Physical Evidence of Age
Option: Return to the menu
Option: Return to the message
The Age of Light from Stars
According to the Genesis record of creation, on the first day, God said “Let there be light.” The most obvious interpretation of that statement is that on the first day, God created the universe, and that is a common belief between most young earth creationists and most day age creationists. After that, the interpretations differ greatly. It is not a surprise to hear that a young earth creationist is skeptical about the physical evidence of the age of the universe because most of the evidence about the age of the universe is presented in a form that seems to assume that the reader already believes that the universe is very old and/or it assumes that the reader has a college education in physics and/or it leaves gaping holes in the reasoning that supports the conclusion that the universe is very old.
However, the purpose of the message about sight of the Lord creation is to enable the young earth creationist to accept that there is no breach of truth when accepting that the Genesis record of creation may be interpreted to mean that the universe is very old, and it is important to express that belief so that the listening non-believer can accept the remaining parts of the word of God, and all of that message is fruitless, if the young earth creationist is not convinced that there is any physical evidence that the universe is very old.
To overcome that problem this part of the message provides an investigation of the physical evidence of the age of the universe. It will assume that the reader believes in God, and it will not assume that the reader already believes that the universe is very old, and it will not assume that the reader has a college education in physics, and it will attempt to put the pieces together well enough to make a whole picture.
To begin the investigation, consider the question “How can we know how old is the universe?” The answer to the question is that it is at least as old as the stars because it includes the stars. It is possible for the universe to be older than the stars, but the pursuit of that topic would have no benefit for the subject of this investigation.
That leads to the next question which is “How can we know how old are the stars?” The answer to the question is that they are at least as old as the light that they produced because they cannot produce light before they exist. It is possible for God to create light without a star, but it would be a deception for Him to present a detailed image that provides detailed evidence of something that never happened, and doing so would be presenting evidence that contradicts His own word, and the details of the image would not be necessary to support the creation of earth or life on earth. There should be no need to present proof to the believers that God would not deceive us, and a nonbeliever has no reason to consider such a possibility.
That leads to the next question which is “How can we know how old is the light that comes from a star?” The first part of the answer to that question is relatively simple. The speed of light is well known very accurately, and there is no reason to doubt it because it can be measured on earth, and it is an essential peace of information which is needed for designing electronic communications equipment such as that which supports cell phones and Wi-Fi and satellite TV. Based on that information, we can calculate the age of the light that comes from a star by using the following equation.
age of the light = distance to star ÷ speed of light
Therefore, if the star is very far away, then the light has been traveling for a very long time before it reached the earth, and it was produced by a star that existed a very long time ago. That leads to the next question which is “How can we know the distance to a star?”
To understand the answer to that question, it is necessary to begin by defining two sets of words which are necessary to express the following equation. The intensity of an astronomical light source is the power per area that reaches the earth from the light source, and in the equation that follow, its short name is “intensity of star light”. In other words, the intensity of star light is the answer to the question “How bright (in units of power per area) is the light from that star?” The luminosity of an astronomical light source is the total power that it radiates in all directions, and in the equation that follow, its short name is “luminosity of star”. If two stars have the same luminosity and different distance from the earth, then the one that is closer has a greater intensity of light.
In this investigation, those two values are input to an equation which is called the “luminosity distance equation”, and more information can be found about this subject by searching the internet for “luminosity distance equation”. It is presented in many forms which may require starting with some other equation and solving for distance to get the following equation. This is the luminosity distance equation. It is the answer to the question that asks “How can we know the distance to a star?”
It is not difficult to test and verify the luminosity distance equation by measuring the distance, intensity and luminosity of a light which radiates light in a dark space on earth. The test requires a light sensor that can measure the intensity of the light just like what is done for the stars, and it requires a simple measurement of the distance from the sensor to the light source on earth, and the luminosity is the amount of electrical power consumed by the light source times the efficiency of the light source. The same equation works with stars as well as lights on earth.
The intensity of the star light is measured directly by a light sensor on a telescope. However, that leads to the next question which is “How can we know the luminosity of a distant star?” The answer to the question is that the luminosity of a star can be determined by its color.
So far, this message has explained the following.
1) The age of the universe is the age of its light.
2) The age of the light is the distance that it traveled divided by the speed of light.
3) The speed of light is known.
4) The distance that the light has traveled can be determined by the luminosity distance equation which depends on the intensity of light from the star and the luminosity of the star.
5) The intensity of the light from the star is measured directly by a light sensor on a telescope.
6) The luminosity of the star can be determined by the color of its light.
At this point, it is possible to declare a complete explanation for how we can know the age of the universe, and skip ahead to the subject of fossil fuels. Otherwise, if the reader wishes to know “how can we tell the luminosity of a star based on the color of its light,” then this message will answer that question, but this one goes deeper into the laws of physics.
To answer that question, it is necessary to travel a path of understanding cause and effect that begins at the size of an astronomical object (a star or planet or other object in outer space), and it ends at the color of light that the astronomical object radiates. The path explores what happens if an astronomical object is much smaller than the sun. The path starts here.
If an astronomical object is much smaller than the sun, then for that reason and because a smaller size has less mass, it has much less mass than the sun. For that reason and because less mass has less gravity, it has much less gravity than the sun. For that reason and because less gravity causes less gravitational compression, it has much less gravitational compression than the sun. Gravitational compression is a phenomenon in which gravity, acting on the mass of an object, compresses it.
For that reason and because stars require gravitational compression to enable nuclear fusion, the astronomical object that is much smaller than the sun has much less nuclear fusion than the sun or no nuclear fusion at all. Note that nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors use nuclear fission which does not require compression, but nuclear fusion in stars requires compression. For that reason (before the note about nuclear weapons) and because the power of a star is caused by nuclear fusion, it produces much less power than the sun.
Stars radiate light for the same reason that old fashion incandescent lights radiate light, but not LEDs or florescent lights. Incandescent lights convert electrical power into heat, and stars convert nuclear power into heat. Both convert power into heat. In both cases, the heat escapes from the heat source by transforming into light which radiates from the surface of the heat source which is also the surface of the light source. The luminosity of the light source equals the power of the heat source.
In both cases, the color of the light depends on the surface temperature in such a way that lower surface temperatures radiate reddish light or no visible light, although they do radiate infrared light. Measuring the relationships between the amount of power and the surface area and the surface temperature and the color of light that it radiates is no more difficult than measuring the detailed characteristics of an old fashion incandescent light. Furthermore, both incandescent lights and stars conform to the Stefan-Boltzmann law as follows.
power = (surface area) x e x s x (surface temperature)4
luminosity = power
In this equation, e is the emissivity of the surface, which is nearly equal to 1 on the stars, and it is never more than 1, and it is between 1 and 0.5 for most unpolished surfaces, and s is the Stefan-Boltzmann constant which has one constant value for all sorts of surfaces, and the surface temperature is measured in degrees kelvin. More information about this subject is available by searching the internet for Stefan-Boltzmann law. In the case of a star or other astronomical object, this power is the total power that it radiates in all directions, which was previously defined as its luminosity.
Note that in this equation, if the surface area changes, and if the power changes by the same factor as that of the surface area, then the surface temperature does not change. So, if an astronomical object has only 1% as much surface area as the sun, and if it has only 1% as much power as the sun, then its surface temperature is the same as the sun, but if it has much less than 1% as much power as the sun, then its surface temperature is much less than the sun. The remaining question is how do real astronomical objects fill in the numbers in this equation.
A star that is much smaller than the sun is called a red dwarf, and it radiates little or no light that is visible to the human eye, but it radiates infrared light which is visible to manmade sensors like those that can view the weather on earth from satellites in outer space. If the material that could make a star is collected into an astronomical object that is smaller than a red dwarf, then it is not a star or a red dwarf because it has little or no nuclear fusion at all.
For example, the planet Jupiter is not a star or a red dwarf because it is too small to be a star or a red dwarf. Its mass is about 0.1% as much as the sun, and its surface area is about 1% as much as the sun, and its diameter is about 10% as much as the sun, and its diameter is about 10 times as much as the earth, and its power is much less than 1% as much as the sun because it is not a star or a red dwarf because it has little or no nuclear fusion at all because it does not have enough gravitational compression to enable nuclear fusion because it does not have enough gravity because it does not have enough mass.
According to the Stefan-Boltzmann law, Jupiter has a surface temperature that is much lower than the sun because its surface area is about 1% as much as the sun, and its power is much less than 1% as much as the sun. For that reason, the color of its light is not near to that of the sun. That information is verified by many sorts of observation of the planet Jupiter. A deeper study of this subject would show that even for a star that has half as much power (luminosity) as the sun, it is not too difficult to tell that it has less power (luminosity) than the sun just by measuring the color of the light from that star.
Jupiter is an extreme example of the trend that is exhibited by stars and other astronomical objects, such that smaller stars have less surface area and less power and less luminosity, but the power and luminosity drops off more quickly than the surface area because the power of nuclear fusion drops off more quickly than the surface area. Inserting that trend into the Stefan-Boltzmann law shows that the stars with less power and luminosity have a lower surface temperature, and that affects the color of the light with the same trend that is measured on old fashion incandescent lights, and that is verified by observation of Jupiter.
That is the answer to the question “How can we tell the luminosity of a star based on the color of its light?”
Fossil Fuels are Evidence of God’s Work
Even if there is physical evidence that the distant stars are very old, that does not prove that the earth is very old. So this investigation will explore physical evidence that the earth is very old. It will assume that the reader believes in God, and it will not assume that the reader already believes that the earth is very old, and it will not assume that the reader has a college education in physics or biochemistry, and it will not involve the subject of evolution, but it will assume that the reader understands two senior high school parts of biochemistry which are that plants convert light and carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and hydrocarbons and that fossil fuels are primarily composed of hydrocarbons.
The creation record tells us that on the third day, God created the vegetation, but He did not create the living creatures until the fifth day. Those two facts plus basic biochemistry enables us to understand that on the third and fourth day, vegetation converted light, water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and hydrocarbon, and the oxygen was necessary to support the living creatures on the fifth day and on the days that followed.
Vegetation cannot produce oxygen without also producing hydrocarbon. So on the third and fourth day, while producing oxygen, which would eventually support living creatures, the vegetation also produced hydrocarbon, which was not consumed by living creatures, which had not yet been created. Even if living creatures did exist at that time, they apparently did not consume all of the hydrocarbon. The fossil fuels are the decomposed residue of hydrocarbon, which was produced by the vegetation. So the oxygen and fossil fuels are evidence of the process which took place during the third and fourth day of creation.
If the Bible had been written by primitive men without any instruction from God, then they would not have known that vegetation must come before living creatures, and they would not have known about the fossil fuels. However, the Bible was written by men who were inspired by God who instructed them to write things that they did not understand.
At the time of this investigation, a recent controversy has come to the attention of the general public. The controversy is about global warming. Men are arguing about what is causing global warming and what to do about it. However, there is no debate about the fact that the level of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is increasing or the fact that the carbon dioxide has come from the process of burning fuel which is made from fossil fuel for the purpose of producing energy. This controversy serves to call our attention to the record of His work. Every time we drive or ride down the road, we are depending on the evidence of age to turn the wheels of our automobiles.
If we can accept that each day of creation was hundreds of millions of years, then the fossil fuels are evidence that the word of God is true. However, if we require that the whole process must have occurred in just two days of man (48 hours), then this reasoning falls apart. The problem is that the vegetation must work very hard to fill the air with oxygen. It would take many years for the vegetation to fill the air with oxygen all over the whole earth. The vegetation needs energy from the light in order to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. So, to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen at a much higher speed would require a much more powerful source of light, but that much more powerful light would also produce a much higher temperature, which would kill the vegetation. This is not related to the subject of evolution. This is basic biochemistry.
Certainly, God had the power to quickly create enough oxygen to fill the air all over the whole earth without any help from the vegetation. However, if He had done that, then He would not have needed to create fossil fuels while creating oxygen because He does not need to work in the same way as vegetation, and the fossil fuels are not necessary to support life on earth. In that case, fossil fuels would be fake evidence of the age of the earth.
This is a good example of what is wrong with the argument that God created the earth with evidence of age supposedly because it was necessary to support life on earth. The problem is that much of the evidence is not necessary to support life on earth. So if God had done that, then He would have created fake evidence of age. Did God present to us evidence of the age of the earth that appears to contradict His word so that He could test our faith, or did God present to us good evidence of His true eternal power so that we would have good reason to believe His word? This message favors the second choice, which is why it began with a quotation of Romans 1:20, but the reader is free to make the choice.
Physical Evidence of Live Origin
The preceding investigation explains the physical evidence of the age of the stars and the earth without any dependence upon the physical evidence of life origin. If the physical evidence of the stars and the fossil fuel is enough to confirm that the earth is old, then what follows should help to explain the physical evidence of life origin. Otherwise, it cannot affect an understanding about the age of the earth or the origin of life.
If we accept that the earth is young, then we must accept that God created all of the living plants and animals individually, without lineage from one type to another. In fact, we must accept that He made thousands of types of plants and animals without lineage from one type to another. That is the most logical choice for understanding the Genesis record of creation because the record says that God created them according to their own kind, and we see thousands of types of plants and animals that each reproduce their own kind, and the only exception to the rule was when God created them in the first place, and the record says that is what He did.
On the other hand, if we accept that the earth is old, then we may consider other possibilities, as long as they do not contradict the word of God. The Genesis record of creation does not actually say that God created thousands of types of living plants and animals individually without lineage from one type to another. It only lists three groups which He created on the third, fifth and sixth day. Each group is described by a short list of types, and the description of the group would be lacking clarity if it did not list more than one type. The description of a group by a short list of types does not necessarily mean that He created each type individually without lineage from one type to another, and it does not even come close to specifying that He individually created thousands of types more than what appears on the short list.
Each type of plant and animal reproduces its own kind, but God made an exception to the rule when He created them in the first place. If the earth is young, then it appears that He did just that for each and every type of thousands of types that are now present, but if the earth is old, then God could have made an exception to the rule in more than one way. After He created them, He could have directed the lineage to move gradually in various directions to make many types, but some believe that such an action would be contrary to His word.
When reporting the history of what happened over several days or several years, we typically describe the events by giving progress reports of what happened on each day or over the years, and the progress report does not necessarily mean that each event happened one at a time without any overlap in time. When looking at the Genesis record of creation, that sort of interpretation would be contrary to the most logical choice of interpretation, if the earth is young. However, if the earth is old, then looking at the record as though it were a progress report is not contrary to the word of God, and it is not even a discount to the meaning of the word of God.
Now that God has enabled us to see the record of His creation with better clarity, we can see that the earth is old, and we also see fossil records of lineage from one type of living thing to another. The critical nonbelievers have ceased the opportunity of the discovery to claim that they have proof that the word of God is really just an old book written by ignorant men. That claim is so aggravating to the believers of God’s word, that they are strongly motivated to argue against that claim and the evidence that it requires. The problem is also aggravated by the fact that our ancestors did not know the age of the earth, and so they assumed that it is young, and so they taught us an interpretation that makes sense, if the earth is young, and men usually hold on to the teaching of their ancestors about the word of God as though the words of their ancestors were the word of God.
The critical nonbelievers have ceased the opportunity of the discovery to throw a stumbling block in our path to understanding the word of God, and the aggravation lures us into the stumbling block. However, if we can consider deviating from the words of our ancestors, then we can just walk around the stumbling block, and that path is not contrary to the word of God, and it is not even a discount to the meaning of the word of God, but the critical nonbelievers love to see us stumble.
There is a limited extent of fossil evidence of gradual change between similar types of life. It is possible to show that the amount of fossil evidence of gradual change is not enough to support the conclusion that all life as descended from one or two types without any gaps in the lineage. By pointing out the presents of those gaps in the fossil evidence, a believer of the word of God can defend the word of God against an attack from a critical nonbeliever.
However, attacking the physical evidence of life origin requires reference to some scientific source of information and theory which is automatically lacking credibility because few of those who listen have ever heard about it, and they will not investigate it to see if it is true. Another problem with attacking the physical evidence of life origin is that the discoveries are still going on. Therefore, a detailed specification of what sort of evidence is missing would be vulnerable to being proven wrong or needing revision at some time in the future, even if that detailed specification comes from a currently credible scientific source.
Attacking the physical evidence of life origin is not an effective defense against the critical nonbelievers, because they do not confront the believers with a frontal attack. They just throw down a stumbling block in our path and lure us into it. On the other hand, if the Genesis record of creation regarding life origin is only a progress report of what happened on each day, then we may simply walk around the stumbling block and move on to the more important subjects. If the earth is old, then this is not contrary to the word of God, and it is not even a discount to the meaning of the word of God.
For information about the other issues of the creation controversy, the message.
Grace and peace to you in the search for truth
From your brother in Christ, Ralph Griffin, October 26, 2019