A new map shows the oldest light in our universe, as detected with the precision by the Planck mission. Image by ESA and the Planck Collaboration.
When the thirty-something women I know lament their age, I usually tell each of them that they can’t be over twenty-nine years old. Everyone wants to be young, and for some reason people think you’re officially old when you’re thirty. I’d complain about this, but then I’d sound like an old-timer. Well I still might, since I have something else to gripe about.New cosmological evidence points to a universe that is even older than once thought. The evidence of a very old universe keeps piling up, even though young-earth creationists continue to chase “yabbut” trails.
“Yabbut radio carbon dating is flawed.”
“Yabbut science cannot observe past events”
“Yabbut the fossil record actually points to a young earth”
I used to be a young-earth creationist, but gave it up mainly because the evidence of an old earth always crushed the young-earth propositions. But it was a long haul for me, because I held tightly to my literal interpretation of the book of Genesis. And that is, I believe, the main motivation behind most of the young-earth chatter. If the universe is very old, if the earth is very old, then that will affect the way you read Genesis. And how you read Genesis could greatly influence your theological approach to the Bible. A deeper fear is that if someone concedes an old universe, then they may give up their Christian faith. That’s not true but believe me, I have felt that fear before.
One of the most popular young-earth arguments is one that I often found hard to accept: God created the universe to appear old, but it is really very young.
So the universe looks 13.8 billion years old, but really she’s only 29 (or 6000–she’s still flattered).
It may sound preposterous on its face, but the argument goes like this:
-When God created Adam, Eve, the animals and the plants, they were mature enough to reproduce (Gen. 1:11, 22, 28).
-Thus, it is not surprising that God created the rest of the universe to look old.
This kind of argument has big problems. The biggest is the fact that it is an argument ad ignorantium–an argument from ignorance. There is no possible way that someone can prove God created the world this way.
Epistemologically, the argument is completely useless even if it were true. Think about it. For the sake of illustration, let’s pretend that you are 50 years old. What if God actually created the universe just 1 year ago. One year ago today, God created the space-time continuum, Earth, all the people on earth, and you. But you look 50. You still have memories of your past 10, 20, 30, 40 years of life already, even though those memories didn’t actually happen. Everyone else in the universe was created the same way and at the same time. They were also created one year ago, but have no perception of it. God created all things to appear as if they have existed for a long, long time.
If this scenario were true, how old would you be? Would you be one year old, or fifty?
Well, you would be fifty. God made you to be fifty. All the evidence in the universe points to the fact that you are fifty. Scientific research says that you are fifty. Your friends tell you that you are fifty. Every ontological bit of evidence in the created universe points to the fact that you are fifty (because it was created to show that).
But aren’t you really only one year old? No! God is the one who made you one year ago with all your perceptions and knowledge which proves beyond a shadow of doubt that you are fifty.
Now this gets to my point. What if God created the universe 6000 years ago but made it appear in every way shape and form to be 13.8 billion years old?
Well, then it is 13.8 billion years old.
You may say, “No, it only appears to be that old!”
But if God created it to be old…then it is OLD! Its ontology is old, so it is old. It doesn’t simply appear old, it is old!
You see, the “universe only appears old” argument goes nowhere. Even if it is correct–even if God created the cosmos to appear old, then there would be no other way for us to see it.
You might as well say that the world is only one year old and God created it to look much older. There is no direct evidence to support that, so it cannot be affirmed. It is a useless argument.
This is a little heady, but hopefully you see my point.