“A lesson in how science works”?

A new model for the Moon’s formation is claimed to advance our understanding of the past, and to be “a lesson in how science works.” But the actual lesson being taught is quite different.

First, some background. Among secular astronomers, the most widely-accepted model for the Moon’s origin is known as the giant impact hypothesis. Supposedly, about four billion years ago, a Mars-sized object crashed into the newly-formed Earth. The collision created a debris cloud around our planet; some of the debris fell back down, while the rest coalesced together in space and eventually formed into our Moon.

Despite its popularity, this has never been a good model. It requires a credibility-straining series of conditions that are just right. Also, it has always had problems fully explaining the Moon’s composition. There are other issues too.

Nevertheless, it has been the standard lunar origin model for several decades.

This might change soon, thanks to the work of planetary scientist Dr. Sarah Stewart. She was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship award (commonly called a “genius grant”) for a new model of lunar origins—a model which supposedly solves the problems of the giant impact hypothesis.

Her proposal still includes a giant impact, but she describes the post-collision debris cloud in a different way. In her model, the early Earth became a “synestia”: a giant bagel-shaped cloud of hot vaporized rock.

Here’s what she said about the giant impact hypothesis, and why she sought a different explanation for the Moon:

“Simulations showed that the moon should be made primarily out of the object that struck the proto-Earth. But the Apollo mission found that the moon is practically a twin of the Earth, particularly its mantle, in major elements and in isotopic ratios. The different weight elements are like fingerprints, present in the same abundances. Every single small asteroid and planet in the solar system has a different fingerprint, except the Earth and the moon. So the giant impact hypothesis was wrong.” [emphasis added]

The precise match of the isotopic “fingerprints” for the Earth and Moon has been known since the late 1990s. The giant impact model has always had serious problems since it was first proposed in the 1970s, but this was discovery twenty years ago (which has been confirmed and strengthened by further studies since then) was understood by many to be the final nail in the coffin for this hypothesis.

As Dr. Stewart said, scientists have known for many years that the hypothesis is wrong. Nevertheless, it is still being taught as fact today.

Why? Because, as she explained:

“It’s a lesson in how science works—the giant impact hypothesis hung on for so long because there was no alternative model that hadn’t already been disproven.”

With all due respect to Dr. Stewart, this is not how science works.

When doctors are trying to cure a new disease, they do not prescribe medications which they know will not work.

When chemists are investigating a new compound, they do not publish descriptions of it that they know are wrong.

When biologists are trying to understand more about how DNA works, they do not use genetic models that they know are wrong.

In other words, the way science is supposed to work is that scientists do not publish and teach incorrect ideas merely because they don’t have a correct explanation.

Nevertheless, we often see this happen when scientists discuss secular origins models. Time and again, we’ve seen proposals for evolutionary models which contradict scientific evidence, or which require events and/or processes that we know are impossible.

This tells us that these models are not actually scientific models. They’re (incorrect) attempts at historical reconstructions, driven (often unknowingly) by agendas and presuppositions rather than scientific truth.

The giant impact hypothesis is a good example of this. It was never a good model in the first place, and has been known to be wrong for at least twenty years. Nevertheless, it is still being taught as fact in museums, textbooks, media programs, and so on.

And even if you modify it using the new synestia proposal, it is still wrong. Since 2008, it’s been known that there is some water inside the moon. This discredits all giant impact models (including the synestia proposal), because a violent impact would have vaporized whatever water was present. Therefore, if a giant impact had occurred, the Moon’s interior shouldn’t contain any water today—but it does.

It follows that a giant impact is not the correct explanation.

(If anything, the synestia model makes this problem worse. Water boils away at 212 F, but temperatures inside the synestia would have reached several thousand degrees.)

So is the giant impact hypothesis “a lesson in how science works”? No.

It’s a lesson in how science is not supposed to work—but how it often gets twisted anyway, thanks to the secular worldview that’s driving this whole situation.


image credit: Ganapathy Kumar

converted PNM file
converted PNM file

Saturn’s Young Rings

Saturn is an iconic planet. Even in a small telescope, its beauty can inspire awe and wonder.

What is the source of this beauty? The Biblical perspective affirms that Saturn is one of the many ways in which the heavens declare the glory of God. The Lord who created the cosmos also populated it with wonders such as Saturn.

Of course, secular astronomers do not accept this view. Their models say that Saturn formed very early in the Solar System’s history, over four billion years ago.

What about the planet’s famous rings? Many astronomers used to say that the ring system must have formed at the same time that Saturn did. Indeed, this is a straightforward implication of their models for the formation of the Solar System.

Despite this, a growing amount of evidence has accumulated which shows that the ring system cannot be billions of years old.

Saturn’s rings are made up of particles—from small grains all the way up to boulder-sized—which all orbit the planet together. These particles are mostly made up of water ice, which is why the rings are bright.

Most of our data about the rings comes from the Cassini-Huygens mission, which studied the Saturnian system closely for 13 years. One of the phenomena that the spacecraft measured is the infall of dust and other material into the rings, as Saturn moves through space.

Cassini found that the rings are accumulating a significant amount of dust. This incoming material darkens the rings over time.

However, the rings aren’t dark yet. This implies that there hasn’t been enough time for them to darken.

In other words, the rings must be young.

This has been known for some time. Despite this, some astronomers still held to the billions-of-years idea anyway. They wanted to rescue a long age for the rings, so they tried to explain away this evidence.

Now, after almost a decade of discussion, it appears the debate is finally over. Scientists have completed their analysis of the data produced by Cassini during its last days, and we now know that Saturn’s rings are not only getting darker over time, they’re also decaying.

Cassini discovered that the particles are swirling down onto Saturn in a process called “ring rain.” The rings are dissipating rapidly; the material raining down onto Saturn would fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool every 30 minutes or so.

For a planet of Saturn’s size, that might not seem significant. But although the rings are wide, they are razor-thin compared to the planet itself.

(If you built a large scale model of Saturn, and made it the size of a large city, then the rings would only be the thickness of a sheet of paper.)

Therefore, the rings don’t contain much material. And since they are rapidly losing the material they have, this process cannot go on for very long. Thus, the rings cannot be very old.

So what’s the maximum age for the rings? According to the recent study, the rings must be less than 100 million years old.

This doesn’t mean that they are 100 million years old. It means they must be younger than this.

So, an age of six thousand years works just fine.

Of course, secular scientists don’t want to accept a recent origin for the rings. (Any interpretation that’s consistent with Biblical creation is rejected.) Thus, most will assert an age of 100 million years or so, even though the evidence doesn’t require this.

Of course, skeptics could say that the evidence doesn’t require an age of only 6,000 years either. That’s true—no human was there when Saturn was formed, so we don’t know the initial conditions for the system. Therefore, we can’t pin down its precise age from this measurement alone.

But 6,000 years is consistent with what we see.

Furthermore, this discovery causes other problems for secular astronomers. It requires them to believe in (yet another) remarkable coincidence.

Secular models for the Solar System’s formation assume that it is over four billion years old. Four billion is four thousand (4,000) million.

But even according to the secular viewpoint, the rings can be, at most, one hundred (100) million years old. And 100 divided by 4,000 is 0.025.

In other words, the rings are just 2.5 percent of the alleged age of Saturn itself.

Therefore, if you’re a secular astronomer, here’s what you must believe:

  • After 97.5 percent of the Solar System’s history had passed, Saturn finally formed the rings we see today.
  • And these spectacular rings are decaying rapidly. They will last for a mere heartbeat of astronomical time.

Put another way, secular astronomers must believe in a remarkable coincidence—that Saturn formed its beautiful rings just before humans supposedly evolved to see them and appreciate their beauty, and the rings have lasted just long enough for us to do so.

To deny their Creator, secular scientists must believe in a long list of remarkable coincidences and just-so stories. Saturn’s rings aren’t the worst example of this—secular origins models include numerous claims that are far more egregious, including some flat-out impossibilities (such as the formation of life from non-living chemicals).

Nevertheless, it is fascinating to see that the more we learn about the Universe, the longer this list becomes.

The Secular Dilemma

Secular cosmologists try to use the laws of physics to explain how the cosmos came to exist without a Creator.

But they have a dilemma. The laws of physics don’t permit the Universe to exist, unless a supernatural Creator made it.

Ultimately, any origins model that denies a Creator has to violate physics in one way or another. You can’t logically and consistently affirm the laws of physics and the existence of the Universe.

That’s because all secular origins models have to answer this question: Did the Universe have a beginning?

There are only two possible answers to this: yes, or no.

And it turns out that whichever way a (secular) model answers it, it has to violate physics somehow. If the model says “yes,” then it violates certain laws of physics. If the model says “no,” then it violates certain other laws of physics.

The only origins model which can be consistent with all the laws of physics is one that affirms a supernatural Creator, who created the Universe and who determined the laws under which it operates.

But how are the “yes” and “no” answers related to physics?

I’ve already written about how physics doesn’t allow the “no” answer, because a fundamental law of physics—known as the second law of thermodynamics—shows that our Universe cannot be eternally old. In other words, our Universe must have had a beginning.

Many Christians unwisely affirm the Big Bang model, because they think that we need it to prove that the Universe had a beginning. But that’s incorrect. The second law of thermodynamics alone is sufficient to show that the Universe cannot be eternal. For more information, see this article:

OK, so the “no” answer violates physics. What about the “yes” answer?

First of all, we must clarify what “yes” actually means. If the Universe really had a beginning, then before it began, there was nothing. There was absolutely nothing: there was no matter, no energy, no space, no time… nothing.

Problem: this means that when the Universe began, something came from nothing. And a law of physics forbids this.

This fundamental law is often known as the Conservation of Mass-Energy. It says that the total amount of matter and energy that exists can never change. The relative amounts of each can shift back and forth, but the total combined amount is fixed and unchanging.

This has many implications, but an obvious one is that the Universe’s matter and energy cannot have popped into existence from nothing.

Since the Big Bang model requires exactly that—in other words, since the Big Bang model claims that roughly 14 billion years ago, the Universe and all of its contents popped into existence from nothing—we see that this law of physics contradicts the Big Bang model.

In fact, it disproves any secular origins model that tries to claim that at some point, something came from nothing, without a Creator being involved. Any purely naturalistic model that tries to use the laws of nature to explain the Universe, winds up being disproven by those same laws.

In this article, I’ve focused on just two aspects of this (the second law of thermodynamics, and the conservation of mass-energy). The Big Bang model contradicts physics in other ways beyond these, but I like to focus on this particular dilemma, because it can be summed up rather neatly:

  • The second law of thermodynamics says that the Universe cannot be eternal. Therefore, it must have had a beginning.
  • The conservation of mass-energy says that the Universe cannot have had a beginning. Therefore, it must be eternal.

The only way out of this dilemma is a supernatural Creator.

In other words, the only origins model that is consistent with all the laws of physics, is that the Universe was formed by a supernatural Creator who operated outside of them.



Some secular cosmologists today are confused about what “nothing” means.

First, they’ll tell you that the Universe began in a Big Bang, and that the Universe popped into existence from nothing.

When you ask how the Universe could do something like that, they’ll explain that before the Big Bang, there was a quantum field in a primordial vacuum, and then the quantum field fluctuated, producing the Big Bang, which made energy, which cooled into particles, which eventually formed the things we now see in our Universe.

There are many things wrong with that story, but my point right now is that this story does not actually describe a beginning for the Universe. It merely tries to describe how the Universe changed from being a primordial vacuum that contained no particles, into a Universe that did contain particles.

And it raises the question: was there ever a point at which there was no primordial vacuum and noquantum field that could fluctuate, because those things had not yet come to be? In other words, was there ever a point at which there was absolutely nothing?

If the answer is “yes”—if a cosmologist acknowledges that if you peer back into history far enough, there was indeed a point at which there was nothing—then the conservation of mass-energy applies to his model (and disproves it), despite his efforts to evade it.

If the answer is “no”—if a cosmologist wants to believe that there’s always been something—then despite his use of the word “beginning,” he really is claiming that the Universe is eternal, and the second law of thermodynamics disproves his model, as the article mentioned above describes.

I should also mention those cosmologists who claim that the Big Bang was only the latest in a series of Big Bangs that have been going on for eternity, because our Universe expands and contracts forever, producing an eternal series of alternating Big Bangs and Big Crunches… or others who claim that our Big Bang was the result of a collision between “cosmic membranes,” and such collisions have been going on for eternity… and other such tales that sound (kinda) scientific, but are really just science fiction.

Ultimately, they’re just variations on eternal-Universe scenarios. And so, the second law of thermodynamics debunks them.

Photo credit: Good Free Photos on Unsplash

The Mystery of Dark Matter

What is dark matter?

Many astronomers will tell you that it’s a mysterious substance, as yet unknown to physics. It has many strange properties, including invisibility. And the Universe contains a lot of it: there’s four to five times as much dark matter as there is ordinary matter (the stuff that makes up stars, planets, and so on). In other words, for every galaxy you see, there’s four or five galaxy’s worth of stuff that you don’t see.

But other scientists disagree with this. Read more

(Yet More) Evidence Against the Lunar Impact Theory

Why does Earth have a Moon?

Among secular astronomers, the currently-trendy view for the Moon’s origin is a giant impact.

Supposedly, early in Earth’s history, a Mars-sized object crashed into our planet. The collision produced a lot of debris, from which our Moon formed.

This model has numerous problems. There’s more than one which disproves the model entirely.

And now, there’s one more discovery to add to the list. Read more

Inflation: A Failed Solution

Secular cosmologists claim that our Universe formed in a Big Bang, about 13.8 billion years ago.

Then, right after that Bang, our cosmos had a brief period of explosive expansion known as inflation. During this time, our Universe exploded outwards in size, many times faster than the speed of light.

Many non-cosmologists scratch their heads over this. How could the Universe have expanded faster than the speed of light? What was powering this alleged expansion? How did it overcome gravity?

These are excellent questions. But if you ask them, Read more

An Unusual Creation Trip

I returned recently from a two-week speaking trip to the Philippines. It was notable for several reasons:

  1. During my several days on the island of Mindanao, I had a heavily-armed escort. The young men shown above accompanied me everywhere. (They were assigned to me for protection against the jihadists operating nearby.)
  2. It was an intense trip, with an average of over three hours of speaking time per day. (The longest day was 8.5 hours long, with seven hours of actual speaking.)
  3. I had the privilege of speaking (on astronomy and biology) to several hundred students at a secular university.

This was well-received. In fact, the school’s Dean of Engineering is now working to add creation science to the university’s general education requirements. Read more

Distant Starlight and Biblical Creation

“If the Universe was created thousands of years ago, why do we see distant stars and galaxies?”

This is one of the most common questions about the creationary viewpoint. Some people see this as the strongest challenge to believing in a young Earth.

The basic issue is this: When we look out into space, most of the objects that we see are at vast distances from us. In fact, many are so far away that it seems their light would need millions or even billions of years to get here.

But we see the light from these objects today. Doesn’t this prove that the cosmos is billions of years old?

No, it doesn’t. Here’s why. Read more

2016 Speaking Tour Highlights

Last spring, I announced that I was seeking speaking opportunities. I received (far) more than I could fulfill, but accepted the ones that I could.

No empty seats at my atheism talk at the 2016 Christian Heritage Homeschool Conference.

Ultimately I drove over 10,300 miles, speaking 64 times in 16 different states. My busiest months were May (with 21 events) and July (18 events). 

I’m thankful for all of those who invited me to speak. For those invitations that I was not able to accept this year, perhaps I will be able to do so in the future!

One of the highlights of my travels was a visit with Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty. Read more

Gravity Waves Discovered

I’ve received a lot of emails asking about the recent discovery of gravity waves.

So, here’s a brief summary of the discovery:

1. What are gravity waves? Gravitational waves are a prediction of Einstein’s General Relativity. They are ripples traveling through the fabric of spacetime itself.

Although they were predicted 100 years ago, this is the first time they have been directly detected. (These waves are very weak, so detecting them is a difficult technological challenge.)

2. What was the source of these gravity waves? To produce the waves that were detected, the best model is the collision of two large black holes. Read more