A ‘space-view’ shift
Admissions about discoveries ‘reshaping’ astronomy and cosmology
At Creation Ministries International, we often speak about worldviews. Ours is that of biblical creation, which seasoned followers know means creation in six 24-hour days, a little over 6,000 years ago. The Word of God underpins our way of thinking and any model or idea that contradicts Scripture needs to be either revised or discarded altogether. Of course, modifying or abandoning such models never denies scientific facts, rather the interpretations of those facts that are based upon a secular worldview.
In CMI, we are open and honest about our presuppositions. What about those who hold to a secular view of not only the world, but also that vast space beyond our atmosphere? Here we will look at some recent revelations from the fields of astronomy and cosmology in particular, before closing in on the vastly smaller scale of particle physics.
Formation of heavenly bodies
In an effort to resolve whether an object named Arrokoth formed by a violent collision or gentle accumulation, the spacecraft New Horizons was sent to the outer regions of our Solar System, to explore the so-called Kuiper Belt. Many astronomers believe that objects in this region are “in effect, perfectly preserved fossils” from a distant past.1 Based on data gathered by the fly-by of New Horizons, astronomers made the case for a gentle coming together, with no evidence of squashing. This is talking about the matter accumulating to form a larger object; whether it was a tender process or catastrophic.
“Scientists say they have ‘decisively’ overturned the prevailing theory for how planets in our Solar System formed.”1
That prevailing idea about the Solar System’s origin is based on the naturalistic outworkings of the big bang theory. The explosive bang supposedly happened some 13.8 billion years ago and marked the beginning of the universe. Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a BBC presenter, warns against being too hasty with throwing out the current planet formation theory and replacing it with a new model. She said that this was only one object.
Yet, other observations have been shaking the foundations of the big bang.
This is a bit of a conundrum, because observations are performed in the present, but many people are content to extrapolate these back into the distant past. Apparently, this is okay as long as you stop extrapolating at about one second after the big bang. Reason being, that the initial conditions were rather unique. Now where have we heard something similar about the beginning? However, leaving the book of Genesis aside, the first tiny fraction of a second of (some of) the big bang model(s) consisted of exponential cosmic inflation. Moreover, this inflation that occurred prior to the hot big bang is inferred by well-established observations, according to Ethan Siegel, who in the same report argues that to extrapolate beyond your ‘observations’ is a dangerous game.2 According to some astronomers:
“…we can no longer speak with any sort of knowledge or confidence as to how—or even whether—the universe itself began.”2
Now that is quite an admission! Nonetheless, the article in question still features a subtitle that undermines this lack of confidence: “The Big Bang still happened a very long time ago, but it wasn’t the beginning we once supposed it to be.”2 Of course, the alternative to the big bang—a Genesis just thousands of years ago, as mentioned earlier—is unthinkable for many.
James Webb Space Telescope
The 25th of December 2021 marked the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Touted as the long overdue, advanced replacement for the valuable Hubble Telescope, many scientists were expectant that JWST would shed light on the (secular) origin of the universe. Things did not quite turn out as they had hoped.
The assumption is that the further away into space one peers, the older the observed objects are, and thus formed closer in time to the big bang. The design of JWST was intended to far outperform Hubble, and collect data from extremely distant galaxies. Maybe a handful galaxies were expected, but, from the first set of NASA released JWST data (13 July 2022), 87 were identified by astronomer Haojing Yan, who said:
“Even if just a small fraction turn out to be real, then our previously-favored picture of galaxy formation in the early universe must be revised.”3
Yet it does not end there. Since, JWST has yielded more data, and likely will continue to do so. Not only was the quantity of galaxies a huge surprise,4 so was the putative age of half a dozen of the ‘early’ galaxies. The research team assumed they made a mistake.
“It turns out we found something so unexpected it actually creates problems for science. It calls the whole picture of early galaxy formation into question.”5
One possibility under consideration is that they have not found massive galaxies, but black holes instead. They are right in questioning their understanding of galaxy formation, but searching in the wrong place.
Galaxies and other space objects that are not supposed to be there
More galaxies have been found in the wrong place. Consider the Wolfe Disk, properly named Galaxy DLA0817g. It has a shape like a disk and rotates, just like our Solar System. Upon its discovery, CNN reported in 2020 that most ‘early’ galaxies are messy due to violent collisions, but this one is different due to slow accretion of gas. This, in turn, was in line with the publication a few months earlier (see above) that challenged the idea of violent merging of matter to form larger objects over time. It sounds like the scientists haven’t got all their ducks in a row when it comes to their ideas about galactic origins:
“But according to what scientists know about galaxy formation, this one has no business being in the distant universe.”6
Speaking about remote rotating disk galaxies, Marcel Neeleman, lead study author and postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg (Germany), said, “we now have unambiguous evidence that they occur as early as 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang.”6 This makes it sound like light-years are a measure of time, when really they signify distance.7
Consider also the revelation that a “‘Giant arc’ stretching 3.3 billion light-years across the cosmos shouldn’t exist”.8 The arc, comprised of galaxies and galactic clusters, is one of the largest structures in the universe and placed 9.2 billion light-years away. What is unexpected about this ‘arc’ is that it goes against the idea that matter is evenly distributed throughout space, which goes against the Standard Model of the universe’s origin. Alexia Lopez, a doctoral candidate in cosmology at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in the UK, said:
“If we’re finding it [the Standard Model] not to be true, maybe we need to start looking at a different set of theories or rules.”8
Quite, although she is obviously referring to secular ideas, rather than ones based upon the biblical creation account. Interestingly, Roger Clowes, who supervises Alexia Lopez at UCLan, was involved in an earlier report, claiming to describe the largest arc in the universe, about 4 billion light-years across.
Standard Model physics
Continuing on the Standard Model theme, University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney Professor John Webb—no relation to the name of the Space Telescope—recently discussed a physical constant which appeared not to be so constant when investigating a quasar from the (in his mind) infant region of the universe. He suggests that “the universe may not be isotropic in its laws of physics—one that is the same, statistically, in all directions”.9
“… if electromagnetism is shown to be very slightly different in certain regions of the cosmos, the most fundamental concepts underpinning much of modern physics will need revision.”10
This candour reveals just how shaky much of cosmological theorising is.
Finally, something more ‘tangible’, or at least, nearer to us, albeit very hard to visualise: the so-called W boson. A boson is a subatomic particle, and the ‘W’ is one of the weak bosons. Recently, its mass has experimentally been determined (again) and is different (by 0.1%) from what was theoretically predicted. That might seem a small percentage to most of us, but it is a huge difference in terms of particle physics. Similar to the scientists mentioned earlier, this research team also initially thought they had it wrong, but after lots of digging into their data and number crunching, no errors were found. Yet, the next two most accurate measurements of the value of the W boson are consistent with each other as well as the Standard Model prediction, so the controversy about this particular experiment remains.
“If the results are verified by other experiments, the world is going to look different. There has to be a paradigm shift.”10
Will the real W boson please stand up?
Science is a wonderful thing and the quotes we have considered here are candid and revealing. They show that astrophysicists and astronomers do not have everything figured out, and chances are they will not anytime soon. Scientists often speak with a lot of certainty, which is not per se a bad thing, even if they sometimes get it wrong. However, excluding a priori some views from consideration is bad practice, and this happens far too often in the realm of origins science.
Unlike the science textbooks—which frequently go out of date—the Word of God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Sadly, it is doubtful that all the people involved in the research projects discussed above, seeing the contradictions of their ideas by their own data, will quickly turn to the revelation from the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. After all, His Word does not mention—or even hint at—billions of years. Instead, they will likely just keep on searching for other materialistic means to explain what took them by surprise. As BBC science writer Pallab Ghosh writes, “There has to be a paradigm shift”;10 indeed! Nevertheless, that shift should take place not solely within the confines of a naturalistic framework (as he meant it) but should encompass the supernatural—literally beyond the natural, the realm of the Creator.
References and notes
- Ghosh, P., New Horizons spacecraft ‘alters theory of planet formation’, bbc.com, 13 Feb 2020. Return to text.
- Siegel, E., We now know the big bang theory is (probably) not how the universe began, freethink.com, 30 Oct 2012. Return to text.
- Mann, A., Webb telescope turns up baffling views of the early universe, livescience.com, 11 Jan 2023. Return to text.
- Clery, D., Webb telescope reveals unpredicted bounty of bright galaxies in early universe, science.org, 9 Aug 2022. Return to text.
- Starr, M., Astronomers Detect 6 Massive Galaxies So Old They Can’t Be Explained by Science, sciencealert.com, 23 Feb 2023. Return to text.
- Strickland, A., Astronomers find the Wolfe Disk, an unlikely galaxy, in the distant universe, cnn.com, 23 May 2020. Return to text.
- One light-year is 9.46 trillion kilometres (~9.5 million million km). Return to text.
- Mann, A., ‘Giant arc’ stretching 3.3 billion light-years across the cosmos shouldn’t exist, livescience.com, 11 Jun 2021. Return to text.
- Gilbert, L., New findings suggest laws of nature ‘downright weird,’ not as constant as previously thought, phys.org, 27 Apr 2020. Return to text.
- Ghosh, P., Shock result in particle experiment could spark physics revolution, bbc.com, 7 Apr 2022. Return to text.