The universe may be only some 5700-plus years old. God could have put the fossils in the ground and juggled the light arriving from distant galaxies to make the world merely appear to be billions of years old. There is absolutely no way to disprove this claim. God, being infinite, could have made the world that way.
Most scientists disagree. They say the universe is billions of years old. But scientists can be wrong, even about something as important as the age of the universe. In 1959, a survey asked leading American scientists, "What is your concept of the beginning of the universe?" Two-thirds answered: "Beginning? There was no beginning. Oh, we know the Bible says 'In the beginning.' That's a nice story, it helps kids go to bed at night, but we sophisticates know better."
That was less than 50 years ago. Then in 1965 Penzias and Wilson discovered that the entire universe, in all directions, is bathed in a sea of very long ‘cold’ radiation, an echo of the big bang, the radiation left over from that intense hot moment that marked the universe’s beginning. This one piece of information confirmed that our universe had a beginning. For this Penzias and Wilson earned the Nobel Prize.
Most respectable scientists now agree with the Bible that the universe had a beginning.
So the biblical creation account got the fact that our universe had a beginning right, when most scientists had it wrong. But for many skeptics, that’s about all. They now target the Bible’s claim that the universe was created in six 24-hours days as pure silliness. What they don’t realize is that the most current science is teaching exactly this, that the world is young and old simultaneously. It all depends on the time and place from which you are looking, and who (or Whom) is looking.
As humans on earth today we use scientific instruments to look back from the creation of Adam to the creation of our universe and see evidence of billions of years passing. These are billions of years using our human perspective. That's our view of time. But the Bible's creation account describes that same flow of events from the beginning looking forward. The biblical account of the first six days of creation, before Adam’s soul had been created, is more of an autobiography of God than a biography of man. Let’s call this perspective “Genesis time”.
As hard as it is for anthropocentric humans to remember before Adam there was God. It’s not always about us and how we see things.
It is my theory that Genesis time and human time can be understood, relative to each other, through a careful reading of the Torah, and with the help of modern science.
Contrary to what many of you have said in your letters, I believe these unique six days were six 24 hours days. I reject the ideas that the biblical account is not factual and that the days are not specific periods of time but symbolic “epochs”. No such simple explanation is possible because every ancient commentary, with no exception, and that includes the Talmud (in the section called Holidays, ca. 500), and Rashi (ca. 1090), and Nahmanides (ca. 1250) all tell us that the six days of Genesis were six 24-hour periods “not longer than the six days of our work week.”
Instead of being our enemy, it is modern science that now helps us reconcile this discrepancy.
At the moment of the big bang, when the universe was still pure energy, there was no matter to record the passage of time because at the speed of light, time does not exist. Once light beams became matter they entered the realm of time. Time grabbed hold when matter formed from the light beams of the big bang creation.
This miniscule moment of time before the biblical clock begins lasted about 1/100,000 of a second. The biblical six days of Genesis, what I am calling Genesis time, begins here, at the formation of the first stable matter.
Science has also shown that when space, and the matter in it, expand, it effects the flow and our human perception of time.
Every scientist knows that when we say the universe is 14 to 15 billion years old there's another half of the sentence that we never say. The full statement should be: The universe is 14 to 15 billion years old as measured from the earth today. In short, from human time. But the perception of Genesis time sees the development of the universe from the beginning looking forward. For that reason, Genesis 1:5 reads "And there was evening and there was morning one day." The Bible did not write "a first day" because from the Genesis time view there was not yet a second day and first can only be used correctly if there is already a second, first being relative to the second.
But how much of these 14 to 15 billions of years is the direct result of the expansion of the universe? Another way to ask this is, “How would those billions of years be perceived from near the beginning of the universe looking forward, from Genesis time? To find this we need to factor out the stretching of matter and time which so dramatically effects our human perception of time?
Science helps us here as well. Cosmology has quantified the data so we now can calculate Genesis time (the "view of time" from the beginning) relative to human time (the "view of time" today on earth). It's not science fiction any longer.
Any one of a dozen physics or astronomy textbooks brings the same number. The general expansion factor from the moment of stable matter formation (nucleosynthesis is the term) to now is a trillion. The universe is a trillion times larger than it was at nucleosynthesis.
The Torah tells us that from the perspective of Day One six days passed between the creation of the universe and the creation of Adam.
If we multiply these six Genesis days by a trillion we have six trillion human days. Six trillion human days is a very interesting number. What would that be in human years? Divide six trillion days by 365 and it comes out to be 16 billion human years.
The equation is very simple:
6 days (in Genesis time)
x 1 trillion (degree of expansion of the universe)
6 trillion days (in human time)
÷ 365 days in a year (in human time)
16 billion human years (in human time)
Now take about 10% off for two factors that reduce human time. (1) Adam received the Neshama (the soul of human life) during the sixth day, not at its end. (2) Recent observations tell us the universe is actually increasing in its rate of expansion.
Correcting for these two factors, the 16 billion years becomes 14 to 15 billion year in human time. It turns out that the scientific confirmation of the universe’s age at 14 to 15 billion years (in human time) also confirms the universe’s age at just under 6 days (in Genesis time), the exact moment the Bible tells us God created the human soul. This is the moment when the biblical account moves from Genesis time to human time.
Not a bad ‘guess’ for 3300 years ago!
The way the scientific and the biblical ‘ages’ match is extraordinary. I'm not speaking as a theologian, I'm making a scientific claim. I didn't pull these numbers out of my hat. I used numbers that the best current science is using. That's why I led up to the explanation very slowly, so you can check the science and the biblical account as well.
Now we can go one step further.
Let's look at the development of time, day-by-day. Every time the universe increases in scale by a given factor, the time as perceived at the beginning is divided by that same factor. When the universe was small, its rate of doubling was very rapid. But as the universe got larger, the time it took to double in scale was ever longer. This rate of expansion is quoted in "The Principles of Physical Cosmology," a textbook published by Princeton University Press, and used literally around the world.
Therefore the first 24 hour day (Day 1) of Genesis time lasted 8 billion years in human time. The second 24 hour day (2nd Day) of Genesis time lasted 4 billion years in human time.
The Bible is so certain it brings the truth that it tells us what happened on each of the six days. Now we can see if modern cosmology, paleontology, and archaeology match the biblical claims day-by-day. I'll give you a hint- they match up so closely it will send chills up the spine of even a confirmed atheist.
How did this biblical account of our beginnings get so much of the science correct so many millennia ago, if it did not come from God?
From Adam’s (human time) point of view the universe is 14 to 15 billion years old. Science now confirms this. But once you squeeze the expansion out of the universe to find the age of the universe as seen from its beginning (from Genesis time) the universe was created and made in six 24 hour days. Those who believe the exquisite and profoundly simple biblical account of the universe’s creation and making should be confident in asserting this truth as well.
The universe, up to the creation of Adam’s soul, is 14 to 15 billion years old in human time and it is 6 days old in Genesis time, with no bending of either the Bible or the science. It is the same series of events, told from two different vantage points.