General Question

Aelijahe's avatar

How old is the universe?

Asked by Aelijahe (7points) March 17th, 2010 from iPhone
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

44 Answers

charmander's avatar

Six thousand years

timtrueman's avatar

I was just reading this interesting piece of news from the Planck mission this morning and it stated 13.7 billion years:

LuckyGuy's avatar

Haven’t you ever watched the Big Bang Theory You can find the real version on CBS.

wundayatta's avatar

Old enough to know better!

Sarcasm's avatar

Somewhere between 6,000 years old and 13,700,000,000 years old. Or older.

toomuchcoffee911's avatar

Over 9000 years old

timtrueman's avatar

For those giving answers less than a billion, can I hear what your source is?

Sarcasm's avatar

@timtrueman My source is somewhere between the Christian Bible and scientific data. Or more.

Ivan's avatar

13.75 ± 0.17 billion years

dpworkin's avatar

Around 4 billion years old based on data from Hubble and other scopes, which can measure how long light from particular incidents and/or bodies has traveled in order to reach us, and thus the age of the bodies which first transmitted the light (intercalculated with red-shift constants which operate similarly to the Doppler effects in sound, and some other constants that I don’t know enough about. to be coherent.)

Qingu's avatar

The universe has always existed.

From our reference frame, it’s been about 13 billion earth-around-the-sun revolutions since the earliest singularity.

squidcake's avatar

6,000. How else could Jesus have ridden his pet velociraptor?

MorenoMelissa1's avatar

According to the Bible around 6000 years old.

Pseudonym's avatar

5,770? No wait, that’s the earth… @MorenoMelissa1! Uhh… Well the universe wasn’t really the universe until I was born!

plethora's avatar

15–17 billion years. Maybe more, maybe less. A billion here, a billion there. Who’s gonna argue?

And yes, that is consistent with the Christian Bible. Much of the evidence for an old earth comes from Dr Hugh Ross, a Christian astrophysicist (who started out as an atheist astrophysicist). See here

ETpro's avatar

The universe as we know it is around 13.7 billion years old based on observed after-effects of the Big Bang. But what came before the Big Bang? If there was nothing, then there wasn’t space-time and therefore before has no meaning in that context. However, we do not know what would provoke nothing to explode. What if there was space-time before the Big Bang we are observing the effects of?

I am baffled that those who sneer at the idea “In the beginning there was God, and God said let there be light” find “In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded” to be a perfectly acceptable explanation that puts the origin of the universe to rest. Both seem equally implausible to my finite mind

So what if the Universe has existed forever. Equally hard for a finite mind to grasp, but you can no more prove it hasn’t than I can prove it has. Perhaps it goes through cyclic expansions then either collapses back into itself producing another Big Bang, or explodes because of the ever-increasing forces of its expansion. Fortunately for us, the explosions must omce in some period that is mercifully longer than 13.7 billion years.

Sarcasm's avatar

@ETpro I think the reason that it’s easy to believe the “God came into existence from nothing” but hard to believe “The universe came into existence from nothing”, from a creationist point of view is that they accept that their God is supernatural, and is not restricted to laws of nature, physics, etc, while the Universe itself is purely natural.

I could be misinterpreting completely though. I’m not a creationist, just trying to step into their shoes.

plethora's avatar

@Sarcasm The Christian position is that God did not come into existence. He has always existed, without beginning and without end. That can be neither proven nor disproven. I personally believe that the Big Bang was the creation event. God is supernatural, but He created the laws of nature and physics and works within them. Although, if you assume that God exists in more dimensions than we do, let’s say 12 dimensions, it follows that He can work in ways that we cannot imagine. Not trying to prove a point. Your comment just brought this to mind.

ETpro's avatar

@Sarcasm I wasn’t finding fault with the Theists there, but with the atheists thinking their explanation is superior. What we perceive of the universe is natural because we have only natural means to perceive it. As a thought experiment, imagine that you are an observer outside space-time and were around forever, and watched the big bang. Now there would be, to your viewpoint, a beginning and a before the beginning. What was before? Positing a Big Bang does nothing to explain how the universe got here. It only speaks to what gave it its current form.

Perhaps the Universe itself is sentient. The human brain has roughly 100 trillion neural connections, and out of that purely natural set of sells that can fire electrically and pass neurotransmitters between synapses, we get emergent self awareness.

How many atoms are there in the universe? Way, way more than neural connections in a human brain. And they are all connected by gravity, which appears act instantaneously over space, not just poke along at the speed of light. So perhaps the Universe makes its own rules.

@plethora The only evidence we have from the Bible of God’s being before the creation is from the New Testament, John 1:1 “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” as the New Living Translation puts it. There is nothing in the old or new testament that speaks to how long God existed before the beginning. Most Christians assume forever, but that is their own contribution, and not at all scriptural.

I love to think about such things, and many of my thoughts are flights of fancy like the Universe is a giant brain. But at the end of the day, I like to Know what I know, and admit what I honestly do not know.

ragingloli's avatar

There was an exotic spacetime curvature in universe, enabling events in the future to cause events in the past. This exotic spacetime distortion connected to the very point of the creation time and space. God, existing in the future, entered this spacetime distortion and caused, from the future, the creation of the universe in the past, creating himself in the process as well.
Causal loop complete.
I love temporal mechanics.

ETpro's avatar

@ragingloli I love that one. “I think, therefore I soon will be.”

drfunko's avatar

You will never get to the bottom of this sort of question. There is always uncertainty around questions like “what was the universe like before the ‘big bang’?” and “what caused the ‘big bang’?” and “how many ‘big bangs’ have happened in the past?”

There is no real need to know the answer anyway, as there is nothing you could do about it if you did.

Nullo's avatar

6,000 is the estimated number of years (lifespan averages multiplied by the number of generations, plus the two thousand or so years between Jesus’ time and the present day) that it would take to get from Adam to the present day. Add six days for the creation of the world.

But nowhere does the Bible give a start date for the Universe. This leaves room for the speculative to have God build the Universe up from subatomic particles, if need be.
Though He would scarcely need to; perhaps as a challenge? Like a low-level run on a video game?

XOIIO's avatar

Old enough to know how how but young enough to do it.

mattbrowne's avatar

@drfunko – Excuse me, no real need to know the age? I couldn’t disagree with this more. Why do you think your GPS-based satnav system works? Without the theory of relativity and our understanding of plate tectonics it wouldn’t be accurate. Finding out about the age of Earth and evolution helped us to discover plate tectonics and moving continents. Learning about the 13.7 billion years is a major breakthrough in science. The age tells us little about the reason for existence or how people can get along with each other, but modern forms of religions should be promoters of science and understanding while also trying to deal with deeper questions. Telling people that there is no real need to know is both a disservice to science and a disservice to religion.

Qingu's avatar

In this case the Bible is less accurate than the Mesopotamian myths that it’s based on.

If you look at the Babylonian creation myth, thematically, it’s much closer to what actually happened. It describes an emergence of order from chaos. First there was chaos (symbolized by the watery primal gods); they combined, forming complexity (symbolized by the various generations of gods) and eventually a complex system (symbolized by the ordered creation of the world).

There are shades of this in the Bible, but later Christian interpretation has God creating something out of nothing… and of course no explanation on who created God. It’s just absurd.

ETpro's avatar

@Nullo The Bible only specifies an age of the creation if you insist that all dates it uses must be interpreted literally. The fundies do insist that in Genisis “6 days, and on the 7th he rested” means 7 literal Earth days of exactly 24 hours each, even though there was no Earth rotating to set the time of a day until the third day.

Those same fundies insist that in Daniel’s prophecies of the coming of the Messiah, days and weeks and months and years don’t mean what they say at all, they are code for other periods of time. If Daniel is interpreted literally, Jesus was born hundreds of years too late to fulfill the Messiah prophecy and all of Christianity is a hoax, as is the continued hope of the Jewish people for a Messiah to come some day.

So to insist that the earth is 6 to 8 thousand years old is to insist on accepting contradictory thought processes selectively in order to overrule all available evidence before your eyes in favor of absurdities.

Qingu's avatar

There’s also the issue of Genesis 1’s creation story contradicting Genesis 2’s creation story.

(Genesis 1: earth and sky, then sun, then plants, then animals, then humans. Genesis 2: humans made when earth was barren, then plants and animals.)

drfunko's avatar

@mattbrowne You’re talking about the history of the earth. This question is about the entire universe: all matter and energy, even beyond Earth and what humans have discovered so far. Yes, it’s useful to know the origin of Earth, and you could make a more accurate estimate of its age — but we’ll never know the origin or age of the entire universe, due to the unanswered questions I wrote above, and it’s not necessary to know anyway because we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it if we did.

ETpro's avatar

@Qingu Yes, I was referring to Genesis 1, and yes, Genesis 2 does not match. But the 7-day scenario holds in both, and literal interpretation being a requirement still makes Daniel’s prophecy a proof that both Christianity and Judaism are false religions.

@drfunko The proponents of the 6000 year old Earth insist that Genesis is right, and the universe itself was created on day 1, or at least light was. Perhaps, if you look at the creation story as an allegory, that makes some sense. Days no longer have to mean 24-hour Earth days. Light could mean the Big Bang, and that did come hundreds of thousands of years before the Universe cooled enough for sub-atomic particles could even coalesce and form hydrogen atoms. The only discrepancy in the allegorical interpretation of Gen. 1 is that the lights in the firmament (Sun, Moon and stars) were created on the 4th day while the parting of the waters,m creating dry land and earth, came on the third day. If God wrote the book, he simply got that one wrong.

You’re right that knowing the age of the universe we now inhabit probably won’t let us do anything about it, but human curiosity being what it is, that will never stop our quest to probe further into the question.

Nullo's avatar

Your post sent me reaching for Halley’s, thought I’d share.

If you look at the Babylonian creation myth, thematically, it’s much closer to what actually happened. It describes an emergence of order from chaos. First there was chaos (symbolized by the watery primal gods); they combined, forming complexity (symbolized by the various generations of gods) and eventually a complex system (symbolized by the ordered creation of the world).

Halley pointed out that they are very, very similar, pointing to a common origin rather than plagiarism. He goes on to explain that a Dr. Stephen Langdon, of Oxford University, “has found that te earliest Babylonian inscriptions suggest that man’sfirst religion was a belief in One God, and from that there was a rapid decline into Polytheism and Idolatry.” He then directs the reader to Langdon’s “Semitic Mythology” and a text called “Field Museum-Oxford University Expedition to Kish,” by one Henry Field.

…and of course no explanation on who created God. It’s just absurd…
You are assuming that God would need a creator.

There’s also the issue of Genesis 1’s creation story contradicting Genesis 2’s creation story.
Genesis 2 is there to supplement Genesis 1, and was not written chronologically.

Nullo's avatar

Your source’s math is off.
Yes, we say that they are “weeks of years.” Seventy “weeks of years” (that is, 70×7 years) comes out to 490 years.
The countdown began with the 457B.C. Persian decree to rebuild Jerusalem -the effective end of the Captivity. 457 B.C. + 490 years = 33 A.D.
And nothing important or Messianic happened in 33 A.D., amirite~

The “code” that you refer to is explained in Halley’s Bible Handbook and likely elsewhere, an explanation that I cannot, per the Terms of Use, post here verbatim.

mattbrowne's avatar

@drfunko – Sorry, not a convincing argument. Did the geologists in the 19th century have GSP in mind when they did research to find out how old the Earth is? Fundamental research will not necessarily turn into useful applications the next day. How should we know what will become useful? A lot of people thought the quantum physicists are nuts dismissing their research as not being useful. Or being a complete idiocy. Like Sarah Palin and millions of other warriors fighting their war against science. Bashing fruit fly research, thinking it’s not useful. Telling people the LHC is a waste of money. Telling people that the knowledge of the age of the universe is not useful is a very dangerous path. Let me ask you this: What force seems to drive the universe apart? What kind of energy is this dark energy? Is it a property of vacuum? Could humanity one day tap into it? Build zero point modules? Jules Verne thought that sending people to the moon one day was possible. Few people believed him. This was in 1865. So please, my dear friend, think again.

Yes, science does have limitations. Science cannot answer all of the deep questions. Heck, it can’t even prove the consistency of axiomatic systems. It can’t tell me why I am me or why you are you or why something exists in the first place. But it sure can tell us the age of our universe. And it can tell us a lot more. Unexplained does not necessarily mean inexplicable. Some day scientists will unravel the mystery of dark matter and dark energy.

ETpro's avatar

@Nullo You say “Weeks of years” Unfortunately, Daniel didn’t. He said weeks period. By what sleight of hand do you know that Genesis 1 means 24-hour days when it says days but Daniel means weeks of years when he says weeks. If Jesus had been born a little earlier or a little later, you could just change what weeks really must have meant and still have his “prophecy” come out right on target. You are adjusting the math after the fact to suit observations. That’s not prophecy any more than Nostradamus’ quatrains, which have “predicted” every major world event, except that nobody knew it till after the event, when they went back and found the right way to read the right quatrain to get it to say what they now knew it should say.

Nullo's avatar

The “sleight-of-hand” is, I believe, called inference.
First the Genesis day. There is no reason why God would need any time at all to build and populate the Earth, except to make a point. So there would be no need for the days to be dragged out.

I have found a document hosted on another website that explains properly what I was attempting to paraphrase in my previous post. It may be found here

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – In general it’s quite rational to see Genesis (despite its mythical nature) as being confirmed by modern science i.e. big bang theory and evolution (assuming there is a creator God and interpreting “day” as a period of time instead of 24 hours).

Why? Because the laws our universe created by God favor the development of complexity. Quarks and electrons turn into simple atoms which turn into stars which turn into heavier atoms which turn into molecules which turn into replicating molecules which eventually leads to mutating molecules and natural selection and human beings. A leads to B. And B leads to C. Therefore it’s logical to say that A leads to C. Ergo God created human beings.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne My quarrel was with fundamentalists Christians who place the age of the Earth in thousands of years precisely because they do insist that “day” in Genesis 1 means 24 Earth hours. @Nullo’ is arguing exactly that, despite the absolute mountain of evidence showing that the earth is billions of years old. And he is also quite comfortable with insisting that “week” in Daniel’s Messiah prophecy doesn’t mean week. It’s all OK because he assigns it to “inference” and we all know that’s a big word, so it must be true.

The Genesis 1 account is actually amazingly close to the order in which things were created. However, it errs where it says that the earth formed before the Sun or stars in the sky. It also disagrees with the order of creation presented in the very next chapter, Genesis 2.

I don’t want to shake anyone’s faith if they need to believe in a Sky Daddy to make them feel safe. I don’t know how the universe got here, and God creating it makes every bit as much sense to me as it creating itself or existing eternally. But I’m not going to agree with them when they want to put in our school books that the Earth is 6,000 years old give or take a few years. I’m not going to agree with absolute poppycock as being gospel truth.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – Well, both creation stories are myths, not accounts of actual events like when Salomo built his temple or Jesus was crucified. Fundamentalists can’t see the difference.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne Yes, and when viewed in that light, they are fascinating in how close they come to the order in which various things were formed. It shows that as far back as 4,000 years ago, humans were beginning to understand how highly ordered structures emerged out of chaos.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – I totally agree. Some people today think Genesis 1 is totally ridiculous unable to can’t grasp the remarkable insights 4000 years ago.

Response moderated
Jabe73's avatar

Somewhere between 16 to 20 billion years old. There is no exact #. I’m a christian by the way. Were not all dumb.

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