Seeing Red:
Redshifts, Cosmology and Academic Science

(From The Observatory, June 1999)

As Halton "Chip" Arp is at pains to point out throughout this book, the scientific community has long since made its mind up about the "evidence" he provides for non-cosmological redshifts. He is right. Reviewing this book therefore becomes an exercise in futility as nothing I write in this review is likely to change anyone's views on the subject matter contained in Seeing Red.

The book purports to demonstrate how the established astronomical community has repeatedly ignored the incontrovertible evidence for non-cosmological redshifts, quantised redshifts, and the like, presented over the years by Arp and his colleagues. Arp paints himself and his colleagues as "wronged" visionaries fighting against a blinkered community which refuses to accept the glaringly obvious.

That may be so but reading this book certainly didn't change my views (entrenched or otherwise). This is a pity. I place non-cosmological redshifts alongside claims for extra-terrestrial life. It would be wonderful if it were true, but despite all the fuss absolutely no evidence that would stand up to any scientific scrutiny has been provided. Unfortunately that last statement also includes this book.

Perhaps if the book had contained a modicum of statistical rigour, been somewhat less antagonistic towards individual scientists, less self-indulgent, or even discussed (and dismissed) one piece of the overwhelming evidence for cosmological redshifts, then I might have been more receptive. Unfortunately it didn't and I wasn't.

When all is said and done, whatever perceived injustices may have been meted out on "Chip" Arp and his colleagues, they are still in the business of doing astronomy, at a venerable age. This is more than can be said for a great many bright and aspiring young scientists who have been lost from astronomy in recent years due to ever tightening budgets. That is the real tragedy of the modern era. Perhaps someone will write a book about it one day. - Brian Boyle


Not A Review

The Observatory is one of the few astronomical journals which publishes reviews of astronomical books, and proceedings of conferences, etc. In the most recent issue, dated 1999 June, there are 29 book reviews. In 28 of these, the reviewers have made reasonable attempts to review each book. However, the review which appears first by Brian Boyle of Chip Arp's book, Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology and Academic Science, is an absolute disgrace. No attempt is made to discuss the contents of the book but only to attack Arp, his ideas, his work, and his claims. The book actually surveys a great deal of interesting work, as well as containing many anecdotes about the way people like Boyle deal with this aspect of astronomy associated with the problem of redshifts.

Of course Dr. Boyle feels that he is quite safe in making an attack of this kind, since the majority of the astronomical community also both ignore, and if they can, denigrate this kind of work, usually distorting what has been found in the process. However, in the account, Boyle has gone too far. There is nothing wrong with writing a hostile review, if some attempt is made to say what is in the book, and why you disagree with it, but to engage in flat authoritarian statements, giving the reader no indication of why you feel this way, is quite outrageous.

As an editor myself, I know that it is important that editors do not, in general, make any attempt to censor what authors and reviewers write. However, in this case, you, who are responsible for the contents of this journal, should have realized that this piece was not a review at all and either refused to print it or insisted that the reviewer make some attempt to describe the contents of the book as well as attacking it and its author.

It is well known that I have sympathy with the point of view being expressed by Arp and in that sense I am part of the minority who believe that there is a large body of evidence available today which shows that not all redshifts can be attributed to the expansion of the Universe. This piece by Boyle points up part of the problem. As long as individuals with mind-sets like Dr. Boyle are given responsible positions as observatory directors, with considerable influence on what observations are made, it will continue to be almost impossible to get observing time to work on problems of this kind, important as they are. What is going on at present in this part of the observational field is censorship and destructive criticism of the worst kind. Arp has endured it for nearly 20 years.

It would be marvellous if the extragalactic Universe was the way that the majority think that it is. I don't think that it is. I may be wrong, but the truth will not be established by suppressing, denigrating, and ignoring evidence that does not fit, or above all, by asserting that authority has decided, though this may be the way to climb up the slippery professional pole.

Yours sincerely,
Geoffrey Burbidge

[Brian Boyle declined to make a full response to Professor Burbidge's letter. He apologizes for any unintentional distress caused to Professor Arp's supporters by the review, and believes it only fair to allow Professor Burbidge to have the last word on this issue.]