Universe: Expanding or Static?

After Edwin Hubble published his astronomical observations of the redshifted light from nearby galaxies in 1929 it has almost universally been taught that the Universe is expanding. Hubble observed in the light from most of those galaxies that the spectral lines were shifted towards the red end of the spectrum as compared to a local laboratory source of the same atomic gas species. See illustration below. From this he interpreted that it was a Doppler effect, where the galaxies were receding from us the observer.

Redshift

The Doppler effect is what you experience  when you hear the pitch of the sound coming from a speeding train rushing past you. Also you might have had experience with ultra-sound imagining–there the Doppler effect is used to see the flow rate of blood in your arteries and veins. Those examples employ sound waves but the Doppler effect is real physics applied to electromagnetic waves in police radar or weather radar.

The question needs to be asked though, is this the same effect seen in the light from galaxies around us? Cosmologists today say, No! They interpret the observations differently. They say it results from the expansion of space–called cosmological expansion. The galaxies are actually not moving (except for local motion within their own clusters). The universe is expanding and over time it appears to us that they are moving away from us. Hubble discovered, and it has been confirmed many times since, that the greater the distance to a galaxy the greater the spectral lines are redshifted. This is called the Hubble Law.

Can we definitively say, from this  above stated observation, that the Universe is expanding? Actually…, no! You would have to rule out all other possible causes of redshift. It is possible of course, but it may not be so. And note, no one is measuring the recession speeds by some irrefutable method. The interpretation of a recession speed is exactly that, an interpretation, which could be wrong. Hubble himself questioned the idea well after his famous discovery.

In 1935 Hubble wrote:

“… the possibility that red-shift may be due to some other cause, connected with the long time or distance involved in the passage of the light from the nebula to observer, should not be prematurely neglected.”1[emphasis added]

If the Universe is not expanding, the only other possibilities are that it is either collapsing or it is static.

Of all the evidence amassed in favor of these alternatives, collapsing is not a significant possibility. Therefore the remaining possibility is that universe may be static. We should not so quickly rule out such a possibility.

I have collated from the scientific literature arguments for and against expansion, hence for and against a static universe.2,3  I found that it is not so clear. A case could be made for either position based on the observational evidence.

Finally, the claim has been made that Old Testament Hebrew texts support the idea of an expanding universe. I myself have used some of those same texts in support of my own cosmology in papers and in my book Starlight Time and the New Physics.But can such a claim really be justified from the scriptures themselves? No, it can’t. The clear plain reading of the Hebrew text or the English translation cannot be construed to mean cosmological expansion.5 The plain meaning is usually that God created the starry sky, like putting up a tent or a canopy, not a rubber sheet that gets stretched a thousand times or a million times its size. Tents just don’t stretch that much.

The Universe could be expanding or it may not be. It could have expanded and may be static now. It may have been created static, and held that way by the Creator. The jury is still out, I think.

References

  1. E. Hubble and R.C. Tolman Two methods of investigating the nature of nebular red-shift, ApJ, 1935, 82, 302H.
  2. J.G. Hartnett, Is the Universe really expanding — the evidence revisited, July 29, 2016.
  3. J.G. Hartnett, Is the Universe really expanding?, http://arxiv.org/pdf/1107.2485v2.pdf
  4. J.G. Hartnett, Starlight Time and the New Physics, 2nd Ed., Creation Book Publishers, 2010.
  5. J.G. Hartnett, Does the Bible really describe expansion of the universe?, April 14, 2014.