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The Age of The Universe

Creationism states that the Universe is about 6000 years old. This number comes from an analysis of the happenings described in the Bible after the creation. There is some variation in the actual age estimates made by different theologians, but the estimates don't vary that much, and I will show here they are all wrong. What I will do here, is show the Universe can be proven to be older than 6000 years by anyone prepared to do a little bit of research. There is no room for doubt - the age of 6000 years is just wrong.

We know light travels at a particular speed. That speed is about 300,000 kilometers per second. That's fast, but on the vast scale of the Universe light can take a significant time to travel from one object to another. We have tested light speed theories thoroughly and we know they are right. If you want to do some fairly tricky maths, and a bit of reasonably precise observation, you can prove this to yourself by examining the timing of occultation events for Jupiter's moons, or timing the delays in satellite phone calls.

Next, we know the laws of physics operate the same everywhere in the Universe. Examine a star's spectrum and you will see the same elements as we have here, acting the same way. We know the basic laws we have formulated work everywhere (except maybe in extreme conditions, such as black holes).

We only know objects in space exist because of their light. We can also use radio waves, etc, to observe objects, but radio is really just another form of light so I will use the wider meaning of light to encompass all forms of radiation. The light from every object we see takes a certain time to get here. When you look at the Moon you are seeing it as it was 1.5 seconds ago, because it takes that long for light to get here. For the Sun that time lag is 8 minutes, for the nearest star 4.3 years, and for the nearest big galaxy 2.4 million years.

Maybe you are beginning to see why the Universe can't be 6000 years old now. Look at the Andromeda galaxy (the magnificent object shown at the top of this page, which is easy to view with just binoculars). The light you see left the galaxy over 2 million years ago. How could that happen if the galaxy (and the rest of the Universe) is only 6000 years old?

There is one vital piece of information I haven't mentioned yet. That is, how do we know how far away these objects are? Unless we know how far away they are we can't know how long the light was travelling for. Measuring distances in astronomy is actually very difficult, but astronomers have very accurate methods now available to them, which can be cross-checked with other data so that we know they are accurate.

To measure the distance to close objects (I mean just a few hundred trillion kilometers away) we can use parallax. If we measure the position of a star once, then again 6 months later, the Earth has moved 300 million kilometers in its orbit from one side of the Sun to the other. the star will look like its moved. We know it hasn't really because if we measure it again in another 6 months its back to where it started. By using some simple maths its possible to calculate the distance. The bigger the shift, the shorter the distance. It doesn't require really complex equipment to do this, just very good observing technique because the position changes are so small. The problem is this only works for close objects - well less than 6000 light years away.

To measure greater distances, astronomers use other techniques. One particularly good one is to use pulsating variable stars, especially a type of star called a Cepheid. These stars change brightness over time, and due to the physical processes involved, the total brightness is related to the time the change in brightness takes. If we find some close Cepheids and measure their distance using parallax we can then compare their true brightness with how bright they seem to be, and this gives a scale which we can use to give the distance of more distant Cepheids. The best thing is that these are very bright stars which can easily be see thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of light years away.

A million light years distance means the object generated the light we see now a million years ago. If the light was generated a million years ago, the object obviously existed a million years ago. So there's your proof: Creationism is definitely wrong.

This is just the start, of course. We also know through geology, physics, biology, and just about any other science you care to mention, that the Earth and the Universe are much older than 6000 years. If you are a creationist, you're an idiot, its time to get over it and just admit you're wrong!

Discussion

Comment by Michael Aprile on 2006-07-17 at 14:27:04: OJB. I really like exchanging ideas with you. I went to your website. I find it interesting how you think. You say, "We know the age of the Universe because we can measure the distance to the most distant and ancient objects. Their light takes over 10 billion years to get here, so the Universe must be at least that age." So, by that reasoning: I know it takes me two days to travel from Texas to Kentucky. Therefore, Kentucky must be at least two days old. I am learning! But, what if "In the be...

Comment by OJB on 2006-07-17 at 14:27:35: You don't seem to quite understand what I am saying... We know the galaxies exist because we see their light. Light travels at a certain speed and takes a certain time to get here. If the light got here it must have left that long ago. Therefore the galaxies must be at least that old. To use your analogy: I know it takes me two days to travel from Texas to Kentucky. I have just travelled from Texas to Kentucky. Therefore Texas must be at least 2 days old. Do you get it now? Let's get this sorted, then I'll deal with your other issues.

Comment by Michael Aprile on 2006-07-18 at 09:09:44: What you are saying, regarding the age of the universe, is not difficult to understand... thank you for your kind concern about that though. Yes, I have read http://owen2.otago.ac.nz/owen/XuOtherPhilosophy/ReligionAge.html thoroughly, and I find a great amount of "room to doubt" what is claimed there. I seriously doubt the several assumptions in calculating both the distance to stars, planets, etc. and probable factors that have been overlooked in arriving at those calculations. It never c...

Comment by OJB on 2006-07-18 at 09:51:10: I deliberately kept to simple physics which has not been seriously questioned and is accessible to everyone without complex maths and scientific understanding. There is practically no chance that there are unknown factors which could make it significantly wrong. As for your idea that light was already in transit when the Universe was created. Well, that is possible, but it is a huge stretch of credibility. Why would god do that? To deliberately mislead us maybe? There is also the fact that...

Comment by OJB on 2006-08-15 at 22:45:34: OK, I heard no more from him. It looks like he finally realised the science is basically indisputable. The Universe really is that old - there's no room for serious doubt. Would any other creationist out there like to try to disprove this?

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