Those who hold the young universe view have offered the following statements to answer questions about this theory. After each statement is a response.
Statement 1: The astronomical distances may not be that great.
Response: The implication is that astronomers can determine distances within the universe by only one method (redshifts), a method which may be off by as much as 200,000,000 percent. Not true. Whole textbooks have been devoted to the subject of measuring astronomical distances, and astronomers use a wide variety of methods and tools. While some disagreement does exist over which are the most accurate, the error bar ranges from 15 to 50 percent for the entire range of measurements and calibrations. In other words, it is likely that our measurements to the "edge" of the universe could be off by 15 percent, and there is a remote possibility that they could be off by as much as 50 percent, but the latter represents a maximum.
One additional consideration is this: if the faint objects were really as close as suggested, the majority would be so small as to be utterly incapable of shining.
Statement 2: God may have created the light waves in transit.
Response: Here we see an analogy between God's creation of a mature Adam and His creation of a "mature" universe with light waves already "connecting" the stars and the earth. This is one of the typical "appearance-of-age" arguments. First let me point out that though Adam was made with a mature body, he most certainly did not bear in his body—inside or outside—the indicators of 25 or 30 years of wear and tear. He would have begun with no wrinkles, liver spots, cholesterol deposits, etc. In this respect, he would have been like a newborn.
Light, on the other hand, does give direct indication of its age: the spectral lines of stars and galaxies are broadened and their continuum radiation reddened in direct proportion to the distance the light has traveled. Both theoretical and observational studies confirm that the broadening and reddening are reliable indicators, and they tell us that the light-travel paths we see in the universe measure in the billions of years.
Statement 3: Light may be slowing down.
Response: In this case, a disclaimer is usually given saying that the argument for a decrease in the speed of light may be true but has not been generally accepted. I dealt with this issue in some detail in volume 1, number 2, of Facts & Faith. There I showed that the "decrease" was really a refinement of the measurements. When we examine more data and consider the error bars, we see that the velocity of light is, indeed, constant. One group of astronomers conducted an experiment which showed that it has been constant for at least 14 million years.
It is also worth noting that a significant change in the velocity of light would so radically disturb the luminosities of the stars or the relative abundances of the elements as to destroy the possibility for life anywhere, anytime in the universe.
Statement 4: Light may take a shortcut through space.
Response: This argument arises from the work of one astronomer (without peer review) who supposes that the geometrics of outer space so radically depart from Euclidean geometry that the measurements of light travel times may be shortened by as much as a factor of a billion. His argument ignores the fact that astronomers can measure the curvature of space within the universe. Their measurements confirm that the curvature is small, and that this curvature fits consistently with the conclusion that light from the most distant objects in the universe takes billions of years to reach us. Distances based on standard light travel times are entirely consistent with results of other independent distance measurements.
These responses present only a few of the reasons why the objections to the young earth position cannot be brushed aside and must be taken seriously. In his testimony before the supreme court, Nobel Laureate physicist Murray Gell-Mann said, and I must agree with him on this point, it would be easier to prove that the earth is flat than to prove that the universe is only a few thousand years old.