Fred Hoyle


Fred Hoyle : biography

24 June 1915 – 20 August 2001

The evidence that resulted in the Big Bang’s victory over the steady state model, at least in the minds of most cosmologists, included the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation in the 1960s, the distribution of "young galaxies" and quasars throughout the Universe in the 1980s, a more consistent age estimate of the universe and most recently the observations of the COBE satellite in the 1990s and the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe launched in 2001, which showed unevenness in the microwave background in the early universe, which corresponds to currently observed distributions of galaxies. Hoyle died in 2001 never accepting the expanding universe theory.

==Rejection of Earth-based abiogenesis== In his later years, Hoyle became a staunch critic of theories of abiogenesis used to explain the origin of life on Earth. With Chandra Wickramasinghe, Hoyle promoted the hypothesis that the first life on Earth began in space, spreading through the universe via panspermia, and that evolution on earth is influenced by a steady influx of viruses arriving via comets. Wickramasinghe wrote in 2003 "In the highly polarized polemic between Darwinism and creationism, our position is unique. Although we do not align ourselves with either side, both sides treat us as opponents. Thus we are outsiders with an unusual perspective—and our suggestion for a way out of the crisis has not yet been considered".. Published in Darwinism, Design, and Public Education (2003)

In 1982 Hoyle presented Evolution from Space for the Royal Institution’s Omni Lecture. After considering what he thought of as a very remote probability of Earth-based abiogenesis he concluded:

Published in his 1982/1984 books Evolution from Space (co-authored with Chandra Wickramasinghe), Hoyle calculated that the chance of obtaining the required set of enzymes for even the simplest living cell without panspermia was one in 1040,000. Since the number of atoms in the known universe is infinitesimally tiny by comparison (1080), he argued that Earth as life’s place of origin could be ruled out. He claimed:

Hoyle, a lifelong atheist, anti-theist and Darwinist said that this apparent suggestion of a guiding hand left him "greatly shaken." Those who advocate the intelligent design (ID) belief sometimes cite Hoyle’s work in this area to support the claim that the universe was fine tuned in order to allow intelligent life to be possible. Alfred Russel of the Uncommon Descent community has even gone so far as labeling Hoyle "an atheist for ID".Alfred Russel. . Uncommon Descent. Retrieved 26 July 2010.

Hoyle compared the random emergence of even the simplest cell without panspermia to the likelihood that "a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein." Hoyle also compared the chance of obtaining even a single functioning protein by chance combination of amino acids to a solar system full of blind men solving Rubik’s Cubes simultaneously. at the talkorigins Archive (See the watchmaker analogy for similar reasoning used by creationists.) Misunderstandings of Hoyle’s statements and this line of reasoning (at various levels of accuracy) appear frequently in support of intelligent design. Mainstream evolutionary biology rejects Hoyle’s interpretation of statistics, and supporters of modern evolutionary theory who oppose panspermia refer to this as "Hoyle’s fallacy". Apart from claiming a role for panspermia in natural selection, Hoyle accepted the rest of the standard account of evolution.

Early life and career

Hoyle was born near Bingley in Gilstead, West Riding of Yorkshire, England. His father, Ben Hoyle, worked in the wool trade in Bradford. His mother, Mabel Pickard, had studied music at the Royal College of Music in London. Hoyle was educated at Bingley Grammar School and read mathematics at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. (Subscription required) In the autumn of 1940, Hoyle left Cambridge to go to Portsmouth to work for the Admiralty on radar research, for example devising a method to get the altitude of the incoming aeroplanes. He was also put in charge of countermeasures against the radar guided guns found on The Graf Spee.Simon Mittal, Fred Hoyle, a Life in Science, Cambridge University Press (2011). Britain’s radar project employed more personnel than the Manhattan project, and was probably the inspiration for the large British project in The Black Cloud. Two key colleagues in this war work were Hermann Bondi and Thomas Gold, and the three had many and deep discussions on cosmology. The radar work paid for a couple of trips to North America, where he took full advantage to visit astronomers. On his first trip he learned about supernovae and the nuclear physics of plutonium implosion, noticed some similarity between the two and was inspired to write an early paper on Supernova nucleosynthesis. And of course on his second trip he visited Caltech and persuaded them to look for and find the Hoyle State in Carbon-12, from which developed a full theory of stellar Nucleosynthesis.Jane Gregory, Fred Hoyle’s Universe, World Scientific Pub, 2003