Young Earth Light Travel Time Problem: New Solution?
by Rich Deem

Introduction

One of the most serious scientific problems for young earth creationism is that of distant starlight and the time it would take that starlight to reach the earth. The crux of the problem is that light travels at a set speed and nearly all the objects in the universe are farther from the earth than the young earth proposed 6,000 year age for the universe. If the young earth model for the universe is correct, we should not be able to see any other galaxies in the universe or even the majority of stars in our own Milky Way galaxy. Obviously, we can see those objects, so young earth creationists are forced to do something radical with light travel times. Numerous individuals have proposed that the speed of light has changed, light was created in transit, light travels infinitely fast when coming toward the earth, among others. Young earth creationists ignore the most obvious solution to the problem—light from objects billions of light years away has been traveling for billions of years. Danny Faulkner of Answers in Genesis (AiG) says he has a "new" solution to the problem. Let's look at it.

Starlight and day 4

Most young earth creationists don't realize that the young earth model contradicts God's account of the fourth creation day in Genesis 1:

And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, (Genesis 1:14)

Since the closest star is 4 light years away, according to young earth creationism, there would have been no stars visible on earth for at least 4 years (the light travel time for the closest star). So, the stars God created on the fourth day would have been useless to accomplish His purpose of serving as "signs to mark seasons and days and years." However, according to old earth creationism, the entire universe (including the stars, Sun, and earth) was created in the beginning (Genesis1:1), with the light from those objects becoming visible on day 4 (prior to day 4 those objects could not be seen from the surface of the earth due to cloud cover1). If the stars had been created on the fourth day, even after 4 years, stars would have begun only slowly appearing over the last 6,000 years. Since the distances between stars is so great, even after 6,000 years, only about 1% of our galaxy should be observable today (see graphic, right). Since the closest large galaxy, Andromeda, is over 2 million light years distant, light from that galaxy should not be visible from earth for another 2 million years. Likewise, the Virgo cluster of galaxies would not be visible for 60 million years. The Hubble Space Telescope has detected galaxy clusters that are over 12 billion light years away. None of these objects should be visible from earth unless God did something dramatic to light travel times from these distant objects.

New solution

Faulkner's new solution to the problem of distant starlight is "As a part of God’s formative work, light from the astronomical bodies was miraculously made to 'shoot' its way to the earth at an abnormally accelerated rate in order to fulfill their function of serving to indicate signs, seasons, days, and years."2 Faulkner makes it clear that he offers "no physical mechanism" by which this acceleration occurred. In other words, God performed a miracle. There are a couple ways this miracle could have occurred. According to Faulkner, "I propose that the stretching of the heavens may refer to rapid stretching of space to get starlight to the earth on Day Four, the same day that stars were made."2 This proposal is quite an admission from AiG, since it basically says the same thing as old earth creationists propose—only on an extremely accelerated basis. Although Faulkner doesn't use the term, what he is proposing is nothing more than an extremely rapid Big Bang model for how God created the universe! Of course, if AiG knew that Faulkner's new solution to the distant starlight problem was really a super-fast Big Bang model in disguise, they would have gone ballistic, since they repudiate the Big Bang in no uncertain terms.3 Even Faulkner himself has authored an article renouncing the Big Bang.4

Observational problems with the "solution"

Faulkner's new model does make many more predictions than he originally thought. According to Faulkner, "I ought to emphasize that one expectation of this solution to the light travel time problem is that we probably are looking at the entire universe in something close to real time, regardless of how far away individual objects may be." Here are the predictions one would expect from the Faulkner Model:

Parameter Faulkner Model Big Bang Model Cosmology Data Shows
Redshifts of distant objects None Higher Higher
Temperature of the universe father from earth No differences Hotter Hotter
Density of the universe farther from earth Less dense More dense More dense

The most dramatic prediction of the Faulkner model is that there should be no redshifts from distant galaxies. The Big Bang model predicts that the most distant objects should be moving away from us the fastest. Since light travels at a constant velocity, the wavelengths of the light from such objects should be stretched, producing a redshift, or longer wavelengths. Observational evidence (see figure at right) shows that the Big Bang model prediction on the speed of distant objects is correct and Faulkner's model is incorrect.5

The Big Bang model predicts that the universe should appear to be hotter the further away in space we look, since we are looking at the universe at an early time in its history. Since light travels at a constant rate and the universe is expanding at nearly the velocity of light, we can see objects as they appeared billions of years ago. According to the Big Bang model, the universe began as an extremely dense object. The collision of anti-quarks and quarks (in an excess of only one part in a billion) produced a tremendous amount of energy and heat and all the matter found in the universe. Contrary to young earth claims, this "explosion" was highly fine-tuned, requiring that the mass density of the universe be precise to within one part in 1059. As the universe expanded, it also cooled as the heat from the annihilation of quarks and anti-quarks dissipated. As we look further in space, we look back in time and can observe the background temperature of the universe as it was billions of years ago. As predicted by the Big Bang model, the universe was hotter earlier in its history6 (see graph at right, above). Faulkner's model would predict we would not see any temperature differences as we look further in space, since it says that all such objects were created at exactly the same time, and did not result from an extremely exothermic process (such as the Big Bang). So, again, Faulkner's model is falsified by the observational evidence.

The most spectacular failure of the Faulkner model is that it directly contradicts what the Bible predicts the universe should look like. Eleven verse in the Old Testament make the claim that God stretched out the heavens (and is continuing to do so).7 This would mean that the universe should be less dense the further we look into space. Since the Faulkner model says that we are looking at the universe in real time, we should see the galaxies looking further apart the more distant we look in space. However, what we see is exactly the opposite. The further we look in space, the more galaxies we see (see Hubble ultra-deep field image to right). All those objects are distant galaxies in an area of the sky where no stars are visible. The density is much higher further away than close to us (where there is only one large galaxy—Andromeda—and a few dwarf galaxies). So, did the Bible get it wrong? No! As mentioned previously, when we look deeper in space, we are looking back in time (because of light travel times). So, this Hubble image is actually looking at the universe as it appeared nearly 12 billion years ago. Since Faulkner says that we are looking at the universe in real time, his model would predict that we should see more galaxies closer to us and fewer further away. Obviously, his model fails to correctly predict the nature of the universe.

Implications about God

As bad as its correlation with the observational evidence, the new Faulkner model makes some wild claims about how God created the universe. Since, according to the model, all the starlight reached the earth at the same time after the stars were created on day 4, God would have had to individually adjust the starlight from each of every star in the universe (which we know has about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars). As such, Faulkner's model is the ultimate appearance of age argument, since God would have had to individually adjust the light paths of all those stars and then adjust the wavelength of the light from all those stars to make them appear as though they were travelling at different speeds relative to earth. It would be the ultimate deception by God. Contrary to Faulkner's God, the Bible says the heavens declare God to be truthful and righteous:

Rebuttal from AiG!

One remarkable thing about the "new" solution to the distant starlight problem is that it has already been rebutted on the AiG website. In 2003, John G. Hartnett wrote about the proposal of a rapidly expanding universe.

"The universe was accelerated like fast-forwarding a videotape, and after all the light information reached the Earth the rates were reduced to what we now measure. The problem with this model is that the stars would disappear from view as the light slowed down, subsequently taking millions and billions of years to get to Earth. Also, such light arriving at the Earth would show enormous observable blueshifts.3 It doesn’t."8

Conclusions Top of page

Danny Faulkner of Answers in Genesis says that he has solved young earth creationism's starlight travel time problem. In reality, Faulkner's "solution" contradicts both the Bible and observational evidence of the universe. Ultimately, Faulkner's model requires God to have created a false history of the universe, which produces a direct attack on the righteous character of God and cannot be tolerated within the Church! The God who would deceive His creatures with lies is not the God of the Bible. The bizarre attempts of Answers in Genesis to support their failed young earth paradigm stands in stark contrast to the simplicity of the Old Earth interpretation of Genesis. The reason why distant stars are billions of light years away is because God created them billions of years ago and has been spreading them out ever since, as declared in the Bible.7 Instead of following the young earth paradigm, young earth creationists should examine the old earth interpretation, which presents the simplest and most consistent biblical and scientific explanation of creation.



References Top of page

  1. In the book of Job, God Himself told Job why the earth was dark at its creation:
    "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? ...When I made a cloud its garment, And thick darkness its swaddling band" (Job 38:4-9)
  2. Danny R. Faulkner. A Proposal for a New Solution to the Light Travel Time Problem,, AiG–U.S. July 24, 2013.
  3. Tim Chaffey and Jason Lisle. The Big-Bang God or the God of Scripture?, AiG–U.S. April 5, 2012.
  4. Danny Faulkner. Universe by Design: Problems with the Big Bang Chapter 4, AiG–U.S. June 11, 2013.
  5. Robert P. Kirshner. 2004. Hubble's diagram and cosmic expansion. PNAS 101: 8–13. See Figure 3.
  6. P. Noterdaeme, P. Petitjean, R. Srianand, C. Ledoux, S. Lopez. 2011. The evolution of the Cosmic Microwave Background Temperature: Measurements of TCMB at high redshift from carbon monoxide excitation. Astronomy & Astrophysics arXiv:1012.3164.
  7. Bible verses say that God stretched out the heavens and is still stretching out the heavens (continuing action):
    • Who alone stretches out the heavens, And tramples down the waves of the sea; (Job 9:8)
    • Covering Thyself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain. (Psalm 104:2)
    • It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. (Isaiah 40:22)
    • Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk in it, (Isaiah 42:5)
    • Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, "I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself, And spreading out the earth all alone" (Isaiah 44:24)
    • "It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands, And I ordained all their host." (Isaiah 45:12)
    • "Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together." (Isaiah 48:13)
    • That you have forgotten the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens, And laid the foundations of the earth; That you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, As he makes ready to destroy? But where is the fury of the oppressor? (Isaiah 51:13)
    • It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom; And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 10:12)
    • It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom, And by His understanding He stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 51:15)
    • The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him, (Zechariah 12:1)
  8. John G. Hartnett. A new cosmology: solution to the starlight travel time problem, AiG–U.S. August 1, 2003.

http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/light_travel_time.html/dayagedefense.html
Last updated September 2, 2013

 

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