Reasons to Believe

Avoiding a Dangerous Trap

Have you ever wondered why most Christian astronomers reject a young-universe interpretation of Genesis? The answer has to do with Scripture and theology, as well as with science. In my book Creation and Time (not to be confused with the book by the same title subsequently produced by Van Bebber and Taylor), I state that the rules of biblical exegesis support long creation days, an old earth, and an even older universe.' If the creation periods are interpreted as six consecutive 24-hour days, other books of the Bible and other chapters of Genesis become contradictory.

Basic tenets of Christian theology also support the long-day, old-earth, older-universe view. While this issue draws less attention than the day issue, it is nonetheless significant: a recent creation date for the earth and the cosmos forces us into the gnostic-like belief that the physical realm is illusory and only the spiritual realm, real.2 However, Earth by the observed principles of planet and crust formation and the universe by its very size argue against creation dates only thousands of years ago.

In the case of the universe, the problem arises from the facts about light, which takes a specific amount of time to travel a certain distance. For example, a galaxy measured to be about 13 billion light years away must have existed about 13 billion years ago. That's when the light from that galaxy started on its way to Earth's telescopes. In fact, the visible universe would be very small indeed if its light had existed for only a few thousand years. Under the laws of physics, visible stars would be less numerous than is the case, and most of the Milky Way galaxy (as well as every other galaxy) would be invisible, being too far away for their light to have yet reached Earth.

Light travel time means that astronomers have a direct window to the past. What God did to the cosmos in the past can be observed at the present moment. Astronomers need only select a heavenly body the appropriate distance away. Even as we look at the moon, we see it not as it is this second but rather as it was 1.5 seconds ago when the sun's light bounced off it on its way to us.

A few young-earth creationists explicitly concede that their view denies the reality of light travel. Gary North, a well known reconstructionist writer says, "The Bible's account of the chronology of creation points to an illusion. …The seeming age of the stars is an illusion. …Either the constancy of the speed of light is an illusion, or the size of the universe is an illusion, or else the physical events that we hypothesize to explain the visible changes in light or radiation are false inferences."3

Others see light travel time as part of a myth concocted and disseminated by the astrophysical community, a deliberate lie religiously embraced and zealously perpetrated on others. Russell Akridge, in addressing the 1982 Annual Creation Convention, made this claim: "Astrophysicists and astronomers have become the high priests of this decades-old cult.... [As] persuasive speakers [they] have deceived an unsuspecting public."4

Other young-earth/ young-universe creationists charge astronomers with collective naivete' and incompetence. In their talks and writings, these creationists cite various possible loopholes to the light travel time problem. These are the six I've encountered: 1) astronomers are simply wrong about the distances, 2) God created the light already in transit, 3) light's velocity was much faster thousands of years ago, 4) light takes a shortcut through space, 5) the universe has more than one time dimension, or 6) distant ''clocks" run at different rates.

The scientific impossibility of the first five loopholes is explained in considerable detail in three of my books' Creation and Time, The Creator and the Cosmos, and Beyond the Cosmos.5-7 I have written only a little about the sixth loophole for two reasons: first, this proposal is so implausible that it scarcely deserves to be taken seriously; and second, other scientists have done a thorough, if somewhat technical, job of closing it.

Unfortunately, this implausible proposal seems to have become a centerpiece of recent-creation ideology. Its promotion began with publication of Starlight and Time by Russell Humphreys.8 Some time before that book went to press, I reviewed the hypothesis and asked Humphreys to reconsider publishing it so as to avoid disgrace in the scientific community, but he refused and accused me of ignorance and incompetence.

Subsequently I asked three university professors (a particle physicist, a string theorist, and a specialist in general relativity) and a doctoral candidate in a relevant field of astronomy (at M.I.T.) to review Humphreys' book. All four joined me in asking Humphreys to withdraw the book because it violates both the observational and theoretical evidence for time's cosmic constancy.

After only a few months of written exchange between this group and Humphreys, the latter refused to continue the exchange. At that point the Creation Ex Nibilo Technical Journal (a leading young earth publication) offered to provide a forum for debate. The August 1998 issue included an article exposing the fatal flaws in Humphreys' hypothesis.9 In his response, Humphreys refused to acknowledge any serious errors or problems.10 He did, however, offer to "adjust" his model. His adjustment, couched in highly technical language, merely represents a shift from the sixth supposed loophole back to the fifth. In addition, his new claims are demonstratably (mathematically) false. They do not follow from the physics equations he employs to justify them.

Ironically, the same body of evidence closes both. Specifically, God has scattered astronomical "clocks," time-bound astronomical phenomena (e.g., supernovae, Cepheid variable stars, neutron stars, black holes, etc.), throughout the universe, and they all agree. They do not reflect differences of rate or dimensionality.

A decisive rebuttal to Humphreys' response has been submitted to Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, but it has not yet been scheduled for publication. Readers interested in a general discussion of the problems in Humphreys' latest proposal may obtain an article on this subject from the RTB office, or search for the following tile on our website: The Unraveling of Starlight and Time (ref 11). A highly technical analysis is in preparation as is an elegant theorem showing that, if general relativity is true and the universe is not an illusion, then the creation date is necessarily billions of years ago.

Humphreys' and other 24-hour-day creationists' interpretation of Genesis inadvertently leads to the suggestion that God is the one who deceives. It leads to the conclusion that all the distant galaxies astronomers observe, nearly one trillion of them, are part of an elaborate mirage or a misunderstood "mural'' painted on a nearby black background. Stellar explosions such as the 1987 supernova eruption in our companion galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, did not really occur, it just appears to have occurred. What astronomers observe in the heavens must be, according to their view, a detailed history of events that never happened.

A Biblical basis for "appearance of age" does not exist. Adam's adult body at the time of his creation would testify of age only if we made the incorrect assumption that he entered the world through the womb of a woman. We may also ask: What memories of his childhood and youth would he have had? Would God have created Adam with memories of events that had never taken place? It is difficult to see how such a creation would not make God a deceiver of Adam, building into his body inescapable impressions of the reality of events which in fact never occurred. The universe also has a kind of "memory" of the past; it is the light emitted long ago by distant objects that shows us what was happening at those objects at the time this light was emitted. "Appearance of age" has God filling virtually the entire universe with the physical equivalent of false memories.12

From a logic standpoint, appearance of age represents what is called a non-falsifiable proposition. It cannot be proved or disproved. Taken to its logical conclusion, the hypothesis would imply that we cannot be sure of our own or anyone else's past existence. We could have been created just a few hours ago with implanted scars, memories, progeny, photographs, material possessions, liver spots, and hardening of the arteries to make us appear and feel older than we really are. In this case, even biblical history would be an illusion.

On the assumption that they truly desire to be defenders of the truth of God's word and evangelists for Jesus Christ, young earth/young-universe creationists probably do not realize the theological implications of their position. I think they would repudiate the cultic notion that, "there is no life, truth, or substance in matter,"13 though unfortunately, that's the direction in which their view leans. According to the Apostle Paul, it's a dangerous direction (see Colossians 1 and 2 especially).



  1. Hugh Ross, Creation and Time (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress 1994), pp. 45-72.
  2. Hugh Ross, pp. 119-125.
  3. Gary North, The Dominion Covenant: Genesis (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987), pp. 254-255.
  4. Russell Akridge, "A Recent Creation Interpretation of the Big Bang and Expanding Universe," Bible-Science Newsletter (May 1982), pp. 1, 4.
  5. Hugh Ross, pp. 96100.
  6. Hugh Ross, Beyond the Cosmos (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1996), pp. 21-33. A more extensive and updated proof will be available in the third chapter of the second edition. Release date is January, 1999.
  7. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, second edition (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1995), pp. 71-93.
  8. Russell Humphreys, Starlight and Time (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1994).
    While I did not have the actual book manuscript, I did have Humphreys' verbal description of the model on which the book was based. Humphreys presented this verbal description on a radio program in which we were both interviewed in late April, 1992. I also heard about several more details of his model through a few of his associates at Sandia and Los Alamos labs from 1991-1993. The thrust of my critique was that well established observations of the universe (e.g. rate of expansion of the universe with respect to distance, temperature of the cosmic background radiation with respect to distance, stellar burning rates with respect to distance, cosmic clock rates with respect to distance, etc.) fatally violated Humphreys' model. It is my judgment and the judgment of all the astronomers and physicists on our team that these observational violations apply to all of Humphreys' cosmic models including the paper he sent to me in 1991, the verbal presentation in 1992, the book published in 1994 and all of its subsequent reprintings, and the latest proposal published in 1998.
  9. Samuel Conner and Don N. Page, "Starlight and Time is the Big Bang," Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, v. 12, n. 2 (August 1998), pp. 174194.
  10. D. Russell Humphreys, "New Vistas in Space-Time Rebut the Critics," Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, v. 12, n. 2 (April, 1998), pp. 195-212.
  11. Samuel Conner, The Unravelling of Starlight and Time (Pasadena, CA: Reasons To Believe, November, 1998).
  12. Hugh Ross, Creation and Time (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994), p. 54.
  13. This quote from Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, is declared during every worship service in every Church of Christ (Scientist).

Subjects: Animal Death Before Adam, Biblical Evidence for an Old Earth , Constants of Physics, Flood Geology, Laws of Physics, Light Travel Time and the Cosmology of Russell Humphreys, Radiometric Dating Techniques, RATE Study, Scientific Evidence for a Young Earth? , Scientific Evidence for an Old Earth

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. Read more about Dr. Hugh Ross.