Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Quote: Starlight & the Age of the Universe

From The New Answers Book, Vol. 1:

Does Distant Starlight Prove the Universe Is Old?
by Jason Lisle

Critics of biblical creation sometimes use distant starlight as an argument against a young universe. The argument goes something like this: (1) there are galaxies that are so far away, it would take light from their stars billions of years to get from there to here; (2) we can see these galaxies, so their starlight has already arrived here; and (3) the universe must be at least billions of years old—much older than the 6,000 or so years indicated in the Bible.

Many big bang supporters consider this to be an excellent argument against the biblical timescale. But when we examine this argument carefully, we will see that it does not work. The universe is very big and contains galaxies that are very far away, but that does not mean that the universe must be billions of years old.

The distant starlight question has caused some people to question cosmic distances. “Do we really know that galaxies are so far away? Perhaps they are much closer, so the light really doesn’t travel very far.” However, the techniques that astronomers use to measure cosmic distances are generally logical and scientifically sound. They do not rely on evolutionary assumptions about the past. Moreover, they are a part of observational science (as opposed to historical/origins science); they are testable and repeatable in the present. You could repeat the experiment to determine the distance to a star or galaxy, and you would get approximately the same answer. So we have good reason to believe that space really is very big. In fact, the amazing size of the universe brings glory to God (Psalm 19:1).

Some Christians have proposed that God created the beams of light from distant stars already on their way to the earth. After all, Adam didn’t need any time to grow from a baby because he was made as an adult. Likewise, it is argued that the universe was made mature, and so perhaps the light was created in-transit. Of course, the universe was indeed made to function right from the first week, and many aspects of it were indeed created “mature.” The only problem with assuming that the light was created in-transit is that we see things happen in space. For example, we see stars change brightness and move. Sometimes we see stars explode. We see these things because their light has reached us.

But if God created the light beams already on their way, then that means none of the events we see in space (beyond a distance of 6,000 light-years) actually happened. It would mean that those exploding stars never exploded or existed; God merely painted pictures of these fictional events. It seems uncharacteristic of God to make illusions like this. God made our eyes to accurately probe the real universe; so we can trust that the events that we see in space really happened. For this reason, most creation scientists believe that light created in-transit is not the best way to respond to the distant starlight argument. Let me suggest that the answer to distant starlight lies in some of the unstated assumptions that secular astronomers make.

Read the rest of the article.

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