Planetarium Unlimited

The following are excerpts of an interview with ICR’s Director of Physical Sciences and astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle about ICR’s plans to build a new creation science museum and state-of-the-art planetarium.

BT: We’re here to talk with Dr. Jason Lisle about this museum, but let’s first get to know him. What got you started on space stuff?

JL: I’ve loved outer space since I was a little kid. I remember seeing these beautiful images…of star fields, stunning colors of these nebulae, it’s artwork of God. There’s something kind of spiritual about it. My dad had an interest in astronomy and his dad before him, so they kind of paved the way for me.

BT: Was there a challenge to your Christian faith as you prepared academically?

JL: I went through the secular program all the way through….There currently are no Christian schools that will give you a truly biblical six-day creation view of astronomy. So I had to go through a secular program if I was going to get a degree in astrophysics.

Most of astronomy, a lot of it is really just good science. Sometimes they’ll get into the storytelling aspect of it, “We think that millions of years ago this star formed.” Well, once you’ve talked about that you’ve left the realm of science, and I knew that—I recognized that it’s not something we can observe and test and repeat in the present. That really didn’t bother me—I could distinguish the storytelling from the genuine science.

Psychologically, it’s a little bit of a drain because you’re with a group of people, and most of them have a very secular worldview. And so the way they interpret the evidence is somewhat consistent with their worldview—and there’s a pressure to conform to what other people believe. But that’s a psychological pressure.

BT: I hear from the world that some of the strongest arguments against biblical creation’s timeline come from the stars. If the stars are so far away—and they are—and the light travels at this speed—and we assume it does—then they have to be billions of years old in order for that light to have reached here. Is there a quick way to answer that or not?

JL: One assumption…is that light travels the same speed in all directions….The bottom line is: the speed of light, when it’s directed toward an observer, can be as fast as infinite. Using that definition, which Einstein agreed was one acceptable definition, it takes no time at all for the light from distant galaxies to reach the earth. So of course it can happen in the biblical timeframe. It’s hard to explain that in a quick soundbite answer. The fact is, physics—as we understand it—does allow for instantaneous light travel.

BT: Wow, that’s a real game changer. Will you be able to incorporate that kind of information in our new museum and especially in the new planetarium? First of all, what is a planetarium?

JL: A planetarium is basically a hemispherical dome where you can project images, generally images of the night sky; and in the past that’s all they could do. They could project images of the star field. The old-style approach was quite limited. Today, there are no limitations on what we can do. Modern projection systems are digital, which means we can project anything on our planetarium dome. We can leave the earth and travel into outer space, visit these other planets—and it looks like you’re there because it’s surrounding you on all sides. It’s really exciting.

BT: What other features would you want to put in those planetarium shows?

JL: A lot of stuff that confirms biblical creation. There are many issues that demonstrate the universe can’t be anywhere close to the secular age of billions of years. For example, the internal heat of some of these planets. Most planets actually give off more energy than they get from the sun. Some of the big planets, like Jupiter, they’re made …mostly of hydrogen and helium gas, and yet Jupiter gives off twice as much energy as it gets. That’s also true for Saturn and Neptune. That’s a big problem in the secular view, and most people aren’t aware of that. That’s something that we’ll showcase in the planetarium.

BT: Who cares if the stars are billions of years old or just thousands of years old—what difference does it make?

JL: If the whole universe is thousands of years old then it means the Big Bang cannot be true. It means evolution cannot be true in terms of…molecules-to-man evolution. It blows away the secular worldview. If it could be demonstrated that the universe were billions of years old then it means the Bible’s not true. These issues do matter—they affect our worldview. They come in contact with our worldview. It’s very important we interpret the evidence properly, and it’s one of the things we’ll showcase in the planetarium. When the evidence is properly understood, it confirms the biblical worldview and therefore refutes the Big Bang and billions of years.

BT: And if the Bible’s right about history, then it’s right about important other matters.

JL: Jesus made that point in John 3:12: “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” He’s making the point that if we don’t trust the Bible on earthly matters—things we can in principle test scientifically—if the Bible got those details wrong, why would we trust it on how to inherit eternal life?

A lot of Christians don’t realize they have a double standard. They’re rejecting the Bible on some issues, and they’re accepting it on others. Their children see that inconsistency, and then they walk away from the church. And then people ask, “Why are our children walking away from the church?” Well, they can see that Mom and Dad don’t really believe the Bible in some areas, and that leads young people to think it’s not really trustworthy. Why should I trust it in matters of salvation if it can’t be trusted in matters of Earth history?

BT: Now we’re getting right into the heart of what this museum is supposed to be about. You mentioned earlier you wanted the planetarium and the rest of the museum’s displays to be entertaining. What part does entertainment play in reaching the next generation?

JL: Perhaps entertaining isn’t the right word. It needs to be captivating. It needs to grab people’s attention and draw them in.

BT: We don’t want entertainment for entertainment’s sake, we want captivation for education’s sake.

JL: Exactly. There are a lot of scientific facts that, if you present them to people in the right way, they say, “Wow, that’s fascinating. I didn’t know that!” Science, when you do it properly, confirms biblical creation. We need to draw people in. The museum is designed to whet their appetite.

BT: How long does it take to put together a brand-new planetarium show?

JL: It takes a while—between three and six months. It’s like making a movie. Today all the images are computer-generated. They look totally real at this point. It will feel like you’re in space. We can also do it in 3-D.

BT: With the glasses?

JL: Yes, it’s going to feel like you are in space.

BT: Are you going to add Pluto to our planetarium?

JL: Absolutely. That’s one of the neat things about our planetarium—if NASA discovers something new today, I can have it in the planetarium tomorrow.

We’ll have constantly changing shows. And because the planetarium is a digital environment, it doesn’t have to be limited to astronomy. We could do a dinosaur show or a rafting trip down Grand Canyon. Maybe a trip into a human cell and see the DNA…even down to the level of an atom. It’s virtually unlimited.

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Image Credit: The Butterfly Nebula. NASA/ESA/Hubble.

Cite this article: No Author. 2016. Planetarium Unlimited. Acts & Facts. 45 (2).