Was This How God Did It?
Barry and Helen Setterfield
January 17, 2007
(The following article is short and lay-oriented. It appeared in Creation Matters, April, 2007 )
God could have created the entire cosmos supernaturally in six days, via one miracle after another. On the other hand, God could have used the very processes He invented to arrange the substances He created into the cosmos we see today. For the sake of argument, let’s look at the second option and see where it might lead. We are not denying the possibility of an entire string of miracles, but we are, instead, examining the second possibility: that after God created some kind of material out of nothing, He then used the very processes which still govern the behavior of matter today to arrange it into the stars and galaxies and even our solar system. At this point no attempt is being made to present this in a formal scientific format with minute detail and referencing. Instead, a general model and idea is being laid out for further examination.
The cosmological model most adhered to today centers around two things, the Big Bang and then the effect of gravity. The Big Bang was ridiculed from its inception for being too close to the statement we find in the Bible that God claims to have stretched the heavens. The Big Bang postulates that a singularity suddenly, for some reason, expanded rapidly, forming the universe we see now. In the Bible, God states “It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.” (Isaiah 45:12) This claim is made regarding the stretching of the heavens by God twelve times. There appears to be enough evidence in the form of background radiation and the fact that redshift measurements increase with distance out from the earth to support a sudden expansion of ‘something’ into the universe we see. From there the Big Bang model assumes that gravity took over, gradually collapsing great conglomerations of dust and other material into stars and galaxies and other objects.
Because gravity is known to be a weak force, the presumption is then that it took literally billions of years for the universe to take shape. What we would like to question here is not the initial expansion of the universe, which both the Big Bang and the Bible agree happened, but whether it was gravity which took over after that. We think there is evidence of something much more rapid that happened and which we can experiment with in our labs today. This is plasma, and the idea of a plasma formation of the universe is something that is coming more to the fore in scientific circles. Plasmas obey the laws of electricity and magnetism rather than gravity, which is much weaker and thus slower in the manifestation of its effects. When combined with an earlier much faster speed of atomic processes, which we think the data also indicate, some form of a plasma model could easily demonstrate how God formed the entire universe we see ‘out there’ in a few literal 24-hour days.
In school we learn there are three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. A solid is normally a substance with the atoms pretty close together and exists at a relatively cool temperature. A liquid is that same substance with the atoms usually warmer and in more motion, so they are further away from each other. A gas is the same substance at a higher temperature with the atoms in a much more energetic state and thus much further away from each other. In each of these states, however, the atoms maintain their form and identity. Each has at least one proton (and often at least one neutron) in the nucleus, or center, and at least one electron associated at a distance. The common physical and chemical picture of the atom shows the electron circling the nucleus. Generally the number of protons in the nucleus is matched by the number of electrons associated with it.
However, what if these atoms are in such a violent state that the electrons become totally dissociated from the nuclei? The atoms in this scenario are no longer atoms as we would know them, but are wildly gyrating nuclei in a turbulent sea of electrons. This is plasma, the fourth state of matter. We are aware of plasma televisions, which are cold plasma. Our florescent lights are lit by plasmas. Our sun is plasma. Stars are essentially plasmas. When photographs are taken of ‘outer space’ we see massive amounts of plasma filaments everywhere. They crisscross each other and form shapes, structures and patterns we can imitate in the lab with much smaller plasma filaments.
In the 1980’s some plasma ideas were suggested by Hannes Alfven and became quite popular for awhile. However, they never became a real model for galaxy formation. His work never got beyond the ‘exploring ideas’ stage. Since that time, however, others have developed ideas along similar lines, and the recent book The Electric Sky by Donald E. Scott (Mikamar Publishing, 2006) takes a very serious look at the possibility that the universe was formed via plasma filaments instead of gravity.
Anthony Peratt has conducted a number of experiments with plasma filaments in the laboratory. And this is what has caught the interest of a number of people, including us. Plasma filaments in a lab, when brought close together, pinch in the middle. They then begin a series of shapes which are very much like what we see when we look into outer space. They form miniature radio galaxies, miniature quasars, and miniature spiral galaxies among other things.
In the lab all this can happen in a matter of seconds. However when this is translated and upscaled to cosmic size, the time for the formation of what we see ‘out there’ becomes billions of years. So at first glance, a plasma model for the formation of the universe doesn’t look like it would fit the biblical model at all.
That is, unless the processes were faster at the beginning, which data from a number of areas, including the redshift curve and the speed of light studies, indicate to be the case. When these data are mathematically integrated into the formulas used to determine the amount of time needed for plasma filaments to form the structures of the universe, the results are interesting. The first light from quasars appeared half way through the first day, and elliptical cores of galaxies were formed shortly thereafter. The first stars, or Population II stars, were shining by the end of day one. Galaxy spiral arms were formed by the fourth day, and the stars in the spiral arms of the galaxies, the Population I stars, started shining about midway through day four. Our sun is in a spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy and would therefore have started shining on day four. That is exactly when the Bible says it started shining.
The Bible indicates something very strange, though. It indicates that the earth was formed before our sun started shining. Is that simply a mistake made by ancient men, or is this a possibility? It is not only a possibility if plasma filaments were involved, it was inevitable. When plasma filaments are pinched in response to magnetic fields, they often form a ‘necklace’ around the circumference of the pinched area which looks like a string of beads. This string is in motion with the ‘beads’ chasing each other and gradually swallowing each other up until only the largest one remains. When this happens, a new ‘necklace’ is formed to the inside, with a new series of beads which eventually become one. Then another is formed on the inside of those two, and so on, until all that is left in the center is a shining core. So yes, our earth and all the planets were formed before the sun, at our center, was lit, if the plasma model is telling us what processes God used in His formation of the cosmos.
The plasma behavior also explains why we have certain elements predominant in certain planets and why planets are layered, with the heavier elements are at the cores. Although gravity can explain some of this, it fails to explain why the planets we see are so different in composition. We still need more study on the moons, but up to this point, the plasma model is holding.
If we look at Genesis 1, there may be further evidence that we are on the right track with the plasma model. Although the Bible story books show a nice, pretty round world at the beginning, that may not be what the first verses in Genesis are telling us. Here are the first two sentences (as taken from the NIV, but any version is fine):
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
If we go back to the Hebrew, we find the following: In the beginning, created God the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and empty and darkness on the face of the deep and the Spirit of God moving on the face of the waters.
If we take a look at the meanings of the Hebrew words involved, though, we find some interesting things:
Heavens – shamayim – from an unused root meaning to be lofty or lifted up
Earth – eretz – meaning ‘that which is firm’
Without form – tohuw – from an unused root meaning waste, wilderness, confusion, empty
Empty -- bohuw – to be empty or void; vacuous
Darkness – choshek – darkness, destruction, death, ignorance, from a root meaning black or dark
Face (two words are used) – al – above, over, against, because of, on, over, through, touching -- many applications and the second word used is paniym – the face or the part that turns (many applications), can mean before, against, countenance, edge, endure, face, forefront, etc.
Deep – tehowm – an abyss, as a surging mass
Hovering/moving – rachaph – a primitive root meaning to flutter, move, or shake. HOWEVER, when the Hebrews themselves translated this word, they used the same word that Luke used in Acts 27:27 when the ship was driven across the Adriatic. The Greek word is diaphero, which means ‘to toss about, to drive up and down, or, literally, to transport.’
Waters – mayim – water is the primary meaning and other meanings, such as juice and urine, are considered euphemisms.
Looking at the choices for the words that were used, and assuming that the Bible is, at the very least, inspired by God, then we have a very real possibility that although the words could rightly mean exactly what the children’s story books are saying, there may also have been the intent all along to allow us to understand more as science progressed.
For instance, ‘shamayim’ and ‘eretz’ – heavens and earth – are not necessarily outer space and a little round ball. They could just as easily be referring to space and mass. This space and mass originally existed in a state of confusion, like a wilderness. It was empty of form or any intrinsic pattern. There was no light. However this wilderness of stuff is referred to as ‘tehowm’ – a surging mass. And the Holy Spirit was a driving force across it. Immediately after that, in verse three of Genesis 1, we hear the words “Let there be light.”
It may be that the original substance, this surging mass, was a churning conglomeration of plasma whose composition of nuclei and electrons was in the same proportion as we have with water. In other words, initial creation would have included both hydrogen and oxygen nuclei, and not just hydrogen nuclei, which the Big Bang model suggests. The initial temperature would have been incredibly high, in agreement with what standard cosmology is suggesting, and both element formation and rapid cooling would have ensued with the expansion, or stretching. This initial plasma, when driven by the Holy Spirit, began separating into the filaments we are now familiar with. Since photons of light are expressed by the snapping back of electrons which are shoved out of their places around the nucleus, the initial light on day one would indicate that the elements were formed very quickly.
Thus, while this beginning plasma model may prove partially or fully incorrect in the long run, it currently appears to be capable of answering many questions the Big Bang model cannot answer and it is not negated by anything the Bible says. It may, in fact, be suggested due to some of the vocabulary in the first verses of Genesis 1.
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March, 2009 -- for a much more complete explanation regarding the ZPE-Plasma model, please see The Data and Creation and also the first few sessions of the Genesis1-11 Bible study