A question on Science vs. creationism?

Filed in Category Christian Astronomers

Scientists, particularly earth scientists, are constantly criticized on Yahoo Q&A by fundamentalist Christians / creationists, on account of their understanding of the enormity of geological time, as opposed to the literal Biblical interpretation (7 days, Genesis; at about 4000 yrs BC, according to Ussher).

As a qualified and practising geologist, I have absolutely no problems in grappling with the enormous periods of time inherent in the rocks I work with. However. the same level of criticism does not appear to be levelled at astronomers and astrophysicists, who routinely observe objects in the universe at many millions of light years away (i.e. the light took millions of years to reach us).

The obvious implication is that, accepting the basics of physics and knowing the speed of light, the universe must be very very vast, and very very old indeed, which collaborates with the geological evidence.

My question is simply this: How is this contradiction explained by the fundamentalist creationists?

Serious answers only please.

20 Comments so far

  1. Eltie88 Said:

    They can’t explain it. They just blindly accept what is written in the Bible, which is already proved to be incredibly unreliable.

  2. Ren Said:

    You have a point. They can’t explain it. But what keeps them confident is faith. Well, they can’t but they won’t give up.

  3. urwumpe Said:

    Fundamentalism is believing into something contrary to any evidence.

    It is not about knowing something, and it is also not depending on evidence.

    These people don’t even care about they being wrong about the calculations of the time in the bible. If you remember that the age of humans had been calculated in lunar months during the time, the first books of the bible had been written, you actually get an age of the Earth of only 3250 years.

    And that is now something which even the pope does not believe.

  4. tick tock Said:

    creationists are a joke.

    unfortunately, here in the US we have a government that is also a joke, so its a joke that’s not funny.

    our Senators, Representatives and even President suck up to the tiny vocal religious groups which hold society back.

    someday we might grow up, but don’t hold your breath!

    (unless you are a religious zealot, then go ahead and hold your breath… 30 minutes ought to do it)

    actually, hanging around the Astronomy & Space section and the Religions & Other Fairy Tales section, I have found that those espousing religious views are much more often criticized by those with a science background (or at least a viewpoint) than the other way around.

    At least in this forum the zealots are out-numbered. My guess is its harder to find a religious zealot that can use a computer.

    Cosmo used the word “rococo”… i am SO turned on right now!

  5. Eddie F Said:

    The bible requests that the pilgrim has bucket loads of faith. This is then used to answer matters of shall we say ‘ grey area’s'?

    I often wonder, do religious people really believe that the Earth was created in seven days? That one devine being parted the lands, provided oceans, spun the planet to give us night and day?

    Science has gone from strength to strength this last fifty years, the facts supporting a universe with trillions of stars is proven – Did god create them all?? He was a busy guy if he did!

    I think faith provides a comfort to a lot of people, who wants to die and just be forgotten? Isn’t it better to die and meet up with all your past friends and family in some big garden of Eden somewhere?

    As we evolve, religion will become less and less important to us as a race.

    Besides – we’ll soon be able to put our brains into a brand new body soon, live forever!! (Cryogenics!)

  6. Even Haazer Said:

    What if: when God created universe, He wanted us to see it so He made that light that looks like if it comes from “million of years distance” starting much closer to us?
    And what if there are effects in the universe or spaces in the universe where light travel much faster like you running faster down the slope.
    And what if celestial elements were once much closer to us?
    But most of all how long will it take before all celestial bodies will come back close to one other, provoking that witch is described in the Big Crunch or 2 Peter 3:10-13?

  7. lilphil1989 Said:

    Like this:

    “My magic book was written by the creator of the universe. My pastor who reads the magic book say the earth is ~6000 years old.
    So it must be true. Your overwhelming evidence must be wrong!”

    And I’m afraid that until it’s made a crime to indoctrinate children into ridiculous superstitious beliefs, there will always be people who think this is a logical line of reasoning.

  8. Raymond Said:

    We must distinguish between fundamentalism and creationism.

    Creationism is a recent invention, aimed at giving a group of people a special status in a country where freedom of religious expression means you can make up any rule that you want, as long as you pass it off as a religion.

    To pass it off as a religion, this particular group has decided to take a version of the Bible and interpret it their way.

    They don’t really care about convincing us that they are right. They only need to convince their own disciples and, they hope, be able to convince new recruits.

    Since this is most easily done with people who have not reached puberty yet (the brain accepts “information” very differently), they have an interest in having their “beliefs” classified as theory (or having science classified as nothing more than a set of beliefs). This would give them access to the school system.

    The way they do this (create the “theory/belief” dichotomy) is not by proving that they are right, but by “proving” that there may be flaws in the other side’s reasoning.

    For example, I remember reading a nice paper about dating intrusions in old, solidified lava flows. Most of the paper was very thorough about how each different parts of the “same rock” were dated, with different results. One result showing (for example) that the rock has to be more than 3 million years old, while another result shows that it must be less than 1.5 million years old.

    However, everything goes haywire in the conclusion, which can be summarized this way “Since we clearly can’t tell if the rock is over 3 million years old or less than 1.5 million years old, then we conclude that it can only be 6000 years old.”

    Keep in mind that this paper is used to teach geology in a so-called Christian University set up by creationists.

    The 6011 year-old figure does come from Ussher’s chronology, first published in 1650. At the time, it was the in thing to do (even Isaac Newton had a go at it) to try and determine the age of Earth. Most philosophers were working on it. That is why Ussher’s determination (Earth is 5,653 years old — in 1650) was rejected immediately: everybody in the Christian world already knew that it was well over 7,000 years old. They just did not know by how much more.

    But the real reason that creationists are vehement about their Young Earth Fallacy, is that it represents their last ditch attempt to counter Darwin’s Evolution by Natural Selection. Natural selection takes time (billions of years). If they can show that the time did not exist, then evolution cannot have worked and we do not need to resemble monkeys.

    These “people who can’t evolve” cannot accept that God could have chosen to make us the same way that He made monkeys.

    But can you blame Him?

    A fundamentalist will simply assert that he knows the truth and you don’t. And he will accept that his, is a religious belief, to be protected at the cost of his life or, even better, yours. As far as he is concerned, science is just an instrument of the devil.

    He will simply state: the world was created 6000 years ago (or whatever figure he uses). When God created the world, he planted rocks that look 4 billion years old. We do not know why He did this. All we know is that He did, because it is obvious that He did it.

    Whenever we say: but science says that this (whatever) exists, the fundamentalist will simply say: you are wrong. God simply made it look that way to fool those who use the devil’s tool.

    One problem we have is that once brainwashed by creationists, some people become fundamentalists.

    Willem V: That would only make matters worst. What Relativity shows if that the perception of time slows down for the observer on the fast moving object. If we could show that Earth has been moving at relativistic speeds, then whatever time we measure would be shorter than it really is: the 4.5 billion years that we measure could really represent 10 billion years from a “stopped” frame of reference.

    Now that we do have a preferred frame of reference (that of the Cosmological Microwave Background), we know that our speed, relative to “it” has never been above 500 km/s, which is, at best, 0.00167 c.

    This could make a 0.3% difference in our interpretation of time (what we perceive versus what actually elapsed). And it would always be in the wrong direction:

    If we measure 4.500 billion years, then the true age would be 4.515 billion years, making Earth 15 million years older than what we actually measure.

  9. Willem V Said:

    The theory of relativity clearly states that time depends on the speed. If the speed of the Earth through space has changed at any time in past we will get a distorted sense of time. Can you prove that the speed of the Earth has been constant since it formation?

  10. Malcolm G Said:

    They rationalize it by “reinterpreting” the seven days of creation to each represent some eon and not be a literal “day”. Nice try, but they show no consistency in their definition of what a “day” is supposed to mean.

    They’ll also tell you that the geological record is intended to deceive scientists, because apparently god doesn’t like scientists.

  11. cosmo Said:

    The Big Bang theory has been lumped together with evolution in the the minds of those educated by creationists. We frequently get questions here such as “How did evolution create the Big Bang?”



    The faithful already know that “evolution is bad”, and so the Big Bang theory is conflated with evolution by creationist educators. Evolution has become a synonym for the scientific story of our origins, including the astronomical part of that story.

    There are a number of spurious objections to the Big Bang theory that crop up repeatedly in the questions of students: “How did the Big Bang create all those rocks out of nothing?” and “Don’t you realize that the Big Bang violates the laws of Thermodynamics?”.

    In the predominant creationist worldview, modern astronomy is every bit as wrong as the theory of evolution, and is to be rejected and if possible ignored.

    Here’s an interesting website:

    There are a few more thoughtful creationists who develop rococo theories involving time-variable lightspeed to solve the age problem and deluges of comets to supply Noah’s flood. Velikovsky was one of these, and they’ve now joined up with the 2012 doomsayers.


  12. Digital Love Said:

    ” Faith is not wanting to know the truth”

  13. rma Said:


  14. Nash Said:

    Even though I take most biblical things as literally written, I also know many verses have double meanings. That is to say, often there’s a literal meaning AND a figurative meaning overlayed on top of it. Some thing are completely figurative but were translated into words that have very literal meanings. That’s where you have to use your own judgement.

    Think about this: In the timeline of creation, until you have an Earth and its rotating beneath the sun, you don’t have a 24 hour “day” yet. So to say God Created the Earth in 6 days, you really can’t say how long the first few days were. I choose to see them as epochs or phases in the creation process. I also believe that when God said, “Let there Be Light”, he caused the Big Bang that created all the natural forces that brought about the universe as we see it today. Further, I believe that the beginnings of life, both plant and animal on the earth was due to totally natural processes and that God’s next intervention was placing a human spirit into man sometime after evolution had taken its course.

    To more specifically address your question, I recall sometime in the early ”80s hearing that Carbon Dating wasn’t as accurate as it was previously thought. At that time it was quite easy for me to believe the entire 15 billion years scientists talk about since the big bang, may not be as long as they say. When you call the yard stick into question, anything else is conceivable. Even now, althought I no longer doubt the accuracy of carbon dating, I do believe that our interpretation of time is shaped by the universe as we see it now. I believe that in the eons immediately after the big bag, time was not the linear thing we perceive it to be now.

    Also in the early ’80s I read a the following about evolution. 1). a couple of the skeletons that supposedly proved the link between ape and man turned out to be hoaxes. 2.) Many others didn’t actually exist but were each extrapolations from a single bone or bones. 3.) The talk about a missing link made it sound like if they could just find one more skeleton, they would have conclusive proof when in acutality, most of the line was fabricated or extrapolated. Based on this, at that time it was easy for me to dismiss “evolution” as faulty.

    Since then, a thousand times as many fossils have been found and similarities in dna sequencing lead me to believe that evolution probably did happen. But that belief doesn’t contradict anything I believe about the Bible.

    I think sometimes, scientists get a bad time from us because they underestimate our intelligence OR they don’t leave any room for the possibility that they might be wrong. As long as they maintain that this fact conclusively proves this theory and makes absolutely no room for the possibility of supernatural intervention, we’re going to keep pointing out any flaws we can find.

    *** added for Larry 454:

    I believe that the Bible is true. Having said that, I also understand that I don’t always interpret it correctly knowing that some things are meant to be takken figuratively, not literally. If I find in life a physical brick wall that contradicts my understanding of the bible, well, so what? I assume its mu inderstanding that’s flawed, not the bible. I’ve been wrong before and I’ll probably be wrong again. The guys who are absolutely sure they are never wrong turn into the David Koresh type, not the Jerry Fallwell type.

    My thing is this. God has proven himself to me so many times I don’t bother doubting him anymore. I don’t doubt that the bible is from God. I only doubt what “some guy” say about the bible.

    Thank you for your kind words although I take exception to the “He doesn’t understand what he doesn’t understand” part.

  15. The Wicker Man Said:

    they claim the light was created en-route so that us humans can overjoy at the glory of god..
    also, some bullshit about a gravitational well (a zone in space with a low gravitational potential energy) and how we are inside it (gravity affects light speed, so if we are surrounded by a lot of.. say dark matter, somehow we lived for 6 thousand years while the rest of space has an apparent age of 13.6 billion, which means the universe is.. 13.6 billion years old so it doesn’t help them at all)

    but the reason they have a go at you guys in earth sciences, is that for the flock, astrophysics can sound like gibberish, but the evidence for an old earth, geologically, is rock-solid (pun intended)

  16. Larry454 Said:

    I once read a document created by the Answers in Genesis organization. There were several articles in there by a guy with a doctorate – what he is a doctor of I am not sure, but he claims expert knowledge in several fields, including astronomy, geology, physics, biology, and anthropology. He actually included a photograph of the galaxy M87 in Virgo and the caption described it as being about 50 million light years distant. The caption is correct, but the author apparently did not realize that he was contradicting himself by placing it in his own document (not peer reviewed, of course). In the text, he does not mention the picture per se, but skims lightly over the contradiction itself, implying that God has somehow fooled all the astronomers by creating a convoluted miracle.

    I guess the conclusion is that creationists do not quite understand that they do not understand. Our esteemed friend Mr Nash above is a fine example. If the Scriptures say “days”, then he just re-interprets that to mean “eons,” leaving the rest of the same document infallible. Mr Nash at least appears to keep an open mind, which is healthy and not necessarily common to all parties taking part in the discussion. He is willing to listen to reason and to let reason influence or change his thinking. (ADDED: he actually admits that “evolution probably did happen.” The amount of introspection and soul searching required to make that leap is probably more significant than most trained scientists appreciate). Hopefully, more folks will follow his example.

    *** added for Mr Nash -

    The real problem is when folks (of all persuasions) cannot admit to the possibility that they could be mistaken. That is when the really ugly stuff happens. I personally feel that the Bible is a wonderful book, but it’s a terrible science text. If you don’t know where the literal translation stops and the allegory begins, then you have little basis for claiming absolute knowledge. I think we should have a beer some time.

  17. Clavius Said:

    Most Fundamentalist Christians don’t understand enough about science to understand the contradiction. But the most commonly given answer is simply that scientists are “somehow” wrong. The Fundamentalist’s faith in his view of the Bible is unshakable, and encouraged to be that way by the culture of the religion. The Fundamentalist denies that he “interprets” the Bible in any way, accepts it without question as infallibly true, and asserts that his views cannot therefore be contested.

    Unlike other Christian traditions that attempt to reconcile their cosmology with what can be observed, Fundamentalism does not apply any sort of scientific or empirical reasoning to its beliefs. Not surprisingly the Fundamentalist’s ire is expended in equal measure against his “liberal” Christian brothers.

    The foregoing exposition is necessary to show the completely immovable position from which the Fundamentalist’s belief is projected. Hence if someone comes up with some conclusion that contradicts his belief, it is “somehow” automatically wrong. It cannot be right because it contradicts what is “known” to be “true,” and it isn’t necessary in the Fundamentalist’s mind to work out the particulars of exactly where or in what way the scientist is wrong.

    But in order to place a pseudo-intellectual veneer over that tenet, the Fundamentalist typically cites random occurrences that seem to illustrate the fallibility of science. (Usually it is an instance in which science has corrected itself, as science is wont to do, but that fact passes unnoticed.) Fundamentalists argue that science must be at all times infallible (just as their Bible is) if we are to trust it on any point, and so if it proves to be even slightly wrong on some point, then it must obviously be woefully wrong on such major questions as the size and age of the universe.

    To address one respondent: it isn’t enough to allow for the supernatural in one’s theory. The theory must REQUIRE the supernatural in order to satisfy parsimony. If the origin of the universe can be explained without appealing to magic, then why must magic participate?

  18. wilde_space Said:

    They usually say that the speed of light used to be faster in the past. Some other ideas include the creation of light “in transit” so that it would reach us in that short time


  19. rock4p Said:

    A lot of creationists seem to take the Bible to be literal, and everything contained within it to be axiomatic. To admit that there is so much evidence suggesting that the age of the universe is much greater than religion claims, would be like admitting that their beliefs are wrong. Because of this, they often argue that God made the universe and that as a test of faith he included this evidence.

    I think the only way that contradictions between religion and science can be explained are by religion invoking an unprovable God. The most annoying part of that, is that an unprovable God cannot be disproved.

  20. A P Said:

    Creationists can’t answer the question. Faith is the absence of evidence. Those with faith believe the Universe is small and designed solely for Homo sapiens by a personal God who can read their thoughts and is deeply interested in them as individuals. Mention the vastness of the Universe and that it’s 13.7 billion years old and not 6,000 years, then tell them the bit we can observe is but a tiny fraction of the whole which may be infinite, and they ignore the implications, turn a blind eye, and pray to their omnipotent omniscient creator. Show them the DNA evidence for Evolution and they feel uncomfortable and again turn a blind eye. Their faith is their life and they are convinced they know the truth without any evidence. Their scripture is everything they need. They don’t see your evidence as a contradiction of their faith, and you will never convince them otherwise. They are as different from you as chalk is from cheese, but then I suspect you already know that.

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