Monday, April 14, 2008

On the age of the universe

It's pretty often these days that some -logist (archeo-, geo-, etc.) is claiming that some find is many thousands or millions of years old -- fossils and DNA come up a lot. On the other side, the astrophysicists are often using the words "billions" and "light-years" in the same sentence, which also is mind boggling.

Now, in your other ear, devout religious people are claiming that the universe, including the earth, is only 6000 years old, based on the creation story in the Bible.

But "millions" and "billions" is pretty different from "6000". This isn't a small difference of opinion here! But how can creationists ignore all the scientific evidence? And how can scientists explain the incredibly impossible fortune that is the variety and complexity of "life" on earth?

Some ideas

We know what many of the scientists think -- that creationists are nuts. Or just self-blinded.

Creationists, on the other hand, think that either the scientists are flat wrong with their estimates (circular logic?). Or that "that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years" (2 Pet. 3:8), and that the Genesis account is God's days not ours -- uh, we're still only up to 13,000 years. (And Peter also says a thousand years is as a day, too, don't skip that part.)

My take

Why are we so limited in the possibilities we consider?

My answer in college to all this was that God might've built the whole thing 6000 years ago to appear in process, i.e. as a "steady-state system", which would "look and feel" like it was millions of years old, but that appeared stable to us and not still fluctuating around like all newly made things. Rather than creating stars, maybe he just created streams of light that would be arrive at the earth during the time of interest. Would any of that be too hard for God?

Of course not. My only problem with that now is that I don't think God would build something with the intent to deceive us.

Since then, my view has changed with the advent of 2 things: Quicktime, and computer-simulations.

* Computer simulations

I run simulations at work, where I start time at a random point, and then run through time at a much-accelerated speed to see what the computer models predict. We do this so we can figure out how something will behave without having to do all the complicated math manually. Much easier than all the math in those contrived problems in your high-school physics class...

So guess what -- I could run a simulation that started 50 trillion years ago, then run it all the way out through the present time (granted, at some pretty coarse time resolution) and have it finish in a matter of seconds. So "50 trillion years" equals "a few seconds for me" with the computers we've got now.

How is that possible? It's because I've got the whole thing defined and self-contained, and I'm the master of "time" in that system.

* Quicktime

Ever seen a movie clip of the history of the universe? (I have, though I can't find an example at the moment...)

Quicktime gives you a little slider that lets you slide back and forth through time with the flick of your wrist -- a trillion years with a 1-inch movement of your hand. See how easy that is?


...if God is the "master of time" in this system, and can move through time as easily as He moves through space, the whole thing becomes really easy -- God inputs "1 trillion years" at the front, puts in a few "days" to get all the necessary pieces together, then lets it run. Who cares if the in-between time is {m|b|tr}illions of years -- the "master of time" just fast-forwards to the interesting part, when it's ready for people*. Is that too hard for God?

I'm not saying that's definitely how it is, Church doctrine is relatively silent on the matter except for a neat little scripture in the Book of Mormon that says, "all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men." (Alma 40:8)

I'm only saying that people needn't have their faith shaken by something this simple.

* Oh, don't forget to rewind a little and wipe out the dinosaurs first, the people don't need that much excitement. =)

1 comment:

Jacie said...

Hmmm... thought provoking.

Does anyone read this thing?

views since Feb. 9, 2008