I recently read this article in the Huffington Post in which Charles Eisenstein discusses his encounter with The Electric Universe Theory and the almost universal dismissal of it by mainstream scientists who seem to argue: the theory is unacceptable to established ideas, so it isn’t peer reviewed in respectable journal articles; and since it isn’t in respectable journal articles, it is clearly unacceptable. His article details the differences of opinion on the subject and concludes that science doesn’t accept, encourage, or fund groundbreaking new theories – even if a hundred PhDs say it has merit.
Before diving into his article, I suggest a possibility – there is an event coming soon, a catastrophic, cyclic, periodic, predictable cataclysm – and understanding the Electric Universe theory would lead to worldwide awareness of the coming cosmic catastrophe (as described in Earth Under Fire or End Times and 2019) so the idea is purposefully suppressed even though it is known to be true.
The most obvious flaw with the traditional view of a star as a nuclear inferno held in check by gravity is that it is coldest on the inside, and hottest on the surface. This makes no sense if the source of heat is internal fusion; but it makes perfect sense if the surface of a star is receiving electrical discharges from galactic currents. This requires a much larger role for plasma and electricity in the structure of the universe. Otherwise, why is the corona two million degrees while the surface of the sun is ten thousand degrees and deeper in where sunspots are dark the temperature is even lower?
As for that HuffPost article:
“I just spent several hours down a rabbit hole. The topic was the “electric universe,” an unconventional cosmological theory that emphasizes electromagnetism rather than gravity as the primary structuring force of the universe. It offers alternative explanations of redshift, cosmic background radiation, cosmogenesis, star formation, galaxy formation, solar physics, and more.
After re-familiarizing myself with the theory (it has been ten years since I first explored it) I proceeded to read a number of its critics (most of whom used the term “debunking”). What a fool I’d been for giving such a theory, “popular on the Internet,” any credence! The critics pointed out elementary errors that proponents of the Electric Universe (EU) commit, revealing them as little more than cranks and crackpots. Case settled, right?
Not quite. Next, I read some responses to the debunkers, which refuted the criticisms point by point in considerable depth. Whom am I to believe? I don’t have a Ph.D. in physics, and even if I did it apparently would be of little use, since many of these experts who so violently disagree with each other have Ph.D.’s themselves.
Although I, as a layperson, have difficulty evaluating the claims and counterclaims on their own merits, I did notice a disturbing asymmetry in the debate that has ramifications far beyond cosmology. The situation I describe below has parallels across science, medicine, education, economics, and really any of our institutions that produce and legitimize knowledge.
One aspect to this asymmetry is that one of the two sides can invoke the authority of the scientific establishment, while the other consists largely of marginalized heretics. These dissidents complain about the difficulty they have obtaining research funding, getting published in journals, and getting their arguments taken seriously. Meanwhile, the defenders of orthodoxy cite the self-same lack of peer-reviewed journal publication as reason not to take EU theories seriously. Their logic is basically: “These theories are not accepted; therefore they are not acceptable.”
How to view this? If you have faith in the soundness of our scientific institutions, you will assume that the dissidents are marginalized for very good reason: their work is substandard. If you believe that the peer review process is fair and open, then the dearth of peer-reviewed citations for EU research is a damning indictment of the theory. And if you believe that the corpus of mainstream physics is fundamentally correct, and that science is progressing closer and closer to truth, you will be highly skeptical of any major departure from standard theories.
A second, related aspect of the asymmetry is the cursory treatment of the dissenting views. The debunkers only go one level deep – they critique the dissenting claims but do not address the responses to their critiques. Why not? If you believe, again, in the institutional soundness of science, it must be because such a conversation is a waste of time for the serious physicist, who would have no time for teaching or research if he or she bothered to rebut every half-baked alternative theory invented by people imagining themselves to be the next Einstein. The risk, though, is that legitimate unorthodox theories are tarred with the same wide brush. Theories always seem absurd if they draw from premises held to be unassailable.
Another disturbing aspect of the debate that has resonance with other issues that pit a powerful orthodoxy against a marginalized heterodoxy is the liberal use of scare quotes and derisive epithets like “pseudo-science” to exercise psychological pressure on the reader, who does not want to be thought a dupe or a fool. These tactics invoke in-group/out-group social dynamics, leading one to suspect that the same dynamics might prevail within the scientific establishment to enforce groupthink and discourage dissent. But again, perhaps the unorthodox theories really are bunkum and deserve the derision directed at them. We the laypeople cannot know. It comes down again to our trust in authority.
Cosmology is relatively inconsequential to human wellbeing (or maybe not, but let’s leave that aside), but the same dynamics apply to matters of life and death for people and the biosphere, especially in the areas of medicine and agronomy (e.g. the GMO debate). Can we trust scientific consensus? Can we trust the integrity of our scientific institutions?
Perhaps not. Over the last few years, a growing chorus of insider critics have been exposing serious flaws in the ways that scientific research is funded and published, leading some to go so far as to say,”Science is broken.”