Yet the actual behavior of some scientists can be manifestly unreasonable. Leading scientists will sometimes embrace a conclusion even when the evidence for it is weak. These savants become indignant when an unsupported conclusion is questioned, and they even accuse their critics of being enemies of science. On other occasions, scientists show their unwillingness to accept conclusions even when a great deal of evidence points to them. In fact, they denounce the reasonable position and prefer to align themselves with unreasonable alternatives that are clearly less plausible.

Several years ago eminent science writer John Maddox published an article in Nature titled “Down with the Big Bang.” This is strange language for a scientist to use. Clearly the Big Bang happened, but Maddox gives the impression that he wishes it hadn’t. He is not alone. In chapter eleven, I quoted astronomer Arthur Eddington’s description of the Big Bang as “repugnant.” Eddington confessed his desire to find “a genuine loophole” in order to “allow evolution an infinite time to get started.” So one reason for resisting the Big Bang is to make room for the theory of evolution.

There are others. Physicist Stephen Hawking explains why a large number of scientists were attracted to the steady state theory of the origin of the universe: “There were therefore a number of attempts to avoid the conclusion that there had been a big bang…. Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention.” The same point is made by Steven Weinberg. Some cosmologists endorse theories because they “nicely avoid the problem of Genesis.”

What exactly is this problem? Astronomer and physicist Lee Smolin writes that if the universe started at a point in time, this “leaves the door open for a return of religion:’ This prospect has Smolin aghast. “Must all of our scientific understanding of the world really come down to a mythological story in which nothing exists … save some disembodied intelligence, who, desiring to start a world, chooses the initial conditions and then wills matter into being?” Smolin adds, “It seems to me that the only possible name for such an observer is God, and that the theory is to be criticized as being unlikely on these grounds.”