I'm interested if any of the following explanations have enough predictive capability to explain the observations we see today. The claim is that the Universe is not expanding, and that red-shift of light is caused by:

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Though a couple of these are simply ridiculous, I'm still interested. Keep in mind that I am not a creationist, but am looking for reasons to see if any of these are valid or invalid.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm confused, which of these implies creationism? $\endgroup$ – John M Oct 31 '14 at 3:49
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    $\begingroup$ How about less of a flamebait title? The big bang theory neither supports nor refutes religious accounts of creation. Alternative theories such as steady-state cosmologies neither support nor refute religious accounts of creation. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Oct 31 '14 at 5:32
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    $\begingroup$ I removed the creationism in the title. Your question really isn't about theological creationism and the word tends to attract the wrong attention. $\endgroup$ – Brandon Enright Oct 31 '14 at 5:45
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    $\begingroup$ I apologize. I should mention that this is from a creationist video called "50 Facts vs Darwinism in the Textbooks" by Russ Miller (as if cosmology and astronomy was Darwinism). Answers 2-5 are given as arguments against stellar movement. $\endgroup$ – Goodies Oct 31 '14 at 6:30
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, it's because the Universe has a massive hangover, and is really bleary-eyed. $\endgroup$ – Hot Licks Oct 31 '14 at 16:46

Stellar motion would imply we're in the place where the Big Bang occurred while everything else is speeding away from us. I can see how this would be a worthwile explanation for a creationist, but it doesn't really make much sense building just on physics.

Doppler Effect has the same issue - it assumes that every star we can see moves in a speed proportional to distance with respect to us. That's extremely Sun-centric, and doesn't really work if you accept that e.g. stars in our galaxy orbit around its center, including us.

Gravitation of course does have effect on wavelength, but it's by far not enough for common stars, much less planets. And of course, the effect is only at work when you're in the gravitational well - this would imply that the Sun is again at the center of everything, with everything else orbitting around it.

Photon interaction - never been observed, doesn't really play well with accepted theories of electro-magnetism and photons. With the exception of - the expansion of space itself. Yes, photons are losing energy, that's why they're red-shifted. Even though there is a certain preference for photons to fill in similar states, this mostly manifests as a tendency for self-collimation. Interacting photons would not explain why the red-shift is correlated with distance either.

The others work in a similar fashion. Slowing of light would have huge effects on every interaction in the universe - which would mean that even things like water wouldn't be stable over time, they would change their behaviour rather a lot. Combined with the proposed age of ~6000 years for the universe, with humans from the very beginning, this is just absurd. The assumptions made by theory of relativity make this even more crazy - in relativity, speed of light is basically the maximum speed of propagation of information. So this hinges on older models of the speed of light, independent of the space-time itself.

Galaxies spiraling towards the Earth was already handled in the Gravitational red-shift explanation and the Doppler effect.

All in all, you can see why a creationist-proponent would like those theories. They mostly work on the basis that we are at the center of everything, and everything else revolves around us. It's the good old Earth-centric solar system model again, just dressed in the universe this time.

The problem is, addressing every single hypothesis put forward by people lacking in basic science practice and knowledge is fighting windmills. You can always imagine sillier and sillier explanations, and when people finally get tired of responding, you'll just say "See? The scientists have no explanation for that!" It's an uphill battle, and somewhat pointless, really.

Don't forget that when you propose an alternative theory/hypothesis, you need to explain everything the old theory did. If we find out that photons travel at lower or higher speeds than the speed of light, it might put relativity out of the question, but we'll still have to find out why it works almost all the time we've checked. It's possible to "overthrow" a well estabilished theory, but most often, you're only adding to what's already there. For example, Newton's law of gravity is wrong, but it's not thrown out outright - it's simply explained differently, and broadened to explain new observations. Most of the time, it works well enough. If it starts contradicting your observations (like the famous precession of Mercury issue), you start refining - in this case, Einstein pretty much redefined the whole universe. But it didn't make the old theory wrong outright - just incomplete. Creationist hypothesis tend to ignore this completely - they focus on one pet theory, and ignore the other explanations that need to be done to maintain a consistent model.

  • $\begingroup$ Mr. Miller has a fundamental misconception of the Big Bang and essentially believes it was at a point and expanded outwards. This is simply not the case. He also tries to refute the CMB radiation with this same misconception. $\endgroup$ – Goodies Oct 31 '14 at 8:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies Yes, that's a very common misconception. Even in my country, largery atheist, most people have that misconception. Just like other common misconceptions, like the "fact" that there's no gravity in Earth's orbit etc. In fact, the very name "Big Bang" was made by someone who made fun of the "explosion-in-space" concept, which was of course not the theory at all. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Oct 31 '14 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Luaan I though that slowing of light would be mathematically indistinguisable from an expanding universe. $\endgroup$ – Taemyr Oct 31 '14 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Taemyr In an expanding universe, electro-magnetic force is not affected. The distance between atoms in a molecule of water are still the same, because the electro-magnetic force holds them together (and apart). If light slowed down, it would have to have an effect on the EM force, and that would affect our whole existence. Everything would expand, not just space. It's mathematically indistinguishable in cosmology (looking only on the issue of expansion and nothing else), not physics in general. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Oct 31 '14 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ Could you explain why stellar motion implies that we're at some special point in the universe? I mean, if the universe simply expanded at a constant rate, all distances would grow proportional to that rate, no matter where you stand, right? $\endgroup$ – nikie Oct 31 '14 at 16:25

Gravitational redshift

See this answer: https://physics.stackexchange.com/a/113941/4552

Photons interacting with something

There are various problems with this, including problems explaining surface brightness. For more information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tired_light

Transverse Doppler shift

There are strict empirical limits on cosmological rotation. See this answer: https://physics.stackexchange.com/a/12781/4552

"Other hypotheses include..."

These are stated too vaguely to comment on.


Another line of thought is that there are other observations that support the notion of an expanding universe - it does not all hinge on redshift.

For instance, I believe numbers 3 onwards would struggle to explain why the light curves of otherwise similar supernovae become stretched (at a variety of wavelengths) at larger distances from us and by an amount equivalent to the redshifts determined for their host galaxies.

See for example, the Nobel-prize winning work of Riess et al. 1997, ApJ; Perlmutter et al. 1998

  • $\begingroup$ Would you be able to link me to an example by chance? $\endgroup$ – Goodies Oct 31 '14 at 8:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Goodies see my edit $\endgroup$ – Rob Jeffries Oct 31 '14 at 8:32

With the exception of - the expansion of space itself. Yes, photons are losing energy, that's why they're red-shifted.

This is incorrect. The 'tired photons' hypothesis is in direct contrast to the Doppler hypothesis. In fact, only one of these can be true.

The prevalent view is in favor of Doppler effect for the shifting of the frequency. However, even though this is the dominant view, it does not apply to all red-shifted objects (for e.g. the Quasar redshift is still an iffy...)

If the 'tired photons' view was true, there would be a 'smearing' effect - from the inelastic collisions of photons with interstellar medium. As of now, no such effect is observed.

  • $\begingroup$ Redshifts due to cosmological expansion cannot be observationally distinguished from a Doppler shift but are not caused by the Doppler effect. $\endgroup$ – Rob Jeffries Jun 17 '17 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ Again, that is not entirely correct. Redshift caused by slowing down of photons - either by gravitational fields - or by inelastic collisions are slightly different. They are accompanied by a scattering effect - which is a result of the way a slowed down photons would radiate energy. See Michael berry Ch2 - principles of cosmology and gravitation. $\endgroup$ – user2736158 Jun 17 '17 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ Read my comment again you have not understood it. Cosmological expansion introduces a redshift that in all respects looks like a redshift caused by the Doppler effect. But it is not caused by the Doppler effect and treating it as such is a common misconception. $\endgroup$ – Rob Jeffries Jun 18 '17 at 7:51

Cosmological redshift is an implication of negative curvature of a large scale vacuum. Mathematical theory of behavior of a light in Loabachevskian (hyperbolic) spaces was developed in a series of papers by G. von Brzeski and V.von Brzeski. Interested reader should go to researchgate web page where all papers on electromagnetic phenomena in Lobachevskian space are posted.


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