Thursday, May 18, 2017

Is Mature Creation Deceptive?

If the universe is young, how can we see light from galaxies billions of lights away? A simple solution is that of mature creation:God created the stars and galaxies full-blown, along with their light.

A common objection is that, if light was created in transit, then the starlight that Adam observed did not actually originate from the stars where the light seemingly came from. Is this not deceptive?
Moreover, the details of starlight seemingly relate specific historical events. For example, a supernova, observed to occur in 1987, appeared to be 170,000 light-years away, suggesting that it exploded 170,000 years ago. If this event never really happened--if the light was created en route--was this not just an elaborate fiction, a hoax created by God? 

Functional Maturity versus False History
Even many creationists consider such alleged deception a fatal flaw to fully-fledged mature creation. Thus, for example, Jonathan Sarfati argues that God created Adam, trees, and stars fully formed, but with only a functional maturity. According to Sarfati, deception arises only if such creation included the appearance of a false history that was totally unnecessary for functional maturity. He therefore concludes that Adam had no navel, that the original trees had no growth rings, and that starlight was not created in transit.

Sarfati's preferred solutions (see also the Creation Ministries International  Creation Answers Book, Chapter 5), involving relativistic time dilation, are the physical cosmologies of Russell Humphreys (2008) and John Hartnett (2007)

But both of these are highly problematic. Humphreys has the earth near the center of a spherical universe surrounded by a very massive, but invisible, shell (the “waters above the heavens”). The rapid expansion of this shell causes a moving zone of “timelessness”, so that in just a few earth days billions of years elapse at distant galaxies. Humphreys (2013) granted that his model was speculative, and still "far from complete". Since 2008 his model been developed no further.

Hartnett’s model uses a dubious extension of general relativity—the 5-dimensional cosmology of Moshe Carmeli. Here, too, the Earth is taken to be near the center of a spherical universe that expanded rapidly during the creation week, thereby causing the desired slowing of the earth’s clock. Hartnett (2015b) himself concedes:
“The cosmology still has several unsolved problems.  Unfortunately no general 5 dimensional cosmology exists. Carmeli never found such a theory. To date I have not found the required space-time-velocity theory, with an extra time-like dimension, that fits the Creation period, though I am continuing to search.”
Indeed, Hartnett (2015a) seems to have abandoned his model in favour of that of Jason Lisle’s (2010) Anisotropic Synchrony Convention (ASC). In Lisle's ASC an event is considered to have occurred when it is observed, so that light is considered to travel infinitely fast towards the observer, and with speed c/2 away from the observer (i.e., only the average speed of light to and from the observer is c). The light from distant galaxies is thus considered to travel instantaneously to the earth. Interestingly, Sarfati (2012) rejects ASC on the grounds that it is purely kinematic, lacks a physical foundation, and is very ad hoc.

The models of Lisle, Humphreys and Hartnett all require at least the Sun, local stars, and our local Galaxy to be created mature. This, however, entails that light is created in transit at the surfaces of the Sun and stars, and within the local Galaxy. But this raises again the issue of deception, since such light will inevitably exhibit “false histories”. For example, light at the Solar surface would appear to have originated from the Solar core thousands of years previously. Similarly, a galaxy created as a unit would consist not just of stars and gas, but also of gravitational fields and light radiation that seemingly originated from stars. Moreover, it is claimed that our Galaxy bears the scars of past collisions with other galaxies. Since such scars are not needed for functional maturity, they raise further questions about "false history".

In short, it is difficult for creationist models to avoid the appearance of “false history.”

Is “False History” Deceptive?
P.G. Nelson (Another Look at Mature Creation) argues that it is plausible for God to create the universe not just mature, so that it appears old, but coherently mature, so that various age estimates give consistent results. Such an approach has no problem with light created in transit, with created trees having rings, or with Adam having a navel (See my post On Mature Creation).

Since various theological arguments can be made about how God could or should create, we should be wary about placing undue constraints upon the Creator. After all, one wonders how God could possibly create an object without it having some appearance of past history. In His creation God has deceived no one, for He has told us of His creative acts. Rather, people have deceived themselves by rejecting God’s revealed Word, by ignorance of God's methods, by assuming uniformity, and by assuming that mature creation is false.

Moreover, the assertion that "God never lies" (Titus 1:2) refers to God keeping His covenant promises to believers. Regarding those who doubt God’s Word, “God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth…” (2 Thes. 2:11). (See my post Would God Deceive Us?)

A Rapidly Matured Creation
A further consideration is that God did not create the entire universe instantaneously, ex nihilo, in mature form. Rather, everything (except the initial light, and possibly the firmament) seems to be formed from the initial “waters” (Gen.1:2), in a number of stages spread over 6 days.

Also, the work of each day was not instantaneous, but a rapid, miraculous process. For example, “the earth brought forth vegetation” (Gen.1:12), “and out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree…” (Gen.2:9). The universe attained its finished, mature form only at the end of Day 6.

It is noteworthy that Biblical miracles generally don’t involve creating something from nothing. Rather, they usually involve transformation (e.g., water into wine) or multiplication (e.g., the widow’s oil). 

A particularly pertinent miracle is Jonah’s shade tree, “which came into being in a night” (Jonah 4). Everything else continued normally, but God miraculously accelerated the plant’s growth so that a year’s growth took just a few hours. Does this not seem similar to the earth sprouting trees on Day 3?

Might not the same apply for Day 4, where normal providence held for the earth while God worked miraculously fast to form the Sun, stars, and galaxies? All celestial processes-- gravity, light, nuclear reactions, etc.--may have been highly accelerated, so that watching the creation of the stellar sky on Day 4 might be like watching a video in fast motion. What normally takes billions of years happens on Day 4 in just a few hours. This includes not just the formation of celestial objects, but also the transmission of their light to the earth. 

In this scenario the history we see in starlight is thus real--depicting actual historical events--but reflecting accelerated processes no longer operating after Day 4. Hence, interpreting these events in terms of current physical laws will yield erroneous conclusions about the past.

This proposal seems similar to that of Danny Faulkner (2013), except that he seems to attribute the miraculous transmission of light to the rapid stretching of space, rather than to light itself moving very quickly.

To sum up, the creation of the universe, being a miraculous work of God, will inevitably give the appearance of false history to one who tries to interpret the past purely in terms of current processes. The notion that the entire universe was a rapidly-matured creation has the advantage of not relying on any speculative physics (Hartnett, Humphreys), or ad hoc conventions (Lisle). Since these creationist models already involve at least some degree of mature creation, this approach provides a simpler explanation. 


  1. Great summary of the different views! Also, great conclusion!

    I've been making a similar case for a long time. A couple of things to add: The first is pure speculation on my part, but armed with the understanding that the origin of the universe can be described as "miraculous," "supernatural," or "divine," we could observe that God could have created the universe with a long history instantaneously, attaching it in the timeline of creation. I'm not saying it happened that way, but it's one possibility that is within the pale of God's power.

    The second is the common argument regarding God's deception in a false history. That charge really doesn't hold water. That is to say, that if God does something we would classify as miraculous and observe that if we didn't know God did it, then God would be deceptive. On the other hand, if God tells us he does something, then it's not deceptive at all. That is kind of the definition of a miracle. If we test a miracle with naturalistic presuppositions, then we would find information that would indicate a natural history that didn't not previously exist. If we knew that the history did not previously exist, yet we have God telling us he did it, then the natural evidence of any kind of a false history is actually the sign of divine creation.

    1. Hi Jim

      Thanks for your comments.

      You wonder whether God could have created the universe instantaneously with a long history. I presume you propose that until, say, 4000BC there was no physical universe. Then at 4000BC God created the universe along with an actual history extending back 13 billion years before 4000BC. This seems equivalent to God changing the past, so that it is now no longer true that the world is only 6000 years old. I don’t see this as a very convincing creationist model, as it concedes too much. Further, God cannot change the past—only historians can!

      I fully agree with your second point, which is what I tried to express in my discussion of deception and in my conclusion.

    2. That's a good concern. I'm not sold out on the position, but think it might be a possibility. The benefit of proposing it is to illustrate the incomprehensible power of God. Where I get the observation is from the classic water-to-wine comparison. Wine naturally requires a past that didn't exist. Even after the water was turned to wine, that past still didn't exist as far as we could tell, except that a past would be logically discernible in the elements that make a good wine. You can't appeal to a naturalistic explanation to explain it. Maybe you can appeal to the fictions of today that speculate branching parallel timelines, except this one would be in reverse. That's still a speculation beyond our ability to know. But I think God is capable of doing things that we cannot understand or even pursue knowledge of.

  2. I love the blog and appreciate the work you do! Both your books were great!

    I am comfortable with things like tree rings and belly buttons not being deceptive. I am less comfortable with the supernova-type astronomical events. I think there are at least 2 reasons I struggle more with this type of phenomena.

    First, the amount of time lapse between the initial creation and human observations of the phenomena. At the very least, it seems strange to build into the creation appearance of events that humans will observe thousands of years later, when the other appearances of age were pretty tightly time bound to the initial creation. I could understand supernova appearances in the very early years of human life, but still happening in 1987? This may be mature creations, but it doesn't seem coherently mature to me.

    Second, the percentage of events that where appearance of age is false. I mean, Adam and Eve had belly buttons without having been born at the end of an umbilical cord. But since then, all human births have left naturally explainable belly buttons. Trees may have been created with rings, but since then, all trees have created their own rings every year. But with supernovas, how many of the observed events have had an actual supernova as their source? I don't know this subject much at all, but my initial thought is that all of the supernova that humans have seen have been mere appearance. (On creationist models and assumptions, do you know the statistics here: How many actual supernovas have we observed from earth and how many mere appearances of supernovas have we seen?) If all or most have been appearances, but not actual supernovas, this seems deceptive to me.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Thanks for your comments.

      Let me note, first, that Adam’s navel was still there for at least 930 years, and the initial tree rings could have lasted much longer, although they would have been augmented with new rings.

      However, it is in the very nature of a large universe that, assuming the speed of light has remained constant since creation, all light from objects further away than, say, 6000 light years must have originated on Day 4. This applies in particular to supernovae, since most (if not all) observed supernovae are further than 6,000 light years away.

      In a coherently mature creation apparent histories from various objects give consistent results, when interpreted in terms of normal physical laws. The actual future states of the universe will be similar to the apparent past states. Newly created stars and galaxies will look as if they had actually formed. If future states include supernovae, so should past states. The apparent past existing within light rays at the end of Day 4 fits seamlessly into the actual history that unfolds thereafter, so that no astronomical break is observable.

      A rapidly matured creation differs only in that the light from supernovae, stars, galaxies, etc. actually came from supernovae, stars, and galaxies that actually formed. But this mostly took place on Day 4 when accelerated processes operated. The result, at the end of Day 4, could be similar to a coherently mature creation.


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