Article ID: CBB146005420

Redshifts versus Paradigm Shifts: Against Renaming Hubble’s Law (2020)


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.

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Authors & Contributors
Prebble, John N.
Duerbeck, Hilmar W.
Seitter, Waltraut C.
Belkora, Leila
Ashtekar, Abhay
Cohen, Robert S.
Journal of the History of Biology
Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Acta Baltica historiae et philosophiae scientiarum
British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Carocci Editore
Cambridge University Press
Institute of Physics Publishing
Pavia University Press
Philosophy of science
Controversies and disputes
Hubble, Edwin Powell
Einstein, Albert
Mitchell, Peter D.
Wright, Thomas
Herschel, William
Struve, Friedrich Georg Wilhelm
Time Periods
20th century
21st century
18th century
19th century
17th century
20th century, late
United States
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Hubble Space Telescope
School of Milan

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