Starlight & Time - the old universe

I wrote a piece about the trigger point that pushed me over the edge into the acceptance of modern science. It started with the starlight and time problem, but expanded into something much bigger. Here’s an excerpt:

With only 6,000 years for light to travel toward us, the problem of distant starlight is one of the oldest and most obvious challenges to the young-earth framework. It was one of the reasons I was motivated to pursue physics, and pursuit of this question ultimately helped provide the final straw that broke down my faith in creation science after years of questioning.

We see events that happen far, far beyond 6,000 light-years away. In 1987, sharp-eyed skywatchers were able to witness the explosion of a violent supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy. Neutrino observatories around the world picked up the first invisible signs of a supernova a few hours before the starburst became visible to the naked eye. We were witnessing the death of a star almost 170,000 years after it exploded.

To suppose that all these images are just God’s way of “filling the universe with starlight” is unacceptable. It would imply that everything we see from more than 6,000 light-years away is a cosmic cinema, a light show of events that never actually happened. Even the most strident creationists cringe at the notion that God would have created a spray of neutrinos in transit, followed by images of an exploding star, if that star had not actually exploded.

As the years passed, I spent more and more time reading everything I could about geology, biology, and astrophysics. My limit for inter-library loans was always full. I was looking for a pattern, a reason why astronomy and geology and evolutionary biology seemed to be so good at making predictions and lined up so well with other areas of science.

No matter how much I learned, the problem of starlight and time never seemed to get any easier to solve. I was looking deeper into the problem of starlight and time, searching for anything I might have missed, when I saw a Hubble photograph that changed everything.

Full article here.


This is a phenomenal article @David_MacMillan. Thanks for sharing it with us. Why did you go into law instead of science?


I was getting married, and law paid better, faster.

Thanks for the encouragement!


Boo. You clearly love science. Come back.


I really enjoyed your article! It is interesting, relatable and informative. The animation of the HH34 jet is incredible.

I’ve also been pursuing physics lately (at a hobby level) in order to better understand the world around me and largely also to be better able to evaluate various cosmological and physics explanations offered by both Christians and non-believers. In fact, a friend recently brought Dr. Lisle’s Anisotropic Synchrony Convention to my attention and I’ve since been studying the relativity of simultaneity and the conventionality thesis in order to better evaluate it (I’ve also found it lacking explanatory depth). You can see a related ongoing discussion here.

If you don’t mind me asking, have you simply abandoned YEC but remained a Christian?

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It was a pretty significant struggle but yes, I have remained a Christian…hopefully a much more sober and humble one.


@David_MacMillan That was a wonderful article. It is great to be alive when the heavens are understood to be more wondrous and explainable by science and human reasoning. Thanks so much.


Unfortunately, Christians all-to-often choose a passage, pick a pseudo-random interpretation of it, then draw some conclusions (that are typically unrelated to the point of the text) and claim that all of Christianity rests on that one interpretation and any criticism of it is tantamount to heresy instead of simply being willing to discuss the possibility that they might be wrong about it. I think most scriptural claims regarding YEC fall into this category and these kinds of claims, especially when they’re taught to us from a young age, can easily lead to a kind of cognitive dissonance.

Like you, I was a fairly strict YEC for most of my life and I had to determine whether my faith actually rested on that particular interpretation of Scripture. Thankfully, like you, I was able to determine that it did not, but I’m sure that this kind of teaching does cause many to lose their faith when they can no longer sustain the cognitive dissonance.


I believe it comes from a pathological fear of uncertainty. We were terrified that if we didn’t have all the answers, we’d be on the road to uncertainty and moral relativism. So we demanded simple, concrete answers to everything, and YEC provided straightforward (though deeply unsatisfying) answers to things like theodicy, atonement theory, and origins.

An independent fundamental Baptist, arguing in favor of using the KJV only, once told me, “A man with two watches can never be sure of the time, but a man with one watch always knows.” The irony, of course, is that the truism implies exactly the opposite of what was intended. A person with only one watch may be freed from the horrors of uncertainty, but his certainty does not correlate to accuracy. YECs are so obsessed with certainty that they have neglected the obvious consideration that they could, in fact, be wrong.


I read this article on another blog.
Its a long list of wrong things that I would get into.
Yet this idea of picking on one point , a complicated one, to say the bible is not Gods word and creationists got it wrong IS unreasonable. (like your law stuff if I may say so).
Genesis gives a excellent claim foe light issues. It insists light was the first thing created, divided, on the first day. it had no source and so it does not move. Its everywhere at all times. Like Newton said. And Einstein added he didn’t know what light is. Probably because of the error of seeing light as a moving thing.
SO it could only be that light being everywhere, the moment stars etc, were created they would be sen from earth. No speedbiumps to light originally. Then some concept of time etc start to interfere with speed.
Again its about rates that have not been proven to be constant. Just presumed in a lack of imagination and accurate investigation.
Instead of insisting light proves a old universe why not try to figure out how it proves a young one. Why give up so quick? might be money in it eh!!


And yet there is nothing about Genesis 1 that even requires a Universal application. The easiest conclusion that I’m surprised you don’t suggest is that Genesis takes no position on the entire Universe and only discusses the Earth.

But apparently you gave up too quickly on that idea…

“The stars he made also”?

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If I were @Robert_Byers, I would rather deal with this issue of stars than with the issue of the speed of light.

In the case of Genesis 1:16:

( Gen 1:16
And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars H3556 also.

Robert would do well to argue that God did make the stars, but God could have timed the creation of a Universe of stars so that on this day, the light would become visible in the Earth’s cosmic neighborhood.

Or… that the stars would begin to be seen… with more and more rays of star light reaching Earth as humanity rose up to take dominion of the world.

Certainly it is easier to think Genesis 1 is a flawed bit of writing… but if you are going to tackle the light issue … I would dread trying to make changes in the speed of light the driving explanation.

I don’t dread. Its more then the speed of light. Genesis is clear that light was created unrelated to a source. in fact so much a FIELD that it had to divided in order to create time. DAY ONE.
DM here is saying the light thing is what forced him to hive up YEC. Yet why did not the whole concept of light force him to reject YEC? Why was that okay but not the speed/time thing.
if one already accepted the account of light being a FIELD with no possibly of moving around THEN one would simply realize other options must exist for light/time issues!
I think it was not a careful analysis by a young person.
Very few YEC are bothered by light speed/time issues.
Its complicated but anyways light is a special thing in genesis.


The belief was that the sky had its own light … as proved that when there was an eclipse, you could still see daylight in the sky!

Byers, why do you insist on being so obtuse? None of the words you are saying make any sense. Surely you recognize this by now.

Light is not that kind of field, and if you had read my article with any care, you would know that the critical piece of evidence was not light, but the discovery of structures in the universe which showed trackways of motion across distances too great to be traversed in the creationist timeline. Do you understand what that means?

Yes, I am sure that my age and haste is the problem, not my physics degree or my years of study.



Light is an electromagnetic field as described by Maxwell’s equations.

Photons are the quanta of the electromagnetic field, and can only properly described via wave-particle duality, but light is not a “field with no possibility of moving around” as claimed (speculated? hypothesized? imagined? daydreamed?) by Byers.

I suspect that Byers is imagining something akin to the luminiferous aether.

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No. you have no reason to say that from genesis. it means what it said.
Light was separate from any source, as we now see it, of light.
its very clear.

Degrees are about memorizing things for kids in their late teens and early twenties.
Genesis is clear that light was created by God unrelated to sources, like the sun, of light.
then it was divided , unrelated to sources of light like the sun.
thats all you had to address if you were struggling with creationism and light etc.
Now you say it was not about light and distance of it traveling. i thought it was all about that.
Anyways any structure found could have any number of options for why its here and not there.
These are complicated matters. why would people know what can and can not be.?