Seems like creationism, and specifically young-earth creationism, is poking its head up once again in the wake of Rubio’s uninformed comments regarding what we know about the age of the earth. As Ed Brayton reports, both Bryan Fischer and Joseph Farah have recently argued that no one knows how old the earth really is because none of us were there when it was first created. God is the only eyewitness, they claim, and therefore we should just take His Word for it.

Well, Bryan and Joe, I hate to disagree with you, but if you take Genesis literally, then God is not the only eyewitness. I’ll grant you there’s no human alive today who was around at the origin of the earth. But if you read Genesis 1, you’ll find that God created the heavens on the same day He created the earth. And we’re all eyewitnesses to the (non-)creation of the universe.

What young-earth creationists tend to forget is that there’s this thing called the speed of light, which means there’s a finite amount of time that passes between the thing you see and the time you see it. Every eyewitness is an eyewitness to something that happened in the past. For things that are close to the observer, that may be a practically immeasurably small amount of time, but the farther away a thing is, the farther into the past you’re seeing when you see it. That may be mere minutes within the solar system, but out in the depths of space it’s decades, centuries, and even thousands and millions of years. Add a telescope and you can make that billions or even trillions of years. [Argh, I did it again — once upon a time I got the idea in my head that the universe was 13-14 trillion years old and ever since, if I’m not watching myself, I fall into old habits. In my defense, I was a creationist at the time. ]

Creationists try to wiggle out of this by proposing imaginary changes in the speed of light (even though E=mc2 means that even small increases in the speed of light would quickly make our sun too hot to support life). But even if you could get away with that kind of escapist fantasy physics, it still wouldn’t change the fact that we can see the past just by looking up on a clear, dark night. We are literally eyewitnesses to the fact that no divine, miraculous supernatural creation was taking place 6,000 years ago. Or even 10,000 years ago. And if we can’t trust what we ourselves see with our own eyes, why should we trust ancient men who claimed to be eyewitnesses of impossible things thousands of years ago?

So thanks but no thanks, Bryan and Joe. We are eyewitnesses of what happened in the ancient past, thanks to the unchanging speed of light. We can literally see into the past, and that means we can see right through your superstitious creationist bullshit.


  1. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Add a telescope and you can make that billions or even trillions of years.

    Trillions of years? In a Universe just (just?) 14.7 billion years old?
    Aside from that, a cracking post that only the most diehard of Creotards could deny.

  2. Bill Openthalt says

    I tip my hat to you sir. That is just one fiendishly clever argument. But of course, the YEC puppies will say it was created that way — no way they’ll ever be convinced.

  3. Lofty says

    No facts will ever convince a YEC of the true age of the universe so long as they have breath in their bodies to spout their mythconceptions. Hark ye the infallible Babble!

    • eurosid says

      I’ve heard more than one YEC claim that the light was created “in transit”. God did that. God can do anything, right?

      They are impervious to reason.

      • Steve R says

        The obvious retort to the “God created all that red-shifted light in transit” argument is that this says that God is lying to us. Once you admit that God is a liar, how do we tell which is the lie? Either the overwhelming volume of observation of physical reality is all a lie, or their Big Book of Bronze-age Fairy Tales is nothing more than that. One good slice with Occam’s razor should dispose of the whole argument, except that you’re trying to conduct a rational argument with people who have renounced reason. Just tell them that they are masturbating with a sack of Macadamias, render a hearty one-finger salute and walk away.

      • Lofty says

        Yeah, Dog can do anything, including making a recent universe indistinguishable from a 14.7 billion year old one. Truly amazing power of deception, that!

  4. Aureola Nominee, FCD says

    Mmmmm… “trillions” of years in the past? Methinks you got caught up in your (justified) enthusiasm, sir… I don’t think anyone has claimed to be able to peer beyond the origin of the universe, yet.

  5. OverlappingMagisteria says

    Good point! If YEC is true, we should be seeing stars popping into existence about 6,000 light years away. We could literally watch God at work! But we don’t, cause YEC is BS.

    • thebookofdave says

      Yeah, the Omphalos argument basically implies a god who deliberately tarnishes a young creation to appear old. He also used to perform amazing feats of magic in plain view. But these days He cleverly covers His tracks by performing His miracles with the same statisical variance as random chance.

  6. says

    According to Genesis 1 God did not create the heavens and the earth on the same day, rather he created the sky on the first day, the earth on the second, and the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth. It’s not till Genesis 2:4 that the author forgets and contradicts himself by saying that the earth and skies were created on the same day.

    Many decades ago, when I was but a child, and I first ran into a YUC (young-universe creationist), that was actually one of my first questions. I mean, one of my children’s books on astronomy actually said something like when we look out further into the reaches of the universe with our telescopes we are also looking further back in time. I’d seen with my own eyes stars that were much further away than six thousand light years; if their creation had happened a mere few thousand years ago we should be able to see it happening right in front of us.

    I don’t actually remember what the first YUC I ran into had to say on that subject; I do remember that he said dinosaurs never existed and that scientists just carved up rocks into the shape of bones because they wanted to disprove God’s word. Later on the standard YUC reply I ran into was that when God created light on the first day he created all the beams of light bringing us the appearance of far-away stars going about their business; it wasn’t in fact until the fourth day that he created the actual stars from which the light was supposed to emanate. I called this the lie-in-the-sky argument; what about the things we see happening out there–novas, supernovas, eclipses, and the like? Were they simply one vast lie intended to deceive us? If God created the spectacle of heaven to show us things that never were, if God in effect wrote one vast lie in the skies above us, why in hell should we trust anything that he said? Are his words in a book more reliable than his imaginary sky diorama? And so on.

    Phillip Gosse could have explained that one for me, though I wouldn’t have thought much of his answer. (My father always used to caricature Gosse by saying he said God hid the fossils in the rocks to fool scientists; Gosse’s real argument was more sophisticated, but ultimately as empty. That way madness lies.) Sure, if God is all-powerful he could insert false radiometric dates in the rocks, create strata containing fossils of organisms that never existed, use light to paint a vast picture of an unreal universe–but what reason can you give me to suppose that such a trickster exists? Other than to justify some ancient guesses about origins now shown to be incorrect, I mean.

    Of course that was long ago, when I was young and had more energy. Now, when I run into a YUC, I just change the subject.

  7. says

    Their universe is very, very tiny. They cannot wrap their heads around the vast distances involved, not just between planets and stars, but between galaxies and galaxy clusters.

    It is quite literally incomprehensible to them.

    I tried to explain this to a friend a while back. He genuinely tried to “get it”. But in the end, it was too much for him. He said he “preferred” to believe in the 6000-year-old hypothesis, even though it’s been disproven.

    Now, I’m not necessarily saying that YECers aren’t that smart (Eric Hovind and Ian Juby excepted, of course). I’m saying that understanding scales even of the size of the solar system is scary. It freaks them out.

    They shrink the universe back to a manageable size as a defense mechanism.

  8. John Conolley says

    Atheist: So, you’re saying God changed the speed of light, and thus our eyes and minds can’t be relied upon.

    Christian: Exactly right.

    Atheist: Why would he do that?

    Christian: Um… to test our faith.

    Atheist: In other words, God is trying to fool us, and if we are fooled, we’re going to Hell. Is that the God you consider worthy of your worship?

    Christian: God works in mysterious ways.

    Atheist: You’re projecting. It’s your mind that works in mysterious ways.

  9. James K says

    The argument I use is simpler – possibly because I deal with simpler people.

    When the canard “No one knows the age of the Earth because no one was there, so take God’s word for it” (presumably no one today, and the Bible and not the Qu’ran) my reply is:

    No one knows the age of the Bible, and whether God wrote (or inspired) it, because none of us were there. So we don’t know if its God’s word.

    Likewise, we don’t know if the Constitution is really from the 1700’s because none of us were there. So we don’t know if it was written by the nation’s founder.s

    You can use endless iterations on (pick something) that we don’t know is true because we weren’t there. We don’t know if Edison invented the first practical light bulb. We don’t know if Dixie didn’t win the Civil War, or if we participated in the Spanish American War (Puerto Rico really belongs to Spain, because none of us actually saw anyone at war with Spain), &c.

    • thebookofdave says

      Yeah, he’s basically trying to baffle you with bullshit, starting at 0:30.

      He uses the manufactured term ‘Anisotropy Synchronous Convention’ to compare terrestrial time zones to time dilation. He doesn’t explain where the zones are, or how the laws of physics would operate differently in them. No evidence to back up his claim, either, but the term sounds sciency enough. Light could be created by a star on Day Four and arrive at Earth on Day Four by ‘Convention’, the same process that a meridian conference can decree time travel possible at the International Date Line.

      He continues at 1:10, proposing an Earth under Einsteinian time dilation, possibly due to its (imagined) position in the center of a gravitational well. This argument does not address the apparent speed of light, which is constant from all reference frames. And it doesn’t mention that a gravitational well of the intensity he suggests wouldn’t grant us flimsy carbon-units the time to argue his point.

      At 1:50, a miracle occurs! You can pretend to doubt, but I don’t see a PhD in front of your name.

      2:10. Don’t resort to the Umphalos ploy, because its a false model of the universe, and implies deceptive intent of God (not because it’s a centuries-old embarassment to YUCs).

      The Light Horizon Problem introduced at 2:55 is based on an outright lie. Eleven years after the WMAP probe began returning data, he tells us with a straight face that there are no variations in the temperature of the cosmic microwave background radiation field. Lawrence Krauss explains its importance much better than I can.

      To sum it up: cosmology is beautiful! Because it’s real. But if you decide to get mired in an argument about it with a creationist, brace yourself for the Gish Gallop.

  10. mck9 says

    Add a telescope and you can make that billions or even trillions of years.

    Billions, yes. Trillions? That’s a little trickier. So far as we can tell, the universe is only about 13.75 billion years old.

  11. bobmeyer says

    “recently argued that no one knows how old the earth really is because none of us were there when it was first created. God is the only eyewitness, they claim, and therefore we should just take His Word for it.”
    That is like saying the proof of the veracity of the Bible is its existence.
    This kind of circular logic is often used by the religious. Can’t they see their arguments are wasted on all but those who already believe the same thing?

  12. geocatherder says

    As for the “were you there?” folks, The rocks and the meteorites were there… and they tell a compelling story. Anybody who thinks rocks don’t talk hasn’t studied geology.

  13. thisisaturingtest says

    The whole “fantasy physics” thing is based on just good old-fashioned magical thinking. Whatever you can imagine that is necessary to sustain your deity (or your belief in him) is what’s true. Conspiracy theorists do this too. Folks who argue that the Zapruder film must have been altered* to frame Oswald filter out the argument that the technology to do this convincingly simply wasn’t around at the time by just asserting, without any evidence but the assertion itself (and the necessity for it), that, of course, the CIA would have had the (then-secret) technology. Whatever it takes, that’s what it (the deity or the conspiracy) has got or can do.

    *I once saw a guy take this to extreme (and extremely circular) levels in support of his idea that the driver (Bill Greer) shot JFK. According to him, the film was altered by pasting a fake hand over Greer’s left hand, which was actually holding a gun aimed back at the President. When it was pointed out to him that this was impossible to achieve, in a way that would fool computers a generation or more later, his response was “well, they must have had the technology, otherwise they couldn’t have done it!”

  14. wholething says

    If the speed of light slowed down from speeds fast enough to get from the most distant galaxies seen, the light would be blue-shifted. Since that light appears to us as being red-shifted, would have to claim the galaxies are moving faster from us and further away meaning the speed of light was even faster at the beginning, and so on.

    Some actually claim that the speed of light stopped slowing right when we developed the ability to measure it accurately.

    I wonder what would happen to biochemistry if the speed of lighht was 100 times faster? Molecular interactions would be 10,000 times more energetic. For light to have reached Earth from the most distant galaxies, it would have to be 2,000,000 times faster. If I’m not mistaken, energy exchanges would then be 4,000,000,000,000 more powerful.

  15. davidct says

    There are some basic problems with the value of eyewitness evidence. As with all the senses what we see is not what is really there. It is the model of the world in the visible spectrum created by the brain. This model may track well to external reality but it is still an interpretation.

    We are also not able to experience the word of god. The bible is only indirect evidence. It is what men have written that their god said. We can get no confirmation from god. There is no way, that can be verified, that it is possible to experience god directly. The fact that it (the god thing) is not there does not help.

    Creationists like to claim to have direct evidence for things that science does not. In fact they do not. Neither eyewitness evidence nor writings in “holy” books have the power they assume.

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