It once seemed very reasonable to think of the Universe as beginning just a little before our collective memory is obscured by the passage of time and the illiteracy of our ancestors. Generally speaking, that’s hundreds or thousands of years ago. Religions that purport to describe the origin of the Universe often specify—implicitly or explicitly—a date of origin of roughly such vintage, a birthday for the world.
If you add up all the “begats” in Genesis, for example, you get an age for the Earth: 6,000 years old, plus or minus a little. The universe is said to be exactly as old as the Earth. This is still the standard of Jewish, Christian, and Moslem fundamentalists and is clearly reflected in the Jewish calendar.
But so young a Universe raises an awkward question: How is it that there are astronomical objects more than 6,000 light-years away? It takes light a year to travel a light-year, 10,000 years to travel 10,000 light-years, and so on. When we look at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, the light we see left its source 30,000 years ago. The nearest spiral galaxy like our own, M31 in the constellation Andromeda, is 2 million light-years away, so we are seeing it as it was when the light from it set out on its long journey to Earth—2 million years ago. And when we observe distant quasars 5 billion light-years away, we are seeing them as they were 5 billion years ago, before the Earth was formed. (They are, almost certainly, very different today.)
If, despite this, we were to accept the literal truth of such religious books, how could we reconcile the data? The only plausible conclusion, I think, is that God recently made all the photons of light arriving on the Earth in such a coherent format as to mislead generations of astronomers into the misapprehension that there are such things as galaxies and quasars, and intentionally driving them to the spurious conclusion that the Universe is vast and old. This is such a malevolent theology I still have difficulty believing that anyone, no matter how devoted to the divine inspiration of any religious book, could seriously entertain it.” —Carl Sagan (Pale Blue Dot - A Vision of the Human Future In Space: Chapter 3)
The last two sleepovers I’ve been at consisted of watching shoperotic and anime. Good times.
Thanks, anon. Me too.
Only when I’m quoting Tyrone Biggums