AIG: Spiral Galaxies Prove a Young Universe

This is about another article from the creation scientists at Answers in Genesis (AIG). It’s titled Galaxies — Unexplained Spirals. We notice that it’s dated 08 December 2010, so AIG is recycling one of their oldies.

This is somewhat like the AIG article we discussed in our recent post, Blue Stars Prove a Young Universe. Once again, AIG’s author is Danny Faulkner. Here’s their biographical information about him. They say he taught physics and astronomy until he joined AIG. His undergraduate degree is from Bob Jones University.

Danny’s essay begins with what he assumes is a profound question:

Since they were first discovered, galaxies have been a source of wonder. Many are arranged into beautiful spirals. But if they’ve been spinning for billions of years, wouldn’t their arms lose their slender shape?

That’s where our title comes from. Danny’s question assumes that spiral galaxies represent a catastrophic problem for those who think the universe is 14 billion years old. Observe, dear reader, that as with his prior article, and as is typical of creationists, Danny focuses only on the evidence he likes. First, even if spiral galaxies really are a problem, he shouldn’t ignore the fact that many galaxies aren’t spirals (see Galaxy morphological classification). If spiral galaxies must be young, then why aren’t all galaxies spiral shaped? Don’t those others present a problem for creationists?

Second, while focusing only on spiral galaxies, Danny also ignores the fact that we see some of them millions of light years away. They obviously existed long ago, otherwise their light couldn’t reach us. But even if we go along with Danny and limit the discussion to only to spiral galaxies, and if we also ignore their distance, why is their shape a problem?

Danny tells us that there are billions of galaxies out there. Then he presents the Genesis account of how they came to be. In Genesis 1:16 it says: “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.” That’s all we’re told about the stars in Genesis. They were created on Day Three, by the way, after the Earth had already been created.

After that, things get interesting. Danny says, with some bold font added by us:

The astronomers who reject God’s revealed history, however, are still struggling to find an alternative explanation. One of their biggest challenges is the lovely spiral arms that grace so many galaxies. Simply put, these spirals should lose their shape in a very old universe. Indeed, the persistence of spiral arms suggests that the universe is very young.

Why should spirals lose their shape? Are they swirling around in the water above the firmament, which Genesis mentions? Danny never discusses that. Instead, he tells us:

In the 1930s astronomers realized a problem, though. The outer stars needed more time to complete their orbit than the inner stars. As the distance from the center of a galaxy increases, the spiral arms ought to become unstable. That is, after a few rotations, spiral arms ought to smear out.

Astronomers debated for years whether spiral arms wound up or unwound, depending upon the direction of rotation. No matter which view they adopted, however, if galaxies are at least ten billion years old, as is generally thought, then no spiral arms should be left.

Then he gets around to discussing the theory of Dark matter, which, according to Wikipedia, “is a type of matter hypothesized in astronomy and cosmology to account for a large part of the mass that appears to be missing from the universe.”

Your Curmudgeon is no expert in this area — we’re counting on you, dear reader, to augment our limited knowledge. As we understand it, among the supposed effects of dark matter is that it explains the rotational speed of galaxies. Unlike the planets in the solar system, stars are observed to rotate around their galactic centers at roughly the same speed, regardless of their distance from the galaxy’s center.

They shouldn’t do that. The fact that they seem to do so suggests that there is much more mass in the spiral arms than can be detected with our telescopes. If dark matter were that “missing mass,” it would explain how the apparently wispy spiral arms can rotate so rapidly. But we hadn’t heard that without dark matter, the galaxies would lose their spiral shapes. Why would they? It’s not as if they’d be torn apart by friction or something.

Danny ignores that. He says:

Evidence seems to show that dark matter is confined to the outer regions of galaxies. Most astronomers currently think that this dark matter may allow galaxies’ spirals to survive. However, the best evidence for dark matter — the higher-than-expected rotation of the outer portions of galaxies — may actually make the winding problem worse, not better.

Oh dear! Astronomers keep making things worse! Danny is delighted. He says:

Creationists long have argued that spiral arms should not exist in a very old universe, and so the persistence of spiral arms suggests that the universe is very young. However, because most evolutionary astronomers begin with an assumption that the universe is billions of years old, they are convinced that some mechanism must continue to uphold spiral arms. If they really had a satisfactory answer, they wouldn’t continually search for a new solution. Their failures show that creationists’ arguments should not be so easily dismissed.

Yes, those astronomers are fools! Here’s more:

Another wrinkle has developed in recent years. Astronomers have photographed very distant galaxies, about 12 billion light-years away. Assuming, for the sake of argument, a big bang happened 13.7 billion years ago, these galaxies are among the youngest in the universe. Though they differ subtly from nearby (and presumably older-appearing) galaxies, they appear otherwise identical to them. In other words, little evolution has occurred.

Egad! Is there no end to these problems? But fear not, dear reader. Danny ends his little essay with the answer to everything:

Within recent creation, we might expect distant galaxies to appear similar to nearby ones, but not with the evolutionary model. Once again, God’s Word sheds unwavering light on the origin and makeup of His grand universe.

It’s all so obvious! Why don’t those astronomers look for the answers in Genesis?

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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25 responses to “AIG: Spiral Galaxies Prove a Young Universe

  1. Richard Olson

    Am I wrong, or is the light received from a source 12Bya only capable of informing us what the source looked like precisely at that time? If I want to know what that 12Bya light source looks like on 1 Dec 2013, it is necessary for me to wait 12 billion years to be able to see that, no?

  2. Charles Deetz ;)

    Maybe if they’d google the subject matter before recycling their posts, they’d reconsider posting. I quickly found this Harvard research from 2013</a about computer simulations of galaxies that finds that the arms are self-perpetuating.

  3. Charles Deetz says: “Maybe if they’d google the subject matter before recycling their posts, they’d reconsider posting.”

    You don’t understand. Creation science is timeless truth.

  4. Charles Deetz ;)

    SC says “Creation science is timeless truth.” Oh yea, like the bible even called out galaxies or dark matter in Genesis. Or maybe the truth is we weren’t supposed to know about them in the first place, god’s little secret.

  5. It’s interesting that AiG continues to recycle older posts. Which begs the question: Why? I know that creation “science” is unchanging and based on the revealed Word from the Wholly Babble, but is Hambo having trouble getting his kook brigade to crank out anything original? Really, when you are reaching back to 2010 to find some scribblings from a hack like Danny, you really are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    Richard: You are basically correct. That’s one of the big headaches for idiots like the AiG crowd. They call it the “light speed problem”, and Doctor Jason Lisle, Ph.D has written some really funny stuff in an attempt to “solve” this issue. It’s really fun to watch creationists twist in the wind when they are attempting to bamboozle the rubes on stuff like this.

  6. My understanding is that the arms of a galaxy aren’t really structures that hold together, but are more accurately regions of space where gravity characteristics tend to cause clumping. A star is not a part of an arm that will remain a part of that arm as it rotates. A star passes through an area and slows down, and in so doing joins many other stars and an arm appears.

    Think of traffic on a freeway. There are certain spots where there is always slowdown or congestion. Once you pass through a traffic congested area, you as an individual car (or star) zip through the relatively clear highway, going fast again, until the next traffic jam. There are fewer cars in that clear portion of highway, and many many more in the jam.

    This is called the “Desnity Wave Theory” of spiral arm formation. The clumping and formation of stars in those areas is evidence of higher gravity. Due to what? We don’t know. Dark matter is a likely culprit.

    Plait, Phil (The Bad Astronomer)

    University of Texas

    Click to access pmhch14b.pdf

    And of course a source no less authoritative than Wikipedia itself:

  7. Richard Olson

    The write-up of the Harvard study contains the statement that (paraphrase) a new theory about spiral arms is replacing a previous theory held for decades.

    Creationist’s read statements like this and are (understandably, imho) peeved that they get massacred by know-it-all scientists every time they refer to evolution as “only a theory”, who lecture that when it comes to evolution ‘theory’ means the science is settled.

    Now scientists say out loud there are two opposing ideas about spiral nebula, they call both of those ideas “theories”, and in the same sentence tell us one of those “theories” is probably wrong, and most scientists now think the other “theory” might be right. Of course, YEC does not qualify as a theory, say scientists, and YEC types point out that scientists call any wild-assed claim they want a theory, but the minute a Christian calls his idea a theory suddenly the rules get real specific, and the Christian idea is always the only one ruled out. And you say you don’t wage war on Christianity.

    I’ve asked science community professionals before about this widespread inconsistency in application of terms. When I get a reply, I typically get massacred because “theory” is kinda like shop talk within the science community. They know what it means when they use it among themselves, it’s been this way forever, and nobody sees any need to get all anal and be rigorously specific. Butt out.

    I say to this notion that until the science community/journalists finally decide to be carefully specific when using the words “hypothesis” and “theory”, it is completely unrealistic to expect a school board candidate from The Sticks, Red State, who attends God’s Preferred Literalist Baptist Luminous Church of the Select, to understand why evolution is a for-real scientific theory while his beloved, indisputable-because-it’s-bibleAuthority Creationism/ID, to the contrary, does not remotely resemble a scientific theory in any way, shape, or form. Which makes it equally unrealistic to expect the people who vote for candidates for school board, and who pressure teachers/administrator’s regarding curriculum content, to learn how to distinguish between science and belief.

    On the plus side, confusing the already resistant lay public by using “theory” where hypothesis belongs ensures “Just teach the controversy!” between two competing theories will remain a rallying cry, a legitimate claim in the eyes of many for decades to come. It guarantees an unending stream of letters from people for Curm’s use, it will continue to tie up courts, and scientist’s will complain the entire time about a problem they exacebate.

  8. No Richard, you haven’t given any specific examples of scientists confusing theory and hypothesis. You seem to have mostly anecdotes referencing unknown people in unknown documents.

    It is not that complicated. A hypothesis may or may not be testable. It may be an allegation of cause based on induction by analogy to entities of a different type, and the analogy may be questionable.

    A theory must be testable. It must make predictions about observable phenomena, and it must exclude certain observable phenomena.

    If a hypothesis accommodates all data, like “God makes it so”, then it makes no predictions. That is not a theory.

    I have no objection to calling many creationist ideas hypotheses. The global flood could be a theory, a bad one, because it could be testable, and the geological data falsifies it.

    However, the creationists evade falsification by pointing to all strata and saying, “The laws of physics were different then, so the flood made that strata, and that strata, and any conceivable strata.” Because they evade falsification, they refuse to turn flood geology into a theory.

    As for biological diversity, “God makes it so” is not a theory, just a hypothesis.

  9. Alan Conwell

    IANAA, just an enthusiastic amateur, but the theory for density waves creating the visible spiral arms dates back to the ’60s. See Wikipedia “Density Theory”. Its a wonder that the AIG crowd, so well versed in current scientific thought (?), missed that one. Also, dark matter apparently forms a huge, diffuse cloud around the galaxy; this causes the gravity gradient to be not at all like the solar system, with the huge gravity well around the sun, but much more diffuse, yielding the relative speed of stars not so dependent on distance from the optical center of the galaxy. I guess I no longer feel bad about not having studied astronomy at a reputable school; I seem to know more than the Bob Jones graduate!
    (OBTW: Thanks Curmy for fixing my misspelling on my last post without embarrassing me by everyone viewing my second Oops! post)

  10. Alan Conwell

    Damn, screwed up the closing of the HTML tag apparently. Sure would be nice is there was a preview button before posting! (Just saying’)

  11. Alan Conwell, there is no Wikipedia article on “density theory.” Some stuff seems related, but I couldn’t do anything except close your tag.

  12. Charles Deetz ;)

    @Richard Olson The thing is the Young Universe version of things is quickly falsified as a theory: Danny Boy here is theorizing that galaxies are spirals because they are young, and support his position. Okay. Danny, can you tell me how far away those galaxies are, did I hear you say 12 billion light-years? Um, Danny Boy, don’t you know that is a long time, much much much much longer than 6,000 years? And then the excuses about light-years start. Scientists don’t make up excuses, they at least say ‘I don’t know … yet’.

    This is why we ridicule folks like the AIG.

  13. Alan Conwell says: “I seem to know more than the Bob Jones graduate!”
    Which is doubles true, but you suffer from the need to search out knowledge from later than the first century, which Hambo and his puppets will tell you is a sure path to the Lake ‘o Fire. See ya there! 🙂

  14. Richard Olson

    My apologies, Diogenes. Somehow you read what I wrote and arrived at the conclusion that — well, you arrived at a conclusion that is not at all what I think I wrote. I was commenting on the usage of theory as employed in the article Charles Deetz links us with. At best, a prior hypothesis is discarded in favor of a more reliable explanation; it should not be called theory. Perhaps “perturbation” is theory, perhaps it too is as yet hypothesis. D’Ongia uses the word ‘proves’, as you’ll read, yet the article notes that the new results reported fall somewhere between two ‘theories’. I do not know what is what, but then I am just a lay atheist endeavoring to see one of the few arrows in the god-squad quiver permanently removed:

    ‘The origin and fate of the emblematic spiral arms in disk galaxies have been debated by astrophysicists for decades, with two theories predominating. One holds that the arms come and go over time. A second and widely held theory is that the material that makes up the arms – stars, gas and dust – is affected by differences in gravity and jams up, like cars at rush hour, sustaining the arms for long periods.

    The new results fall somewhere in between the two theories and suggest that the arms arise in the first place as a result of the influence of giant molecular clouds – star forming regions or nurseries common in galaxies. Introduced into the simulation, the clouds act as “perturbers” and are enough to not only initiate the formation of spiral arms but to sustain them indefinitely.

    “We find they are forming spiral arms,” explains D’Onghia. “Past theory held the arms would go away with the perturbations removed, but we see that (once formed) the arms self-perpetuate, even when the perturbations are removed. It proves that once the arms are generated through these clouds, they can exist on their own through (the influence of) gravity, even in the extreme when the perturbations are no longer there.”‘

  15. The PseudoAstronomy pod cast has a full breakdown of this silliness.

  16. Alan Conwell

    Sorry about the bad link, but Derek had it too (see above a few posts) … it’s density wave theory.

  17. Is this the same fellow who is professor of physics and astronomy at USC Lancaster? Did they hire a Creationist astronomer? I wonder what he is saying to his students about the age of the universe?

  18. Richard, I see your point now. I don’t think we really disagree.

  19. Here is the link for pseudoastronomy, where he debunks creationist Russell Humphreys and CreationWiki on the topic of spiral arms.

    [audio src="" /]

  20. Wondering what an “evolutionary astronomer” studies? America’s Finest News Sources has the scoop.

  21. @Richard Olson: We should stop calling “evolution” a theory. Evolution itself is an observable fact. What is theory is what causes evolution to happen. According to Darwin, it is natural selection that drives evolution; thus, it should be called “Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection”, rather than Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. (yes, I realize I’m tilting at windmills here, but somebody’s gotta do it.)

  22. We see spiral arms because that’s where the brightest stars in a galaxy are located. New stars are formed in the density wave, and the brightest stars are very short-lived, so the brightest stars are the youngest. They are also very hot, producing extreme amounts of ultraviolet radiation. The ultraviolet causes the hydrogen gas clouds surrounding the new stars to glow red, so almost all of the red-glowing nebulae within a galaxy are also found in the spiral arms.

  23. Why oh why do people like Danny Faulkner do this? Surely the guy has some real interest in astronomy, so why does he allow creationist stupidity into his view of the subject? The Bible is childishly simplistic when it comes to astronomy and woefully incorrect. Even I, as a non scientist, know this.

    As for ” because most evolutionary astronomers begin with an assumption that the universe is billions of years old….” No, no, no, no, no. Astronomers, cosmologists etc (what the hell an evolutionary astronomer is I have no idea) reach the conclusion that the universe is billions of years old because their observations have lead them to it. They have assumed nothing.

  24. Astronomers assumed that the universe was infinitely old. They were led by the data (and the physics) to the conclusion that it was only billions of years old.
    I’d also note that, on the proposition that astronomers started with the assumption that the universe is billions of years old, how (when and where) did they decide on that assumption, and get agreement that they would all start with that assumption? After all, if their goal was merely to deny the Bible, they could have achieved that with the assumption that the universe was millions of years old, or trillions of years old. Was there some secret conclave where all of the big shots got together to come up with an age that they would all agree to support?

  25. TomS, you make an excellent point. Nice work!