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The Light from Distant Stars, Part 2

In the previous post I looked at Jason Lisle's attempt to demonstrate how we could see old starlight in a young universe, appealing to arcane cosmological concepts such as gravitational time dilation and an anisotropic synchrony convention. How does Lisle tie this hypothesis to Genesis?

Now, this idea may or may not be the reason that distant starlight is able to reach earth within the biblical timescale, but so far no one has been able to prove that the Bible does not use cosmic local time. So, it is an intriguing possibility.

Over the centuries, believers have found numerous ways to intepret the six days of Genesis 1, but Lisle may be the first to have read, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," and thought, "No one can prove it's not referring to cosmic local time."

Nevertheless, it is an intriguing possibility—if you have a prior commitment to a young earth and an unwillingness to follow the evidence where it leads.

Casper Hesp, in his Biologos series responding to Lisle, shows how the nature of light waves argues against Lisle's interpretation. James Maxwell's work on eletromagnetism in the 19th century showed how light waves are created and how they move through space. Hesp summarizes.

Now, imagine an empty universe with only a single perturbation in its electric field. The magnetic field will respond by changing. Replying immediately to that, the electric field will also change. Essentially, the magnetic and electric fields will start dancing around each other. Moving across space, they “pull” each other forth: an electromagnetic wave.

Hesp then notes that Einstein relied on Maxwell's equations to determine that the speed of light must be a constant.

In turn, this led to his famous framework of Special Relativity (which we introduced in the previous post). Now, Special Relativity still leaves space for the choice of a synchronization convention. In light of our current discussion, we now understand what drove Einstein to assume a constant one-way speed of light: it agrees with the electromagnetic nature of light. Electromagnetic waves have a finite, constant speed. In contrast, Lisle’s proposal assumes a non-constant speed and, moreover, an infinite speed in directions towards an observer. While this way of synchronizing is technically allowed, it does not respect the physical nature of light as Einstein’s choice does.

In other words, although the theory of special relativity does not require us to use isotropic synchronization, the electromagnetic nature of light waves does. And if, on the other hand, light is not really an electromagnetic wave, then we're back to Philip Gosse's omphalos hypothesis, the notion that God created a world that appears to be one thing, but is actually something else. Even Lisle and Answers in Genesis can't stomach that idea.

But that's not the only problem for Lisle's anisotropic hypothesis, as Hesp notes. Despite the abstract simplicity of Lisle's "fourth day" argument, light from different stars must have traveled different lengths of time before reaching the earth even with a "local time" synchrony.

To keep their time of arrival the same on the physical level, God would have needed to create Sagittarius A* almost 26,000 years before he created Alpha Centauri. That star would have been created almost 5 years before the Sun. As distances to objects become larger, the moment of their creation gets pushed back further in time to allow their light to arrive simultaneously with that of the Sun. It results in a scenario in which God created the universe gradually, starting with the objects farthest away from Earth and proceeding inward with the speed of light.

Not only does this model eliminate the six days of creation in all but a relative sense, but it also strongly implies a geocentric universe, another idea from which Answers in Genesis tries to distance itself.

In his attempt to put Genesis on some kind of scientific footing, Lisle has strayed far from the text of Genesis itself, and still failed to reach a scientifically viable solution. If his goal is to contribute to the scientific conversation about the origin of the universe, he has failed miserably.

If Lisle's goal, however, is to use a lot of confusing technical jargon to convince lay creationists he's uncovered something the entire scientific community is too biased to consider, his article is likely an unqualified success.

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