At first there are washes of pale lavender and crisp blue, veiling the earth in light. As time passes, they melt away into a darkness more immense than the heart of the sea. But then a gem of light appears in the void, and then another and another. The curtains of heaven slowly unfold, revealing the glorious sweep of the stars.

Beyond the unaided eye, stars in the billions populate the Milky Way, and there exist at least 100 billion1 galaxies shaped in a myriad of discs, clusters, and spirals. They reside so far away that their starlight requires millions or even billions of years to reach earth. They exclaim the awesome, mind-numbing power of the Creator.

But this vast vista of beauty also brings Bible-believers to a troubling question: How can the light of such distant stars be seen when the earth is just around 10,000 years old? The paradox at first seems to contradict the Biblical account of Creation and offer insurmountable proof of evolutionary long-ages. It has pricked the faith of many in the infallible Word of God and has helped cause others to spiritualize the beginning of Genesis. How are creationists to unravel this enigma?

One view states that light was instantly created in transit between the stars and earth when God created the host of heaven on the fourth day. Since everything on earth was created already mature and full-grown, like the garden trees bearing fruit and the adult body of Adam, the creation of a fully-functioning universe with starlight already reaching earth makes simple Biblical sense.2 Surely God could have supernaturally brought starlight to earth instantly just as He had instantly spoke the whole heavens into existence. But if this is true, then star explosions, some seen in broad daylight, would have never happened, and God would have created “fiction” in the sky.3 All the machinations of the universe would not have occurred at all. Why would a God of truth create an image of an event that never happened? For this reason, many creationist scientists do not seriously consider this view.4

Another theory postulates that space itself is curved, providing light with an immensely shorter route to earth.5 Called the Moon-Spencer theory, it says that light from even the farthest stars travels for no more than 15 years, using “Riemannian space.”6Phenomena like gravity and changes in density can bend light, so perhaps space is structured such that these kinds of forces cause starlight to reflect

backwards, like inside of a sphere, to earth and thus make star distances to appear greater than they really are.7 This would mean that all stars and galaxies of the universe are within this gigantic light-bending “sphere” and are fairly close to earth. Their light bounces off of the “walls” of the sphere and deflect to earth. But because light is often assumed to travel in a straight line, scientists would think the light came from straight ahead. Some individual stars would actually be multiple reflections from a single star.8 This consequence has caused some creationists to contend that if this theory is true, then all heavenly objects should cast double images, which of course is not the case.9 Another objection to the theory is that light itself has the inherent characteristics of having traveled far; the measuring rods of parallax, light intensity, etc. are based upon light’s properties.10 Thus, this theory is not used anymore by creationists.11

But what if light itself had a greater speed in the past? If light traveled at or near infinite velocity in the beginning, then the stars would have been visible on day one. Australian Barry Setterfield has claimed to have discovered a decaying trend in light’s speed from historical measurements.12 Studying data compiled over three centuries, the speed of light has appeared to have grown greater and greater the farther one looks in the past.13 Russian scientist V. S. Troitskii has concluded that “the speed of light was 10 billion times faster at time zero,” independently of Setterfield.14

However, when light’s speed seemed to stop declining around 1960, many scientists doubted that a decrease had ever existed in the first place, since one-time changes of such a major magnitude hardly occur in the natural world.15 Why would light suddenly become constant if the former data were true? But then Setterfield noticed a coincidence: Starting in that same decade, atomic clocks replaced orbital clocks as the standard to measure the speed of light.16The processes of the atomic clock were the indication that the speed of light had diminished, and now these same processes are being used to assess it.17 How could atomic clocks detect a decrease when they themselves may be decreasing with light? So then the speed of light would not change in atomic time, but would in orbital time.18

But more debate brooded over the theory, especially around the historical data themselves. Many scientists actively experienced with experimental data were critical of how the historical measurements were analyzed; they preferred that all the data be amassed into one statistical analysis so that the effects of “tracking” — a scientific tendency to accept the experimental results closest to previous ones — are reduced.19 The supporters of the theory, however, favored to examine the data in separated bunches; they often were more specialized in mathematics, using complicated analysis of statistics.20 They claimed tracking did not affect the results,21 not being as experimental-sensitive as many of the critics were.

Gerald Aardsma of the Institute for Creation Research has observed that when Setterfield and Trevor Norman, in The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time, did study the entire body of data, they treated each data point the same.22 But this method is misleading, he argues, since the light measurements they use have widely varying accuracies; some are more prone to error than others.23 When Aardsma reevaluated the whole set of data, this time taking into account the potential error ranges of the various data points, he discovered that no decay in the speed of light was revealed.24

Though this theory has disappointed some hopes, it unexpectedly gave birth to a revolutionary idea. D. Russell Humphreys, through his failed attempts to verify the light-decay theory,25 formulated a concept that spun the Big Bang theory into a new creation cosmology. In his Starlight and Time, Humphreys states that God created the earth and all the universe in six days, according to earth’s time, but the universe was created in billions of years according to the outer-space time of the early universe.26

At first this idea sounds like incredulous science fiction rather than a genuine attempt to solve the starlight paradox. But science is stranger still. This theory hinges on the fact that, according to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, gravity distorts time, a phenomenon known as gravitational time dilation.27 Observations of clocks located at the top and bottom of lofty buildings illustrate that time runs faster the farther away it is from a source of gravity, such as the center of the earth.28 Time and all other physical processes – like the rotation of the earth, atomic decay in one’s bones, aging – run slightly slower in the presence of greater gravity; and since all such processes slow at the same rate, this slow-motion effect is unnoticed in everyday affairs.29

The other screw in this creationist cosmology is embedded in the assumptions of the Big Bang theory and general relativity. Most laymen and even most scientists do not know that the universe envisioned by evolutionary cosmologists “has no boundaries, no edge and no center.”30 In this kind of universe, no galaxy would have more galaxies on one side than on another – everything, seen from a very large scale of course, is evenly distributed in space,31 and one could hypothetically travel forever and just find more and more matter and space with no end.32 And because there is no boundary and thus no center in a Big Bang universe, then there is no center of mass and thus no center of gravity.33

But this assumption, called the “Copernican principle,” is not required or proven by any scientific equation or experiment; it is totally arbitrary.34 What happens if one uses a different assumption? If the universe has an edge and thus has a center, then it must also have a center of mass and thus a center of gravity, which will produce time distortion.35 And because observations show that galaxies are evenly distributed from our viewpoint, the earth would have to be near the center.36 Time would run faster at the edge of the universe than at earth. But because the universe is so huge, this effect on time is diluted and thus is not enough to solve the starlight problem.37

However, if the universe is about the size that is observed today and was once at least fifty times smaller in the past,38then gravitational time dilation was once a whole lot greater. Much evidence exists to indicate that the universe has expanded, like the red-shifted light from galaxies. Even the Bible hints that God stretched space: “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in”39; “I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone”40; “The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens”41; “Which alone spreadeth out the heavens.”42

If this universe is bounded and was substantially smaller in the past, then the equations of general relativity produce only two possibilities – the universe was once in either a black hole or a “white hole.”43 Now black holes, predictions of general relativity, would be regions of space containing such dense matter that this matter’s gravity traps everything, even light.44 And what is most intriguing about black holes is that near their boundary, called the event horizon, time basically stands still, and clocks would move more and more slowly as they neared an event horizon.45 Another inherent characteristic of black holes is that their great gravity would pull in more matter from outside, increasing the diameter of the event horizon, and squeezing the matter trapped within it into an almost infinitely dense point at its center.46 But, fortunately, this motion of matter towards the center of a black hole contradicts the evidence for a universal expansion.47 One would not want a universe collapsing into itself.

Now the only other possibility for a bounded universe is that it once was inside of a vast “white hole.” A white hole would be the exact opposite of a black hole, though both their event horizons massively distort time.48 Matter and light would exist without distortion inside a white hole, but, as required by the equations of general relativity, they would have to move outward, eventually out through the event horizon.49This would cause the event horizon to shrink, like a balloon loosing air, until at last the white hole vanished.50 This expansion of materials from the center of a white hole perfectly correlates with today’s observed evidence.51

This theory, using observations and mathematics completely accepted by secular scientists,52 neatly solves the starlight paradox. For as the newly-created universe exuded out of a white hole, the earth eventually neared the event horizon, and time on earth slowed down drastically compared to time at the edge of the universe.53 This gravitational time dilation would allow the light of galaxies billions of years to travel to earth during a day of earth’s time.54

And so the unsolvable problem is not such a problem after all. God’s Word is vindicated in the end, proving that its truth can stand secure against the onslaught of evolution. Theories can flourish and then crumble away in the time of a few years, but the Word of God remains timelessly trustworthy. The starry sky does not hold seeds of doubt, but gives a glance at the greatness of God’s glory.

Works Cited:

1Donald B. DeYoung, Astronomy and the Bible: Questions and Answers 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), p. 63.

2Ibid, p. 90.

3D. Russell Humphreys, Ph.D., Starlight and Time: Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe (Green Forest: Master Books, Inc., 2002), pp. 44-45.

4Jason Lisle, “Does Distant Starlight Prove the Universe Is Old?” Answers in Genesis, December 13, 2007 (www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/does-starlight-prove).

5DeYoung, Astronomy and the Bible, p. 89.

6Humphreys, Starlight and Time, p. 46. 

7“VII. The Stars and Planets,” Revolution Against Evolution (www.rae.org/revev7rd.html).

8Ibid.

9Jim Mendelson, “Distant Starlight and the Speed of Light,” Revolution Against Evolution (rae.org/light.html), excerpt and adapted from The Answers Book (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1992) by Ken Ham, Andrew Snelling, and Carl Wieland.

10Humphreys, Starlight and Time, p. 46.

11Ibid, p. 46.

12Walter T. Brown, Ph.D., In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood 7th ed. (Phoenix: Center for Scientific Creation, 2001), p. 232.

13Ibid, p. 232.

14Ibid, p. 232.

15Ibid, p. 233.

16Ibid, p. 233.

17“VII. The Stars and Planets,” Revolution Against Evolution.

18Brown, In the Beginning, p. 233.

19Humphreys, Starlight and Time, pp. 47-48.

20Ibid, pp. 47-48.

21Ibid, p. 47.

22Gerald A. Aardsma, Ph.D., “Has the Speed of Light Decayed?” Institute for Creation Research, May 1988 (http://www.icr.org/article/283).

23Ibid.

24Ibid.

25“Young Universe, Old Stars? How can light get to us from stars which are millions of light-years away in a universe which the Bible claims is only thousands of years old?” Christian Answers(www.christiananswers.net/q-aig/aig-c005.html) adapted fromThe Revised & Expanded Answers Book(Master Books, 2000) by Ken Ham, Jonathan Sarfati, and Carl Wieland.

26Humphreys, Starlight and Time, p. 13.

27Ibid, p.11.

28“Young Universe, Old Stars?” Christian Answers.

29Humphreys, Starlight and Time, pp. 12-13.

30Ibid, p. 14.

31“Young Universe, Old Stars?” Christian Answers.

32Humphreys, Starlight and Time, p. 18.

33Ibid, p. 19.

34Ibid, p. 18.

35Ibid, p. 19.

36Ibid, p.19.

37Ibid, pp. 20-21.

38“Young Universe, Old Stars?” Christian Answers.

39Isaiah 40:22, King James Version of the Bible.

40Isaiah 44:24b, King James Version of the Bible.

41Zechariah 12:1a, King James Version of the Bible.

42Job 9:8a, King James Version of the Bible.

43Humphreys, Starlight and Time, pp. 22, 24.

44Ibid, pp. 22-23.

45Ibid, pp. 27-28.

46Ibid, p. 23.

47Ibid, pp. 23-24.

48Ibid, p. 24.

49Ibid, p. 24.

50“Young Universe, Old Stars?” Christian Answers.

51Humphreys, Starlight and Time, p. 25.

52Ibid, p. 25.

53Ibid, p. 29.

54Ibid, p. 29.

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