves able to consider allowing some modification to their preferred narrative.
Ptolemy was a horoscopic astrologist born in 90 C.E. who attempted to destroy the universe by planting several strains of a memetic virus known as Almagest. When hundreds of years of navigational observations had shown Aristotle to be a worthless pawn of his paymasters, Ptolemy was hired to explain Aristotle's errors, save the master/slave/endless-war model of the world, and stymie human progress. (Almagest was Ptolemy's cosmology book which, like the works of Plato and Aristotle but on a lesser scale, the imperial elites have cherished and ordered taught for thousands of years.)
Explaining away Aristotle's errors, Ptolemy did in the most ridiculous, and yet most ironically sensible way possible: he made up a bunch of shit. Believe it or not, even though star observations had proved Aristotle wrong, Ptolemy found out that Aristotle's theories were actually still correct. They just needed to be modified a little bit. So, whenever Aristotle's faith-based equations didn't work out for any given star, Ptolemy decreed that the error was due to an "epicycle" that had altered the star's perfect orbit in the heavens. Over hundreds of years, Ptolemy and other brilliant, educated, respected researchers imagined new epicycles whenever they needed to save Aristotle's model from further disrepute.
Copernicus and Galileo
So, finally, finally, finally, in the 1500s, after more than a thousand years of humanity's wealthiest and most prominent thinkers had been telling the world about epicycles and geocentrism, Copernicus was allowed to fix more of the errors by putting the sun, rather than the Earth, at the center of the universe. An improvement of sorts, and permitted--as with Ptolemy--primarily for reasons of improving the profitability of long ship voyages. Then Galileo did his thing, got in trouble, and the sun was permitted to just be a star, rather than the star, and suddenly, the Earth and/or its solar system was no longer the center of the world.
Suddenly, there might be others out there. There might be other hopes and dreams. Things might be bigger than what Lord Such N. Such says needs to be done at the quarry this week. Maybe it isn't because of a cosmological imperative beyond my powers of understanding that I must spend all day working for Lord Such N. Such. Social upheaval, massive technological and scientific advancement, et cetera.
The 133+5 Strike Back
For a while, elites were unable to keep a lid on the scientific advancements that happened as a result of the solar system no longer being thought of as the center of Everything. Betrayed by their own mercantilist greed, and their desire for better navigation to launch fleets of ships to slaughter and rob swarthy natives in the New World, elites allowed more cosmological observations to be disseminated, having forgotten over the centuries how vital the ordered universe was to their parasitic survival. The great revolutions and technological advances between Galileo and Lemaître rode on the backs of the cosmology that had given the masses hope that things could be a little bit better: maybe, if the Earth wasn't the center of everything, then it is not so necessary to work so hard for master. Formal slaveries, from Russian serfdom to African-American slavery, had to be ended, and replaced with more administratively expensive systems of labor extraction; convoluted economic sciences had to be developed in order to "explain" why some had to work and want so others could party and waste.
And so the Ancien Regime fell, and so there was some guy who nailed something to a door; and so there was Adam Smith, and Locke, and Greenspan; and so on. Elites tried to steer technology in terrible ways to make people believe that scientific progress was actually bad (Part 7). By the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, though, even their best efforts at perpetual wars and national divisions were becoming unable to spoil continual technological progress. There were, like, trains and cars and airplanes. Worker revolts happened across the globe, as underclasses tried to restructure politics to prohibit the wasteful hoarding of wealth. It was easy enough for the Americans, British, and French to mass-murder Asians, South Americans, and Africans who did this, so no one really cares about those revolutions ("It was probably about race, which is now fixed!"), but the unrest in the imperial seats was big enough that it took the World Wars to kill off and poison enough local peasants to put things back in order.
By then, though, the elites had figured out their problem: their resource extraction would continue to be unstable as long as people had the idea that science would further illuminate a world of infinite hope and possibility. The elites' greatest error had not been in failing to provide enough bread and circuses, or failing to sufficiently terrorize workers with glamorous weapons and endless wars. Actually, they realized, the real problem had been allowing people a cosmology of hope: a vision of an existence unbound by hierarchies and masters. Armed with such a vision, people would continue, at the deepest levels of their minds, to think "it is possible that things could get better."
That occurrence--hope--is the essence of conscious life. Hope is desire; is patience; is courage, love, light, and creativity. The potential to want something, or to believe in something, is the potential to be what we now call "conscious"--to recognize the self by becoming cognizant of a piece of the verse, which can lead to comprehension of, rather than only reaction to, more and more of the verse. To bring the world back into a new dark age, and re-entrench their stagnating culture of collecting tribute from ignorant slaves, elites needed to reintroduce the Ptolemaic, Aristotelean universe: the universe of limiting geocentrism, a hierarchy of thought built around a discrediting of observation, and the promise of finite hopes and ultimate dooms that make any effort beforehand guaranteed to be swallowed by nothingness.
With production for World War I ongoing, a new star rose in the Catholic Church: Georges Lemaître, priest and professor, was struggling to reconcile the Book of Genesis with those annoying things that had come out into popular knowledge after Copernicus. Lemaître served as an officer in World War I, bravely staying well out of the fighting as assistant supervisor of an artillery corps, where he made sure that his enlisted soldiers launched sufficient tonnage into the field. He was decorated for his sacrifices, promoted within the Catholic Church, and returned to college to tour the finest institutions of hegemons both outgoing and incoming. He took in his studies at the University of Cambridge, which has no association with MI6, became a visiting scholar at Harvard University, which is not affiliated with the Central Intelligence Agency, and studied next at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is also not affiliated with the Central Intelligence Agency.
Although state-management techniques of total war, wartime propaganda, nationalism, and psychological operations were being developed during these times, Lemaître showed no interest whatsoever in them. Instead, he proposed that a "primeval atom" had been responsible for creating the entire universe in a single instant of genesis. His idea proved immediately of great interest to the heads of major universities, who used the data of some galaxies moving away from Earth as proof that there had once been a Big Bang, creating reality in an instant from the primeval atom.
All of a sudden, that nasty old idea was back: the universe had A Beginning, a Finite Life, and a descent from a perfect, orderly, primeval paradise into a messy explosion of sinful matter. After World War II, the Pope pronounced that the Big Bang had proved Creation, but his science adviser quickly told him to shut up and stop risking that people would connect the dots. Legions of scientists at the major universities returned to geocentrism, informing the laity that Earth was stupenderifous because it was almost completely certainly the only planet that had life.
You Are Alone
You are alone. Nothing you do matters, because no matter how much you enjoy it, or how special you think it is, everything is going to be destroyed. Everything will die. Life was doomed at the instant it began. The fate of everything that ever was or will be was predetermined by the math governing the moment of genesis. You have no hope.
You cannot appeal to anyone else. The circumstances that created life on Earth are so rare that other life is a child's fantasy. Serious, intelligent people recognize that you are alone. You are isolated on a tiny speck of nothingness. Put it in context like a motivational poster of Earth from space. Nothing you do will ever matter, and even if someone manages to care for a little while, it will all be wiped out. You are a speck of insignificant nothingness in the dust of an ancient explosion. You are alone.
The explosion that created existence is the absolute source of everything. Nothing exists that did not come from this explosion. Everything is subordinate to it and always will be because it created them. It is the highest power. It is absolute. All lesser things flow from that explosion. When the explosion happened, it had already been decided whether everything would return to the singularity to be utterly crushed out of existence, or whether everything would freeze and die in the lingering aftershocks. Math does not change and existence does not change and nothing changes because the force and matter equations at the instant of creation have already determined what must happen, and what must happen is that everything and everyone will die in one of two possible twilights. Nothing you or anyone else can do can ever change this. You have no hope.
No one knows, or can ever know, what made this happen. Time itself was born by the grand mathematics of the Big Bang. It is impossible to search for how you began because it is beyond the ability of anyone to see past the moment of Creation. You can never completely know or understand yourself and never know or understand everything else about this world. You are alone.
After everything was created, other things happened as a result of grand equations. Everything you are and do and everything else around you happens as a result of this explosion. All existence was created from a primeval singularity; an absolute to which every concept returns.
You are alone, and you will die forever. Everyone else, and everything else, will die forever. You are alone and nothing matters.
The above is why the Big Bang serves elites well. Hopelessness kills rebellions before they even start. Depressed workers shuffle in obedience, drugging themselves senseless and figuring that it doesn't matter anyway.
Cosmology has not always been speculative. Long before foul tools like Aristotle and Ptolemy began repressing observation and analysis, and long after, people have looked at the stars, and looked at Earth, and used observations about parts of the real world to form testable hypotheses about the cosmos. People have not always considered themselves too stupid to think about their cosmos, and in time, more of them will remember this anew, and stop trusting to unsupported speculations.
Even the most generous interpretations of the strength of gravitation would have made it impossible--as mathematically impossible as Market-Style Evolution producing the discrete, integrated, simultaneously evolved means of bat echolocation--for colossal galactic superclusters to have formed in several times the few billion years permitted by the Big Bang theory. The verse is so much older, and so much bigger, than absolutist creation fantasies allow.
When Big Bang cosmologists are confronted with supercluster formations, they pout, whine, and sputter like biblical creationists arguing about carbon dating. They come up with ridiculous theories, like how Satan created invisible "Cosmic Strings" to form superclusters way faster than gravitation, just to trick people into trying to doubt the Book of Big Bang.
When Big Bang cosmologists are confronted with empty space where their sacred texts say never-before-seen subatomic particles should be, they cheer like lepers at a revival, pronouncing that they are cured, and that the empty space proves that their preferred particles actually do exist.
When Big Bang cosmologists are confronted with galactic rotation "anomalies," or the way galaxies seem to be affecting passing light ("gravitational lensing") in a way out of proportion to their size (almost as though galaxies generate massive electromagnetic fields from plasma formation rather than sudden post-Bang gravitation), they glare, pound the podium, and scream that 95% of the matter in the universe is "special invisible holy matter", so that a 20x increase in the factor of their gravitational calculations can explain the movement of light in a way that makes their equations balance out the way they want them to.
Plasma and Light
To keep from becoming theologians, scientists have available the laboratory: an environment in which they test their hypotheses, and discard those that are disproved by experiment. Operating on the principle that the cosmos are not separated from Earth as the other half of a divine dichotomy (explicable only to ordained thinkers whose great minds were the only ones who could be trusted to make-believe conclusions the rest of us should adhere to), scientists may use the laboratory to duplicate, in smaller form, conditions elsewhere in the universe.
In the laboratory, scientists may learn things about how electrically-charged gases (plasmas) behave when they are dispersed over a wide area. They have done this--decades ago, they have done this!--and they have discovered, in experiments that can be repeated hundreds of times with the same results, that the gases generate new magnetic fields fractally patterned after one another (e.g., very small ones being quite similar in structure to very large ones), and that, as the charges work through these fields, a pinching effect causes matter to condense into formations that, a few billion times larger, would become stars.
While theoretical physicists busied themselves imagining new subatomic particles, naming particles after each other, and writing books about what they think the Big Bang was "like," or what Revelations will be like (when the Big Bang returns), plasma researchers have spent the century investigating the Earth's magnetic field, and the magnetic fields of stars, galaxies, and beyond. Experiments with actual plasma, and computer modeling on a larger scale, has repeatedly created miniature spiral and cluster formations, showing how stars and galaxies condense, dissipate, and react, as part of a vast electromagnetic field beyond our current ability of study.
An infinite verse of life needs neither masters nor slaves, neither centers nor edges. Within the light, connected and not connected, dichotomies are subjects of discussion, but not absolute realities of separation. It is neither good nor bad to be the thing around which something else happens to revolve. There is nothing to be afraid of in a lack of ability to predict, with certainty, the movements of celestial bodies. An absolute Beginning may never be found, but the search for origin can go back into forever, providing as much learning about the expanding self as there is energy. There is no one God or Plan from which all rulers draw their inevitable powers. Endless appeals and second chances are there for the taking. Any hierarchy that is here today could be gone tomorrow. Things can always get better, because things are not predetermined by a grand equation that happened before you arrived at the meeting. There may have been, there may be now, and there may be later, life in infinite variety. Earth is a rare jewel, but it is not the rare jewel, where you should thank your lucky stars you managed to scrabble together a few fleeting moments of sensation before being extinguished.
Matter is solid, liquid, gas--and plasma. Plasma is the kiss of light: matter charged by energy. Amidst the waiting atoms of the expanding verse, infinitely vast fields of electromagnetism wait to charge gas into plasma, spinning clusters and spirals to birth an endless future of raging stars. It will not end, and you are not alone.