My previous article was “Around the Solar System with Jason Lisle”, and in it I provided a brief recap of our solar system from a creationist perspective. After the presentation I had a chance to speak with Dr. Lisle and ask him some questions, and I asked about the creationist response to distant starlight as related to the detection of gravity waves.
About 100 years ago the existence of gravitational waves- or ‘ripples’ in the fabric of space-time- were predicted by Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. And on February 11 of this year scientists announced the detection of gravity waves for the first time.
Supposedly, some 1.3 billion years ago two black holes merged in a cataclysmic collision, and now we’re able to observe the after-effects. The detection occurred as a result of the efforts by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), a system of two, nearly identical interferometers separated by long distances, one in Hanford, Washington, and the other in Livingston, Louisiana, using ultra-sensitive equipment.
In order to detect these waves, some kind of violent phenomenon is needed, such as supernovae, a neutron star, or, as in this case, two merging black holes. LIGO was able to detect these waves, first at the Louisiana location, and then milliseconds later in Washington, allowing scientists to determine the source.
So how does the creationist model for distant starlight account for these findings?
Well, the creationist model I like most was proposed by Dr. Lisle, and is called the Anisotropic Synchrony Convention (ASC), which allows us to define the one-way speed of light as instantaneous, which is consistent with Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. So, even though the round-trip speed of light is about 186,000 miles per second, Einstein’s physics allow us to stipulate the one-way speed of light (agreed upon by convention).
However, I reasoned, if gravitational waves travel at the speed of light, and the waves were detected at different moments by two separate observatories, wouldn’t we expect both laboratories to detect the waves simultaneously?
Dr. Lisle’s response was technical, but he elaborated, explaining that the difference in recordings made by the two observatories in both Washington and Louisiana are a combination of two affects under the ASC. To begin with, the clocks at the two locations use Einstein’s synchrony convention, presupposing the one-way speed of light is identical in every direction. But under the ASC, the two clocks aren’t in sync; they’re off by a fraction. That means we’d expect there to be a small difference in detection time, even if the gravity waves arrived at the same moment.
The second effect is that only incoming gravity waves would be instantaneous under the ASC. Outgoing gravity waves would travel slower. This means that once the gravity wave passes someone standing at the first detector, it would be considered outgoing from that observer’s perspective and would take time to reach the other detector.
These two factors explain why there’s a difference in recorded times, and Dr. Lisle says the math works out to make the same prediction in time difference under both the ASC and ESC.
Here’s a good link to a more detailed model of the ASC, which hasn’t been falsified by scientific scrutiny.