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Age of the Universe

The Age of the Universe

The Bible and Science give very different Ages for the Universe.

Science says the Universe is about 13.7 billion years old while the Bible says the Earth is between 6000 and 10,000 years of age.

The Age of the Universe is directly related to the size of the Universe.

Measuring distances: Stellar Parallax Method:

Astronomers use a number of different methods to determine how far away planets, stars, nebula and galaxies are.  For nearby planets, and stars a simple method using trigonometric functions works well.  This method is also call Stellar Parallax and is accurate out to about several dozen light years; however, the Hipparcos satellite measuered 118,218 stars to distances up to about 1200 light years.  

Measuring distances: Star Brightness Method:

A second method uses the brightness of stars to determine distance.  The problem with this method is that stars come in a wide variety of sizes and brightness.  To use the method with any hope of accuracy one would have to know the real or absolute brightness of the star.  If you do know the actual brightness of the star then you can use a well known law of physics to determine its distance.  Light from a source dims to the inverse square of the distance.

Luckily a certain type of variable star was discovered to have a known absolute brightness.  These stars are called Cepheid variables.  The star can easily be identified by its bright to dim cycle period.  This star then becomes the "standard candle" to measure stars at greater distances.  As these stars are somewhat bright they can be seen at great distances.  These type stars can be observed in nearby galaxies.  We now have a method to use to measurements across our galaxy and also to other galaxies.  Nearby Cepheid Variables can be measured using the Stellar Parallax method, thus we have a confirmation with 2 systems giving the same results on distances.  

Astronomers are very confident about these two systems of measurements.  Nearby galaxies are millions of light years away.  Thus the age of the Universe must be at least millions of years old.  

There are several other methods that Astronomers use to measure distances, which extend measurements out to the edge of the observed Universe. These other methods while not as accurate, indicate far greater distances up to 10 billion light years away. Thus indicating the age of the Universe is 10 billion light years away.  

Light Year:  A light year is the distance light travels in one year. This distance is about 5.88x1012  miles.  This system of measurement also tells us how long ago the light left the star it came from.  So when you look at the nearest star at 4 light years away; you are seeing the star as it looked 4 years ago.  If you look at the nearest galaxy, Andromeda, you are seeing stars that existed 2.2 million years ago.  They are at least 2.2 million years of age, and 2.2 million light years away.    

The Bible says God created the Universe in 6 days!

Most rational people will say that these two accounts are very different and both can not be true.  If one is true then the other must be false.  This would be a logic conclusion if it were not for Albert Einstein and his theory of Relativity. You are probably asking what is he talking about?

Einstein's theory of Relativity says that "Time" is not constant and uniform.  The flow of time can be affected by 2 factors.  First, if a clock is moving at a high speed relative to the speed of light it will appear to slow down.  Second, if a clock is in a strong gravitational field then the clock will appear to run slow to an observer not in the gravitational field.

The BIG BANG: the beginning of the Universe

The Big Bang theory of the beginning of the Universe is one of the most widely accepted theories in science today.  The theory states that all the matter in the Universe started from one very small place and expanded outward to fill the space of the Universe we see today.  At the time of the Big Bang astronomers will all agree on two major points.  

    1. The Universe was very small and extremely dense. 
    1. The Universe expansion was at very high speeds approaching the speed of light.

Both of these extreme factors would have brought the effects of Relativity into play.  Time would have been warped by both the very high density and by the very high rate of expansion.  If God was close by or in the Expanding Universe and was waring a Rolex watch, the watch would have been running very slowly compared to our clocks today.  It may be possible that seconds were to God as hundred, thousands, or even millions of years by our clocks today.  As God is the narrator in the story of Genesis, it is possible that he experienced only 6 days in the creation.  

God's experience would be like the astronaut, in Einstiens story, that travels to a distant star and returned, to Earth hundreds of years later.  Everyone he knew on Earth had died of old age but his trip had only lasted a few weeks by his clock!   

I beleive that the difference between science and the story in Genesis is resolved by Einstein's theory of Relativity and the Bible.  In the Bible it also states several places that, a day to God is like a 1000 years to man1.  When you take both of these into consideration, it may well mean that both accounts are accurate.

Einstein states that what we observe is Relative to our viewpoint.  On Earth we see the Universe as 13.7 billion years of age, while to God, from his view point, the Earth is but a week old.  Einstein will say that both observers are correct in their observations.        

The Secular World view - The Universe started with the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago.  Science can not explain what happened before the Big Bang or what started it, but are committed to a natural explaination of this event.  

The Christian World view - God created the universe.  He started everything we see today.  Christains accept God's story that he created the Universe in 6 days.  

Each of the following pages will explore different topics on the Cultural War divide.     

Culture War: introduction

EVOLUTION: The Theory of Evolution versus Biblical Creation.

The BIG BANG: versus God's Creation as told in Genesis.

The Age of the Universe: the Genesis Story versus Modern Astronomy.

The Theory of Relativity, Physics affect on Social Morals.

Women's Rights and Abortion on demand.

The Kinsey Report, the Pill & the Playboy Philosophy versus Biblical Teachings. 

The Gay Rights Movement:  Moral Values of Gays versus Christian Moral Values. 

Activist Judges and the ACLU:  How the courts are undermining our Democratic Republic form of government.  

Sex and Violence in the Media shape the American Moral Code. 

Socialism, Communism or Capitalism what is best for America.

1 God's sense of time is very different then ours.  We read in the Bible the following. . .
For a thousand years in your sight, are like a day that has just gone by..  
    Psalm 90:4  NIV
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  
      2 Peter 3:8  NIV 

You have made my days a mere handbreadth; each man's life is but a breath (to God).
      Psalm 39:5  NIV

If you find this topic interesting, I recommend reading the following books.

The First Three Minutes, A Modern View of the Orgin of the Universe, by Steven Weinberg  (Basic Books, Inc. NY) 1977  

A Brief History of Time, From the Big Bang to Black Holes, by Stephen Hawking, Bantam Books,  (Toronto, NY, London, Sydney) 1988

Relativity, the Special and General Theory, by Albert Einstein, Crown Publishers (New York, NY) 1961

A Matter of Days, Resolving a Creation Controversy, by Hugh Ross, NavPress, (Colorado Springs, CO.)  2004

The Elegant Universe, Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, by Brian Greene, Vintage Books (New York)  1999.

Last update Jan. 2009