MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 28th of May, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: the age of the universe.
Scientists thought they knew about its origins. But now a new study published by a Nobel Prize–winning astrophysicist is shaking things up.
The study centers on what’s known as the Hubble constant. That’s a measurement used to calculate how fast the universe is expanding. And it turns out, it’s expanding faster than previously thought.
REICHARD: Why is that important? Well, mainstream scientists say that means the universe is younger than they believed. And that has implications for a whole lot of other scientific theories.
Joining us now to talk about why it matters is Jake Hebert. He’s a physicist with the Institute for Creation Research.
HEBERT: Good morning!
REICHARD: Let’s start with the idea that the universe is expanding. From where did this idea arise?
HEBERT: Well, actually, it basically came from Edwin Hubble and some other people who were looking at distant galaxies and when you examine the light from those distant galaxies, it exhibits what we call a “red shift” where the spectra for those galaxies, those dark lines are moved a little bit closer to the red part of the spectrum. And that’s usually interpreted to mean that they’re moving away from us.
But most people would argue that it’s not so much that the galaxies are moving through space away from us. Most people would argue that means that space itself is expanding. And that’s where that idea comes from.
REICHARD: How does that relate to the Big Bang theory that most of us are familiar with?
HEBERT: Right. Well, once they concluded that the universe was expanding, they needed some explanation for that. And so after that, it was not too long after that that a priest, actually, a Catholic priest came up with the idea of a big bang. So, basically, the idea of the expanding universe actually came first and then they came up with the big bang to try to explain it.
REICHARD: I see. OK. So, in your best layman’s terms, tell us what this Hubble Constant is and how that figures into the expanding universe idea?
HEBERT: Right. Well, the Hubble Constant, it’s really not a constant. It’s more accurately called the Hubble Parameter. It’s measured in what we call kilometers per second—that’s speed—and these very large units of distance called megaparsecs—really huge distances. And basically what that means is that if you have a galaxy, the further away the galaxy is, the faster it’s moving away from us. And that’s basically what that number means. It’s just—they call it constant but really it’s supposed to be just the value at the present time in the universe’s history. They think that the expansion rate changed in the past, but that’s what it is today, supposedly.
REICHARD: I understand this research isn’t new. It’s been percolating in the scientific community for a while. And here this theory of a younger universe seems to be confirmed by the scientists. But it has some people upset. Why do you think that is?
HEBERT: Well, when they say younger, they’re talking maybe a billion years younger than what they were saying. That’s still awfully old, you know. But here’s the interesting thing: I don’t know if it’s got people all that upset, actually, although I think they should be. The problem is that there are two different ways of inferring this Hubble Constant. One is a direct method where you basically measure distances to objects in space and you figure out their speeds and it’s essentially a direct calculation. The other way they do it is they assume that the Big Bang is true and they interpret this to be an afterglow from a time about 400,000 years after the Big Bang. So they assume the Big Bang is true and they find what they think are the best fits to the data. Well, once they’ve done that, they can calculate the Hubble Constant. Well, when you do it that way, you get a number that is lower than what you get from the direct measurement. And the uncertainties are small enough that there’s an actual contradiction. The methods are contradicting each other.
They’re using a flawed model to try to interpret the data. And so not surprisingly they’re getting a contradiction.
REICHARD: Do you think scientists, then, will start moving away from the theory in the future?
HEBERT: Probably not. And the reason for that is that they’re so invested in it that I don’t really see that happening. And, like I said, this—you asked the question, are they alarmed by this—they really aren’t. Because if you listen to them, they say, “Oh, this is so exciting, this is evidence of new physics,” and it’s interesting the way that works. Data are never allowed to count against the Big Bang. I think they should abandon it because I think it’s a flawed model, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
REICHARD: What’s the take-away for Christians? How should people who believe God created the universe view this news?
HEBERT: Well, I think it’s obvious that we scientists don’t have it all figured out. So, I think the takeaway is that they don’t understand things as well as they think they do, and I would hope that Christians who maybe have felt compelled for some reason to accept the Big Bang would be willing to question it and say, you know, there’s data here that are contradicting this model. They can’t get all the data to fit their model because there’s something wrong with their model.
REICHARD: Jake Hebert is a physicist with the Institute for Creation Research. Thanks so much for joining us today!
HEBERT: Well, thanks for having me. It was my pleasure.