Light Matters: Ancient Radiation as a Baby Picture of the Universe

(system) #1
Modern cosmology is a field of empirical research, not a belief system.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Casper Hesp) #2

Thanks for reading along. Like before, I will be available here for discussion of this post or related topics. Feel free to post any thoughts, questions, or objections you have.

(George Brooks) #3


A serious question:

The article includes this: “For any newcomers to this series, I will first recap the conclusions of our previous posts. Distant starlight poses a challenge for young-earth creationism, because if the Earth is only six thousand years old, it’s difficult to explain how we are able to see stars that are millions of light years away.”

I’ve always separated the creation of the Earth from the creation of the rest of the Cosmos. So if a Creationist copied that approach, are there any paradoxes left to highlight?

I’m not yanking your chain here… I’m just trying to make sure I am following along correctly …

(Casper Hesp) #4

Hi George, thanks for your question!

By separating the creation of the Earth from the rest of the Cosmos I presume you imagine a standard cosmology (with billions of years) in which a young yet mature Earth was placed ~10,000 years ago.

That would indeed be a way to “solve” the distant starlight problem. However, as usual with ad-hoc solutions, it gives birth to a whole array of new problems. For example, why would the Earth be miraculously created if we can observe so many “naturally formed” planets orbiting other stars? How can we explain that the movement and rotation of the Earth correspond so well with the current picture of planet formation? In that picture, the formation of a star leaves behind a disk of rotating matter which starts to collapse in on itself, forming the planets of that star. This explains why all the planets of the Sun are orbiting in approximately the same plane and why all planets rotate around their own axes. These features indicate a formation history through natural processes.

Or, on a different note, why were all elements in the universe heavier than helium formed over billions of years through nuclear fusion by stars (see our previous post for more), while God was planning to poof the Earth into existence anyway?

Of course, you can also turn to the humongous body of evidence indicating that the Earth itself is ancient. That evidence is available on the planet itself. You know the drill :slight_smile: .

From a scientific perspective, it remains difficult to argue against appeals to miraculous intervention. It all comes down to the Omphalos hypothesis, one way or another. “God could have included this or that…” However, when someone would become willing to admit that the universe as a whole has the strong appearance of being ancient, I would hope that his or her resistance to accepting the large age of the Earth would also be lowered considerably.

Hope this helps,

(George Brooks) #5


It sure does help!

The various footnoted discussions on the Omphalos Hypothesis were fascinating!

I liked this one:

"In a rebuttal of the claim that God might have implanted a false history of the age of the Universe in order to test our faith in the truth of the Torah, Rabbi Natan Slifkin, an author whose works have been banned by several Haredi rabbis for going against the tenets of the Talmud,[11] writes:

God essentially created two conflicting accounts of Creation: one in nature, and one in the Torah. How can it be determined which is the real story, and which is the fake designed to mislead us? One could equally propose that it is nature which presents the real story, and that the Torah was devised by God to test us with a fake history!

One has to be able to rely on God’s truthfulness if religion is to function. Or, to put it another way—if God went to enormous lengths to convince us that the world is billions of years old, who are we to disagree?" [12]

11] G. Safran, “Gedolei Yisroel Condemn Rabbi Nosson Slifkin’s Books”. Dei’ah veDibur, January 12, 2005.

12] Slifkin, Natan. Challenge of Creation, Zootorah 2006, p167.

(George T Rahn) #6

Correct. I believe and agree with the premise above that modern cosmology is an empirical scientific claim and not a religiously quantified belief system. Modern cosmology as other scientific claims base themselves on relative descriptive statements and evaluations under the rubric of critique. Whereas some religious claims do not use critique to test their assertions.

(James McKay) #7

Hi Casper,

Thanks for this series of posts on light travel and the ASC. Do you have any plans to cover any of the other YEC attempts on the distant starlight problem, such as Russell Humphreys’ white hole cosmology?

(Casper Hesp) #8

Hi George,
I’m not schooled as a philosopher, though I did follow some courses in philosophy of science. Let me give it a try and formulate some of my thoughts here.

I think I do not really agree with your characterization of the difference between scientific and religious claims. For example, I would not be comfortable holding to a faith statement if it were placed completely beyond critique. Testing our beliefs by submitting them to critique is a healthy way of pursuing truth, especially concerning matters of faith and religion.

I belief it would be healthy if we would always engage in dialogue with each other to “test” the validity of our beliefs of any kind. From that perspective, the difference between scientific and religious claims lies mainly in the kinds of dialogue to which they are subjected.

By definition, science involves a form of dialogue based on “systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” This relatively rigid approach keeps the discussion on track. The dialogue concerning worldviews and religious beliefs can include science but is not restricted to it. That opens up a world of possibilities for interesting conversations, but can also result in endless back-and-forth discussions. Despite that, the dialogue itself can, ideally speaking, be a way of processing critique and adjusting one’s worldview accordingly.

Sometimes, people have the goal or desire to keep a certain conclusion up in the air by characterizing it as part of a belief system. That’s what we see with happening with cosmology, sadly.

The main thing I wanted to say here is that both religious beliefs and scientific claims are subjected to “tests” as we converse with each other. However, science provides less room for discussion because of self-imposed restrictions (such as, e.g., methodological naturalism).

In Christ,

(Casper Hesp) #9

Hi James,
Good question. That topic is actually something I have been thinking of, as a follow-up series to Light Matters. Time-dilation models like Humphreys’ White Hole Cosmology are currently the only kind of models which are still endorsed by all of the young-earth ministries. It would appear to be a worthwhile effort to zoom in on some of the issues that render those models untenable. As far as I can see, there is currently not a transparently written resource on this topic available on the net. We will see, it also depends on whether there’s enough enthusiasm for it. Would you be happy with such a resource? Do you personally know YECs who hold to white hole cosmology or so?


(James McKay) #10

I know one or two YECs who have posted links to it on Facebook, but they haven’t gone to any great lengths to defend it. My YEC friends are all pretty much “rank and file” YECs – the kind who learned everything they know about science from Answers in Genesis.

Having read a few descriptions of the theory, I’m not even sure what they’re trying to claim. Is it a black hole or a white hole? Where is it supposed to be in relation to the earth? Is it still supposed to be around or did it disappear, and if so, where did it go? And wouldn’t the earth have been so close to the action anyway that it would have been ripped apart by tidal forces if not spaghettification? It all sounds completely barking hatstand to me.

(George T Rahn) #11

For the most part, I agree. Since the study of theology is a science (classically the German word for science was/is wissenschaften) thorough critique of its assertions is also required in order to test validity. Faith in God on the other hand may fall under different qualification, imo.

(Casper Hesp) #12

Long story short, white hole cosmology places the Earth (or our whole galaxy) inside a black hole. Inverting a black hole gives you a… white hole. In this way, billions of years are supposed to pass outside of the black hole while inside of it only a few days come to pass. Essentially such time-dilation models try to accomplish placing a young earth in an ancient universe.

Nobody’s exactly sure what happens inside a black hole but I can tell you it is not a pleasant place to hang out :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:. It’s not completely barking hatstand though. The young-earth creationist John Hartnett (PhD in Physics) has published multiple papers on this idea in peer-reviewed academic journals (see this one from 2006, and this one from 2013). It should be noted that his model is unabashedly geocentric and is in some ways similar to the ASC model. Most importantly, it’s an ad-hoc construction with a particular goal in mind: keeping the Earth “young”. It would be interesting to scrutinize the ins and outs of such models in another series!

(James McKay) #13

Are papers on arXiv peer reviewed? I thought it was just a pre-print server for physicists to upload papers that were awaiting peer review, so it was very much a case of YMMV.


I love the topic of the CMB and think of God every time I look at that blackbody graph! I have long held that creationists missed their greatest opportunity to glorify God when they became dismissive of this salient find. Your point about the lack of a source for the CMB in a young universe is well taken. I never saw it that way, but that would mean that in order to achieve such a near-perfect spectrum in a mere 6000 years, the signal would almost have to be erupting from a local source and mixing so thoroughly as to make it impossible to distinguish its direction. (But we have also indirectly measured an increase in the CMB temperature at higher redshift, making at least one strong case against a local source.) Casper, I think it is safe to conclude that your articles have sufficiently hemmed-in an ASC universe. It’s the ASC’s move but I don’t see a square on the board safe to run to!

(Casper Hesp) #15

Hi James, that’s true for some papers on ArXiv, but they get taken down after a while if they don’t pass the peer review process. Before I added those links I checked that these papers were actually published and well. I just used the links to ArXiv because it’s open source.

It’s actually quite impressive. I think Hartnett is the only young-earther on earth who manages to get his models published in academic journals. Though he publishes in journals on theoretical physics, not in the actual astronomy journals. The focus of his articles is to give a cosmological alternative to dark matter, no mention is made of a young earth. I’ll have to study his work more to think through all the implications of his ideas for the young-earth paradigm.

(Casper Hesp) #16

Hi @r_speir, thanks for joining us again! Glad you enjoyed the post.

In the early days of the discovery of the CMB, astronomers actually wondered whether it could also be explained by scattered starlight emanating from distant galaxies. However, that idea was abandoned because it could not reproduce this perfect blackbody spectrum.

I suppose we could call it checkmate then? Though I would be very happy if, for example, Jason Lisle himself would be present here to give his thoughts on these blog posts. The goal was never to “break down the ASC model” per se, but rather to engage these ideas in a serious dialogue. As of now, we are reaching the conclusion that these ideas don’t hold up. But there’s also no one around to defend them…