The 1950s gave us classic sci-fi movies—such as The Thing, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and War of the Worlds—portraying aliens that create havoc on Earth. In more recent decades, scientists have detected extraterrestrial matter that could wreck havoc on a prominent young-earth creation (YEC) model. We’ll discuss data collected from extrasolar meteoroids and the impact they have on a model proposed to resolve young-earth creationism’s distant starlight problem.
Visitors from Another System
In 2000, an astronomer in Australia detected meteoroids that came from another star system.1 Using sophisticated radar tracking technology, he found a collimated stream of interstellar meteoroids. He identified the source as Beta Pictoris (β Pictoris), the second brightest star in the constellation Pictor—which is just over 63 light-years from our solar system. This important discovery offered in situ measurements (measurements that require direct contact with the subject of interest) of material coming from a sun outside of Earth’s solar system. But one unresolved question remained. What mechanism ejected the stream in such a way that allowed the meteoroids to traverse the 63 light-year distance from β Pictoris, yet still appear to originate from one direction in space?
A team of European astronomers discovered a solution to that question in 2004.2 They developed a computer simulation to test variations of a theoretical model that could explain the ejection mechanism at β Pictoris and the observed entry speeds and angles of the meteoroids at Earth. The model agreed closely with the previous radar tracking data and showed that the meteoroids left β Pictoris approximately 700,000 years ago.
Distant Starlight Problem
To understand why the β Pictoris meteoroids pose a challenge to young-earth creationism (YEC), we must look at YEC proposals to solve the “distant starlight problem.” Most young-earth creationists concede that our universe is exceedingly large. The center of our galaxy is 25,000 light-years away and some observed galaxies appear to be billions of light-years away. How then did the light from distant stars and galaxies manage to reach Earth if the universe is only 6,000 years old, as YEC proponents claim it is?
Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist and director of research at the Institute for Creation Research, developed a model to resolve this issue. His model posits that starlight directed toward Earth travels at near-infinite speed.3 Thus, Lisle’s model solves the YEC distant starlight problem and also makes predictions as to how the cosmos should appear to observers on Earth. According to Lisle, objects were created “mature” but the astronomical processes we observe should appear to have been of short duration:
[I]t follows that the universe appears at all distances as it is now, having aged an equal amount everywhere. Therefore, when we look at any region of the universe, we are seeing it at an age of roughly 6,000 years. That being the case, we should expect to see indications of the youth of the universe (in contrast to billions of years) at all distances. We should expect to find processes that cannot be easily extrapolated into a billions-of-years hypothetical past. [Emphasis added]4
Lisle then describes blue stars and spiral galaxies, both nearby and distant, as examples of cosmic structures that could not have survived for millions or billions of years. His claim is that these stars and galaxies are evidence that the universe is, at most, a few thousand years old.5
One feature of Lisle’s model is that it avoids the theological and philosophical difficulties of the YEC “light in transit” model—which suggests that starlight was created “in place” on the way to Earth, and was not produced by any star. The light would only appear as if it came from a star. Lisle describes how this transit model would disrupt any attempt at scientific understanding. We would be living in a “Matrix world” where our senses are unable to reliably inform our mind about the outside world.
[I]f God is willing to make movies of fictional events [light coming from nonexistent stars] then why would we arbitrarily assume that He would not also make fictional movies nearby? (Is the tree outside my window real, or is it merely a picture embedded in light beams created by God?)6
However, the discovery of a meteor beam from β Pictoris gives a twofold refutation of Lisle’s model. First, it provides observational evidence of a process that took over 700,000 years to complete. Second, the detection of interstellar meteoroids from a source star undercuts the philosophical justification that Lisle puts forth for developing his model.
The discovery of any astronomical process that cannot be rectified with a young universe will continue to refute Lisle’s model of infinite light speed and a mature universe. The interstellar meteoroids from β Pictoris were produced by such a process. We are not seeing mature particles that were created in place across interstellar space 6,000 years ago that just now happen to intersect Earth and our solar system. We are seeing particles that hail from a definitive source 63 light-years away. Astronomers have observed a process (particle ejection from the source and detection at Earth) that requires 700,000 years to complete.
Secondly, unlike Lisle’s instantaneous starlight travel time, the meteoroids from β Pictoris, being massive particles, cannot be “defined” to travel arbitrarily fast. There would be no way for them to reach our system in less than 700,000 years. Since Lisle’s model does not allow the particles to have been created in transit, their long travel time cannot be avoided. His model fails to explain how the meteoroid stream could have already arrived at Earth in a young universe.
The β Pictoris meteoroid stream directly challenges two tenets of Jason Lisle’s young-earth creation model, calling into question the credibility of his proposal. RTB’s old-earth creation model suggests long, yet intentional periods of time, and remains the best way to find concordance between science and the Bible.
Dr. Otis Graf, PhD
Dr. Otis Graf received his PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1973. He worked at the NASA Johnson Space Center and for IBM Government Systems. After retiring from IBM, he now serves as an online instructor for Reasons Institute and is living in Katy, Texas.