astronomy Cosmology Creation/evolution hermeneutics Physics

The lecture: Starlight and time—Is it a brick wall for biblical creation?

The universe is truly vast; tens of billions of light-years in size. If the universe is only about 6000 years old how do we see galaxies at all, which are more than 6000 light-years away? This is the biblical creationist starlight travel time problem. I present 5 categories wherein potential solutions may be found. Besides the big bang also has a light travel time problem—the horizon problem—besides many other various problems.

Available on

Lecture was given August 1st 2015. See Age and Reason Seminar Adelaide for details.

See also other lectures given at the same seminar:

Related Reading and Viewing

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.

8 replies on “The lecture: Starlight and time—Is it a brick wall for biblical creation?”

I am embarrassed to ask questions about your presentation. I am not a scientist. Gen. 1:14: “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and …. 16 And God made the two great lights – the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night – and the stars.” You are saying that, by the ASC timing convention, starlight was seen on day 4. (By the ESC timing convention, this would not be so?) Thus, the lights in the heavens are day 4 items in the creation story of earth, but they had to be made much earlier. However, all the light from above was seen the first time on day 4, but it had been traveling for a long time out there??????? I have the sense that I am not grasping what you are saying with the clarity that I should. :^(


I think you have it. The Universe does not have an absolute timing convention, so we can choose. But of Lisle is right it is the ASC. So that means the light from all stars arrives for the first time on Day 4 as the scriptures state, saying on that day God made “the stars also.” If you were to describe that same situation using ESC the light would have had to have left all the galaxies starting out with the most distant and then moving inward—like filling in a shell—as God created all the galaxies sequentially closer and closer to Earth. That is the ASC model with the timing convention. So, yes, those galaxies had to have been created much earlier than Day 4, by billions of years. One cannot say that that must be wrong then because all were made 3 days after the first day, because, if you said that, you are implicitly assuming that the ESC is the absolute timing convention for the Universe, which requires an isotropic speed of light at constant speed c.


Dear Dr Hartnett,

Have you read RationalWiki’s article on the anisotropic synchrony convention? It says it is like the Omphalos hypothesis, that it violates Occam’s razor, that it’s just like geocentrism and is just special pleading, and that objects further away do appear older, for example, stars in very distant galaxies have no heavy elements. It also says that observers out there would see a darkness centered on the Earth that would contract and eventually they would only be able to see the Sun. Could you read the article and tell me what do you think about it if you have time?

Kind regards.


Yes, I have read it. They admit that the impossibility to measure the one-way speed of light is correct physics. It is not that that they imply is like the Omphalos hypothesis, but its application to the biblical timeline, in essence, the starlight travel time. It cannot violate Occam’s razor because it is only a timing convention. There is no preferred choice in the Universe. You can’t say one is preferred over another. But the ASC is extremely simple in terms of its explanation as to when an event occurred—i.e. at the moment you see it happen—thus its application provides a very simple explanation of the 6000 year biblical timeline. Read HOW DO WE SEE DISTANT GALAXIES IN A 6000 YEAR OLD UNIVERSE?.

In regards to metallicity versus redshift that requires special pleading by the evolutionists, because there interpretations of the data (observations of galaxy metal content as a function of galaxy redshift) is superintended by their belief system. Read ON METAL ABUNDANCES VERSUS REDSHIFT IN CREATIONIST COSMOLOGIES.

You wrote: “It also says that observers out there would see a darkness centered on the Earth that would contract and eventually they would only be able to see the Sun” quoting that IrrationalWiki web page I assume. The writer there totally misses the whole point. They have created a straw man. The ASC is a different timing convention to the ESC, nothing more, so no physics is changed. Moving from one reference frame to another does not change any physics. What an observer sees is the same regardless of his timing convention. But a change of reference frame can better help us interpret the data just like moving from an Earth centred frame (geocentric) to a Sun centred frame (heliocentric) helped astronomers in Copernicus’s day better understand the dynamics of the solar system.


Dear John,

I have just listened to your lecture and I found it thought provoking. I very much appreciate the way you and the other creation scientists approach this subject with humility and a willingness to change your position and hold your views tentatively. I teach at a Christian school in the the UK and on this topic, unlike the age of the rocks or the evidence for design with regard to living organisms, I explain that with regard to this subject I feel we have too little evidence to come to a definitive answer. There were a couple of comments I wanted to make. Firstly with regard to the ASC model, if we accept that proposal then am I right in suggesting all the galaxies, stars, planets etc would be created as God intended them to be seen as – in most cases mature – a bit like the original forests created in the the creation week – they would contain mainly mature trees but I suspect some would be created looking young others older but all created at the same time. Likewise with the stars and planets of the Universe they would be created to display the glory of God in their wonderful variety with their light reaching Earth on the fourth day. If this is the case then we would expect to see mainly mature galaxies stars and planets irrespective of how far away they are from us – is that what we see?

Also assuming the history of the Earth will be around 7000 years before we have a new heaven and a new earth then these stars and planets will likewise be renewed – will they be 7000 years old when they are renewed or billions of years old?

One final point – with regard to the stretching out of a tent – whilst it is true the material does not stretch the area a tent covers does stretch in the sense that compared to the space it occupies when packed away it occupies a much greater space when erected – that is part of the genius of tents. Once again many thanks for all your work on this subject along with Jason Lisle and Russel Humphries, it is very helpful.


The ASC model largely involves a mature creation. It, though, comes down to how you define a mature galaxy. What defines it? Around us, in our local galactic neighbourhood, we see what evolutionists call mature galaxies, 10 billion years old etc. Well, in the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field, which are meant to be galaxies near the dawn of big bang creation, we also see at least 50% of what they would call mature. Others are peculiar, but we also see many peculiar galaxies at every redshift (epoch). In terms of lookback time and evidence of ‘maturity’ see here and here. So really we should expect to see a mixture of types regardless of redshift. Maturity is really an evolutionary concept.

I tend not to believe the new heaven and new earth means all the stars and galaxies will be wiped out and then renewed. Certainly the earth and its heavens (sky etc) will be but that topic needs a wider discussion.

Yes, a tent is erected and the simile is that was the way God put up the heavens, including all stars etc, but it does not imply a stretching like the rubber balloon analogy. Does the Bible actually describe such expansion? I think not. Where do we go from there. Read SYNOPSIS: A BIBLICAL CREATIONIST COSMOGONY and the links in it and below.


Dear John,

Thank you for your reply. I have been re-considering these issues recently (I think as a result of interest shown in the media over gravitational waves). One thought that crossed my mind since then is the idea that the Starlight we see today is not the product of purely physical causes rather it is part of the original miracle of creation. Likewise the earth, the sun and the solar system are not the products of physical causes but part of the original miracle of creation (this would also be true of the original information contained in living cells). My thinking is that if creation science has the job of distinguishing between phenomena that have no physical causes, because they are the product of divine intervention, from phenomena that could reasonably expect to have physical causes, then to what extent does Starlight may fall into the former rather than latter category. I do not profess to be an expert in the physics involved, so I would be interested in your thoughts on this distinction and whether it has any bearing on this question.




I agree, there are physically real events which defy physics, at the hand of the Creator, which we call miracles, and there are physically real events that are in accord with the law of physics that the Creator made. In the Universe we need to learn to distinguish between them. The narrative in Genesis (and elsewhere in the Bible) can provide vital clues and information, but it is not very detailed on the origin of the universe, certainly not at the constituent level. So I think we are free to theorise provided that we do not contradict the straightforward meaning of the scriptures.


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