Cosmology Creation/evolution Physics

The Anisotropic Synchrony Convention model as a solution to the creationist starlight-travel-time problem — Part II

Part II of two parts: This paper reviews Lisle’s cosmological model, which uses the Anisotropic Synchrony Convention (ASC). That model claims the ASC is that of the language used in the Bible, and has special relevance to the creation account. Events are time stamped by the moment they are first observed on Earth. Lisle contends that the stars really were made on the fourth day of Creation Week, and that their light reached Earth instantaneously due to the way clocks are synchronized. (First published in Journal of Creation 25(3): 56-62, 2011.)

This continues where Part I left off. Read Part I first.

Process in observed structures

How much time does it takes for structures in the cosmos to form based on assumptions of their current measured expansion rates, like in supernova remnants, for example? And how much is necessary to be assumed as created mature by God?

Figure 1: Supernova Remnant in Cassiopeia-A Credit: NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory
Figure 3: Cassiopeia A, designated SN 2008D and located 11,000 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia, is among the best-studied supernova remnants. If no neutron star was found at the centre of this object, under the ASC, this would not be called a supernova remnant. It has been calculated to have exploded in 1667 A.D. so it cannot be more than 6,000 years old by any biblical interpretation. This image blends data from NASA’s Spitzer, Hubble and Chandra observatories. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC/SAO)

In the ASC model, since we are observing astronomical sources with no light-travel time under the ASC (this is true for either form), it must mean that most of the structures were created in place as a mature creation. Then if a structure has more than 6,000 years of ‘process’1 Lisle must assume some significant mature creation content. For example, since we observe the object in real-time (i.e. no light-travel time) in the ASC model a supernova remnant that looks a million years old based on assumptions of the size of the cloud and the measured expansion rate of the cloud must have been created with nearly that much apparent ‘age’ at its creation and could have accumulated only 6,000 years worth of process after that (figure 3).

Lisle is not sure that there are any supernova remnants, for which we can actually measure the expansion rate, that are estimated to be anywhere near a million years old. Though some secular astronomers do claim that some supernova remnants are very old, perhaps half a million years or so. But the determination of age is not from expansion rates. The ASC model needs to assume significant created process. Lisle would not even call an object a supernova remnant unless a neutron star was identified at its centre. It would be simply an expanding cloud of hydrogen gas. Nevertheless his model can accommodate a creation model that proposes rapid process during Creation Week, to allow for significantly more process than what is apparently ‘6,000 years’ based on currently measured expansion rates and uniformitarian assumptions.

Is there a problem here? If a neutron star was observed at the center of an expanding cloud that ‘looks’ like it is much older than 6,000 years, that would falsify the model; or else a mature creation argument would also have to include the creation of the neutron star. Does that mean we are being deceived into believing an explosion took place in the past when essentially the structure was created with the neutron star there? Wouldn’t that be equivalent to a mature tree created in the Garden at the beginning? But ultimately the ASC model would have light first reaching Earth from anywhere in the universe on the fourth day, therefore in whatever state Adam saw (or in principle could have seen) the source on the sixth day is the original state (plus two days) in which it was created. But Lisle wouldn’t call it a supernova remnant under those circumstances, since there was no actual supernova. It’s an expanding nebula that sort of resembles a supernova remnant. Of observed supernova remnants, for which age has been estimated from actual expansion rates, all are less than about 10,000 years or so.

Only time dilation could overcome an assumption of initial mature creation, especially if you can make an argument that the expanding cloud really did come from a star that exploded, and that the process (at today’s rates) would vastly exceed 6,000 years. Then you’ve got a good argument for time dilation. For example the antennae galaxy is a colliding pair of galaxies that, at constant measured rates, would have taken many millions of years to merge to the observed state. If that process is real, only a time-dilation model could account for the required time, assuming the galaxies were not created in a colliding condition.

In the ASC model the ‘appearance of a process’ must come from mature creation on the fourth day and real process after that. The light first arrives at Earth on the fourth day, hence there is no time at the source to allow for any process, whether expansion of a cloud, winding of a spiral galaxy or merging of galaxies. The model is really a very mature creation model with the ASC used to eliminate a light-travel-time problem.

Lisle’s position is that the problem of appearance of age is philosophical, not scientific. God could have made the universe using a lot of process or very little. Where the Bible doesn’t specifically tell us, it can be difficult to discern. He would argue that God would not have created the light in transit because it leads to some philosophical/theological difficulties. Namely, God created our eyes to interpret what we see as really existing; so it would be inconsistent for Him to make fictional movies in beams of light in space. Light in transit undermines a precondition of intelligibility: the basic reliability of the senses. But fully mature trees and spiral galaxies do not. However, there is no problem with the inclusion of time dilation for structure formation if that is found to be necessary.

Other processes

A related topic to this is processes which are not related to the size of a structure, like the time it takes for a product of fusion to reach a star’s surface, which applies to all stars, including our own sun. How could the ASC model explain that without the actual time being there in that star’s own frame of reference?

Lisle’s position is that the energy now being released from the surface of the sun was not produced in the core by fusion. Rather, it is part of the internal energy the sun had when it was created, which has just now reached the surface. God didn’t make the sun as an icicle: it had a temperature/energy gradient upon creation. The energy being produced in the core by fusion has not yet reached the surface. He contends that we have a problematic tendency to think naturalistically. But if we drop the assumptions of naturalism and uniformitarianism, is there any reason to think that energy now coming from a star’s surface was ever produced in the core? The fact that it would eventually happen doesn’t mean that it has already happened that way. And since creationist time dilation models don’t have a lot of time-dilation within the solar system, presumably they would all give this explanation, at least for the sun.

So it seems that regardless where the star is located in the universe, it must be mature creation in the ASC model that explains this. In a time-dilation universe it can include time-evolved processes of billions of years. The exception is the sun and stars in the galaxy. The sun has had no time dilation in the solar system so we must assume mature creation also, as long as we assume the stellar physics correct. Stars in the galaxy can have some time-dilation effects, depending on the model, but I think some mature creation is needed also.


If one uses mature creation to explain any ‘deficit’ between the model and the observations, then doesn’t it make it non-falsifiable? Is that an escape clause? Not according to Lisle. There is no ‘deficit’ between the ASC model and observations. But really the question is a philosophical issue. The scientists among creationists have had training in secular science, and thus, to some extent, have been trained to think about science from an unbiblical point of view. We must stop and reflect on any unstated secular presuppositions that may influence our thinking. For example, our normal tendency is to prefer naturalistic and uniformitarian explanations for any event in question. And this works well for present processes since today God normally seems to accomplish His will through natural law, and with generally consistent rates. That’s what natural law is: the normal way God upholds the universe today.

But when we think of Creation Week, God was working in a supernatural way, speaking new things into existence, for example. And we cannot automatically assume that naturalistic explanations are the best ones, even if they happen to give the right answer. Lisle says that he disagrees with the approach of finding as much naturalistic explanation as possible for Creation Week. On the other hand, he also disagrees with the approach2 where Creation Week is considered ‘holy ground’ and cannot be explained at all by any natural processes. These are two extremes, and reality is somewhere in between. We cannot arbitrarily assume that God would not make galaxies as spirals any more than we can arbitrarily assume that He would. We must make arguments both ways. And Lisle does not believe that God would make light-beams already on their way, so distant starlight needs an explanation beyond simply God made it mature.

However, in his mind mature creation is falsifiable, but the concept is philosophical in nature, and therefore its falsification will be along the lines of a logical/philosophical/biblical argument rather than observations of the universe. Though, of course, observations of the universe may be helpful in forming such an argument. For example, that light was not created ‘mature’ in the sense of it being created in transit. It follows that it is inconsistent for God to make pictures of supernovae that never happened. But the argument is philosophical in nature, not scientific. And there is no scientific argument against God making the beams of light in transit. In the same way, the ASC model is definitely falsifiable. What this means is that the ASC model is a mature creation model with an explanation for the light-travel time. It has definite advantages over those models of a mature creation where God did it but we can’t know how.


As already mentioned, the ASC model can be divided into two different forms:

  1. the phenomenological view, meaning merely an agreed-upon convention on time stamping of events,
  2. the real nature of the universe, i.e. the actual physics of spacetime.

When Lisle wrote his first paper on this several years ago,3 he was more open to option 1. That is, he was inclined to think that the one-way speed of light might be meaningful apart from a man-made synchrony convention. And maybe we could discover what the preferred convention for God’s universe is. But he is now convinced of option 2: that the one-way speed of light simply is not meaningful apart from a synchrony convention; and there is intrinsic flexibility in how we choose to define a synchrony convention. Unlike the two-way speed of light, the one-way speed of light is not a property of the universe, but is a matter of agreed convention in order to arrive at a definition of simultaneity.

Let us now consider the Curse. God curses the whole universe, which He could have done universally, simultaneous with that time on Earth, i.e. at infinite speed, simultaneously throughout the whole universe. God is not limited by His creation, and hence the effects of the Curse would not necessarily be limited to a wave spreading out at the speed of light from the earth either. This is a position that both Humphreys and I agree with.

To Lisle, the key here is the word ‘simultaneously’. If God cursed the entire universe simultaneously (which he believes He did), then we must ask, simultaneously by what synchrony convention and in what reference frame? Implicitly we are therefore forced to choose a value for the one-way speed of light in order to arrive at a synchrony convention. Presumably, if the Bible uses the ASC throughout, then the Curse occurs simultaneously from Earth’s position by the ASC time-stamping. So he would not take the position that the Curse is simultaneous by the ESC because he does not believe the Bible ever uses the ESC.

According to Lisle, if you take option 1, that ASC is merely phenomenological (but nonetheless used in the Bible), and that the true and proper time-stamping of events must be done by the Einstein convention, then you have the situation where we have the Curse occurring before Adam sinned. For the events of the Curse in the cosmos to be simultaneous by the ASC (and Earth’s reference frame), then they would not be simultaneous by the ESC. By the ESC, you would have God cursing the outermost regions of the universe first and working inward at the finite two-way speed of light such that it reaches Adam at the time God pronounces the Curse upon Adam. If the Curse were accomplished by natural means, this would present a problem, but he does not think this is necessarily a problem since God is beyond time. And since he does not hold to option 1, it’s not really relevant.

If you take option 2, causality cannot be an issue, if one chooses the one-way incoming speed to be infinite by using the ASC coordinates. It should be noted that the ASC and the ESC are merely different coordinate systems. There is no physical difference in the light cones between one and the other. But the past light cone, when plotted using the ASC, becomes flattened into a horizontal plane (as per convention, we draw time on the vertical axis), and all events of the Curse throughout the universe are simultaneous.

Lisle would contend that whatever the effects of the Curse in the cosmos are, we can see them now, even in the most distant regions of the universe, because the Curse is simultaneous by the ASC. But the Curse was actually caused by God (as the appropriate reaction to Adam’s sin), so causality really isn’t a problem here since the Curse is not accomplished by natural means. Nevertheless, it is not so clear to actually know what events in the cosmos, beyond Earth, have resulted from the Curse. And that I definitely agree with.

According to Lisle there would only be a problem if the Curse was a natural effect produced by Adam’s sin. It would take time for the outgoing information to reach the distant regions of the universe. But since the Curse was instigated by God, it could have been instantaneous. And under the ASC, the effects are visible on Earth immediately.


Lisle’s ASC model is a useful addition to the creationist literature but I believe its validity hinges on whether Exodus 20:9–11 uses that convention. To suggest otherwise may well be begging the question, as he suggests. Maybe one cannot conceive of a universe, the true nature of which is described by an anisotropic speed of light, but there is no scientific argument against it. The theological question needs to be satisfied, “Is the ASC really implicit in the language of the Bible?” Really the onus is on Lisle to produce strong scriptural evidence for what can only otherwise be construed as an unscriptural view, by placing the creation of stars and galaxies in the cosmos well before the creation of the earth, when we read the Bible with our usual notion of a sequence of events. And great claims need great evidence. However, if he is correct, there certainly is no starlight-travel-time problem. It was never really there.



On the subject of the one-way speed of light, there are a number of experiments that are called one-way speed of light measurements.4 But, really, they are a differential one-way measure (Ives-Stilwell type experiments5), which measure Doppler shifts in light and are v/c dependent.6 These experiments do not appear to have the clock synchronization problem, as would proper one-way measurements, because the clock drops out of the analysis.

According to Lisle, they all have a clock-synchronization problem, though sometimes it is harder to spot. All one-way experiments either explicitly or implicitly assume a synchrony convention (and thus the one-way speed of light). In some cases, this occurs because the time-dilation term is ignored (e.g. Romer’s method). Under the ASC, time dilation has a linear term and cannot be neglected, even at slow speeds. (That’s why slow-clock transport fails.)

The Ives‒Stilwell experiment is really measuring Doppler shifts, not velocity directly. Granted, you can derive velocity from Doppler shift, but only if you assume a synchrony convention. The relationship between Doppler shift and velocity is different under the ASC than the ESC because the time-dilation terms are different.7 So when you convert from Doppler shift to velocity, you must implicitly assume a synchrony convention. The clock synchronization problem is still there, buried in the Doppler-to-velocity conversion.

Nowadays the best results are still pretty limited because of the difficulty of constructing such experiments. Nevertheless, they give weight to the notion that the speed of light (even in this limited one-way sense) is the constant c. But this is only true if you have implicitly assumed Einstein synchrony somewhere in the analysis, which begs the question. Otherwise, the results will be perfectly consistent with the ASC as well.


  1. This means what appears to have happened from current measured ongoing changes and assuming it started at a point. In the case of a supernova remnant, the assumption is that the gas and dust all began in the progenitor star.
  2. DeYoung, D.B., Mature creation and seeing distant starlight, J. Creation 24(3):54–59, 2010.
  3. Newton, R., Distant starlight and Genesis: Conventions of time measurement, J. Creation 15(1):80–85, 2001
  4. See
  5. See
  6. The parameter v represents the speed of the source with respect to the laboratory and c the measurable two-way speed of light.
  7. Winnie, J.A., 1970a, Special Relativity without one-way velocity assumptions: Part I. Philosophy of Science 37:81–99; Winnie, J.A., Special Relativity without one-way velocity assumptions: Part II. Philosophy of Science 37:223–238, 1970.


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By John Gideon Hartnett

Dr John G. Hartnett is an Australian physicist and cosmologist, and a Christian with a biblical creationist worldview. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D. (with distinction) in Physics from The University of Western Australia, W.A., Australia. He was an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA) fellow at the University of Adelaide, with rank of Associate Professor. Now he is retired. He has published more than 200 papers in scientific journals, book chapters and conference proceedings.

4 replies on “The Anisotropic Synchrony Convention model as a solution to the creationist starlight-travel-time problem — Part II”

Hi John. That God creates ‘maturity’ as a basic process is evident in the ‘fact’ that Adam was created with apparent age, as were the land-dwelling creatures and flora. Whilst we don’t know (can’t know) the apparent age that Adam was, it is evident from the scriptures that he was not a vulnerable baby, nor was he near death but somewhere in between (say, 25yrs old?). Whilst he had the appearance of age, he did not have a history associated with that age. There was no organic deterioration in his body, or that of Eve’s until sometime after they sinned. As such, I don’t have a problem with God forming ‘mature’ galaxies, clusters, and associated systems, in motion and of varying types, stages and complexity. I think there is a lot of merit in the ASC model. Regards, Mark E


Hi Mark. I think you may be confusing “appearance of age” with “illusion of process”. For example, did Adam have a belly button? While Adam being created as an adult is just an appearance of age question, Adam being created with a belly button is an illusion of process question. It creates an illusion of Adam having gone through a process of embryological development and birth from a woman that he did not experience, rather than having been directly created. I think the origin of supernovae remnants like Dr. Hartnett refers to above fall into the latter category in a “mature creation” scenario.
Chris B


Hi Chris. I don’t believe I refered to Adam’s belly button…I don’t believe he had one since he was created instantly by the spoken Word of God. The appearance of ‘age’ reference is to the fact that Adam, at his creation, was already of some apparent age, ie., e.g., he was created 20yrs old but was obviously only 1day old chronologically. So in this regard, it seems to me that God could have created cosomological objects at different apparent Earth ‘ages’ and stages too without deceiving us with a ‘created’ history as some in the past once believed. Does that make any sense? Blessings, Mark


Mark and Chris, I agree that God could have created a ‘mature’ creation as, like you say, He quite clearly did with Adam and must have during Creation week making fully ‘grown’ trees and animals with their ‘seed in themselves’. So mature creation in the cosmos at some level can be safely assumed for almost any model, after all, God was creating out of nothing. He does not need to follow some cosmic evolutionist’s play book. The question of deception is an important one, which is only true if the light we see arriving on earth does not carry real historical information. I wrote on this in my book Starlight Time and the New Physics (pp. 26,27):

I don’t believe God engages in deception, and as we will see, the idea that He created all the light beams ‘in place’ involves that. This is because a beam of light also carries information. When a supernova happens, for instance, we see a whole series of events take place—the information is transmitted by the light beams. If God created the beams of light along with their information, then if the supernova occurred more than 6,000 light-years away, that would mean that all that information we see, giving evidence of things happening, would have to be fraudulent—it never happened. It would mean that God had created a gigantic phony lightshow of things that are not real.

There is a way around this issue, a really complex and ad hoc miracle that would enable the creation of a beam of light from source to observer so that the observer appears to see current information. For example, when the supernova named 1987a occurred in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is about 170,000 light-years distant, God could have miraculously translated the light across 170,000 light-years’ distance of space instantly (as if the photons had passed through a wormhole) and then just outside the solar system let it move at
the usual speed of light. This hypothesis is untestable and, though not impossible, seems implausible, to put it mildly. Miracles in the Bible are rare and special events, the purpose of which is clearly understood and/or revealed. This does not fit that category; it looks more like a convenient set of miracles invented ad hoc to overcome a difficulty.


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