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Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, by Snoke, part 3, starlight

This is my 3rd post on A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, by David Snoke. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006) See here for the 2nd post.

As I mentioned before, Snoke is not a biologist, which means that he does not discuss some issues that I wish he would have, but his background as a physicist is a plus, as well as a minus. On pages 25-30, he considers the question of light from apparently distant stars. As he says, a person who believes that the universe is no more than a few thousand years old has a problem with evidence that some stars are very far away. Such a person has three alternatives:
1) The distance measurements are wrong, and there are no stars more than a few thousand light-years away.
2) The speed of light used to be much faster, so that, say, a star which is really 5,555 light-years away seems to be much further away.
3) The light which seems to be from stars that are far away was actually created in place, giving an appearance of age.

Snoke says that there are serious problems with all of these alternatives.

All of the observed stars can't really be relatively close to us, because if they were, there would be serious gravitational and heat effects, which we don't see.

Snoke writes: Even a slight change in the speed of light over time would imply major changes in the calculations of electric and magnetic fields . . . . The speed of light is not independent of other physical effects. Many phenomena, including radio, light, magnetic and electric fields, X-rays, and friction, are all described by one set of elegant and simple equations, known as Maxwell's equations. These equations were created by James Maxwell, a Scottish Presbyterian believer with a strong faith in the beauty and simplicity of God's creation. The unification of all these effects into one set of equations means that one cannot propose a change in the speed of light without also proposing changes in everything from the structure of atoms to the color of the sun to the cost of computer circuits. (p. 28)

As to the "appearance of age" explanation, in the first place, this raises questions about God deceiving us. In the second, says Snoke, young-earth creationists, like almost everybody else, don't really argue for an appearance of age. They argue that the earth, and the universe, really are only a few thousand years old.

Thanks for reading.


Anonymous said...

I look forward to reading the book. I read something on the NASA site a few years ago, I have not been able to find it again, about how they were surprised to find that radio signals speed up as they got further away from the sun. They were also surprised to find that solar winds slowed to less than 10% of what they expected in the heliosheath.
Is the speed of light constant or is it slowed by gravity?

Martin LaBar said...

I'm sorry, anonymous, but I haven't heard about either one of these possible effects.

Einstein took the velocity of light as being constant as an assumption, as I understand it.

Thanks for your comment.