Is the Universe Expanding?45
As more powerful telescopes were trained on every more
distant galaxies four decades ago, a curious fact was discovered by spectroscopic analysis
of their light. It was observed that the characteristic spectral lines of the elements
were often shifted from their normal wavelengths. In particular the spectra of the
galaxies believed to be more distant were shifted toward the red or long-wavelength end of
the spectrum. The amount of shift appeared to increase with the distance. This effect
called the "red shift" has been interpreted to mean that the distant galaxies
are moving away from the sun with velocities that are appreciable fractions of the speed
of light. This is not considered to be the result of a reduction of the frequency of the
light because of the velocities of the distant galaxies through space. Rather, cosmology
based on Einstein's general theory of relativity holds that the recessaion of the distant
galaxies from the earth is the result of the expansion or stretching out of the space in
the entire universe. This expansion supposedly began with the Big Bang that secular
scientists believe originated the universe. Some of the more distant galaxies appear to
moving away from the solar system with velocities approaching half the speed of light. The
natural logical step was to correlate the observed red shift of the nearer galaxies, whose
distances had been estimated by the methods we have outlined. This correlation then led to
a correlation between red shift and distance.
Thus the red shift provides astronomers with what they
consider to be a yardstick for measuring distances to the farthest observable regions of
the universe. They believe that the galaxies which have been observed with red shifts
equivalent to velocities of recession greater than half the speed of light are more than
five billion light years away. The red shift of light from distant galaxies does afford
powerful support for an expanding universe. Tracing this expansion back to the beginning
leads to a beginning called the Big Bang. Practically all astronomers believe this to be
the case. As we shall see, however in Chapter 8, an expanding universe is not necessarily
the result of a Big Bang.
Is the red shift of galactic light actually the result of
an expanding universe, and is the universe as large as astronomers believe? It has been
suggested that some physical effect acting over large distances depletes the energy of
photons and thus produces the observed red shift. One theory proposes that collisions
between photons may be responsible for some of the red shift. Some observations can be
interpreted to support this theory, but the argument is not too convincing.46
One serious question concerning the red shift-distance
scale arises from the discovery of quasars. Quasars are faith objects with quite large red
shifts, which is interpreted to mean that their distances from the earth are very great.
Several observations relative to quasars lead, however, to difficulties with this
interpretation of quasar red shifts.
1. Changes in brightness have been observed in quasars
over periods of only days or weeks.47 Since physical effects, according to relativity theory, cannot
exceed the speed of light, this means that the size of the quasars cannot exceed a few
light days or light weeks. But, if their red shift distances are correct, they are then
only about 1/300,000th the size of an average galaxy. Yet they seem to be radiating up to
100 times the energy of a galaxy. This massive energy generation in such a small volume
appears to be impossible.
2. Quasars studied by radio telescopes appear to be
ejecting streamers or extensions at speeds up to ten times the speed of light, if their
red shift distances are correct.48
3. Triplets of quasars are observed lined up close
together in the sky, precisely in a straight line, thus appearing to be closely
associated, but having widely different red shifts.49
4. Quasars are sometimes associated in space with or
connected by luminous streamers with galaxies having much smaller red shifts.50
Such contradictions and anomalies as these have led some
astronomers to conclude that red shifts may not be reliable indicators of distance. If
this is actually the correct conclusion, then the principal evidence adduced for an
expanding universe is invalid.
Thus it can be seen that the currently adopted
astronomical scale of distances for the universe is subject to serious questions as a
result of recently acquired data, at least in the minds of a small cadre of competent
scientists. And it should be remembered that the red shift distance scale was originally
developed upon the foundation of the Cepheid variable star distance scale, which itself
has a considerable degree of possible error. But is it a problem for biblical creationists
if the universe is in fact billions of light years across and expanding? The obvious
problem is that it would presumably take light ten billion years to travel ten billion
light years. This is not easily reconciled with a universe only thousands of years old, as
proposed by perhaps the majority of creationists. Thus we have the problem of light
There are several possible solutions for the problem of
light transit time in a universe billions of light years across but which is only ten
thousand or so years old:
1. The red shift and Cepheid distance scales may prove to
be erroneous, resulting in a distance scale collapsed to around ten thousand light years
for the radius of the universe. It is easy to imagine that the accepted scale of the
universe might indeed be reduced in the future. Recall that the accepted size of the
universe has oscillated up and down several times during this century. But one finds it
difficult to conceive that the currently held size of the universe is in error by the
factor of one million, which is necessary to remove the light transit time problem in a
young universe. This solution based on making the universe small to go along with a young
age is simply not acceptable.
2. The time of light transit across great
distances may prove to be much less than has been supposed on the basis
of the assumed constancy of the
speed of light. Einstein's theory of relativity, based upon the assumption
that the speed of light is constant for all observers, has come under
some strong criticism in recent
years.51 MIT professors Moon and Spencer theorized that
the speed of light may depend upon the velocity of the source.52 Proposing that light travels in curved space, they
adduced evidence from binary stars that the radius of curvature of space
is five light years. A
consequence of this would be that the light transit time from the farthest
reaches of the universe would never exceed 15.71 years. This view was highly
speculative. Additional supporting evidence never turned up, so the idea
was discredited and forgotten.
3. Light from the stars may have been created
instantaneously in rays throughout space at the same time the stars were created. The
simple form of this model involves some difficulty. Light now arriving upon earth from
stars supposedly many tens of thousands to millions of light years distant indicates the
occurrence of such past historical events as pulsating light intensities and supernovae.
But if the light was created in transit less than ten thousand years ago, the light rays
must have been created so, reaching earth now, they bring a record of historical events
which actually never occurred. Thus God the Creator is made to tell false stories,
something like fictional TV dramas. This appears to be logically and theologically
4. The speed of light may have changed with time. One
hypothesis which involves changing speed of light is that of Australian physicist Barry
Setterfield.53 Noting that historically the published values of the speed of
light have been gradually decreasing since the years 1675, he matched a best-fit
mathematical curve to the data. His conclusion was that at the time of creation, about
6,000 years ago, the speed of light was some ten million times its present value--that it
at first decreased very rapidly, and since then has been slowly decreasing to a minimum,
the present value in the present century, around 1950. The total distance traveled by
light since creation would be about 12 billion light years, which is roughly the currently
estimated radius of the universe. This hypothesis has received very rough treatment by
many critics in the ranks of creationists.54 But other Christian scientists and mathematicians have supported
Setterfield.55 In addition to the evidence from a statistical analysis of the
measured values of the speed of light since 1675, Setterfield adduced supporting evidence
from statistical studies of the measurements of values of other physical constants which
depend upon the speed of light. Their measured values have changed with time in a manner
predicted from the hypothesis that the speed light has been decreasing. Furthermore, two
eminent scientists have published independent, studies that support the concept of a
decreasing speed of light. Dr. T.C. Van Flandern over a period of about 25 years compared
dynamic time determined by the motions of planets and satellites in the solar system with
atomic time measured with atomic clocks. His observations indicated that atomic time has
been slowing down compared to dynamic time. In 1984 he concluded that, "...the number
of atomic seconds in a dynamical interval is becoming fewer. Presumably....this means that
atomic phenomena are slowing down with respect to dynamical phenomena. "56 In addition,
Russian scientist V.N. Troitskii who was working entirely independently at about the same
time had concluded that the speed of light at the beginning of time was probaqbly greater
than 10 million times the present value, perhaps even 10 billion times as great.57
There are difficult theoretical problems inherent in
Setterfield's idea, but if these problems could be solved, his hypothesis would remove
serious difficulties which face the young-earth creationists. We must await future
developments. It might be that the Word of God contains truths important to solving this
problem for the biblical creation explanation of the origin of all things. Consider the
5. Space-time may have been created by an expansion or
stretching out from a point in a short period of time. Before Genesis
1:1 nothing existed but the infinite-personal God. No
space, matter, energy or time existed, but now we exist inside of a vast bubble of
space-time. God exists outside of and independent of time and space--in eternity--but He
is also present with us by His Spirit inside of space-time. So the space of this universe
had to be stretched by God from nothing. This view is in fact supported by the scriptural
data on God's work of creation. First, Genesis 1, understood literally, tells us that the
creation was accomplished in six normal days. Second, the creation of the world is said to
have been rapid (Psalm 33:9). 'Third, beginning in Job 9:7, some dozen times in the Old Testament God is pictured as
"stretching out" or "spreading out" the heavens. The entire physical
order with all of the laws of physics and the properties of space was being put in place
by the Creator of all things. What was happening to the speed of light and the Doppler
effect on the frequency of light, especially in the earlier stages of the creative
expansion, are unknown. The unique, rapidly changing sequence of conditions during this
beginning of creation could account for the currently observed red shifts of distant
galaxiesm, for the present visibility of galaxies billions of years away in a universe
that could be only thousands of years old, and upon many other observed data which need to
part of any successful creation model of the universe. Christians concerned with these
matters would do well to examine more closely all of the scriptural data which could throw
light on them. Perhaps hidden in God's Word are clues which could lead believing
scientists into new scientific research and successful scientific theories which would
help build a stronger Christian scientific apologetic. "Thy Word is Truth."
45. Pasachoff, Jay M., op. cit. (ref. 5), pp. 519-523;
Narlikar, Jayant, New Scientist, 2 July 1981, pp. 19-21.
46. Mitton, Simon, Editor, op. cit. (ref. 29), p. 376.
47. Burbidge, G.R., Nature Physical Science, Vol. 246, 12
Nov. 1973, pp. 17-24; Steidl, Paul, op. cit. (ref. 5), p. 211.
48. Porcas, Richard, Nature, Vol. 302, 28 April 1983, pp.
49. Arp, Halton, Nature, Vol. 302, 31 March 1983, pp.
50. Steidl, Paul, (ref. 5), p. 214.
51. Dingle, Herbert, Science at the Crossroads (Martin
Brian and O'Keefe, London, 1972).
52. Moon, Perry, and Domina E. Spencer, Journal of the Optical
Soc. of America, Vol. 43, Aug. 1953, pp. 635-641.
53. Setterfield, Barry, Ex Nihilo, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1981;
_________, The Velocity of Light and the Age of the Universe (Privately Published,
54. Aardsma, G.E., ibid., Vol. 25, 1988, pp. 36-40; ibid.,
Brown, R.H., Vol. 26, March 1990, pp. 142-143; Humphreys, D.R., ibid., Vol. 25,
1988, pp. 40-45.
55. Montgomery, Alan, Creation Research Society Quarterly,
Vol. 26, March 1990, pp. 138-142; Setterfield, Barry, ibid, Vol. 25, pp. 190-197.
56. Van Flandern, T.C., Precision Measurements and Fundamental
Constants II, pp. 625-627, B.N. Taylor and W.D. Phillips, Eds., National Bureau of
Standards (U.S.), Special Publication 617 (1984).
57. Troitskii, V.S., Astrophysics and Space Science, Vol.
139, pp. 389-411, reported by Setterfield in Creation Research Society Quarterly,
Vol. 25, March 1989, pp. 190-191.