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.

Conclusions
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. 
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12 comments:

  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.

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    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.

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    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.

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  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?

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    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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  3. Dr. Byl:
    It has taken a fairly extended piece of research to not only list these basic theories, but to explain them in such a way that ordinary people, such as I, can understand the gist of them. Thank you for that effort. It is much appreciated.

    Did you know, sir, that the soundboard of my guitar is made from the top part of a Sitca Spruce tree, cut from high up in the Rockies, in the dead of winter? Why? Because of the grain, which includes the actual rings of the tree.

    As we know, musical instruments were being made already while Adam was still alive: at least the lyre and the pipe. Would that have been possible if there had not been tree rings?

    As a woodworker, I have had to learn the characteristics of the various woods used in cabinets and furniture. I just cannot image what characteristics I would have had to know if there had been no tree rings. It isn't just the distinctive beauty of a type of wood, but also the very functional joinery required to make something.

    At the same time, I just can't imagine that Adam's grandchildren made musical instruments but not cabinets and furniture; it doesn't make sense.

    There's a lot more to tree rings than telling the age of trees. To reduce the character of trees to shallow philosophical discussions is ridiculous, it seems to me.

    What if I knew as much about the stars as I do about wood? Would the criticisms of a six-day creation make me cringe just as much? Very likely!

    JohnV

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  4. Dr. Byl:
    Just to finish the point I was making:

    God could indeed create a tree with rings, if they serve a purpose that serves man. We know that God viewed the final result of the creation and saw that it was "very good".

    If Adam's great grandchildren were skilled at playing the lyre and the pipes, then surely Adam's grandchildren, if not his children, if not Adam himself, would have invented these instruments. This can't be done unless there was grain in the wood. If Adam's grandchild could fashion musical instruments from wood, wouldn't their father have been able to make functional furniture from wood? The grain in wood is not the same as the rings from the tree of the wood, but they are inseparable characteristics of wood.

    The example of the soundboard of my guitar illustrates that there is a very, very useful purpose to tree rings. Being able to guess the age of a tree from the number of rings is a residual effect, not a necessity or an intended useful purpose. To second guess the Bible's creation account on the basis of tree rings assumes far too much.

    Could the same be said of a supernova? I do not know whether a supernova serves an upholding purpose, but I'm also pretty sure that the most learned astronomer also does not know either.

    JohnV

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    1. Hi John

      Thanks for your comments. You make an interesting point. Of course, Jonathan Sarfati could reply that, although tree rings might have useful cultural functions, they are not necessary for a mature tree to function. He might also note that musical instruments were not invented until hundreds of years later, when trees would have had hundreds of rings from natural growth since creation.

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    2. Dr. Byl:
      I'm neither a philosopher nor a scientist; I am a woodworker by trade. It seems to me that a suggestion of a tree without rings demonstrates a lack of the knowledge of the characteristics of wood. I cannot imagine wood without either grain or ring lines. Is it wood anymore? And if not wood, does it come from a tree? But more to the point, whether you can call it wood, whether or not it comes from a tree, is it at all useful?

      If I see a wake lapping up on the shore then I happen to know that a boat has passed by on the river. But the primary reason for the wake is not to tell me that a boat passed by. If I see a wake and it has not been caused by a passing boat, because I neither saw nor heard a boat pass by, then the wake is not telling me a "false history"; its my assumptions that are in error.

      I highly question theories that do not question their own assumptions before they pass judgment as to "false" or "true". There are many assumptions being made in asserting that a mature tree created yesterday and having many rings is telling us a "false history." The fact that we can make an approximation of the age of a tree by its rings is a residual effect, not a primary purpose.

      The term "false history", as used in the case of these critiques of the Biblical account of creation, is a pejorative term. Used within a minor premise, it already has the conclusion in it: the adjective "false" already presumes deception.

      There's a website called Creation Astronomy which has an article about using distant starlight to challenge Biblical creation. The author lists 7 assumptions that are involved in this challenge, questioning whether they have grounds or not.

      JohnV

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  5. My 2¢

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-wild-west.html

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  6. I wonder why the theories and analysis have not being applied to Jesus's turning water into wine. The "false appearance", the time aspect, and how on earth did the grape get in there? Jesus by His power turned water to wine also created the world out of nothing just like that. For the academic, it's not stimulating, but that's what we are told.

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  7. As I think more about this my mind seems to be turning on the question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

    The whole idea of "age" is irrelevant on the day a thing was created. Whatever it is, whether a full grown treee, an adult man, or a star appearing in the sky, it is what it is created to be, and age does not mean anything yet. That comes later.

    A "full grown tree" is a tree: there is no "full grown" about it yet. An adult man is a man: there is no distinction between adult and child yet. The light from a distant star is a star: there is no age yet for light to have travelled or not travelled: its just there.

    How could an adult male appear to be thirty or so years old if "thirty years" doesn't mean anything yet? It only means something after he has lived a while. It would take a child thirty years to look the same age as the man did at the day of creation. But the child did not come first. This comparison of age, the assumption of a thirty-year-old adult, is a subsequent observation, not one that can be made at the time of the creation.

    If the man came first, then an apparent age speaks of a future framework of measuring age, not a present one at the time of creation. The same applies to trees and starlight. This whole series of questions as to "apparent age" or "false history" is circular, begging the question rather than answering a question. Which came first?

    That is, not only is "false history" a pejorative term, but so is "apparent age": it represents an assumption forced upon the logic, assuming a process which does not exist yet, which still has to happen.

    What about a supernova? I'd rather say, "I don't know" than to offer speculation based on what little knowledge of such things than what man has. I'm certainly not going to believe God's account of the creation because of a satisfactory theory about "apparent age": I believe it because it is God's Word, and not man's.

    Just a few added thoughts,
    JohnV

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