examinescience

A personal journey into the world of Science and Human History

Month: July, 2016

Ussher was Wrong

800px-James_Ussher_by_Sir_Peter_LelyOutside of truly fundamentalist circles, very few people believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old. AIG and ICR still hold to the idea that the earth was created on or about October 23, 4004BC. The AIG article I linked to is much more extensive in its declaration that Ussher was right.

I grew up believing the data that Ussher calculated. I also grew up with the misconception that he calculated the data only based on the Bible. This gives the indication that, if the Bible is proved false in its interpretation of historical events, then Ussher’s calculation is automatically void. However, he based his calculations on much more data than just what is in the generational account of the scriptures. In fact, Ussher used sources from the Greek regarding the ages of the Babylonian rulers. The reason for this is because the Biblical account becomes somewhat muddy concerning generations and timeframes after that period. I suppose it’s hard to keep track when you’re a slave.

Ok, so what? Well, I want to present two facts about this.

  1.  Ussher did the best research he could considering what he had available. As a scholar, Bishop Ussher managed to cross connect a variety of sources. His efforts are to be commended. In fact, I would call it (without resorting too much to heresy) the third revelation of God in our lives. I will explain them in a future post.
  2. Ussher was wrong. Just because it was the best scholarship of the day does not mean that he was correct. He was just correct for his time. I don’t think I believe the six literal days of Genesis are correct, but they were correct for their time and for the purpose God intended.* It is not different for Ussher. He may have been on to something, such as delineating the generations since Hebrew civilization took hold, but he did not know the age of the earth.

Ussher did not have the benefit of radiocarbon dating, which in itself allows for things to be dated to around 50,000 years, almost ten times as old as Ussher would have ever allowed. Yes, the dating method has some issues, but it is far more accurate than it is not.

Further, we have other methods of dating objects and fossils. I will undoubtedly delve deeper into this at some point, but some of the accurate ones are radiometric dating and argon, etc. Almost all dating methods (outside of Ussher’s genealogy dating and tree-ring dating, etc) use half-life measurements of various isotopes (such as argon from¬†potassium), which break down into other elements over time. These dating methods suggest the earth is very much older than Ussher thought (and Newton, Kepler, and others, by the way). A good, basic primer on dating can be found at this website.

Ussher was wrong, almost by any measurement of time. This doesn’t even account for the age of light coming from distant stars, which is a topic unto itself.

My research on the age of the earth will continue, as will the work on the evolution/creation of man. I have learned some things about Lucy that I’m particularly interested in getting your thoughts on. Until the next post…

 

*Some reading this, and perhaps someday if I ever get this data published, may say that I have flipflopped, or that I started with preconceived ideas about the age of the earth, man’s evolution, etc. That is the detrimental thing about a blog. As my impression of the evidence changes over time, I appear to flipflop like a politician. I am merely trying to make sense of the data, just like you might. In fact, I hope you will seriously look into this issue, wrestle with it, and see just how much you flipflop yourself.

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This Day in History: Scopes Monkey Trial

In the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, in some of the hottest weather of the year, two heavyweights or oration and law met over the teaching of a quiet teacher of slight build named John Thomas Scopes. It was one of the worst events in the church’s collective history. While it did not kill people like the Salem witch trials or the Inquisition, it effectively alienated the religious institution from the scientific community.

To be fair to my fundamentalist forefathers, it was a circus show to begin with. The ALCU staged most of it by picking a fight through the likes of Scopes. I rather think that Scopes had no idea what the ALCU had cooked up for him, but such is life.

Still, even though baited and prodded by the ALCU and others, Scopes did indeed break the law (Butler Act of 1925), by teaching evolution in his classroom. The funny thing is that no one ever thought that the law would be enforced. Not even the governor of Tennessee planned to actually enforce the law he signed.

Yet the stage was set and the big guns came in to town for a trial starting on the 1oth of July, 1925. I think that Bryan thought he was winning (indeed he did get the ruling as a fine was levied against Scopes), but in hindsight, he lost before he started, just like the modern evangelicals are losing with the issue of homosexual marriage.

The Scopes Monkey Trial ended in the death of Bryan (he passed five days after the trial), the end of Scopes’ teaching career (he went on to study geology), and almost zero pressure on evolutionary scientists while it further alienated Christianity from science. It was not worth it.

We must be better…do better. And we will.

Alienating ourselves from Culture

Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, 1925

Clarence Darrow, a famous Chicago lawyer, and William Jennings Bryan, defender of Fundamentalism, have a friendly chat in a courtroom during the Scopes evolution trial. Darrow defended John T. Scopes, a biology teacher, who decided to test the new Tenessee law banning the teaching of evolution. Bryan took the stand for the prosecution as a bible expert. The trial in 1925 ended in conviction of Scopes. ca. 1925 Dayton, Tennessee, USA

As I write this post, I’m in the middle of researching the Scopes Monkey Trial, wherein a Tennessee school teacher by the name of John Thomas Scopes violated the Butler Act of 1925 and taught evolution in his local high school. As some of you know from your high school history, this was the modern equivalent of Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church.

The entire thing was a sham. The ACLU wanted a test case to run up to the Supreme Court and the fundamentalists wanted to prove that they were more powerful than the liberals of the time.

Quick side note: This is a theme reoccurring today. Replaced by evangelicals, the religious establishment is still trying to prove it is more powerful than liberal ideology. In fact, if you go back to the New Testament, Jesus ran into the same problem when he tried to talk to the Pharisees and Sadducees of his day. Any time a religious sect is in power, they try to stay in power. This is very frustrating for the following reason: The possibility of even some form of evolution “poisoning” the evangelical establishment will result in the most vehement response. Instead of taking the time to effectively evaluate the information, like William Jennings Bryan, they lash out and attack.

Normally, I don’t get involved in this issue. I avoid most Facebook debates like the plague. It’s just not worth it. I’d rather debate in person anyway because I can manage the situation better. I wish William Jennings Bryan had done the same thing. The Scopes Monkey Trial was the historical predecessor of modern Facebook debates. It was all yelling and arguing without a single forward idea made.

It did manage to do one thing…it alienated fundamentalists from American society. Now, granted, fundamentalists had been heading this way for a long time and most believed God wanted them alienated from society. However, instead of having a method of working themselves into a conversation with society, which could have led to the gospel witness, fundamentalists torched any possibility.

My hope through this journey is that, in addition to discovering some answers about how the creation account differs and matches reality, we can bridge the gap between society and the gospel, to introduce the former to the latter. To that end, it will never be my desire to alienate myself from society and culture.

To keep up with this project and to learn how to engage culture, sign up here.