Reasons to Believe

Gravitational Lens Test for Creation

Apart from the Bible no known book or essay of science, philosophy, or theology written previous to the twentieth century even hinted at the universe’s ongoing expansion.

Yet multiple Bible passages1 described this cosmic feature—making a bold scientific prediction—more than 2,400 years previous to its discovery.

While astronomers have developed many tests confirming the universe’s continual expansion, what they lacked was a test entirely based on direct distance measures. Now, such a test exists.2 It uses “gravitational lenses.”

Here’s how it works: When a massive celestial body lies between a distant bright object, or light source, and an astronomer’s telescope, the gravity field of the intervening body bends that source’s light rays in the same way that a glass lens bends light.3 If that body is perfectly aligned with the distant source and the telescope, the source will appear to the astronomer as a small circle, or halo, of light. If the intervening body is slightly misaligned, the source will appear as two or more points of light. The latter situation is by far the most common.

If the distant radiation source is a quasar that fluctuates in brightness, astronomers will see a time delay between the fluctuation visible at one gravitationally bent point and the fluctuation at another. That’s because the space along which each set of light rays travels follows a slightly different curve; so one traverses a greater distance than another.

Knowing the speed of light, astronomers can translate the time delay into distance differentials (measured in kilometers). Then, a straightforward application of the plane geometry triangle theorems yields the distance to the intervening (lensing) object. By measuring the degree to which the spectral lines of the lensed object are shifted toward the red end of the spectrum, astronomers can then tell how rapidly the lensing object is moving away from us.

Using gravitational lenses over a wide variety of cosmic distances allows astronomers to determine unambiguously that the universe is continuously expanding from its cosmic beginning. The latest such analysis yielded a cosmic expansion rate of 71 kilometers per second per megaparsec (1 megaparsec = 3.26 million light years) and a time back to the cosmic creation event of 13.7 billion years ago—a date virtually identical to the 13.73 billion years established by the five-year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe study.4

This straightforward lens test relies on direct measurements and is therefore free of any debatable assumptions. It removes any objective basis for doubting the biblical claim that the universe has continuously expanded from its moment of creation. The Bible did, indeed, accurately predict this astounding physical feature of the universe thousands of years before its discovery.

Subjects: Astronomy and the Bible, Big Bang, Origin of the Universe, Scientific Evidence for an Old Earth, TCM - Cosmic Design, TCM - Origin of the Universe, Universe Design

Dr. Jeff Zweerink

While many Christians and non-Christians see faith and science as in perpetual conflict, I find they integrate well. They operate by the same principles and are committed to discovering foundational truths. Read more about Dr. Jeff Zweerink.

References:

  1. Job 9:8; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 40:22, 42:5, 44:24, 45:12, 48:13, 51:13; Jeremiah 10:12, 51:15; and Zechariah 12:1.
  2. Jonathan Coles, “A New Estimate of the Hubble Time with Improved Modeling of Gravitational Lenses,” Astrophysical Journal 679 (May 20, 2008): 17-24.
  3. For a description of the technique and its applications, see R.D. Blandford and R. Narayan, “Cosmological Applications of Gravitational Lensing,” Annual Reviews of Astronomy and Astrophysics 30 (1992): 311-58, powerpoint available at www.asu.edu/clas/hst/classes/ast494+591/2007-04-06/grav_lens.pdf; and http://www.answers.com/topic/gravitational-lens.
  4. E. Komatsu et al., “Five-Year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) Observations: Cosmological Interpretations,” Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series (2008), in press.