One of the more damning realities faced by "scientific creationists" is the immense size of the universe. Creationists claim that the universe is at most ten thousand years old. Thus the supernova explosions regularly observed in the Andromeda galaxy, which is two million light-years away, cause them some embarrassment. Since they refuse to admit that the explosions observed in Andromeda today actually happened two million years ago, creationists typically present one of the following alternative explanations: (a) the universe was created with the light from distant objects already in transit (Freske, 1980: Philip Gosse's basic Omphalos argument); (b) the speed of light was infinite at creation, but became finite when Eve bit the apple (Harris, 1978: the Fall of Man); or (c) the large size of the universe is only an illusion.
The first two arguments are obviously as ad hoc as they are absurd. The third gives the same impression, but the creationists bolster it by citing a paper by Parry Moon and Domina Eberle Spencer, published in a legitimate scientific journal (1953). The latter paper is therefore of interest to those who oppose the creationists. Since we are dealing with appearances, before discussing the paper, I will apparently digress.
My interest in scientific creationism stems from my general interest in alternative science. My specialty is alternative geodesy, and, next to the flat-earth theory, I am most captivated by Koreshan Universology. Koresh (Cyrus Reed Teed) was, by his own admission, a reincarnation of Elijah, and he flourished in Chicago at the turn of the century. One of the tenets of Koreshanity was that the conventional globe is an accurate depiction of the earth, except for one thing: you have to turn it inside out. That is, the Indian Ocean is not straight down from the United States, but rather straight up. The entire universe is inside a Cosmic egg, with the surface of the earth being the inside of the shell, and the sun, moon, and stars being the yolk. The Koreshan universe is described in Koresh's Cellular Cosmogony (1898) and elsewhere (Gardner, 1957; Schadewald, 1980).
In August 1979, Martin Gardner told me that there is a formalism called "inversion geometry" by which one could turn the universe inside out and save the appearances. Thinking about this conversation a year later, I decided to invent my own mapping of the conventional universe into a Koreshan universe. All that's needed is a function whose limit approaches some constant as its argument approaches infinity. An obvious choice is the arctangent function, which returns a value less than π/2 for any positive real number. That is, for a suitable constant K, the equation
will map the entire universe into a hollow sphere. In particular, if X is measured vertically from the surface of the earth (in miles) and K=8000/π , the equation will map the universe outside the earth into a Koreshan universe of radius 4000 miles. You simply transform the distances and reverse the directions of the position vectors. It is then possible to derive laws of refraction that account for appearances, including eclipses of the moon!
To return to what passes for reality, I first heard about the Moon and Spencer paper in January 1980. In a debate with Duane Gish at Lamoni, Iowa, John W. Patterson of Iowa State University brought up the problem of cosmic distances. In his reply, Gish said that it is possible that the universe is not as large as supposed. He noted that creationist Harold Slusher (who was present) and a graduate student at the University of Texas, El Paso, were pursuing the hypothesis proposed by Moon and Spencer, namely, that the universe is only 15.7 light-years in diameter. Patterson suggested that Gish might like to come to ISU and present this idea to the students and faculty there.
It was October 1980 before I got a copy of the Moon and Spencer paper. As discussed by Freske in the Fall 1980 issue of Creation/Evolution, it is actually an attempt to refute a pro-relativity argument based on the appearance of binary stars. By making a suitable (and totally ad hoc) adjustment to the distances of binary stars, the authors neutralize the offending evidence. It all seemed pretty absurd, but, when I reached the fifth page of the paper (p. 639), I nearly fell out of my chair. There was "my" arctangent function! The constant and units used by Moon and Spencer were different, but otherwise the distance transformation was exactly the same.
In light of this obvious versatility, I suggest that Mr. Slusher and other creationists interested in pursuing universes transformed by arctangent functions should investigate Koreshanity. They can even use their present equations if they reverse their vectors and suitably adjust their constants. The Biblical justification for this inside-out cosmos was not adequately worked out by Elijah, but it has since been presented in admirable detail by Fritz Braun (1972), to whose work they should refer.
But why settle for half measures? If one wants to play with ad hoc mathematical transformations, it is easy to map the surface of our globe onto a plane. For instance, the azimuthal equidistant polar projection used on the United Nations Seal does it nicely. Indeed, this latter transformation, long used by the Flat Earth Society, is much more appropriate. And anyone who has read the Bible objectively from a literalist perspective can well conclude that it is, from Genesis to Revelations, a flat-earth book.