Basic Concepts

In this sub-section we are only attempting to initially outline a few of the basic concepts that have come to underpin modern cosmology. Therefore, to put this discussion into some sort of wider perspective, it might be worth reflecting on the stated goals of cosmology and some of the wider implications of these goals:

  • To understand the universe, its origin and evolution.
  • To produce a model of the universe, defining its operational parameters and functions.
  • To provide a true description of the universe, its components and dynamics.


Anybody who has ever stared up at the night sky and wondered: `why, what and how` will implicitly understand the power and motivation of the first goal above, i.e. the striving for some comprehension of the universe. Without doubt, there are aspects of this goal that may transcend not only the limits of inference, but the limitations of humanity for some time to come. Of course, in the meanwhile, this does not prevent the pursuance of the second and third goals within the scope of present-day science, even if a true understanding of the universe cannot be fully achieved within the constraints of a purely physical description. So, for now, we might simply accept that certain aspects of cosmology may remain driven as much by philosophical and theological ideology, as scientific curiosity, e.g.

Who/what created the universe?
What is the purpose of the universe, and the life within it?

While the topic of scientific methodology may seem somewhat of a tangential issue at this point, it is within the scope of this discussion that we should give it some initial consideration, for it would seem to be the way by which we attain and evaluate scientific truth. In the diagram below, each ellipse might represent a different area of scientific knowledge, i.e. relativity or quantum theory, which is then required to collectively support some overarching theory of cosmology. Within this model, we might start with an unproven idea or belief, i.e. an initial hypothesis, which is then rationalised via the power of mathematics and logical deduction into a theory, which can then be hopefully verified as fact by observation and experiment.


However, we might also foresee problems with this methodology, for as the dependency of interrelated facts continues to grow, there is an inherent danger that an accepted, but incorrect assumption may come to undermine the integrity of a dependent cosmological model. For this reason, it might not be unreasonable, or necessarily a bad thing, to retain a certain degree of healthy scepticism about any scientific paradigm, as history has shown us, repeatedly, that none have fully stood the test of time. With this thought in mind, we shall now start to review some fairly basic assumptions of science, after which we can consider some of the issues that might arise.