Monday, January 2, 2012

How Old Is The Universe? Much Older Than 6000 Years: Starlight in Transit

A heated debate has been raging over the question "how old is the universe?" Many Young-Earth Creationists insist that the universe is around 6000 years old. The purpose of this post is to demonstrate that either the universe must be much older than 6000 years, or God is going out of his way to deceive us into thinking that it is much older than 6000 years.

According to, "In February 1987, light from a supernova explosion more than 179,000 light-years (ly) away finally reached the Solar System." (you will have to scroll down to find the specific star I am talking about, but there are plenty of examples of stars like this one to be found on various astronomy sites)

A supernova occurs when a star explodes. When a star explodes, light is given off. This light travels at the speed of light. The distance that light covers in one year is called a light year. If it took 179,000 light years for the light to reach us, then the star must have existed at least 179,000 years ago. Therefore, the universe is at least 179,000 years old (the universe is actually older than this, but right now let's limit our focus on this one supernova).

Figure 1: Starlight traveling from a supernova to Earth

 The major objection to the starlight in transit argument is that the universe was created with age. Adam and Eve were created adults, after all. Not to mention all the animals and plants- so why not the universe?

This is why not: God would be creating light from a supernova that never existed, and this would be very deceptive! God would be creating a scenario in which any reasonable observer would say, "well gosh darn, it sure looks like there was a supernova out there 179,000 years ago."

Here is a version of the previous diagram in which the universe has only existed for 6000 years:

Figure 2: Light coming from nowhere, and hitting the earth

Take note that in Figure 2, the light is coming from nowhere- the supernova never existed. This means that God would have had to create the appearance of a supernova (in the form of light) hurtling through space towards us, when in fact there had never been such a supernova. Since I am personally of the opinion that God is not deceptive, I must conclude that the universe is much, much, much older than 6000 years.

I hope that this post has demonstrated one of two things: Either the universe is much older than 6000 years, or if not, God made the universe in such a way that any rational observer would conclude that the universe is much older than 6000 years. If the latter is true, it would imply that God purposefully deceived us into thinking that the universe is much older than 6000 years.

Unless God is deceptive, the universe is much older than 6000 years.

Figure 3: Supernova (Or elaborate ruse)


  1. I agree with your conclusion (and it's perhaps the main reason why I don't think Genesis necessarily portrays creation in 6 literal days), although, for the sake of discussion, I'll play devil's advocate for a moment:

    What if a YEC argues instead that the events recorded in Genesis took place from a viewpoint on Earth? For instance, when the Bible says that the stars were created (v. 16), it means that they first started becoming visible on Earth at that point in time. In this sense, the universe could have been created eons ago, but Earth as we know it wouldn't necessarily have to be as well.

  2. Hey Zach!
    Good to hear from you. You bring up a good point about the possibility of the Genesis accounts being written from the perspective of earth.

    I suppose that based on the starlight in transit argument, the scenario you are describing is feasible. SiT pertains only to the age of the universe (or more specifically, a star). As such, it can't be used as an argument for the age of the earth specifically.

    More thoughts?

    At some point we will need to have a discussion about various interpretations of the Genesis accounts!

  3. Yes, I think examining the Genesis account and seeing what the author means by "day" is in order!

  4. Personally I think we should find some way to measure a "day" by using the speed of light, which is constant... According to general relativity, time flows at differing rates depending on your motion relative to everyone else in the universe. Sooooo... If the earth were created before the sun, there would be no sun for the earth to move relative to, so what would a day even be like? A day with respect to what?

    Anyway, this comment is more of a joke than a serious contention! (However, there may be some validity to a few of the things I just said

    For anyone out there who understands the basics of general relativity, I hope you detected my humor!

  5. Josh,
    You should state your assumptions in such an argument, otherwise you may be labeled as being deceptive yourself. /jab =)

    That light travels at the same speed, regardless of distance.

    Also I would like to point out that you're applying a measurement of distance to a period of time.

  6. Hi Tony!
    Thanks for the pointer. I try to be good about stating my assumptions, but you certainly connected on the lower left of my jaw with that swift jab. =D

    So, you are correct--I am assuming that light travels at the same speed, regardless of distance. This should be a very dependable assumption! (Especially because according to Einstein's theory of relativity, light travels at a constant speed by definition, and everything else is relative to that. In this way, the speed of light is the most constant thing in the universe [for more on that do a bit of research on relativity!])

    You are correct that I am applying a measurement of distance to a period of time. This is a correct thing to do because distance and time are related via the equation < distance = rate times time >. If you need extra clarification on that just let me know.

    Thanks again for your comment, and I appreciate your thoughts!


  7. Awesome analysis.

    One other fact that destroys the Young Earth position on this involves galaxies having collided in the past. Some of those star "tails" are a hundred thousand light years long. As slow as stars are (tens of km/sec), that translates to millions of years. It would seem very deceptive for God to create the aftermath of collisions which never occurred.

    The apparent rift between science and the Bible can easily be resolved with a little humility and a hunger for answers. Some seem afraid to do this. But even Christ taught with difficult parables which could not be taken literally. So, we need a new interpretation and a new timeline. Science has known for over a century that a literal biblical timeline is wrong.

    A new timeline has been found. It pegs Noah's Flood at about 28,000 BC and we find, through science, the Flood's target and the real identity of the "daughters of men" mentioned in Genesis 6 (the Flood story). The daughters were a species which went extinct at that date. Apparently they were not invited onto the Ark.

    Rod Martin, Jr.
    "The Bible's Hidden Wisdom: God's Reason for Noah's Flood"