The Universe On Trial

Second Edition

Richard J. Hanak

© 2014, 2000

Early in life we are taught that the earth, sun, moon, and stars are parts of an all-inclusive thing called the universe. That idea is subsequently so reinforced in various ways that we think it impossible that there could not be a universe. Cosmologists consider the universe to have had a beginning and an evolutionary history, and to have a present age. They also consider it to have a physical density, and to be expanding. They unquestionably think of it as a thing that exists. Could they be wrong about that?

In one of its oldest defintions the universe is defined as the totality of all that exists. If the universe is a thing that exists it is certainly included in all that exists. All that exists, then, consists of the universe and all existing things that are not the universe. That universe definition therefore means that the universe is the totality of the universe and all existing things that are not the universe. Do you see any problems there?

This book thoroughly analyzes the universe idea.You do not need a Ph.D, B.Sc., or prior knowledge of cosmology, philosophy, or science history to comprehend everything in this book. There are no formulas, no diagrams, no mathematics, no convoluted chains of reasoning — just easy reading of an exciting adventure of rediscovery.



This is a book about two ideas: the cosmos and the universe. You will soon see that those two ideas are not interchangeable. As many ideas that change and grow, the universe and cosmos ideas seem to have lives of their own. They have changed because we have become better observers.

Our most basic ideas come from direct sensory experience. We think about the relationships of those ideas and express them as concepts. We can also derive concepts from other concepts. As we know only too well, our mentality is not infallible. Some of our concepts, unwittingly meaningless or self-contradictory, do us no good; but they may do us harm. That is why it is worth while to question notions that are taken for granted and to examine unquestioned assumptions.

Many ideas today are not what they were a hundred years ago. Ever increasing technological sophistication since the beginning of the twentieth century has enabled us to enormously expand our knowledge of ourselves and of the things about us. That newly acquired information has forced us to revise our ideas about ourselves and our world. As a result we now are beginning to think differently of our relationships to each other and to our environment.

Our views of the cosmos and the universe have also changed enormously since the beginning of the twentieth century and much effort has been devoted to those subjects. Surprisingly, however, not a single ancient or modern question about the universe has been decisively answered. That is why I believe it is time to recast our conception of the universe—not a paradigm shift, but rather a rethinking of the significance that the universe can have for us.

The universe idea has been clothed in various costumes since its conception. An early garment consisted of a central earth girdled by sun, moon, and stars. A later outfit was sun centered. Early in the twentieth century it was garbed in a centerless, expanding cloak to which has recently been added the pointed cap of a singularity. In the story of the Emperor's new clothes, nothing covered the Emperor. In this book you will find that the universe's clothes have nothing to cover.

Return to CONTENTS



CHAPTER 1 DOUBT: Each of the ancient and modern universe definitions is shown to suffer from more than one of nine different kinds of devastating definition failures. It seems that there cannot be such a thing as the universe.

CHAPTER 2 THE NAKED EYE: Further difficulties with the definitions of the universe are discovered. Differences between the ideas of the universe and cosmos are noted. The nature of cosmology is mentioned and a brief history of naked eye astronomy and cosmology follows. The period covered, from prehistory to the time of Kepler, includes mention of Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Aristarchus, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Brahe, and Bruno.

CHAPTER 3 TELESCOPE TO SPECTROSCOPE: The major scientific advances of cosmological importance from the 17th through 19th centuries are reviewed. That era includes the work of Galileo, Roemer, Newton, Herschel, Wollaston, Doppler, Fizeau, von Fraunhofer, Kirchoff, and Slipher. Changes to the idea of the universe are noted.

CHAPTER 4 20th CENTURY TO THE PRESENT: Scientific advances since the beginning of the 20th century forced several changes to our conceptions of the universe. Relevant work done by Einstein, Charlier, Leavitt, de Sitter, Hubble, Shapley, Michelson, Friedmann, Lemaître, Baade, and the teams led by Saunders, Rudnick, Jones, Law, Lee, and Clowes is discussed.

Charlier’s hierarchical universe model was a remarkable prediction for its time. Subsequent advances in science and astronomy have strongly supported Charlier’s model and disproved Einstein’s homogeneity assumption. The nature and meaning of models, combined with knowledge now available, shows that modern universe models cannot represent what they are believed to represent.

Newton recognized the stable balance between gravitational force and orbital motion; but no one has applied that balance to objects larger than galaxies. The rotational motions of subatomic particles, planetary systems, and galaxies are well known. That same stable balance must prevent the expansion of any cosmic object — atoms through superclusters. Relevant astronomical observations of the present century are included.

CHAPTER 5 THE ORIGIN: A possible origin of the universe idea is presented.

CHAPTER 6 MANY QUESTIONS: The many unanswered questions raised by the universe idea are reviewed.   

CHAPTER 7 MEANING AND HUMAN MENTALITY: The universe has never been seen or detected; it is a purely mental creation. The nature of meaning and human mentality is reviewed.

CHAPTER 8 BEINGS, IDEAS, AND SEPARATION: The importance to the universe idea of the notions of being, ideas, and separation requires their examination.

CHAPTER 9 BELIEF: Most people believe that the universe exists. Almost all of us believe that we will be alive tomorrow — but what is belief?

CHAPTER 10 LAWS AND THEORIES: The modern universe ideas are based on laws and theories.

CHAPTER 11 MYTHS: The universe idea in many ways is similar to a myth.

CHAPTER 12 DOGMAS AND BIASES: Dogmas and biases perpetuate the universe idea.

CHAPTER 13 REALITY: Ancients like Thales, Heraclitus, and Parmenides had their own ideas about reality. Modern philosophers have tried to use Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle to demolish our notion of reality. Physicist Lise Meitner and chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann forever changed our reality. Modern physicists and cosmologists consider the universe to be a real thing. It is time to understand the source and meaning of the reality notion.
Sample this chapter.

CHAPTER 14 EXISTENCE: The meaning of existence is reviewed in more detail. Unqualified existence is found to be meaningless.

CHAPTER 15 THINGS: A thing called the universe is considered to be the totality of all things. Here is a deeper look at the meaning and implications of the word thing and all the properties that thinghood implies.

CHAPTER 16 NOTHING: Some modern cosmologists propose that the universe arose out of nothingness. Here we examine what the term nothing means for us. Unqualified nothingness is found to be meaningless.

CHAPTER 17 NO REAL UNIVERSE: The universe does not share any of the properties of thinghood. The universe cannot be a thing. There is no such thing as the universe. The universe cannot exist.

CHAPTER 18 OUR OWN IMAGE: The physiologically limited nature of consciousness gives rise to our illusionary sense of unity. We projected our false sense of unity into everything: one thing that contained all things, one beginning for everything, one supreme God over many lesser gods, one true God, one true book, one authorized religion, one select group of people, and— most recently—one theory of everything.

CHAPTER 19 COLLECTIONS: The universe is considered to be some kind of collection. The nature of collections, i.e. groups and classes, is examined.

CHAPTER 20 A MENTAL UNIVERSE: The universe idea is found to be a purely mental abstraction, the class of things that exist. We are not in the universe. The universe is in us. Classes can have rules of membership but they cannot have properties. The universe, the class of things that exist, cannot have properties like density, entropy, or expansion.

CHAPTER 21 THE UNIVERSE IN RELIGION: Several religions have used the universe idea and described the creation of the universe. The universe idea has been used in several arguments attempting to prove the existence of God.

CHAPTER 22 THE TROJAN HORSE: Even if there were such a thing as the universe, it could not expand. The expanding universe theory hides serious problems. Hubble's law must be interpreted in the alternative way he suggested but rejected.

CHAPTER 23 ENTROPY AND TIME: Some cosmologists believe that the entropy of the universe is increasing and it will therefore die. When the idea of entropy is understood, it is found to have no meaning with respect to an open-ended cosmos. Time cannot be a function of entropy.

CHAPTER 24 PARADOX LOST: Recently acquired astronomical information resolves Olbers’ paradox without exotic assumptions.

CHAPTER 25 CHALLENGES: Our new understandings of the cosmos and of the pervasiveness of hierarchical structure suggest many opportunities for original work in the fields of astronomy, cosmology, medicine, philosophy, physics, and theology.

CHAPTER 26 THE FUTURE: A benevolent future can be expected to follow from the new cosmos idea.

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