Recent Creationism and the Bible, Part 3: Recent Creationism—Astronomy Tells a Different Story

Sam A. Smith

[Note to the reader: If you haven’t read the first two articles in this series, you are urged to do so; some of what is said here presupposes a familiarity with that material. This article is not intended to be a defense of the Christian worldview against naturalism; that would require a completely different line of argumentation. This is written to Christians concerning the biblical worldview. In other words, it’s a family discussion among Christians about what the Bible does and does not teach on the matter of creation, and how that information relates to modern scientific observations. Because this is written to a Bible-believing audience the truthfulness of the Bible is simply assumed.]

As a conservative Bible teacher I could not be more emphatic in stating that Recent Creationism is potentially one of the most dangerous doctrines facing the contemporary church. It fills minds, young and old, with a fairy-tale‑like view of creation that is neither biblical nor scientific. To the extent that it is accepted as fact by young people, it is a ticking time bomb set to go off as soon as they learn, as many inevitably will, that it simply doesn’t fit the facts of the known Universe.

Understandably many conservative Christians have come to distrust origin science. This is due in large part because many scientists, as well as others, have promulgated a naturalistic view of origins under the guise of science. Since such a worldview is clearly at odds with a normal understanding of the Bible, many Christians have simply written science off as having little of value to say about the origin of the Universe. It is truly sad that naturalistic philosophy has been allowed to masquerade as science. The problem is that in the wholesale rejection of origin science some Christians have quite literally “thrown out the baby with the bathwater.” We must bear in mind that there are two streams of information that proceed from science: observations (normally understood to be “facts”), and theories, which tentatively suggest what might be true, but which is as yet unproven. The Law of Gravity is an example of an observation (a fact), though how gravity works is still a theory. For all of the dust kicked up by science educators who claim biological evolution to be a fact, it simply isn’t, because there is no observational evidence to back it up. I’m sorry to be the one to tell any evolutionists who don’t already know this, but observation of fossils, be they mollusks or australopithecines, is not observation of evolution, since fossils don’t evolve (because they’re dead), and no living organism has ever been observed to transmutate. Thus the suggestion of a hierarchical relationship between any two fossils is not an observation; it’s merely a theory regarding the relationship between two observations (the fossils). Regrettably, even many scientists seem unable to distinguish between facts and theories.

While there is a great deal that could be said about both the origin of the Universe and the origin of life on our planet, here we will be focusing on the origin of the Universe as it relates to Recent Creationism, i.e., the theory of a young Universe. With that in mind let me say that we now possess a great many observations about the physical Universe which could, and should, be regarded as facts even by recent creationists, and those facts are unequivocally telling us that the Universe has been around for a long while, certainly far longer than recent creationists are willing to acknowledge. Here we will offer a few examples and discuss what that evidence means. Understand that for every observation given, there are quite literally millions, perhaps billions of examples throughout the Universe, and there are other types of observations that will not even be mentioned here. Nevertheless, the examples that are mentioned should be sufficient for a reasonable person to conclude that the Universe appears to be quite old; and as we saw in the previous article, recent creationists have no plausible theory to explain why the Universe appears so old if, as they believe, it is less than ten thousand years old.

Starlight

Galaxies are made up of stars and other materials. When we observe a distant galaxy we are actually seeing the combined light of billions of stars in that galaxy, though the individual stars are usually not discernible at such great distance. Astronomers are generally agreed that the furthest galaxies now visible were, at the time the light left them, on the order of 13.8 billion light-years from Earth [This figure is currently under revision, but still huge.] In case you might be inclined to question this figure, don’t bother, most knowledgeable recent creationists have already stipulated to its general correctness. A reasonable person who wasn’t trying to defend a preconceived theory about the origin of the Universe would, most likely, assume that it had taken 13.8 billion years for the images we now see of such galaxies to arrive here and flow into our telescopes, since light travels one light-year (about six trillion miles) in one year. However, if one wanted to defend a preconceived theory, say, that the Universe was really less than ten thousand years old, they would need to come up with some reasonable explanation of how this light could have traversed such a great distance in so short a period of time.  Unfortunately for recent creationists such explanations inevitably fall short, even those explanations that propose it was a miracle. We now know that the maximum velocity of light is a fundamental constant in the Universe. According to Einstein’s equation, E=MC2, time, matter, energy, space, and the velocity of light are all integrally related. Alter the maximum velocity of light and you get not only a different Universe, but a different history because the Universe is now out of time-synch, or if not out of time-synch it would have to be discontinuous, i.e., with a break in historical continuity (in this case the starlight we see never originated from the source from which it appears to have come). Think of it this way: Light traveling through the Universe, carrying a record of astronomical events with it, travels in a time stream that corresponds precisely to the timing of the events themselves, like a movie; in essence, light traveling through the Universe acts as a natural clock. The timescale of such a clock could not help but be greatly distorted by either the acceleration of light, or the stretching of starlight as has been proposed by some recent creationists. The real question is: Why propose such an unlikely scenario to rescue a theory that has no biblical or observational support? If God created the light in situ (in place), or significantly altered the maximum velocity of light, or somehow “stretched” light, then man could never learn the truth about the origin of the Universe by observation, for the time-scale of the Universe would have been irreversibly corrupted; and even still, as we will see, that would not solve all of the problems.

Large-Scale Events

Thanks largely to the Hubble Space Telescope we now have many amazing pictures of the Universe, and especially detailed images of distant galaxies. A look at some of these images reveals a history of events having taken place that could not have occurred within the ten-thousand-year time frame allowed by recent creationists. I will briefly describe a few of those events further along, but for now let’s try to understand the problem this poses for Recent Creationism. If it can be demonstrated that events occurred in the history of the Universe which could not have transpired within ten thousand years, then that alone should suffice as proof that the Universe could not be just ten thousand years old, unless one postulates either that time has run differently in the past, or that God created the Universe with the appearance of events having already taken place. This is, to be sure, a very bizarre scenario, but it is precisely what many recent creationists propose. We have already addressed the “creation with maturity” theory in the previous article and seen that creation with maturity could not account for the apparent age of the Universe, unless God created the Universe with a false history of events that never occurred (because there wasn’t enough time for them to occur). As we discussed, to suggest that God did that raises very serious epistemological and moral/ethical problems, since it puts God into the position of deceiving man about the nature of the Universe and its origin and history. The one who thinks seriously about these epistemological and moral/ethical issues will readily see the problem. The notion that God wrote into creation a history that never was is both logically and theologically absurd. What should also be obvious is that anyone who suggests such a solution in order to support a theory has clearly not thought through the profound implications. Why is it not preferable to accept the obvious—that the Universe appears old because it is old?

Consider the following large-scale phenomena for which only an old Universe, much older than ten thousand years could be responsible.

Gravitational interference between galaxies

We know that nothing in the physical Universe travels faster than light, absolutely nothing; even gravitational influences cannot travel faster than light. Having noted that, there is clear evidence (i.e., pictures) of many types of gravitational influences between galaxies. One such influence is where the outer spiral arms of rotating galaxies have attracted the spiral arms of other nearby galaxies, causing distortions in the shape of their arms that are predictable by the general laws of motion and gravitation acting over time (as normal), yet it would have taken hundreds of thousands, or millions of years for such features to form through time; and very importantly, such features are not essential to maturity; rather, they are a consequence of time, so the idea that God created the Universe mature can’t account for these features. (See the discussion in the previous article on the difference between “maturity” and “age.”)

Merged and partially merged galaxies

Thanks to the Hubble/ESA Space Telescope we now have some pretty good pictures of partially and completely merged galaxies. Astronomers are able to identify completely merged galaxies due to the fact that both their gravity and angular momentums merge, forming a shape predictable by the laws of classical physics. That two average size galaxies could merge in the space of ten thousand years is not plausible. Even if they were created touching each other at the edge (odd),  and even if they were moving toward each other at the speed of light (impractical); for galaxies a hundred thousand light-years in diameter it would take at least fifty thousand years for them to merge (likely the actual figure is several hundred million years). If you’re inclined to appeal to miracles for a solution, don’t bother; as was said earlier, even miracles leave residual evidence. Anyway, why would God perform countless such miracles just to make the Universe appear older than it is, and even have that history that never was obey all of the laws of classical physics just as if the events had actually happened?

Galactic collisions

Still not convinced? Take the case of the Cartwheel Galaxy. The Cartwheel Galaxy, approximately five hundred million light-years from Earth, is a galaxy somewhat larger than our Milky Way. The really interesting thing about this galaxy is that another, smaller galaxy has passed right through the center of the Cartwheel Galaxy and out the other side. That this event took place in time (i.e., since creation) is clear: the evidence of shock-waves having swept dust and gases tens of thousands of light-years is clearly visible, and new stars are now condensing from matter that was vaporized in the collision. Even if these galaxies were moving at the speed of light relative to one another (not so) it would have taken many hundreds of thousands of years for such an event to transpire. Given the estimated velocities of these two galaxies, this event likely required about a hundred million years, plus an additional five hundred million years for the light images to traverse the distance to Earth, unless, of course, it never happened and God simply created the Universe with a “history that never happened.”  

Conclusion

Some simple observations and a little common-sense leads inevitably to the conclusion that the Universe has been around for a long time, certainly far longer than recent creationists are willing to admit. In the first article in this series we saw that Recent Creationism’s central claim of being “the biblical view” isn’t true. In the second article we noted the logical, observational, and ethical problems engendered by Recent Creationism; and in this article we noted abundant evidence of an old Universe, not simply a “mature” Universe. In the next article we will discuss the damaging effect that the teaching of Recent Creationism could have on Christian youth, and what it might be saying about our churches and Christian educational institutions.

To go to the next article in this series, Part 4: Please, Stop Crippling Your Kids! tap or click here. To go to the first article in this series tap or click here.

Copyright 2019, by Sam A. Smith
All Rights Reserved
Published September 2019 by BiblicalReaderCommunications.com

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