Monday, April 09, 2018

A fundamentalist finally agrees with astronomers!

Christian fundamentalists are still struggling to make
sense of the cosmos.

This post on Panda's thumb drew my attention to the following articles on the Christian fundamentalist website Answers in Genesis. They were written by Ken Ham's tame astronomer Danny Faulkner:

Here's the conclusion of the first of these articles (My emphases):

Among recent creationists there is much suspicion of the Hubble relation, the expansion of the universe, and the assumption of cosmological redshifts. Unfortunately, much of this suspicion is motivated by a lack of understanding of the data involved and a fear of possible evolutionary implications. The Hubble relation is well supported by much observational data, so outright dismissal of the Hubble relation is not an option. The expansion of the universe is an interpretation of the Hubble relation, but it appears to be the only viable interpretation. Furthermore, rejection of that interpretation amounts to a rejection of general relativity, one of the most successfully tested theories in the history of science. If the universe is expanding, then it follows that the redshifts of extragalactic objects, including quasars, are cosmological. Among astronomers, there is virtually universal acceptance of all three propositions, with just a few notable exceptions to the third proposition. Those astronomers opposed to all extragalactic redshifts being primarily cosmological have focused on quasars, with that opposition appearing to be motivated by belief in the steady state model of cosmology. The work of this opposition to cosmological redshifts of quasars remains popular among recent creationists, though the philosophical underpinning of that opposition contradicts biblical creation. Many recent creationists who doubt that quasar redshifts are cosmological also reject the idea of an expanding universe. This indicates a misunderstanding of the work of the astronomers they cite. Rejection of universal expansion seems to be motivated by opposition to the big bang model. If the universe is not expanding, then the big bang model is not viable. However, the big bang is just one possible expanding universe cosmology. This short-cut way of undermining the big bang model could be a huge mistake, for if the universe is expanding, but we reject this, it would be impossible to construct a correct biblical cosmology

If quasars truly are very distant objects, then they probably are powered by supermassive black holes, as are many other, much closer, but less energetic, AGNs. Even if they are much closer than their redshifts indicate, other properties suggest that quasars likely are powered by supermassive black holes. Rejection of the model to explain the high luminosity of quasars fails to recognize the need for a similar mechanism to power AGNs. Therefore, it is not clear what is to be gained by doubting that quasar redshifts are cosmological. If quasar redshifts are cosmological, then local quasar density is very low (zero?), while quasar density is much higher at greater distance. Within a big bang model with distance corresponding to look-back time, this trend is explained by galaxy evolution. Since recent creationists reject the big bang model and a timescale of billions of years, how do we properly interpret quasars? The answer to that question is not obvious. The answer likely will be related to how one answers the light travel time problem. If recent creationists continue to argue against cosmological redshifts for quasars, it is unlikely that a satisfactory understanding of quasars will come about. Furthermore, it is unlikely that we can develop a correct cosmology.

I don't intend to spend time reading these articles in their entirety (I feel I spend too much time studying fundamentalist "science" as it is), but reading Faulkner's abstracts and conclusions it seems that many "recent creationists" (as Faulkner calls them) are loath to accept the expanding universe model and the apparent quasar distribution because both are readily interpreted as evidence of a universe which has evolved over a long period of time. This is, of course, anathema to most Christian fundamentalists. But now Faulkner is admitting what astronomers have been telling us for a long time; namely, that the universe is expanding and that quasar density increases with distance (which equates to look-back time assuming c = 3x108m/sec). Faulkner then advises "recent creationists" not to contradict this well established science but rather to incorporate it into a "recent creationist" model. But Faulkner is not underestimating the difficulties "recent creationists" face as they try to interpret the meaning of the quasar distribution given the Christian fundamentalist world view: In regard to this he says: "The answer to that question is not obvious. The answer likely will be related to how one answers the light travel time problem". That sounds like out of frying pan into the fire! The Christian fundamentalist's problem with star light travel time has never been satisfactorily solved and there seems to be as many fundamentalist solutions to it as there are fundamentalist astronomers.  

None of this, of course, means that Faulkner is giving up on his "recent creationist" world view. As Faulkner says "... the big bang is just one possible expanding universe cosmology...", but fundamentalist "science" clearly isn't in a position just yet to give us a cogent alternative interpretationAs Faulkner also says, if his fundamentalist friends are not going to accept the established theories of cosmic expansion and the observed quasar distribution then  " is unlikely that we can develop a correct cosmology". But since they have never solved the star light travel time problem, then it looks as though they've got their work cut out!

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