James Webb Space Telescope: new discoveries create more problems for secular origin theories

The JWST is the most powerful and most technologically innovative optical instrument ever created by mankind. And for more than two years, scientists have used it to observe and gather astronomical data with unprecedented detail, clarity, and precision.

Its observational targets have ranged from planets within our Solar System, all the way out into deep extragalactic (“outside our galaxy”) space. It has enabled scientists to look farther out into the Universe than was ever possible before.

And as it has continued to gather more data, it has revealed more problems for secular (i.e., non-Creationary) origin theories for our Universe.

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The Star of Bethlehem: What Was It?

Photo credit: NASA, ESA

This time of year, I often get questions about the Star of Bethlehem.

Is it possible to know what it was?

There’s certainly no lack of proposed explanations. Different people have proposed:

  • A comet
  • A conjunction of planets (Jupiter usually being one of them)
  • A nova or supernova

…and that’s just a partial list.

One of the more popular explanation nowadays is that presented by attorney Frederick A. Larson on his DVD entitled, appropriately, The Star of Bethlehem. More on this in a moment.

Personally, I’m skeptical of these sorts of explanations. Some events in the Bible are miracles, not natural events. They don’t need natural explanations.

However, many Christians are very uncomfortable about accepting miracles. They feel compelled to find a non-supernatural explanation for everything.

But this type of thinking naturally leads to denial of other miracles too. Today there are professing Christians who are denying the virgin birth and other key doctrines, because these things require miracles. Obviously, this way of thinking can lead to grave error.

Also, a natural event seems to be excluded by Matthew 2:9, which says that the star “went before” the Magi until it “stood over” the child.

No natural astronomical phenomenon can do that.

Many try to explain this by talking about planets stopping in the sky. For example, Larson says that on December 25 of 2 BC, Jupiter halted in its motion, as it entered retrograde motion.

Yes, planets do stop and go retrograde (in reverse motion; more on this below). But this is not an unusual event—far from it. Retrograde motion happens quite often, and the Magi would have known this.

In general, the ancients were far more familiar with the night sky that most of us are today. This would have been especially true of the Magi, who were most likely astrologers.

They would have been very familiar with how planets move, stop, go retrograde, stop, and resume forward motion again.

Nor is this “stop” an instantaneous thing. The motions we’re talking about take place over days, or weeks.

Thus, it’s questionable whether or not the Magi would have been especially impressed by Jupiter’s activity.

More importantly, it’s difficult to see how the Magi could have been guided to a specific place by Jupiter (or any other astronomical phenomenon).

So I’m comfortable believing that whatever happened on that night 2,000 years ago was supernatural—a celestial sign sent by the Lord, to announce the birth of His Son.

If this is a subject you’re interested in, astronomer Danny Faulkner (a Christian and a creationist) wrote an in-depth review of Larson’s DVD. You can find it here:

In case you’re curious: more about retrograde motion

To the unaided eye, planets appear as stars – except these “stars” move.

(In fact, our word “planet” comes from a Greek phrase that means “wandering star.”)

We don’t see them moving when we look at them. But if you observe the same planet night after night, you’ll see that it appears in a slightly different place each night, compared to the background stars.

Most people today are oblivious to this. But ancient cultures were far more familiar with the night sky than we are, for several reasons:

  • Many of them had fallen into pagan forms of worship that included the stars, so they were more motivated to learn the sky.
  • Since they didn’t have electricity, they didn’t have all the distractions of modern life that tend to keep us indoors during the evening.
  • They also didn’t have light pollution from electric lights, so the sky they saw was far darker than the one most of us see today.

For these and other reasons, ancient sky-watchers were very familiar with the planets, and how they looked like stars but moved from night to night.

Sometimes this movement is rather odd. Instead of moving in a straight line, sometimes a planet will go retrograde – it will appear to go into reverse and move backwards for a while. Then it will reverse course again and resume moving forward (“prograde”).

This is due to the difference in orbital periods between Earth and the other planet. Here’s a diagram of apparent retrograde motion of Mars, as seen from Earth:

Retrograde motion. Credit: Brian Brondel via Wikimedia under CC BY-SA 3.0

Credit: Brian Brondel via Wikimedia under CC BY-SA 3.0

Here’s a nice compiled photo, showing Mars in retrograde motion in 2009-2010:

Mars in retrograde motion. Credit and copyright: Tunç Tezel (TWAN)

Reproduced from Credit & Copyright: Tunç Tezel (TWAN)

Mars goes retrograde about every two years, each time the Earth passes it as both planets revolve around the Sun.

Notice that the retrograde motion takes a while (for Mars, usually a bit more than two months), and it takes longer for more distant planets. Jupiter retrogrades for roughly four months, and it does so once every nine months or so.

Thus, the Magi didn’t see Jupiter come to a screeching halt* on that night in Israel two thousand years ago. Retrograde motion is a slower and more gradual process than that.

Especially because there’s no sound in space…

The James Webb Space Telescope: First Discoveries and Their Implications

The James Web Space Telescope is the largest optical telescope in space. Although only operational for a few months, it’s already getting regular headlines for the breathtaking images that are being released.

Here’s an example:

The Tarantula Nebula.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team

You might have also seen articles that say its discoveries are contradicting the Big Bang model. One article in particular (“The Big Bang Never Happened,” by Eric J. Lerner) has been especially popular in social media.

Lerner made some provocative statements, such as:

“[T]he existence of these galaxies demonstrates that the Big Bang did not occur.”

“[T]he new data is [sic] causing [Big Bang] theorists to panic.”

One paper’s title begins with the candid exclamation: ‘Panic!’”

So what’s going on? What are these new discoveries? Do they disprove the Big Bang model? And are Big Bang theorists really panicking?

We’ll address the “panic” allegations later. First, let’s talk about the new discoveries, and whether or not they’re consistent with predictions made by scientists who believe the Big Bang model.

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Was Life Discovered on Venus? Nope.

Last September, a new scientific discovery was reported all over the media. You might have seen some of the headlines, such as:

  • Astronomers find possible sign of life on Venus (CBS News)
  • Life on Venus? Astronomers See a Signal in Its Clouds (New York Times)
  • Possible signs of life found on Venus (News release from London’s Natural History Museum)
  • Is There Life On Venus? Extra-Terrestrial ‘Aerial’ Organisms May Exist In Its Clouds, Say Scientists (Forbes)
  • Our crazy finding suggesting life on Venus (CNN)

I wanted to publish an article on this immediately, but decided to wait instead. Although it was obvious that the initial reports were highly sensationalized, I knew there would be more to talk about once the scientific community had time to digest the initial announcement.

Indeed, now that some time has passed, there’s a lot to learn from this. It’s a good example of what often happens in announcements about scientific research, especially if it is related to origins.

This will be a long article, so here’s a summary of what follows:

  • The initial research was flawed, and some of its flaws were obvious from the beginning.
  • When the media reported on it, the early stories were both overblown and for the most part, didn’t discuss the problems with the announcement.
  • Now that the overall scientific community has had time to examine the research, even more problems have come to light.
  • There are not now, nor were there ever, indications of life on Venus.

Now for a discussion of what happened. As events like this often do, this one unfolded in several stages.

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Do we live in an alien simulation?

My friend Eric Hovind of Creation Today hosts weekly creation webinars: hour-long sessions on specific topics.

He recently had me on as a guest, and our topic was “Do We Live in an Alien Simulation?” You can watch the interview below. A few notes:

  • Normally the first half-hour of each webinar is broadcast live over Facebook and YouTube, while the full event is reserved for Creation Today members. The video below contains the full hour, and you can watch it for free even if you’re not a member. Just ignore the part in the middle where Eric says good-bye to YouTube and Facebook viewers.
  • Some of our discussion overlaps the material in my third DVD (Our Created Universe), but even if you’re familiar with that video, there are also some new aspects that we discussed.
  • Yes, I need to learn how to be more animated on camera. And no, I don’t know what a “Creation Astronomist” is. 😁

Here’s the video:

Our Young Moon

According to secular scientists, the Moon is roughly 4.5 billion years old. It supposedly formed right after the Solar System did. But there’s a growing body of evidence that this old-age assessment is incorrect.

(Of course, this isn’t the only problem for secular ideas of the Moon’s formation. The “giant impact” model is known to be wrong. It is still being taught today anyway, but only because secular scientists don’t have any better ideas.)

The Moon’s supposed age of billions of years was never correct, of course. But it was easier for secular scientists to make that claim a few decades ago—back when we didn’t know as much about the Moon as we do now.

The challenges arise from simple, well-understood physics:

  1. Hot things cool off.
  2. Small hot things cool off more quickly than large hot things. (Small objects have a high surface-area-to-volume ratio. Thus, they lose heat more quickly.)

The Moon is a small object. According to secular theories, it should have cooled from its formation long ago. A small, cold body would have no source of energy for geological activity. (Although there are tidal interactions between the Moon and Earth, these don’t supply significant amounts of energy.)

Therefore, the Moon’s geological activity also should have ceased long ago.

But apparently it didn’t. Here are three indicators of recent tectonic activity within the Moon:

  • Volcanic eruptions
  • TLP (Transient Lunar Phenomena)
  • Seismic activity (moonquakes)

Here’s why these discoveries are interesting.

If the Moon is (or recently was) geologically active, this activity indicates that it’s still hot inside. And if it’s still hot inside, it hasn’t cooled off yet.

And if it hasn’t cooled off yet, then it isn’t billions of years old.

Let’s discuss these recent discoveries.

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“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