Belated birthday wishes

I forgot to wish the Earth a happy birthday yesterday. Yes indeed, October 23 is the Earth’s birthday… if you believe Archbishop James Ussher.

A little history lesson: in 1650, Ussher published the Annals of the Old Testament, Deduced from the First Origins of the World. In this weighty tome, he calculated the age of the earth by interpreting the lineages and events of the bible and working backwards to genesis. His result was that according to the bible, god had created the earth on October 23, 4004 BC. From this calculation stems the unshakable Young Earth Creationist belief that the planet is only 6000 years old.

If you think that Young Earth Creationism is like the Flat Earth Society, merely a historical fancy that science has left behind in its dust, then you’d be underestimating its appeal to fundamentalists. It enjoyed quite a revival at the beginning of the 20th century, and has been going strong ever since, in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is simply wrong. Organizations such as Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research are fairly influential today, and are not above lying to others and themselves to keep believing in their delusion.  

I wonder if they threw Earth a party yesterday?


5 Responses to “Belated birthday wishes”

  1. I’m glad body told the earth. There’s no telling what might have happened if it had decided to go on a bender.

  2. Imagine how big the party was two years ago for the actual 6000th birthday. Those fundamentalists know how to party.

    BTW, I saw some excellent quotes from Richard Dawkins on BoingBoing yesterday.

  3. mr angry, i’m surprised at you. Two years ago would have been the 6008th birthday. BC years are negative 🙂

    But then again, it all does depend on how you account for year 0…

  4. AFAIK, there was no zero in the Roman number system, so there was no year 0. 1AD followed 1BC

  5. actually, you’re right about there being no zero, but not for the reason you gave. The romans are not actually responsible for the ‘BC’ concept – it was first introduced by St Bede, and Englishman, in the 7th century. There’s no clear reason why he didn’t use a year zero, although he did differentiate between The Year of the Conception of Our Lord (year zero) and Year Before the Conception of Our Lord (BC), although when counting from BC to AD he didn’t seem to take it into account. This may have just been poor maths, for all we know.

    In any case, the BC notation hadn’t really caught on by 1650, and certainly wasn’t used by Ussher. Rather, he used the Julian Era, and a little math allows us to translate that into BC.

    As such, it turns out from extrapolations that Ussher in fact did not use year zero. This means that from October 23, 4004BC to October 23, 2006 is in fact 6009 years. The 6000th birthday of the Earth was in 1997.

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