'The heavens declare ... '
Interview with Donald B. DeYoung
Dr Donald B. DeYoung (Ph.D., M.Div.), is Chairman of the Physical Sciences Department at Grace College, Winona Lake, Indiana. He teaches physics, astronomy, electronics and mathematics, and is a member of the Indiana Academy of Science, Physics Teachers' Association, and the Creation Research Society Directors Board.
CW: Dr DeYoung, could you tell me about your professional background?
DDY: My training is in physics, with a side interest in astronomy. My career has been in teaching physics, and has also included considerable astronomy observation. I also teach astronomy.
CW: You have a Master of Divinity theological qualification. Do you think it is possible for the Bible to be made to fit such cosmic evolutionary ideas as the 'big bang'?
DDY: No. I think there is a basic conflict between supernatural and natural explanations. Once you start that kind of science compromise with Genesis, which is clearly meant as a literal presentation, you're in trouble — you don't know where to stop.
CW: What about the popular 'big bang' idea, scientifically?
DDY: I have been in science long enough to notice that these origin theories have a short lifetime. Before the 'big bang' there was the 'steady state' theory. After the 'big bang' we're going to have a 'plasma' theory, or whatever is next in line. And so I would be very cautious about accepting the 'big bang' and trying to fit it into the book of Genesis. I think it's dangerous to read changing science into an unchanging Bible.
CW: What about the background temperature 'ripples' discovered by COBE, allegedly the 'seeds' of star formation?
DDY: The 'big bang' has a number of fundamental problems that we don't often hear about. One basic problem is how stars and galaxies could have originated. Astronomers look for evidence of structure or lumpiness in the early universe, to indicate possible star formation. Although there was a lot of publicity when the satellite COBE found evidence in that direction, actually the 'big bang' theory/model is so poorly defined — it's so general — that almost any data can be made to fit it.
CW: I read recently that these tiny irregularities in temperature, these 'seeds' called 'proof' of the 'big bang' are actually too small to explain the large-scale lumpiness of the real universe.
DDY: It depends on which version of the 'big bang' is being considered. The measured temperature deviation was just a few parts in 100,000. But since they had found a deviation for the first time, some called it the 'Holy Grail' and said they had found something very important. But, again, the 'big bang' is such a general idea that a measurement 10 times smaller or 10 times larger would have had the same publicity.
CW: So they can simply 'turn the knobs' on their model to change the end result?
DDY: That's exactly true. Such a model is sometimes called 'robust'. This really means that it's not well defined, and so almost any data can be made to fit the picture.
DDY: Yes. I know Russell and I think his material is very interesting. The concept needs to be explored, and he certainly has the expertise to do that. I would mention a caution, however. I think that the entire Creation Week, especially including the fourth day, was miraculous, that is supernatural. Therefore we should be careful about using the natural laws — whether gravity or relativity — to analyse the Creation Week itself.
CW: Nevertheless, it seems to show those who say that this is an unanswerable scientific problem for the creationist, that in principle — using their own accepted equations of general relativity and so on — there is a very feasible answer. And this is without necessarily accepting all of Dr Humphreys' suggestions concerning the details of Creation Week, which include supernatural activity as well.
DDY: Yes. That's correct. I see relativistic cosmology as one of a growing number of options to solve this distance-time problem, which is a basic issue. Which approach is correct? Well, perhaps time will tell. With relativity you do have different time frames in deep space, compared with the earth. As you say, this is a credible explanation for light travel time.
CW: Every time comets swing around the sun they lose some of their mass. How long would it take before there wouldn't be any short-period comets left?
DDY: It's impossible to put an exact date on this because comets are perturbed by planets. Comets move around, and their orbits change. But certainly on a time scale of the solar system of five billion years, it's very surprising that there still would be comets. I think comets continue to be an argument for recent creation.
CW: What is the evolutionary response?
DDY: They like to talk about an invisible 'Oort' comet cloud. It is said to be 100,000 astronomical units2 out, far beyond Pluto, completely beyond sight and detection. Once in a while one or several of these comets sweep in towards the sun to keep up the supply. It's similar to the hidden mass idea; it is one more complication that the long-age view requires. There may or may not be a comet cloud—it's optional for the creation view.
CW: Do you have any favourite astronomical evidence supporting the Bible?
DDY: Well, one basic point is the slow recession of the moon outward from the earth. Due to tidal friction (which would have been even greater in the past) the moon is leaving us at the rate of two or three inches [five to seven centimetres] a year. And if you follow this backward in time you find that the moon would have been in direct, catastrophic contact with earth in about a quarter of the time that evolutionists require the moon and earth to have existed. This is a fundamental time problem for which astronomers have come up with no explanation.
CW: Could they argue that the moon was separately captured?
DDY: From the physics, capture simply doesn't work. If a stray moon wandered close to the earth even today, it might be destroyed, it might disintegrate, but it would not be captured — in fact it would gain speed. The space probes we send close to other planets don't get captured—unless we somehow put the brakes on, they leave the planets quickly as in a 'crack the whip' process. In 1994 we learned that Jupiter can capture comets, but this is because of its much stronger gravity.
CW: Anything else about the moon?
DDY: A five billion-year-old object the size of the moon should be cold and dead — and yet it's not. There are unexpected detections of occasional vapours coming out of the moon, and also lava flows. There are still moonquakes that are measured. The moon appears to be rather youthful in many ways.
CW: How are your comments on this received?
DDY: I have found that when talking to groups, whether students, or scientists, if I tell them where I'm coming from — that I believe in a supernatural creation and I take the book of Genesis seriously (so miracles are part of my science view) — they're willing to listen. And there's often good interest, because this is not part of the worldview of many people. They seem to respect the idea and are intrigued by it. When you're talking to practising scientists, they usually realize the uncertainty and the philosophy that goes into their own views and they can appreciate the creation alternative.
CW: Have you seen anybody change their mind at all or become a Christian through your ministry?
DDY: On the level of college students I can certainly say yes. I continually find individuals in my audiences who are excited to find out that you can support and defend a creation view of origins and of history. That's what encourages me in my science career — showing people that the creation view is not outdated — it's still for today, it's good science. And I find people who are becoming recommitted to Christianity — after the Lord first does work in their hearts.
CW: Thank you very much.
- R. Humphreys, Starlight and Time, Master Books, Colorado Springs, 1994. Return to text.
- An astronomical unit is the mean distance between the centre of the earth and the centre of the sun.—Ed. Return to text.