Redshifts versus Paradigm Shifts: Against Renaming Hubble’s Law: Against Renaming Hubble’s Law

Cormac O’Raifeartaigh, Michael O’Keeffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We consider the proposal by many scholars and by the International Astronomical Union to rename Hubble’s law as the Hubble-Lemaître law. We find the renaming questionable on historic, scientific, and philosophical grounds. From a historical perspective, we argue that the renaming presents an anachronistic interpretation of a law originally understood as an empirical relation between two observables. From a scientific perspective, we argue that the renaming conflates the redshift/distance relation of the spiral nebulae with a universal law of cosmic expansion derived from the general theory of relativity. We note that the first of these phenomena is merely one manifestation of the second, an important distinction that might be relevant to contemporary puzzles concerning the current rate of cosmic expansion. From a philosophical perspective, we note that many of the named laws of science are empirical relations between observables, limited in range, rather than laws of universal application derived from theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-225
Number of pages11
JournalPhysics in Perspective
Volume22
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • anachronistic histories
  • cosmic expansion
  • empirical laws
  • Hubble-Lemaître law
  • Hubble’s law
  • paradigm shifts
  • redshifts

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