In Response to Hartnett's Article

Barry Setterfield, February, 2016

Responses to this page below.

We received the following email, along with a number of others with the same questions about the Hartnett article:

I have a question regarding a CMI article by a Dr. John Hartnett entitled "What impact does the detection of gravitational waves have on biblical creation? Dr. Hartnett makes the claim that the recent discovery of gravity waves uses a modern value for the speed of light to calculate the masses of the two black holes which collided to produce those waves, so he concludes ( a bit too quickly in my opinion) that "the cdk idea is [to be] thoroughly rejected". I wanted your take on this issue. Here's the relevant portion of the article:

   "Interestingly, the calculation used to determine the masses of the merging black holes in the analysis of this week’s discovery employed the standard canonical speed of light, c. That is, it used the same constant value that we measure today. Does that tell us something? I think it does.

    Some biblical creationists favour a much higher value for the speed of light in the past, from a time soon after creation of the universe, after which it decreased or decayed down to its current value (the concept is known as cdk, from c-decay). They use this supposed much higher value of c in the past as a solution of the biblical creationist light-travel time problem. But now this new discovery shows that, at a time in the past representative of a distance in the cosmos of 1.3 billion light-years, the value of the speed of  (c) was identical to today’s current value. Regardless of which creationist cosmology you like, the gravity waves observed in September 2015 must have left their source very soon after Creation week. Thus the cdk idea is thoroughly rejected."

Setterfield: One of the major errors that happens in all fields of science occurs when a theory is so valued that the data a person desires to support it is ‘cherry picked.’  That means the person will only pay attention to the data that fit his or her theory.  What is an even worse error is when the data which has been cherry-picked is in question, and its validity, or the validity of the conclusions it leads to, becomes a matter of question.

Hartnett’s criticism relies on several assumptions. It is based on the fact that the calculations by the LIGO collaborators to determine the masses of the merging black holes have used the standard, canonical speed of light.

The immediate problem that should be noted with Hartnett is that he is using the general belief among standard science that the speed of light has always been a constant in order to  prove that the speed of light has always been a constant.  A belief is not proof.  He should know that.  The calculations done regarding the LIGO project were done on the assumption that the speed of light has always been a constant.  In other words, the speed of light must have been the same at the distance of 1300 million light years (where the event occurred) as it is now for the equations to work.

The second assumption he works from is that the merging objects were two black holes. If they were not black holes but some other bodies, then Hartnett’s argument falls apart. That is because it is only in the case of black holes that the relativistic equations which include the speed of light are used.

The third assumption is that gravitational physics alone explains the phenomena observed, and so those are the only equations which apply.

Fourth and finally, everything is based on the assumption that Einsteinian relativity is the only description of reality. I believe that each one of these assumptions is faulty for one reason or another. Let us briefly examine each one.

First is the assumption that the signal came from the merger of two black holes. It is true that the LIGO collaborators claimed that the recorded waveform could be accounted for this way, provided that the black holes were of very specific masses (those specific masses were the only way their equations would work when accounting for the data). The calculations that they employed to get that result used the equations that Hartnett referred to. However a few days later a second paper came out detailing Fermi satellite data obtained by the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) group which also and simultaneously recorded the LIGO event.  They have an entirely different way of detecting such events which have the ability to provide confirmation or denial of the LIGO interpretation.  The Fermi data revealed that there was only a weak signal in the hard X-ray region of the spectrum.

The GBM group has pointed out that the LIGO announcement is surprising if it really was the merger of two black holes. Such a merger should have produced a stronger signal, and that signal should have been in the gamma ray (or more energetic) region of the spectrum, not in the less energetic X-ray region. The GBM group had previously been able to assess various types of signals, along with their strengths and energies, which had emanated from other astronomical events. As a result of their expertise, the GBM team concluded in their paper that the signal LIGO picked up could not be from the merger of two black-holes, but instead was something rather less massive.

This development does several things. First, given that the same event is being recorded by both groups, the lack of gamma rays yields strong evidence that black holes were not involved. This negates the extensive calculations by the LIGO group, and as a result also negates Hartnett’s argument.

If, however, we assume that the GBM data was not from the same event, then there is another problem. If the merger of two black holes really did occur, that should have sent a strong signal in the gamma ray region of the spectrum which GBM should have picked up. If the GBM weak X-ray data was not from the same event, then where was the gamma ray signal?  The required gamma ray signal never occurred and no other relevant signal was recorded. The absence of this signal would mean that the LIGO event was not the merger of black holes, and their calculations are then irrelevant. So whether the signals came from the same or different events, the indications are that black-holes were not involved. Again, if black holes were not involved, then the calculations involving a constant speed of light mean nothing and this strikes a serious blow to Hartett’s claim regarding a possible change in the speed of light as being “thoroughly rejected.”

The LIGO team worked for five months on their calculations, trying to see what had happened to produce the wave forms their instruments recorded.  There was nothing simple or straight-forward about what they had to do to achieve the results they wanted.  They presumed black holes.  They presumed the speed of light was the same 1.3 billion light years away (thus 1.3 billion years ago) as it is today.  However, the merger of two black holes is certainly in question, as pointed out above.  In addition, if, as data show, the speed of light has not been constant throughout time, then neither were the properties of the vacuum or other physical quantities. 
Hartnett is correct that if only the speed of light has been changing, then the equations won’t work.  But, if the properties of the vacuum are controlled by the Zero Point Energy, which is what data indicate, a consistent approach emerges.  In that case, synchronously varying quantities counteract the variation in light-speed, as shown by measurements through a number of years. So on those bases, Hartnett’s conclusions may be premature.

Third, the assumption is that gravitational physics alone explains the characteristics of what have been referred to as black holes. However, if the concept of black holes is examined using the approach of plasma astronomy instead of gravitational astronomy, these objects turn out to be plasmoids whose behavior is governed by electromagnetism, not gravity. This is explained in more detail in the article on Black Holes. Using the plasma approach, Anthony Peratt from LANL has shown that a different set of equations must be used to describe the orbital characteristics of black holes/plasmoids.  Research has shown that over 99% of the matter in the universe is in a plasma state.  Given this understanding, the use of equations which consider gravity, rather than electromagnetism, to be the driving force are probably wrong from the beginning.  Thus the orbital equations used by the LIGO collaboration may not be relevant for this reason either.

The concept of gravitational black holes and their behavior comes from Einsteinian relativity. This is based on two postulates which have been shown to be invalid observationally. Indeed, most of the predictions of relativity, including a different origin for mass and gravity, can be obtained using simple math if the concept of a vacuum Zero Point Energy (ZPE) is adopted. In this case there are no restrictive postulates. The outcome is that a different set of equations apply when the observationally based ZPE option is used, which Hartnett is evidently unaware of.  This is a real problem when one pays attention only to the data which appear to support one’s pet theory.

Since these four assumptions are questionable at best and invalid at worst, Hartnett’s statement that the idea of a changing speed of light is “thoroughly rejected” is only true for those who want it to be true.  It is not that easy to dismiss inconvenient data in the long run.

* * * * * *

Within a day, we received the following response from one of the email correspondents in Europe who had asked us about the Hartnett article:

Your comment on Hartnett matches my own observation closely. Broglie warned for this attitude long ago in New Perspectives in Physics, p. 30/31: I should like to stress the danger that always threatens theorists: the temptation to consider our current knowledge as final. Almost instinctively our intellect tends to make apparently complete syntheses based on knowledge, which is – and no doubt will always remain – fragmentary.”

Also Hartnett falls into this trap – and many with him. It also confirms the words of Gerrit Verschuur about specialist knowing “too much” which prevents them to “see” new opportunities. In many comments all the cherished items come along: black matter, space as a sheet depressed by heavy objects, the expanding universe, the notion that Einstein is finally and totally vindicated (with which he himself would seriously disagree). It strikes me that these ‘specialists’ are incapable to any form of creative thinking. It reminds me of a quote or Halton Arp: “I gloomily came to the ironic conclusion that if you take a highly intelligent person and give him the best possible, elite education, then you will most likely wind up with an academic who is completely impervious to reality." (Seeing Red, p. 131).

But this mentality seems omnipresent. It is strikingly present in the climate discussions. All my discussion partners only know the part that is thrown to the public, the part that we are supposed to believe. Nobody knows the facts, nobody knows anything about the background. How can we survive as a civilization if we are at the mercy of the manipulators? In many things I am a disciple of Francis Schaeffer, who taught me to think for myself en see the ‘red line’, do not run with the delusions of the day, but ask the right questions. And. . . keep to the truth, keep to reality, go on asking the hard questions. But many like to run with the fashion of the day. In the ‘success’ of the Logos institution, however, I see many young people return to reality, to thinking for themselves, and. . . based upon a thorough trust in God’s Word, the straightforward historic-grammatical reading of the Bible and firmly sticking to it. We pray that something amazing may grow out of this work.

It is immediately clear to outsiders how strong Hartnett and many other are being locked into their own belief systems, indeed so strong, that they will not even for a moment consider that maybe other options could exist. ... Astronomy is fossilized and buried in their own sarcophagus, so it seems.

But at the same time it strikes me time and again, that your explanations are straightforward, understandable and open to change if more data comes available. No prefabricated explanation has to be maintained. I love that!!

Again thank you for reacting on my question.

[one section of the letter was edited out to eliminate some references to others by name]

 Hartnett criticism response

An email was received regarding the harshness of the response to Hartnett, above. Here is the relevant part and Barry Setterfield's response:

Setterfield: Your words of thanks for the article about gravitational waves were welcome. However, they were tempered with the following comments about my criticism of Hartnett:

Correspondent: “But if you will pardon me, I confess to being a bit uneasy about how you express your dissent so dismissively.  At the very beginning of your article you declare that Hartnett's conclusions are "completely devoid of merit."  All the way through you press home your rejection of his opinions, and in the final paragraph, you rub salt in the wounds by declaring that evidences "completely negate Hartnett's assertions."  You may well be wholly right, and God bless you!  But I would prefer to say it less confrontingly.  I am not strong enough in physics to judge Hartnett's commentary on the LIGO study.  But his academic credentials are pretty strong, and he has earned wide respect from holding significant positions, currently one in Adelaide.  So as a matter of simple collegial courtesy, as well as to sound less adversarial, I would hope to find gentler words of disagreement.”

Setterfield: For thirty years, I have tried gentler words of disagreement and I have endeavored to answer all questions and criticisms regarding my work.  In return I have received from Hartnett and other members of the main American and Australian creationist organizations who have their doctorates and plenty of academic credentials, almost nothing but a refusal to consider my work; and often those refusals are laced with mockery and sarcasm.  Humphreys specifically stated that my research would never be accepted by the creationists because I did not have a doctorate.

There was a mindset against this work 25 years ago, led by Humphreys, Wieland, and a number of others, which rapidly hardened into total rejection orchestrated by those in a position of power in the creationist movement. Many harsh words were spoken against me as an individual as well as against the research.  I was actually warned by one major creationist that if I attempted to put forward something other than the model that originated with Dr. Henry Morris, no creationist in America would accept my work.

At the point where these creationists are behaving in the same way as secular scientists, where the preferred theories hold sway over the data, someone has to speak up.  My first efforts were met with sarcasm by Hartnett.  I’m tired of that.  I have gotten a little stronger.  Someone has to turn attention to the data and what is actually going on in the real world instead of maintaining a theory. They seem afraid to do this.  I am not.

Halton Arp expressed it in a way that applies to both secular science and creationists: “It seems the toughest thing for scientists to grasp—that a cherished paradigm … can be wrong. ... I gloomily came to the ironic conclusion that if you take a highly intelligent person and give them the best possible, elite education, then you will most likely wind up with an academic who is completely impervious to reality.”

That is another reason why I have been so blunt in my criticism; they need to be awakened out of their torpor. De Broglie put the issue at stake somewhat succinctly in 1962 in his book New Perspectives in Physics which started the SED branch of physics. He said: “Thus with every advance in our scientific knowledge new elements come up, often forcing us to recast our entire picture of physical reality. No doubt, theorists would much prefer to perfect and amend their theories rather than be obliged to scrap them continually. But this obligation is the condition and price of all scientific progress.”  This is true just as much for the creationist community as for the secular scientist.

I think, as Christians, we all acknowledge the Bible as the final authority.  What is interesting, however, is that when the Hebrew is looked at, some of our traditional interpretations might not be accurate.  We have discussed this in detail in our Genesis 1-11 study. What I have found is that many of the leading creationist leaders seem to prefer to ignore inconvenient data simply because it is used by secular science to try to buttress their arguments.  However it is not the data at fault, but the interpretations.  We needn’t be afraid of what we see out there – we know God has not attempted to deceive or mislead us in His creation. We need the data in the created order to fill out the details of Biblical events. When we do that, we find that the data actually does support the Bible in enormous detail, but a different scenario emerges to that proposed by some of the prevailing creationist theories.

If my criticism of Hartnett, Humphreys and others causes them to rethink their theories, then I will have achieved my purpose. Therefore I do not retract what has been written.

Barry Setterfield 21st May, 2016.