Is Starlight Travel Time Incompatible with the Biblical Account of Creation? Pt. II

Astrophysicist Jason Lisle provides another explanation for “the distant starlight problem” in his paperÂAnisotropic Synchrony Convention—A Solution to the Distant Starlight Problem Â(see Pt. I for other proposals) He states the problem thusly, “Since light travels a distance of one light year (about 6 trillion miles or 9 trillion kilometers) in one year, it would seem that we should only be able to see objects within a radius of 6,000 light years. Objects beyond that distance should not be visible, since presumably their light has not yet reached us. Yet, paradoxically, we can see galaxies whose distances have been measured to be many billions of light years away.”[1]

The following mentions a few of his comments, but any evaluation of his theory should be based on his paper rather than my comments, which are intended for those who do not wish to read the full article.

Lisle notes some problems that critics have about Genesis and young-earth creation. He is leveling the playing field because critics often point out problems in Genesis but not in their hypotheses or ideas. He says, “Critics of biblical creation have often attempted to use distant starlight as evidence in favor of the big bang and against Genesis. But such criticisms are logically unsound since the big bang has an ontologically equivalent problem—the horizon problem. Solutions to the horizon problem have been proposed of course, but there is not universal agreement (Lisle 2006). The fact that the universe is very big and also young (by secular standards) is therefore not logically useful as a criticism against the Bible when the favored alternative also has a light travel-time problem.”

Following is a summary of the horizon problem. The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) temperature is basically the same everywhere, but the only way that can be true is if all the different regions were in close contact. However, even if the assumed big bang timescale of billions of years is correct, there still has not been enough time for light to travel to and between all regions of space. Consequently, the big bang theory has the problem of explaining how light traveled to the different regions even in their billions of years model. They, of course, have hypothesized how this can be so, but they have not satisfactorily answered the problem. Therefore, it is fallacious and even disingenuous for big bang theorists to criticize creationists’ hypothesizing solutions to the light travel problem when they have their own light travel problem. See Jason Lisle’sÂLight Travel Time: a problem for the big bang.

“The overwhelming majority of old-earth, or old-universe arguments are fallacious because they are based on faulty, unbiblical initial conditions. For example, by assuming that the universe began with no size, or that the solar system formed from a nebula, and then extrapolating how long it would take to reach its present state, of course one is bound to reach a faulty age estimate that is inflated by a factor of millions. Old-universe supporters frequently make such mistakes. They have arbitrarily assumed unbiblical initial conditions, and then use the resulting inflated age estimate to argue that the Bible is wrong. But, of course, this simply begs the question. Mature creation is a biblical concept, and easily shows the majority of old-earth claims to be fallacious.”

Some Creationists argue that God created light beams in route, but Lisle argues that the light beams originated from the star and was not created in transit.[2] He argues that the light would have reached the earth “instantaneously or nearly so at creation of the earth.” In illumining the problem and his proposal, he mentions a phenomenon that is counter-intuitive but well documented. It is that time is not absolute and therefore not observer independent. This phenomenon is called “Relativity of simultaneity.” This means that observers in two different locations will not agree on whether events happened simultaneously or even the order of events. Therefore, space and time are observer dependent, which means that what is simultaneous depends on the observer’s reference frame. However, it is important to note that this effect is not noticeable in everyday life or circumstances.

With regard to Einstein’s synchronization, he says, “Two cosmically distant events that are considered simultaneous in one reference frame will inevitably be separated by millions of years in another reference frame. More generally, any two space-like events will be considered simultaneous in some reference frame. In other reference frames, one will occur before the other . . . So, if the creation of all the galaxies in the cosmos is simultaneous in one reference frame, it will be spread out over millions of years in another. And the earth is constantly shifting reference frames in its annual orbit.”

So “if the creation of the stars is simultaneous relative to earth on Day Four (as measured by Einstein synchronization), then itÂcannotÂbe simultaneous relative to earth only sixth months later (when the earth is on the opposite side of the sun, and moving in the opposite direction). In fact, the spread of time becomes enormous when we consider the most distant galaxies.”

Another counter-intuitive reality is that “Both theory and experimentation confirm that the round trip speed of light in a vacuum is constant relative to any inertial observer. So, if we take light and bounce it off one or more mirrors so that it returns to its source location, the time it takes will be constant for a given distance (for any inertial observer who performs the experiment) . . . However, the speed of light in any one direction is not necessarily constant [because] the one-way speed of light is not a constant of nature, but is a matter of convention.” In other words, this means that Einstein’s synchrony convention isÂnotÂabsolute in nature but a useful convention—an agreed-upon standard. Therefore, Einstein’s model isÂnotÂdemanded by nature and isÂnot the onlyÂvalid model that can be employed.

To understand this better, let me demonstrate what a convention is. If the United States of America and Europe decided to use the metric system only, that would be a convention, i.e., an agreed-upon standard. However, it is not the only standard, and neither is it necessarily the best in every situation, nor is it unchangeable. It is simply a standard of measurement agreed upon by the users. Now, the United States and Europe could have chosen the Imperial system or replaced the metric system at any time because neither measurement system is intrinsic to the commodity being measured. It is simply an agreed-upon system, i.e., a convention.

Now, specifically with regard to the universe, Lisle observes, “But according to Einstein, the fact that we can never test a synchrony convention shows us something fundamental about the universe. Namely, it tells us that synchrony conventions are not a property of the universe but are instead a system of measurement invented by man.ÂAccording to the conventionality thesis, no experiment will ever be able to establish one synchrony convention over another, because synchronization systems are a human invention by which we measure other things—much like the metric system.” (italics added)

Consequently, “Although Einstein synchronization is well-defined and self-consistent for any one reference frame, it is not possible to construct a synchrony definition that is objectively the same for all velocity reference frames at all locations.” Einstein rightly concludes that the one-way speed of light is not an empirical quantity of nature but a choice of man. He states, “That light requires the same time to traverse the path A â” ‘ M as for the path B â” ‘ M is in reality neither aÂsupposition nor a hypothesisÂabout the physical nature of light, but aÂstipulationÂwhich I can make of my own freewill in order to arrive at a definition of simultaneity (Einstein 1961, p. 23) [emphasis is in the original]”.

Lisle notes, “It seems counter-intuitive that we may simply stipulate the one-way speed of light. It seems that the one-way speed of light should be unambiguous and measurable, in which case we would not have the freedom to choose an alternate synchrony convention. However, this is not so. We should remember that people once thought that durations in time and lengths in space were objective and unambiguous, irrespective of the observer’s velocity. But Einstein’s discoveries rule out such possibilities.” Thus, Einstein’s conclusion is “that the one-way speed of light is not actually a property of nature, but a choice of man.”

Therefore, since Einstein himself admits that his synchrony is a choice rather than a necessary of nature, we can recognize that other conventions, models, may be employed and may even be better than Einstein’s synchrony in certain areas. Regarding this Lisle comments that “an infinite number of such synchrony conventions may be stipulated. Let us consider a non-Einstein synchrony convention in which all points in the past light cone of p are considered simultaneous. This convention has been used in the technical literature . . . Moreover, Einstein himself considered using this convention.”

He further states, “[using] the anisotropic synchrony convention (ASC) reduces the inward-directed light travel-time to zero. [T]he creation of a star on Day Four happens at essentially the same time as the light from that star reaches earth.ÂUnder ASC, the ‘distant starlight problem’ disappears.” (italics added)

He then argues his proposal, entertains objections, and answers them. I am greatly encouraged by Lisle and other scientists. They exploreÂallÂof the scientific options, including those that are more reflective of how one can be a scientist without summarily dismissing the truthfulness of God based upon a man-chosen convention. Far too often, many scientists accept man’s findings over the revelation of God in much the same way that liberal theologians deified reason rather than used reason. “Let God be found true, though every manÂbe foundÂa liar” (Rom 3:4).

[1] All quotes in this article are from accessed 11/19/11. Lisle also wrote a paper in 2001 under the pseudonym Roger Newton.
[2] Per Richard Carpenter, a Senior Scientist and Program Manager with Weather Decision Technologies, Inc., in Norman, OK, such arguments, as well as a slower speed of light, were more prevalent a few decades ago.

Ronnie W. Rogers