“Bringing the world into focus
through the lens of Scripture”

Beyond Newton: Challenges to Astronomy


by Dr. Chuck Missler

A man may imagine things that are false, but he can only understand things that are true, for if the things be false, the apprehension of them is not understanding.

Isaac Newton

Every first-year physics student learns about Newton’s laws.

  1. An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion until it’s acted on by an outside force.
  2. There is a relationship between acceleration, mass and force. An object will accelerate when force is applied according to the simple formula F=ma.
  3. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Since childhood, we’ve pictured Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree, when a piece of fruit falls and hits him on the head. This moment in his life supposedly spawned his curiosity about the nature of gravity. Newton is famous for his laws of motion and for offering the world a version of calculus. More than anything else, however, Newton is famous for his Law of Universal Gravitation. Whether there is any truth to the apple story, large or small, we do know that Newton produced the view of gravity that held for centuries until Einstein upset Newton through his theory on general relativity.

In this book we are going to explore some challenges to the current astronomical models of our universe, and we are going to realize that there is far more to reality than what Newton or even Einstein foresaw. If we have seen farther, “it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” as Newton once said, but the greatest giant to give us a boost is the Word of God itself.

This book is the fourth in a series:

In Beyond Time and Space we overviewed Einstein’s theories of relativity and the strange nature of light and space-time and hyperspaces. We talked about the nonlinearities of the world.

In Beyond Coincidence we discussed the anthropic principle and the many remarkable “coincidences” in the laws of physics and nature of the universe that seem to be designed for man. We considered the characteristics of our own planet that make life on Earth not just possible, but comfortable as well. We also considered the deliberate design found in the Word of God. We’ve shown that the prophecies in the Bible demonstrate that its 66 books had to have had an origin from outside our time domain. The Bible is a message system from beginning to end, and it has one Author.

Beyond Perception was an exploration of the microcosm, the nature of matter and the sub-atomic world. We considered the possibility that the visible world is a hologram, and it appears that our universe is a digital simulation, a three-dimensional mask that covers a deeper reality.

In Beyond Newton, we will leave the world of the small and explore space. We will borrow small pieces of the previous three books, but we will expand on them to challenge the myths of astronomy. We will be shocked to realize that much of what we know about astronomy isn’t necessarily so.

Epistemology 101

“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

In his famous 1871 book, Through the Looking Glass, author Lewis Carroll continues the craziness he began in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). On the other side of the mirror, in the world of chess pieces, Alice becomes the imaginary being. She meets Tweedledum and Tweedledee, finds the Jabberwocky poem full of strange words, and meets Humpty Dumpty, unicorns and other fantastic creatures. All Alice thought she knew is upended in this strange world on the other side of her reflection.

What do we actually know about our own reality?

Epistemology is the fancy word for the study of knowledge — its origin, its scope, and its limits. The problem with our fallible human knowledge is that it tends to change over time. During the ages, different cultures have “known” that the earth was flat, that the Sun and other planets revolved around the Earth, and that Newton had an apple hit him in the head.

In the 17th century A.D., it was believed that all combustible substances contained a particular material that was released when they were burned. In the early 1700s, one Georg Ernst Stahl called this burnable material “phlogiston” and he promoted the idea that wood was made of wood ash and phlogiston, while rustable metals were made of metallic ash and phlogiston. Whether phlogiston was an actual physical thing or just a principle, the air involved was considered merely responsible for carrying off the phlogiston freed by the burning process.

Within a hundred years, however, phlogiston was cast aside as an explanation for why things burned. In the late 18th century, Antoine Lavoisier carefully measured the weights of various substances that went through oxidation or reduction reactions, and he demonstrated that oxygen was the culprit involved.

Wrong ideas often last longer than they should because we humans tend to get hooked on ideas rather than on truth. People in history who believed that the Earth was flat should have read the Bible:

It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

Isaiah 40:22

Wrong Ideas – Geocentrism

For millennia people believed that the Earth was the center of the solar system. Ptolemy of Alexandria developed the geocentric model in his works Almagest and Planetary Hypotheses. His picture of the solar system was known ever after as the Ptolemaic Model. For the next 1400–1500 years, people believed as a matter of course that the Sun (and the rest of the sky) revolved around Earth every day. The Sun rose in the morning on one side of the planet and set on the other side in the evening. It took quiet Copernicus and loud Galileo to point out facts that required the alternative: Earth and other planets revolved around the Sun.

Yet, acceptance of the Copernican cosmology took quite a long time despite the fact that it fit careful observation of the facts much better than the model Ptolemy had offered. Copernicus first wrote about his heliocentric ideas in the early 1500s, and it was a full century later that Kepler supported those ideas with discussions on the elliptical orbit of Mars. About the same time, Galileo affirmed Copernicus through the use of a telescope. Even then, Copernicus’ heliocentric theory was banned in 1616, and it took most of the 17th century for the idea that the Earth revolved around the Sun to take root in people’s minds. Isaac Newton helped cement the idea with his work on gravitation, but it took until 1758 for the Roman Catholic Church to finally end its prohibition on books that taught heliocentrism.

Poor Ptolemy of Alexandria. He has gone down in history as the scientist who got it wrong on two fundamental truths in science. He was incorrect about the Earth as the center of the solar system, and he argued against the possibility of four dimensions.

Wrong Ideas – Aether

For many moons, astronomers and cosmologists believed the universe was filled with a material called the aether. Light was understood to be a wave, which meant it needed a medium through which it could travel, like waves on a cosmological pond. Aether was considered the pond through which light traveled across the universe. The aether was seen as an absolute reference frame in respect to the rest of the universe; everything had its speed in reference to the aether.

In 1887, the Michelson-Morley experiment attempted to measure the speed of aether itself. Michelson and Morley expected that as light traveled with the aether, it would race along faster, and as it traveled against the aether, it would move slower. They set up a detection device with a light source, mirrors and a telescope, and they found that no matter where the Earth was in its rotation around the Sun, the light always traveled at the same speed. This was an early experiment that demonstrated that light travels at the same speed in all inertial reference frames — and it all but disproved the existence of “aether.”

Wrong Ideas – Infinite Speed of Light

The speed of light itself has been a matter of confusion and controversy. Philosophers and scientists including Kepler, Descartes and Galileo used reasoned arguments that the speed of light was instantaneous. In 1676, Danish astronomer Ole Rømer made observations about the orbit of Jupiter’s moon Io, however, that led him to conclude the speed of light had a finite measurement. Io’s whirling spin around Jupiter takes just 42 ½ hours per revolution, and the precise time Io disappears behind Jupiter can be measured. Rømer found that it took longer for the reflective light from Io to reach the Earth when Jupiter was far away from Earth than it took when Jupiter was near. This meant the light couldn’t be arriving to the Earth instantaneously; it took a few minutes. Rømer sent his data to his friend Dutch astronomer and mathematician Christiaan Huygens, who calculated that light sped along at 16 2⁄3 Earth-diameters per second — about 132,000 miles per second. This value was off by about 1/3 of the correct value of 186,000 mps, because the exact distance of the planets wasn’t known at that time, but Huygens got into the right ballpark.

In 1728 James Bradley noticed that the positions of stars seemed to change over the course of a year. He carefully watched a star in the constellation Draco, then other stars as well, and he used his knowledge of the Earth’s speed around the Sun to calculate the speed of light as 301,000 km/s. In 1849, Armand Fizeau used mirrors and a spinning wheel setup to measure the speed of light at 315,000 km/s and Leon Foucault tried a similar experiment with rotating mirrors, narrowing the speed of light to 298,000 km/s.

Light is known as one of the fundamental constants of nature. Yet, we’ve learned in recent years that the constants of nature aren’t so constant. The speed of light in a vacuum appears to have slowed down over the centuries, as documented by Barry Setterfield and Trevor Norman.[1] John Webb in Sydney has spent years determining that the fine structure constant “alpha” fluctuates depending on which direction researchers look into the heavens. In January of 2006, Webb and fellow physicist John D. Barrow published an article in Scientific American with the astonishing title: “Inconstant Constants.”[2] Barrow and Webb make the case that physical “constants” like the speed of light can fluctuate after all. The article declares:

…One implication is that the constants we observe may not, in fact, be the truly fundamental ones. Those live in the full higher-dimensional space, and we see only their three-dimensional shadows.[3]

That’s exciting. The observable physical universe is apparently just a mask that hides a deeper reality.

We need to be careful to follow the evidence. We should never jump to conclusions based on only a few facts, of course. We should investigate things thoroughly, and we should be open to embrace the reality of the situation, whatever it is.

The important take away from all of this — beyond the brief astronomy history lesson — is that it can take the world 50 years or more to embrace the truth behind the meaning of empirical data. People have a tendency to cling to their favorite belief systems long after experimental evidence requires the contrary. As humans, we have this tendency to throw out the information that doesn’t fit with our pet theories. We shouldn’t do that; we should listen to whatever is true.

Today, the prevailing scientific theory about our origins states that we evolved from amino acids in an ancient sea. This is probably not true. The evidence doesn’t support biogenesis — the development of life from non-life. In fact, every observation we have made declares that new life only comes from existing life.

Michael Denton, Philip Johnson, Michael Behe and an ever-growing number of scientists and researchers have written on the problems with a theory of undirected evolution. It has become increasingly clear that the complex organization of biological life requires engineering. It’s ridiculous to think that the life we see around us designed itself through natural processes, yet that’s precisely what is still taught in our schools. Our whole society presumes it to be true, contrary to the observed facts. Physics students are still taught that the constants are constant, despite the growing collection of data that say otherwise. Human beings don’t like change. It takes a long time for the myths of any culture to give way to reality.

This excerpt is from Dr. Chuck Missler’s book Beyond Newton, available as paperback and eBook. Also available in Kindle format from Amazon.

  1. Norman, T., & Setterfield, B. (1987). The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time. Menlo Park, Cal.: SRI International.  ↩

  2. Barrow, J., & Webb, J. (2006). Inconstant Constants. Scientific American, 64–71.  ↩

  3. Ibid, 65.  ↩