Trying to understanding the beginning of the universe is very confusing. For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been trying to write my next blog, and each question leads to more questions. I have to admit that I bit off more than I can chew. Theories about stars and galaxies are so difficult to understand that they have become the domain of the elite. I don’t like that because it seems more like authoritarianism than science. I want to believe something because I can understand it; not because someone tells me to accept it by blind faith.
People in the know say that the universe is 15 billion years old, and I want to know why. How can physicists and cosmologists be so sure? Why should I trust them if they can’t explain it to me on a level that I can understand. On one hand, dark matter is supposedly necessary for the universe to exist. On the other hand, it can’t be observed and new theories may explain it away entirely. We’re not even sure about something that should be as easy as pie to understand, like matter. If the theories of physics themselves are not certain, how can we be certain about the conclusions?
Charles Templeton was once set to become a greater Evangelist than Billy Graham, until he lost his faith. His book Farewell to God recounts a conversation he had with Graham. He said, “[I]t’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years.” Countless people have adjusted their faith because they are intimidated by strong statements about the certainty of science that makes Genesis into a myth.
It’s one thing to say that the universe is 15 billion years old and another thing to be certain. How certain are we? That’s where I’m stuck. The farthest object in space is supposed to be the galaxy GN-Z11, at 13.4 billion light years away. But then, the star J0815+4729 is in the Milky Way and just 7,500 light years away but 13.5 billion years old. So why is one star old because it’s far away and another star old even though it’s close? The light from the latter example is only thousands of years old, according to its distance, but the star appears to be 14 billion years old. So which is it? I’m confused.
The size of the universe is not measured by observation, but by a formula. The largest red shift of a galaxy measured on a spectrometer is about 11. Using the Hubble constant, that calculates to about 14 billion light years to the farthest star. The formula has been cross-checked up to a point, but what if it’s wrong? It wouldn’t be the first time science has made a mistake. What if the rules changes out there in space, like they did for Newtonian physics? After all, time is relative.
According to his book Starlight and Time, Dr. Russell Humphreys is convinced that we live on a young planet in an old universe. We could have passed through something like the event horizon of a white hole. As a result of the earth and stars being created separately, days on earth could correspond to billions of years in space. We know so little about time dilation, that we really shouldn’t speak with certainty about how time has transpired in the past. Personally, with all the confusing theories being thrown at us about time, energy, and matter, I want to keep an open mind. Anything’s possible, and I’m still looking for answers.