Nearly five hundred years ago, scientists (if I may call these people scientists) must have thought they were really onto something when they invented the idea of phlogiston. They had “known” for centuries already that things were made of the primitive elements of earth, air, fire, and water. The fact that there was some fiery substance present in some things that made them burn seemed obvious. Yet when they tried to learn more about the properties of phlogiston through experimentation, they couldn't quite nail it down. It simply didn't behave the way they expected.
The problem laid at the root of the theory. This wasn't a case where they had the right idea and just needed to stick with it. They were looking in completely the wrong direction. The truth was exactly the opposite of their theory:
- When a substance burned, phlogiston wasn't released into the air; oxygen was removed from the air.
- Objects in enclosed spaces didn't stop burning because the air had become saturated with phlogiston but because the air had been depleted of oxygen.
- Phlogiston was not a poison that saturated the air and made it unbreathable; instead the air was unbreathable because it had all of its oxygen removed.
What seemed to be the most obvious explanation (that there was something inside things that made them burn) turned out to be completely wrong. No amount of tweaking the phlogiston theory could save it. It was doomed from the beginning. It just took the scientific method of testing, observing, and repeating to discover how wrong it was.
When we consider modern cosmology, the Big Bang doesn't sound unreasonable at first hearing. We can see the stars moving away from us. If the universe is continuously expanding, then we need only extrapolate backward to conclude that at some point in the distant past, all matter very close together. It's obvious. Yet no matter how reasonable it sounds, some things just don't add up – things like the flatness problem, the missing matter and energy, the horizon problem, and the missing monopoles. There's also the unsettling coincidence that we appear to be at the very center of the universe.
To be certain, scientists have “explanations” for all these things. They invent “exotic” theories to explain their failed predictions. It's like phlogiston all over again. However, unlike phlogiston, we can't test these fanciful cosmologies as easily. The nearby stars, for example, move only according to the visible matter near them. In other words, there is no room for “dark matter” within 13,000 light years of us. Yet we are told that the galaxies which are millions of light years away are made mostly of dark matter. How would a skeptic disprove that? We can't fly there to do any experiments. Similarly, scientists say that there really is no center of the universe and it would look basically the same from any vantage point. Really? How do we test that? We can't even fly to the next star, let alone a star millions of light years away, to see how the universe looks from there. We only know what the universe looks like from our vantage point.
Scientists have liberty to be very creative. It is by thinking “outside the box” that has led to many inventions and scientific discoveries. But creativity is still governed by reality. The continuous tweaking to the very reasonable idea of phlogiston could only possibly lead to naught because phlogiston didn't exist. It was only through the scientific method that we were able to arrive at the truth.
Today, secular cosmologists aren't bound by the scientific method. They are free to propose the most outrageous explanations without fear of having their theories disproved by experimentation. Oh sure, their theories might come with predictions but even if the predictions fail, they remain undeterred because they can simply invent a still more outrageous theory to explain the failed prediction.
The Big Bang theory is simply a modern version of phlogiston. It might seem reasonable at first but it is completely contrary to reality and can only be kept afloat by continuously invoking very unreasonable sub-theories. These sub-theories, though, lie outside scientific inquiry. They can't really be observed or tested. They aren't as much theories as they are stories. Secular scientists believe them not because the scientific evidence for them is overwhelming but because they refuse to consider the alternative.