Up until now we've been pretty even-handed and philosophical, it's time to get scientific. This is going to make some folks angry, so I apologise in advance.
Way back in my first article, I talked about how supposedly literal interpretations of poetic portions of the Bible have gotten the church into trouble in the past. We clung so tightly to the notion that the Earth must be at the centre of the universe that we actually had people tortured and imprisoned for disagreeing. Now, of course, that seems ridiculous. We've all known since we were five years old that the earth spins on its axis to give us night and day, and revolves around the Sun once every year.
Unfortunately, while we've seen how our erroneous literality got us into trouble in this example, we're starting to make the same mistakes. So here it is: an objective, scientific argument from an ardent evangelical Christian.
The universe is old. I mean really, really old. It's hard to begin to comprehend how incredibly old it is. If you need to have a number, it's something like 13.56x10^9 (13.56 billion) years old. That's…old.
Now if that made you punch your monitor, please don't. You'll probably hurt your hand. The thing is, we have very, very solid evidence as to a thirteen-billion-year-old universe.
Now, understanding exactly how this figure is obtained is very, very complicated; despite spending a large amount of time studying it, it still makes my head hurt. But the concept is actually pretty simple.
Basically, we can observe that the universe is not finished. It's not a static, unchanging thing. We see stars and form and collapse, rush past each other and collide regularly. In particular though, it became apparent that the space between stars and galaxies was, on average, increasing at a rapid rate. The universe, in fact, is expanding. It's getting bigger all the time. We're able to measure that rate of expansion, as well as the present size of the observable universe. With those two facts, working in reverse, we can accurately calculate how long it's been since it all started with a bang.
"But Daniel, you charismatic stallion," I hear you say, "what if the rate of expansion isn't constant? What if it started off faster and has slowed down? Wouldn't that render the whole measurement incorrect?"
Well, yes it would, except that the speed of light is fixed. Nothing in the physical universe can go faster. In order for the calculation about the age of the universe to be inaccurate by any significant amount, the early rate of universal expansion would have needed to be far, far greater than the speed of light. God invented the speed of light for a reason. Things get freaky when you start trying to mess with it.
So there it is. We know the size of the observable universe and its rate of expansion. This is enough to accurately time its creation.
But in case that makes your head hurt, consider this: A "light-year" is a measure of distance, not time. A huge, vast distance, to be sure. A light-year is the distance that a beam of light will travel in a vacuum in one year.
We are able to accurately determine that the observable universe is many, many billions of light years across. We are able to see stars and galaxies that are millions of light years away with simple optical telescopes.
So if the light travelling from those stars took millions of years to complete its journey to your eyeballs…well, put simply if the universe were only 10,000 years old, 10,000 light years would be as far as we could possibly see. We can see much, much farther.
The universe is really, really old.
I'm gonna get personal and philosophical with you for a sec. I think the mistake we make in our interpretation of the first part of Genesis is that we assume that God's perception of a "day" is the same as ours. By making this assumption, we are immediately putting God into a box labelled "understands things the same way we do." God does not understand things the same way we do. Clearly. So to suggest that God's version of what a 'day' looks like is the same as ours is a HUGE assumption: in my view a very, very incorrect one.
Could God have created the universe in 6 literal 24 hour periods, 10,000 years ago? Of course he could. He's God.
Every credible piece of evidence he left behind in the wonder and beauty of His creation screams 'no'. Yes, I'm young, and in my view, "No He didn't".
Daniel Buckingham is currently studying towards a Diploma of Biblical Studies as part of his training to be a Salvation Army Officer (minister). He likes science and video games. He's a geek, but he's slowly coming to terms with it.
Daniel Buckingham's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-buckingham.html