Is the Universe expanding?

I am often asked this question: Is the Universe expanding?

690958main_p1237a1Previously I have challenged the notion expansion of space or expansion of the Universe as an interpretation of cosmic redshifts. The whole notion is integrally linked with the standard big bang model for the origin and history of the Universe. Also I have written that the interpretation of cosmological redshifts, as resulting from expansion of space, is just another big bang fudge factor. Quite obviously if the Universe is not expanding then there was no big bang. Hence the expanding universe must be vigorously defended by those who hold to such beliefs.

I once wrote a brief summary on this topic, where I listed references1,2,3 to a literature survey I once did on all the evidence at the time, both for and against the expanding universe concept. And I found there was significant evidence inconsistent with cosmological expansion. I did that survey back in 2011 and though much new observational data has been published since then little has changed by way of the conclusion.4

The discussion essentially revolves around cosmic redshifts and how to best interpret them. The concept of redshift is not so simple. Because we have no way to test our theories on the Universe itself5 — quite different to a lab experiment — many different explanations may be presented to explain the same observational evidence.6 Currently Ref. 6 here lists 59 possible mechanisms. Many of those are not related to an expanding universe. The mere existence of other possible explanations throws doubt on the idea of cosmological expansion as the correct explanation. Those that have been verified in the laboratory — e.g. gravitational and Doppler redshifts — do not include cosmological expansion.

For the particular case of cosmological redshift — the systematic trend of an increase of galaxy redshifts with the source galaxy’s distance from us, which, in its simplest form, is called the Hubble law — no lab experiment has ever been done that can locally test for cosmological expansion, nor will it ever be possible, in my opinion. If there was only one possible explanation for galaxy redshifts then you might be more confident that the expanding universe is the correct interpretation, but there are many possible explanations on offer.

I recorded a 3-part video series on cosmic redshifts,7 what we know, and how do we interpret them. From that you really only need to get the take home message, expansion of the Universe from galaxy redshifts is not proven, and, there are lines of evidence that contradict the notion. See in particular the Table at the end of Ref. 2.

Biblical creationists, even myself in the past, have used the argument that there are about 20 Bible verses that seem to support the notion of cosmological expansion. (I quoted many of those texts in support of my cosmology in research papers and in my book Starlight Time and the New Physics.) Hence they have been used to support the idea that God created the Universe with cosmological expansion.

Others, like Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe ministry, say the big bang history is described in the book of Genesis  and other biblical texts and they quote those verses in support. Besides the many problems of trying to make the biblical timeline fit that of the big bang (6000 years compared to 14 billion years), the events of so-called big bang progressive creation are completely out of sequence with the Genesis account.8

But can such a claim of expansion of the Universe really be justified from the scriptures themselves? No, it can’t. The clear plain reading of the Hebrew texts (or their English translations) cannot be construed to mean cosmological expansion.9 Their plain meaning is that God created the starry sky, like putting up a tent or a canopy, not a rubber sheet that gets stretched a thousand times or a million times its size. Tents just don’t stretch that much.10

So to answer the original question: I don’t know. The Hubble law could apply to a static universe, only that the mechanism of the galaxy redshifts is unknown. Quasar redshifts certainly indicate that they do not follow the simple Hubble law trend at higher redshifts.11 Therefore we have another reason to doubt the standard explanation of the expanding Universe.


  1. J.G. Hartnett, Does observational evidence indicate the universe is expanding?—part 1: the case for time dilation
  2. J.G. Hartnett, Does observational evidence indicate the universe is expanding?—part 2: the case against expansion
  3. J.G. Hartnett, Is the Universe really expanding?,
  4. J.G. Hartnett, Is there definitive evidence for an expanding universe?
  5. That means we cannot interact with the Universe; send in a light signal, for example, and get a reaction, as we might do in a lab experiment.
  6. L. Marmet, On the Interpretation of Red-Shifts: A Quantitative Comparison of Red-Shift Mechanisms II, 4 December 2014.
  7. Redshifts and the UniverseRedshifts burst big bang bubble, and Quasar redshifts blast big bang.
  8. J.G. Hartnett, The big bang is not a Reason to Believe.
  9. J.G. Hartnett, Does the Bible really describe expansion of the universe?
  10. J.G. Hartnett, Tension not extension in creation cosmology.
  11. J.G. Hartnett, What do quasars tell us about the Universe?

Four high redshift quasars puzzle astronomers

A team of astronomers led by Joseph Hennawi of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, using the W.M.  Keck observatory in Hawaii, have discovered the first quadruple quasar: four quasars with approximately the same redshift of about z ~ 2 and located on the sky in close proximity.  The online article1 from Max Planck Institute is titled “Quasar quartet puzzles scientists” with the subtitle “Astronomers must rethink models about the development of large-scale cosmic structures.” This is a discovery of the first known group of four quasars with the same redshift found in the same location on the sky. A research paper has been accepted for publication in the journal Science and a preprint is now available.2

The quartet resides in one of the most massive structures ever discovered in the distant universe, and is surrounded by a giant nebula of cool dense gas. Either the discovery is a one-in-ten-million coincidence, or cosmologists need to rethink their models of quasar evolution and the formation of the most massive cosmic structures.1

4 quasars zoom

Caption from original article: Rare find: This image depicts the region in space with the quadruple quasars. The four quasars are indicated by arrows. The quasars are embedded in a giant nebula of cool dense gas visible in the image as a blue haze. The nebula has an extent of one million light-years across, and these objects are so distant that their light has taken nearly 10 billion years to reach telescopes on Earth. This false color image is based on observations with the 10-m-Keck-telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Credit: Arrigoni-Battaia & Hennawi / MPIA  (Ref. 1)

The logic goes as follows. Quasars constitute a very brief phase in the evolution of a galaxy–lasting about only 10 million years. They are superluminous because their brightness is driven by matter falling into the supermassive black hole at their centre.

During this phase, they are the most luminous objects in the Universe, shining hundreds of times brighter than their host galaxies, which themselves contain hundreds of billions of stars. But these hyper-luminous episodes last only a tiny fraction of a galaxy’s lifetime, which is why astronomers need to be very lucky to catch any given galaxy in the act.1

As a result it has been calculated that it was a 1-in-10-million chance of seeing 4 nearly identical quasars all in the same nebula. They are rare. How did they form so early in the Universe, i.e. so soon after the alleged big bang? So not only was it lucky to see them, how did they form at all, at that epoch in the history of the Universe? And why is the density of galaxies at that redshift, in that region of space, so high, much higher than the standard model would predict?

“There are several hundred times more galaxies in this region than you would expect to see at these distances” explains J. Xavier Prochaska, professor at the University of California Santa Cruz and the principal investigator of the Keck observations.1

According to their redshifts (z ~ 2) and the usual Hubble law these objects are observed at a distance of about 10 billion light-years, which means according to the standard model they are being observed at a stage of their evolution about 4 billion years after the big bang. How did this happen? How did they grow to be so massive so soon? Not only that how did all the observed galaxies in the group, which they call a proto-cluster (because it is supposed to be so distant therefore are observed early in the age of the Universe) evolve to this state so soon in the evolution of the Universe?

The distances they give are based on the standard Hubble law interpretation. The quasars have redshifts z ~ 2, but if those redshifts are not due to the expansion of the Universe, but as Halton Arp has suggested, instead they are intrinsic redshifts, then this cluster of galaxies, including the quasars are not so distant after all. If that was the case it changes the distance figures they quote (see the figure caption above) and the nebula is not one million light-years across but much less. It would also mean that the quasars are not so superluminous as their luminosity is also calculated from their Hubble law distance. So without subscribing to the big bang model, that would solve some of their dilemmas. Nevertheless the concept of Halton Arp, with quasars being ejected from the hearts of active galaxies, is quite a different scenario anyway.

But clearly the discovery of this quartet of quasars is another big bang headache (emphasis added):

Hennawi explains “if you discover something which, according to current scientific wisdom, should be extremely improbable, you can come to one of two conclusions: either you just got very lucky, or you need to modify your theory.1

Yes, that is right. Theory is wrong, but does not need modification; it needs to be discarded.

As such, the discovery of the first quadruple quasar may force cosmologists to rethink their models of quasar evolution and the formation of the most massive structures in the universe.1


I note that the quasar quartet all have redshifts very close to one of the quantised Karlsson values of zK = 1.96. The idea there is that that Karlsson redshift is intrinsic to the quasar (not due to expansion of the Universe) and hence any remaining component of a Hubble-law distance-determining redshift would be very small indeed.  This fact alone would solve the dilemmas here.

Fig. 1b from  preprint

Fig. 1b from preprint 1505.03786v1. QSO = quasar. AGN = active galactic nuclei are belived to be the engines that drive quasars.

I asked my friend Dr Chris Fulton, who last published a paper with Halton Arp on quasar-galaxy associations,3 and with whom I have been collaborating for many years on this subject.4,5  I asked Chris to have a look at the online NED database to see if there were any possible candidate galaxies that could have been the parent galaxy from which these quasars might have been ejected. Note, the symbols QSO and AGN both indicate quasars. After reading the research paper, and in reference to its Fig. 1b, shown left, Chris wrote (my emphasis added),

The f/g quasar and the three AGNs are in striking alignment, so I would expect the parent to be somewhere along that line, though not necessarily between AGN1 and AGN3, and at a lower redshift, z < 0.5.  NED shows a plethora of galaxies with known redshifts (z) within 30′ of position 08h41m+39d21m, 80 of them to be exact, and there are many QSO candidates as shown in the attached list.  The Max Planck article2 all but states, correctly, that the standard big bang model is in serious troubleWhat else but an ejection from a central source would form a straight line of such massive objects at such great separations from one another?

But if the quasars were ejected from the heart of an active parent galaxy (or galaxies) then the standard model would be falsified. The standard big bang explanation is that all matter came from the big bang and galaxies formed from accretion of matter, and then grew by mergers of galaxies. No ejection of young new matter from AGNs is possible in the standard big bang.

I conclude then that this is further evidence against the standard big bang model. A far better explanation is that God created with a real great light show where He ejected newly-born galaxies out of the hearts of active parent galaxies.


  1. Quasar quartet puzzles scientists, May 15, 2015
  2. J.F. Hennawi, J.X. Prochaska, S. Cantalupo, F. Arrigoni-Battaia, Quasar Quartet Embedded in Giant Nebula Reveals Rare Massive Structure in Distant Universe, May 14, 2015, preprint 1505.03786v1.
  3. C.C. Fulton and H.C. Arp, The 2dF redshift survey. I. Physical association and periodicity in quasar families, Ap J 754:134-143, 2012.
  4. J.G. Hartnett, Quasar-galaxy associations.
  5. J.G. Hartnett, Quasar redshifts blast big bang.

Who says biblical creationists aren’t real scientists?

The claim has been made over and over again that biblical creationists are not real scientists. This has been particularly applied to the natural or physical sciences as compared to the social sciences. Some claim that creationists can’t think properly because of their “distorted” worldview. Thus they can’t do real science. Of course this is all nonsense. Belief in a Creator God does not impede one progress in scientific research but there are many examples where evolutionary beliefs have done so. One example that springs to mind is that of junk DNA, which survived as a scientific concept, at least, partly due to tacit evolutionary assumptions, and as a result very much delayed our understanding of the genome.1

I recently watched a short YouTube film called the “The Truth About PhD Creationists,”which argues along the lines of my opening statement. The author contrasted one measurable metric that might be used to gauge the quality and success of a scientist’s career — his/her publications and their citations — between those of one of the most well-known “big guns” of creation science, Dr D. Russell Humphreys, and that of one of the most well-known atheist personalities Dr Lawrence Krauss.  Both have PhD’s in physics. See the table below reproduced from the YouTube film, with one additional line of data. The table is quite self-explanatory.

The obvious point made is that Humphreys, a biblical creationist, has not published anything like Krauss, a secular atheist. Continue reading

Is mathematics intrinsic to the Universe?

That is an important question. Is mathematics a convenient construct — a human invention — that we humans use to describe nature? Or is mathematics more fundamental — intrinsic to the Universe — mirroring the divine ordered creation of a reasonable logical Creator?

Immutable laws

Theoretical physicist Lee Smolin in his bookTime Reborn” argues that what he calls the Newtonian paradigm is a myth. What he labels the Newtonian paradigm is the attempt by theoretical physicists, beginning with Sir Isaac Newton, to describe the Universe with immutable laws, using a mathematical description. Those laws are unchanging in time, as reflected in the idea that Newton understood the laws of nature as the result of Divine creation and hence that they are unchanging in time. Newton wrote:2

And from true lordship it follows that the true God is living, intelligent, and powerful; from the other perfections, that he is supreme, or supremely perfect. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, he endures from eternity to eternity; and he is present from infinity to infinity; he rules all things, and he knows all things that happen or can happen.

From this standpoint he understood the laws of nature as the special creation of God. These resulted concomitant with the special creation of the Universe itself. The Universe is not the result of blind chance acting on some initial conditions and evolving accordance with those laws. Continue reading

Accelerating Universe: Standard ‘light bulbs’ not so standard

I once wrote about one of the problems of determining distance using the so-called standard ‘candle’ of the type Ia supernovae.1  That method is considered to be the gold standard in cosmic distance determination and hence in testing of the expanding universe paradigm. From those measurements, by two independent teams, an accelerating expansion of the Universe was claimed in 1998, for which the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded in 2011.

That same galaxy in a NASA Swift image is shown, with bars indicating the location of supernova SN 2011fe. The Swift image is a false-color image with UV emission blue and optical emission red. Credit: NASA/Swift

An optical image of the galaxy M101, with bars indicating the location of supernova SN 2011fe. This NASA/Swift image is a false-color image with UV emission shown in blue and optical emission shown in red. Credit: NASA/Swift

Type Ia supernova were (are) believed to be a class of stellar explosions that resulted from progenitor stars with a very small range of masses and chemical properties. It was (is) believed that these could be accurately modelled and therefore they could be relied upon to produce the same intrinsic brightness in their explosions. It was believed therefore that they varied only by a very small degree in a distribution around a well established intrinsic brightness or absolute magnitude near MB ~ -19. That means they were believed to all have the same intrinsic brightness. Continue reading

Two challenges to the infallibility of the Holy Scriptures

Figure 3: Charles Darwin developed the idea of the general theory of evolution, which Smolin has copied by analogy.

Charles Darwin developed the idea of the general theory of evolution.

Charles Darwin published his “On Origin of Species” in 1859, which began a major attack on the veracity of the Word of God. Darwin’s message essentially was an attack on the true history in Genesis, even the actual historicity of the Genesis account of creation and the events that followed shortly thereafter. That ultimately means it was a challenge to the trustworthiness of the Bible.  Since that time we have seen a rapid decline of faith in the veracity and authority of God’s Word, starting with Genesis. The visible church has fallen in great apostasy.

Here when I write of God’s Words and their veracity and infallibility I refer to the God breathed Words in the original autographs, which for the New Testament were largely written in the ancient Greek vernacular.

Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott and Professor Fenton John Anthony Hort were conservative, Anglican (Church of England), scholars who produced a new Greek New Testament based on the Alexandrian codices (uncial books), mostly Vaticanus B and Sinaiticus ℵ (Aleph), which are believed by many to be among the oldest extant Greek texts. But age does not guarantee purity of a form closest to the original. Continue reading

Cosmic storytelling

A never-ending storyBB history

The big bang is a good story … as far as storytelling goes.

“Storytelling has been the single most powerful communication tool for thousands of years and we are just starting to understand how relevant and significant it is today.”1


 “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story,”

…as Mark Twain once is reputed to have said. Some doubt he said that, but knowing he was as an author of adventure fiction the claim is quite credible. Continue reading