W is for When was the Earth born?

I had this rather awkward time recently. One of my nieces was over, and she and my daughter were reading a book about this young girl in England in the 19th century who had discovered some fossilized items. The book mentioned that the items were millions of years old. This didn’t make any sense to the niece, who believes the age of the earth can be measured in thousands of years.

There is a philosophy called Young Earth creationism, which is “the religious belief that the Universe, Earth, and all life on Earth were created by direct acts of the Abrahamic God during a relatively short period, sometime between 5,700 and 10,000 years ago.” The article notes that, as early as 160 A.D., this theory was established. The key basis of this theory is a literal interpretation of the Bible, and the dates therein.

What I find interesting is that while “support for a young Earth declined from the eighteenth century onwards with the development of the scientific revolution, and scientific paradigm shifts…the rise of fundamentalist Christianity at the start of the twentieth century saw a revival of interest in young Earth creationism, as a part of the movement’s rejection of the explanation of evolution.” So the concept all but went away, then came back. I did not realize this philosophy had such deep roots.

Possibly the best known historical proponent of YEC was James Ussher (1581–1656), who was an Archbishop in Ireland for the last 30 years of his life. “He was a prolific scholar, who most famously published a chronology that purported to establish the time and date of the creation as the night preceding Sunday, 23 October 4004 BC, according to the proleptic Julian calendar.” Even I don’t agree with his results, I admire the hard work that had to have been necessary to compile it by hand.

I invite you, at your leisure, to read David E. Matson’s refutation of YEC in How Good Are Those Young-Earth Arguments? Plus this piece on the Big Bang Theory (no, not the comedy on CBS-TV). Generally, scientists believe the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and the universe thrice that.

There is this struggle between biblical and scientific thought, something I just don’t understand. Any number of scientists feel that their study of the universe strengthens their belief in a Supreme Being, not diminishes it. While I believe in God, I don’t think it conflicts with a scientific explanation of the Creation. Something along the lines of “God created the Big Bang.”

ABC Wednesday – Round 11

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0 thoughts on “W is for When was the Earth born?”

  1. I despair at the anti-intellectualism of it all, INCLUDING Archbishop Ussher who apparently was so enamored with his own concepts that he came up with an actual DAY and TIME that the Earth was “created.” This demonstrates how emotion-laden BELIEF all too often can trump FACT through both denial and having NO real idea of how science works.

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  2. For me, Genesis is more allegory and poetic telling of the beginning of time than literal, so I have very little problem with science and faith coexisting. I highly recommend books by Alister McGrath and Francis Collins for those that struggle with this issue. Both former atheists who, through their research in molecular biology and mapping the genome (respectively), now have come to have faith in the God of Creation.

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  3. 🙂 In my class I handle by saying “This is science class. This is how old scientists thing the world and universe are. In Bible or Veda class you might learn something different. It’s okay if you don’t agree, but now you know what science has to say about it.”

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  4. Great post. Someone once said to me at a young age, wasn’t God clever to be so scientific. I like that. I don’t understand literalism in terms of bibles and holy books written so long ago that may be inspired but clearly have cultural biases of their times.

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  5. the earth is quite old–and there are predictions that the world will end on the 21st. sitting in a natural science class, i remember thinking how earth and the universe were wonderfully designed. those who insist that science and God cannot co-exist are banging their heads on the brick wall. interesting post.:p

    W is for…

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  6. I went to a few lectures years ago on the topic of creationism vs science but it was way over my head. However, the point they were making was that there is no reason NOT to believe that science and creationism CAN co-exist. They purported that there are lots of discoveries that prove the point. Me? I just simply have faith.

    Leslie
    abcw team

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  7. More of the scientific world believes in God than not (I think I can say that, because of my docotrate I’m considered one of them). Our human reasoning and knowledge is fallible and limited, compared to that of the Creator. The last name is exactly why He needs to tell us himself at some point, “how in the world” he has done it! He can stretch or scrunch time, and more of such mysteries, are are too difficult for us humans to comprehend…

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  8. I was taught Darwin’s theory of evolution by a Nun! The Lord can and did create science, and gave us a rational mind to keep searching for answers.

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  9. The more we learn through science the more extraordinary and complex the world and universe seem.
    I have an old family bible with a page devoted to the Usher chronology, I haven’t looked at it for years (very large book) but remember being fascinated by the thought of someone coming up with such arcana.

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  10. There’s a date? Now that’s amazing. I also admire how people long ago come up with things without the help of technology. Imagine researching, analyzing, tabulating data without a computer.

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  11. I believe more the scientists. The creation of the earth according to the old testament, was certainly based on the knowledge and phantasy of the people at that time. Of course it is more picturesque for people to understand the religious version.

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  12. I THINK I believe in a young earth, and I also think it is possible science could have made some basic miscalculations about how to date things. They have been known to make mistakes in the past. I’m not too worried about the age of the earth, but I DO believe God created it. When God created the earth doesn’t matter to me so much as the fact that HE created mankind — with a soul. I can always count on you, Roger to keep us all thinking. Great going.

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