Scientists at Cal-Tech recently confirmed that they’ve discovered the oldest galaxy known to date, named EGS8p7 by the team. The discovery of this galaxy has huge implications for the way we think about the early universe — and for creationists, of course, it’s yet more evidence that their narrative isn’t just wrong, it’s, in the words of Wolfgang Pauli, “not even wrong.”
A Universe of Antiquities
The newest edition to the catalogue of galaxies is also the most distant galaxy ever found. EGS8p7 was introduced to the world in an article published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, by Adi Zitrin and Richard Ellis. In their paper, Zitrin and Ellis estimate that the age of the galaxy is more than 13.2 billion years old, which is almost as old as the universe itself (13.8 billion years old).
Our universe is a time sink. The solar system is around 4 billion years old; compare that to the positively ancient system of Kepler-444, which is 117 light years from here in the constellation Lyra. This planetary system, discovered earlier this year, is an astounding 11.2 billion years old — it’s seen 80 percent of the universe’s life so far.
If you’re going to start looking for alien precursors to cast in your next science fiction novel, might I humbly submit you start here?
Now compare Kepler-444 with its elder, HD 140283, informally called “Methuselah.” Methuselah is an astonishing 13.9 billion years old (if this number conflicts with the age of the universe, at 13.8 billion years, it’s because of the margin of error used in calculating it). Kepler-444 was around when the stars were young. Methuselah was around when the universe was young.
And like Kepler-444, HD 140283 is under 200 light years from Sol.
Taking this into consideration doesn’t undermine the importance of the discovery, though, since this galaxy is important for more than it’s age: it will also help us redefine how we think about our early universe.
So other than this being actual science, why’s it bad news for creationists?
Creationists have a little problem with time. Specifically, they claim that the universe is anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 years old, depending on which calculation that you use. Having a universe that’s only 10,000 years old doesn’t allow for time sinks like EGS8p7, who are orders of magnitude older than highest estimate.
This is called the “star light problem,” and it’s what happens when Young Earth Creationism runs smack into the speed of light.
The speed of light is measurement of distance; specifically, it’s how far light travels in one year. It’s an absolute measurement, since the speed of light is the only absolute in the universe (exceptions notwithstanding, of course). Thus, something that’s 4 light years away — say, Rigel Kentaurus — means that it took light 4 years to get from that star to Sol.
The brightest star in our night sky, Sirius, is around 8 light years away. Thus, when we look up and see Sirius, we see Sirius as it was 8 years ago. Extending this logic, when we look up and see EGS8p7, and measure its redshift, we can deduce from the speed of light and other tools in the cosmic ladder the age of the light (and therefore, the object that emitted the light). In this case, the age is about 13.2 billion years old.
Creationists have attempted to address the star light problem in the past, but their logic has been found wanting. The idea that the speed of light was faster at creation ignores that famous equation, e = mc². Increase “c”, and you increase “m” and “e.” Tinkering with any one of these constants can produce catastrophic effects on matter, which is the stuff that Adam and Eve were presumably made of.
Anisotropic Synchrony Convention is nonfalsifiable and therefore not science — it’s basically the Omphalos hypothesis — and gravitation time dilation is basically Star Trek style technobabble.
But my favorite is that God purposefully created the light “in motion,” meaning God designed the universe to appear older than it actually is.
The implications of this, of course, are that God is willing to deceive us and lie to us by creating a universe that’s younger than it appears, and then he’s willing to punish us when we fall for his lie. With a God like this, who needs Satan?
I’ll stick to my pretty pictures and marvel at how impossibly ancient and impossibly big and small the universe is, thank you.
Feature image of EGS8p7 via NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech