The Achilles' Heel of Creationism

By James Dwight Hartsell, last tweaked Feb. 3, 2013 (Age of universe).
Back to Home Page

Even though creationists by nature are not likely to read it, I decided to put up this web page (1) because of Christian fundamentalists wanting to put their version of "creation" in public school science textbooks; (2) for the cruel injustice of homeschooling children to prevent them from learning mainstream science; (3) for the ultimate in-your-face flip-off by the Republicans putting a young-Earth creationist (Rep. Paul Braun) on the congressional science advisory committee; and (4) for the sheer hypocrisy of fundamentalist "Tea Party" politicians rejecting science and claiming to be Christian (abandon the disadvantaged & protect the wealthy) and trying to force their religion into American law.

Even though I grew up in a Christian fundamentalist household, I was allowed to take all the math and science classes offered in high school, earned a 4-year college degree in physics-math, and have been a lifetime student of relativity, astrophysics, cosmology, and particle physics.

Creationists do not believe in evolution. Most believe the universe is a little over 6,000 years old, that it was created the night before Oct. 23, 4004 BC, according to Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656). They believe the universe was created as we see it now. They do not believe the universe is expanding, because then you could calculate back to a tiny beginning - a Big Bang. They believe that light from the most distant galaxy took less than 6,000 years to reach Earth.

Mainstream science says that the universe is expanding. An analogy is to picture dots on a balloon as galaxies. As you inflate the balloon, the galaxies move farther apart. No matter which galaxy you are in, the other galaxies move away from you. The farther the galaxy, the faster it moves away. Mainstream science says that distant galaxies are moving away extremely fast due to the rapid expansion of the universe. In the spectrum of light from distant galaxies, the frequency is stretched (lowered) toward red. You may have witnessed this effect in the change of pitch from a train whistle, a siren, or horn coming toward you and then going past. The pitch rises, then drops. This is called the Doppler shift. The sound wave is compressed as the source comes toward you, and stretched as the source moves past. Light operates the same way. A yellow ball moving toward you at 3,200 miles/sec will appear greenish as it approaches, and will appear orange as it passes.

The more the frequency of light is stretched (the more the frequency is shifted, or lowered, toward red), the faster the galaxy is receding, and the farther away it is. Recent infrared photographs by the Hubble telescope show that light from galaxies 13 billion light-years away is redshifted beyond visible light and into the infrared! Galaxies farther than this would be optically invisible.

Redshift alone does not tell the distance to galaxies (number of light-years). Recession velocity is calculated from the redshift. We have Hubble's Law which is an equation that relates recession velocity to distance, thus showing distant galaxies are billions of light-years away.

Creationists do not believe the universe is expanding. So far, I have found they have four different explanations for the redshift (they admit there IS a redshift).

  • Light is slowed by dust and gas.
  • Light ages over a period of time and slows down.
  • The speed of light used to be faster and is slowing down.
  • Light is slowed by passing through a galaxy.
I have not found any creationist explanation for blue shift for a galaxy that is moving toward us, like our neighboring Andromeda galaxy. This is an exception to the expanding balloon analogy. Some galaxies are affected by the gravity of other galaxies or galaxy clusters.

In all creationist explanations that I have found for redshift in light from receding galaxies, all have to do with the SPEED OF LIGHT SLOWING DOWN. Redshift is caused by the FREQUENCY of light being STRETCHED (lowered toward red). The speed of light has nothing to do with frequency of light. Radio waves move at the speed of light, and have a whole range of much lower frequencies. A slowing of the speed of light does not explain redshift. Even if the speed of light used to be faster, it still wouldn't explain redshift. For massive galaxies slowing down light passing through them and causing a red shift, I say if you're trying to measure redshift of a galaxy that's behind another one (!), pick a different galaxy! For light losing speed by going through dust and gas, I say the light is only dimmed, not slowed down.


For a given redshift in the spectrum of light from a receding galaxy, we can calculate the recession velocity that would cause that redshift. In creationism, where redshift is caused by a slowing of the speed of light, you cannot calculate what speed of light would produce a given redshift.

A constant speed of light throughout the universe is a fundamental postulate of Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. It is a central tenant. Would not a variable speed of light invalidate Einstein's Relativity? Would not it invalidate E=MC2, making mass and energy variable? Would not that change the structure of matter?

On light slowing down as it passes through water, glass, etc., there is in Astronomy Magazine, May 2009, in an article "Light Fantastic" by Bob Berman: "In moving through a medium, photons don't truly slow down. Rather, each hits an atom, gets absorbed and re-emitted, and a new photon continues on. The process takes a tiny bit of time, hence the delay. The light we see through windows are different photons from the ones that first struck the glass."

And yes, I know about Barry Setterfield and his "The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time". He claims the reason stars seem to be more than 6,000 light-years away is that in the beginning, light traveled 10 million times faster than now, and has been slowing down. See "Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?" by Frank Steiger, at Steiger said "Setterfield's hypothesis was so lacking in plausibility that even the Institute for Creation Research rejected it".

Take a look at "Speed of Light Not Slowing, NASA Study Says" at It says "The speed of light, one of the constants scientists rely on to study the universe, appears to have held its ground under some tight NASA scrutiny despite other theories that it may slow as it moves through space. By comparing gamma ray observations of two nearby galaxies, a NASA researcher found evidence that the speed of light is still traveling as fast as it ever was. The finding reinforces the relevance of Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity, which depends on a constant speed of light as the maximum speed attainable by any object. ..."

I spent a week reading "Resources for Scientists" articles on the Institute for Creation Research website, at, especially "The Current State of Creation Astronomy" by Danny Faulkner (Ph.D. Astronomy) at
It gave me more insight on How Creationists Think:
Mainstream astrophysicists begin with a question or observation, then look for a solution via mathematics, observation, and measurement. Creationists begin with the solution (young Earth, young universe), then define the evidence, usually by discrediting mainstream science.

In the article mentioned above by Danny Faulkner, he himself admits that "... probably the single biggest problem that recent creationists face today is the light travel time. If the universe is billions of light years in size, then how did the light from most objects get here in a few thousand years? One answer is that light travels in a non-Euclidean geometry ... few take it seriously any more." He also said "The speed of light is not a constant that can be arbitrarily changed. It depends on some fundamental constants that have an effect of the structure of matter. If the speed of light is changed much, the structure of matter will be dramatically changed". Then another big one, he said "We must go beyond arguing what is wrong with evolutionary models".

NOTE: For those of you who know about cosmological/relativistic redshift vs. doppler redshift, I didn't feel a need to get into that for the purposes of this document, especially since the creationist universe is not expanding. Also, blue shift from the Andromeda galaxy does not involve expansion of the universe. BUT, in case your version of creationism DOES include an expanding universe (?), see the July 2010 Scientific American magazine article "Is the Universe Leaking Energy?" - "The amount of [cosmological] redshift seen in the galaxy turns out to be identical to the Doppler shift the observer would see in a car that is receding at the same relative velocity".

The Age Of The Universe

The age of the universe has been measured and re-measured many times by several different methods over many years. All the measurements are within the accepted range. The universe has to be older than the age of the objects within it. See the March 2013 issue of Astronomy magazine, "How astronomers know the universe's age", by Liz Kruesi. Note that the age of the solar system is at least 4.567 billion years old, found by measuring the decay of isotope potassium-40 in meteorites.
  • The age of the oldest stars: 13.2 billion years old, by measuring the decay of isotopes thorium-232 and uranium-238.
  • The age of globular clusters: 11-14 billion years old, by measuring the mass of the most massive star.
  • The rate of expansion of the universe: 13 billion years old, by measuring the expansion rate of the universe (the Hubble constant), then extrapolating back in time.
  • The Cosmic Background Radiation (CMB), the most accurate tool: 13.77 billion years old, by measuring the wavelength of the CMB.

In creationism, there is no way to measure the age of the universe, so the only recourse is to debunk measurements that scientists have made. You could call this another Achille's Heel of creationism.

The Expanding Universe

Creationists do not believe the universe is expanding. If it is expanding, then you can calculate backwards to a tiny beginning. The Creationist universe was created as we see it now.

There is no doubt there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. In creationism, light from the farthest galaxy can take no longer than 6,000 years to reach us. Therefore the farthest galaxy is 6,000 light-years away. If you were to compress hundreds of billions of galaxies into a universe with a radius of 6,000 light-years, the night sky would be awash with light. Note that science says that the nearest galaxy, Andromeda, is 2.2 million light-years away. That means it takes 2.2 million years for the light to get here.

I have calculated that 300 billion galaxies within 6,000 light-years means that galaxies would average 3 light-years apart, center to center. Science says that the distance between galaxies is about 30 times the average size of galaxies. Therefore in a creationist universe, galaxies would average around one-tenth light-year in diameter. Science says the diameter of our Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light-years, a million times larger than a creationist galaxy. At this scale, in a creationist galaxy, stars would be a million times smaller. The Sun would be 4,567 feet in diameter (less than a mile).

Mainstream science concerning the expanding universe:
FACT 1: There was Eintein's "discovery" in his equations that said the universe was expanding. Since at the time it was not known that the universe was expanding, he added his cosmological constant to make expansion go away.
FACT 2: About 10 years later, Edwin Hubble, by noticing a red shift in light from distant galaxies, discoverd the universe WAS expanding, which said Einstein was right in the first place. Einstein called it his greatest blunder, which means he believed the redshift discovery.
FACT 3: Peter Higgs proposed what is now called a Higgs field, sort of like a magnetic field and gravitational field. It's purpose was to explain why matter has mass.
FACT 4: Theoretical physicist Alan Guth came up with his Inflation Theory, and provided the mathematics that the Big Bang was caused by a decay of a Higgs field. Inflation Theory includes negative (repulsive) gravity, which explains expansion of the universe.
FACT 5: Many now think Einstein's cosmological constant represents the dark energy (repulsive gravity) that is causing expansion of the universe.
FACT 6: On July 4, 2012, physicists were finally able to announce proof that the Higgs particle (and thus the Higgs field) exists.

This is the kind of science I believe in - discover something indirectly through mathematics or directly by mathematical proof, imply or make a testable prediction, then prove the implication or prediction. You cannot do this with creationism. All you can do is make verbal contraditions, like "how could the explosion of the Big Bang cause order?". This is very impressive to the under-informed. Mainstream science says it was an expansion, not an explosion. Huge difference.

One tactic Creationists use to ridicule mainstream science is by claiming "circular reasoning". They claim we say "the universe is expanding because of redshift, and redshift is caused because the universe is expanding". Mainstream science does not think this way.

Read this:
"Zero field is the natural state in the absence of charged particles. The Standard Model requires (mathematically) that for a Higgs field, the lowest energy occurs when it has a specific non-zero value." I thoroughly understand and appreciate what this means regarding the probable origin of the universe. If you don't, you are not qualified to denounce the universe happening by chance.

For the Higgs field to exist, there must be a Higgs boson (particle). This was observed in 2012 at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland. The LHC is the largest scientific instrument ever built, an underground particle accelerator ring five miles in diameter. Finding the Higgs particle proves that the mathematically predicted Higgs field exists. It confirms where mass comes from, and that the Higgs field does indeed permeate all of space. It supports Guth's Inflation Theory on the origin of the Big Bang, which explains why the expansion of the universe is accelerating (dark energy), why the universe is precisely flat (all matter plus all gravity equals zero), and why the cosmic background radiation (the small amount of heat left over from the Big Bang) is so uniform. It deals a severe blow to creationism. For more information, see my web page The Higgs Boson Explained. That the universe was created by the decay of a Higgs field is widely accepted by physicists world-wide. It takes away the need for a supernatural being to explain the origin of the universe. All this is incredible enough, but to say God created the universe is to add another layer of incrediblility.


So how am I qualified to put up a web page like this?

In high school I liked geometry most of all, working every problem in the book just for fun, which kind of explains how I'm wired. In 12th grade I was fascinated by Dr. George Gamow's books on Einstein's Relativity. I read them over and over. I knew about singularities before they were called black holes. I could visualize the 4-dimensional spiral shape ("world lines") of a solar system and galaxy. I took it for granted that there had to be a black hole in the center of galaxies. I took it for granted that stars were more likely to have planets than not. I was 17. These two things are just now being proven, after some 50 years!

I entered college in 1957 as a physics major, planning to be a physicist-astronaut. I worked every other semester as a physics trainee at White Sands Missile Range (including anti-gravity research!), then worked half time at the University Observatory and Research Center with Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto. Therefore, it took 8 years to do 4 years worth of college. Running out of time and money, I found in my senior year that I had enough for a B.S. degree in mathematics before physics, so I took it. Since I took all the math that a physics major takes, I call it a degree in physics-math. I graduated in 1965.

In the ensuing years, I studied articles in Scientific American magazine that covered astrophysics, cosmology, relativity, particle physics, molecular biology, etc. Later I added Astronomy magazine. As it turned out, from the articles I found interesting, I would have been a theoretical cosmologist, not a physicist-astronaut.

The greatest compliment of my life: When I had an online forum topic going in 2012 called "Preservation of relativistic mass in the singularity of a black hole", which provided an argument in favor of string theory, a Ph.D. cosmology physicist said "I like the way you think". (Cosmology is the physics of the origin and structure of the universe.)

I am so absolutely convinced that the universe, Earth, and life was NOT created by a supernatural being that I would stake my life on it, even if it meant being buried alive in a box, with rats.
© 2013 James Dwight Hartsell.