Creation: The Speed of Causality

In the comments on one of my previous posts, I’ve been going back and forth with Vaughn Ohlman, a long-time reader of this blog. We’re at a bit of an impasse. He sees my position as giving in to an atheistic assumption of both naturalism (that nature is all there is) and uniformism (that the universe is now as it always has been). I in turn keep asking him exactly what assumptions are needed to establish that a) the speed of light is and always has been a constant, and b) that we are seeing light from objects much farther away than 6000 light-years.

Let me reiterate my position:

  1. In terms of the plain sense of Scripture, what the original human author intended, I’m pretty much in the camp of the Framework Interpretation. I believe that Genesis 1 was written to attack pagan ideas of creation while also providing a framework in which the people of the Creator could emulate their God using a seven-day work week as a model.
  2. However, I also subscribe to the idea that a given passage may have many interpretations, including those that would not become apparent until more information is given (Eph. 3:9; 1Pt. 1:12; 2Pt. 1:20-21; cf. Dan. 12:4, 9). I have found that when we simply interpret the exact words of the creation narrative, they fit remarkably well with what we now know of the earth’s development from science, provided that one can set aside young-earth preconceptions.

The funny thing is that until now, I’ve not really dealt with the scientific evidence for an old Creation. I’ve argued almost completely from the Scriptures. But now it’s time to start looking at the record of nature and establish why this discussion is vitally important. Simply put: The universe manifests an incredible age in ways that are indisputable–so much so that the young-earth creationist has to inadvertently accuse God of purposefully making the universe deceptive in order to hold his position.

There are a lot of ways to illustrate this, so I’m going to focus on the one that we all know from high school: The speed of light, while incredibly fast, is finite. Therefore, the existence of objects much farther away than 6000 light years (the distance light can travel in 6000 years) disproves young-earth creationism.

Or perhaps I should say, disproves young-universe creationism. One could accept the finite speed of light and still posit an earth far younger than the rest of the universe. In fact, I more or less took this stance when I was younger. There are other processes that indicate that the earth is far older than 6000 years, but they’re a bit more difficult to explain. So let’s focus on the universe for now.

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If the Andromeda galaxy were bright enough, this is how you would see it in the night sky. Now imagine if it were only 500 or 5000 light years away.

Astronomers routinely see the light from supernovae–the collapse of stars far larger than our own sun–in other galaxies. In fact, there are certain supernovae that follow extremely precise timetables and brightness levels, which allow us to test Special Relativity, and in turn have provided useful markers for determining distances at the intergalactic level. We know for a fact that these other galaxies are much farther away than 6000 light years–if they weren’t, we’d be able to see them easily with the naked eye.

Now some young-earth creationists claim that just like God created Adam fully grown, he also created the light in motion so that Adam could see the stars all together. But let’s think about that for a second. If the stars were completely static, they might have a point. But they aren’t. We see them detonating all the time. If the light was created in motion, then what exactly is exploding when we see a supernova? The star that created that explosion of photons never existed. The seeming explosion is just a light show, having no basis in a real, physical object. Any event that we see happening outside of that 6000 light year radius is nothing but an illusion.

Heck, why are stars detonating at all? Every star in the universe should be at the very beginning of its lifespan and have plenty of hydrogen for millions or billions of years to come.

God would have to go out of his way to make the universe lie to us in order for us to see supernovae in distant galaxies.

That’s not the God of the Bible. It’s the “god” of the Matrix movies, maybe: A far inferior being who creates the illusion of a universe to keep its inhabitants trapped, but who hasn’t the ability to make a real, physical universe. A demiurge, to use the Gnostic term. But not the Eternal One of Israel.

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Almost everything you can see with the naked eye is in the yellow circle.

“Ah, but God created the stars for signs and for seasons, so of course he had to make them visible to Adam.” Okay, fine–but why would he need to create light from distant galaxies then? Almost every stellar object we can see with the naked eye is within a very tiny part of our own galaxy. The fact that there’s so much more attests to the Creator’s glory (Psa. 19:1), just as its universal laws declare his righteousness (Psa. 97:6), so that Creation fully exhibits “his eternal power and divine nature” (Rom. 1:20). However, the universe only fulfills that role if indeed it is real, and truly as incredibly large (and therefore incredibly old) as it appears to be. A universe in which light was created in transit in such a way that we can’t even detect it is illusory, and fails to declare God’s glory, righteousness, eternal power, or divine nature.

Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?

The alternative to this is to suppose that the speed of light has been slowing down since the moment of creation. This sounds appealing on the surface of it, reconciling a scientific perspective with a young universe. The problem is that it simply doesn’t work. See, the speed of light is not simply an arbitrary limit. It’s actually the speed of cause-and-effect itself. Here is an excellent video explaining it:

This is the real meaning of E=MC^2. The energy contained in a given volume of mass is equal to the square of the speed of light–or rather, the speed of causality (C), the absolute maximum speed that any interaction between two particles can have. Every single interaction of matter is affected by this equation.

This means that if the speed of light were just twice as fast in Adam’s time as it were today, the energy output of the sun would be four times as great–and Adam would have been incinerated. But you need the speed of light to be millions or even billions of times faster in the past to get the light from the most distant galaxies to us in 6000 years. Let’s say that we could get away with light being a million times faster in the past to get the light here in time. (That’s way too slow, but just for illustration.) At the time of Creation, the sun–and every star–would be burning 1,000,000,000,000 times hotter than they are today.

How exactly does the earth have solid rock under those conditions, let alone liquid water? And how in the world do we not see the stars burning a trillion times hotter in the distant past? There’s no way such a spectacle would be hidden from our telescopes–or even our naked eyes.

Actually, it’s worse than that: There’s no way stable stars could form. They would all be instantly blasted apart by the power of their trillion-times-stronger fusion reactions. The earth itself would be destroyed by the trillion-fold increase in its own radioactive materials.

To escape from that problem, some YEC’s have tried to argue that Einstein was wrong. Their own everyday experience proves otherwise. Every single time you use the GPS on your smartphone, you prove Special Relativity to be correct. Every watt of power that comes from a nuclear power plant proves Einstein right.

As you see, I’m not assuming naturalism or uniformism for this. I’m just assuming that God hasn’t deliberately engineered the universe to lie to us.

There are other evidences we could point to, of course, but that’s sufficient to make the point. But perhaps the universe is old, but the earth itself is young. We’ll explore the age of the earth in the next post.

Shalom

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3 Replies to “Creation: The Speed of Causality”

  1. >>We’re at a bit of an impasse. He sees my position as giving in to an atheistic assumption of both naturalism (that nature is all there is) and uniformism (that the universe is now as it always has been). I in turn keep asking him exactly what assumptions are needed to establish that a) the speed of light is and always has been a constant, and b) that we are seeing light from objects much farther away than 6000 light-years.

    Well I’m not at an impasse. So far nothing you have said has even made sense, so I’m perfectly happy. No translation gives the words of Genesis anything like the translation your view would require and…

    You try in this post to work your away around the huge hole in your position. Or, rather, one of the huge holes. The ‘miracle’ hole. Or, in other words, attempting to see back through a creative break. You try to make a difference between such things as God creating Adam ex Nihlo, Jesus making wine out of water, etc, and stating that these are different from the light from distant galaxies and the like.

    But they aren’t. They are just different disciplines. You are somehow holding physics up to a standard in the creation of heaven and Earth ex nihlo that you are ignoring for the creation of a full grown human or fully aged wine. But the differences are merely the differences between physics, biology, and chemistry. If it is OK to have a fully grown human… including oxygen (which of course comes into the body by breathing, having been generated by plants, etc etc..), insulin in the blood (produced by the pancreas)… if it is OK to have fruit alcohol, which is generated by fermentation of the grape over time…. and so on for all miracles…. then this is absolutely no different than the ‘physics’ miracle of ex nihlo creation. Except in scale.

    Given naturalistic and uniformitarian assumptions no miracle can be admitted. Every single one of them is just as much of a ‘lie’ as ex nihlo creation. Each of them requires similar, if different in the particulars, changes to natural laws, causality, history, and the like. Each of them.

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  2. Given the number of times I have mentioned the idea of a creative discontinuity I thought it would be good to devote an entire comment to the idea. What is a ‘creative discontinuity’, as I use the term? It is a ‘discontinuity’ that exists because of some creative act. It is an historical phenomenon at which any backwards historical analysis needs to stop; because something has happened at that point which makes any kind of analysis fruitless.

    Let me give a mundane example. Take the following number series:

    0,0,0,0,0,50,49,48,47,46,45,44,43,93,92,91,90,89…

    This number series represents a boy filling up a leaky bathtub. Do you see it? The bathtub is originally empty, and stays empty (0,0,0). Then the boy comes along and dumps a bucket with fifty cups of water into it (0,0,50). While the boy is off to the well for another bucket the tub slowly leaks out water (50,49,48) and the number series continues down until another bucket is dumped in (45,44,43,93) at which point the leaking continues apace (93,92,91).
    Presumably this will continue until the tub contains enough water and the boy gets in to try to have his bath before the tub empties.

    The interesting part of this example for our purposes is the break between 0 and 50, or 43 and 93. Each of those breaks cannot be predicted either by the numbers before them (0,0,0…) or the numbers after them (49,48,47…). If a naturalistic (i.e. Doesn’t believe in the existence of boys) observer were to observe the tub during the (49,48,47…) stage they would hypothesize the following series (…55,54,53,52,51)which, as it turns out, never happened. They would even start to wonder about the edges of the tub, and what happened before, say, (2000,1999,1998…) which represents the maximum the tub could hold. (See ‘the Big Bang theory’).

    Now let us apply this to the miracle of Jesus and the water turning into wine. A good vintner will understand that a certain amount of sugar turns into alcohol at each period of time the wine is aging. Let us invent a very simple and, I’m sure, inaccurate, number series to represent this. Let us take a sugar to alcohol ratio, use percentages, and represent it like this S:A. Thus grape juice with no alcohol at all would have a number such as 100:0. Over time those number would shift in the following manner: (100:0, 99:1, 98:2, 98:3…).

    This means that if a vintner tastes a wine and estimates its ratio at 75:25 they will, by backwards progression, assume a series (100:0, 99:1, 98:2, 98:3… 77:23, 76:24, 75:25). The series that they will NOT predict is (0:0, 0:0,0:0, 75:25). That break between the last 0:0 and the 75:25 is what I am calling a ‘creative discontinuity’. It was the point where Jesus turns water into wine [John 2:1-11]. It is something that cannot be predicted by naturalistic and uniformitarian assumptions.

    It can be predicted, but only by stepping outside of these assumptions. The boy’s sister, hearing his mother command him to fill the tub and take a bath, can predict (if not with perfect certainty) the likelihood of the (0,0,0) becoming (0,0,50,49…). Similarly Jesus’s mother ‘predicted’ (in a vague sort of way [John 2:5]) the 0:0 becoming transformed into 75:25.

    That transformation is a creative discontinuity or, as we say in theological discussions, a ‘miracle’. It is the uniform action of nature being acted on by an outside, supernatural, actor. In the case of the fiat, ex nihlo, creation of the world it was not only acted upon, but created. Created, ordered, filled… all in six days [Exodus 20:11]. And nothing in the current created order, looked at through the backwards telescope of naturalistic uniformitarianism, should attempt to say otherwise.

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