Reasons to Believe

Connections 2005, Vol. 7, No. 4



Continuous Cosmic Expansion Confirmed
by Jeff Zweerink, Ph.D., Hugh Ross, Ph.D.

Big bang opponents are a diverse lot. Some promote an infinitely (or near infinitely) old universe to avoid a creation event in the relatively recent (roughly 14-billion-year) past. So, they argue that the universe is static or semi-static-no general cosmic expansion. Others promote a very young creation (6,000-10,000 years old) to fit a particular interpretation of Genesis 1. They need the expansion to occur much more rapidly than a few billion years. Nestled in between is the established scientific-and biblical-model saying that expansion has occurred continuously over the past 13.7 billion years.

Recent measurements of Type Ia supernova eruptions, however, rule out all options except those fitting the latter model.1 To understand how, a little background is useful. Atoms of a given element absorb or emit light at unique wavelengths, so the spectrum of a particular element will show lines of specific colors instead of a rainbow of colors. When astronomers look at distant galaxies, the spectral lines from atoms in those galaxies are redshifted, or "pulled," toward the red end of the radiation spectrum.

The simplest way to explain the redshift is to say that the galaxies are moving away from us. If the universe is continuously expanding, the more distant galaxies will manifest a greater redshift-which is precisely what is measured. Through the years, some astronomers who dislike the implications of cosmic expansion have proposed other explanations for redshifts and their relation to distance.

Two static-universe alternatives are the "tired light"2 and "varying mass"3 models. The former model says that as light propagates through space it loses energy, and this loss increases its wavelength. The "varying mass" model says atomic masses increase as the universe ages. Light from more distant objects was emitted when the universe was younger and, therefore, the masses of the atoms were smaller. Smaller atomic masses mean longer wavelengths. Both of these models were developed solely to explain the redshift/distance relationship without appealing to continuous cosmic expansion from a creation event about 14 billion years ago-not because astronomers actually predicted light to lose energy in transit or atomic masses to change.

The most widely accepted young-universe model acknowledges that while the universe exhibits billions of years of development,4 due to a (hypothesized) gravitational time dilation effect, only a few thousand years have elapsed on Earth. In other words, the rates of all distant phenomena occur thousands to millions of times faster when measured from Earth. Big bang models, however, predict the opposite-that velocity time dilation effects will make very distant phenomena appear to proceed more slowly (by a few tens of percent).

Recently, a team of American astronomers developed and applied a robust new method for testing and distinguishing among the different models.5 The test involves multiple spectral measurements of Type Ia supernovae eruptions-events that last about 7 months in the absence of time dilation effects. The team looked at how the different spectral line intensities change over the supernova eruption phase and thus determined how far into the 7-month period the eruption has progressed. The time dilation factor is determined by dividing the time between observations by the change in time progressed into the eruption. Say an astronomer made two spectral observations 20 days apart and determined the time progressed into the eruption was 10 days and 26 days, respectively. The time dilation factor would be 20/(26-10) = 1.25. For static or semi-static universes, the time dilation factor will be 1. For a young universe, the time dilation factor will be near zero. For a big bang universe, the time dilation factor will be one plus the redshift of the object.

So far, the method has been accurately applied to one distant supernova, 1997ex. The results were perfectly consistent with continuous cosmic expansion from a cosmic creation event roughly 14 billion years ago. At the same time, they definitively falsified both the nonexpanding universe models and the young-universe models. As with previous tests based on a variety of methods,5 the biblically anticipated cosmic creation model has been vindicated with flying colors.

References :

  1. Ryan J. Foley et al., "A Definitive Measurement of Time Dilation in the Spectral Evolution of the Moderate-Redshift Type Ia Supernova 1997ex," Astrophysical Journal 626 (2005): L11-L14.
  2. David F. Crawford, "Curvature Pressure in a Cosmology with a Tired-Light Redshift," Australian Journal of Physics 52 (1999): 753-77.
  3. J. V. Narlikar and H. C. Arp, "Time Dilation in the Supernova Light Curve and the Variable Mass Hypothesis," Astrophysical Journal 482 (1997): L119-L120.
  4. D. Russell Humphreys, Starlight and Time (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1994).
  5. Hugh Ross, "Time Dilation Attests Cosmic Creation Models," Connections 5, no. 3-4 (2003), 1-3.
  6. Hugh Ross, "Tolman's Elegant Test," Facts for Faith, no. 8 (Q1 2002), 10-11; Hugh Ross, A Matter Of Days (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004), 149-55, 163-72.

 


The Buzz On UFOs
by Kenneth Richard Samples

Flying saucers, aliens, abductions, and channeled messages. In a scientifically enlightened age, global interest in UFOs shows no signs of waning. How can Christians-or non-Christians-evaluate this phenomenon?
Reports

Respected polls reveal that half of all adult Americans believe UFOs are real and 12% claim to have seen one.1 Credible UFO experts estimate the number of alleged sightings worldwide in recent decades to be perhaps in the millions.2

This fascination has given rise to a number of UFO religions or cults, including the Aetherius Society, the Unarius Academy of Science, and the Raelian Movement. The Aetherius Society and the Raelian Movement have claimed more than several thousand members at their peak. The Heaven's Gate cult received wide press attention following the mass suicide of 39 of its members in 1997. The group believed that by committing suicide they would join a flying saucer trailing the Hale-Bopp comet.

The beliefs of UFO cults are centered on three ideas: (1) flying saucers are physical crafts, (2) people receive channeled messages from alien intelligences associated with flying saucers, and (3) these messages are of immense importance. These groups have an occult ancestry and engage in various occult practices.

While it may be tempting to dismiss the phenomenon as the captivation of eccentric or sectarian groups, most UFO reports come from average people. And while UFO experts estimate between 90 and 95% of all reported UFOs are either natural phenomena, hoaxes, or man-made crafts, some 5 to 10% defy such explanations.
Reasoning

Three popular explanatory hypotheses have been proffered in an attempt to explain these residual UFOs (RUFOs).

The Misidentified Hypothesis (MIH): This position asserts that if 90-95% of UFO reports have natural or human explanations then maybe all of them can be so explained. Cornell astronomer and popular science writer Carl Sagan reflected this view: "Although it is not possible to prove that all UFOs are misapprehended natural phenomena, there are no compelling reasons to believe otherwise."3

The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH): This view states that UFOs are physical realities (literal spacecrafts) piloted by interplanetary visitors. These space aliens represent what is thought to be a vastly advanced civilization (technologically, and possibly morally and spiritually) that studies mankind, and will, at the appropriate time, make contact with humanity. Outspoken advocate of the ETH, Stanton Friedman remarks "the evidence is overwhelming that some UFOs are alien spacecraft."4

The Interdimensional Hypothesis (IDH): This theory holds that UFOs are a real phenomenon that may exhibit physical and empirical effects, but whose origin and nature belongs not to extraterrestrial spacecraft, but to another dimension of reality beyond our time-space continuum. Sometimes described as the paranormal/occult view of UFOs, some UFO experts (especially Christian) have ascribed a demonic interpretation to this alleged extra-dimensional presence. Such leading secular UFO experts as Jacques Vallée have argued for a correspondence between the UFO phenomenon and the occult or demonology.5

Using what logicians call abductive reasoning, the best explanatory hypothesis is balanced between complexity and simplicity, is coherent, corresponds to the facts, avoids presumptions, is testable, and thus has true explanatory power. In applying this approach to UFOs it is evident that all views have their difficulties. Nevertheless, while the vast majority of UFOs have natural explanations (possibly 99%), RUFOs consistently defy a natural explanation. So the MIH does not explain all the data. The ETH, which calls for traversing vast distances of interstellar space, exhibiting behavior that violates the laws of physics, and sustaining untold numbers of spacecrafts, is scientifically, technologically, and logically untenable. The IDH also has weaknesses (physicality of reports, difficulty in validating psychic-like phenomena), but seems to offer the most explanatory power. RUFO-related phenomena strike an objective person as being real, but not physical, being deceptive in nature, and possibly malevolent in intent. Also, a biblical case can be made that RUFOs reflect a demonic influence. One should be cautious, however, about drawing any hard and fast conclusions about UFO phenomena.
Response

Christians can communicate several things when engaging the culture in UFO discussions. First, in the highly improbable event the existence of physical extraterrestrials will be proven, this development would not disprove Christianity. The Bible reveals God created all things, regardless of where they reside. The God of the Bible is not a mere Earth-based deity, but is the transcendent Lord of the entire cosmos. Second, RUFOs are for the most part a religious phenomenon and religious beliefs have real consequences, as was evidenced in the case of the Heaven's Gate cult. And third, historic Christianity provides powerful and livable answers to life's ultimate questions, and those answers are more convincing than anything RUFO phenomena can provide.

References:

  1. CNI News, "Gallup Poll Indicates Strong Belief in Extraterrestrial Life," http://www.exosci.com/ufo, accessed Jan. 6, 1998; ABC News.com: Roswell. "We Think the Truth Is Out There, Says Poll,"
  2. http://archive.abcnews.com/sections/scitech, originally accessed July 2, 1998.
  3. Jacques Vallée, Dimensions: A Casebook of Alien Contact (New York: Ballantine Books, 1988), 231.
  4. Encyclopedia Americana, s.v. "unidentified flying object."
  5. Jerome Clark, The UFO Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1998), s.v. "Friedman, Stanton Terry."
  6. Vallée, Dimensions, 253.

 


Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science and the Age of the Earth
by Mark Whorton, Ph.D. Waynesboro, GA: Authentic Media, 2005. 256 pages. Paperback.

Reviewed by Krista Bontrager, MA., M.A.
Any old-earth creationist who has ever locked horns with a Christian friend about the age of the earth knows that there is far more to the debate than simply interpreting Genesis 1. The discussion inevitably shifts to a debate about how to understand Genesis 3. How has Adam's sin affected the creation?

NASA scientist, Mark Whorton, shrinks the divide separating young-earth creationists from old-earth creationists down to two words. Everything hinges on the question, what did God mean when He called the creation "very good"?

The real strength of Peril in Paradise is that Whorton approaches a classic debate from a different angle. Genesis 1 is nowhere in view. Rather, Whorton asserts that the discussion about the age of Earth is intertwined with a debate about the similarities and differences between Eden and the new heavens and Earth.

Whorton identifies two vastly different paradigms for understanding creation-the perfect paradise paradigm (used by young-earth creationists) and the perfect purpose paradigm (used by old-earth creationists). Advocates of the perfect paradise model believe God's pronouncement that the pre-fall creation was "very good" indicated that Eden was the best of all possible worlds. It was absolute perfection, a kind of "heaven on Earth." And although humans have ruined this paradise through sin, God will restore the earth to its Edenic state.

The perfect purpose paradigm, by contrast, asserts that the chief purpose of creation is to glorify God, who causes even wicked beings to testify to His glory. This universe is but one part of God's overall plan of creation and redemption.

Beckoning from the background, however, is the realization that what Whorton is really arguing concerns the nature of God's sovereignty over creation. Did He have to implement Plan B-the cross-after creation was spoiled by Adam's sin? Or, was it all part of His master plan?

Whorton tackles this theological powder keg with a surprising depth of knowledge of Scripture and the history of theology, despite the fact that these disciplines rest outside the realm of his formal education. He places himself squarely within classical Protestant theology, quoting from John Calvin and the Westminster Confession, in order to build his case.

But Peril in Paradise is far from a rehash of time-worn arguments. Whorton tills new ground in the age of the earth debate by helping readers to reflect more deeply about what the Bible means when it describes Eden. And the book's release is timely, given the increasing charges of heresy coming out of certain creationist organizations, including the young-earth concern that animal death before Adam's fall undermines the atonement of Christ. They reason that human sin introduced death to God's creation, necessitating the Savior's redemptive work. Therefore, predation (death and bloodshed of animals) could not have been part of a "very good" creation prior to human sin. Whorton demonstrates why such thinking is biblically unfounded.

Whorton's case could have been made even more powerful with better organization of his material. At times it is hard to track how the points of each chapter fit together to form a cohesive whole. I found myself on more than one occasion flipping back to re-read the chapter title, asking, what is he arguing here again?

And there isn't a lot of literary drama to keep the reader motivated to turn the page. It lacks a certain, so what? or what difference does all this make? factor. Peril in Paradise is a straightforward information-driven approach that will largely appeal to those Christians already interested in the topic.

That's the major limitation of Whorton's book. It's not written at a popular level, but it's not exactly an academic treatment of the topic either. It seems to be a book in search of an audience. Whorton could have infused the book with more popular appeal, which I think is the readership he hopes to reach.

For this reason I would not be inclined to pass this book on to a young-earth friend, unless he or she was already well versed on the controversy. It might, however, be a good resource to provide a pastor or church leader, especially one who has expressed concern about the death-before-the-Fall issue.

But most importantly, Peril in Paradise will equip the old-earth creationist with powerful biblical and theological reasons for why animal death before Adam need not be a point of confusion or embarrassment, but rather an integral part of God's eternal plan.


Why Aren't There Any 900-Year-Old Human Fossils?
by Fazale Rana, Ph.D.

"You don't really believe that humans lived to be 900 years old, do you?" A well-known local atheist posed this question last spring (2005) when I spoke in Albany, New York. For many skeptics the long life spans recorded in Genesis chapters 5 and 11 seem absurd. If anything, anthropological evidence seems to indicate that humans who lived just thousands of years ago had shorter life spans than they do today. Yet conservative Bible scholars affirm that a literal reading of these passages teaches that the first human beings lived to be several hundred years old. And, it was only after the Flood that human life expectancy decreased to a maximum of 120 years. How do we resolve this conflict?

Recent advances in the biochemistry of aging and new astronomical insights into changes in Earth's radiation environment make such long life spans scientifically plausible.1 These advances, however, raise a fundamental question: If the biblical account is correct, then why aren't there any fossils of 900-year-old humans?

New research offers a possible explanation. Anatomists from Japan have developed a new method to determine the age of humans at the time of their death based on analysis of the ilium (one of the bones of the pelvis).2 This newly developed approach bears similarity to methods currently used by forensic scientists to determine age at the time of death.3 As humans age, characteristic changes take place in their skeletal features. Carefully correlating these changes with age allows scientists to estimate an age-at-death from skeletal remains.

This new method, and others like it, critically depends on the individuals comprising the reference sample. The researchers demonstrated that the age-at-death measured for an individual will depend on the known age and sex distribution of the human subjects used to build the calibration curve. The measured age can be skewed high or low if there is not a balanced representation of ages and sexes in the reference samples.

Age determination of human remains in the fossil record, of necessity, is based on calibrations derived from contemporary humans. But this process would not apply to humans who aged differently, and more slowly, prior to the Flood. Therefore, the failure to detect 900-year-old humans in the fossil record does not necessarily mean that humans did not live that long. Instead, it may reflect, at least in part, the use of the wrong calibration of chronological age and skeletal changes.

At first glance, the long life spans described in Genesis seem incredible. Yet, with adjustments of age-determination methods, along with advances in biochemistry and astronomy, this biblical teaching seems more plausible than ever.

My response to the neighborhood skeptic: "Yes, I do believe that humans lived to be 900 years old, and here's why."

References:

  1. Fazale R. Rana, Hugh Ross, and Richard Deem, "Long Life Spans: Adam Lived 930 Years and Then He Died; New Discoveries in the Biochemistry of Aging Support the Biblical Record," Facts for Faith, no. 5 (Q1 2001),
  2. http://www.reasons.org/resources/fff/2001issue05/index.shtml#long_life_spans.
  3. Yuriko Igarashi et al., "New Method for Estimation of Adult Skeletal Age at Death from the Morphology of the Auricular Surface of the Ilium," American Journal of Physical Anthropology : early view, published online April 4, 2005.
  4. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/110436520/ABSTRACT
  5. For example see Mehmet Yaşar İşcan, ed., Age Markers in the Human Skeleton (Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1989).