Debate:If the universe is young and it takes light millions of years to reach us from far off stars, how can we see them?

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Theory 1

Well, I would venture to say that we have not seen the far off ones yet. We can only see the light that has reached the Earth so far. This means that the currently-visible stars are "only" several thousand lightyears away. --<<-David R->> 17:16, 10 March 2007 (EST)

Empircally false. Basic parallax data gets us that there are stars at least 7000 years away and more sophisticated techniques force other stars to be even farther away. JoshuaZ 18:59, 10 March 2007 (EST)
What's more of that were true then why have ancient civilisations recorded lots of the stars that were now see? shouldn't there be masses of new ones that the light of which has reached us in the proceeding years? Ampasand 11:23 29 march 2007 (GMT+12)
The speed of light, Einstein called it "c" is a universal constant. In order for us to see something, light must travel from that object to our eyes. This is how our eyes work. But, the Universe is far older than earth. For all we know, the earth could be infinitely old. Light which left stars that were 7000-8000 light years away is reaching our eyes now, even if the stars are no longer there. Further more, the creation and destruction of stars in a universe as vast as ours can sometimes go un-noticed if not specifically documented. Today, we find new stars occasionally because we have extensive equipment with which to survey the skies. Ancient civiliations didn't. ~Patriot101.
The stars that are 7000-8000 light years away, speaking relatively, are our close neighbors in the Milky Way galaxy. Our galaxy is 100,000 light years in diameter and contains about 100,000,000 stars. There are hundreds of BILLIONS of galaxies (100,000,000,000+). The most distant light our telescopes have detected comes from recently discovered stars 13-14 billion light years away. That means that light has been traveling at 185,000 MILES PER SECOND for 14,000,000,000 years to reach us from those stars. --CastleVania 22:12, 16 May 2007 (EDT)

Perhaps, the Universe really is billions of years old. Perhaps the Genisis account is merely refering to the creation etc. from the perspective of the Earth. Perhaps God is, say, eternal. Couldn't matter and the elements be eternal too? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Brigham's Homeboy (talk)

That's very close to the white-hole cosmology of Russell Humphreys (see below). According to it, the fringes of the universe are billions of years old, but the near-center of the universe--where we are--is much younger. In short, time did not flow uniformly throughout the universe--and until relatively recently, in our region, time did not flow at all.--TerryHTalk 22:54, 22 March 2007 (EDT)

Theory 2

When God created the universe, he also created a complete ray of light extending between the star and the Earth. The light that we see now was created only a few thousand years ago. It looks as if it came from the star, but it really didn't; it was created in mid-air, or mid-space as it were, a few thousand light-years away. The light that started travelling from the star itself at its instant of creation will not reach us for millions of years (or perhaps never if the Earth does not last that long).

* = star
- = ray of light
O = Earth
> = where the light we see today was when the Universe was created

AFTER CREATION of star, Earth, and complete ray of light all at the same instant

A few thousand years after Creation (today)

As opposed to:
*                                                      O
Millions of years later (still can't see star)
*---------------------                                 O

Millions and millions of years later (still can't see star)
*---------------------------------------------         O

Millions and millions and millions of years later (finally can see star)

The language of the Bible, "Let there be light," even can be read as supporting this.

This theory is absolutely ridiculous. The stars we see in the sky are millions of light years away, and we can see them because the earth has existed for far longer than a few thousand years. Astronomers can tell roughly how old a star is, and they know that the ones you see at night are older than a few thousand years.

No, I do not believe this. (But I can't prove it's not true.) Dpbsmith 18:27, 10 March 2007 (EST)

Dpbsmith: This is the essence of why this is religion not science, it can't be proven/disproven... Jespur

Jesput, the same is true for science. Science cannot prove anything at all. PhilipB 13:15, 17 March 2007 (EDT)
This is a variant of omphalism and essentially asserts that God has deliberately deceived humans. I don't think most people would want to believe in a deceptive deity and in any event, it would contradict the verse in Isaiah that says that God is truth. JoshuaZ 19:01, 10 March 2007 (EST)
Couldn't God have added the verse in Isaiah to make us believe that He is saying the truth? Ribbix 04:00, 12 April 2007 (EDT)

If God is trying to fake us out, He certainly did His best to make it a CONVINCING fake. Just check out those scientists who've been fooled into thinking an entire galaxy was ripped in two several billion years ago. [1]—The preceding unsigned comment was added by Fullmetajacket (talk)

I'm sorry, this is a nice theory, but JoshuaZ is right, it's a type of omphalism, and assumes that God deliberately tricked us. At some point, Occam's Razor has to kick in here. But wow, this light argument sure does rip YEC to shreds.-AmesG 20:29, 20 March 2007 (EDT)
The theory does not insinuate that God is deceptive. In Genesis, he talks to Abraham about his descendants and how they will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. What if God made the stars like that, not to deceive humans in any way, but to use them for His own purpose, such as using them as a metaphor? (By the way, how is making rays of light any form of deception? How are we being "tricked" by this creation?) --<<-David R->> 20:36, 20 March 2007 (EDT)
Rays of light carry information; they're records of past events. If light was really created in transit, then we've witnessed the death of stars which never actually existed in the first place. Tsumetai 05:22, 21 March 2007 (EDT)
Descartes approached a similar problem in his meditations. The way out of it was to say that since God is good, God would not do something to intentionally deceive our senses and thus we can trust them. I believe that it is valid to continue that to say that it is reasonable to trust our extended senses that this planet is a several billion years old. Otherwise (as Descartes would say), God is a deceiver and then would not be the most perfect being that can be imagined. --Mtur 20:33, 20 March 2007 (EDT)
Fraid that's the logical conclusion. Then again, a lot of things on this site are quite disconnected from logic.-AmesG 10:08, 21 March 2007 (EDT)
I respect everyone's beliefs here, but I find that the most beautiful resolution for myself is to see God as operating above our level of existence. Why would He speak of a day as the same mundane day you and I experience? The saying that 1,000 years to us is but a blink of an eye to Him comes to mind. I believe that the days in Genesis simply weren't literally days in terms of the Earth spinning around once, but they were days as God experiences them in his higher existence. I find it unfathomable that God would deceive us with empirical evidence like red-shifted light from stars and dinosaur fossils and so on. God is not that petty.. God is love, and God is honest, as he asks us to be. --CastleVania 22:17, 16 May 2007 (EDT)
Is this website a satire? A spoof? "If the universe is young..." What an insane question. How about "If the moon is made of cheese..." WE KNOW the universe is billions of year sold. All scientists agree on this. Can anyone expalin why some of the best scientists in the world are American but the American public (the Right and Conservative, mainly) seem so scientifically illiterate? I just do not understand it. What next? Will Americans start asking themselves "if the world is flat why don't we fall of when we get to the edges?" --thevoiceofsanity 24 july 2007 (EDT)

Theory 3

C is not actually constant. All measurements on Earth indicate that it is, but beyond our Solar System it could easily be faster, slower, moving through wormholes to appear faster, etc. Hubble's Law says that the farther away a galaxy is, the faster it moves away due to universal expansion, so why couldn't light be similarly expanded with distance? So many of our assumptions about the universe rely on our belief that things happen the same way everywhere - a huge leap of faith for a scientist. --Daniel B. Douglas 13:05, 17 March 2007 (EDT)

I don't know whether you knew, but the official definition of the meter now assumes that C is constant. The meter is defined in terms of C! Someone needs to set up some periodic re-measurements of the orange-red line from the spectrum of krypton-86 that provided the most recent definition of the meter: 1,650,763.73 wavelengths of this radiation. If that number starts to rise, then we know that C is slowing, as Barry Setterfield has stated.
I have another variation on this theory, however: what if C were originally much faster, is now the speed at which we now find it, and is not going to change anymore? Except that I have an Occam's razor problem with that.--TerryH 14:31, 17 March 2007 (EDT)
I don't dispute at all that the meter is based upon C, but it hardly matters whether it is or not. Either C is constant or it isn't, no matter what units you use. Rather than C slowing since time began, I was thinking more the velocity of C being a function of its distance away from us. Also, your theory satisfies Occam's razor equally well or better than the Big Bang does, so I see no problem with it logically. --Daniel B. Douglas 03:28, 18 March 2007 (EDT)
Einsteins Theory of Relativity explained how light appears to move at different speeds when the distance is great and the relative speeds are great as it often is in planetary physics. However, this in no way means that c is not a universal constant. Nothing exsists in nature with a real velocity that is relative to the distance it is being viewed.

This hypothosis sounds awkwardly non-falsifyable. It is proposed that light used to travel faster than it does today, but conveniently stoped slowing down before measurement became possible. How can it be determined either way? Also, this would not be a slight slowdown... its going to require light travel a lot faster. The most distant objects known are ten billion light-years away[2]. So, even assuming light slowed from its super-speed to todays speed in a single instant as soon as civilisation emerged, thats going to require it used to travel about 1.67 million times as fast as today to achieve the 6000-year target figure. Im not a physicist, but I dont think thats even remotely possible. A little variation, perhaps, but a factor that huge... it would require adjusting too many other figures to keep the formulae valid. Permiativity of free space, planks constant, a lot of very fundamental things. -- Suricou

Actually, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field picture includes galaxies from around 13 billion years ago. ColinRtalk 04:19, 12 April 2007 (EDT)
The basic problem with any variable-c model is that the entire observational record is exactly consistent with constant c. So we're left with two types of model; the one Terry mentions, where c changed in an unobservable way in the distant past, and the one Daniel mentions, where c is different in other parts of the Universe, but these differences manage to leave every observation we make exactly as we would expect if no such change had happened. That essentially leaves us with two different ways of saying "sure, the Universe looks old, but because of an unobservable, untestable effect, it really isn't." Which may be true, but it'll never be good science. May as well propose that we all live in the Matrix and be done with it. Tsumetai 05:30, 19 March 2007 (EDT)
Oh, theory is out - of course, should have realised earlier. If C is altered, the knock-on effect ould include a shift in emmission spectrum. That would be very easily observed in distant stars. As it isn't observed, that means C must be constantish. Perhaps just a little variation, but not a 1.67-million-times factor. I think that just about kills the 'C is faster elsewhere' idea. - Suricou

Signs of C changing

If the speed of light had changed in the past, would we not see some evidence of it today? I'm no physicist, but I do know one thing about light: when light particles collide with matter they impart energy to that matter, making it warmer. Now, from what I do know of physics it seems to me that the warming effect of light on matter should have something to do with the speed at which said light is travelling. My point is this: if light once travelled much faster than it does today, would that light not also have had a much greater warming effect on matter that it collided with? Would you not, then, expect that modern science would have at least some ability to observe the evidence of light's changing speed. I could only imagine that examples of such evidence might include planets that are completely scorched, or have been scorched in the past, without any current explanation as to why such scorching could have occurred. If light was travelling at faster speeds while there was life present on earth, I can only imagine that some of those creatures would've been getting one heck of a sunburn! Simple (14:31 GMT-5) 2 July 2007

Good shot at it--but the energy of light does not depend on its speed. Light imparts its energy to any object it strikes, in discrete packets tentatively called photons, the energy of which depends solely on the frequency of the light. The function is a linear one and depends on Planck's constant.
Indeed, part of the problem with light is that its speed does not even relate to any frame of reference. The speed of light in any medium depends solely on the electrical permittivity and magnetic permeability of that medium. (In fact, the speed of light is the reciprocal of the geometric mean of these two quantities.)
Thus for c to change, the permittivity and permeability of vacuum must also have changed. And the only way to determine that is to examine previous records--and even that will fail if those records are not sufficiently precise.--TerryHTalk 14:41, 2 July 2007 (EDT)
I just thought I'd point out that changing C would have no effect on the observed amount of time it takes for light to reach us as long as the planck constant remains the same :) NRupert 14:17, 5 June 2008 (EDT)
Perhaps. But John Hartnett gives us a good reason to be confident that c has not changed. If it had, then the stars ought to have winked out and then flipped back on. No such effect has occurred.--TerryHTalk 14:51, 5 June 2008 (EDT)

White-hole Cosmology

The universe began as a white hole. Initially, as matter expanded into it, time did not flow--because the very space-time continuum had four dimensions of space and none of time. Eventually, time began to flow at the outer fringes of the expanding ball of matter, and this region of timeliness worked its way back to the center. So the earth really is six thousand or so years old--by clocks on the earth, which are the only clocks that need to matter to us. By any clock on the outer fringes, the cosmos might well be twenty billion years old. The light impinges on us now because it was always impinging on the border of the region of timelessness until that region shrank away to nothing.[3]--TerryH 19:15, 10 March 2007 (EST)

Not bad, what about the four-day simultaneous harmonic Time Cube?[4] —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Fullmetajacket (talk)

Cute. Very cute. And incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial.--TerryH 21:36, 10 March 2007 (EST)
Falsified by the distinct absence of massive blueshifting of distant light sources. I highly doubt anybody's even attempted to formalize this as a solution to Einstein's field equations, either, which would be a prerequisite for it to be considered a coherent proposition at all. Tsumetai 14:25, 11 March 2007 (EDT)
I dug out a few of Humphrey's papers defending this model and reached two basic conclusions. One, as I suspected, there is no model, merely handwaving. Two, he doesn't actually understand GR. Tsumetai 05:39, 19 March 2007 (EDT)
That's obvious, given the idiocy of the theory. NousEpirrhytos 09:23, 7 April 2007 (EDT)
For those who are interested, I get into some of the problems with Humphreys' model(s) here. Tsumetai 04:14, 12 April 2007 (EDT)


Physics has had for many years more-than-adequate explanations. All of these verbal acrobatics into non-falsifiable theories to try to get around physical fact are humorus. Wouldn't it be easier for those who deny physics to just say "I accept physics, and God is mysterious and powerful enough to make it happen."? Palmd001 16:17, 19 March 2007 (EDT)

Proverbs 25:2

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter. --Crackertalk 22:58, 22 March 2007 (EDT)

Wise words Cracker, wise words indeed. -- Rob PommerTALK 19:33, 28 March 2007 (EDT)

The problem goes far beyond just the light from the stars reaching earth. How did the stars and galaxies arrive at all in their current positions? According to Einstein there is not sufficient energy in the entire universe to move a single atom with mass faster than the speed of light, and yet we have the most massive objects in the universe distributed at distances that could never have been achieved in 13.5 Billion years following a Big Bang theory. It would have taken multi-trillions of years to achieve it in normal <c motion. This "horizon" problem baffles the atheistic scientific community just as well as starlight reaching earth baffles Young-Earth theorists. There is no good scientific explanation for either event. Moffat (1992) proposed an inflation theory that in the early moments of the universe, both motion and the speed of light were immensely faster than what we observe today. Unfortunately, even if true, there's no good reason for the inflation to have suddenly ceased unless Someone willed it to end.

To some people, this means that science has just not found a good explanation. To others, it just means that when God said "Let there be light," there was light.

If you assume that God created the universe, including the very essence of light itself, and the speed thereof, why would one assume that God is constrained by His own creation? If He exists (and I conclude that there is no other logical reason for existence and conscious thought), then He certainly transcends the laws of a universe that He created.

Can you imagine the internal monologue of God after creating the stars? "Oh, man, I just spent all that time creating the stars and I didn't think about the fact that it would take ten million years for the light to reach earth! Wow, that wasn't very smart of Me. I guess I'll need to wait around for ten million years before I create the Earth, so that the starlight can reach it. Man, I should have thought of this earlier! Well, it's too late now, because in 1901 Einstein is going to write a mathematical formula that constrains me at the time of creation. I hate waiting, but what's to be done?" And then God twiddles his thumbs for ten million years and finally creates the Earth just in time for starlight to appear.

Seriously? Either God created everything, including light and its method of propagation, and its speed, and the existing starlight, or He didn't. The Big Bang can't explain itself, why it went bang, what it was before it went bang, and how the constellations and galaxies were formed and distributed within the time frame scientists have given us for the age of the universe.

The starlight and star distribution problem isn't a problem for Creationists. It's a problem for science, that can't explain itself. --swbuza 10:57 25 Aug 2011 (EDT)

This About Kills YEC

The Starlight Problem is scientifically unsolvable assuming a young universe. You either have to make up pseudoscience, or concede that YEC is based on faith alone, but science disproves it. Agreed?-AmesGyo! 16:07, 7 April 2007 (EDT)

It seems to me that you are basically correct. I cannot think of any kind of reasonable way out of this. Why has no-one thought of this argument earlier? I knew, for example that relativity and creation were in direct conflict; basically if you create something out of nothing, then this creates huge issues with gravitational fields etc., but this question is so simple, especially the fact that stars were supposedly created, but you have to either accept that they are al lot nearer (say a couple of light-days), or that Adam and Eve would not be able to see starlight for years. This effectively kills off Young Earth Creation. Wonderful. That';s that obne sorted, now to set about Intelligent Design.--Felix 06:21, 20 April 2007 (EDT)

This argument is not new, by any stretch. See my note in the preceding entry. The very position of the stars and galaxies is also "disproved" by science and its offering of a 13.5 Billion year universe. To answer the original question, I think that you must concede that YEC is based on faith alone. But you must also concede that a 13.5 Billion year universe is based on faith alone or make up pseudoscience as well. If the Earth is actually 3.5 Billion years old, and mankind has been here for 5 Million years through the evolutionary cycle, then science cannot explain why we find nothing written, no culture, no evidence of human settlements that exceed about 6,000 years ago. The earliest known writing found in clay tablets is in Pakistan from 5,500 years ago. If mankind has been here in this form for 5 Million years, then why did he do nothing lasting for the first 99.995% of his existence? In the last 0.005% of man's theoretical evolutionary existence, he has gone from first and claw to clubs to pointed sticks, to knives, to firearms, to cannons, and to the atomic bomb; but he achieved nothing prior to this. This is like being behind 24-0 in a sixty minute football game with 1.8 seconds left in the 4th quarter, and then scoring 27 points to win the game before the clock expires.

It is less plausible than creation and requires far more magic and faith to believe than the alternate theory. --swbuza 11:23, 25 Aug 2011 (EDT)

Theory 4?

While it is perhaps not a direct answer to the question, a very plausible explanation is that the universe is not young, and that light from distant stars has therefore had ample time to reach Earth.--Άθεος 22:22, 11 April 2007 (EDT)

Why 6000 years?

Why 6000 years? I mean the Bible doesn't mention when the universe was created anywhere, the date of 4000 BC was actually thought up by scholars in the 17th century [1], so I don't really see why people try to defend that date as if it were God's word.

Middle Man

Because when you start at 562 BC (the death of Nebuchadnezzar II, and then subtract lengths of reign of the last eight kings of the Southern Kingdom of ancient Israel, and then go back through the synchronized starts-of-reign of the kings of the Divided Kingdoms Northern and Southern, and then take the time between the Exodus and the groundbreaking of the Temple of Jerusalem, add a time for the Sojourn in Egypt, and then backtrack the birthdates of the patriarchs and go clear back to Adam, you arrive at 4004 BC if you assume a "late-in-life siring" of Abraham by his father, and a "short sojourn" in Egypt. What we defend is the proposition that the earth is no older than are these generations of the patriarchs, the length of the sojourn in Egypt, and so forth up to the present day. The Bible does not allow for an unnamed and large number of years between the birth of the earth and the creation of Adam.--TerryHTalk 12:26, 19 April 2007 (EDT)

Then what about that flood and the civilization of Atlantis, did that civilization just sprung up out of no where? And if Noah really did repopulate the Earth (I'm thinking there would be some serious inbreed issues there) wouldn't that have taken a while as well?

Middle Man

I can't comment on Atlantis, because I have seen no documentation that I would consider reliable. If you can document that a city named Atlantis actually existed, then by all means put a message on my Talk page or send me an e-mail. Or better yet, write an article of your own titled "Atlantis" and fill it in with everything you know.
Concerning Noah, of course that took awhile. But the generations from Noah to Abraham were about ten, give or take. Why not go to Genesis 11:10-26 (KJV) and count them? Notice also that the lifespans of the generations from Shem to Abraham dropped about ninety percent, and in a hurry.
Concerning inbreeding: The tremendous lifespans of pre-Flood man suggest strongly that the damaging ionizing radiation that creates so much genetic damage today, simply wasn't an issue. Again, the lifespan of man dropped, and dropped hard, after the Flood. Thus, inbreeding wasn't such a hazard then as it is today.--TerryHTalk 15:12, 19 April 2007 (EDT)

Atlantis is just what I call the civilization Noah was born in, but 10 generations, that would give, starting with 4 breeding couples and assuming every couple of every generation has 6 healthy children: 8*(3^10) = 470.000 people by 2000 BC, while archealogists assume a world population of 30 million around that time, of course archaelogists also found a lot of things older than 6000 years, including human settlements.

As for the inbreeding, don't make up pseudoscience as you go along, degeneration is caused by the way genetics works, radiation would only make it worse, but is not the main factor.

And no, humans cannot live for 900 years, not without very advanced technology anyway.

Middle Man

Um, No

The problem discussed here is irrelevant if you think that, just maybe, the universe might be really old. As many sages far more sagacious than I have said, why would "God lie to us"? He apparently made a very old universe, from our perspective. Why are we to argue with the evidence? He expects us to figure this stuff out, and dwells in His joy when we do. With every advance, we get closer to knowing the Mind of God - the true goal of philosophy. Human 23:24, 4 May 2007 (EDT)

It's also irrelevant if you believe that God either created the Universe as an operating mechanism - it hit the ground running, if you like - rather than kicking off the Big Bang, or that the creation referred to in the Bible refers only to the Earth (or the Solar System).

The former would also include the creation of fossils and so forth, and would mean that the Universe was created by God to appear (to us) to be so many billion years old, but its true age is unknown and unknowable. The Starlight Problem, Carbon-14 levels, etc., are all part of the bluebrint.

The latter idea, that the Universe existed previously and Genesis refers to the the creation of the Earth, is easier (in some ways), and nothing in the scripture goes against it. In fact, references to "the void" could refer to this region of space in its unpopulated state. Further down, "Let there be light" could be the creation of Sol, and night and day the fixing of the Earth's rotational speed. G7mzh 05:55, 1 June 2007 (EDT)

Telling God what tools he has to use?

Young Earth just doesn't work for me on several levels:

  • We live on a planet composed of heavy elements that can only be created inside of star's and heavy stars at that.
  • You have to rewrite physics change the nature of C and make light of a fossil record that just won't be explained away

However at the heart of it, we as men try to interpert an omnipotent God and tell him what tools the creator must use to conform to our limited understanding of an infinate being. I just don't get it and I have to assume that I never will. Who are we to tell God how he was to create the Universe? We assume we understand his (not sure that we do) and we assume we can understand that he wanted us to read Genesis as defo literal and I am not sure that was intended either. An astromoner friend of mine was in a bit of a funk and in frustration told me "We really understand NOTHING! Dark matter probably exists and there is proof but we have not a clue, not one stinking clue what it is! We know that the universe is expanding not only expanding but accellerating and we don't know why! We call it dark energy and we might as well call it black magic. Everything we thought we knew is being turned upside down."

I'll give you this, I can't buy young earth, and I think God is something we may not ever get our puny minds around. God will not be defined by man, not his tools nor his methods. The creator defines us and all the voices demanding he be to their way of thinking are but shouts to the wind. Tirronan 15:26, 5 July 2007 (EDT)


  1. Galaxy Ripped to Shreds
  3. White hole cosmology by CreationWiki
  4. Time Cube by Doctor Gene Ray