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Chapter 4 of Hypertext Book: A New Look At An Old Earth

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This chapter presents an easy-to-understan scientific old-earth argument – light from distant stars. It also examines the most commonly presented objections to it.

Chapter 4 Contents

Chapter 4: Missing the Obvious

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” – Psalms 19:1, 2.

[Beginning of this Chapter]

Light from Distant Stars

The universe was only created once. There were not two separate creations – one for the information in the first chapter of Genesis and another for the information seen through telescopes. It follows that there should be no contradictions between the two accounts.

God’s universe demands a literal reading just like His Bible does. God’s word, in Psalm 19:1, 2 (quoted above), explains that His creation speaks the truth. Ironically, those Christians who are most insistent that we take the plainest meaning of every word in the Bible often miss the most obvious reading of God’s heavens. They are correct that God’s Bible speaks the truth; but so do His heavens. God’s word ought to be trusted without disregarding the scientific reading of His creation. What is needed is a proper regard for both.

God’s invisible qualities, such as His unfathomable timelessness, are written all over His heavens. As explained in previous chapters, the Bible even tells us to expect the heavens to reflect God’s eternal nature:

“God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made …” – Romans 1:20, Emphasis mine.

When atheistic scientists read the heavens, they see an agelessness about them even when they fail to see something as obvious as the creation’s need for a creator. When young-earth creationists read the heavens they appear almost as blind as the atheistic scientists; they appear to be blinded to the incomprehensible age of the creation. It would seem that, of all people, it should be the Christians who would be able to see a “shadow” of God’s eternal nature proclaimed in the heavens.

The universe is very old; exactly how old is not really known. Present estimates run in the fifteen-to-twenty-billion-year range but even the scientists have not settled on an exact age. Only God really knows. Here it will be demonstrated that the universe is much older than the twenty-four-hour interpretation of Genesis allows for. One of the simplest proofs is a consequence of the size of the universe and the speed of light.

If there is anything about the heavens which is usually agreed upon by creationist and evolutionist alike, it is that they are extremely large. We all have some concept of how large the Earth must be; but it is difficult to fathom the 238,854 mile distance to the Moon. 1 When we look at it at night, it is very hard to imagine that it is 2160 miles in diameter and so very far away. Still, relatively speaking, the moon is very close to us. The closest planets, Mars and Venus, never come nearly as close. The Sun is a staggering 92,900,000 miles away from us. This is just as well; every second it unleashes trillions of times as much energy as the Hiroshima bomb. Even at our tremendous distance, a person can still get “burned by the Sun.”

The Sun is very far from us; but the Sun, the Moon, the Earth and all the other planets sit together in a little group all alone by themselves in a giant sea of empty space. The stars are not even close to them. In fact, the entire 92,900,000 miles between the Earth and the Sun would completely disappear if it were viewed from even the closest star. And the closest star would scarcely appear distinct from the Sun if it were viewed from even the closest of galaxies. (A galaxy is a cluster of millions or even billions of stars). And individual galaxies are virtually lost in the sea of the universe’s superclusters. (Superclusters are large clusters made up of smaller clusters – which, in turn, each contain hundreds or thousands of individual galaxies.) 2 The universe is even larger than a supercluster. How much larger? Like its age, no one has yet figured out exactly how large the universe really is either.

The mere fact that distant stars can be seen proves that they were there a very long time ago. Light travels very rapidly – 186,282 miles in a single second; but even at that speed, light has to have been traveling for more than two million years to reach us from even our closest neighboring spiral galaxy 3 which is located in the constellation Andromeda and identified simply as “M31.” 4 M31 is that far away from us!

If M31 were younger than two million years, light from it would not have had time to reach us; this means we would not even know there was an M31 galaxy. The light would still be in space somewhere in between it and us – still rushing toward us. But the light has already arrived here from M31 and we do see it. So how old is M31? Anyone who suggests that it is less than two million years old is simply disregarding the evidence. The only literal reading of God’s universe is that we see M31 because light has traveled from it to us, and that takes time!

M31 is far away; but compared to other things in God’s universe, it is relatively close. Light from objects, which are greatly more distant, shows that the universe is older still; light takes more than 300 million years to reach us from the Coma-A1367 supercluster 5 and many billions of years to reach us from the most distant quasars. 6

In spite of this scientific evidence, there are still a great many creationists who hold that God created the universe about ten thousand years ago. The three following explanations are usually offered in defense of this position.

Explanations for Visible Starlight in a Young Universe:


  • That the stars are actually very close to us and are very small.
  • That light used to travel more quickly in the past than it does today.
  • That God created the light in transit between the stars and us.

[Beginning of this Chapter]

Explanation #1: That the stars are very close to us

When this explanation is even mentioned at all, it is not usually taken seriously. It is normally included as another logical possibility – but one which is not considered to be very likely. 7 After all, the astronomers were right about the distances to the Moon, Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. We know – we’ve sent spacecraft to them. Why should astronomers suddenly be wrong – and so very wrong too – only when they start to measure the distances to the stars?

The M31 galaxy will make a good enough example to refute explanation #1, even though there are other objects in the universe which are thousands of times farther away from us than it is. If M31 were close enough to be seen in a 10,000-year-old universe, then it would have to be within 10,000 light-years of planet Earth. (A light-year is not a unit of time but the distance light travels in a year.) 8 This means it would be 200 times closer to us than the astronomers say. Even this assumption would mean that M31 had been invisible for the first 10,000 years of the universe’s existence; and anything more distant than it would still be invisible for ages yet to come.

Of course, if a star is closer it will also appear brighter to an observer here on earth. According to the inverse square law of light intensity, 9 a star which is 200 times closer should appear 40,000 times brighter. This means that if the stars in the M31 galaxy were 200 times closer, they would also have to be 40,000 times dimmer than expected if they are going to appear to us as dimly as they do.

When an object is twice as far away, the same amount of light must cover four times the area. The area which the light must cover increases as the square of the distance.

A particular class of stars called Cepheid variables proves that stars in M31 are not dimmer than expected. These stars pulse at a rate which is linked to their absolute brightness. By merely watching their pulse rates, astronomers can know how bright these stars actually are. For this reason, it is clear that the Cepheid variable stars in the M31 galaxy are not dimmer and closer than astronomers say. 10

[Beginning of this Chapter]

Explanation #2: That light used to travel faster in the past

Perhaps the best exposition of this idea has been done by Trevor Norman and Barry Setterfield. 11 Their explanation not only attempts to explain how distant stars can be seen, it also attempts to explain a few other supposedly related phenomena such as radioactive dating. Although this explanation also fails as a viable alternative to an old universe, it is still quite interesting. There is much to be learned about scientific inquiry from studying it closely.

In its outward appearance, the theory is supported by actual measurements which have been made of the speed of light over the past few hundred years. A curve has been fit reasonably well through these measurements – one which, when greatly extrapolated, indicates that the speed of light was extremely fast about six thousand years ago 12 – fast enough to allow for the most distant stars to be visible in a young universe.

The claim is that the speed of light has been decreasing with time. Because the speed of light, in a vacuum and in the absence of a strong gravitational field, is so perfectly constant no matter how or where it is measured, Norman and Setterfield have added the restriction that the speed of light is the same everywhere in the universe at any given instant; they claim it varies everywhere at the same rate. 13 This is an attempt to reconcile this theory with Einstein’s theory of relativity. What relativity has to say about this will be considered later; but first the data will be examined.

Ever since man realized that light did not travel instantaneously from one place to another, he has been trying to measure its speed. The first attempts were more crude than modern ones because of the limitations imposed by the available equipment; but as instrumentation improved, so did the measurements. At present the figure is known quite precisely to be 299,792,458 meters per second (to within some fraction of a meter); but the first approximate measurements of centuries past were a fraction of a percent higher.

What is interesting here is that after the first few rough measurements were made, it appears that other scientists tended to be influenced by these early measurements. As a consequence, the accepted value approached the correct value more or less from one side, 14 instead of bouncing back and forth randomly between too fast and too slow quite as much as one might have expected if measuring error were truly random. Measuring error is seldom random. Scientists are people and people have expectations. The direction of experimental error is almost invariably influenced by these expectations. Even the best scientists are slightly inclined to discover what they expect to discover instead of what is really the truth.

The Norman/Setterfield Speed of Light Data 15


Date,  Measured Value, Estimated Error, (Real Error)
1740     300,650,000        ?            860,000
1783     300,460,000     160,000         670,000
1843     300,020,000     160,000         230,000
1861     300,050,000        ?            260,000
1874     299,990,000     200,000         200,000
1874     299,900,000     200,000         110,000
1876     299,921,000      13,000         130,000
1879     299,910,000      50,000         120,000
1882     299,860,000      30,000          70,000
1882     299,853,000      60,000          60,000
1883     299,850,000      90,000          60,000
1900     299,900,000      80,000         110,000
1902     299,860,000      80,000          70,000
1902     299,901,000      84,000         110,000
1906     299,803,000      30,000          10,500
1923     299,795,000      30,000            2500
1924     299,802,000      30,000            9500
1926     299,798,000      15,000            5500
1928     299,786,000      10,000           -6500
1932     299,774,000      10,000         -18,500
1936     299,771,000      10,000         -21,500
1937     299,771,000      10,000         -21,500
1940     299,776,000      10,000         -16,500
1947     299,798,000        3000            5500
1947     299,792,000        3000            -460
1949     299,792,400        2400             -60
1949     299,796,000        2000            3500
1950     299,792,500        1000              40
1950     299,794,300        1200            1840
1950     299,793,100         260             640
1951     299,793,100         400             640
1951     299,794,200        1400            1740
1951     299,792,600         700             140
1953     299,792,850         160             390
1954     299,792,750         300             290
1954     299,795,100        3100            2640
1955     299,792,400         400             -60
1955     299,792,000        6000            -460
1956     299,792,900        2000             440
1956     299,792,700        2000             240
1956     299,791,900        2000            -560
1956     299,792,400         110             -60
1956     299,792,200         130            -260
1957     299,792,600        1200             140
1958     299,792,500         100              40
1960     299,792,600          60             140
1966     299,792,440         200             -20
1967     299,792,560         110             100
1967     299,792,500          50              40
1972     299,792,462          18               3?
1972     299,792,460           6               1?
1973     299,792,457.4         1.1            -1?
1973     299,792,458           2                ?
1974     299,792,459           0.8              ?
1978     299,792,458.8         0.2              ?
1979     299,792,458.1         1.9              ?
1983     299,792,458.6         0.3              ?

It will be easy for us to understand how naturally scientists can fall into this trap and how the correcting process works; all we need to do is to pretend for a moment that we are scientists who are trying to measure the speed of light:

First we read that another scientist has measured the speed of light and found it to be 300,400,000 m/s (meters per second). We try it ourselves and get 299,700,000 m/s. We were close but we wonder why we weren’t closer. So we try again – still using the same equipment; this time we get 299,900,000 m/s. This looks “better” to us though in fact it is slightly less accurate. We make many more measurements “improving” our technique each time; but we rate our success largely on how close we come to 300,400,000 m/s; we have no other criteria to go by. Finally, we have “perfected” our technique and we are consistently measuring about 299,900,000 m/s; so we report our results.

We are almost certainly proud of our own ability and are quite willing to claim that the reason why our measurement differs from the earlier one is that ours is more accurate; but notice that we have still allowed it to influence our result slightly.

Eventually, better equipment comes along and the experiment is repeated with less error; but the scientists who repeat the experiment are also inclined to read the remaining error in favor of the traditional measurements. Each scientist in the chain is inclined to interpret the error in his instruments in favor of what the rest of the scientific community has found to be true before him. As time continues and instruments improve, scientists are forced farther away from the first mistake and converge upon the actual fact.

Like everyone, Norman and Setterfield certainly had their own expectations. As young-earth creationists, they presumably expected to discover that light used to travel faster in the past than it does now – enough so that light from the most distant stars could reach the earth within thousands of years. As they examined historic measurements of the speed of light, what they “saw” was that light has been slowing down ever since people started measuring it. Nearly all other scientists, in keeping with their expectations, “see” that the oldest measurements happened to be off and that subsequent measurements gradually corrected the measured speed down to the true value.

Norman and Setterfield selected a mathematical curve which not only fit the historic data reasonably well but which also indicated that light from the most distant stars took something on the order of six thousand years to reach us. A simple parabola, would have fit the data as well or better; but it would not have borne out their expectation that the speed of light was many millions of times greater six thousand years ago. 16

When a scientist publishes his measurements, he usually reports an estimate of how much error they are likely to contain. Interestingly, the Norman-Setterfield curve conforms as well to this probable error as it does to the data points themselves. Most of the data points, which their curve follows, stray from the presently accepted value for light speed by about the amount of the predicted probable error. This supports the hypothesis that the apparent change in light speed results from the reduction of measuring error with time. It also tends to confirm the suspicion that scientists sometimes interpret their data to agree with what they believe to be true.

Norman and Setterfield also claim that the rate of radioactive decay must change as the speed of light changes. 17 They predict radiocarbon dates for 4000 year old wood will appear much older – by about 34 million years. As will be shown in the next chapter, carbon-14 dates for 4000-year-old wood turn out to be about 500 years too young. This observed fact refutes the Norman-Setterfield theory of light speed decay.

Although the Norman-Setterfield theory fails to stand up to close inspection, this does not prove that light from distant stars couldn’t have reached us in mere thousands of years. Light still might have changed speed sometime in the past, even if there is no modern or historic data which confirms it. Light might have changed speed even if radioactive dating evidence doesn’t confirm it. The real adversary of changing light speed – Einstein’s theory of relativity – will be addressed next.

[Beginning of this Chapter]

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

Although popularly called the “theory” of relativity, Einstein’s explanation has been experimentally tested for many years and has always done a good job of predicting the results of experiments. This gives relativity the status of scientific “law.” 18

In order to understand what relativity has to say about changing light speed, we need to know a little bit about relativity itself. This information will be presented as simply as possible. Although the following discourse is something of a brain exercise, most readers will probably find it quite interesting. The ideas behind relativity are not really very complicated; they are just very strange.

According to relativity, there is no preferred frame of reference. In other words, there is no place we can be, nor any speed at which we can be moving, that is more “true” in any sense than any other place or speed would be. In particular, it is impossible to ever know if we are moving very rapidly or are completely stopped. The laws of physics work just as well for a man in a high speed train as they do for one who is standing still. If the man in the train throws a ball straight up, it will come back down into his hand instead of hitting the back wall of the car in which he is riding. This is still true even if the man in the train thinks he is standing still. After all, the earth is a giant moving “spaceship” which is traveling very rapidly around the sun, yet all of the laws of physics work for us as we move, even though we regard ourselves as being stationary.

The moving train example is an over-simplified one. It is easily explained, even without relativity. Not all things can be explained without it, however. This is why the laws of relativity were needed. How Albert Einstein came to the conclusion that there is no preferred frame of reference is not only an interesting story, it may also help us understand what relativity is about.

It all started back in the last century with the Nobel-prize-winning scientist A.A. Michelson. Michelson had invented a new measuring apparatus with which he hoped to accurately measure the velocity of “spaceship Earth.” This attempt is known as the Michelson-Morley experiment.

It was known that the earth makes one revolution on its axis daily. Because the earth is nearly eight thousand miles in diameter, this means that a man standing at the equator is being carried along by the turning earth at a speed slightly over one thousand miles per hour. 19 Furthermore, the earth goes around the sun (total circular distance about 584,000,000 miles) once in a year. This means that the earth is zipping around the sun at more than 66,500 miles per hour. (And you are riding on it!) But how fast might the sun be moving through the galaxy or the galaxy through the universe? This is what Michelson wanted to measure.

Loosely speaking, Michelson’s apparatus measured the speed of light as it passed the earth in one direction and very accurately compared it to the speed of light passing the earth in another direction. Because the earth was moving, it seemed to him that light should pass it at different speeds in different directions. As we have just seen, the earth is traveling at a pretty fast clip. The amazing result of the experiment was that no matter which way Michelson turned his apparatus, nor how carefully he made his measurement, he found that the apparent speed of passing light was always exactly the same – not almost the same; there was no observable difference at all!

Putting this into a common setting will reveal how absurd this measurement was. It was as if we were in a slowly moving car and we were watching faster cars on the same street which were passing us in both directions. Further, assume that all of those other cars were traveling at exactly the same speed, just like light does. We should expect cars which were overtaking us to pass us more slowly than those which where coming the opposite direction. What Michelson discovered was like saying that the cars were passing us at exactly the same rate in both directions; 20 it was as if we were completely stopped. This was not at all what Michelson was expecting to discover! He knew that the earth was moving. Occasionally scientists discover things which they are not expecting – but only when the evidence demands it.

The scientific community had as hard a time accepting this as you might now be having. Michelson was given lots of money to reconstruct his apparatus and he rebuilt it using the best available techniques and equipment. This time his apparatus was built as solidly as a battleship. The experiment was repeated and, to the chagrin of the world, the results were exactly the same. The earth did not appear to be moving at all! Either the earth was the stationary center of the universe and the sun circled it, or new laws of physics were needed. Albert Einstein was able to figure out what had happened with Michelson’s experiment; he provided the necessary new laws of physics to explain it.

Scientists found themselves in a position very much like the man on the train who could not tell from throwing his ball up into the air that he was moving – only their position was even worse; it was as if looking out the window wouldn’t help either. According to the laws of relativity, the speed of light was what was always constant no matter how it was measured, 21 and other things like the very rate of time itself would change instead. When Einstein supplied this realization and the proper equations, Michelson’s experiment made sense.

Apparently the rate of time actually does change! As it turns out, speed, acceleration and gravity all affect it. 22 As incredible as this sounds, subsequent experiments confirmed Einstein’s seemingly wild claim. Elapsed time for very high speed particles can be shown to be quite different than that for a stationary observer. 23 Small effects can even be detected using very accurate clocks carried on supersonic aircraft. 24 What time it is depends partly on where you are and how fast you are moving!

If one of a pair of identical twins were to be sent off into space for fifty years, traveling at speeds approaching the speed of light, something very strange would become apparent when both were reunited at the end of the journey. The earthbound twin would, naturally, find himself to be fifty years older than he had been; but the space traveler would have aged much less. 25 He could have aged as little as a year or less during his travels – depending on how fast he had been going. His spaceship was simply in something like what a science fiction writer might call a different “time warp.” That’s the way the real universe is; time passes at different rates under different conditions.

As previously mentioned, Norman and Setterfield’s theory requires that the speed of light changes at the same rate everywhere in the universe; so it is always the same everywhere at any given instant. The problem with this is that ideas like “at the same time” lose meaning when time advances at different rates under different conditions. There is just no way to know whose clock to use.

In fact, it turns out that there is no way at all to synchronize two widely separated clocks so that everyone will agree that they are in fact synchronized. “Now” here is not necessarily also “now” in another place. 26 Two clocks which are close together (like on the same planet) can be synchronized fairly well, but as they are moved farther apart the situation becomes hopeless. If clock “A” were placed on earth and clock “B” somewhere in the M31 galaxy, the attempt to synchronize would be futile. Some observers would see clock “A” rust into powder before a shiny new clock “B” was even placed into position. Others would see “B” turn to powder before a shiny new “A” was positioned. This confusion would still be there even after corrections were made for the time it took the light to reach the different observers. 27

[Beginning of this Chapter]

God’s View of Time

Now to put this all together: It is known from measurements that the speed of light, in empty space, is the same everywhere right now. It is also known from relativity that our “now” is the same as “then” for some other observer. This means the speed of light, for some other observer, must also have been the same everywhere “then.” It follows that the speed of light, again in empty space, must always be the same everywhere, and for all time, because a chain of “thens” and “nows” can be linked together from different frames of reference to tie all time together. This is also true of other universal truths, besides the speed of light, for exactly the same reason. Only those things which are able to have different values to different observers are able to change with time.

In fact, according to Einstein’s equations, time stands still for light in transit. 28 While billions of years might be passing for observers on planets, a photon 29 of light will make its flight from a distant star in a literal instant of its own time. It is as if light, like God, is not subject to what men call time. A traveling photon, if it could speak, might say with Jesus, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58).

All of this may sound like nonsense to many readers, but this is the way the universe is made. No promise was made that the universe would be easy to understand, only that it would speak the truth. Remember, it’s like its Creator; He is not easy to fathom either! God made the universe with a very complex relationship to time. The universe speaks of His invisible attributes, not ours. To Him, a thousand years really is as one day and vice versa (2 Pet. 3:8). To us, a thousand years is a long, long time. As we study God’s creation we should expect to see many more similarities between creation and Creator.

God uses His creation in many ways to teach us about Himself. He often teaches us spiritual truth through metaphors which, although they are mere shadows of spiritual truth, have been chosen from nature so carefully that their physical characteristics reflect in great detail the spiritual truths to which they relate. 30 For example, God sometimes calls us “sheep.” We find that we can learn more about ourselves than we even care to know by studying real sheep in detail. In the words of a modern-day shepherd:

“It is no mere whim on God’s part to call us sheep. Our behavior patterns and life habits are so much like that of sheep it is well nigh embarrassing.” – A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, C. 1970, W. Phillip Keller, Zondervan, G.R., Mich., p. 74

Now that we understand that light’s speed does not change, 31 we are in a better position to appreciate God’s use of “light” as a metaphor. Truth and righteousness do not change from century to century but are forever the same. It appears that Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), and who could even say, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58), was speaking more graphically than many realize when He called Himself the “light” of the world (John 8:12).

Light cannot have changed speed at any time in the past. The very nature of God and His creation prohibit it.

[Beginning of this Chapter]

Explanation #3: That light was created in transit

According to this explanation, light was created in transit between the distant stars and us. The light we see in the night sky was created to give the appearance of those stars but did not actually ever come from them. Those stars themselves do not really even need to be there at all. Indeed, according to this explanation, it is believed that exploding stars, such as the supernova observed on February 23, 1987, never existed! This particular supernova was 160,000 light-years away from us; 32 even the light from the flash which testified of the star’s final death would necessarily have been created in transit. Any real light which this star’s remains might have shed during the last ten thousand years would still remain in transit for the next 150,000 years.

In support of this “false appearance of age” theory, its proponents sometimes point to the creation of Adam as an example of God’s methodology. They presume Adam was created with a built-in appearance of age, perhaps twenty or thirty years; but the Bible does not provide any specifics as to whether or not this is true. Because it is merely presumed to be true, it is useless as supporting evidence. Adam might have been created as a baby or even as an embryo. The embryo possibility has some fascinating scriptural support; although it would be an unnecessary and lengthy digression to examine it here, this theory may be presented in a later book.

This explanation is also part of a more general theory about all scientific data indicating antiquity; according to the general theory, God created the universe as it presently appears, with all of the evidence consistent with an old age built right into it. 33 Dinosaur bones (which are found in sediments dating much older than ten thousand years) would have been fabricated by God and planted to give the false appearance of an old earth. This would mean that they were never really part of living animals but only hints at many very interesting kinds of animals which never really existed. Also, the radioactive isotopes, which are used to date these fossils, would have been strategically planted at various levels of geological formations to give the false appearance of different ages depending on their location.

According to explanation #3, starlight speaks of an old earth but it speaks falsely. It is difficult to refute this hypothesis scientifically; all evidence would lie. Similarly, it would be difficult to prove scientifically that the universe (including our memories of it) was not just created yesterday! If we were to take this position we would have no trouble at all sidestepping any scientific evidence; but we would still have considerable difficulty with the Biblical evidence.

To begin with, the thought of God fabricating and hiding dinosaur bones is strongly reminiscent of Piltdown man. 34 In 1912 a human skull was “discovered” near Piltdown, England which was accompanied by a fragment of an orangutan’s jaw. The jaw had been filed to imitate human tooth wear. Both it and the skull had been stained to give the appearance of age. They had been buried together with some genuine ancient animal fossils – apparently as a prank. This prank got out of hand when its suspected prime perpetrator died. Any possible accomplices were, presumably, too embarrassed to confess; so the “fossil” was largely accepted by the scientific community as an ancient ancestor of man. It was not discovered to be a fraud until 1953. By then, sadly, much scientific effort had been wasted and many men had been made to appear very foolish.

This is not the sort of thing we should suspect God of doing. It’s too much like telling a lie; and God doesn’t lie. The previous chapter dealt with the way in which God sometimes hides truth from people to keep them from having any particular advantage over others. God does not always reveal Himself in the plainest possible way; but the line must be drawn here. Explanation #3 has God fabricating false evidence. This is not the same as speaking the truth in parables or cryptic language. There is no way to explain fabricated dinosaur bones or flashes from nonexistent exploding stars as camouflaged truth. Under explanation #3, their existence would have to be an outright deception. It simply cannot be allowed that God would bear this kind of false witness. 35 It would seem that those who have suggested this explanation have not fully thought out its consequences.

Whether the general form of this explanation is assumed, or nothing but starlight is taken to have been created with a false appearance of age, it is still a deception. If we had never really seen the depths of the heavens but only a contrived image of them, God would not be telling us that they declare His glory (Psalm 19:1). It is certain that “liar” is not one of God’s invisible attributes. It is therefore certain that nowhere can “liar” be seen or understood from the things which have been made in the way that Paul assures us that God’s invisible attributes can be (Romans 1:20). God’s very nature eliminates explanation #3 as a possibility – especially when His nature is considered in conjunction with the fact that we can read His invisible attributes in His creation.

A non-literal meaning should never be forced on the heavens if the literal reading makes sense. The same rules which help us interpret God’s Bible must apply to His creation as well. This is especially true if the non-literal interpretation carries the consequence that God bears a false witness in His creation.

If God’s Bible had said “the universe is young” as clearly as His universe testifies it is old, then we might have to appeal to a deceptively non-literal reading of either God’s Bible or His creation. We would either have to assume that God created light between the heavens and our eyes or between our Bibles and our eyes. Either way the truth is assumed to be something different than what our own eyes report to us. Fortunately, this is not our position! God has not given us any such contradiction. Both God’s Bible and His creation mean exactly what they say; we only have to be careful and keep our eyes open when we read them.

Even if we were willing to allow this sort of deception on God’s part, Einstein’s Theory of relativity will, once again, give us trouble. The problem is that the “false appearance of age” theory demands that the entire universe be created nearly “simultaneously.” 36 As we have seen, the word “simultaneously” has no absolute meaning in God’s universe. His time is not our time. Even in our narrow earthly frame of reference, we are still going to need billions of years of real antiquity somewhere. The problem is that “clocks” on distant quasars are marking time so slowly 37 that they have lagged billions of years into the past (as measured from the big bang, when all matter was in one place and the universe had only one frame of reference). Even under the “false appearance of age” theory, these objects exist in the very distant past when viewed from our own present frame of reference,.

The old-earth position is consistent with both the physical and Biblical evidence. That it is consistent with the scientific evidence, will be demonstrated in Chapters 5 and 6. Chapter 6 will also demonstrate that the old-earth position can be reconciled with every single word in the first chapter of Genesis.

[Beginning of this Chapter]


All three of the suggested explanations have failed; the stars are certainly very far away from us, light has always traveled at the same speed, and God does not lie to us in His creation. There is no way light from the most distant stars could be seen from earth if the universe were very young. There are simply no other reasonable possibilities.

What this leaves is a universe which is certainly very old. There seems to be no way to compromise with the ten-thousand-year age proposed by the young-earth creationists. At least one of the “days” of Genesis must have been greatly longer than twenty-four hours. Because the young-earth creationists simply cannot be correct about this, and because the scientists have good reasons for suggesting the dates which they propose, the best course of action is to accept the scientific dates as being approximately correct.

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Chapter 4 Footnotes:

  1. Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 49th Edition, Ed. Robert C. Weast, Ph.D., C. 1964, The Chemical Rubber Company, Cleveland, Ohio, pp. F-144, 145. This is the source for all of the astronomical distances and diameters presented in this chapter. (Distances are center-to-center averages.) [Return]
  2. “Superclusters and Voids in the Distribution of Galaxies,” by Stephen A. Gregory and Laird A. Thompson, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, March 1982, Vol. 246, No. 3, p. 106. [Return]
  3. Mysteries of the Universe, Nigel Henbest, C. 1981, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, N.Y., pp. 171-172. [Return]
  4. M31 is also called NGC 224 in the “New General Catalog.” Because it is located in the constellation Andromeda, M31 is sometimes also called the “Andromeda Galaxy.” [Return]
  5. “Superclusters and Voids in the Distribution of Galaxies,” by Stephen A. Gregory and Laird A Thompson, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, March 1982, Vol. 246, No. 3, p. 114. [Return]
  6. “Quasars as Probes of the Distant and Early Universe,” by Patrick S. Osmer, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, February 1982, Vol. 246, No. 2, p. 126. [Return]
  7. This actually appears to be suggested as a serious alternative in Science and Creation, by William W Boardman Jr. Robert F. Koontz, and Henry M. Morris, C. 1973, Creation-Science Research Center, San Diego, California, p. 26. [Return]
  8. A light-year is about six trillion miles. [Return]
  9. Second Course of Light, A.E.E. McKenzie M.A., 1956, reprinted 1965, Cambridge University Press, Great Britain, p. 166. [Return]
  10. Mysteries of the Universe, by Nigel Henbest, C. 1981, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., N.Y., pp. 91, 170. [Return]
  11. The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time, by Trevor Norman and Barry Setterfield, C. 1987, Stanford Research Institute International, 333 Ravenswood Ave. Menlo Park, Ca. 94025. Creationists usually reject theories, such as this one, which appeal to changes in the physical constants. It is believed that God must have chosen those constants very carefully for the universe to function correctly. For example, it is cited that, “the hydrogen atom could not exist if the mass of the proton was just .2% greater (De Young, 1985).” See, “Has the Speed of Light Decayed?” By Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D. Institute for Creation Research, San Diego, Ca., I.C.R. Technical Report No. 1187, p. 1. [Return]
  12. Their data showed a maximum change of less than 1/2 percent over the past 250 years, Ibid p. 26. This change was approximately equal to the measuring error. From this Setterfield has extrapolated that the speed of light 6000 years ago was many millions of times its present value. See Geological Time and Scriptural Chronology, Barry Setterfield, Box 318, Blackwood, S.A., 5051 Australia, pp. 1, 7. [Return]
  13. The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time, by Trevor Norman and Barry Setterfield, C. 1987, Stanford Research Institute International, 333 Ravenswood Ave. Menlo Park, Ca. 94025, pp. 9, 84. [Return]
  14. This effect is not uncommon in scientific inquiry. See, “Has the Speed of Light Decayed?” By Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D. Institute for Creation Research, San Diego, Ca., I.C.R. Technical Report No. 1187, p. 2. [Return]
  15. The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time, by Trevor Norman and Barry Setterfield, C. 1987, Stanford Research Institute International, 333 Ravenswood Ave. Menlo Park, Ca. 94025, p. 26. “Real error” has been added here for comparison; it is the difference between each measurement and Light’s actual speed – about 299,792,458 meters per second. [Return]
  16. Ibid p. 46. A parabola only triples light’s speed for 6000 years ago. See Geological Time and Scriptural Chronology, Barry Setterfield, Box 318, Blackwood, S.A., 5051 Australia, p. 7, for the selected result. [Return]
  17. The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time, by Trevor Norman and Barry Setterfield, C. 1987, Stanford Research Institute International, 333 Ravenswood Ave. Menlo Park, Ca. 94025 p. 83. [Return]
  18. This is true for the special theory at least. It is anticipated that the general theory of relativity will eventually need modification to harmonize it with quantum mechanics. [Return]
  19. He must travel 3.1416 (pi) times 7927 miles (the Earth’s equatorial diameter) in 24 hours (how long it takes for the Earth to turn a complete circle) – which works out to be about 1037.6 mph (this ignores the correction for sidereal motion). [Return]
  20. Because light had to make a round trip in Michelson’s apparatus, he actually had to measure light traveling in two perpendicular directions. This makes the math more complex but the final result is exactly the same. [Return]
  21. Einstein’s Universe, Nigel Calder, C. 1979, The Viking Press, N.Y., p. 105. [Return]
  22. Relativity, Albert Einstein Ph.D., C. 1931, Crown Publishers, N.Y., pp. 44, 117, (acceleration and gravity being equivalent, p. 83). [Return]
  23. The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Richard P. Feynman, C. 1983, Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., Reading, Massachusetts, p. 15-7. [Return]
  24. “Around the World Atomic Clocks: Observed Relativistic Time Gains,” J.C. Hafele and Richard E. Keating, SCIENCE, July 14, 1972, Vol. 177, No. 4044, pp. 168-170. See also “Around the World Atomic Clocks: Predicted Relativistic Time Gains,” J.C. Hafele and Richard E. Keating, SCIENCE, July 14, 1972, Vol. 177, No. 4044, pp. 166-168. [Return]
  25. Einstein’s Universe, Nigel Calder, C. 1979, The Viking Press, N.Y., p. 88. [Return]
  26. The Meaning Of Relativity, Albert Einstein, C. 1945, 1950, Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp. 30, 31. See also The Feynman Lectures on Physics, by Richard P. Feynman, C. 1963, Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., Reading, Mass., Vol. 1, p. 15-7. [Return]
  27. Appendix 3 illustrates this problem of clock synchronization. It examines an interesting paradox which would result if time passed the way we normally supposed it to. [Return]
  28. Modern Physics: an Introductory Survey, by Arthur Beiser, C. 1968, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, Mass., p. 38. In equation 2-29: t=t0/sqr(1-(v*v)/(c*c)); if v=c then t0=0 even if t is billions of years. [Return]
  29. A photon is the smallest possible “particle” of light. [Return]
  30. Or, possibly, the physical realities may have been created with the desired spiritual reflection in mind. [Return]
  31. As explained, this is true in free space only – light changes speed when it travels through a medium with a different index of refraction than empty space and also when it passes through a gravitational field. The physical world is, at best, a mere shadow of the spiritual reality. [Return]
  32. “The Great Supernova of 1987,” by Stan Woosley and Tom Weaver, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, August 1989, Vol. 261, No. 2, p. 32. [Return]
  33. This young-earth position is different from the one which claims that the actual scientific evidence refutes the old-earth position. These two young-earth positions are in disagreement with each other over the validity of the universe’s evidence. [Return]
  34. Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, by Stephen Jay Gould, C. 1983, W.W. Norton and Company, N.Y., pp. 201-226. See for more detail concerning Piltdown man. [Return]
  35. Even in 2 Thessalonians 2:11 where it says, “God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie,” God does not directly send this delusion Himself. As explained in 2 Thess. 2:7-11, the delusion is brought by Satan; God merely stops holding him back. As Psalms 19:1 and Romans 1:20 attest, we see God’s handiwork, not Satan’s, when we study the creation. [Return]
  36. In cosmological terms, six consecutive twenty-four-hour days comprise a mere instant. [Return]
  37. This follows from relativity because quasars are moving away from us very rapidly. [Return]

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