This argument explains why some thing is not actually a proof of the earth's great age. It says that God created the thing with a seeming age. It's only apparently old.
This idea was first published by Philip Henry Gosse in 1857 as the Omphalos theory. (The word Omphalos is a reference to Adam's navel.) The idea was never popular, but it is still used occasionally. As I shall point out in a moment, Creationist Dr. Duane Gish has used it recently.
The idea has many logical consequences. Gosse himself pointed out that an adult hippopotamus would have to be created with worn-down teeth. (They wear down while the hippo is growing up. An adult with unworn teeth wouldn't be able to close its mouth.) Nor could the world's creatures have been created as parentless young, since many depend on mother's milk.
Suppose that the world was created 6,000 years ago, but looking four billion years old. But why suppose 6,000? Why not 100? Why not last Wednesday? It's really quite the same thing. So, some humorists argue that the world is a week old. We were all created, complete with fillings in our teeth and money in our bank accounts.
Last-Wednesdayism should make it clear why the whole idea is not permitted under scientific rules. There is no possible evidence which would disprove it: it is unfalsifiable. You can't remember being created last Wednesday because you were created with memories of a past that never was. Theologians have a different complaint: that it accuses God of being deceptive.
It has been argued that Creation cannot have happened recently, because astronomers can see light from stars that are millions of light-years away. Therefore, the astronomers say, they are seeing objects as they were millions of years ago. One Creationist answer to this argument is that, during Creation, the light from these stars was created in-transit. That is, the light was created with an apparent age. For example, during the Gish-Zindler debate, as transcribed by Zindler, we find:
And if... How would you care to objectively evaluate the fact that we can see light from stars that are more than ten thousand light years away from us. Doesn't that kind of blow your...
Well if a star is say a million light years away, and we have a pretty good idea that it is, it would obviously, at the rate of 186,000 miles per second, take a million years to get here, there's no question about that. But if the universe, on the other hand, was supernaturally created, you see, that light did not necessarily start from the star. Now in our particular model...
How? How can light not start from a star?
Because, if god created the earth, and he created the stars, and if he, as he said in the scri... in the Bible, that he created stars to be for signs and seasons on the earth, obviously he'd have to make them visible immediately.
So, Gish is arguing for Apparent Age. Some ICR publications such as "The Invisible Things of God" do the same. There are two problems here. First, why stop at starlight? If stars have apparent age, why not the earth? If the earth, why not all of history? We are on the slippery slope towards Last Wednesdayism.
The second problem is that starlight isn't just a fuzzy glow. There are details. There are events. For example, we may see a distant star today. Tomorrow we might see it explode into a supernova. That implies that the star ceased to exist, one million years ago. But Gish argued that stars were created just a few thousand years ago. Our long-defunct star would not have been included in this Creation. So, the star never existed. Why would God create light from a star that He never created?