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From the Six-day Creation to Einstein's Blunder

Einstein has been a colorful personality and a dominant figure in the world of science throughout the 20th Century, and his ideas are still leading to new frontiers. For example, the recent Nobel Prize in physics (Oct, 2011) was about the discovery of dark energy which is intimately related to a so-called “big blunder”Einstein admitted about 100 years ago. His “big blunder” has turned out to be foresight instead of a blunder. And some of his breakthrough ideas can also help Christians in breakthrough understandings of how the Bible describes the universe and the world.

The Six-day Creation

When the scientific fields of astronomy, biology and geology first came up with the theories and observations that the Earth and Universe have ages in the billions of years, that immediately posed a problem to Christianity. When we count up all the years in the Bible, we get about 10,000 years. How can ten thousand be so different from billions, and how can such an ostensible discrepancy be reconciled? Some theologians suggested that the six days in Genesis 1 was not to be interpreted as six 24-hour days, but rather six periods. They said, after all, the Bible states that God sees a thousand years as one day. Over the past decades Christians had formed two camps with literalists who insisted on the 24-hour day, and non-literalists who called the creation event as happening in six periods. (Ref. 1) The feud has sometimes been ferocious, especially in the context of discussing evolution. Four possible views about evolution, viz., Atheism, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and BioLogos (which is basically a manifesto of theistic evolution) can be found in The Language of God. (Ref. 2)

Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity can be applied here to show that both perspectives, on six 24-hour days or six periods, can be correct, and yet not contradictory. Relativity tells us that when two observers see events from two frames of reference, they each have their own clock that runs differently. Einstein first used two men, one on a moving train and the other on a platform, to illustrate this point. The two men actually see different time elapses. The reason we don’t see any difference in our watches is that the train moves too slowly relative to the speed of light, which is about 669,600,000 miles per hour. Even the fastest Maglev train in Shanghai is way below this speed.

Space scientist Carlos Calle, in his book Einstein for Dummies, (Ref. 3) did a hypothetical exercise on some future space travel, with imagined spacecraft that moves very fast, accelerating toward the speed of light. The results of his exercise show the dramatic effect of relativity on the two clocked duration, spacecraft vs. Earth. On the trip to the Galactic Center, while the astronaut’s clock/ calendar shows 20 years, on Earth 30,000 years have passed. On the trip to the nearby Andromeda Galaxy, the astronaut’s clock/calendar shows 28 years, while on Earth two million years have expired already! Now this is a very simple case of assuming acceleration of 1g, which is the unit of acceleration caused by Earth’s gravity. One can point to much more complex accelerating schemes which produce even more dramatic effect, that one day can be made equivalent to billions of years. So this is exactly the modern scientific understanding of what is meant by “God sees one day as a thousand years.”

From the perspective of relativistic math, God and human see events from different frames of references. Therefore whether Christians choose to say six days or six periods does not matter. Either statement is okay by relativistic math.

Jesus is the One and Only One Way to Salvation

In many Sunday school classes, students have debated whether people like Confucius and Lao Tse were saved. They have asked: If so, how? After all, these folk never heard of Christ. Surprisingly, Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity can help us understand how these people might be saved. First, I must emphasize that we don’t know if they are saved or not, but we can safely assume and believe that there were people during those days who were saved, otherwise God would be totally unjust, not giving people any chance. For the sake of easy illustration, let’s assume that Confucius was saved and follow the mechanism of how he could be saved.

Jesus said most explicitly that He is the only way, and no man cometh to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). Of course that immediately leads us to wonder about all the people who lived before Christ. If we adhere to Jesus’ words literally, the question arises, What about Moses, Gideon, etc.? How would they qualify for salvation? For this context, we think mathematical physics can help enlighten us toward resolving one dilemma for soteriology. Einstein’s Relativity has liberated human thinking in understanding events in space-time. Usually professors explain to us through an analogy of a trampoline of fabric like this (Ref. 4):

An object or event in space-time is then a geometrical warp or a point on this fabric, respectively. When we have a big mass, such as the Sun, it perturbs the space-time. Of course this picture depiction is grossly imperfect because we are talking about four dimensions that cannot be drawn on paper. (In mathematics, this is called Riemannian geometry, a main tool applied by Einstein.) Now to depict the event of the crucifixion, we would mark a point on a fourdimensional fabric of space-time. The first thing we would notice is that the efficacy of the crucifixion transcends space. That is, people can be saved anywhere in the world. The blood of Jesus is not confined to Jerusalem. This point is well understood and accepted by all Christians. Now on this fourdimensional fabric, time has the same role as any spatial dimension. Thus we see that the crucifixion transcends time also. There is no need to distinguish “before” vs. “after.” That is old fashioned linear thinking. It is almost certain that during Confucius' time, some people were saved and heaven-bound. But they were saved not because they were good enough, but because Jesus died for them. In other words, there is no need to say that God over-ruled His own words and gave these people amnesty. All who go to Heaven are saved by Jesus’ crucifixion. There is no exception. Now, of course, people may argue in such cases, which ones were saved and by what criteria. (There are some indications of criteria in Romans 2.) The theologians and Bible scholars can enlighten us here. My main point is that Einstein’s theory can liberate us from this ostensibly paradoxical intrigue.

Einstein’s “Big Blunder”

In the field of mathematical physics, Einstein’s tensor field equation and corollary space-time geometry holds prominent stature. It is profound and beyond the capacity of our understanding, but it looks deceptively simple. (Ref. 5)

The Greek letter (pronounced lambda) in this equation is called the cosmological constant, actually added by Einstein to balance the equation. It has an interesting history and was later referred to as his “greatest blunder.” In fact, he did not live to appreciate the profound meaning of his almost miraculous foresight in an ostensibly “fudge factor,” as explained by Berkeley Professor G. Smoot, and Harvard Professor G. Kirshner. (Ref. 6, 7) The point of this blunder for the present context is that Einstein’s serendipitous use of math also pointed to some fundamental design in nature, which in turn infers a Designer behind it all. (Roman 1:20)

In the early 20th Century, the universe was first observed and interpreted to be in a steady state, because the horizon of observation was mainly confined to the Milky Way. There were nebulae such as Andromeda observed, but their extra-galactic distances were not yet established. When Einstein first used his field equation to describe the universe, he found a significant discrepancy with observations of the day. His equation predicted a kind of expansion, that is, galaxies flying apart. So, to balance the equation, he introduced the Lamda factor. A Catholic priest and astronomer, G. Lemaitre, showed Einstein that it would be natural to construct cosmological models to include expansion. Later English astronomer Eddington chimed in to support Lemaitre’s idea. But Einstein said that Lemaitre had good mathematics but lousy physics, and did not accept the suggestions. Then astronomer E. Hubble in the late1920s to early 1930s actually observed galaxies flying apart from each other, and thus inferred a universe in expansion. Einstein regretted making a big mistake in introducing such an ostensibly artificial integration factor. And at the time of his death in 1955, it was still considered a mistake.

In the late 1990s, observation of distant supernovae led to an understanding of the accelerated expansion in the extra-galactic scales. The explanation for this accelerated expansion on the largest known scale led to the hypothesis of a mysterious “dark energy” which may be a result of fundamental forces acting on the smallest distances in nature. In a strange turn of events, the simplest form of the dark energy is something that looks almost as a modern version of Einstein’s cosmological constant— his so-called “greatest blunder.”

In his interview by the Nobel Foundation to commemorate his award in 1957, Chinese-American scientist T. D. Lee said that we now understood about 5% of the universe. Einstein’s cosmological constant may open the door to the other 95%. (Ref. 8) Another Nobel scientist, S. Weinberg said that it probably held the first gate for any super-string theory to pass. (Ref. 9) This is a good example that the mathematics used cannot be arbitrarily divorced from design in nature. Otherwise, the math can be an idle mental game having no relevance. The play on mathematics, even in the form of a “fudge factor,” is somehow linked to design in nature. Some scientists, who refuse to believe in design manifested in nature, prefer to call this incident a “cosmological co-incidence.” So Einstein may well have the last laugh! Unless we willfully deny that there is design in nature, it is everywhere to be discovered. (Ref. 10)

In a previous article by the present author (“Can God Be Proved… by Mathematics”, Challenger, Jan- Mar., 2012), we discuss the debate between the theist’s world view of design in nature, vs. the atheist’s view of randomness. In the spirit of the present article, we can cite another major discovery anticipated by Einstein’s Relativity. April 24, 1992, was a most memorable day for space science. All the major news organizations, AP, NY Times, London Times, etc., headlined the news of findings by an American space science team’s data from their Cosmic Background Explorer satellite, COBE. It was a direct observation and confirmation of the Big Bang event. (Ref. 11) Stephen Hawking called it “the discovery of the Century, if not all time.” Astronomer M. Turner said they had found the Holy Grail in cosmology. Astrophysicist G. Burbridge actually complained that his fellow scientists were rushing off to join “the First Church of Christ of the Big Bang.” The Chief Scientist of the COBE team, George Smoot, told enquir ing reporters of his own reaction and feeling, “What we have found is evidence for the birth of the Universe. It’s like seeing God.” Notice that he did not brag about reaching the top floor of a Tower of Babel. For his team’s discovery he shared the Nobel Prize in 2006.


1. Ross, Hugh and Kathy Ross, Genesis One, A Scientific Perspective, Reasons To Believe, Inc. Glendora, CA. (2006)

2. Collins, Francis, The Language of God, Free Press, New York, NY (2006)

3. Calle, Carlos, Einstein for Dummies, Wiley Publishing, Hoboken, NJ (2005)

4. NOVA Science online, “Einstein’s Big Idea”, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/einstein/

5. Weisstein, Eric W. “Einstein Field Equations.” From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource. http://mathworld.wolfram.com/ EinsteinFieldEquations.html

6. Lecture Notes by Professor George Smoot, http://aether.lbl.gov/www/classes/p139/ homework/homework.html

7. Kirschner, R. April 2007 Lecture at the Institute of Theoretical Physics, Univ. of California. http://online.itp.ucsb.edu/plecture/kirshner2/

8. Lee, T.D. Interview by Nobel Foundation at the Golden Anniversary of his Award, http:// nobelprize.org/mediaplayer/index.php?id=986

9. Weinberg, S. in Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, see section on “Viewpoints on String Theory”, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/

10. Goldsmith, D., Einstein’s “greatest blunder”? Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. (1997). See also Wikipedia summary on the entry of “George-Henri Lematre”.

11. Ross, Hugh, “The Creator and The Cosmos”, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO (2001) Note: this paragraph of the present article excerpted key information in Chap. 3 of Dr. Ross’ wonderful and lively discussions of the Discovery of the Century.

(Edward W. Ng is an American Applied mathematician who has also held the positions of senior scientist, senior engineer and technical manager in the U.S. Space Program. He is noted for his broad variety of mathematical applications in space science and engineering. He has also contributed conscientiously in the spin-off of technology from the space program, with applications in such diverse subjects as Bose-Einstein distribution in mathematical physics, symbolic and algebraic computation, computational physics and biomedical research.)

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