Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond


In which we try to clear up some confusion about Genesis and time dilation.

EC writes:

With regard to your time dilation theory… How would the mechanics of this work on a local level? With the expansion and the moving away from the rest of the mass, time slows down is the basics of it, right?

If time is slowing down, are other “constants” changing at the same rate? For example, would gravity be affected differently? What I am wondering is, how to reconcile the needed days in this time if its simply apparent time with the motion of the planets themselves. If time was moving faster due to greater mass, but the planets were not moving faster, then days would be much much longer. If planets were moving faster, then gravity would have to be stronger in relation to the dilation or the planets and other bodies would leave each other, which obviously hasn’t happened.

Perhaps I am missing something, but I seem to be stuck here.

Schroeder’s time dilation reconciliation of Genesis 1 with modern science seems to confuse a lot of people. Part of the problem is that relativity is weird, non-intuitive, and confuses just about everyone. I can say to you in words that time dilation is just the stretching of the flow of time in one frame of reference relative to another, but it’s not very relatable in terms of everyday experiences. The best I could do is to say something like this: what is an hour for you is really two hours for me. Or if you’ve seen the movie Contact, you might remember that time dilation was used to explain how Dr. Arroway could experience several hours on another planet while the observers back on Earth experienced only a few seconds.

Besides the fact that it’s just weird, probably the most confusing thing about time dilation is that it can arise from three different things:

  • relative velocity
  • relative gravity
  • stretching of space as the universe expands.

Even though it confuses some people, Schroeder and I both like to use practical examples of relativity that have nothing to do with Genesis, because it demonstrates that time dilation is a real thing and not just some wacky mathematical idea. For instance, time dilation due to relative velocity explains how particles called muons can be produced in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, and time dilation due to relative gravity explains the very slight difference in the flow of time on board global positioning satellites compared with the surface of the Earth. When I tell audiences in my lectures that without accounting for differences in the flow of time due to gravity, GPS would be useless, it impresses on them that relativity is real.

However, the cost of this is that these examples seem to stick in people’s minds once we switch over to discussing the flow of time and Genesis. So, what I want you to do is this. Remember from those examples that relativity is real, and then forget the rest. Then, when anyone talks about using time dilation to reconcile Genesis 1 and modern science, remember that it is solely due to the fact that the universe is expanding. It doesn’t have anything to do with relative speed or gravity.

The way it works is that we use the wave nature of light as the beat of the cosmic clock. Since light waves traveling through space get stretched out as the universe expands, that shows us how the flow of cosmic time is stretched out compared with earlier times in the universe’s history. Every time the universe doubles in scale as it’s expanding — that is, every time the distance between very far away galaxies doubles in size — the flow of time is stretched out by a factor of two compared with when the universe was half its present scale. This means, as the universe gets more and more stretched out, the flow of time gets slower and slower compared with earlier times. This is how you reconcile six Genesis days with 14 billion years.

3 thoughts on “Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

  1. The universe was half its present scale about 8 billion years ago. According to recent measurements indicating the universe is accelerating in its expansion even faster than previously thought, the universe should double in scale in about 10 billion years.

Want to discuss this article? See 'Questions and Comments' for the rules.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s