Thursday, October 25, 2007

happy birthday, planet Earth!

Actually, I'm a couple of days late with this, but that's pretty much par for the course - I'm rubbish with birthdays.

October 23rd is the Earth's birthday. No, it is! Eminent scientists have calculated the date of creation of the Earth to be October 23rd, 4004 BC, which means that Tuesday was the planet's 6010th birthday - remember there wasn't a year zero, and for the purposes of this calculation we're ignoring the missing 11 days associated with the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752.

So how did these eminent scientists arrive at the figure above? Well, here's how. Using state-of-the-art scientific techniques, science pioneer James Ussher calculated the date of the Earth's creation by, erm, adding up all the ages of the people in the Old Testament right back to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Simple! And the answer turns out to be October 23rd, 4004 BC.

I could go on. But, in fact, the answer to your question is: yes, this is all barking nonsense. All the available evidence points to the planet being around 4.5 billion years old. So the Young Earth Creationists are out by a factor of merely 748,752. Which is a scale of error rather like me claiming that my cock is 141 miles long.

One shouldn't be too hard on Ussher, though. He actually had to do quite a lot of work cross-referencing the Bible with various other old historical documents. With the benefit of hindsight, of course, he was starting from the wrong place, but believing the Bible unquestioningly in the mid-17th century isn't so surprising. Believing the same stuff today, however, is less excusable. And don't imagine that it's only the fundamentalist whackjobs who believe this stuff. Well, OK, it is, but there's a lot of them, and some of them are extremely rich and influential.

Let me give you a couple of examples: Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis crew, not to mention their shiny new museum. Yes, it's a museum. Of creation. Humans cosying up to dinosaurs, that sort of thing. Their take on the 4004 BC thing can be found here. And then there's Kent Hovind and his Creation Science Evangelism cronies. Kent doesn't see much of his cronies in a social sense these days, because, well, he's IN PRISON. Tax evasion, apparently. Aaah, the irony. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and all that sort of thing.

Anyway, look: it's hard to mock all of this because, paradoxically, it's too easy to mock all of this. The point is that there really ARE some people who believe all this stuff, and, although he doesn't allude to it much in public, it's quite possible that one of them is the current President of the USA.


The Black Rabbit said...

I'm off on a fungi foray with Professor Richard Fortey in a week.
Now THERES a scientist who is still a scientist and is doing far more than cough, cough, others.... ssshhh, to take away any ammunition that the "Intelligent Designers" and "Creationists" might possibly have, (specifically regarding the Cambrian Explosion mystery).
He's a top blerk from what my sister at the NHM says too, and just happens to believe that science and religion can sit side by side in relative peace - really looking forward to meeting him.
Then of course stuffing my face with any mushrooms we find.

Off topic.
As you haven't mentioned it, I will.
Very well done for all your efforts regarding the fantasy rugby world cup competition.
Pity. Pity. Pity you didn't do any better.

From the NEW GURU...!

electrichalibut said...

Well, hopefully not stuffing your face with any mushrooms you find. Amanita risotto might give you a spot of indigestion. The sort where your liver turns into treacle.