Scientific Signs of Old Age
Dictionary.com defines age as “the length of time during which a being or thing has existed; length of life or existence to the time spoken of or referred to”
As we ponder this idea of age, we should also be aware that age is itself a historical concept not a scientific one. For example, if we walk into a room and see a candle burning and want to know how long it has been burning, we can employ some scientific measurements on the candle itself to make some inferences, but a conclusive answer for how long the candle has been burning would require historical evidence. Let’s investigate this candle allegory a little further.
We could use science to measure the current length of the candle, the volume of melted wax, and the current burn rate. From those measurements a guess could be made as to how long the candle has been burning. But what other factors could influence the duration of the candle’s burn time?
- It might have been blown out and restarted several times
- The melted wax might have been cleaned up and discarded more than once
- It’s possible that when lighting another candle from this current one, extra melted wax could have been spilled into the discarded pile thus changing the volume of melted wax for the calculation of the burn duration of this candle
- The burn rate could have been different in the past based on several variables
- How long was the candle to begin with?
- Was the candle ever cut in segments for others to have small candles for another room?
- There are probably others which I have not thought of. Feel free to add your additional variables in the comments.
So, the length of time something has existed is clearly not ultimately a scientific one, but is resolutely a historical one. And as we read Dr. Ross’s chapter on the Scientific Signs of Old Age, we must keep in mind that the Bible is a historical account of God’s interaction with his creation and his people as (for his great glory) He works to bring redemption from the curse of sin.
Another good line of reasoning with which our candle allegory can assist is “time-limiting factors” or the maximum burn time of the candle
- The height of the ceiling (or other overhead boundary) would limit the burn time
- The diameter of the candle would limit the height of wax that the structural integrity of the candle could support
- The consistency/density of the wax would be relevant to the point above
- There are probably others which I have not thought of. Feel free to add your additional time limiting factors in the comments.
We’ll get back to the time limiting factors later
Here’s how Dr. Ross introduces his argument for the scientific signs of old age
The scientific indicators for the “old age” of creation are even more abundant and definitive than those for humans. Hundreds of reliable markers demonstrate that creation (except for the human species) is old.
Old age is an assumption based on inferences, but when we read about God’s historical revelations throughout the scriptures, and particularly Genesis, we must elevate what God has revealed as the foundation in order for scientific measurements to provide accuracy for the age of something. Historical interventions of the Creator cannot be measured with a yardstick or a barometer. We are reliant upon his revelations to know the true age. As an example since old age assumptions require extrapolations, extrapolations of erosion measurements will be blind to God’s judgment of wickedness through a worldwide flood. We’re reliant on historical accounts of the flood to produce a true knowledge of age. Having God’s revealed knowledge of the worldwide flood makes perfect sense of the observations we see today
The four most easily understood methods for age-dating the universe involve the expansion of the universe, cosmic background radiation temperatures, stellar burning processes, and the cosmic abundances of radioactive elements.
Expansion of the Universe
By carefully measuring how much the galaxies’ spectral lines shift toward the longer wavelength, or the red end of the spectrum, astronomers can deter mine how rapidly the space-time fabric of the universe stretches, or expands, from the creation event. They see that the farther away a given galaxy is, the faster it moves away from us. These observations tell us the universe is expanding outward from a beginning in space and time.
To be fair, I am not an astrophysicist, so my critique of this section will be as a layman. But here are a few questions I would have of Dr. Ross regarding expansion
- If the assumption is that the most distant galaxies would be the youngest because it has taken the light emitted from those galaxies to most time to get here, at the most distant edge of the universe (presumably viewed as they were near the beginning of time), why are those galaxies mature?
- Regarding your quote on pg 147 “the universe has continuously expanded for billions of years” Prior to the evolutionary emergence (old earth view) of the Earth/sun and the measurement of 1 year being calibrated by a single revolution of the Earth around the sun as a year, how do you calibrate a year? How can you claim there were billions of these uncalibrated time units?
- Since you claim that supernova remnant expansion measurements are a key confirmation of this old age assertion, why are there so few supernova remnants (SNRs)? According to old earth predictions, there should be many more SNRs. According to the young earth predictions, there are the right number of SNRs in the Milky Way.
Cosmic Background Radiation Temperatures
Astronomers can calculate how long the universe has been expanding by measuring the degree to which radiation from the creation event (called the cosmic microwave background radiation, or CMB) has cooled down…The fact that the CMB is now so cold implies that the universe must have been cooling down for billions of years.
- If the starting assumption for the initial temperature of the beginning were FAR lower than current assumptions, the universe would be FAR younger than currently assumed
- Even with the current assumptions, there has not been enough time (13,800,000,000 years) for the temperature to equalize. expectations were for the big bang to cast a shadow
- The expectations were for the big bang to cast a shadow, but the CMB shows that it’s missing
- The CMB creates contradictions for old earthism
- Data from the CMB supports the biblical creationist models far better than old earth models
Because stars are such simple systems, if astronomers know the mass of a star, they can determine its age with high precision based on measurements of the star’s color and brightness.
Remember the candle allegory as you read Ross’s words “they can determine its age”. He is using extrapolation and a number of assumptions to make this strong claim. Besides extrapolation, how could Ross calibrate this? No one has ever observed 1000 years or 100,000 years or 1,000,000 years let alone 1,000,000,000s of years.
Some young-earth creationist leaders argue that God must have created all stars in a mature state. This concept manifests two problems. First, it insinuates that God created stars already partly burnt with all the ashes and decay characteristics of stars hundreds of millions of years old. God would this be deceiving us into thinking the universe is old when in fact it is young
Since God created Adam mature with the signs of age like height, ability to talk, ability to digest solid food, and the ability to reason (among others), was God deceptive?
Since Jesus turned water into wine instantaneously, with no aging, was Jesus being deceptive?
In the same way, Ross assumes incorrectly that God could not create stars at various stages of development so that his glory would be greater
Abundances of Radioactive Isotopes
Radioactive dating has many assumptions, which cannot truly provide definitive ages. Dr. Ross says that because supernova produce a fixed amount of radioactive isotopes that scientists can extrapolate the ratios and determine the age of the universe. There seems to be even MORE assumptions in this claim: like how does he know the fixed amount radioactive isotopes produced in each supernova? Since there are so many missing supernova remnants (based on old earth assumptions) how can he then measure the fixed amount of existing radioactive isotopes.
It’s possible (even likely) that I do not fully understand his arguments here, but there seems to be an awful lot of unjustified speculation for him to claim that the abundance of radioactive isotopes is one of the strongest evidences for old earthism.
Throughout this chapter, Dr. Ross makes the claim that the universe is precisely 13.79 ± 0.06 billion years old. In 2019 new measurements reduced the age of the universe almost 1,250,000,000 years. So, the error bars were crushed by several orders of magnitude. Don’t miss the extreme inaccuracy of Ross’s claims: Suddenly, over a billion years went missing from the age of the universe and this is almost TWENTY-ONE times the size of his error bars!!!
Dr. Ross finishes the chapter thusly
In 1991 the best available measurements produced a date of 16 ± 3 billion years.
Since the best measurements available in 2019 have the universe at 12.5 billion years, we can make an extrapolation of the time when science will catch up to the Bible.
[Sarcasm font/] Approximately every 38 years, the modern academic paradigm (MAP) declares the universe to have lost about 3.5 billion years, so we can safely say that within 150 years the MAP will confirm what God has said all along in his word: In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth. [/sarcasm font]
Now, I want to go back to the time limiting factors that I mentioned at the beginning with the candle analogy. Are there limiters to how old the earth and universe can be?
- Recession of the moon from the earth – distance of the earth to the moon
- Cooling of the planets & moons
- Magnetic field of planets & moons – decay of magnetic fields
- Brightness/heat of the sun – faint young sun paradox
As biblical creationists, we can praise God for the consistent nature of his revelation. We do not have to redefine the words in the Bible to accommodate modern academic paradigms or cultural changes in sexuality or political revolutions as we have seen Dr. Ross do. God’s Word is eternal and we can trust God to keep his word regarding the future since we can trust his revelation from the past.