Cosmological Problems for Young Earth Science.
The speed of light is a universal constant that physicists represent with the letter c. It is also extremely fast traveling some 186 282.397 miles per second in the vacuum of space. What scientists have discovered is that, on a cosmic scale, even give the speed of light vast distances still take a very long time to travel. This brings forth a first issue for Young Earth Science (YES), namely the most distant observable objects in the space are 13.7 billion light years away. Obviously that cannot be squared with the Young Earth Creationist’s (YEC) belief in a 6000 year old Earth. The implications are therefore quite problematic for this means that God created the universe with the appearance of age through his creating of the light across the intervening space. However, there are two rebuttals that YES has forwarded to combat this understanding of nature. The first being Barry Setterfield’s suggestion of c-decay and the second is Russell Humphreys’s gravitational well hypothesis. We shall consider both (1).
Setterfield’s “C-Decay” Hypothesis.
Setterfield argues that the speed of light has not been constant since the beginning of the universe. Instead, he claimed, it has decayed from a speed many millions of times faster than it is today. However, this is problematic since not only would such a hypothesis require a massive change in physics itself but the speed of light in the cosmic vacuum also shows no signs of variability that Setterfield’s hypothesis asserts. Perhaps even worse for Setterfield is that a much faster speed of light would make Earth uninhabitable. This is because our sun is powered by nuclear fusion that converts hydrogen into helium; a process that is done at a mammoth rate of more than 400 million tons p/s. However, if the speed of light were increased several million times than it currently is then the amount of energy released by nuclear fusion would have fatal consequences for Earth’s habitability. Essentially by increasing the speed of light Earth and all the life that is on it would have been burned alive.
Humphreys’ Gravitational Well Hypothesis.
Humphreys argues that God created the Earth at the center of a spherical universe and located it within a gravitational well that is produced by a massive black hole. He argues that it would thus follow that, given Einstein’s theory of general relativity, gravitational time-dilation could allow for some billions of years to pass outside this gravitational well while we are within it. This would mean that while billions of years have passed in the universe only a few thousand years have passed on Earth. This allows for the Earth to be young and still allow for distant starlight to reach us which makes it quite different to the problematic hypothesis of c-decay.
However, if the Earth really was in a huge gravity well then light, in accordance with the Doppler Effect, from distant galaxies would be blue-shifted. However, it isn’t and it is instead red-shifted in accordance with the Doppler Effect brought on by universal expansion. This suggests that we are not within a gravity well. Moreover, scientists have found that the heavy elements within the sun suggest that it is at least a second generation star. This means that it requires that the universe existed for some billions of years before our solar system came into existence. But for the YEC he insists that the heavenly lights were created on the fourth day after the Earth itself. Finally, gravitational time dilation on the scale argued by Humphreys would be observable in the periods of Cepheid variable stars, the orbital rates of distant binary star systems, and so on. However, on an observational level, it is not, which suggests that it isn’t happening. This critique is not exhaustive since others have also demonstrated the mathematical issues pertinent to Humphrey’s hypothesis.
1. Gordon, B. 2014. “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind: A Biblical and Scientific Critique of Young-Earth Creationism” in Science, Religion and Culture, 1(3): 144-173.