A thematic approach to selection effects and biases in cosmology: Fred Hoyle and the rejection of the big bang idea, despite the experimental observations
Em: Belgrade Philosophical Annual
Despite some important observations and after decades of widespread consensus around the big bang cosmology, Fred Hoyle, one of the proponents of the steady-state cosmology, continued to fight the big bang idea throughout his life. We can try to understand this persistent attitude of Hoyle through a Holtonian thematic approach, by admitting that personal preferences and choices of scientists are conditioned by themata. Thematic analysis shows that big bang cosmology is mainly based on a set of themata consisting of evolution, finitude, life cycle (which has a beginning), and change; the steady-state cosmology is based on opposite themata: steady-state, infinity, continuous existence, and constancy. Personal preferences seem to have been important in the strong and passionate dispute between big bang and steady-state ideas, and Hoyle is a very illustrative example of a personal commitment remarkably long-lived to some themata, in this case to the opposite themata of the big bang cosmology. In his personal and persistent struggle against the big bang idea, Hoyle always refused the way how some experimental observations were considered decisive in favor of this cosmology. This is a typical thematic attitude: letting some personal thematic preferences influence the acceptance or rejection of scientific evidence. In this case, that corresponds to the existence of selection effects and biases regarding important cosmological observations, in order to sustain a persistent rejection of the big bang idea.