I am continually amazed at the number of people who insist, for no other reason that the Bible implies that Adam showed up on the Earth about the same time it was created, that the Earth is relatively young. In fact, most fundamentalists insist they know the age of the Earth is approximately 6000 years old. Why do they know this? From Starryskies:
The Judeo-Christian belief that the Earth was 6000 years old is still argued by some fundamentalists though they are a tiny minority. They steadfastly base their beliefs on the fact that the Old Testament in their bible is an accurate and literal history of the world. This belief was given a boost in 1642 by John Lightfoot, a distinguished Greek scholar and Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University who got very specific and said that the moment of creation was 9:00 AM, September 17th, 3928 BC. It’s hazy just how he arrived at this figure but it had something to do with adding up all those "begats" in the ancestries of people mentioned.
And that is how fundamentalists are absolutely certain the Earth is 6000 years old. Because someone in the 17th century (which is nowhere near Biblical times) calculated the number of people “begat-ing” other people in the Book of Genesis and then did a little math. Genesis helpfully gives the age of the people involved (Enos lived to the ripe old age of 90, and apparently Kenan lived to be an astounding nine hundred and ten years old), so that M. Lightfoot could add up the numbers and come up with a number close to 6000 years. And that is reason enough, in logic of most fundamentalists, to disregard all scientific findings from a multitude of scientific fields that concludes the Earth is over a billion years old.
Here is the question I wanted to pose. I just felt like doing a little setup about where this premise of a 6000 year old Earth is actually coming from. This is a very easy-to-understand thought experiment that doesn’t even require any of that pesky scientific logic that fundamentalists look down their noses at. Look at the pictures that accompany this post. They show (in the following order) the surfaces of the Earth’s moon, the planet Mercury and Callisto, a moon of Jupiter. Each of these bodies inhabits a distinctly different area of our solar system. What is the obvious similarity between these bodies?
The answer is each of these bodies is heavily cratered. If you look closely, you can see areas of craters within other craters that are within even older craters. Each of these craters represents a huge impact from an incoming object that struck the surface of the moon/planet sometime in its distant past. Now, how many years might it have taken to have each of these bodies to be struck by so many objects that the craters cover every square mile of the moon’s/planet’s surface (that hasn’t been resurfaced by some geologic activity)? We can’t know for certain. But, for the sake of comparison, how many of these collisions do we see today? Well, we know of three such events since mankind has had the technology that would enable us to see them; Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in July of 1994 and another comet or asteroid in July of 2009, both impacting the planet Jupiter and the Tunguska event in Russia in 1908. July seems to be a very bad month for Jupiter.
In the celestial, non-fundamentalist time frame, that is a very short slice of time. However, in the 6000 year fundamentalist time frame, 100 years is getting to be a significant percentage. Three known impacts per 100 years isn't that much, certainly not enough to account for the massive amount of cratering we see on a majority of the planets and moons that have surfaces that are not being continually eroded or refreshed. However, three known impacts per 100 years seems to indicate that there are still lots of objects out in our solar system, just waiting for their chance to plaster the planets and their moons. However, even at that rate of three or four impacts somewhere in our solar system every 25 years, that still would indicate that these bodies have been around a lot longer than 6000 years in order to build up the very impressive scar tissue indicative of small, large and huge impacts from comets, asteroids and meteors. 6000 years does not seem nearly enough time, especially since material such as the Bible itself does not mention anything about King David and his impressive army dodging incoming meteors. If the Bible is the only source of ancient history that can be trusted (apparently), then all those impacts from other-worldly intruders must have happened before mankind showed up and could see such events with our own eyes. Because, if those impacts happened, they surely would have been talked about somewhere in the Bible, correct?
Now, as an added argument, what is missing from the Earth that these other bodies have? The same craters; they are, for the most part, nowhere to be found on the surface of the Earth. There are a few exceptions, such as Meteor Crater in Arizona. So, what happened to the evidence of the rest of the impacts that the Earth must have sustained during its early life? They were obliterated due to natural erosion and constant resurfacing that the Earth’s surface continually undergoes. How long must that have taken, to get rid of all visual evidence of the craters that must have been here? Quite some time, given how “fresh” Meteor Crater appears to be. I suppose, if you do support the notion that God created the entire universe, that He also could have somehow “protected” the Earth from such impacts, such that there never were any craters, while our nearby Moon got continually pounded. But then, Meteor Crater and the Tunguska object become problematic. God apparently didn’t do a terribly thorough job of protecting the Earth.
(It occurs to me that someone, I suppose, could argue that The Great Flood wiped away all traces of meteor and comet impacts from the surface of the Earth. Fundamentalists use The Flood to explain quite a lot of things, such as why there are fossils of fishes and other sea creatures that are found high in the mountains, quite a distance away from any body of water. Given that leap, it's plausible that someone could make the same claim regarding the non-existence of impact craters on the Earth. However, there is still that pesky point that the Bible doesn't mention anything about these impacts. And, according to these 6000-year-old-Earthers, the Bible is the one and only source of true information.)
With this (hopefully) easy-to-understand thought experiment, it seems more than obvious that the solar system is much, much older than 6000 years.
So, my question to those believing that the Earth is around 6000 years old is the following. Why is someone in the 17th Century counting up the “begats” of all the Biblical characters and using their sometimes unbelievable ages to calculate the age of the Earth more compelling than using your eyes and your mind to come to an obvious and immediate conclusion that the age of our solar system, and therefore our own Earth, is very ancient? Please enlighten me. I am all ears.
Picture of the moon’s surface from astrosurf.com
Picture of Jupiter’s moon, Callisto, from www.vias.org
Picture of Mercury from users.libero.it
Cross-posted at MadMike'sAmerica.