Distant Starlight – Under Occam’s Razor – Part 2: Critique and Cuts

Supernova SN1987a

As noted in part 1 of this article, distant starlight has been called the best argument against biblical creation and a young earth. A serious charge. So I thought it would be helpful to identify the best answer to this “best” charge against creation. A number of solutions to this problem have been offered by scientists who happen to also be creationists.  We briefly examined the popular ones in the previous article.  Now that we’ve completed an overview of possible solutions, we’ll get to the meat of the matter: identifying which theory or theories both have a possibility of working, and surviving the principle of Occam’s razor. So without further ado:

Part 2 Critique and Cuts

In Part 1, we looked at the various contenders for the best theory to explain how distant starlight arrived on earth in time for Adam and Eve to see them on the 6th day, and even more likely, how it arrived on the fourth day when God created the stars. The goal here in Part 2 is to narrow down the choices to arrive at the solution that most likely and most closely resembles the method God actually used to get the light to earth on day 4 of creation week. In making this evaluation we’ll consider two primary considerations:

1. Is it physically possible?

To the best of our understanding of physics is this method possible? And as a corollary, how likely does it seem?

2. Can it survive Occam’s Razor?

Occam’s razor – the principle that “one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything”[9], and often paraphrased as – the simpler theory or model is typically the better or correct one.

We’ll review each of the suggested solutions considering first is it physically possible? A question that in theoretical physics is sometimes up to debate – but we’ll listen to the critics then take our best stab at the answer. From those that seem possible we’ll subject them to Occam’s razor to determine which theory is the last man standing.

Critique – Is it Possible?

1. Light created in Transit (A mature appearing creation)
The main problem with this as multiple physicists point out is that light transmits information.  Normally, it would be transmitting information of an event that actually happened. But if light were created in transit, events depicted in the light never happened. For example both  Hartnett[10] and Lisle[11] point to supernova 1987a (pictured above, animation here) in the large Magellanic cloud in 1987. The cloud is 170,000 light years away meaning for us to see it within the travel time of a 6000 year old earth, God would have created the light on its way to earth, and consequently, would have had to have just placed the supernova information in the light in transit – though the event itself didn’t really happen. This is deceptive and is not in keeping with the character of God.  Once the implication of the mischaracterization of God’s character has been understood, virtually all creationists have rejected this. So this has fallen out of favor.

2. CDK (Naturally decaying speed of Light)
This theory enjoyed a modicum of popularity at one point, but after a more careful examination most physicists backed away from this theory because the speed of light is involved natural physical processes such that changing it would have dire consequences. Lisle points out the speed of light is in Einstein’s well known equation E=mc2 (c=speed of light) and changing it either way (faster or slower) would cause the earth to fall into the sun. Humphreys points out that the speed of light is tied to “every physical process”[12] including how fast clocks tick and how fast planets orbit and spin. Furthermore since all physical processes would be tied in “lock step” with the speed of light how would you detect a change? For these reasons this has also fallen out of favor.

3. Dasha (Supernatural variation in the speed of light)
This theory is clearly possible, with the only possible objection coming from those who believe miracles that suspend or supersede the laws of nature are impossible. Such people need to explain the creation event then – why there is something rather than nothing. Because whichever account you believe – whether biblical or big bang – it starts with a suspension of the laws of physics (Big bangers don’t like to talk about it, but the “singularity” breaks multiple laws of physics as does the supposed inflationary period.)

4. Time Dilation Theories (Humphreys and Hartnett)
Secular critics of Humphreys’ cosmology challenge his model as “profoundly flawed” and the conclusions “seriously mistaken”[13].  With the animosity often displayed by secular critics of creation theories one is tempted to write this off as yet another biased straw man attack. But secularists aren’t the only ones questioning the time dilation approach.  The article that inspired this review of the distant starlight problem was written by the author of the other time dilation theory we considered: John Hartnett – a creation supporting physicist. In his recent article[14] Hartnett for all intents and purposes abandons his own time dilation approach and throws his support behind Lisle’s ASC approach. In his article Hartnett notes that Humphrey’s approach “…cannot provide sufficient time-dilation.”[15] This is a very telling comment when you consider his own approach uses the same mechanism – time dilation. It just arrives there by a different method.

And Dr. Hartnett is not the only creation scientist who has concluded that time dilation models cannot provide enough time dilation. Astrophysicist Jason Lisle has concluded the same thing. In a recent review of the various solutions for the distant starlight problem, speaking of time dilation solutions Lisle said “I’ve not seen a model that’s able to actually get the starlight here at the end of 6000 years.”[16] Another telling comment since the goal is to get the light here on day 4 – not the present. He’s saying time dilation is insufficient to get the light here in even in 6000 years.

Additionally there’s the scorching review by Randy Speir of Hartnett’s theory, ironically hosted on Barry Setterfield’s site (you’ll recall Hartnett and others pan Setterfield’s CDK theory) which,  concludes “His model has a glaring horizon problem which he continues to ignore.”[17] He also points out that using a fifth dimension amounts to using a “fudge factor”, a charge Hartnett repeatedly directs toward big bang theorists regarding dark matter and dark energy.[18]  Hartnett agreed  it could be a fudge factor[19] and perhaps this is one of the items that has caused Dr. Hartnett to reconsider. At any rate it appears the promise held out by time dilation models has been a mirage, leading these too, to fall out of favor.

5. Lisle’s ASC Timing Convention model
One has high hopes for this model since this is the one Dr Hartnett is supporting over his own time dilation model. Sadly this model labors under the same problem that Hartnett’s own model suffers from: a critical reliance on an unproven, theoretical entity. In Hartnett’s model, it’s the supposition of a 5th dimension. In Lisle’s model, it’s the supposition that the one way speed of light is infinite. You can model cosmology that way, but is that really the nature of reality?

Consider GPS systems in cars. There’s two ways they could choose to show  your route. The first: to show the entire route, with your car as a symbol on the spot that represents where  you are.  As you move the car symbol moves proportionally on the map. Call this the plotter method. (It plots out a route.) This would be fine for very short distances, but for large distances it would be next to useless. Consider a cross country trip from New York to LA -a distance of some 2,780 miles according to Google. The trip would be represented on a 4″ screen (give or take an inch). You can drive for hours and not have the car symbol on the map move because proportionally you have not gone far enough to make a visible difference on your depiction of the journey.

Alternately, you could show it as every GPS I’ve seen shows it: with the car stationary and the map moving. This allows you to see everything along your route during the journey. But the representation is depicting that your car symbol is stationary and the earth is moving under you. Is that really happening? Mathematically and symbolically you can represent it that way, but in reality, it’s clear that’s what’s really happening is your car is moving across the face of the earth. The earth is not moving beneath your stationary car.

What Dr. Lisle has done is to essentially depict the arrival of light in a way that’s convenient for the biblical account in the same manner that your GPS conveniently shows your route with the earth moving, not your car. In other words he’s chosen a different convention. But the question remains, is that convention, is that depiction an accurate depiction of what’s actually happening? In the case of your GPS we know it’s not. In the case of Lisle’s model, we cannot know unless we could determine the one way speed of light. But as Lisle is careful to demonstrate – you cannot measure the one-way speed of light. And in one presentation, he says don’t bother offering him a suggestion on how to do it unless you’ve read 10 books on the subject.

So I won’t offer a method to measure the one way speed of light. Because we don’t really need to know that. What we need to know is if the one way speed of light is infinite (which is quite different from a finite speed). And that I believe we can determine. Here’s how:  We’ve sent a number of probes into space, racing away from the earth. Cassini, Voyager, etc. All you need to do is program a probe that is moving away from the earth to send a signal – a ping – back to earth at a regular, timed interval.  If the one way speed of light is finite, the pings will arrive on earth with an increasing time interval in between. But if the one way speed of light towards earth is infinite, the interval of time between the pings will remain constant, regardless of the distance, and you will have proved the one way speed of light is infinite. So with this method we haven’t measured the one way speed of light, yet this would allow us to know the critical piece of missing information: is the one way speed of light towards an observer on earth infinite?

Until it can be shown that the one way speed of light is infinite, his critics are justified in mapping his convention back to what is commonly used: ESC – an equally valid way of depicting what happened – just as changing the depiction of the GPS to the plotter method would be valid. In doing so Dr. Lisle agrees you would get the following:

“if mathematically transformed back into a more traditional isotropic synchrony convention a la Einstein, implies the progressive creation of galaxies from the edge of the observable universe toward us over a period of many billions of years in the isotropic convention, such that all light reached Earth near-simultaneously on the 4th day.”[20]

Taken at face value that puts the creation of the stars first over billions of years, and the earth last.  That is incorrect based on the Genesis 1 narrative so that cannot be (or at least should not be) what Lisle is actually suggesting. Alternately we can take it that what’s happening is Lisle is maintaining only 6 days passed on earth, while billions of years passed in the universe as the stars were created (from furthest stars to nearest stars). And what does that look like? That looks like the description of a massive time dilation event – which Drs. Hartnett, Lisle and others have already concluded won’t work. Either way this theory fails when the physics behind the convention selected is revealed. Thus it is critical for this theory to get evidence that the one-way speed of light is actually infinite, or else Lisle’s critics seem justified in saying the theory won’t work in either incarnation of conventions: in his ASC incarnation because he can’t prove the one way speed of light is different from the two way speed; and when mapped back to ESC, because it either suggests stars were created first, which is incorrect, or it suggests a massive time dilation event which even Creation scientists including Lisle himself have concluded is a solution that won’t work.

6. CDK & Star Movement (Hovind)
Kent Hovind does not have a focused approach to the answer of distance. Rather he throws a number of objections to an old universe against the wall and sees if any sticks in terms of persuading you.  In his summary he lists 3 solutions we’ve already discussed. The first: variable speed of light (CDK  #2 above) – which he names explicitly. The rest are implicit from his description of what he’s talking about. He speaks of a “Mature Creation” – which is most often associated with light created in transit (#1); and then he speaks of stars moving outward as God stretches out the heavens. Though he probably doesn’t realize it, implicit in that assumption – is either a massive increase in the speed of light (back to the CDK theory #2) or a massive time dilation event(#4). Otherwise you couldn’t have a 6 day old earth with the stars at the distance they are and visible with the accepted and (constant) value for the speed of light. But as we’ve seen there are problems with each one of these approaches. So whether or not you include light in transit as implicit in his “mature creation” all the solutions he offers have fallen out of favor.

Occam’s Razor: The final cut

So finally the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Which theory can stand after facing the shredding blade of Occam’s razor? If you’ve read the above critique, you probably already have a good idea. But let me put the icing on the cake of the winner by formally using the razor to eliminate non-viable theories  and then finally identify the last man standing.

1. Light created in Transit (Mature appearing Creation)
The stubborn, unrelenting failing in this theory is that it makes God a deceiver. There is no need for Occam’s razor to touch this theory, it is dead on arrival (DOA).

2. CDK (Naturally decaying speed of Light)
The glaring problem in this theory is the magnitude in the change of the speed of light necessary to get light billions of light years away to earth on the fourth day. We’re not talking a fractional difference or even a small multiple like 2 or 3 times difference. No we’re talking thousands, millions, perhaps billions of times faster.  And during that interval what happens to the rest of the universe? Physicists point out that everything (clocks, planet rotational rates, orbits, etc.) are dependant on the speed of light. What kept everything in balance? You would presumably need to invoke some other process or phenomenon to accomplish that. And  in so doing,  you violate Occam’s principle of simplicity. Thus this theory is cut (eliminated) by the razor.

3. Dasha (Supernatural variation in the speed of light)
This theory invokes one entity to accomplish the task: God. It falls afoul of modern science since no material mechanism is offered, and worse the supernatural is invoked as a causal agent, but it does not fall afoul of Occam’s principle. It’s elegantly simple, and unlike secularists, we have no requirement that the solution must be natural and not supernatural. And thus this theory remains standing.

4. Time Dilation Theories (Humphreys and Hartnett)
We will have to consider Dr Humphreys’ model DOA, since not only is it ravaged by secular physicists, but creation physicist Dr Hartnett who also developed a time dilation model can’t even support it. As for Hartnett’s model, we can either consider it DOA since apart from Dr. Lisle saying it won’t work, Hartnett himself no longer supports it.  Or alternately we can consider it falling afoul of Occam’s principle of not invoking unneeded additional entities with its invocation of an unproven 5th dimension. Thus both of the time dilation theories fall: Humphrey’s is DOA and Hartnett’s is either DOA, or  cut  by the razor – depending on which failing your prefer.

5. Lisle’s ASC Timing model
If this were a confessional I would have to confess that with Dr. Hartnett supporting this approach, this is the theory I expected to be supporting at the end of this article. But after careful study it is clear this theory also runs afoul of Occam, positing additional properties of light that are not known to be true: namely that the speed of light is dependant on direction and further, that the one way speed of light toward an observer is infinite.

This makes me wonder how would light know which direction to be infinite in? You could invoke the quantum principle that consciousness affects atomic particles[21], and thus may also affect the direction of the velocity of light. But then again contrary to Occam, we’re adding yet another unknown, uncertain variable. And what if we map ASC back to the ESC convention? As noted above you’re stuck with either the unproven infinite one way speed of light which add properties to light that cause the theory fall afoul of Occam’s razor. Or if you jettison the one way infinite speed (as Occam’s razor would have you do), you must either deny the biblical narrative of earth being created before the stars, or invoke a time dilation event such that billions of years pass for the stars while only 6 days pass on earth. An approach which we’ve seen even scientists who believe in Biblical creation have  concluded won’t work. So it seems there is no way to keep this model both functional and simple enough to pass muster when confronted by Occam’s razor. It too is cut by the razor.

6. CDK & Star Movement (Hovind)
Hovind’s theories are really nothing more than a combination of the above theories which have already fallen. Therefore his theory obviously suffers the same fate as the theories above which he incorporated, and thus his approach also fails.

The Last Man Standing

For those of you keeping score, you know that leaves one theory standing: The Dasha Theory. Namely that somehow God supernaturally caused the light to arrive here on time, on the fourth day. End of story, no science offered. I suspect that others like myself, didn’t want to wind up at this conclusion, essentially saying what we’re often accused of relying on: “God did it.”  But Dr. Faulkner chides us for not listening to our own arguments. We often chide secularists for insisting on only allowing the uniformity of processes we see today to be the only factors in the past and refusing to believe when God made exceptions to that uniformity as in the catastrophic flood of Noah’s day and in the creation.  Why can we not believe it ourselves that God worked to have light arrive in time for Adam and Eve to see it on the first day of their existence? (Day 6)  This is not the only event where God was clearly at work. Consider Gen 1.3:

“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”

How was that light possible? Neither the sun, moon nor stars were created yet. And yet there was light. Clearly God did something.  A one-off work of God. There are plenty of one-off works of God we cannot explain – the virgin birth, the water to wine, walking on water, etc. They’re typically called miracles.  Since they are unable to be examined by science, many disbelieve them. An unfortunate fallacy in thinking. Science cannot examine and explain everything that’s true. Believing that science can is the error of scientism – a discussion for another day.

Returning to distant starlight, we would like for science to be able to describe it and explain it, but at this point, it cannot. Maybe it never will. Like the creation and the resurrection, perhaps this is an event that is beyond the powers of science to understand or describe.  Whether science is able to figure this out or not, We know the word of God is faithful and true. So we know what happened:

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years,
15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.
Gen 1.14-15

We just don’t know how he did it. And that’s okay, because:

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
Proverbs 25.2

Perhaps we simply need to give glory to God as we continue to  spend time searching out the matter.

Duane Caldwell | June 11,  2019 | printer friendly version


Notes

9. “Occam’s Razor”, Principia Cybernetica Web, accessed 5/22/2019, http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/OCCAMRAZ.html
Back

10. John Hartnett, ref. from, Distant Starlight – A Forum, CMI DVD, 2010
Back

11. Jason Lisle, Distant Starlight Part 1, Youtube, Published 3/3/2014,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0D6guJ6RQ8
Back

12. Russell Humphreys, ref. from, Distant Starlight – A Forum, CMI DVD, 2010
Back

13. Samuel R. Conner and Don N. Page, “Starlight and Time is the Big Bang”, archived from trueorigin.org on the Internet archive, accessed 5/22/2019, http://web.archive.org/web/20121107195343/http://trueorigin.org/rh_connpage1.pdf
Back

14. John Hartnett, “My Current Thinking On Distant Starlight”, Bible Science Forum, 4/19/2019 https://biblescienceforum.com/2019/04/19/my-current-thinking-on-distant-starlight/
Back

15. Hartnett, “My Current Thinking on Distant Starlight”
Back

16. Jason Lisle ref. from Creation in the 21st Century with David Rives, episode “Distant Starlight in a Young Universe”, TBN broadcast  1/13/2018
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17. Randy Speir, “Challenge to the Hartnett Model”,  Genesis Science Research, accessed 5/21/2019, http://www.setterfield.org/Challenge_to_Hartnett.html
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18. To see how often he’s used it search creation.com for “fudge factor”. Here’s a sample:
“Big Bang Beliefs Busted”, John Hartnett, Creation (magazine) 37(3):48-51, July 2015, online: https://creation.com/big-bang-beliefs-busted
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19. John Hartnett, “Response to “Challenge to the Hartnett Model”,  Bible Science Forum, 1/29/2014,
https://biblescienceforum.com/2014/01/29/response-to-challenge-to-the-hartnett-model/

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20. David Macmillian  comment posted 9/3/14, on JasonLisle.com blog article, “Research Update” 8/20/2014,   http://www.jasonlisle.com/2014/08/20/research-update/#comment-33073
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21. Regarding the double slit experiment which I describe in Should Christians believe in a multiverse? 7 Reasons against” – an experiment which shows both the wave and particle nature of light, a unique thing happens when the particles are watched as they go through the slits. Morgan Freeman Narrates:

“But strangest of all is what happens when we put detectors next to the slits. When the photons are being watched, the wave pattern disappears. Take away the detectors and the wave pattern comes back. This suggests that we can change the way reality behaves just by looking at it.”*

My point being in Lisle’s theory, observation is a candidate for what determines whether the speed of light is infinite or not.

* Through the wormhole with Morgan Freeman episode “How does the Universe Work?”, Science TV Documentary, 2011
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Selected References

Abbreviations:
CMI – Creation Ministries International

DRM – David Rives Ministries
TBN – Trinity Broadcast Network

Book
Alex Williams, John Hartnett, Dismantling The Big Bang, Green Forest AR: MasterBooks, 2005

Broadcast (TV)
Creation In The 21st Century with David Rives episode “Distant Starlight in a Young Universe”, TBN Broadcast 1/13/2018 featuring Dr Jason Lisle

Creation In The 21st Century with David Rives episode “Starlight Time & Physics”, TBN Broadcast 8/26/2016 featuring Dr Russell Humphreys

How The Universe Works episode “Blackholes”, Discovery Channel Documentary, 2010

The Universe episode “Microscopic Universe” History Documentary 2012

Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman
episode “Can We Travel Faster than light?”
Science channel documentary 2011

Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman episode “How Does The Universe Work?”
Science channel documentary 2011

DVD
Dasha Theory – A Starlight and Time Solution” Featuring Dr Danny Faulkner with David Rives, DRM DVD, 2015

Distant Starlight – A Forum”, Creationist Solutions, Hartnett vs Humphreys, featuring John Hartnett and Russell Humphreys, CMI DVD, 2010

Light-Years? No Problem! – Distant starlight in a young universe” Featuring Dr Russell Humphreys CMI DVD, c.2016

Starlight, Time and the New Physics” Featuring Dr John Hartnett, CMI DVD, 2009

The Distant Starlight Dilemma?” Featuring Dr. Jim Mason, CMI DVD, 2019

Internet
“Anisotropic synchrony convention”, RationalWiki, accessed 5/22/2019,  https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Anisotropic_synchrony_convention

“Distant Starlight Parts 1-3”,  Featuring Jason Lisle, YouTube, 3/3/2014
Part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0D6guJ6RQ8
Part2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91PGejN_xpM
Part 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91PGejN_xpM

“How can we see stars billions of light years away?” featuring Kent Hovind, YouTube, published 1/18/2011, talk given c. 2005, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXsq1C6Rkus

David Macmillian  comment on JasonLisle.com blog article, “Research Update” posted 8/20/2014,   comment posted 9/3/14, http://www.jasonlisle.com/2014/08/20/research-update/#comment-33073

John Hartnett, “My Current Thinking On Distant Starlight”, Bible Science Forum, 4/19/2019 https://biblescienceforum.com/2019/04/19/my-current-thinking-on-distant-starlight/  

John Hartnett, “Response to “Challenge to the Hartnett Model”,  Bible Science Forum, 1/29/2014,
https://biblescienceforum.com/2014/01/29/response-to-challenge-to-the-hartnett-model/


Randy Speir, “Challenge to the Hartnett Model”, Genesis Science Research, accessed 5/21/2019, http://www.setterfield.org/Challenge_to_Hartnett.html

Samuel R. Conner and Don N. Page, “Starlight and Time is the Big Bang”, archived from trueorigin.org on the Internet archive, accessed 5/22/2019, http://web.archive.org/web/20121107195343/http://trueorigin.org/rh_connpage1.pdf
(Critique of Russell Humphrey’s Theory)

Images
All images used by permission
SN1987a Image credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA

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Paul Price
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You arrived at the same conclusion I have. I also prefer the ‘Dasha’ theory as the explanation for distant starlight.

Paul Price
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Update: after conversing and thinking about this, I now realize that the ‘Dasha’ explanation winds up devolving right back into the ‘light created in transit’ problem! As counter-intuitive as it seems, I am now leaning towards the Lisle-ian /Hartnettian viewpoint, though I am far from understanding it!

Sam Booth
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Sam Booth

Excellent article and conclusion. I think He wants us to look into the matter and NOT find the answer. To give us a little Jobism, if you will. “No Lord, we are not able to answer such a question about your glorious creation.”