Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Problems in Young Earth Creationism Part 4: Star light travel Time; the Umpteenth YEC ‘Solution’

YECS: Hunting for the star light equivalent of warp factor 9.9 drive

If this keen looking YEC blogger is anything to go by then it looks as if it is back to drawing board on the star light travel time problem at Answers in Genesis. In part 2 of this series I discussed the theory of AiG writer Russell Humpheys who posited an asymmetrical big bang with a centre of gravity in the vicinity of the Earth. This model implied that the Earth found itself in a gravitational well as the universe expanded and it was hoped that this well would slow down time on Earth to the point where a few minutes or hours on Earth equated to billions of years worth of light travel time in the rest of the cosmos. But the signs are that this theory is now water under the bridge: AiG theorist Jason Lisle is claiming he has paper in peer review which allows star light to reach our shores “virtually instantaneously”.

In this web article at Jason Lisle, writing pseudonymously as “Robert Newton”, may give clues as to the direction his thoughts are taking. There Lisle toys with idea of the difference between observed time and calculated time: Observed time is the time when an astronomical event appears to happen as seen from Earth whereas calculated time is the time the event occurred in the past calculated with the formula Time = Distance of event/Speed of light.

So, using this distinction Lisle moots the idea that when the stars are created on Day 4 in the Genesis 1 account the Bible is using observed time rather than calculated time. However, in order to remain consistent with calculated time Lisle suggests that creation was a sequence of concentric phases starting at the edge of the universe and working inward until about 6000 years ago the Earth was created. In Lisle own words:

Since the Bible indicates that the stars were visible on Day 4, we now compute the (calculated) time at which they were created. Alpha Centauri (a star 4.3 light years away) must have been created about 4.3 years 'before the beginning' (before Day 1) in order for its light to have reached Earth on Day 4 of the Creation Week. Likewise, a star 10 light years away must have been created about 10 years before Day 1. A star one billion light years away must have been created about one billion years 'before the beginning' and so on. So, we see that more distant stars were created earlier than nearby stars. The time of creation depends on the distance from Earth. So what appears to be simultaneous according to observed time, now appears to be spread out over a long period of time. Which view is the 'correct' picture? They both are—each according to the chosen convention of time measurement.

But how can a star be created before the beginning? We must remember that the Bible's statement 'In the beginning' (Genesis 1:1) is a measure of time, and therefore must be the 'beginning' as measured according to observed time. So although the beginning of the universe occurs simultaneously everywhere on Day 1 according to observed time, the beginning of the universe (just as with the stars) occurs at different calculated times depending on the distance from Earth. Day 1 occurs much earlier for places in the universe that are more distant from Earth than nearby places.

So, we present the following picture of Creation as described in Genesis, but converted from observed time to calculated time—first, God creates the most distant sections of 'space'. This occurs billions of years ago. About14 four days later, stars are created in those areas of space. As time passes, this creation process moves inward; space is created nearer to Earth, and stars are created four days later. About 4.3 years before Earth is created, 'the beginning' occurs for the space near Alpha Centauri. Four days later Alpha Centauri is created. Finally the Earth is created, but the starlight has not yet reached Earth; God provides a temporary light source. Four days later, God creates the Sun, the planets and the moon. At this point, (thanks to God's innovative method of creation) all the light from all the stars reaches Earth at exactly the same time. This may seem an unusual method by which to create a universe, but then is there a 'usual' method by which universes are created? This method is compatible with the Word of God; and it is compatible with all astronomical observations of which I am aware. The God who created space and time should have no difficulty creating and placing the stars where and when He desires.

Well, I wouldn’t call that an “innovative method of creation” but a rather a contrivance to ensure that the AiG dogmatism of a 6x24hrs creation period remains in place. In any case according to this theory parts of the universe, in terms of their own local time, are billions of years old and will therefore display “old universe” features such as an “old Earth” geology wherever there are planets subject to geological processes: This, I suspect, will look like theological equivocation and casuistry to religious ultras who much prefer the more straightforward creationism where God said his magic words of creation 6000 years ago and the whole caboodle popped into existence in the space of a few days. Notice also the geocentric touch and feel about the model Lisle is mooting – the Earth is near the centre of a sequence of concentric phases of creation. This does have some similarities with Russell Humphreys’ solution: Both solutions imply a geocentricity where concentric circles have increasing age (measured locally) as one gets further from Earth; although in Lisle’s model the mechanism of concentricity is down to creative fiat rather than a concentric gravitational warping of space time.

I have a hunch, however, that in his latest paper Lisle has something a little more subtle up his sleeve. Hints of this, perhaps, can be gleaned from the web article I have referenced. In this article Lisle notes the practical and theoretical difficulties of synchronizing two separated clocks. Because of these difficulties the only sure fire way of measuring the speed of light is to use only one clock to measure this speed by sending light from the clock on a path that reflects back to the clock – thus, experimental determinations that measure the speed of light using a “there and back” journey are referred to as the “two way” speed of light. But if we measure the speed of light in this way how do we know that the speed in one direction is the same as that in the other? Well, we can’t be sure about it, for given this experimental technique it is conceivable that the speed of light in one direction is different to the other even though the average speed is measured as c. In 1963, on this basis, a physicist called Edwards re-hashed relativity by only postulating that the two way speed of light was a constant equal to c. Edwards found that without making a commitment to the one-way speed of light, all the results of special relativity still held. This paper by Chinese physicist Jian Qi Shen introduces and develops Edwards ideas.

OK, so strictly we can only really be reasonably sure of the “two way speed of light”. Conceivably, then, the speed of light could be anisotropic. In fact in the extreme case the speed of light could be nearly infinite in one direction and travel from A to B almost instantaneously. Or, another way of looking at it: If the one-way speed of light is an unobservable then perhaps the one way speed of light is a meaningless quantity and we can just simply postulate that the time light takes to travel in one direction is almost instantaneous….. Wait a minute….Did I just say instantaneous? Are you thinking what I am thinking? Perhaps the light from those distance stars gets to Earth instantaneously! Eureka!

Not so fast. Let’s look at this a little more closely. If the speed of light from the stars to the Earth is very large or perhaps even infinite then that means the speed of light from the Earth to the stars is around c/2 as required to preserve a two way speed of c. In theoretical terms what this effectively means is that the light cones are radially skewed toward the Earth in a way not unlike they are around an object with a gravitational field such as a black hole (See the diagram below). In fact in order to produce a near instantaneous journey from the stars to Earth all light cones must be lying on their sides in the general direction of Earth! Thus if I am anticipating Lisle correctly then he will be obliged to centrally place the Earth in a circularly symmetric gravitational field; perhaps he might even be suggesting that the Earth is near the middle of some sort of cosmic sized black hole! Such a solution takes us back to a geocentric cosmology not unlike that of Humphreys’ cosmology. If this is how Lisle is doing things then one might expect this cosmic gravitational field to have cosmic predictions that could be tested.

Is Lisle suggesting Earth is in or near a Black Hole?

Anticipations apart I suppose I will have to wait and see what Lisle comes up with. But in the meantime let me round up the different solutions to the star light travel time problem proposed by YEC theorists; at least the ones I’m aware of. If anyone knows of any other attempts please let me know.

Attempt 1: Photons of light were created in mid flight no more than 6000 light years from the Earth. This is the YEC “mature creation” fall back solution. It was proposed as a possible solution by Whitcomb and Morris in their 1961 book “The Genesis Flood”. Its untestability makes it an epistemic brick wall. YECs who want to do science have all but dropped it.

Attempt 2: Variable speed of light: This idea has been enthusiastically mooted by some YEC creationists but this article at the Institute for Creation Research doesn’t think much of it and neither does AiG, the latter appropriately categorizing it under its “Far out Claims” page, where it gets lumped together, in fact, with the "Moon Landing Conspiracy"!

Attempt 3: 5D spherically symmetric expanding universe. (See here) I haven’t investigated this one fully, but it seems to be a geocentric cosmology which like Humphreys’ model entails galaxies billions of years old measured on local time but only a few thousand years old when measured using the much dilated Earth Time.

Attempt 4: An asymmetrical big bang entailing the Earth to be in a time dilated gravitational well – This is Russell Humphreys solution; see part 2 of this series.

Attempt 5: The Bible uses observed time. A solution mooted by Jason Lisle as above.

Attempt 6: Anisotropy in the Speed of light (?). Lisle’s new solution currently in peer review. I can’t wait!

Notice how there has been a drift toward geocentricity. The abominable incorrigible Dr Bouw, YEC geocentrist, will be pleased; he is a long time advocate that the cosmos physically, not just spiritually, revolves round the Earth (literally!)

It looks as though the YECs are trying to produce as many possible solutions in the hope that at least one will be right; a million star light travel time solutions can’t all be wrong! That’s one way to do science I suppose, but the underlying subliminal motive is, I suspect, a negative agenda of science subversion. It is sufficient for the purposes of the YEC cause to simply throw doubts on the scientific consensus by muddying the waters with a plethora of possibilities that in the purview of their supporters is enough to demonstrate science to be riddled with arbitrary, even prejudiced assumptions. In short a kind of subliminal conspiracy theory ethos underlies the modern YEC movement. Because the modern YEC community is completely hung up on the 6x24hrs hypothesis and can’t back out without becoming an even bigger laughing stock, this hypothesis is assumed to be utterly secure and therefore everything must revolve round it. The social inertia of the YEC movement keeps them going: They can all slap one another on the back at their conferences and commiserate about how worldly and corrupt the assumptions of science have become.

Technical Note

The final page of Jian Qi Shen’s paper sums things up well. Here he makes some remarks that are worth noting. He derives the metric for the Edwards space-time. He expresses this metric in terms of what he calls the “Edwards parameter” designated as X (X will vary with the velocity of the observer). This parameter is a measure of the anisotropy in the speed of light, or if you like just how much the “light cone” is “leaning over” in space-time. Here then is a screen shot of the last page of the paper:

(Read the last page of this paper here)

The important points Jian Qi Shen brings out are as follows:

At first sight the Edwards space-time looks to be a curved space-time. However, it is not a curved space-time because the metrical tensor does not vary from place to place; this follows because X, the skew of the light cone, is a constant for a given observer. As Jian Qi Shen points out, starting from the Edwards space time one can get back to an overtly flat space with the appropriate coordinate transformation. Curved space-times, that is, space-times where gravitational fields are present, only exist when there is a differential on the skew of the light cone; that is when that skew varies from location to location – technically speaking, when the “Riemann curvature tensor” doesn’t vanish. It is for this reason that I anticipate that Lisle will have to posit a cosmic gravitational field because he needs the anisotropy of the speed of light to vary from place to place. He requires this because the skew in the light cones must be radially directed toward the Earth regions of the cosmos. This will mean that X is no longer a constant for a given observer, thus giving rise to a gravitational field.


Mark Battin said...

Can I ask how this sort of anisotropic speed of light can be made to mesh with some of the basic physics of the world, such as Maxwell's equations?

If we have an infinite speed of light in one direction, wouldn't we have some MASSIVELY different results when measuring some of the basic physical attributes which Maxwell's equations so famously involve?

We also have all sorts of things based on the speed of light, such as decay rates and things. The only way I can imagine those coming out under Lisle's theories would be if the constant of c just happens to be set to the average speed of light as measured on a round-trip. Bizarre, to say the least.

Timothy V Reeves said...

Hi Mark, thanks for the comment.

If somebody came along and claimed everything in the whole cosmos (time included) has proportionately expanded by say 5% then it would be impossible to detect it because all standards by which we might attempt to measure such an expansion will presumably have also expanded. Hence claims about a total cosmic expansion are unphysical in as much as they are undetectable. However, there is nothing to stop a really cussed individual making claims about such an expansion. In fact one could humour this individual and accept that the expansion has taken place: But by expanding one’s coordinate system by 5% - effectively using expanded units - the claimed expansion simply disappears and one can then forget about it. On this account, then, the “expansion” really amounts to a change of the coordinate system (that is, a change in units) and is therefore unphysical.

Now lisle is trying to tell us that an anisotropy in the speed of light is also unphysical and that one can, like the units one uses, merely arbitrarily define it. To a certain extent this works if the anisotropy does not vary from place to place because in this case the anisotropy can be restored back to the standard isotropic speed of light by the appropriate coordinate change. (read that as a “change of units”) However as I have said in this post, a variable anisotropy is physical because it introduces a gravitational field. In my latest post (see Oct 2nd) I discuss this in more detail.

In short Lisle is wrong: His earth centered anisotropy cannot be introduced simply by definition – it also introduces physical changes.

I have only investigated the knock-on effect that Lisle’s proposal will have from the point of view of general relativity and gravity. If one takes it further I suspect, as you suggest, a lot of other nasty problems will creep out of the mathematical wood work of physics.

My understanding is that Maxwell’s equations would probably not be effected by a non-variable anisotropy: Maxwell’s equations are invariant under the Lorentz coordinate transformation. Since a constant anisotropy does not affect the Lorentz transformation I expect Maxwell’s equations to be retained under a non-variable anisotropy

Mark Battin said...

I'm having trouble grasping what a non-variable anisotropy would look like.

I'm not entirely clear if Lisle holds that the center of the anisotropy he holds moves with the Earth as it orbits the sun and galaxy, or if it was at the location of Earth when Earth was created, and hasn't moved since (and thus Earth would have moved quite a ways away from the center even in just 6000 years).

Depending on his answer, would it change his theory from a variable anisotropy to a non-variable version?

I'm unclear as to what a non-variable anisotropy would be. It almost sounds like a contradiction of terms.

Timothy V Reeves said...

Hi Mark,
Interesting question about the centre of the anisotropy. But since Lisle thinks his anisotropy is purely definitional I suppose he would think that as the Earth moves around the galaxy etc you simply redefine the position of the centre. However it is, in my view, not just a matter of definition.

To see this think of it in Lisle’s terms. Consider the Andromeda Galaxy (which is sometimes visible to the naked eye) which is about 2 million light years away. According to Lisle the outgoing light from Andromeda directed toward Earth must be moving a lot faster than c (=3 x 10^8 metres/sec) in order to reach us in a time less than 6000 years. However, light arriving at Andromeda from the direction of the Earth must be travelling less than c in order to preserve a two way speed of light of c. In other words at the current position of Andromeda light’s “fast side” is pointing toward Earth and the “slow side” is pointing away from Earth. Now let’s play at being God and imagine we can move Andromeda around the Cosmos at will. Let’s pretend that we no longer want Andromeda to appear in its current constellation, but would rather have it in the big dipper/plough. If you can imagine this move taking place then I think you will see that for Lisle’s idea to work the “fast side” of light must be kept pointing toward Earth; it’s a bit like using a compass and finding that where ever you are it points to the house you live in, so that if you walked past your house the compass would change direction!

To achieve this sort of effect would require the anisotropy in the speed of light to effectively change its direction as the galaxy is moved. It is this changing direction that gives rise to a gravitational field giving the lie to Lisle’s concept that he can simply define the Anisotropy in the speed of light without any physical knock on effect.

Mark Battin said...

Ok, I get what you describe as a non-variable anisotropy: the effect seen would be (from a God POV) light traveling at nigh-infinite in one direction and 1/2c back the other way, no matter which way you happen to be sending out beams of light and no matter where you would be sending/receiving them.

The variable anisotropy is Lisle's description of the infinite light speed always being oriented toward earth while the 1/2 c always being oriented away from earth.

So an experiment done in Andromeda (from a God POV) would see light going infinitely fast when going toward Earth and 1/2c moving away from Earth. Light beams going in other directions would see light moving at something in between infinity and 1/2c, presumably with the exact speed of c occurring when done directly perpendicular to the direction of Earth.

Timothy V Reeves said...

..yes, I think you have more or less summarised my own understanding of the matter. You also raise the interesting question of how the speed of light changes with beams that point in other directions: I don't think Lisle has clue about the Pandora's box he is opening!

age2age said...

Mr. Reeves, there is a YEC model that all the main players know about but is little talked about because it posits a small, hot, dense beginning to the universe as does the big bang. It may in fact work better than all current YEC models. If you are agreeable, I would like to open a private discourse with you about some particulars of this model.

Timothy V Reeves said...

Is this model on the web somewhere so that I can take a look at it? What would you say if I published the details and my analysis here? Or would you rather keep it under wraps? If so you had better email it to me.


age2age said...

I would prefer our discourse be private at first, then by all means, when you have seen it and reached your conclusions, make those public. I dont know your email address.

Timothy V Reeves said...

My email is


Anonymous said...

I have a question here.

It doesn't seem to me that placing the earth at the center of a gravitational well near to the strength of a black hole accomplishes what the author intends it to.

If "local spacetime curvature" which existed around the earth were actually bending space and "causing" light to travel at infinite speed towards an earthbound observer, the same local space time curvature would cause the speed of light to travel instantly back to its source. After all, GTR is a theory about GRAVITY, not light. And photons are not mass bearing particles. So how could gravity affect the return trip?

Frankly, this seems like so much speculative nonsense. I would recommend reading the article in Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Science on the conventionality thesis. The article was updated in 2014. It speaks about the vain attempts on the part of some physicists to view standard synchrony conventions as the only viable option. But most philosophers of science don't view these attempts to altar Einstein's claims on absolute simultaneity as successful (ex. van Fraasen).

Here's the relevant quote: "...editors of respected journals continue to accept, from time to time, papers purporting to measure one-way light speeds; see, for example, Greaves et al. (2009). Application of the procedure just described shows where their errors lie..." []

Look, at the end of the day here's the problem: we can't know if Lisle is right it comes to the one-way speed of light because it's not science. We can only estimate the age of the universe by studying OBSERVABLE features of the cosmos. I'll be interested to read the paper by the Chinese physicist you note. But frankly, I'm not holding my breath...

Timothy V Reeves said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for your references; they look very useful.

This post of mine was written just after an announcement on Answers in Genesis that their man Jason Lisle had found a solution to the star light problem. No details were given then as to how Lisle had achieved this apart from the claim that he had "solved" the problem using standard relativity theory. Hence at that stage the speculation was on as to how he did it and this is the context of this post. Unfortunately Lisle's blog on AiG got deleted when he left AiG, probably after falling out with Ken Ham, so my original link is now orphaned.

Eventually when Lisle's paper was published on AiG - and you could have knocked me over with a feather - we found that Lisle was simply using a coordinate system that returned a light speed of infinity or near infinity when directed toward earth along the earth centred radials. This mere coordinate transformation, of course, returns a flat space. However, to date as far as I know, Lisle has never dealt with the point discontinuity at the centre of his concentric system; and that was what I was waiting for. Moreover, the light perpendicular to the earth centred radials remains as c and hence he is forced to indulge in ad hoc "mature creation" when it comes to galactic interactions. But people are so phased by his coordinate system that their minds are too blown away to think about this and what it means.

Here are some of my relevant posts on this subject :

Timothy V Reeves said...

On the whole I consider fundamentalist "science" as time wasting. It's OK if you're a hobbyist like myself, or a professional academic who is looking into this business in his or her spare time, but it is money ill spent if the investigations are carried in a professional capacity.

Fundamentalists complain that their "science" isn't given enough attention by professional scientists; well, to be frank too much attention simply isn't worth it. They should not be considered as part of the scientific community any more than fundamentalist flat earthers and geocentrists.

I study fundamentalism less for its "science" than as a socio-religious phenomenon. As I am a (liberal) Christian myself I have a personal interest in this subject.