Cosmology Creation/evolution Physics

Tension not extension in creation cosmology

For a considerable period of time modern biblical creationists as well as non-biblical creationists, like the progressive creationists (with an old earth/big bang embracing worldview) have used many biblical texts to argue that Scripture supports cosmological expansion of the universe. In 2011 I reviewed those texts.1  What I found was that to suggest that they describe cosmological expansion of space, with galaxies being spread out in space using the often-quoted rubber-sheet analogy, is not justifiable and is pure eisegesis.  The straightforward meaning is that of God constructing the heavens above and the earth below as a description of His preparation of a habitat for man. The metaphors used are of putting up a tent or canopy, which does not stretch like a rubber sheet.

Even though the texts do not rule out the notion of cosmological expansion, because they are silent on the matter, they do not explicitly describe it. Therefore I believe if we

  1. properly exegete what the scriptures say, and
  2. are as faithful as we know how in developing our cosmologies (really cosmogony; the description of the origin of the universe), God will lead us into the truth.

We may not in our lifetimes discover exactly how He created the universe, but it is also true that if we are not faithful to His Word we may never find that truth we seek.

“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11

Recently I received an email from Russ Humphreys in regards to this matter as it had been discussed on the Creation Research Society discussion site. The email is reproduced here with Dr Humphreys’ permission.

[Post to CRSnet 4/24/2014]:

Hi Richard and CRS:

Richard, thanks for giving me an opportunity to explain some things that have been on my mind for three years.  When John Hartnett first raised the point you raise below [John, Richard gave a link to your article DOES THE BIBLE REALLY DESCRIBE EXPANSION OF THE UNIVERSE?] to me in early 2011, I realized he was absolutely right.  Scriptures like Isaiah 40:22(b),

“Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain  And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in”,

aren’t comparing the heavens (the space in which the stars exist) to something as elastic as a rubber sheet, which can extend its length and width considerably when we apply tension to it.  Rather, God compares the heavens to a fabric, like a curtain or tent material.  When we apply tension to ordinary fabrics, such as those available in Bible times, they only increase their dimensions by a few percent.  That is not nearly large enough to give the sevenfold or more increase in size that we would need to explain the redshifts we observe.  That sent me back to the drawing board on my second cosmology.

I realized pretty soon that a simple increase of tension in the fabric of space, even without much extension of its size, could give us large red shifts. If you go to Figure 4 on page 85 in the article on my second cosmology,2 you’ll see an illustration of a trampoline with a heavy iron ring on it.

Fig. 1. The trampoline analogy used in Humphreys’ second cosmology

The weight of the ring represents the mass of the “waters above the heavens”, and the depth of the dent it makes in the trampoline represents the gravitational potential in the fabric of space within the waters above.  It is the tension in the trampoline fabric that supports the ring.  If we suddenly increase the tension in the fabric, the ring will start moving upward.  It will continue upward until the ring reaches a new point of equilibrium.  In the case of the fabric of the heavens, a large sudden increase in the tension could make the fabric move upward for billions of years, since the masses involved are huge.  Or, if the tension increased gradually, the movement would continue as long as the increase continues.

This decrease of depth of the dent corresponds to a decrease in the depth of the gravitational potential of the fabric of space throughout the visible cosmos.  That would mean the gravitational potential of space would not be the same at the beginning and end of a photon’s flight.  It would be greater or smaller at the end of the photon’s trip to us, depending on the rate of increase of the potential.  That affects the ratio of the two Phi’s (representing potentials) in eq. (21) (page 89) for the redshift.  (With a non-stretchable fabric of space, the two R’s in the equation would have a ratio of about one, thereby dropping out of it.)  So it would be the change of potential with distance traveled that would determine the amount of redshift.  This turns out to give us a reasonable redshift-distance relation.  Other things related to my cosmology work out nicely also.

In summary:  we don’t need extension of the fabric of space, merely tension.  In the words of the bad guy in Alfred Bester’s 1950’s sci-fi book, The Demolished Man, “Tension, apprehension, and dissention have begun.”  I’m working on an update on my 2nd cosmology with these ideas, and I hope to submit it to the Journal of Creation soon.

Best regards in Christ,

Russ Humphreys

Fig 2. A finite bounded universe in Humphreys’ second cosmology

Russ Humphreys’ second cosmology is a radical departure from his first cosmology3,4 though there are some very similar aspects to it. In my opinion the second is a major step forward in the science. He posits the universe, roughly galactocentric with a centre and an edge. The outer edge is delineated by the ‘waters above’. See Fig 2. here. In that initial version of the model the universe underwent cosmological expansion as illustrated by the outward pointing arrows in the figure. His point he makes in the email above is that that is not necessary and sufficient time dilation to solve the biblical creationist starlight time travel-time problem is possible with this model without cosmological expansion, but derived from change in the tension of the fabric of space itself.

This line of argument needs to be fully explored and therefore at present it can only be a research problem that must be subject to a full examination and peer-review. Dr Humphreys wanted me to be clear that you understood that. Nevertheless, for those who are following these sorts of developments in creationist cosmological models, please pray for this project.


  1. John G. Hartnett, Does the Bible really describe expansion of the universe? Journal of Creation 25(2):125–127, August 2011; recently reposted here.
  2. D. Russell Humphreys, New time dilation helps creation cosmology, Journal of Creation 22(3):84-92, December 2008; pdf available at
  3. D. Russell Humphreys, Starlight and Time, Master Books, 1994
  4. His first cosmology used the Klein metric whereas for the second cosmology he found a general solution of what might be called the Schwarzschild metric.

Related Articles

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.

18 replies on “Tension not extension in creation cosmology”

Hi John, this is fascinating stuff.

Is there any scientific evidence that the “fabric of space” is a “thing”, as opposed to just a measurement or concept? Could the notion of “spreading out” the heavens be referring to the objects in the heavens (i.e., stars, galaxies) being spread out? If I imagine a tent being spread out above me, there’s still empty space between the fabric of the tent, and where I’m sitting inside of it; so along this line of thinking, the stars and galaxies could be the “fabric” of the tent. If this were the correct interpretation of scripture, would it challenge ideas of time-dilation? I realize that this question equally applies to the notions of “tension on” and “expansion of” space.

On the other hand, I can conceptualize “space” as a blank canvas for the Creator to “paint” on, or a blank page for the Word of God to be written, or to write on. Or even in a purely materialistic sense, as some type of field within which the forces, such as gravity, operate in.

So is this more of a philosophical issue, or is it something that was settled, for instance, by the theory of relativity, or other properties that have been discovered about “space”?


You raise a number of interesting questions which I have been thinking about lately. I have also written a few new papers and one is on exactly ‘expansion of space’. That will now be peer-reviewed and should be published in a few months. But I can say this, I am strongly inclined to believe that the notion of the ‘fabric of space’ stretching is wrong. The most fundamental questions are: What is space? Or, does empty space have any meaning?

General Relativity uses Riemannian geometry to describe spacetime but that does mean that space is anything? Einstein borrowed the geometry and it could be that the geometry is only a tool to describe the physics. So can you attribute any attributes to space from that?


I’m currently reading Dismantling the Big Bang (and really enjoying it). In there, a “one particle universe” hypothetical example is given, which demonstrates that size, distance, motion, and time would all be impossible to determine except in relation to another particle.

Do you think the entire material universe could be described (i.e. the laws of physics) in terms of relationships between material particles (individually and/or in aggregate)?

It seems that the fundamental forces (gravity, electro-magnetism, strong and weak nuclear) are all relational. Also, the triune nature of God is relational, and we are told that his eternal power and Godhead are clearly seen from the creation of the world, in Romans 1:20.

Also, in searching for more information about the question “is space real”, I stumbled across something called “relational mechanics”, and a pdf book by the same name, by Andre K.T. Assis. I must admit that it’s way over my head in terms of higher mathematics and physics. I’m curious if you’ve ever come across this information before, and if so, do you have an opinion about it?


O your first question, yes you need at least two particles to define meaningful physics. So it is relational, we would call relative. Motion, distance and hence time is always measured with respect another particle. It is true God is relational, but maybe the only true absolute in the Universe. By that I mean He is always there, the I AM who exists eternally. The rest of the universe is measured by comparisons.

I have met Andre Assis, but I have never much looked into his physics. I once attended the Second Crisis in Cosmology Conference (CCC2), Port Angeles, WA, USA, 8th to 11th September, 2008 and he presented there, a paper “Hubble’s cosmology: From finite expanding universe to static endless universe”. My recollection is that he is an atheist but was anti-big bang as were most of the 40 odd attendees at that conference.


Hi John. Surely “empty space” has measurable properties like permittivity and permeability, right? [And these properties are related to the speed at which light passes through a given substance (like air, oil, water, plastic, etc.) by the relation v^2=1/(mu*eps), where v=speed of light through the substance, mu=permeability, and eps=permittivity? Wouldn’t that imply that space is “something”? And what about gravitational fields that permeate empty space … do they simply impart “action at a distance”, or is there “something” that is actually curved, so that a moving object in the presence of a gravitational field is actually following a geodesic along a mathematical surface? Finally, is space truly “empty” if light is passing through it? At any given time, doesn’t “empty space” contain energy–i.e. of the photons it contains? Just wondering.
P.S. – Your book Starlight, Time and the New Physics is one of my favorites!


I’ll answer your questions sequentially:

Your question: Surely “empty space” has measurable properties like permittivity and permeability, right? [And these properties are related to the speed at which light passes through a given substance (like air, oil, water, plastic, etc.) by the relation v^2=1/(mu*eps), where v=speed of light through the substance, mu=permeability, and eps=permittivity?

My answer: I agree with you. If space has something in it that constrains the speed of light and hence provides some impedance to electromagnetic wave propagation, then I would not call it “empty”. See this paper, Urban, M., Couchot, F., Sarazin, X., and Djannati-Atai, A., The quantum vacuum as the origin of the speed of light, Eur. Phys. J. D, 67(3): 58-63, 2013, where the authors develop the idea that the speed of light c is determined by quantum effects of the virtual particles in the vacuum. Thus I do not equate the quantum vacuum with “empty”.

Your question: Wouldn’t that imply that space is “something”?

My answer: But it is now definitional and Russ Humphreys and I have been discussing this. Also I have a paper under review on this very subject. In particular my new paper focusses on the question “Is it possible to measure the expansion of space?” Hence the need for a clear understanding of what “empty space” is.

Your question: And what about gravitational fields that permeate empty space … do they simply impart “action at a distance”, or is there “something” that is actually curved, so that a moving object in the presence of a gravitational field is actually following a geodesic along a mathematical surface?

My answer: Another good question. You should be a philosopher. So is space curved according to General Relativity? I do not think so. The Riemannian Geometry which Einstein borrowed, I argue in my forthcoming paper, is a mathematical contrivance; nothing more. Gravity waves are predicted to travel at the speed of light. All influences that carry information are limited to that speed so a gravitational field then must only propagate information at the speed of light. (There are those who argue it is much faster.) So does the field exist of itself in the vacuum. I think yes, but it is only where it has imparted energy to the vacuum. Curvature of vacuum or space does not necessarily follow. And if there is no energy in the vacuum (including zero point vacuum energy, gravitational waves or evanescent field energy) then I would argue that that cannot exist in our universe. As such there does not exist the concept of “empty space”.

Your question: Finally, is space truly “empty” if light is passing through it?

My answer: For the above cited reasons, NO!

Your question: At any given time, doesn’t “empty space” contain energy–i.e. of the photons it contains? Just wondering.

My answer: If it does it is not “empty”. It is really vacuum, and that has real measurable properties.


Is the “quantum vacuum” conjectural or does it have a sound evidential footing? What sort of evidence do we have for the existence of “ephemeral particle pairs” ?

Also, I have a question related to the Michelson-Morley experiment. It seems to me the MM experiment was flawed–they used an earthbound apparatus to measure the speed of light in various directions. Weren’t they simply measuring the speed of light through Earth’s atmosphere rather than through a vacuum? It seems to me analogous to measuring the speed of a toy boat across a swimming pool on an ocean liner. I see no reason why, relative to a shipboard observer, the toy boat should be perceived as moving any faster across the pool when moving in the direction of the ship’s trajectory than when moving perpendicular to it. I realize that subsequent experiments and observations have confirmed the fixity of the speed of light through a vacuum. I was just wondering if the MM experiment was valid, and, if so, why?


The quantum vacuum has good experimental basis. The Lamb shift is strong evidence of its existence. Vacuum polarization affects the energy levels of the atom and causes a frequency shift in atomic clocks.

The MM experiments done on Earth are experimentally valid. I have done this experiment myself with very high precision results. These are called Lorentz Invariance tests in the electrodynamic or photon sector of particle physics. You do not need a vacuum to do them. The MM experiment has been done in liquids, gases and solids as well as in vacuum. Because it tests the underlying Lorentz Invariance, which is derived from the Relativity Principle, it does not matter if the experiment is not in a vacuum. Anyway no human made vacuum ever eliminates all atoms. That is not possible.


I don’t think I made it clear why I thought MM was problematic.

If the point of the MM experiment was to show that the speed of light through a given medium is constant, regardless of the motion of the observers, then I fail to see how they accomplished that. The observers were not moving relative to the light source, nor to the air through which the light passed. The fact that the earth is moving through space, or that the sun is revolving around the galactic center, should have no effect on the localized measurements of the speed of light through the air (or water, or whatever), should it? Why is the experiment considered to be significant?


Mitch, All modern MM experiments are analyzed in the Sun-Centred Celestial Frame (SCCF). This means anisotropy in the speed of light is looked for in two orthogonal directions (at 90 degrees to each other) as the Earth rotates, as the Earth traverses the Sun. We say these motions modulate (though very slowly) any putative signal. So the concept of the ether is that the ether (the medium that facilitates light propagation) is passing through the intervening substance between the transmitter of the light and the receiver (which is set up to be the same point by using a reflector), which are moving with the surface of the Earth. ie. the ether is a fixed background but the apparatus is moving in the SCCF. If there was detected a difference in the speed of light in one direction over the other orthogonal direction it shows the ether is a real substance and one’s motion relative to the ether determines the speed of light.

This is like the row boat in a moving current of water. But if you could row your boat across a river (at some angle, say 45 degrees, to the current flow) and get across in the same time regardless of which direction you rowed, one more against the current than the other, then that would say the water does not exist. It has no effect on the speed of the boat. Similarly, the ether has not been detected by MM experiments, and so we say the speed of light is independent of the motion of the observer.


I’m a little confused. The “quantum vacuum” sounds a lot like the hypothetical “luminiferous ether”. Is the quantum vacuum supposed to be the medium that allows light to travel through space? Isn’t this what gives space its permittivity and permeability, which allows the transmission of electromagnetic radiation and determines the speed of light through the vacuum? How is that different from the ether?


Yes, the quantum vacuum is supposed to be the medium that light travels through. Whether or not it gives space its permittivity and permeability is an unanswered question. I suggest you reread the Urban et al. paper, which I suggested previously. But it is a theoretical proposal. The luminiferous ether for light propagation had properties that were analogous to water for wave propagation. Hence if it existed you could detect it by the MM experiment. Now if you redefine the ether, as Einstein suggested with General Relativity, it is a different story.


The mechanisms proposed in the paper by Urban, et. al. are quite an interesting concept. Thank you for recommending it.

I’m curious as to why, in the “ephemeral particle pair” scenario, that photons will so readily convert to material particles and back, rather than simply dispersing into space. In normal, everyday life, it takes a tremendous effort to get photons to interact and spontaneously combine into matter-antimatter pairs, so why would we expect this to happen routinely in the vacuum of space?

Wouldn’t there be an occasional event where the photons (or the particles) go off in separate directions and don’t recombine? Wouldn’t this effect create a “background radiation” or a spontaneous creation of matter?

Do antiparticles have positive mass? If so, then wouldn’t the production of matter-antimatter pairs produce a small, brief pulse of gravity? If this is happening throughout the vacuum of the cosmos, wouldn’t the net gravitational field be substantial?

Also, does this particle-to-photon oscillation occur only in a vacuum, or does it occur in material objects as well? If only in a vacuum, then why?

And what determines the mean spacing and frequency of these photon-to-particle-to-photon transformations?


The density of virtual ephemeral particle pairs is extremely high. They exist because of the quantum uncertainty described by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. It is all about quantum fuzziness. It is a background energy, the zero point energy of the vacuum, which is real energy. If there was no energy there those particle pairs would not be created. They have positive mass, yes; you should really describe it by an energy spectrum of the vacuum. Negative mass does not exist; the closest to that is the imagined negative energy called Dark Energy. A total fiction.

If the energy density of the vacuum is a uniform constant over space and time. there is no imbalance and hence no net force, including no gravitational force.

Vacuum exists inside all matter, so yes, this is true everywhere. The mean spacing starts with the Compton length scale for those particles of a given mass which is related the Planck length scale. See The Planck scale relates to the density such that the particle is a mini blackhole. At the Compton scale the particle’s wavefunction is blurred out of that length and you can’t know exactly where it is. This is some of the fuzziness of quantum effects.


So… do Big Bang Theorists think of the quantum vacuum as beginning at the Big Bang, or existing prior to it and independent of it? Doesn’t the quantum vacuum require time to exist for the back and forth oscillation of matter to energy? To rephrase the question, is the quantum vacuum the “canvas” on which the Big Bang was supposedly acted out, or is it part of the material universe that allegedly had its origin with the Big Bang?


Some form of false quantum vacuum is assumed and current laws of physics are also assumed. Read THE SINGULARITY—A ‘DARK’ BEGINNING. Time is another problem. For the multiverse to be the source of our universe, the multiverse must be assumed to operate across time. This means the pre-existence of time and also the laws that operate in that realm. The fundamental equation of quantum cosmology—the Wheeler-DeWitt equation, which is used to describe the evolution of our universe out of the singularity—does not include the variable of time. It is assumed to evolve out of a timeless quantum world. But how then do the laws evolve without time? Time must exist prior to the law. This is a chicken-egg problem, because they want everything to evolve out of nothing.


But the quantum vacuum isn’t truly “nothing”, so it sounds like equivocation to me. If the quantum vacuum preexists the material universe, then aren’t they really arguing for an eternal multiverse for which there is no actual evidence? By the standards of materialism, whatever we are able to observe is part of this universe, right? If there was a meta-universe (multiverse), then it should exist outside of this universe, so how could we see evidence of it? Wouldn’t that make the multiverse “super-natural”? What then becomes of their claim that the supernatural is outside the scope of scientific discussion? Ultimately, are they not simply seeking to replace the eternal, personal God with an eternal, impersonal “multiverse”? The Biblical God is able to enter into our space-time continuum whenever he pleases, and has given us his infallible written word. How does an impersonal multiverse communicate its existence to us?


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