Always Ask Candidates: “How old is the earth?”

IT probably doesn’t matter if someone seeking the office of municipal sewer commissioner is a creationist, but it’s essential to know the mental condition of someone who wants to be a state legislator or governor — and it’s even more important with candidates for Congress or for President.

Such people don’t need to know much, if anything, about astronomy, geology, or biology, but — to put it bluntly — it’s vital to know whether a candidate for high office can think rationally. Perhaps the quickest way to smoke out the worst of the hard-core creationists is to ask: “How old is the earth?”

We’ve written about this issue before. The first time was a year ago, in How Old Is The Creationists’ Universe? That discusses a supernova which provides some clear, undeniable astronomical evidence that the universe is at least 168,000 years old, and that the speed of light hasn’t changed from then to now. It’s not proof of the actual age of the universe, but it’s enough to disprove the claim that everything began only 6,000 years ago, with variable lightspeed to explain away inconvenient observations to the contrary.

Later we wrote How Old Is the Earth and the Universe? That discusses many other lines of evidence supporting current scientific opinions. Most recently we wrote Creationism: How Old Is the Earth? There, we discussed the creationist opinion from Answers in Genesis.

Today, dear reader, we present How old is the Earth?, which appears in the Religion Section of the Times-Herald of Newnan, Georgia. That newspaper was foundeded “in the days after the Civil War ended,” and “has become an institution in the intervening 143 years.” It has a paid circulation of about 12,700.

As you read this, note that the author seems to assume that everyone is a creationist, but they disagree about the age of the earth. Here are a few excerpts. The bold font was added by us:

There are young-earth and old-earth creationists. Young-earth creationists believe the earth is 6,000 years old. Old-earth creationists believe the earth is 4.6 billion years old. Both young-earth and old-earth creationists add the genealogies from Adam to Abraham in Genesis 5 and Genesis 11 and get 2,000 years and then add Abraham until today and get 4,000 years — giving us 6,000 years from Adam to today.

If you want to really dig into the varieties of creationists, see: Creationism Past and Present at the National Center for Science Education. Let’s read on in the Times-Herald:

How you interpret the “days” in Genesis 1 will determine how old you believe the earth is. Young-earth creationists interpret the days as a consecutive 24-hour period. There are three reasons why they believe this.

Three reasons? Okay, let’s see what they are:

First, the days in Genesis 1 are consecutively numbered and have an “evening” and “morning.” Second, Exodus 20:8-11 commands a literal week of six days of work and one day of rest based on God’s original creation/rest week. Third, Romans 5:12 says, “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin.” Old-earth creationism would have animal death entering the world before the sin of Adam and Eve.

Sounds good. Now let’s see what the old-earth creationists have to say for themselves:

Old-earth creationists do not believe the creation days in Genesis 1 were consecutive 24-hour periods. There are three reasons why they believe in an old-earth.

They also have three reasons? This is so confusing!

First, the Hebrew word for “day,” yom is used in different ways in the creation account. Genesis 1:5 refers yom only to daytime, not nighttime. Genesis 2:4 literally says, “the yom that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” Second, God’s rest on the seventh “day” has no evening and morning (Genesis 2:2-3). Hebrews 4:3-11 portrays this same Sabbath as continuing to the present time. Third, Adam could not have named all the birds and animals in 24 hours according to Genesis 2:19-20.

Where does all this leave us? We’ll skip a discussions of dinosaurs, and pick it up after that:

What about fossils? Young-earth believers understand fossils as depositions from Noah’s flood. Old-earth believers view them as artifacts of supernatural creative acts separated by long time spans — all happening on day six.

Wow! They don’t agree on much, do they? Here’s more:

Young-earth creationists believe that old-earth interpretations make the Bible subservient to science. Old-earth believers claim that young-earth believers make a clash between science and scripture — forcing everything within 6,000 years.

Things look rather messy in the world of creationism. This is how the article ends:

I was raised old-earth, but have noticed how many Christians are turning to young-earth creationism. Whether you believe the earth is 4.6 billion or 6,000 years old, this is a topic worth studying — making you realize how little you know and how incredible God’s creation is.

So there you are. Will they ever resolve things? Probably not. Your Curmudgeon will stick to science — it’s much less discordant. And we’ll also avoid Newnan, Georgia. Somehow, we don’t think we’d fit in.

As for what we recommended at the start of this post — asking political candidates about the age of the earth — it’s obvious that even if they say 4.6 billion years, you still won’t know whether they’re scientific in their outlook, or merely old-earth creationists. But the way things are going out there, at least it’s a better answer than 6,000 years. (Hey, check out the birth certificate of presidential candidates too.)

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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29 responses to “Always Ask Candidates: “How old is the earth?”

  1. waldteufel

    As an active geoscientist myself, I’m always amazed at how ignorant the average American is about the planet they live on.

    That said, I think your question to a potential candidate is a great one. I myself would be satisfied if a candidate merely said something like: “I don’t know, actually. But, to find out I’ll look it up in a geology textbook or go online to an earth science or geology site.” If the candidate reaches for his Wholly Babble, I’d scratch him off my list of potential candidates as brain dead.

  2. waldteufel, if a candidate says “I don’t know,” that’s tolerable. The problem is with those who think they do know, but what they know is nonsense.

  3. Thank you! But please ask them the age of life too. There are lots of old-earth-young-life creationists out there. And be very clear that you mean life., not earth. When I ask that question (online) only ~1/3 answer, and most of them give me the age of the earth, so I have to ask again. They just don’t pay attention to the question. Like the one at the Kangaroo Court who, when plainly asked the age of the earth gave the age of the universe.

    Another question I always ask is about common descent. And I always make sure to reference Michael Behe, who clearly accepts it.

  4. Frank J says: “But please ask them the age of life too.”

    We never get a chance to cross-examine candidates, so I was just trying to come up with a quickie, to separate out the truly deranged. But a prior comment inspires me to embellish the original question just a bit: How old is the earth, and if you don’t know, where would you look for the answer?

  5. Some Creation scients have recently investigated the age of the earth, and found lots of evidence that the Earth is thousands, not millions or billions, of years old. But mostly that evidence just gets ignored. The Hebrew Bible has stood for thousands of years and has never been proved wrong yet. But mans’ theories have come and gone.

  6. What’s that remark about “(Hey, check out the birth certificate of presidential candidates too.) “?

  7. waldteufel

    Which “Creation Scientists”, Hebrew Scholar.
    What evidence?

    Are you talking about the Hebrew Bible that teaches us that pi=3? That the sun revolves around the earth? That the earth is flat? That snakes can talk? . . . . . .. . . . .that bible?

    The magnitude of the error in thinking that the earth is 6,000 years old is the same as thinking that the distance from New York to Los Angeles is 17 feet.

  8. Bear in mind, gentlemen, that we don’t debate with creationists here. Too messy, and totally futile. Hebrew Scholar has had his moment. There won’t be many more.

  9. No, Hebrew Scholar. Evidence is NEVER ignored in science. There are too many scientists and we are skeptics by nature. If there were any actual evidence for these silly claims of these creationists (who are NOT scientists, I don’t care what title they give themselves), then it would come out eventually because real scientists would be making these discoveries as well. If you look at the “evidence” that creationists offer, it’s usually a bunch of quote mining of real science or philosophical/ religious claims based on a “holy” book, but not actual data collection and number crunching. So, no… there is no evidence from this dishonest group of people.

  10. I recall a Michael Medved radio show right after the debate where Huckabee and 2 other (of ~9) Republican presidential candidates raised their hand when asked if they didn’t “believe in” evolution. The caller made the typical mistake of assuming that Huckabee was a YEC. Medved quickly replied that Huckabee was “probably not a young-earther.” More recently I saw a Huckabee comment that I think said that he wasn’t sure about the age of the earth. So a good bet is that he has been coached by the DI (Medved is a Fellow) to play “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

  11. I thought McCain finessed it rather well in one of the Republican debates where he implied that he thought the Earth is old but when he was hiking the Grand Canyon at sunset in all its spectacular glory he could see the Hand of God. (Or something like that — I don’t have the exact quote but that was the gist.) Pert’ near poetry, I thought, and it didn’t inflame either side.

  12. I just did a search and found the exact quote mentioned above. I notice someone complained about McCain being a “Creationsm enabler” for it, though…

    I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also.

    JOHN MCCAIN, GOP primary debate, May 3, 2007

  13. retiredsciguy asks: “And who DID check on Obama’s credentials, anyway?”

    I don’t know. It may be a genuine issue, but it seems that only fringe outfits are pushing it. And probably some blogs. A presidential candidate’s status as a “natural born citizen” is rarely in question. I recall (years ago) it came up when George Romney (Mitt’s father) was running. He was born overseas while his parents were Mormon missionaries. Not a problem. And McCain was born in the Canal Zone of American parents. Also no problem. Obama’s situation is arguably dubious. I donno how to check it.

  14. retiredsciguy

    ” (Hey, check out the birth certificate of presidential candidates too.) ”

    Where and how? No, seriously — how do we, mere voters, get to check on the credentials of our candidates? And who DID check on Obama’s credentials, anyway? The Federal Elections Commission? If so, why don’t they just put the whole controversy to rest?

  15. Gee, Curmy, I hate to see you go down the path of the wacko birther bloggers . . . . .

    Just what evidence do you have that Obama is not a natural born citizen? . . .other than a vague hunch, that is. The State of Hawaii seems to have issued a birth certificate. Do you have evidence that this certificate is a forgery? What evidence does retiredsciguy have? None, I’ll bet. If retiredsciguy has evidence, then let’s see it.

    Vague hunches don’t carry much weight in the reality based world, where I hope you live. So far, the evidence is that you are indeed a reality based guy.

  16. Relax, waldteufel. I don’t traffic in rumors, and I’ve never posted about the birth certificate issue. This won’t become a birther blog.

  17. I never thought it would, really, Curmy.

    I’m relaxed.

    All is well.

  18. I think we need to investigate where Curmy was born. I suspect him of being Canadian.

  19. retiredsciguy

    I don’t want to transform this string into a birther blog either, but Waldteufel has the evidence thing backwards. The burden of proof of where a person is born lies with the person, not the other way around. When I applied for my passport, I couldn’t get by with just saying to the government, “Prove I WASN’T born in Chicago!” No, I needed to supply my birth certificate.
    The point of my question was merely to ask, “What agency IS in charge of verifying a candidate’s credentials?” Not just a president’s birthplace, but also age, which goes as well for congressional candidates.
    This is not a wacko question. Besides, I’m not questioning Obama’s validity. Hell, I sure don’t want Biden as Prez.

  20. I have a solution to the “birther” problem. If a candidate refuses to answer the age of the earth question, he/she is admitting that all ages (Last Thursday, etc.) are equally valid. Then we just pick the most recent date that they were out of the country, decare that as their answer, and make them ineligible to run. 😉

  21. Digging way back, the birther issue arose during the Goldwater campaign too. He was born in 1909, but Arizona was only a territory then, and it wasn’t admitted into the US until 1912. Apparently that wasn’t considered an impediment. (Maybe because Virginia wasn’t a state when George Washington was born?)

    Anyway, within recent history, the issue’s come up with Goldwater, George Romney, and McCain. All Republicans, by the way. I don’t see why Obama is immune, but I’m not following this one too closely.

  22. Tundra Boy says:

    I think we need to investigate where Curmy was born. I suspect him of being Canadian.

    O how insulting!

  23. The Curmudgeon wailed at Tundra Boy

    O how insulting!

    … Could have been even worse. At least he didn’t say you were from Uranus.

  24. longshadow

    The Curmudgeon // 26-July-2009 at 9:19 am

    Tundra Boy says:

    I think we need to investigate where Curmy was born. I suspect him of being Canadian.</blockquote

    O how insulting!

    … to Canadians!

  25. According to http://www.city-data.com/city/Newnan-Georgia.html, 54% of Newnan residents are members of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) congregations. The Southern Baptist Convention is certainly not pro-science. Just go to http://www.sbc.net and do a search on evolution. I’m surprised that the pastor who wrote this article (his church is a member of the SBC) even concedes the possibility that the earth is very old. By the way, there are some rational, thinking people living in Newnan, but we are in the minority.

  26. NewnanRes says: “By the way, there are some rational, thinking people living in Newnan, but we are in the minority.”

    Very good to hear that. I suggest you keep your head down and don’t make trouble. If you always smile and wave at the neighbors, they’ll think you’re a great guy.

  27. retiredsciguy

    To NewnanRes:

    Are you saying it’s not a good idea to put one of those “Darwin” stick-ons on the back of your trunk lid if you live in Newnan? You know, one of those metallic things that looks like a fish, but has little legs?

  28. Probably not retiredsciguy! 🙂

  29. longshadow

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster silhouette emblem would be much safer, no doubt…..