Creation, Evolution, and Speed-of-Light Problems
by Richard Peachey
Creationists have for several decades been confronted by a difficulty connected with two realities in nature: (1) a speed of light which is constant at about 300,000,000 meters per second; and (2) a universe which would take billions of years for light to cross at its current measured speed. If God created stars to be seen from the Earth, as Genesis 1:14-19 seems to indicate, then the light from these stars ought to be visible to humans within a short period of time. But if light from stars billions of light years away is just now arriving at the Earth, doesn't that mean it took the light a very long time to get here? How then could God have created these stars only a few thousand years ago, as the Bible clearly teaches?
Several solutions to this difficulty have been proposed by creationists, as discussed in Chapter 5 of The Answers Book.1 None of these proposals has gained general acceptance, although Russell Humphreys' relativistic "white hole" cosmology has sparked a lot of interest.2
But the fact is that evolutionary cosmologists have their own speed-of-light difficulties! The original Friedmann "Big Bang" model of the 1920s had several problems, and it was to overcome these that the idea of "Inflation" was invented in 1979 by Alan Guth.3 "Big Bang plus Inflation" is currently the preferred view of most cosmologists. As Michael Turner of the University of Chicago has said, "Inflation is the most important idea in cosmology since that of the big bang itself."4
Inflation, however, has several problems of its own.5 One of them is that the early universe is required to expand at trillions of times the speed of light — which should be contrary to Einstein's idea that nothing can travel faster than this cosmic speed limit. Cosmologists try to distinguish between "the expansion of space" and "a motion through space" — as if that provides a credible solution to this problem.6 And never mind that no one has been able to suggest an inflationary mechanism that would be compatible with the known laws of physics, and that could operate for the required fraction of a second then cease to operate!4 No wonder that Princeton's Jim Peebles (known as "the father of modern cosmology") once complained that inflation had been "accepted by many cosmologists too easily."7
A competitor to inflation is the newly developed Variable Speed of Light (VSL) hypothesis.8 When creationist Barry Setterfield suggested such an idea, it was laughed out of court. But now that alternatives to inflation are needed, the concept is being more carefully explored by secular physicists!
Every theory of cosmological origins is going to have its difficulties. This is inevitable because, by anyone's account, the origin of the universe involved events not explainable by presently known laws of physics. (That's why physicists refer to the "Big Bang" as a "singularity" . . . which in other contexts would be described as a "miracle," i.e., an event outside the regularities of nature.) So don't let anyone tell you that creationists have a problem with the speed of light while evolutionary cosmologists don't!
1. Don Batten (ed.). 2000. The Revised and Expanded Answers Book. Green Forest, AR: Master Books. pp. 95-102.
2. Russell Humphreys. 1994. Starlight and Time. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.
3. Peter Coles. 1998 (Jun 25). "The end of the old model universe." Nature 393:741-744; John D. Barrow. 1999 (Jul 24). "Is nothing sacred?" New Scientist, 163(2196):28-32; Govert Schilling. 2001 (Apr 14). "It started with a crash." New Scientist 170(2286):7.
4. James Glanz. 1999 (May 28). "Which Way to the Big Bang?" Science 284:1448.
5. Glanz (ref. 4), pp. 1448-1451.
6. e.g., Charles H. Lineweaver and Tamara M. Davis. 2005 (Mar) "Misconceptions about the Big Bang." Scientific American 292(3):40f.
7. Schilling (ref. 3), p. 7.
8. Barrow (ref. 3), pp. 28-32; João Magueijo. 2002. "Plan B for the Cosmos." Scientific American special issue "The Once and Future Cosmos" 12(2):98f.
For further reading:
Jason Lisle. 2003. "Light-travel time: a problem for the big bang." Creation 25(4):48f. <http://creation.com/light-travel-time-a-problem-for-the-big-bang>
Eric Lerner. 2004 (May 22). "Bucking the big bang." New Scientist 182(2448):20. This position statement, signed by hundreds of non-creationist scientists, is available for viewing and signing at <http://www.cosmologystatement.org>. (The web statement is slightly revised from the original publication.)
"Big Bang": The Implausible Explosion! <http://www.creationbc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=109>
"The 'Big Bang' Explains Nothing!" <http://www.creationbc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=129>