A Review of Dr. Russ Humphreys’ A Young-Earth Relativistic Cosmology
Creationists who believe in short timescales of Earth history have had a few problems with cosmology. Criticisms of the standard Big Bang model have often been made, often drawing on voices of dissent coming from the academic community. However, the positive statements of a creationist cosmology have yet to emerge. These statements must address three crucial phenomena.
- Light from distant galaxies. The distances are immense, with some of the estimated times of light travel measured in billions of years.
- Galactic red shifts. The light from distant galaxies is shifted towards the red end of the spectrum - for which an explanation is needed.
- Cosmic microwave background. Low level microwaves permeate space and are observed to be remarkably uniform in all directions.
The Big Bang cosmology has been successful, of course, because it does have an explanation for these cosmological data. It maintains
- that the universe is billions of years old;
- that the universe is expanding and
- that the microwave background represents radiation that was generated during the initial stages of the Big Bang.
Russell Humphreys presented two papers at the conference: one discussing ‘A biblical basis for creationist cosmology’ and the other detailing `Progress toward a young-earth relativistic cosmology’.
In the first paper, he argued that the Bible does provide a foundation for cosmological thinking. It was suggested that the ‘expanse’ (or ‘firmament’ KJV) is the place where the sun, moon and stars are: interstellar space. The waters above the expanse were understood to be a water boundary to the created universe. The birds fly, not ‘in the expanse’, but ‘in the face of the expanse’—referring to the atmosphere of the Earth. (This perspective led to a reconsideration of the Canopy theory—which was rejected as neither biblically-based nor scientifically necessary.) Several biblical texts refer to God stretching out the heavens: these were understood to mean that ‘God stretched out space itself at some time in the past’. This is an important point of the reinterpretation, as it is linked with a relativistic expansion of the universe during creation week.
Humphreys considered the word ‘deep’ (tehom) in the Bible (Genesis chapter 1 verse 2) and suggested that it should be understood as ordinary liquid water. The cosmological model that was developed from this framework considers all the galaxies in the universe to have been formed from the waters of this ‘deep’. Based on an estimated mass of the universe of 3 times 10 to the power 51 kilograms, Humphreys calculates that the ‘deep’ would be a sphere of water with a radius of at least 1 light year. Since the expanse is formed in ‘the midst of the waters’ (Genesis chapter 1 verse 6), it follows that the Earth must be at or near the centre of the universe.
Humphreys suggests that the Bible teaches a cosmological geocentricity.
The paper covers much more ground than can be reviewed here, but the 6 general conclusions are listed below. They all have relevance to the proposed relativistic cosmology.
- Matter in the universe is bounded.
- The universe has expanded.
- The Earth is near the centre of the universe.
- The universe is young as measured by clocks on Earth.
- The original matter God created was ordinary liquid water.
- God transformed the water into various elements by compaction.
The question of how a biblically-based cosmology could be constructed was addressed in the second paper. Humphreys drew attention to the necessity of presuppositions when formulating cosmological models.
Stephen Hawking and George Ellis have written: ‘…we are not able to make cosmological models without some mixture of ideology’. Their work makes use of the Copernican Principle: the universe has no edges and no centre—it looks everywhere broadly the same. This principle, it is important to note, is not a conclusion of science, but an assumption thought to be valid.
The implications of the Copernican Principle for modern cosmology are profound. Humphreys argues that when these ideas are expressed mathematically and applied to the equations of general relativity, they result in Big-Bang cosmologies. Humphreys looks again at general relativity theory, but using different presuppositions. These are: the universe is of finite size and has a boundary; the Earth is near the centre; the cosmos has been expanded by God in the past; the cosmos is young. The picture that emerges is dramatically different from the Big Bang. The following scenario combines Humphreys’ biblical framework and the results of his research into general relativity theory.
When the ‘deep’ was created, it was a black hole. Under gravity, it collapsed and the temperature, pressure and density increased to the stage where thermonuclear reactions occurred and nucleosynthesis took place.
Intense light was everywhere inside the black hole. The collapse is considered to have lasted one day—and then, in a creative act of God, the black hole was converted into a white hole. The result was a rapid, inflationary expansion of space. This is when the waters above the expanse, the expanse and the waters below the expanse were differentiated. With expansion came cooling—and at about 3000 Kelvin, atoms would have been formed and the expanse would become transparent. Thermal radiation in the expanding expanse would be very uniform and the temperature would continue to drop. At the end of expansion, the temperature reached 2.76 kelvin (which we observe today).
At some time during the expansion, the shrinking event horizon would approach the centre of the white hole—the Earth. Whilst this is suggested to have occurred on the morning of the 4th Day (Earth time), the time dilation effects of relativity theory permit ‘billions of years worth of physical processes [to take] place in the distant cosmos’. Stars and galaxies formed, and time elapsed so that light was able to travel to every corner of the universe. Hence, Adam and Eve, on the 6th Day (Earth time) were able to look into the expanse and see the splendour of the heavens.
The model thus claims to explain all three of the cosmological phenomena mentioned earlier: light from distant galaxies, galactic red shifts and the cosmic microwave background. It suggests that time elapsed at different rates on Earth and in the expanse (6 Days Earth time and billions of years cosmological time, possible because the Earth is at the centre of the universe).
The status of Humphreys’ work is that of hypothesis. ‘I consider this paper only the outlines of a theory’. He acknowledges that much work has to be done to take it beyond ‘qualitative answers’ to cosmological phenomena. The quantitative effects of time dilation require detailed research. He also points to the potential for providing explanations for many of the anomalies encountered by conventional theories—including a possible observational disproof of the Copernican Principle.
The claim that this is a biblically-based cosmology must also be addressed. Does the biblical history really provide this framework for cosmology? Christians should be cautious about the reception and use of these ideas until scholarly debate has taken place.
Even if Humphreys is wrong in his biblical interpretation, he has contributed significantly to cosmological studies. We have known that presuppositions are important for the Big-Bang theory—but Humphreys has worked this through in some detail. Furthermore, he has demonstrated that with different presuppositions, different conclusions are possible. A door has opened—Christian students of cosmology will find this research a great stimulus to their own thinking.
Copyright © 1996 The Biblical Creation Society