Starlight and time—a further breakthrough
A stunning new book by a physics professor purports to show more firmly than ever how light from the most distant stars would have reached Earth in a very short time.
Posted on homepage: 5 January 2009 (GMT+10)
The problem: Many stars are millions, even billions of light-years away (a light-year is the distance light travels in one year). So it would seem obvious that it takes light millions of years to reach us from those stars. But how can this be in a universe that, the Bible makes plain, is only thousands of years old?
For many, this is a huge stumbling block to accepting the straightforward creation history in the Bible. But Genesis history is crucial to the logic of the gospel (a good world, ruined by sin, to be restored in the future), so this is a major issue.
The ‘answer’ that doesn’t fly
A common response from believers is to say that God could have created the light ‘on its way’. But light from distant stars also carries information—galaxies rotating, stars exploding. So if that information never left the star, but was created ‘en route’, this means that in a 6,000-year-old universe, anything we see beyond 6,000 light-years away would be a phony light show.1 This is because the information in the light beams recording those events would have necessarily been created ‘en route’, thus the events would never have taken place in the actual stars themselves. In other words, it would involve a God of truth creating a completely unnecessary false history.2 It’s really not far removed from the embarrassing suggestion around Darwin’s time that God created the fossils in the rocks.3
The right approach
When asked about this conundrum, I have often, prior to suggesting possible answers, talked about facing God to give an account. I would not like to have to say, ‘Lord, I did not believe the straightforward teaching of your Word on recent creation, all because I, with my very limited knowledge, could not figure out how you managed to do the trick of making a universe that was at once immensely large and relatively young.’ To say it is ‘impossible’ in the light of modern physics is really very naïve. Intuition says that it is ‘impossible’ for time to change, or the length of objects to change depending on such things as the speed of travel. Or for observations on one object to instantly affect another one on the other side of the universe. Yet experiments on Einstein’s relativity and quantum mechanics have demonstrated that such effects are real.
Long-agers have much the same problem
CMI speakers also like to point out that the darling of long-agers, the big bang idea, has its own light-travel-time problem. There are apparently points in the distant universe which are today all at the same temperature, yet they are so far apart that there has not been anywhere near enough time for energy travelling at the speed of light (the speed limit of the universe) to cross that distance to equilibrate the temperature. So even though the big bangers’ model allows them billions of years, they need billions of years more time than that.4 Big-bangers have suggested all sorts of exotic solutions to their puzzle, including that the laws of physics must have changed, or that there was expansion faster than the speed of light. So they can hardly point the finger at creationists who propose similarly esoteric-sounding solutions to essentially the same problem.
Years ago, we reported enthusiastically about the evidence for the notion that the speed of light (c) had changed historically. This is not completely ‘dead in the water’, but most creationist physicists we know of, though they might wish ‘c decay’ to be true, find insurmountable physical hurdles with this idea.
Changing c causes huge numbers of other changes in physics, some of which should show up in the light from distant stars. These problems have not been overcome to date.
A stretch in time
A breakthrough came in 1994 with creationist physicist Dr Russ Humphreys’ pioneering work Starlight and Time, still a mind-popping and important read.5 Humphreys reminded readers that we have long known from Einstein’s General Relativity, and the experimental support for it, that time does not flow at a constant rate everywhere. Clocks in gravitational fields of different strengths, for instance, will run at different speeds. And since we know that God ‘stretched out the heavens’ at creation, this opens the door to all sorts of gravitational (and thus time) effects. The whole universe could have been created in six earth-rotation days, 6,000 years ago, as measured by Earth clocks, while there was simultaneously enough ‘time’ (by galactic ‘clocks’) for light to reach us from billions of light-years away.6
Humphreys said that it was unlikely that his was going to be the ‘last word’ on the subject, and he encouraged others to develop these ideas further. Now Dr John Hartnett, a well-known creation speaker for CMI, has done just that, in Starlight, Time and the New Physics.7 For some time now, with the support of the University of Western Australia where he is an Associate Professor, he has been engaged in research on what he calls the ‘fudge factors’ in big bang thinking. These are mysterious unknown forms of matter and energy (called ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’). Their existence is not directly observed, which is why they are called ‘dark’. They are postulated in order to try to explain certain observations about the rotation of galaxies and the expansion of the universe, for instance, and to solve some of the problems of the big bang.
In this new book, Hartnett reminds us of other instances in the history of physics where weird unknown things were proposed (a hidden planet lurking behind the sun, for instance) to try to ‘explain away’ uncomfortable observations that did not fit known physics. This required new physics, for example Einstein’s General Relativity, which added to, without discrediting, Newton’s laws of gravity.
The new physics in the book’s title is the expanded form of relativity of the late secular Israeli cosmologist Moshe Carmeli. The book is designed for the intelligent layman, with all the supporting data in technical appendices suitable for your local neighbourhood cosmologist (or village sceptic) demanding equations. Hartnett shows how exquisitely the observational data fits Carmelian cosmology, with no need for any dark matter or dark energy at all, seriously undermining big bang-ism.
But wait, there’s more
But this is only the beginning of the exciting implications of this revolutionary book. Hartnett refers to recent observational data that overwhelmingly leads to the conclusion that the universe must have a centre, with our galaxy somewhere near it.8 By plugging this ‘galactocentric’ universe into Carmeli’s equations, and then adding the biblical ‘stretching out of the heavens’ by God at creation (big bangers can scarcely disagree, as they call something like that ‘inflation’), what ‘falls out’ is an astonishing by-product. Namely, that there are built-in gravitational time-dilating effects such that:
a) Adam would have seen light from most of the same stars we see today when he looked up on the sixth day and
b) light from even the most distant quasar, billions of light-years away from Earth, would reach us now within the six or so thousand years since creation.
Note that this is not the product of wishful thinking, or mathematics designed to give that outcome—just a straightforward chain of scientific reasoning:
a) Carmelian cosmology fits the observational data overwhelmingly, data which has been so puzzling that mysterious (and now unnecessary) fudge factors have been invented.
b) Observations also indicate that we are in a galactocentric universe.
c) Combining a) and b) mathematically shows that it is inevitable that an initial rapid ‘stretching out’ completely eliminates the so-called light-travel time problem for biblical creation.
As John Hartnett himself would agree, only the Bible, not science, gives us absolute certainty. Models are there to be overthrown, or developed further—in time, new physics may be needed again for future conundrums and discrepancies. But at the least, John’s book shows that it is totally misguided ever to simplistically assume that the Bible’s account has been discredited by science.
These are indeed exciting times for creationist cosmology, and we hope and pray that John’s book will open the eyes of many thousands now racked by doubt due to this once seemingly intractable issue.
References and notes
- This information is often quite detailed; for example, a burst of neutrinos (which pass through the matter that slows light) precedes a burst of light. Return to text.
- Note that this is quite different from the creation of a mature Adam, or mature fruit-bearing trees. Here the ‘appearance of age’ is a necessary consequence of creating a grown adult, e.g. But there is no necessity to create a fullblown picture show of events that did not happen in order to have a mature universe. It would be all deception. Return to text.
- A famous proponent of this was Philip Gosse in his book Omphalos. See the book Green Eye of the Storm, by T.J. Rendle-Short. Some claimed that God did this to fool us, or test our faith. Return to text.
- This is known as the ‘horizon problem’. Lisle, J., Light-travel time: a problem for the big bang, Creation 25(4):48–49, 2003, <creation.com/lighttravel>. Return to text.
- Humphreys, D.R., Starlight and Time, Master Books, Colorado Springs, USA, 1994. Return to text.
- All time references in the Bible are clearly invoking the frame of reference of Earth-based clocks, with the earth-rotation day as the basis. So the existence of the whole universe dates from 6,000 years ago, period. Return to text.
- Hartnett. J., Starlight, Time and the New Physics, Creation Book Publishers, Georgia, USA, 2007. Return to text.
- Demick, D. and Wieland, C., In the middle of the action, Creation 28(1):52–55, 2005, <creation.com/quantized>. Return to text.