Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Van Flandern: A challenge to academia

Despite what the Republicans say, the world of academics is a rather conservative place.  This is especially true in the sciences.  It is dangerous to formulate and publish a hypothesis that is contrary to the standard edict of "that's just how the universe is."  Galileo, Copernicus, and Darwin all suffered for doing so.  I know from growing up in a family of higher academics how easy it is for a professor to be branded "that crazy guy" or for a subject to be relegated as "dorm talk" and unworthy of academia (that last word is to be produced in a snooty voice similar to that of Mr. Howell on Gilligan's Island.  There.  Pop culture reference.  Further anathema to my chosen profession.)  Tom Van Flandern is not afraid of such marginalization by the establishment.

There is one book that I regret not buying during my plunder of the closing Borders last weekend.  That is astronomer Tom Van Flandern's Dark Matter, Missing Planets, and New Comets.  Among the rather bold and iconoclastic theories put forth in the book are:
-The universe did not start with a Big Bang.
-The universe is not expanding.
-There is no Oort Cloud of comets.
-Galaxies are arranged in waves.
-A mystery planet exploded between Jupiter and Mars, thus creating the asteroid belt there.  This cataclysm occurred only three million years ago.
-This explosion may have influence the evolution of humanity.
-The pyramids of Egypt are over 9,000 years old.
-Our Moon originated as part of the Pacific Basin.
and most interesting to me...
-Artificial structures may exist on Mars.

Is he correct about any of this?  Does he have any solid evidence to support it?  I don't know.  As I said, I have yet to read the book but am looking forward to doing so.  I'll admit, a few of his statements are somewhat radical and it is going to take great evidence and peer review before I'm able to accept them.  But I absolutely love the fact that Van Flandern has the courage to ask the questions and to challenge the morass of "but that's just how it is."  
I don't know exactly when it was in academic history that it became professionally dangerous to bring every single idea to the table.  To me, this just generates tunnel vision and a stagnation of the mind, which as I recall, a university education was supposed to prevent. 
Only by respecting the question and the questioner will real answers ever be found.

Dark Matter, Mystery Planets, and New Comets is available on Amazon.

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