Re: Hoyle

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Wed Feb 11 2004 - 13:51:04 EST

Gordon Simons wrote:
> About Fred Hoyle, Glenn wrote:
> > Yeah and he thought that disease came from space ...
> In this regard, Martin Rees of Cambridge University wrote of Fred Hoyle
> (obituary published in Physics Today, November 2001):
> ".... A regrettable dispute led to Hoyle's premature retirement from
> Cambridge in 1972. He thereafter based himself for many years in a remote
> part of England's Lake District (hill-walking being one of his lifelong
> enthusiasms) before moving to the more sedate environs of Bournemouth. His
> consequent isolation from the broad academic community was probably
> detrimental to his own science; it was certainly a sad deprivation for the
> rest of us. His later scientific writings, which continued throughout the
> 1980s and 1990s, dealt, often controversially, with topics as disparate as
> Stonehenge, panspermia, Darwinism, paleontology, and viruses from space.
> ...."
> Several years ago I read a strange book by Fred Hoyle (containing many
> full-color pictures, but no index, and no references), entitled "The
> Intelligent Universe" (publisher: Michael Joseph, 1983). Hoyle, during his
> post-Cambridge years, had written this book to forcefully argue for
> panspermia, the theory that microorganisms or biochemical compounds from
> outer space are responsible for originating life on Earth -- and other
> parts of the universe where suitable atmospheric conditions exist. While
> most of the book focuses on establishing plausible reasons why life on
> earth had to have come from elsewhere in the universe, the only real data
> presented centers on some micrometeorites found in Minnesota, which,
> according to Hoyle, showed, under microscopic examination, to contain
> fossilized microbial life. Included in the book is a picture of the very
> biologist -- together with his microscope -- who had discovered these
> microscopic fossils from outer space.
> Intrigued, I decided to trace down -- if I could -- a professional article
> written by this biologist, discussing his findings -- to see what he had
> to say. But, alas, despite a hard search, I came up with absolutely
> nothing.
> At this point, my quest developed a truly bizarre twist. Since the
> biologist I was seeking had German-sounding first and second names, out of
> frustration, I asked a German (born and trained) biologist (my cousin's
> wife) whether she had ever heard of this fellow -- and I showed her the
> picture from the book. Indeed she had, and she immediately began to
> laugh. It seems that, as a young man, this star witness for Hoyle's case,
> was at the University of Gissen, working in her father's lab. (Her father
> was also a biologist -- of considerable reputation.) And then she told me
> of an amusing incident -- of when this young man discovered something very
> unusual in his microscope, which, excitedly, he reported to her father.
> After some investigation, it turned out that this "important discovery"
> was nothing more than a piece of lint.
> Well, I asked, could it have been the case that, after more experience, he
> became more proficient with his microscope, and with his scientific
> prowess? She thought not. According to her, he never accomplished
> anything of merit in Germany. He later took a position in South Africa,
> but, professionally, he came to nothing. So it seems that Hoyle's
> compelling data for panspermia has evaporated into nothing. Surely if
> microfossils within micrometeorites were a reality, there would be a
> clearly visible paper trail documenting such an important find.

        I was greatly enamored of Hoyle's version of the steady state cosmology in high
school & college (mainly via Hoyle's _Frontiers of Astronomy_ and Bondi's _Cosmology_),
but then the quasars & MWB blew it up. I still think that in many ways it's a beautiful
theory, the anti-religious part of its motivation notwithstanding.

        But Hoyle did kind of go off the deep end later, as Gordon & others have noted.
Hoyle wrote several science fiction novels, beginning with _The Black Cloud_, some of
which were decent - though they tended to be a bit didactic. One of the odder ones -
unfortunately I can't recall the title & it didn't get much run - popularized his idea
that quasars were ejected from the centers of galaxies. (Thus were local, thus didn't
undercut the SS theory.) In the novel a quasar has been ejected from the center of
_our_ galaxy & the accompanying radiation destroys all life on earth except around the
poles (because of the axial tilt). So it ends up with a few Gaelic speaking Scots
apparently inheriting the earth. I'm sure there are other examples of prominent
scientists writing novels to propagandize for their theories but I can't think of one
right now. (I guess one could say that the attempts at scientific writing by some YECs
are really novels.)


George L. Murphy
Received on Wed Feb 11 13:54:49 2004

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