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 Creation. Something along the lines of “God created the Big Bang.”