Evolution v. Creation series
The familiar nursery rhyme of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” belies the long-standing controversy of the distance of stars and therefore, their age.
You may be thinking, are we discussing “distance” or “time?”
The short answer is, “both.”
Distant starlight has long been used as an argument against a young universe. Since there are galaxies full of stars that are very far away, it currently takes the light rays billions of years to get from there to Earth, and since these galaxies are visible to us each evening, many believe that the universe must be at least billions of years old—much older than the 6,000-10,000 years the Bible teaches.
First of all, the vastness of the universe is a way giving glory to God (Psalm 19:1).
For years, Christians have argued that God created the beams of light from these far distant stars “already on their way” here. They are quick to point out that Adam was created in a mature state, as he was commanded to be fruitful and multiply. He never had a mother, never nursed nor likely had any need of a navel! Also, the Garden of Eden was clearly created in a mature state, in that it gave fruit to our original parents to eat.
Genesis 1-2, in describing Day 4, seems to indicate to many that the universe was also made in a fully mature state. If not, the stars were not made visible, then how could they be used to give “signs and seasons.” This would be achieved if the light from these distant stars was created already “on the way.”
The creation movement has a controversy within itself about assuming that the light was created in-transit. From our modern observatories, we can actually observe events still happening in deep space. We can observe the movement, expansion, contraction and even destruction of stars. These celestial lights above are occasionally even obliterated by massive explosions we can watch.
Critics argue that these events we can literally watch occur never actually even happened, if God created the light beams already “on their way.” It would indicate to some that the stars we see expanding may never have even been there to begin with. Exploding stars may have never exploded or even existed, they argue.
So, did God merely fictionalize history when it came to distant stars? To more than a few creationists, God would never create illusory events. It smacks of dishonesty to some.
However, is it really that simple to write off this--the oldest of creationist apologist’s explanations? Think back to the Garden of Eden. Let’s assume that we look at a simple apple tree on Day 6, as Adam is under the first anesthesia, having the first surgery that will produce the first woman.
This twenty-five foot tall tree is covered with apples, many of which are ready to eat. The trunk looks mature and old, and there are leaves or more. Naturalistically speaking, an apple seed from an even older apple would have had to “die” in the ground to birth this one. Years of necessary watering, sunny days, and bee-pollinated blossoms did not occur, but the tree is nevertheless here in the Garden.
The very soil is formed mostly by the death and degradation of organic matter like plants. Again, these plants never lived, died or decayed. But the mature soil still exists. And, to borrow the old riddle, the chickens are walking around without the benefit yet of the very first egg.
Is this God fictionalizing as well? Or, in fact, is the setting in motion of natural processes that appear as if they have existed for millennia? I would contend that God started time with an appearance mirroring his Trinitarian Godhead, in three parts—past, present and future. It is only very far way that we can even see the created past. What of the wine in the jug as Christ’s first miracle? The grapes were never grown. What of the fish that fed the 5,000 who apparently never swam? What of the bread that was made of wheat the was never planted, and never swayed in the sunny breezes? Miracles are supernatural, by definition.
That does not mean that people are not still looking for an explanation. There are other creationist theories developing as well. I will just touch upon a couple briefly.
Speed of Light’s Consistency:
It assumed that the speed of light is constantly one year to travel 6 trillion miles, or 186,300 miles per second. If though, light was faster in the past, light could travel the distance without any delay. Light speed might have been affected by gravity or other factors.
Perception of Time:
Albert Einstein discovered that time passes differently depending on motion and gravity. If a spaceship moved fast enough--close to the speed of light--“time-dilation” occurs. As a clock approaches the speed of light, that clock would tick very slowly. If we could somehow reach the speed of light, the clock would stop completely. Also, gravity slows the passage of time. An atomic clock at sea-level ticks slower than one on a mountain, based on the strength of gravity. If Earth’s gravity varied in the past, (sometime called a “white hole”) that caused quick expansion--it may be that time would seem to flow more slowly on earth than in the distant universe. This would be somewhat akin to the way time zones interrelate.
In general, we can observe things about the galaxy that seem inconsistent at first glance with a young universe. However, there are many items that argue strongly against a universe of any age approaching multiple billion years.
For instance, many stars burn too hot to last long. Some called “hot blue” stars, cannot last billions of years. Spiral galaxies are common, but cannot be very old because they continue to twist. Disintegrating comets and decaying magnetic fields are in our own galaxy, and are not consistent with billions of years. Thus, the location and distance of the heavenly bodies challenge the alleged long age of the universe.
The stars’ location should cause no serious challenge to a young earth creationist, or belief in the God who named each one. Whatever theory comes in or out of vogue in creationist circles, we know that the heavens declare the glory of God:
He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.