Sunday, May 12, 2013

Creation Museum: the Failure of Creationist Astrophysics

Last weekend, I went down to Petersburg, Kentucky with a few people from SSA to visit the Creation Museum. Like a lot of things Answers in Genesis does, the Creation Museum seems to offer surprisingly accurate information at first glance, but once they start trying derive their erroneous conclusions from the evidence, it all goes horribly wrong. Case in point, the planetarium show.

It began as a pretty neat presentation of the various constellations visible from our solar system, as well as the various types of stars in them, showing their different colors and relative sizes. So far, so good. Then the narrator of the show began talking about the different life spans of various types of stars. Red stars are relatively cool and burn their fuel slowly, while blue stars are relatively hot and burn through their fuel quickly. Blue stars, according to the narrator, are “a reminder of our universe’s young age.” Wait... what? Indeed, all blue stars are comparatively young, but in this context “young” potentially means several million years old, and the ones we’ve seen blow up were definitely pretty old when they died. Aside from that, let’s examine the logic of this statement: essentially what the narrator said was that “since some things are young, nothing can be old.” That statement was the first car derailed in the trainwreck to come.
Different types of main-sequence stars. Massive blue stars squander their hydrogen fuel in only a few million years, while tiny red stars can make their fuel last for over a trillion years. More info here.
The focus of the presentation then moved to the planets we've discovered orbiting these other stars. Since large planets with short orbital periods are the easiest to detect, a large number of the planets we've discovered thus far have been so-called "Hot Jupiters" - gas giants roughly the size of Jupiter, or bigger, orbiting absurdly close to their parent star (some of them orbit their star closer than Mercury orbits our Sun). Before Hot Jupiters were discovered, it was thought that they shouldn't exist. The area near a star is too hot for gases to condense and form planets. Clearly, they must be the work of God, right? Well, what the narrator neglected to mention was that planets are now known to migrate early on in solar system formation. Interactions with the dust in the star's accretion disk and with other planets can cause new planets to drastically change their orbits before they reach stable ones. Hot Jupiters must have formed farther away from their stars and then migrated inward.
Hot Jupiters: they're very hot. More info about this picture here.

After finishing up talking about our galaxy, the narrator begins talking about other galaxies. He answers a question frequently asked by people who know what a light-year is: “If the universe is only 6,000 years old, how is it that we can see galaxies millions and even billions of light-years away?” The answer: “gravitational time dilation.” That’s right, an effect of relativity - a theory partly built on the principle that the speed of light in a vacuum is always the same - causes the speed of light in a vacuum to be much faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. That’s how light from distant galaxies is able to reach us in such a short time. Obviously, gravitational time dilation has no effect whatsoever on the speed of light. Gravity warps both space and time in such a way that the speed of light remains the same. Besides, there’s not enough gravity in between galaxies to cause this effect to any appreciable extent anyway. Usually when gravitational time dilation comes up, it’s either in the context of extreme gravity (near a black hole or neutron star) or when we have a need for extremely precise clocks (like we do in GPS satellites).
Contrary to what evolutionists would have you believe, it does not take light a year to travel a Lightyear. The unit is named for the famous space explorer, and vanquisher of Zurg, Buzz Lightyear.
The narrator then pointed out his last bit of evidence for a young universe: spiral arms. The claim was that if spiral galaxies are billions of years old, their spiral arms should have wound up so tightly by now that they would be unrecognizable as arms (since inner stars take less time to go around the galaxy than outer stars). This argument reveals a complete failure on the narrator’s part to understand what spiral arms are. They are not groups of stars that orbit the galaxy along with their constituents, they are self-perpetuating density waves that stars pass through as they orbit the galaxy. The arms maintain themselves in the following way: as stars approach a spiral arm, the extra gravity from the arm causes the stars to speed up; as they begin to leave, they slow down and end up spending a disproportionate amount of time within the arm. The reason why we can see spiral arms so clearly in other galaxies is because of the presence of bright blue stars, newly formed from the comparatively dense interstellar medium in the arms (since blue stars only live for a few million years, they die before they leave the arms). Longer, more detailed explanation here.
Stars go in, stars go out. Astronomers have explained that.
As I got up to leave the planetarium at the end of the show, I immediately regretted not speaking up to correct the errors in the show more audibly. Not only because getting kicked out of the Creation Museum would have been funny, but also because I genuinely think that at least some small fraction of the other people in that planetarium actually wanted to learn about astrophysics, and were deprived of that because of their poor choice (or their parents' poor choice) of venue. If I could have gotten even one of these curious, but misinformed, people to question the creationist narrative and do their own investigation, I would have been much more satisfied with relinquishing my $38 to that museum.


  1. I agree. I'm currently am watching the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham and am concerned to say the least. He talks about scientists assuming things about the past but everything he says is an assumption based on the bible which they bend all accounts to fit their own account of the history of the universe. Sadly he even states , without stating anything specifically, in one question that nothing could change his mind. Hopefully soon people like Ham will be phased out completely as people realize the BS they spill out.

  2. ...a black hole do not is a "hole"...really it is a very solid object, a cluster of QUARKS IN MUTUAL CONTACT only gravitationally united between them, already without gluons. Therefore do not it´s possible going through. In the Big-Bang to expand and cool from Energy spring up the Matter, quarks that united for gluons formed protons. In final phase of its degradation Matter do not can return again to convert in Energy, only by annihilation with Antimatter, or by final implosion of the entire Universe. The black "hole": the final state of Matter in the Universe.