We live in a modern time when unprecedented breakthroughs in bioscience are leading humans down new paths in an attempt to live longer. Defying the ageing process and increasing human life is the next Holy Grail.
The merging of technology and humanity that helps us live beyond our physical limitations is the aim. Transhumanism is leading this discussion. But more on this another time.
Biblical history tells us that Methuselah lived to 969 years old. We find it hard to imagine what it would be like, to live that long.
When we think about the universe the question arises, why such an old universe? Are there reasons that give us a clearer picture in our understandings of this? I believe there is!
Furthermore, how is this age measured?
An Old Universe
When I first became interested in cosmology I was unaware of how the age of the universe created such turmoil. One may think this only applies to Christian circles, it is not the case.
Scientists went to great lengths to escape this scenario. Make no mistake the scientific community did not want a beginning to the universe as this would place constrictions on the evolutionary model and a beginning implied a beginner.
Faced with this potential outcome no one can imply that the scientific community was seeking these results. As a cold-case detective, J Warner Wallace explains,
“As an atheist detective investigating the existence of God, I hoped the evidence would reveal an eternal universe without a beginning because I knew the alternative would be hard to explain from my atheistic worldview. After all, what kind of causal agent… outside of space-time and matter could account for the beginning of the universe? “(1)
The following discussion presents a day-age creation view. For more on this go to Day age creation overview
When we are unwell we go to the specialist, he/she will run some tests. Often they will use their diagnostic tools, whether it be in blood and tissue diagnosis or imaging to determine the cause of the health issue. In the same way, astronomy uses several different measuring tools to cross-reference and double-check their calculations.
There are several ways astronomers’ measure the age of the universe. Without getting too technical (please read the referenced book for more detail) let’s lay these out to getter a clearer picture.
They gather the information by:
Using a range of data, from the Hubble Space Telescope (a big digital camera), launched in 1990. As astronomer Dr Jeff Zweerink explains in his book Escaping the Beginning.
”The most common technique for dating the universe relied on the expansion rate first determined by Edwin Hubble in 1929 – a conceptually simple idea. If you know how far away a car is and how fast it is driving, you can calculate when it started driving away from you. …determining the expansion rate at different distances gives its age.” (1b)
From this data, the age of the universe was first determined to be 13.5 billion years. This data was cross-referenced with:
1. “The Nobel Prize-winning discovery.’ The Cosmic microwave background radiation.’ Using progressive satellites culminating in 2003 after 12 plus years of measuring using more and more exacting instruments. The results gave the parameters of our universe and in doing so confirmed earlier measurements of 13.5 billion years.” (1b)
2. “The age of the oldest star clusters which form in giant gas clouds. The mass of the stars and their colour changes from blue to red as they age, “(1b) the age of the stars are calculated by how long it takes for the hydrogen core to burn. These clusters give an age of between 13 and 14 billion years.
3. The age of the Oldest White Dwarf stars. “The rate at which a white dwarf loses heat is straightforward to calculate. Including formation time which brings it to between 13-14 billion years” (1b)
4. Age of the elements. Many of the elements in the periodic table are radioactive. The decay rate of these elements can be measured. (13-14 billion years) (1b)
Check out world-renown philosopher Dr William Lane Craig’s short clip below on ‘The Fine-tuning argument of our universes beginning.’
The Fine-Tuning Argument
..BUT WHY SUCH AN OLD UNIVERSE.
We know how old it is but why such an old universe and how does this relate to earth?
This is where the intriguing uniqueness of our planet stands out and the reason why the agnostic astrophysicist Freeman Dyson said
“When we astrophysicist’s look at the universe there is no way we can avoid the conclusion that somehow the universe knew we were coming.” (2) Why is this? Well as I have discussed in my earlier blogs, it appears features of our solar system, our planetary partners our moon and sun are exceptionally fine-tuned for life on earth. The scientific community became so convinced that the universe “appears to have been engineered for the specific benefit of the human species, that they named it the ‘anthropic principle.”(3)
This anthropic principle plays out in what looks like a step by step intentional preparation of earth from an astronomical view. In an article, the cosmologist Bernard Carr wrote,
“One would have to conclude either that the features of the universe invoked in support of the anthropic principle are coincidences or that the universe was indeed tailor-made for life. I will leave it to the theologians to ascertain the identity of the tailor.”(4)
This preparation (amongst other things) came in the form of early, multicellular life forms. Rather than being a step in an evolutionary process, these organisms had an essential role. I will address this in a moment.
The search for Unobtainium
In the Movie Avatar, one of the biggest grossing movies of all time, the theme was about earth ng this metal Unobtainium and we had to go to this other planet to get it.
Well, Earth is the Unobtainium planet of the universe. We have all 98 of the elements from the periodic table. Compared to the rest of the universe our solar system is full of these life-producing elements and earth, in particular, has them in significant abundance. I would go as far as to say that many of these rare earth elements are grossly abundant. These elements needed a lot of time to build up to support advanced life.
Our planet has 16000 times more uranium and 23000 times more thorium than other comparable planets. Why is this significant?
These two elements play the central role in driving what is called ‘plate tectonics’ to form the landmass which we stand upon. Earth also formed when these two elements were at their most abundant in the universe. 🤔
We have 40 times more Aluminium than other planets and 65 times more titanium. (5)
Aluminium was vital in earth’s early history for driving off the high quantities of volatile gases, and the research shows that the earth formed at its peak availability according to British astronomers Gilmour and Middleton there would have been no “thermal processing of planetesimals,”(6) What do they mean by this?
Discussing this in his blog Dr Ross explains, “Without this high ratio of aluminium….this would mean no heat pulse to drive off the dangerously high (for advanced life) quantity of volatile gases—carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, water, etc. from the primordial solar system. As the researchers pointed out, without this heat pulse Earth would have retained far too much water for continents to be possible and far too much carbon for an atmosphere to be breathable.”
These particularly light but strong metals play a huge factor in our technology building. Light, strong metals are in superabundance and cheap to access. We have four times more phosphorus than other similar planets in the galaxy and universe.
Phosphorous is essential for life and we have a lot of it. Any less and life on this planet would be limited. But there’s more, unlike Mars which has an overabundance of sulphur, (which rules out the possibility of life because of its acidity) we have 60 times less sulphur than all the other planets in our solar system.
Earth has 1200 timeless carbon than what is expected. Too much carbon produces a thick atmosphere which prevents light from coming through and traps the heat and 2400 times less Nitrogen than what is expected. This would also produce a thick atmosphere like that of Venus. (5)
Earth also contains 250 times less water than other like planets and that water is in multiple forms creating an essential water cycle. While water is one of the most abundant resources in the universe,
“Mercury, Venus and earth, form in a dry region… For water to exist on a planet it must be delivered. For the most part, it comes via comets which can be as much as 85 per cent water (but ) if too much water is delivered,… plate tectonics would fail to produce enough silicates (for the) continental landmasses.” (7) For more detail on this fascinating topic see Dr Ross’s blog ‘Evidence of Earth’s, divine design.’
So why all this stuff for something as small as the earth. Well rather than being a random set of remarkable coincidences as acknowledged overwhelmingly by the scientists, it shows us that earth has a purpose. Our planet has a unique abundance of foundational materials to create life. No other planet has these important features. There is a simple scripture in Psalms 24: 1 which clearly explains. “The earth is the Lords and everything in it
MADE OF STARS
As the research indicates these elements took millions of years to build up in the furnace of stars. It was not until three generations of these stars formed and exploded that the essential heavy elements for planet building were scattered into space. (8)
As the National Geographic article on Supernovas articulates “Heavy elements are only produced in supernovae, so all of us carry the remnants of these distant explosions within our bodies.”(9)These same supernovae which are crucial for life on earth shower the planet with deadly radiation.
“Consequently, advanced life could not be safely introduced until the rate of supernova eruptions in the Milky Way galaxy had subsided considerably.” (3)
The following is taken from notes on Dr Ross’s lecture ‘Why the Fossil Record Is the Way It Is‘
Early in the life of our solar system and the planets, the earth experienced what has become known as the ‘Late Heavy Bombardment'(LHB). During this time the young earth was pummelled with asteroids and meteorites. The result of this was earth laden with a huge supply of heavy metals that history shows were crucial for launching and sustaining our global high technology civilisation. Virtually everything we build a city from is made from these deposits including all the metals and concrete. The primordial earth became filled with the metal abundance we have today, however, the form of the metals has changed dramatically.
Before God created any life, we had a planet loaded with metals in soluble form. God then created life in such a way as to transform those soluble metals into concentrated insoluble metals or deposits. This first life came in the form of bacteria.
It is because this bacteria has transformed all the metals, that we can mine them and build our cities, roads cars, planes, trains and everything else we take for granted in our technology. They also made the environment safe for advanced life. If we were here 3.8 billion years ago early in earth history, these soluble metals would have been deadly and we would not have been able to survive.
We call these particular elements vital poisons. Of the 98 elements, you see in the periodic table 22 of them are what we call vital poisons.
These are nutrients that if you have too much of them in your diet they will kill you. But also if you have too little in your diet it will kill you. Examples of this would be iron zinc copper chromium and arsenic. What transformed all these 22 vital poisons from deadly soluble concentrations into safe concentrations was the sulphate reducing bacteria.
But here is where there is evidence of what the scientific community referred to in the anthropic principle in that “For each of these elements the ratio of soluble to insoluble mineral forms must also fall within certain narrow ranges. (To be safe for advanced life)” (7).
This process had to be aggressive to start with and then decrease to the level we see today. Where this activity continues to maintain the mineral forms at a constant level. Initially for nearly 2 billion years, these bacteria worked to transform the environment and bring it to a level safe for animals and humans. Today when we consume vegetables we get just the appropriate nutrient dose. And here’s an interesting point, there wasn’t just one form of bacteria but different species, each one specialising on different metals.
For example at Yellowstone National Park, there is a lot of these sulphate reducing bacteria. One species feeds on zinc. It will eat soluble zinc and convert it into insoluble zinc. So once these colonies of bacteria on the early earth died they left behind these concentrations of up to 50 per cent of insoluble zinc and other metals in the ground.
Billions of years later we come along, mine this and launch the metallurgical revolution. And we can maintain the healthy balance in our bodies needed from these trace elements.
Now, this was not the only thing these remarkable bacteria achieved but that’s for another blog.
‘Escaping the beginning ‘ Dr Jeff Zweerink and
‘ Improbable planet’ Dr High Ross .