Tension, not extension in creation cosmology
Published: 12 August 2014 (GMT+10)
For a considerable period of time modern biblical creationists as well as non-biblical creationists, like the progressive creationists (with an old earth/big-bang-embracing worldview) have used many biblical texts to argue that Scripture supports cosmological expansion of the universe. In 2011 I reviewed those texts.1 What I found was that to suggest that they describe cosmological expansion of space, with galaxies being spread out in space using the often-quoted rubber-sheet analogy, is not justifiable and is really eisegesis.
The straightforward meaning is that of God constructing the heavens above and the earth below as a description of His preparation of a habitat for man. The metaphors used are of putting up a tent or canopy, which does not stretch like a rubber sheet.
Even though the texts do not rule out the notion of cosmological expansion, because they are silent on the matter, they do not explicitly describe it. Therefore I believe if we
- properly exegete what the Scriptures say, and
- are as faithful to the text as we know how in developing our cosmologies (really cosmogonies; cosmogony is the description of the origin of the universe), God will lead us into the truth.
We may not in our lifetimes discover exactly how He created the universe, but it is also the case that if we are not faithful to His Word we may never find that truth we seek.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
Recently I received an email from Russ Humphreys in regards to this matter as it had been discussed on the Creation Research Society site. The email is reproduced here with Dr Humphreys’ permission.
[Posted 24 April 2014]:
Hi Richard and CRS:
Richard, thanks for giving me an opportunity to explain some things that have been on my mind for three years. When John Hartnett first raised the point you raise below (John, Richard gave a link to your [Journal of Creation] article Does the Bible really describe expansion of the universe?) to me in early 2011, I realized he was absolutely right. Scriptures like Isaiah 40:22(b), “Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in”, aren’t comparing the heavens (the space in which the stars exist) to something as elastic as a rubber sheet, which can extend its length and width considerably when we apply tension to it. Rather, God compares the heavens to a fabric, like a curtain or tent material. When we apply tension to ordinary fabrics, such as those available in Bible times, they only increase their dimensions by a few percent. That is not nearly large enough to give the sevenfold or more increase in size that we would need to explain the redshifts we observe. That sent me back to the drawing board on my second cosmology.
I realized pretty soon that a simple increase of tension in the fabric of space, even without much extension of its size, could give us large red shifts. If you go to Figure 4 on page 85 in the article on my second cosmology,2 you’ll see an illustration of a trampoline with a heavy iron ring on it. [See Fig. 1 here.]
The weight of the ring represents the mass of the “waters above the heavens”, and the depth of the dent it makes in the trampoline represents the gravitational potential in the fabric of space within the waters above. It is the tension in the trampoline fabric that supports the ring. If we suddenly increase the tension in the fabric, the ring will start moving upward. It will continue upward until the ring reaches a new point of equilibrium. In the case of the fabric of the heavens, a large sudden increase in the tension could make the fabric move upward for billions of years, since the masses involved are huge. Or, if the tension increased gradually, the movement would continue as long as the increase continues.
This decrease of depth of the dent corresponds to a decrease in the depth of the gravitational potential of the fabric of space throughout the visible cosmos. That would mean the gravitational potential of space would not be the same at the beginning and end of a photon’s flight. It would be greater or smaller at the end of the photon’s trip to us, depending on the rate of increase of the potential. That affects the ratio of the two Phi’s (representing potentials) in eq. (21) (page 89) for the redshift. (With a non-stretchable fabric of space, the two R’s in the equation would have a ratio of about one, thereby dropping out of it.) So it would be the change of potential with distance traveled that would determine the amount of redshift. This turns out to give us a reasonable redshift-distance relation. Other things related to my cosmology work out nicely also.
In summary: we don’t need extension of the fabric of space, merely tension. In the words of the bad guy in Alfred Bester’s 1950’s sci-fi book, The Demolished Man, “Tension, apprehension, and dissention have begun.” I’m working on an update on my 2nd cosmology with these ideas, and I hope to submit it to the Journal of Creation soon.
Best regards in Christ,
Russ Humphreys’ second cosmology is a substantial departure from his first cosmology3,4 though there are some very similar aspects to it. In my opinion the second is another major step forward in the science. He posits the universe as roughly galactocentric with a centre and an edge. The outer edge is delineated by the‘waters above’. (See Fig. 2). In that initial version of the model the universe underwent cosmological expansion as illustrated by the outward pointing arrows in the figure. The point he makes in the email above is that that is not necessary, and sufficient time dilation to solve the biblical creationist starlight time travel-time problem is possible with this model without cosmological expansion, but derived from change in the tension of the fabric of space itself.
This line of argument needs to be fully explored and therefore at present it can only be a research problem that must be subject to a full examination and peer-review. Dr Humphreys wanted me to be clear that readers understood that. Nevertheless, for those who are following these sorts of developments in creationist cosmological models, please pray for this project.
References and notes
- Hartnett, J.G., Does the Bible really describe expansion of the universe?, Journal of Creation 25(2):125–127, August 2011; creation.com/expansion?; recently reposted on biblescienceforum.com. Return to text.
- Humphreys, D.R., New time dilation helps creation cosmology, Journal of Creation 22(3):84–92, December 2008; creation.com/dilation; pdf available at creation.com/images/pdfs/tj/j22_3/j22_3_84-92.pdf. Return to text.
- Humphreys, D.R., Starlight and Time, Master Books, 1994. Return to text.
- His first cosmology used the Klein metric whereas for the second cosmology he found a general solution of what might be called the Schwarzschild metric. Return to text.