Not only do objects appear to be that far away, they've been measured to be. A month or two ago a measurement to a star-forming region of about 6000 light years was reported that was based ONLY on geometry: we know the size of our Earth's orbit, and they measured the angular deflection of a maser in the next spiral arm of our galaxy over six months' time.
Similarly, the distance to the galaxy Messier 106 has been measured using only geometry along with the same sort of redshift that the police use to give you a speeding ticket. That distance is 25,000,000 light years. No amount of hand-waving about "changing speed of light" can explain what we see out there in any "young universe" scenario.
How do we tell the distance to anything when it is not there in the first place?
By this I presume you mean "when it's no longer in the place it was when it emitted that ray of light?" We can measure pretty accurately how fast many objects in our galaxy are moving, and only a very few are going at even a noticeable fraction of the speed of light. Past (or future) positions of lots of nearby stars have been calculated, and it's no more difficult than "A train leaves Topeka eastbound at 47 mph....."
For example "you can't show me a picture of clouds in space and say "here is were stars are being formed" and think I'm dumb enough to believe it.
Are you being serious? Pictures, along with dozens of observations of baby stars, toddler stars, adolescent stars....., all gobbling up their protostellar disks and igniting to full starhood, and you'll refuse to believe it??
That first link is such bizarre logic that it made my brain bleed partway through, and I had to quit reading. Really....light goes 150,000 km/sec westbound down the hall, but infinitely fast back? What happens when your transmitter and receiver are at the west end? Or if your hall runs NE to SW? Does it then go infinitely fast and return at 0.5c? How 'bout if you set up the experiment in a Hindu country like India instead of Jesusland? Does that change things?
There is a galaxy, M33, that has been measured, by trigonometric methods, to be nearly eight hundred thousand parsecs away from us. That means that light from that galaxy takes about two million years to get here. "Exploding stars," novae, have been seen in M33. They must have gone nova about 2,000,000 years ago, or we couldn't see them yet. Their light wouldn't have reached us.
Did the creator fella create light from an event that didn't happen - because it would have happened 1,994,000 years before the "fourth day" in Genesis - just to fool us? Or what's going on? Can you explain that to me?
But I think the concept of a fully formed universe is self explanatory.
The concept of a fully-formed universe appearing that way a few thousands of years ago is utterly absurd, though. We have libraries full of data that show that all those galaxies out there are VERY OLD. All those stars that you can see at night are VERY OLD - half a million up to twelve billion years old. And the fact that we can see events whose light took millions or billions of years to reach us just eliminates the chance of an "appearance of age" universe unless Loki or Coyote is the God in Charge.
Surely the Christian God isn't the Author of Lies, eh?
High school texts still, with a respectable fraction of our electric power directly from fission, say things like "under ordinary circumstances, energy is conserved." Like a power reactor or the Sun was unordinary, I guess...
This pre-1915 mentality is a little odd, indeed. Just because Kelvin and J. Willard Gibbs did their work before Einstein doesn't mean that textbook publishers shouldn't try to catch up a bit. The classic Laws Of Thermo are, as usually phrased, for non-nuclear phenomena. And that works a lot of the time in fossil-fuel sorts of isolated cases, but not at all in general. After all, those fossil fuels, and wind energy, and wood to burn all are dependant of the Sun "destroying" mass to make light and heat. It's like Cavediver says, though: we're not destroying but converting less-familiar to more-familiar forms of energy.
Rob: The distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud is about 170,000 light years, as determined by several methods including plain old trigonometry. This means that the light we saw here on Earth from Supernova 1987A came from an explosion that occurred about 170,000 years before 1987.
If the Earth is about 6000 years old, and the stars were created four days after the Earth, how does this work? Did the star in the LMC explode 164,000 years before it was created? Did light from an explosion that never really happened get "created in transit" 6000 years ago so astronomers could watch events that didn't happen unfold for these last 19 years?