Exposing PseudoAstronomy

April 27, 2009

Defending the Big Bang: Young-Earth Creationist Claims


After a long, work-related hiatus, I’m getting back to my 4-part series on the Big Bang. The purpose of this post is to look at the problems that Young-Earth Creationists (YECs) have with it, and the ways they try to get around it. I’ll give a quick hint as to the main reason: It’s not what the Bible literally says happened.

What Does the Bible Say?

In the Christian Bible, in Genesis 1, there is a clear progression of how we were formed:

  1. God created heaven and earth.
  2. God created light.
  3. God separated water from land
  4. God created plants.
  5. God created stars.
  6. God created the sun and moon.
  7. God created ocean life, then birds. God continued to make animals.
  8. God created humans. Well, he created man first, then woman. Then awhile later on in the bible they make more humans.

This all happened in the first 6 literal 24-hr days of existence. So yes, I am referring to biblical literalists for this post — it is my understanding that most who are not biblical literalists are more able to are generally able to reconcile more easily with the science.

Now, to be fair, Genesis 2 does imply a slightly different progression. However, my understanding is that most YECs tend to ignore that part, and so I will, too, for purposes of explaining their problems with the Big Bang.

What Do the Big Bang Theory … and Star-Formation Theory … and Solar System Formation Theory … and Evolutionary Theory Say?

The reason I didn’t leave this section heading at just the “Big Bang Theory” is because there is no one massive THEORY that explains how we get from the formation of the cosmos to people. However, for purposes of laying out a similar progression as elucidated in the bible, I will provide a synthesis to cover the comparable points:

  1. After the universe began, atomic nuclei were the first thing to form that most people would recognize. This happened in the first few minutes.
  2. Light was not able to stream freely until the universe had cooled sufficiently, about 370,000 years after the Big Bang.
  3. Possibly as early as several tens to hundreds of millions of years after the Big Bang, the first stars formed from gravitationally collapsed clouds of hydrogen and helium.
  4. It took to at least the second generation of stars before planets could form because heavier atoms did not exist (they are formed in the violent supernovae events that massive stars undergo when they run out of fuel).
  5. Planets formed much like stars, by collapsing clouds of atoms and molecules. Moons either formed around them just as planets formed around stars, or they were captured.
  6. After the planet formed, life formed.
  7. The first life on Earth can be traced back nearly to its formation, with about a 400 million-year gap (to about 4.1 billion years ago).
  8. The first life was single-celled and they were the only form for about 2 billion years.
  9. After multi-cellular life arose, it was able to become more complex more quickly because of the amount of variation that could arise.
  10. Sea animals were likely the first, then land, then air.
  11. Sometime around 1-4 million years ago, the first human-like ancestors evolved from a common ancestor of modern chips.

Now, you can see that this progression is quite different from that presented in the bible. Besides just the timescales involved, the progression is completely different from a literal reading of Genesis. For example, Genesis states that the sun and moon were (a) made at the same time, and (b) made well after Earth. The scientific consensus says something very different.

An Example of YEC Problems with the Big Bang Theory

There are so many places on the internet that I could draw material for this section of quotes or articles where YECs espouse their problems with the Big Bang. Answers in Genesis is an obvious one, as is the Institute for Creation Research.

For my examples, I will be using an episode of ICR’s radio show, narrated by Chris O’Brian, that originally aired on June 7, 2003, entitled, “Progressive Creationism #2 – The Big Bang.” I’m addressing this one instead of their, “Myth that the Big Bang Has Been Proven” episode because I have already addressed it in my post last year, “What Does it Mean to “Prove” the Big Bang? – De-Mything the “Myth” that It Has Not Been “Proven.”

1. Ross Humphreys: (4:30 into episode) ~ “There’s absolutely no biblical case for the big bang. The order of events is all wrong. For example, you have in Genesis ch. 1 v. 1 you have ‘darkness,’ the Big Bang starts off with light. The first element that’s formed in the Big Bang is hydrogen, the first material that’s mentioned in Genesis 1:2 is water. … So the order is all wrong, not to mention the time scale.”

2. Henry Morris: (6:00 into episode) ~ “Cosmologists don’t all hold to the Big Bang theory. … Maybe the most prominent cosmologists and astronomers don’t believe it; not only Fred Hoyle, who’s well known, but many many others. I listed, if I recall, about 15 prominent astronomers who rejected the Big Bang theory.”

3. Morris: (7:00 into the episode) ~ “Most [astronomers] go to the evolution of something out of nothing – a quantum fluctuation of nothing into something. Alan Guth who invented that theory of inflation and the big Bang theory just ‘happened.’ In fact, a couple of authors have written something to the effect that you don’t have to have a cause to have the big bang, it just ‘happened.’ Nothing caused it at all.”

4. Humphreys: (9:00 into the episode) ~ “One of the things wrong with the big bang is that the Hubble Space Telescope is showing lots of facts that are discordant with it. And one of those facts is the fact that the Hubble Space Telescope is showing evidence of elements, atoms, of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen – such things like that – very far out, and the problem is that the Big Bang cannot explain those elements that far away. And that’s only one of many problems. In other words, as we’re finding out more and more data, we’re finding the Big Bang theory is not capable of explaining these data.”

5. Humphreys: (11:30 into the episode) ~ “Scripture’s quite clear about the fact that the universe has a center and we’re fairly close to it on a cosmological scale of things is good evidence that the Big Bang is wrong.”

6. John Morris: (12:00 into the episode) ~ “We can’t see this thing [the Big Bang] happenin’, we didn’t see it happen in the past — we’re trying to explain the past with what we see in the present. This whole idea is all mathematics, the Big Bang is really a mathematical solution to Einstein’s equations and … that’s what evolutionists have come up with.”

Responding to those YEC Claims

1. This illustrates one of the main lines of attack of YECs – it doesn’t agree with the bible. This is a simple argument from authority, where the authority is a book that was compiled over decades to hundreds of years, by many different people, and has many internal inconsistencies. It is also a book that refuses to be updated based upon new information — very different from science.

2. This is another argument from authority. “15 prominent astronomers” a consensus does not make. This is very similar to what the Discovery Institute does with their “Dissent from Darwin” list. They claim to have over 500 names on a list of Ph.D. scientists who supposedly “dissent from Darwin.” (I say “supposedly” because I watched a video recently where a person actually examined the list – only a small percentage actually worked in the relevant field of biology, and most of those people had no idea they were on the list or had asked Discovery Institute to take them off.) This is contrasted with the National Center for Science Education and their “Steve” list of over 1000 Ph.D. biologists who “support” Darwinian evolution … and are only allowed on the list if their name is Steve (or Stephanie). There is a big difference between a scientific consensus and being able to claim authority from a few dissenters.

In addition, the name Fred Hoyle is thrown out frequently by ICR. You can read about him here. In particular, Hoyle did reject the notion of the Big Bang. However, he was not in favor of what the YECs propagate … though the YECs leave that part out. Hoyle believed in the “steady-state” cosmology, which holds that the universe has always existed, and forces conspire to always make it look the same throughout time.

3. This is possible. However, it’s unsatisfactory to many, and there are various people working on models to explain how the universe may have been birthed. However, as I point out in another post, the Big Bang does not claim nor try to claim to describe how the universe formed. It just describes what happened AFTER it formed. So this is a straw man.

4. This is wrong. Yes, we find elements and molecules “very far away,” but none farther back than a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. This is entirely consistent with the Big Bang theory, for – as I said earlier in this post – it took the first generation of stars to produce the heavier elements.

5. This is also not correct. There is no “center” to the universe, but that also has nothing to do with the Big Bang. The overall geometry of the universe is a completely separate issue from Big Bang theory. So, this claim is a combination of both incorrect information AND a non sequitur.

6. It always amazes me when YECs make this claim, in the generic form of: “Scientists say this happened, but no one was there to see it or we can’t observe it, therefore it didn’t happen.” Absolutely amazes me. Why? Because no one was there to see God do what they claim he did. But, anyway …

It’s true that we try to discern the past from the present. That’s what science is. Plain and simple in this case. Also, the whole idea may have started with solving Einstein’s equations, but as I explained in the second part of this 3-part series, there is actual observational evidence that backs it up, that fits with the Big Bang theory, and is currently best-explained by the Big Bang Theory over any other model – including Fred Hoyle’s steady-state.

Final Thoughts

I know I haven’t addressed every YEC issue with the Big Bang. That’s because it’s simply not possible. Even if I could address every single one that’s presently out there, they would come up with more, or simply refer back to biblical authority and its infallibility. At that point, it is simply not possible to argue any further. And I don’t try to.

What I try to address – and I have stated this numerous times when dealing with religious matters here – is not any religious faith-based aspect. It’s when the religion makes specific scientific claims that are NOT supported by real science, are distortions of real science, or are just plain wrong based on the science that I will address them.


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