Reasons to Believe

Starlight and Time

Final Revision March 22, 1999
by Samuel R. Conner and Dr. Hugh Ross

1 Introduction

In 1994 a physicist who is prominent in the young-earth movement, Dr. D. Russell Humphreys, unveiled a proposed alternative cosmology1 which, it was claimed, resolved a long-standing problem for the young-earth movement --- how light could travel billions of light years from distant galaxies during the passage of only a few thousand years of Earth time. This new cosmology was widely hailed in the young-earth movement and has been widely distributed in book form2. The author, Dr. Humphreys, is not formally trained in general relativity or cosmology theory, and his initial article and book acknowledged the tentative character and possible falsity of the new proposal. He also solicited, publicly and privately, feedback from Christian physicists who did have formal training in these disciplines. Starting even before the appearance of Starlight and Time and continuing to the present, such feedback has been forthcoming, and, to our knowledge, it has been uniformly critical of the theory. In fact, Starlight and Time and related writings by Humphreys exhibit profound misunderstandings of relativity theory and cosmology. Humphreys’ theory is irremediably flawed. It is very unfortunate that these writings have been so widely distributed in the young-earth community and have misled so many Christians.

Before proceeding with our discussion of the present state of the Starlight and Time hypothesis, we wish to make it clear that our observations about Dr. Humphreys' cosmological writings are not intended to cast aspersion on the sincerity of his Christian faith or the quality of his Christian testimony. The errors and defects in Humphreys' ideas are not moral errors, but scientific ones, and our pointing out of Humphreys' errors in these scientific areas does not imply criticism of his moral integrity. The one moral criticism which we would make of Dr. Humphreys' advocacy of his model, is his failure to heed the counsel of skilled Christian physicists in this matter. This is not a small criticism, for Humphreys' overconfidence in this matter has led to the widespread dissemination of a false theory. The inevitable collapse of this theory may damage the faith of many Christians who have leaned on it to reinforce their faith. The responsibility for such damage will rest with Dr. Humphreys and those of his associates who have promoted his theory, disregarding the expert counsel which God has made available to them. It is also possible that the widespread distribution and acceptance of his theory will have negative consequences for the credibility of Christian testimony to unbelievers. Again, responsibility for this will lie with Dr. Humphreys and his associates.

Reasons to Believe and RTB associates have played a leading role in the effort by Christian physicists to help the young-earth movement recognize and repudiate the errors of Starlight and Time. Prior to the initial publication of Starlight and Time, Humphreys was advised to drop the theory in view of its incompatibility with the observed time-keeping properties of distant physical phenomena3 (see appendices for specifics). In early 1995, RTB assembled a team of qualified physicists to analyze the mathematics of the theory4. In retrospect, it is apparent that this analysis, which was performed in early- to mid-1995, was the first thorough review the mathematical aspects of the theory had ever received, notwithstanding the theory's initial presentation in a nominally peer-reviewed forum, the International Conference on Creationism(ICC). This review led to the preparation of a number of documents which RTB has been distributing on request since mid-19955,6 and to the publication of a brief but thorough rebuttal of Starlight and Time in a young-earth publication in September, 19957. Despite this rebuttal, the subsequent rejection of Starlight and Time by the ICC8 and further rebuttal, this time by a young-earth writer, published in another young-earth publication9, Humphreys has continued to insist that his model is valid. The latest exchange in the controversy occurred recently in the pages of Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal10,11.

To our knowledge, not one person competent in general relativity and cosmology theory who has examined Starlight and Time has given a "pass" to this theory12. Despite the lack of expert corroboration of his work, Humphreys continues to insist on the validity of his demonstrably false theory. Unfortunately, most of the major young-earth organizations13 are continuing to follow Humphreys and are ignoring the demonstrations of the falsity of his theory which have arisen from both inside and outside the young-earth movement.

Reasons to Believe has kept a low public profile on this matter over the past three-plus years in the hope that the young-earth movement would have both the will and the skill to resolve this matter internally and thereby save itself the humiliation of being corrected by outsiders. We also wanted to keep the matter quiet in order to avoid attracting the attention of hostile unbelievers, for whom Starlight and Time would provide a persuasive example of "Christian incompetence" in the natural sciences, evidence which would aid their attempts to exclude Christian thought from the public arena. Such attention would be most harmful to the young-earth movement, but it would by association also harm the entire church and potentially discredit the church's gospel witness. We also hoped that Humphreys would himself eventually "come around" on this matter14, and it appeared probable to us that a very public role for RTB would diminish the likelihood that this would happen. For all of these reasons, RTB mounted the smallest "organizational" response to Starlight and Time that would suffice to respond to inquiries about Starlight and Time. In lieu of an extensive formal "organizational" response, Professor Don Page15 and RTB associate Sam Conner16, writing on their own behalf, have presented thorough rebuttals of Starlight and Time in the above-cited young-earth periodicals, in the hope of persuading the readership of these publications of the falsity of the theory.

Unfortunately, our expectations were too optimistic. Starlight and Time has been ever more widely distributed in the young-earth community and employed in that community as a pretext for attacking RTB's ministry. Contrary to our expectations, Starlight and Time has not received the thorough testing and re-evaluation by the young-earth movement which it clearly needs17. Given the uncertainty as to whether this matter will be resolved in the near future by the young-earth community, we believe that it is time for RTB to mount a more thorough "organizational" response to the Starlight and Time hypothesis. This article is part of that response. It is our hope that this response will:

  1. help Christians who are uncertain about the validity of Starlight and Time to recognize its falsity,
  2. contribute to the vindication of the scientific judgment of the church when the Christian and secular historians of the next generation examine this episode and
  3. help to defuse possible attempts by present critics of the church to appeal to the falsity of Starlight and Time as grounds to reject Christian testimony.

A variety of rebuttals of Starlight and Time, ranging from short and readable to very long and mathematically involved, have been published (refs. 5,6,7,9,10,17). Many of these are available in printed form from RTB.

Our purpose here is not primarily to review or expand on this material (we encourage our readers to peruse it at their convenience), but rather to update our readers on the current state of the Starlight and Time hypothesis and to discuss the problems in the latest revision of the theory which Humphreys has put forth.

In brief, the theory is falling apart. Apparently under the weight of the critiques recently published10,17, Humphreys has abandoned most of his original erroneous proposal but has, unfortunately, replaced it with an even more unreasonable one. We will first discuss Humphreys' abandonment of the original proposal and then survey the problems in the new one. A detailed rebuttal of the errors of the new proposal is too lengthy to present in this brief survey, but will be made available separately in paper and electronic form from RTB19.

2 The Abandonment of Starlight and Time

In his latest attempt to defend Starlight and Time11, Humphreys actually quietly abandons it. The three central arguments of the original Starlight and Time proposal were:

  1. The alleged physical significance of the Schwarzschild time coordinate of the Klein metric. This is so important in the original Starlight and Time argument that Humphreys called it "the essence" of his new cosmological model19.
  2. The gravitational time dilation effects of differences of gravitational potential in a bounded universe which, it was alleged, do not occur in an unbounded universe. Again, this is essential to the original argument.
  3. The alleged profound effects of event horizons in a bounded universe. In Starlight and Time, Humphreys attributed most of the effects of 1 and 2 above to the action of an event horizon, which he claimed would cause Earth clocks to be static while billions of years of time elapsed on clocks in the distant universe.

It has been shown in a number of articles10 17 that all three of these claims are manifestly false. In particular,
1) the Schwarzschild time coordinate has no physical significance at all for the behavior of physical clocks in a bounded universe, 2) the pattern of gravitational field and potential differences is manifestly identical for bounded and unbounded universes (this is sufficiently important and sufficiently simple that we will revisit it below) and physical clock behaviors are manifestly identical for both cases, and 3) the event horizon of a bounded universe has absolutely no effect on the passage of time on physical clocks in such a universe.

In his most recent defense of this theory, "New Vistas of Spacetime Rebut the Critics11", Humphreys gives up so much ground on each of these three central arguments that one can fairly say that he has abandoned the original formulation of his hypothesis. New Vistas has little to say about Schwarzschild time. Whereas this time coordinate was "the essence" of the original argument, it now receives only passing mention and is no longer appealed to in support of Humphreys' claim to have solved the light travel problem. Although Humphreys continues to employ the phrase "gravitational time dilation", it is clear from his argument that he no longer contends that potential differences in the bounded matter sphere produce differences in the time-keeping rates of physical clocks --- indeed, he explicitly concedes that physical clocks tick at the same rate in such a universe20. Finally, event horizons, which played a prominent part in Starlight and Time, are now admitted by Humphreys to have no effect 21, and the effects which he wrongly attributed to them in Starlight and Time are now attributed to the changing signature of the Klein metric.

Four years after the original publication of Starlight and Time, Humphreys has abandoned all the central arguments of that hypothesis. All that remains is a skeleton, consisting of the idea of a bounded universe and a phrase, "gravitational time dilation." The disproof of the original central arguments of Starlight and Time is not difficult. Dr. Humphreys' recent abandonment of the central physical arguments of his original proposal shows that these physical arguments were not well-thought out and were not adequately reviewed by experts in relativity theory and cosmology prior to their dissemination in the church.22

In New Vistas, Humphreys quietly drops his old physical arguments and invents new ones to take their place. Before proceeding to a discussion of these new errors, it is worthwhile to revisit one of the claims which Humphreys has not yet dropped --- the claim that there is a profound difference in the gravitational properties of bounded and unbounded universes. Let’s explore this concept.

3 The identity of the gravitational behavior of bounded and unbounded homogeneous/isotropic universes—an old error explained

One of the errors of the original Starlight and Time proposal which remains in Humphreys' reconstruction of his argument, is the claim that gravity is radically different in a bounded and an unbounded universe. The falsity of this claim is obvious to people familiar with relativity theory and cosmology and is easily explainable to non-specialists. Humphreys' continued insistence on this is further evidence of misunderstandings of the physics of general relativity and cosmology.

In general relativity, matter produces spacetime curvature, and spacetime curvature manifests itself in what we call gravity. The relationship between the spacetime curvature and the matter content of the universe is given by the Einstein field equations, which are customarily expressed in shorthand notation as

Gm n =8p GTm n

The left hand side of this equation, Gm n , is the Einstein curvature tensor, which is composed of products of the spacetime metric tensor gm n with derivatives of that tensor with respect to the spacetime coordinates23 The right hand side contains numerical constants (G is Newton's gravitational constant) and the "stress-energy" tensor, T m n , also called the "energy-momentum" tensor. It contains information about the matter, energy, pressure and momentum content of the universe. It is obvious from this equation that if two universes have the same energy-momentum T m n ,, then their Einstein curvature tensors will also be identical. The matter-filled region of the bounded universe which Humphreys postulates has an identical energy-momentum tensor to the unbounded universe he wishes to replace, and consequently it has spacetime curvature which is identical to that of the unbounded universe. Gravitational behaviors such as the "Newtonian gravitational field"24 and time dilation are a consquence of the spacetime curvature. Identical spacetime curvature means that the gravitational behaviors must be identical. This fact alone is an adequate rebuttal of Humphreys' claims.

Aside from the idea of a bounded cosmos, the only significant physical claim which Humphreys preserves from the original version of Starlight and Time is the assertion that there are no gravitational fields in an unbounded universe. This assertion has been repeatedly disproven7,10,17, but Humphreys persists in affirming it. It is easy to see that there must be gravitational fields in an unbounded universe. We present a brief demonstration here, and an elaborate demonstration in supplementary materials which are in preparation.

If Humphreys' claim that there are no gravitational fields in an unbounded universe were valid, then it would be impossible for the expansion of such universes to decelerate: no unbounded universe model could decelerate as it expanded25. This is inescapable, for gravity is the only force which acts in such models; in the absence of any gravitational field, there can be no relative acceleration of different parts of the universe. Thus, Humphreys' reasoning requires that, while bounded universes can decelerate, so that their expansion slows with time, unbounded universes cannot. If Humphreys' reasoning were correct, general relativity would predict that unbounded universes do not decelerate. However, general relativity in fact, predicts that unbounded universes do decelerate, and in exactly the same way as bounded universes with the same interior properties. Since gravity is the only operative force in these models, the identical deceleration of bounded and unbounded universes means that the gravitational field of such universes must be identical.

It is easy to calculate the Newtonian gravitational field in an unbounded universe and from this field to derive the deceleration of such a universe. It is a well-known fact in relativity theory that such a Newtonian analysis leads to a prediction of the deceleration of an unbounded universe which is identical to the predictions of general relativity. This calculation is illustrated in previous publications contra Starlight and Time though not explicitly worked out (it is explicitly worked out in many textbooks on general relativity26 and will be presented in materials in preparation).

Humphreys explicitly rejects this calculation. This rejection is foolish on two counts. First, general relativity predicts that unbounded universes must decelerate, and it predicts the same deceleration equation as the Newtonian analysis applied to either a bounded or an unbounded universe. Second, many introductory-level textbooks on relativistic cosmology perform the Newtonian analysis; indeed, this analysis is so common that it has its own name: "Newtonian cosmology." Humphreys is certainly aware of this. Thus Humphreys, who has minimal formal training or professional research experience in general relativity or cosmology, is presuming to have an understanding of these matters which is superior to every professional general relativity/cosmology theorist on Earth27. This has the potential to lead to future humiliation for many Christians who have unwisely accepted his ideas as authoritative.

4 New Errors in the New Vistas publication

A pattern which has become evident over the past few years is that each attempt by Humphreys to defend Starlight and Time from competent analysis leads to the unveiling of new, and usually more serious, misunderstandings of relativity physics as well as the repeating of old ones. Humphreys' latest attempt to preserve a vestige of his original cosmology proposal, "New Vistas of Spacetime Rebut the Critics",11 continues this pattern.

Humphreys' basic error is to mistake a feature of a particular coordinate representation of the geometry of a bounded universe for a fundamental property of that geometry28. In the process, he also misunderstands, misrepresents and misapplies much of the literature he cites in support of the new misunderstanding. The errors are numerous. For example, Humphreys:

  1. ignores the massive body of evidence from time-keeping phenomena throughout the universe (such as the periods of Cepheid variable stars, the eruption time spans of novae and supernovae, star formation time spans, stellar burning rates, galaxy rotation periods, etc.) and in the Solar System (such as the dynamical aging of the asteroid belt) that clocks everywhere in the universe run at the same rate and that long periods of time, far in excess of the brief span permitted by young-earth interpretation of the Bible, have elapsed not only in the distant universe but also in nearby regions of our Galaxy and even in the Solar System. Humphreys also ignores astronomers’ measurements of the expansion rate of the cosmos and the temperature of the cosmic background radiation at different look-back times in the history of the cosmos. That these two sets of undisputed observations made his cosmic models impossible was pointed out to Humphreys in three letters from one of us (HR) sent in 1992 and 1993, see appendices. These evidences, which will be expanded on in a subsequent article, shows that the whole objective of Starlight and Time/New Vistas, which is to make the distant universe "old" while claiming that the nearby universe is "young", is contradicted by the observed properties of the universe.
  2. continues to overlook the evidence from the dynamics of the standard unbounded cosmological models (briefly discussed above) that these models have identical gravitational properties to his bounded models.
  3. makes absurd claims that unbounded models cannot possess spherical symmetry. Such models in fact are spherically symmetric about each and every point, contrary to Humphreys' claim that they are spherically symmetric about no point. The physical and mathematical concept of spherical symmetry is an elementary concept, and Humphreys' claims that standard Big Bang models do not possess spherical symmetry are incomprehensible.29
  4. claims that the Robertson-Walker metric cannot be applied to a bounded locally homogeneous and isotropic universe, reversing his own previous use of this metric30 and contradicting numerous textbooks and published research articles which deal with the question. The literature which Humphreys cites to justify his reversal does not support his claim.
  5. seriously misinterprets the published literature on metric signature change.
  6. ignores the extensive supplementary critique of Starlight and Time (ref. 17, which was furnished to him in 1997 as part of the CEN Tech. J. review process). This supplementary material demonstrates the mistaken character not only of the original Starlight and Time proposal, but also of the New Vistas proposal.
  7. continues to avoid the central mathematical issue of how the time elapsed on physical clocks is computed in general relativity. This is the central, elementary mathematical issue which has been, and continues to be, at the heart of the errors of Starlight and Time/New Vistas. Humphreys has never followed the mathematical "rules" of general relativity which prescribe how the metric is used to compute the passage of time in the universe. This calculation is straightforward and is performed in the Supplement17, clearly demonstrating the falsity of both Starlight and Time and New Vistas, but Humphreys has ignored and continues to ignore this demonstration of the falsity of his proposals.
  8. ignores the demonstration in Starlight and Time is the Big Bang that the Klein representation of the metric of locally homogeneous and isotropic spacetime can be applied to unbounded models. This demonstrates the falsity of Humphreys' claims that the Robertson-Walker is appropriate only to unbounded models, while the Klein metric is appropriate for bounded models. In fact, both representations of the metric can be applied to both classes of model. The distinction between the Klein and Robertson-Walker metrics is central to New Vistas, but Humphreys misses the fact that these two forms of the metric are simply different coordinate representations of the same underlying spacetime geometry, the geometry of locally homogeneous and isotropic spacetime.
  9. continues to misinterpret the mathematical and physical meaning of the Schwarzschild time coordinate tSchwarzschild. In particular, Humphreys erroneously imagines that dtSchwarzschild along Earth's spacetime trajectory is an arbitrary real quantity, and that the Earth proper time dt Earth is imaginary in the "Euclidean region" of the Klein metric. This notion is mistaken. The Schwarzschild time interval along Earth's spacetime trajectory dtSchwarzschild, Earth is manifestly a derived quantity given by the transformation relation between comoving and Schwarzschild coordinates. There is no evidence that Humphreys has ever made the mathematical effort to calculate what dtSchwarzschild actually is for the Earth (such a calculation makes manifest the falsity of his most recent claims), and his New Vistas reply further obscures the issue by not even presenting the equation from which dtSchwarzschild could be derived. As is obvious from the discussion in the Supplement17 and as is pointed out in a letter to the Editor of CENTJ31 dtSchwarzschild, Earth is purely imaginary in the "Euclidean region", which has the consequence that dtEarth is real. This analysis applies to every other comoving trajectory which intersects the "Euclidean region", so that there is no "timeless region" at all in the Klein metric (just as there is no such region in the Robertson-Walker metric, from which the Klein metric is derived). This observation overthrows the entire "New Vistas" argument, and shows that this latest version in the theory is at root, like the earlier version, founded on misunderstandings about the meaning of the Klein coordinate system and about the general relativity mathematical rules for how to compute the passage of physical time on physical clocks.

It is important to note in surveying this list that few of these issues are particularly profound; most of them are introductory-level issues in the interpretation of the equations of general relativity and cosmology. Humphreys' lack of training in these fields is painfully obvious to trained eyes. Unfortunately, there are few general relativity/cosmology-trained individuals in the young-earth movement (and the few whom God has placed in the movement have been ignored by the movement, with the sole exception of the ICC). The result is that Humphreys and his sympathizers among the leadership of the young-earth movement have (unwittingly) misled the young-earth movement on these matters for several years.

5 The Impossible Hypothesis of Young-Universe Relativistic Cosmology

In Starlight and Time is the Big Bang and other critiques of Starlight and Time, it has been shown that a short timescale for the history of the universe is completely incompatible with general relativity and the observed properties of the universe. The demonstration takes the form of two mathematical proofs derivable from the equations of relativity-based cosmology which show that

  1. A young universe which obeys general relativity must exhibit very rapid present decreases in the observed redshifts of distant galaxies and
  2. A young universe which obeys general relativity cannot contain visible objects which are more than a few thousand light years distant.

Both of these predictions are unavoidable consequences of general relativity applied to the locally homogeneous and isotropic class of models employed by Humphreys and both are contradicted by abundant physical evidence from astronomy. It is noteworthy that Humphreys does not dispute the accuracy of the derivation of these proofs. He does, however, dispute their applicability to his bounded universe model, claiming that the Robertson-Walker metric (on which these proofs depend) applies only to an unbounded universe and not to a bounded universe. This claim is manifestly false, as may be verified by reference to any introductory text on general relativity which addresses homogeneous stellar collapse32. Not only is the Robertson-Walker metric a perfectly suitable description of the geometry of the bounded universe advocated by Humphreys, but the alternative coordinate representation of the metric which Humphreys prefers is in fact derived from the Robertson-Walker metric by a coordinate transformation, a fact which is obvious from the texts Humphreys cites33. The Schwarzschild-like metric which Humphreys prefers is the Robertson-Walker metric expressed in a different coordinate system34. As has been shown by explicit calculation in reference 17, Humphreys' prefered metric leads to Earth time behaviors which are identical to the standard Big Bang models.

6 Starlight and Time/New Vistas as a paradigm of the fundamental problem of young-earth apologetics

In his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus observed, "I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?"(John 3:12, NIV). Nicodemus was not able (or perhaps not willing) to understand the spiritual reality of regeneration by the Spirit of God which Jesus was describing by means of the earthly metaphors of physical birth and physical wind. Nicodemus' misunderstanding raises an important issue for Christian apologists and evangelists: how is one to describe spiritual reality to someone who has no personal experience of such a reality?

This communication issue faces not only "traditional" Christian evangelists, but also Christian apologists who wish to use evidence from the natural world to point unbelievers to supernatural realities and the Gospel. A particularly acute form of this problem faces the young-earth movement in its attempts to use revisionist young-earth "science" for this purpose. If the science is incredible or manifestly false, then, rather than pointing unbelievers to God, it may drive them further away. Jesus' question to Nicodemus 2000 years ago suggests a set of challenges to Christian apologists today: if our claims about earthly, empirically testable things such as natural history are demonstrably untrue, how can we expect unbelievers to accept our testimony on subjects which are not empirically testable and which call for a faith response? The answer is clear: we cannot. If our testimony on scientific matters is demonstrably false, rather than giving unbelievers reasons to consider the Gospel, we will give them grounds to reject it. To put it another way, if the Church demonstrates itself to be unreliable in the interpretation of scientific matters which are subject to verification by unbelievers, it undermines, by association, the credibility of our claims that unbelievers need to pay attention to the Bible's statements about spiritual matters which are not empirically verifiable by unbelievers. If Christians' claims about physical reality cannot be trusted, what grounds do unbelievers have to trust our claims about spiritual realities? Demonstrably false "science" gives the lost "reasons to reject" the Gospel --- "reasons to disbelieve" rather than "reasons to believe."

This is a serious obstacle to the efforts of the young-earth movement to minister the Gospel to unbelievers, particularly to scientifically literate unbelievers. Much of the young-earth apologetic depends on the idea that the earth and the entire physical universe is no more than several thousand years old. This position appears to us as believers to be impossible to reconcile with any reasonable interpretation of the data of nature; it is also manifestly false from the perspective of unbelieving scientists. Young-earth claims on the age issue are so obviously mistaken, in fact, that many non-Christian scientists do not believe that young-earth apologists are honest people, which gives them yet another reason (or excuse) to reject the Gospel35. Perhaps the clearest instance of the impossibility of young-earth "science" is the light-travel problem, but this problem characterizes the entire young-earth position on the age-of-the-universe/age-of-the-earth issue36.

Starlight and Time/New Vistas is, from our perspective, one of the most obvious recent examples of manifestly erroneous "science" offered by the young-earth movement as a defense of the Bible. The errors are elementary and are almost entirely in the arena of comparatively simple mathematics. That these glaring errors have been widely accepted within the young-earth movement and widely propagated in the Church casts doubt on the credibility, reliability and trustworthiness of the leadership of the young-earth movement and, by association, the entire church. It should be noted that we do not believe that any young-earth leader has engaged in conscious deception. The failure of the movement to detect and act on the erroneous nature of Starlight and Time is not a failure of moral integrity but a failure of scientific judgment and discernment. Starlight and Time/New Vistas shows that the movement's scientific judgment is not implicitly trustworthy --- the movement is not able to discern and rid itself of its own scientific errors. In this sense, the leadership of the young-earth movement cannot be implicitly trusted to reliably counsel or guide the church on scientific matters.

The young-earth movement's failure to recognize and repudiate the false science of Starlight and Time/New Vistas is a stumbling block to informed non-believing scientists and may become a stumbling block to many other unbelievers if the young-earth movement persists in affirming this manifestly untrue theory. In the interests of the credibility of its own Gospel witness and the witness of the wider Church, it is time for the young-earth movement to repudiate the Starlight and Time/New Vistas theory.

7 Conclusion

We at Reasons to Believe have hoped that the young-earth movement and that portion of the church which looks to the young-earth movement for scientific guidance would repudiate Starlight and Time. RTB has to this point, avoided extensive public comment on the theory. In doing so, RTB has sought:

  1. to give the movement space to resolve this matter internally,
  2. to avoid needlessly polarizing the debate and
  3. to give the young-earth publication CENTJ pride of place in publishing the most comprehensive rebuttal of Starlight and Time which has yet appeared.

But the young-earth community has not seemed able and/or willing to examine itself. Our restraint seems to have been interpreted by proponents of Starlight and Time as an inability on RTB's part to respond to Starlight and Time. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the interest of the credibility of its Christian testimony, we appeal to the young-earth movement to undertake the long-overdue reassessment of the validity of Starlight and Time and, now, New Vistas.



  1. D. Russell Humphreys, "Progress toward a young-earth relativistic cosmology," in R. E. Walsh (ed.) Poceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism (Pittsburgh, PA: Creation Science Fellowship, 1994): pp. 267-286.
  2. D. Russell Humphreys, Starlight and Time (Colorado Springs, CO: Master Books, 1994).
  3. Hugh Ross , letters to author, 30 September 1992, 15 March 1993, and 15 April 1993 (see appendix A, B, and C).
  4. Facts & Faith, v.9, n,1 (first quarter 1995): pp. 12-13; Facts & Faith v.12, n.4 (fourth quarter 1998): pp. 10-11.
  5. Samuel R. Conner, "Starlight and Time and the Big Bang," July 1995.
  6. Samuel R. Conner, "How long does it take light to travel from distant galaxies to the earth in the alternative cosmological model of Starlight and Time?," July 1995.
  7. Samuel R. Conner and Don N. Page, "Light Travel Time in Starlight and Time", Bible Science News v. 33, n. 7 (1995): pp 12, 16-19.
  8. The ICC's re-evaluation of Starlight and Time was communicated to SRC in the course of a conversation with Robert Walsh and Steven Rodabaugh in the Summer of 1996.
  9. John Byl, "On time dilation in cosmology," Creation Research Society Quarterly, v. 34, n. 1, 1997.
  10. Samuel R. Conner and Don N. Page, "Starlight and Time is the Big Bang," Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, v. 12, n. 2 (1998): pp. 174-194.
  11. D. Russell Humphreys, "New Vistas of Spacetime Rebut the Critics", CEN Tech. J., v. 12, n. 2 (1998), pp. 195-212.
  12. this includes 1) astrophysicists and a general relativity theorist in the team assembled by RTB, 2) two young-earth scientists who have spoken up on this subject and 3) the team of reviewers selected by CEN Tech. J. to referee the latest published exchange. Based on the evidence available to us, we are confident in our conclusion that the original ICC reviewer (of reference #1) was not sufficiently skilled in general relativity to discern the errors in the original paper. Humphreys' recent retreat from most of the physical claims of that paper (discussed below) confirms this, and similar conclusions have been drawn by the leaders of the ICC.
  13. At this writing, Starlight and Time is still being promoted and distributed by Answers in Genesis, Creation Research Society, and Institute for Creation Research, despite the fact that much of the physics argumentation of that book has recently been abandoned by Humphreys (see below). To our knowledge, of the major young-earth organizations, only the ICC has backed away from Starlight and Time.
  14. Professor of physics and a general relativity theorist at the University of Alberta
  15. a non-resident PhD candidate in physics in the Physics Department at MIT.
  16. There is one exception to this trend among the major young-earth organizations: the ICC. In addition to the top leadership of the ICC, there are a few other astute and scholarly-minded young-earth leaders who have recognized the false character of the theory. By and large, however, the young-earth movement has clung to this theory ever tighter as the refutations of it have grown stronger.
  17. Samuel R. Conner and Don N. Page, "The big bang cosmology of Starlight and Time," 200+ pages, manuscript submitted to CEN Tech. J. as supporting material to reference 10.
  18. In addition, most of the new errors (as well as all of the major old ones) are rebutted in the material presented in reference 18.
  19. reference 2, p. 92.
  20. The erroneous differential aging effects which Humphreys attributed in previous writings to differences in the rates of physical clocks are now attributed to differences in the stage of expansion of the universe at which such clocks start ticking. In the current form of the hypothesis, there is no relationship at all between differences in gravitational potential and differences in clock rate. In fact, it is easy to show that, in Humphreys' new model, infinitesimal differences in gravitational potential accompany the large alleged differences in clock rate which Humphreys claims are caused by changes in the signature of the Klein metric, while very large differences in gravitational potential in other regions of the universe produce no difference at all in clock rate. Humphreys has abandoned gravitational time dilation as a physical argument.
  21. Humphreys now admits that the event horizon has no effect on physical clocks which are not at the center, but still wrongly claims that a physical clock located precisely at the center would experience unusual effects. This residual piece of the original argument is mistaken, as is shown in references 10 and 17.
  22. Regarding the issue of expert review of Humphreys' writings, it appears that the recent exchange in CEN Tech. J. is the first instance in which Humphreys' writings have been subjected to pre-publication review by experts in general relativity. His article for CEN Tech. J., "New Vistas of Spacetime Rebut the Critics" (ref. 11) was indeed subjected to a rigorous review (two of the three reviewers have impeccable credentials in GR and have published extensively in the literature of that discipline). However, judging by the highly favorable tenor of these reviewers' remarks on the Conner/Page paper (and their criticism of Humphreys' previous writings, which were contained in their reports on the Conner/Page article), it is impossible to believe that New Vistas actually passed this rigorous review.
  23. readers interested in learning more about general relativity and cosmology theory are referred to the explanatory appendices of reference 18.
  24. We enclose this term in quotes because the Newtonian conception of the gravitational field is not strictly valid in general relativity, but is rather the low-energy, low curvature limit of general relativity. However, Humphreys' conceptions and language are Newtonian, and so we use the term as an accomodation.
  25. We leave aside the issue of non-vanishing cosmological constant for the purposes of this discussion. There is no analogue in Newtonian physics for a cosmological constant, and Humphreys' arguments on this issue, and our counter to them here, are Newtonian. We also confine ourselves to the pressureless "cold dust" models employed by Humphreys. These qualifications have no effect on the validity of our analysis, for if Humphreys is correct, unbounded universes with no cosmological constant and no pressure cannot decelerate, while general relavity requires that such universes must decelerate. This clear contradiction between Humphreys' claims and the mathematics of general relativity shows that his claims cannot be correct.
  26. for example, Steven Weinberg, Gravitation and Cosmology (New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1972), pp. 474-475 and Herman Bondi, Cosmology, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952), pp. 75-89.
  27. Indeed, in New Vistas of Spacetime Rebut the Critics, Humphreys flatly rejects the testimony of two of this century's leading physicists, Oskar Klein and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, testimony which convincingly overthrows his hypothesis. Humphreys' unwillingness to accept expert testimony with which he does not agree makes a mockery of his claim to have "subjected" his work to expert review. Humphreys has consistently disregarded such review.
  28. This is a continuation of the coordinate system misunderstandings which have plagued Humphreys' work from the beginning. In the original version of Starlight and Time, Humphreys mistook the peculiar behavior of the Schwarzschild time coordinate to imply unusual behavior in the physical timekeeping properties of earth clocks. In New Vistas, he transfers this misunderstanding to the physical meaning of the Klein coordinate representation of the metric.
  29. This claim illustrates Humphreys' tendency to defend old errors with even bigger new ones. This new error is so elementary that it can be thoroughly rebutted here. Humphreys confuses the concept of spherical symmetry with the concept of a spherical boundary. He claims that a uniform bounded space with a spherical boundary does possess spherical symmetry, whereas (according to him) a uniform unbounded space does not. In fact, spherical symmetry refers to a symmetry property whereby rotation by an arbitrary angle about an arbitrary axis leaves a system unchanged. An unbounded homogeneous and isotropic space manifestly satisfies the definition of spherical symmetry --- indeed, such spaces are "maximally symmetric" (Weinberg, ref. 27, pp. 395-404, 411-412). Humphreys claims that a homogeneous and isotropic unbounded matter distribution cannot be said to possess spherical symmetry because it does not have a spherical boundary. This same misunderstanding leads Humphreys to reject Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg's discussion of the implications of the Birkhoff Theorem, implications which invalidate Humphreys' cosmological hypotheses.

    The character of Humphreys' misunderstanding may be illustrated by applying his misconception to a lower-dimensional space. A uniformly and isotropically matter-filled infinite plane manifestly possesses the property of polar or cylindrical symmetry about any axis perpendicular to it. That is, rotation of such a plane by any angle about any perpendicular axis (or, equivalently, rotation in the plane about any point in the plane) leaves the physical situation unchanged. For this reason, any point in the plane may be chosen as the origin of a polar coordinate system, and any reference direction may be chosen as the zero of the polar angle. Obviously, a uniform and isotropic matter-filled planar region with a circular boundary, beyond which there is only vacuum, also possesses cylindrical symmetry, but in this case, the symmetry is only about a single point, the point equidistant from the boundary. Rotation of the space about this point leaves the physical situation unchanged. Humphreys' spherical boundary/spherical symmetry confusion is identical to the manifestly absurd claim that, because an infinite, uniform, isotropic matter plane does not possess a circular boundary, such a matter distribution cannot be said to possess cylindrical symmetry about any origin. This is manifestly false. In fact, such a distribution of matter possesses cylindrical symmetry about every choice of origin. In the same way, the unbounded big bang cosmological models possess spherical symmetry about every point. It is not the case, as Humphreys claims, that there is no center of spherical symmetry for such models. In fact, every point in such a model is a center of spherical symmetry. Humphreys' claims to the contrary exhibit a serious misunderstanding of the meaning of the physical concept of spherical symmetry.

  30. another instance of defending old errors with bigger new ones. In this case, Humphreys has renounced the correct understanding, present in his earlier writings, of the Robertson-Walker metric as applicable to bounded as well as unbounded locally homogeneous/isotropic models and adopted in its place an inaccurate understanding.
  31. in press
  32. for example, Weinberg, ref. 27, p. 344.
  33. for example, Weinberg clearly states that the Klein metric is derived by a coordinate transformation of the Robertson-Walker metric. (Weinberg, ref. 27, pp. 345-346)
  34. Thus, Humphreys' rejection of the Robertson-Walker metric is in fact self-annihilating, since if that metric is not a valid description of a bounded matter sphere, then the alternative coordinate representation of it which he prefers cannot be a valid description either.
  35. This criticism does not imply that we reject everything which our young-earth brothers teach. To begin with, and most importantly, we agree with them on the core doctrines of the Christian faith. Further, we honor their intent, which is to bring glory to God and to win the lost to Christ. In addition, a significant portion of the young-earth science message focuses on biological issues and the intelligent design argument, and much of this part of their message is valid. Unfortunately, young-earth "science" dealing with the age issue is poorly done and tends to undermine the credibility of their legitimate biological and teleological arguments, not to mention their Gospel witness --- the "Nicodemus dilemma" once again.
  36. As a single additional instance of this, an illuminating discussion of the problems of Flood Geology, the central paradigm of the young-earth movement, is presented in CEN Tech. J., v. 10, n. 1 (1996). This issue contains a "mini-symposium" on the question of where in the fossil record the boundary between Flood-produced and post-Flood sedimentary rocks should be placed. The various arguments offered do an excellent job of defeating each other; the only position which survives this analysis is the conventional scientific view (and RTB's position) that the great majority of the surface geology of Earth was produced prior to the Flood.

Appendix A

September 30, 1992

Dr. D. Russell Humphreys
9301 Gutierrez N. E.
Albuquerque, NM 87111

Dear Dr. Humphreys:

In response to your August 13 letter, I assume you are referring to your paper entitled "A New Solution to Einstein’s Field of Cosmological Significance." John Baumgardner gave me a copy in October 1990.

I have read the paper, but I saw no reason to check your solutions. Whether or not your solutions permit the universe to expand to its present condition in only a few thousand years, reality does not. Astronomical observations overwhelmingly confirm that the expansion rate was slower. In fact, the observed expansion rate is part of the evidence for God’s design. If the universe had expanded any more slowly or rapidly than the observed rate, life in the cosmos at any time would be impossible. There is ample documentation of this point in my own and others’ writings.

As I have said before, the confidence astronomers express in a several-billion-year-old universe (young from their perspective), is supported by voluminous data, and such an age in no way compromises the accuracy and authority of the Bible-from a straightforward reading of all of the relevant texts. Why this insistence on 6,000 years? Let’s let the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not the age of the universe, be the watershed.

Sincerely in Christ the Savior,

Hugh Ross

Appendix B

March 15, 1993

Dr. D. Russell Humphreys
9301 Gutierrez N. E.
Albuquerque, NM 87111

Dear Dr. Humphreys:

I finally am making some headway on my backlog of correspondence. Let me begin by answering again your questions on November 12.

Yes, I would change my position on the age of the universe given enough supporting evidence. I would need to see three things: 1) sufficient evidence for a different age, 2) proofs that the current evidences are all invalid, 3) a model that correctly predicts new discoveries. Since I view the age of the universe as a theologically minor point, I am not ideologically committed. It would be no big deal philosophically or theologically for me to change my position. The only reason I am so strongly committed to a billions-of-years-old universe is because of the strength of the observational evidence and its predictive track record.

To which I do give greater allegiance, general relativity or the big bang? The observational evidence for both is impressive. But right now, that evidence is stronger for the big bang (see, for example, Science News, January 16, 1993, page 43). That could change, however, with some soon-to-be-scheduled experiments.

As for your paper, I will repeat for the third time that my basic problem with it is its failure to address the observations. As you must be aware, there is no observational evidence for as rapid a rate of expansion for the universe as you desire. And if there were, we would not be here to discuss it. Life cannot exist in such a rapidly expanding cosmos.

It seems to me that you would rather overthrow most of established physics and astronomy and consign the promoters of established physics and astronomy to the lake of fire than admit that your interpretation of the Genesis creation accounts might possible need some adjusting. If that is the case, then it is your "god", not mine, that is "uncaring, deceptive, and unreliable."

Dr. Humphreys, I am praying that you will turn your attention fully toward reaching the lost with the Gospel of Christ and cease making the age of the universe a big issue between us and between you and unbelievers. The time is too short, and the Lord has called us to use it wisely.

Incidentally, both James Dobson and Paul Crouch have asked to be kept out of our dialog. I have honored their request. I ask you to do the same.

Sincerely in Christ the Savior,

Hugh Ross

Appendix C

April 15, 1993

Russell Humphreys, Ph.D.
9301 Gutierrez N.E.
Albuquerque, NM 87111

Dear Dr. Humphreys:

I have not explicitly stated my qualifications to review your paper on cosmology because it seemed to me that my qualifications were sufficiently obvious as to need no special reiteration. I believe you already know that I earned a Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of Toronto. While there I studied under some of the world’s leading cosmologists. My graduate work was fully funded by an award from the National Research Council of Canada. Upon completion of my degree, I was accepted as a post-doctoral research fellow at the California Institute of Technology, where I continued my study of quasars for five years. During that time, I co-authored several articles published in technical journals.

As I’m sure you also know, I left my full-time research position for full-time ministry, but I have continued to read (and understand) the astronomical literature. At the same time, I have been involved in leading many people to salvation in Jesus Christ. Before launching Reasons to Believe I served for more than a decade as minister of evangelism for a Bible-believing church not far from Caltech, and I had the privilege of particapting in the church’s growth from a few hundred members to about a thousand, many of whom had no previous involvement in church. If you need more information on my background, you could obtain a curriculum vita from my office.

If you are asking me to review your paper, all I can say is that I must see it before I can agree to do so. I want to see how well it fits the observational data about the universe. If it strays too far from the observations, I simply cannot spend time on it.

Sincerely in Christ,

Hugh Ross

P. S. It seems you have misunderstood my statement about the big bang and general relativity. I consider both to be solidly established by abundant observational data.

Subjects: Constants of Physics, Laws of Physics, Light Travel Time and the Cosmology of Russell Humphreys

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.