Starlight and hidden ridicule
Now it’s been no secret on my blog that I reject the naturalistic story of universal and biological development fostered by the godless and godly alike. I’ve made it no secret to those who interact with me that I know the tool called science and the faculty called human perception and intelligence to have their uses as well as their limits.
What has discouraged me or disappointed me about those who call themselves my friends or even associates, many of whom foster those beliefs and stories that I reject is not simply that they hold those views, but rather that they ridicule my position amongst themselves, judging me as Luddite, christian, pre-scientific (nice ways of saying “stupid” and “backwards”), whilst saying to my face that such differences in perspective don’t really matter and are not important.
What disappoints me is, while I’m sure they have positive feelings towards me, not one of them has taken me aside to show me the facts, the concrete and certain facts, that totally undermine my rejection or my acceptance of a relatively young universe and earth, that makes their position about an ages old universe, its evolutionary history so true and trust in scientists and their theories to absolute that they can be used to interpret Torah. All this while making a mockery of my worldview.
So far there has only been one man who at least attempted to show me that the universe must be much older than 5778 years old. This was rabbi Moshe ben Chaim of mesora.org, and I hardly know the man. We’ve only communicated once and that was years ago. He only gave one piece of evidence to buttress his claim of mega-aged universe and I thought I’d share why I see it is fundamentally inadequate.
I do agree and see as proof for the 16 billion year age of the universe from stars: we see a star, and can measure its distance as X light years away. Seeing that star, means that the light emanating from it had many light years (millions of years) to reach us. Thus, we prove that the universe must be at least that old, since the light took that long to reach us. Another Rabbi explained this theory to me, which I see as irrefutable proof. (Gentiles, Jews & Creation, http://www.mesora.org/GerToshav.htm)
I will add that I wrote my email to him about 12-13 years ago so I’ve developed since then, no longer keeping any form of sabbath.
So rabbi ben Chaim’s “irrefutable proof” is that stars are measured to be many light years away, so far away that it would take millions of years to reach us. Therefore the universe must be that old for us to see the stars.
That’s the “irrefutable proof.”
Now before I go into my reasons why this proof is far from irrefutable, reasons that can be arrived at by anyone, let me give the rabbinic/traditional reason why this sort of reasoning fundamentally fails.
As we will detail below, our mesorah insists that the six days of Creation were six literal days.5 One cannot insert the allegedly natural evolutionary process into the p’sukim by claiming that the days were actually billions of years, and legitimately claim allegiance to the mesorah. The very idea that Creation was anything less than a totally miraculous process, not conducted through natural processes at all─accelerated” or otherwise─is rejected by the Maharal (Ba’er HaGolah, p. 83, Ba’er Four):
Know that He, May He be blessed, brought out these creations, all of them, to physical reality during the six days of Breishis by Himself, in His Own Glory─not by means of an agent, i.e. Nature. Creation was contrary to the way things are after the conclusion of the six days of Breishis, wherein Hashem Yisborach conducts His world by means of the agent, i.e. Nature.”
As the Rambam explains in Moreh Nevuchim,
We, the community following in the footsteps of Moses and Abraham, believe that the world came into being in such-and-such a form, and became such-and-such from such-and-such (haya kach mi-kach ), and such was created after such. Aristotle comes to uproot our words, bringing proofs against us based upon nature in its stabilized, perfected and active state. We ourselves admit to him [Pines translates: As for us, we declare against him] that this is legitimate after nature’s having settled down in its fully developed stage; but in no way does this correspond to something’s characteristics at its being brought into existence, and produced out of absolute non-existence (MN 2:17).
None of the things mentioned above [the creation of Eve from Adam, the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge, the history of the serpent and the events connected therewith] is impossible, because the laws of Nature were then not yet permanently fixed (Ibid. 2:30). (How the Days of Creation were Understood by our Sages, by rabbi Zvi Lampel, http://slifkin-opinions.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/how-days-of-creation-were-understood-by.html or http://blog.dovidgottlieb.com/2012/10/how-days-of-creation-were-understood-by.html)
Hmmm … I was planning to just to quote Rambam. But I’m glad I quoted the whole section from the article.
Traditionally, the creation week were not bound by natural law because it was a supernatural event, natural routine only being set afterwards. It was during that week that the stars and light were created and they were made in such a way that the first man could see the stars. And the natural laws were not even fully settled while the first man and woman were in the garden of Eden.
And to reiterate, the creation of the universe and its initial formation was a supernatural, non-natural, event, an event outside of the current laws of nature.
This position is what separates me from those who call themselves “creation scientist”, those who try the figure out how the Transcendent created the whole of reality in six days rather than billions of years. In their attempts to develop white hole cosmologies and relativistic time dilations, amongst other notions, they try to apply natural law to a meta-natural event, much like the evolutionist, which is nonsensical. Both they and those who adopt the naturalistic fables of universal history while following the commands of Torah still give science and scientists way more credit than they could ever realistically deserve. Look at the mentality:
“All we have to do is use our limited knowledge and tentative explanations about the fully developed ‘universe’ and then we can rewind time and understand how the non-human mind and transcendent being built to reality without natural patterns.”
No I have put “around the word “universe.” Why? Because humans can’t study the universe. Not directly anyway.
What do I mean?￼
The universe is said to be vast and the Earth and its planetary system is a spec in comparison, infinitesimal. Humans have not explored the vast majority of it because we are stuck right here. Look at this quote from Arthur Eddington, a British astronomer from the early 20th century.
It is better to admit frankly that theory has, and is entitled to have, an important share in determining belief. For the reader resolved to eschew theory and admit only definite observational facts, all astronomical books are banned. There are no purely observational facts about the heavenly bodies. Astronomical measurements are, without exception, measurements of phenomena occurring in a terrestrial observatory or station; It is only by theory that they are translated into knowledge of the universe outside. (Sir Arthur Eddington, The Expanding Universe (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1958), 17)
Now, factually speaking, theory is the explanations humans construct to account for the things we observe or experience. It’s not fact, and experienced or observed aspect of reality. It’s a person or people using their imagination, creativity, previously held beliefs, assumptions, previous conclusions, through the lens of their own cultural and socio-historical paradigm (worldview, way of thinking) in order to make an attempt to tie together phenomena in a way that makes sense to them. So theory is not fact, but rather an interpretation and explanation. It gains credibility if it makes accurate predictions, but that only makes it useful, not true.
So although Eddington believes such theories, imaginative explanations, should shape what we believe, he admits astronomy is essentially based on stories, not the observed facts, which are very limited. Why? Because we can only see things from here, afar from everything else. Nobody gets even a sizeable, significant amount of facts by watching things from afar. And the worst, we experience things here on earth and then declare to the entire universe, of which we are left in this speck stuck in a speck-sized bottle, that it must be the same as here!
Am I the only one who sees a huge amount of arrogance in disbelief? Am I the only one who sees the worship of or excessive faith in human (speck) reasoning?￼
Hmmm … let me get back to the subject, not that I totally left it, but focusing on the main point is important.
People trying to grasp the universal history and creation, they play a nice game. They make the rules and get a lot out of the endeavour. But truth? Do they think they are giving scientific models of truth?
Add to that the words from tradition that I quoted earlier, with nature being created, the laws of nature being formed and not set during creation, it’s preposterous to imagine that humans can make any factual statement about the formation of the universe without revelation or an intelligent participant or witness relating the facts through intelligible language.
So bringing this back to starlight, if I take for granted that the stars are as far as people claim, then, since God’s supernatural process of universal creation is unknown, and since natural law was not set until after the days of creation, then to talk about the time needed for light to reach us is totally meaningless and without merit. How the universe and the light from stars were built is beyond humans.
OK, so that’s the traditional approach to the issue regarding light from stars. But wait! I can imagine a rebuttal.
￼”If the rules of nature weren’t set yet, then couldn’t that mean that the six days were much longer, maybe billions of years?”
The answer has to be no based on tradition and based on the Bible.￼
Commenting on Genesis 1 verse 3, Ramban says the following:
You should know that the days mentioned in the account of creation, concerning the creating of heaven and earth, where real days, made up of hours and minutes, and there were six of them, like the regular six days of the work week, in accordance with the simple understanding of the verse. (pg 31, The Graff-Rand Edition: Ramban, The Torah: with Ramban’s commentary translated, annotated and elucidated)
Biblically, God makes it clear in the Decalogue,
Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is sabbath to God your Authority, you shall not do any work … because God made the heavens and the Earth in six days and rested on the seventh day …” Exodus 20:9,10a,11a
People who advocate for only using the written scripture noticed patterns in the Jewish Bible. Outside of Genesis 1, when the Hebrew word for day is used with a number, for example, 2nd day, it always means an ordinary day. Outside of Genesis 1, when it is used with evening or morning, it refers to an ordinary date, outside of Genesis 1, when it is used with the word night, it means ordinary day. Genesis 1 has number, evening, morning and night. This makes it fairly conclusive that Genesis 1 is talking about ordinary days, just like Ramban said.
Okay, so that’s it when it comes to the traditional answer to the supposed problem regarding light from stars. Again, if I take for granted that the stars are as far as is claimed, millions or billions of light years away, then the current speed of light and the time they think it would take that light to reach earth naturalistically can’t be applied to the creation week. God built the universe in a supernatural manner and when it was finished the light from the stars were here. That’s all there is to it!
Now if I didn’t have tradition, there would still be no firm ground upon which to claim that the argument from light from stars was irrefutable proof of the universe much older than about 6000 years. Why?
Firstly, after Eddington admitted that there was very limited observational facts about astronomy. He said all astronomical books should be banned if a person just wanted observational fact. Looking at a star from Earth cannot tell you absolutely and verifiably its distance from the Earth. Using parallax and the associated trigonometry can only be used for the supposedly closest stars and requires numbers and angles so precise, I would question its validity. And using star luminosity relies on theory to get its supposed distances, so once again it is not observational fact, but rather is based on tentative explanations and assumptions about the nature of space and the way light travels through it, that the behaviour of light in our limited, local, speck-like area can be applied to the entire universe.
So for me, the distances are questionable.
Secondly, the argument is that the light of a star 16 million light years away would take 16 million years to get here. But that is based on an erroneous interpretation and a number of assumptions. A light year is a distance, not a time. It is a distance of about 6,000,000,000,000 miles. It is defined as the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one Julian year.
What are the assumptions? That the speed of light is a constant. That the speed of light in our part of the universe is the same as everywhere else.
Both of these assumptions are only that: assumptions. They are statements dictated to me but with no reason to believe they are true. I understand that it might be important for their explanations to work, but that doesn’t make it objective truth.
Added to that, it is relatively easy to find evidence that the speed of light is not constant from both secular and nonsecular sources.
The fact that humans experience such a minute portion of the universe makes decorations about the constancy of light throughout it worthless. The fact that humans experience such a minute portion of the universe makes decorations about the constancy of light throughout it worthless.
Thirdly, from analogy, I know that in general the processes at the birth and infancy of something is not the same as when it is much later in its existence, when it is more mature. Whether it is the baby in the fetus or when it’s just born compared to a grown adult, or the building of the house or computer compared to its final functional form, the processes change. It’s unwise to take the processes in the fully developed form and then try to guess the processes during its initial form or development.
In light of this, I have no reason to believe that the speed of light here and now is the speed it has always been. So the claim that certain stars are 16 million light years away meaning that light must have had to take 16 million years to get here, as so-called irrefutable proof, all of that statement has not one single factual element to it. The distance, the time, the speed, all of these are taken on faith, claims that can’t be verified! And in light of the supernatural creation of the universe, the claim has no validity whatsoever!
I sit and watch these people, the Torah adherents who put such faith in the ukases of man, as if the universe must obey them, and the secular cosmologists and physicists who make their formulas and attempted tentative exclamations/explanations, who see oddities in their maths and think this is the same as an oddity in reality, for example, dark matter … I sit and shake my head in disbelief.
I’m more in shock by the Torah observers, but essentially it doesn’t matter whether they observe Torah or not. Why on earth are people taking the tentative (to be held in doubt, not as truth) theories of scientists and their claims as such an absolute truth that not only do they reconstruct the Torah narrative and re-interpret it based on changeable guesses, they also ridicule and belittle the approach of those who take the tentative changeable guesses for what they are?
I am not antiscience. That is an accusation usually levelled against me and my approach to attempts to push stories about things we have never experienced nor can we ever experience. “You are against science!” And there is little point in trying to show a person that such a claim is not true. The word science is thrown around in such a vague sense, it’s hard to know what exactly I’m supposed to be against. Am I against investigating the naxal world we live in? No! Am I against the method of observing phenomena in the present (we can’t observe them any other time) and looking for patterns, repeatable ones? No! Am I even against people trying to form explanations for the phenomena and patterns? Nope! These are some of the tools we humans have to control and manipulate the world.
But am I for taking these attempted explanations and making them truth? No! Am I for taking universal extrapolations about what we have not experienced, such as the flawed big bang story, and trying to interpret the words of the God of truth, the all knowing, in the light of the pea-mind theories from beings so minute, so savagely limited in scope and knowledge in comparison (as if any comparison is possible)? Hell no! To me, that’s the epitome of stupid!
I enjoy science for what it’s worth! And I mean every word of that! “For what it’s worth.”When it comes to practical understandings, observation and repetition, it can be worth a lot! When it comes to trying to get the history of the universe, its nature and substance, especially when bent on the philosophy of naturalism or materialism or uniformitarianism, as many of these billion years old stories are, regardless of whether Torah adherents adopt them, then they are worth very little. It’s essentially a game of pretend.
Coming back to focus again, there is no factual reason, no reason based only on facts, to think that light from stars is any reason to think the universe must be millions or billions of years old.
If somebody has any facts that compellingly show my view to be wrong and can respectfully share them, then I’m all ears. If they believe they have the truth, then it should be okay for me to test the claims made to see if there are hidden assumptions. But if this is all science, then it can’t be truth, since science doesn’t create unchangeable truth, only tentative theories.