About The Author
D. R. Prescott has written a novel, a collection of short stories, a nonfiction book, a collection of essays, planetarium show/display scripts, two family histories, technical articles and business plans as well as written for and edited several newsletters.
Awards and published work include Writers' Journal, Long Story Short, Taj Mahal Review literary journal, The Orange County Register, Writer's Digest, and Writing.com and four books among other challenges.
As a former aerospace executive and planetarium program director, Prescott currently writes and explores life in Orange, California.
"Sentience can be annoying."-DRP Abt. 1990
Since 2008, Prescott has been a regular contributor of
essays and short stories to
The Taj Mahal Review Literary Journal
Alpha Centauri and Beyond Radio Interview of Prescott
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O R D E R T O D A Y !
D. R. Prescott
Some people take time literally; even defend their definition of time vehemently. These good people argue that a second is a second, a day is a day, a year is a year; the world is only 6000 years old. Is a second a second or a day a day or a year a year? Could the world be only thousands of years old? Interestingly, both religion and science suggest not.
After considerable study of biblical scriptures, James Ussher, 1581-1656, Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College, ushered in the idea of creation occurring on Sunday October 23, 4004 BC. Often, Ussher’s estimate is sometimes made more precise with the exact time of day, nine o’clock in the morning. Actually, he did not state a time of day. A fellow named Sir John Lightfoot, 1602-1675, Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, slipped that little enhancement into biblical history.
Ussher’s position aside, all versions of the Christian Bible, and there are many, recognize that time may not be the same everywhere or for everyone. For example, Peter writes in his epistle 2 Peter 3:8:
“But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
Evidence that the Christian God measures time differently than human beings is also found in Psalm 90:4 and Psalm 39:4-5. Further, Job asks in Job 10:4-5:
“Are Your days like the days of a mortal man?”
Three verses (22:47, 32:5 and 76:1) in Islam’s Quran (or Koran) also address the difference between god-time and human-time. Specifically, in Verse 22:47:
“And [so, O Muhammad,] they challenge thee to hasten the coming upon them of [God’s] chastisement: but God never fails to fulfill His promise - and, behold, in thy Sustainer’s sight a day is like a thousand years of your reckoning.”
Under scrutiny, time is a difficult concept to grasp as St. Augustine quickly admitted as he is often quoted: “What then is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I wish to explain it to one who asks, I know not.” Eastern philosophies have nothing comparable to defining creation as 6000 years ago. Hinduism provides an enormous time span where Lord Brahma’s lifespan is 311,040,000,000,000 human years. Buddhism considers the universe as a continuous series of cycles and measures time with kalpas, where one kalpa spans 4,320,000 years. Taoists discuss eternal now, being/non-being and guiding intelligent principles before space and time.
For our argument, let’s use Ussher’s timeframe for creation for a little fun arithmetic, sans the specific time of day. From 2010, a literal biblical interpretation would place creation 6,014 years ago. The Bible and the Quran specifically state that one of God’s days is as 1000 human years. I have no idea how many days are in a god year and I doubt that anyone else does either. Why should a god year be based on the Earth’s orbit anyway? In spite of how presumptuous it may be, let’s use it and see where we go.
Assuming a god year also has 365.25 god days and one god day is as a thousand human years, it is fairly easy to multiply 1,000 times 365.25 to get 365,250 equivalent human years in 1 god year. Then, multiplying 6,014 god years times 365,250 equivalent human years since creation, your answer will be a fairly large number—2,196,613,500 equivalent human years; notice that answer is billions, not thousands.
If you have a good arm, believe arithmetic works and suspect that a god year might be significantly different than a human year; this simple calculation narrows the gap to throwing distance between religion and science. To further reduce the gap, we must turn to science while keeping a close eye on biblical references. We don’t want to run head long into more schism-producing contradictions. The intent is to integrate, not divide.
We know that everything in the universe is in motion. It has been experimentally demonstrated that time is relative to your frame of reference. Your time varies depending on whether you are moving faster or slower relative to another object. Dr. Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, made us aware of this unsettling piece of information a century ago.
The faster an object goes, the more time is affected. The twin paradox is the classical example. If you have a twin who leaves the Earth and travels at speeds near that of light and returns to Earth years later, your time, you will have aged a lot more than your twin. Why? It's called time dilation. This effect has been experimentally verified, repeatedly with the same results. If measuring time depends upon the observer, then, wouldn’t the measurement of time over the term of creation be affected by the same physical laws?
Edwin Hubble, 1889-1953, recognized that the universe is expanding which is a time and distance measuring problem. Hubble’s idea for measuring distance in time is based on red shift whereas other forms of dating are based on decay of elements. An object moving away from us will have its light shifted toward the red part of the electromagnetic spectrum while light from an object moving toward us is shifted toward the blue end. With Hubble’s concept, we have a tool to figure out how fast things are moving and how far away they are, to the edge of the visible universe.
Current scientific thinking suggests that distance is over 13 billion light years. Applying some form of relativistic adjustment or, better yet, coming up with another answer for how many days are in a god-year, might significantly increase our initial 2.2 billion years calculation, maybe closer to 13 billion years. But, let’s keep it simple and stick to our Biblical assumption that a god-year is different that a human year.
There is a controversial (in some religious circles) thing called radioactive dating based on the half-life of isotopes of different elements that give science an estimate of 4.6 billion years since the Earth formed. This is not a single measurement but a number of measurements that converge on this conclusion involving numerous elements with ever greater half-lives. While most scientists will say that these techniques are reliable within a narrow range of error, usually less than plus or minus 1 percent. But, that is not the issue here and that argument has been going on for a long time. We only are taking directly from religious writings and doing a little arithmetic.
What else might be going on?
One possibility is that current scientific thinking is dead wrong? Some would likely agree and base their arguments on the reliability of measuring techniques or that physics does not apply. Establishing distances to objects in the universe is one technique that is a gradual progression from the very precise to the fairly accurate. Within our Solar System, we can use radar-ranging to give us fairly precise readings about how far things are away from us. Nearby stars can be pinpointed by parallax measurements, utilizing the Earth’s orbit as a measuring stick and applying a little trigonometry. As things get farther away, the measurements rely on luminosity. As distance increases, our measuring techniques become a bit less precise but within expected ranges of error. However, it is fair to say that current scientific measurements of time and distance are in the ballpark, probably even in the infield, maybe within the pitcher’s mound and reasonable representations of reality.
We could also take the position that biblical accounts are skewed or misinterpreted. Creation, according to Genesis, came in stages, similar to the scientific version of creation. During the first five days (What was a day then?) of creation, a lot of things happened before humans appeared on the scene; so it is with current scientific theories of creation. Since the Christian Bible and Islam’s Quran were apparently written for human beings by human beings, might it not be reasonable to assume that scriptures focus on the Earth with the rest of the universe as little more than a backdrop, heaven above, hell below and maybe something in between? The big question revolves about how we measure time.
Today, we are awash in information, have found more ways to unravel nature’s secrets and strive for more data-driven explanations. Our perspective has left the Earth-centered view behind and expanded to the universe. Today, unlike in Shakespeare’s time, we now have the entire universe as our stage. Why would a god try to confuse people with more than they can handle based on available knowledge, assuming the Bible was inspired by and is the word of God? Would it not be reasonable to assume its references, particularly about time, would be structured for humans in that place and time? If not, why would it be necessary to describe a day with God as a thousand years or ask whether His days are like ours? Was not Job’s question telling?
The authors of the Bible and Quran were human and may or may not have been influenced by divine intervention. Why do some of the Eastern religions tout such vast time spans? It seems that writers of religious text would have written from a human perspective in either case. Otherwise, God could have done all the writing by Himself/Herself and eliminated the middle-people, not to mention, a lot of confusion. Perhaps, God wanted that human orientation and its subtle nuances! Or maybe, God has or had or will have a refined sense of humor that we fail to see. Regardless, with specific input from scripture and a little math, you quickly get a number in billions of years for when the Earth came into existence, not thousands, still an extraordinary and logical difference!
God-time and human-time appear not to be the same, and it says so in some religious texts. It might even be arrogant to suggest otherwise. So, is a second a second, a day a day, and a year a year? Not necessarily. Was creation only 6000 years ago? The preponderance of evidence suggests that is unlikely.
© Copyright 2006 D. R. Prescott (donprescott at Writing.Com).
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