Happy Belated Birthday

It's our planet's very own birthday!

(Image from Omniscopic)

I’ve been busy this week, so I missed the Earth’s birthday! A lot of other blogs reported this already. I still want to mention it here, because I’ve always been amused by the Ussher Chronology.

World Nut Daily reported yesterday that the Earth turned exactly 6010 years old on October 23rd. They know this, because some old fundie asshat figured this out over 350 years ago. And as we all know, the only information worth knowing was all written long ago, is infallible, and could never be updated with more accurate data.

You might remember James Ussher. He was a Bishop in the Anglican church. He lived from 1581 to 1656, so just about everything this guy thought he knew about the world is completely wrong.

Here’s something weird. According to Wikipedia, his title was “Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland”. Fundies claim that we did not descend from apes, yet they call their own guy a primate!

Anyway, in 1650, Primate Ussher published his version of a history of the world. The Ussher Chronology, as it became known, was based in part on the Bible. Wikipedia says that he pegged the date of creation as “nightfall preceding 23 October 4004 BC.” Nightfall implies there was a day for the night to have fallen upon. Wouldn’t that make the date October 22?

I’m actually being overly harsh on the guy. It turns out that in those days, calculating the exact date of Earth’s creation was all the rage. John Lightfoot determined that the Earth was created in 3929 BC. Bede (That’s his whole name. He’s like Cher or Madonna—just another name-dropper.) calculated the Earth’s birth at 3952 BC. Finally, Joseph Justus Scaliger put the start date at 3949 BC.

This all seems silly today, but in those pre-science days in Europe, people did the best they could. With the extremely limited information they had back then, of course they’re going to veer wildly off course with some of their conclusions. You have to give Ussher credit for making an honest effort. In fact none other than Stephen Jay Gould had this to say:

I shall be defending Ussher’s chronology as an honorable effort for its time and arguing that our usual ridicule only records a lamentable small-mindedness based on mistaken use of present criteria to judge a distant and different past

Ussher represented the best of scholarship in his time. He was part of a substantial research tradition, a large community of intellectuals working toward a common goal under an accepted methodology…

OK, so that gets Ussher off the hook. But he wrote that thing 350+ years ago. By the time the 18th and 19th centuries rolled around, his Chronology had pretty much been rejected by anybody with a brain.

Enter the Brainless

The Ussher Chronology would just be an interesting footnote, if it weren’t for the fact that modern fundies will desperately cling to anything that supports their primitive beliefs, no matter how far back in time they have to go to find it.

Let’s take a look at the World Net Daily article announcing the Earth’s birthday:

How old is the world?

Most people would say: “Nobody knows.”

No, actually most people would say “Approximately 4.6 billion years”.

But the author of the book frequently described as the greatest history book ever written, said the world was created Oct. 23, 4004 B.C. — making it exactly 6,010 yesterday.

Notice that they say “frequently described”? That’s a cop-out. Who says this? How often is “frequently”? It’s a way of implying authority for their assertion without actually having any. This ploy is the domain of the factless. Fox News frequently employs this technique. (In fact, right now Fox News is saying that “Some people say that the San Diego wildfires were started by Al Qaeda!” They have no proof of that. They’re just throwing it out there to be dicks.)

The article continues:

In the 1650s, an Anglican bishop named James Ussher published his Annals of the World…. First published in Latin, it consisted of more than 1,600 pages.

The book, now published in English for the first time, is a favorite of homeschoolers…

Oh, then you know it’s accurate. These are the people who yanked their kids out of public schools, because they teach too much evil stuff like biology, paleontology, and non-white history.

…and those who take ancient history seriously.

I was going to make a snide remark here, but from what I can tell, the non-Biblical parts of Ussher’s Chronology apparently hold up fairly well. Wikipedia says:

Ussher’s account of historical events for which he had multiple sources other than the Bible is usually in close agreement with modern accounts….

As long as you aren’t stupid enough to believe anything it says about Biblical myths, it’s probably a worthy read.

It’s the history of the world from the Garden of Eden…

D’oh! I just told you not to believe what it says about Biblical myths!

Let’s jump to the next paragraph:

Of course, there will be those who disagree with Ussher’s calculations of time — especially evolutionists who need billions of years to explain their theory of how life sprang from non-life and mutated from one-celled animals into human beings.

That’s right. The whole reason “evolutionists” (I’m surprised they didn’t call them “Darwinists”) insist the world is billions of years old is because that’s how long evolution requires. There’s no evidence whatsoever for such an age. That’s just how long evolution would require if it were real. And of course it isn’t. Evolution is just Satan’s plot to turn people away from God.

BTW, “evolutionists” don’t claim that the first single-celled organisms were animals. Typical fundie propaganda. They don’t understand what they’re opposed to.

Here’s another fun fact about Ussher’s Chronology. According to that, the Earth is just over 6000 years old. Yet if you consult archaeologists, for example “Ask Dr. Dig”:

The first permanent farming settlements were established in the Middle East in approximately 8000 B.C.

Oops! It’s those pesky modern facts again! Everybody stop reading anything published after 1650!

The fundie “news” article continues:

Ussher’s arrival at the date of Oct. 23 was determined based on the fact that most peoples of antiquity, especially the Jews, started their calendar at harvest time. Ussher concluded there must be good reason for this, so he chose the first Sunday following autumnal equinox. [emphasis added]

The fundie nitwits get another fact wrong! He’s their boy, and they don’t even understand what he wrote! According to Wikipedia, Ussher chose the Sunday before the equinox!

World Nut Daily continues:

If you think this is a startling fact — an actual date for Creation — you haven’t seen anything until you’ve pored through the rest of Ussher’s Annals of the World.

If you’re beginning to think this sounds like an advertisement instead of a news article, you’re right. The rest of the article is just a sales pitch. Apparently the twits at World Nut Daily have no concept of journalistic ethics or the traditional firewall that separates the news and advertising divisions of a publishing company. Of course that would be assuming that WND actually published any news. They make Fox News look like the New York Times.

It’s a classic history book for those who believe in the Bible — and a compelling challenge for those who don’t.

No. It’s not a challenge at all — compelling or otherwise.

Considered not only a literary classic, but also an accurate reference….

There’s that vague, unsubstantiated language again. Who considers it? Experts? Historians? Scholars? The gap-toothed bubba who works at the Quik-E-Mart?

Let’s jump down a bit and look at some of the other great writing in this article:

Special features:

• Important literary work that has been inaccessible in book form for over 300 years

• Translated into modern English for the first time

• Entered college at age 13

• Buried in Westminster Abbey

What? This book entered college at age 13 and is now buried in Westminster Abbey?

I’m not making this up. I cut a few list items out for brevity, but that’s the actual list of this book’s special features! Again, the fundies demonstrate the clear, logical thinking that they’re so good at!

I’ll spare you the rest of the article. In the meantime, don’t forget to wish our Earth a happy 6010th!

9 Responses to “Happy Belated Birthday”

  1. Christopher Says:

    One thing you might like to consider. How could creation start on October 23? After all we use a solar calender. We use the months to signify where we are in our orbit around the sun. But if the sun was only created on the fourth day then how could there have been any date at all?

    And another bit of trivia. Since the Earth is a sphere October 23 in good old Ireland would be October 24 in Australia. So saying that the absolute date for creation was October 23 seems to imply that the world is flat. Either that or Ussher didn’t understand about diurnal measurement on a sphere.

  2. Ron Britton Says:

    These people believe that each “day” of creation is literally 24 hours. I’m guessing that Ussher is counting backward in 24-hour blocks for the period without a sun. But of course he did say that the beginning was at “nightfall”, so how is that even possible?

    The Bible actually does refer to a flat Earth, but by Ussher’s time, everybody knew that the world was round. I’m guessing that his date is relative to wherever the Garden of Eden was.

  3. jesse Says:

    Pssst, the first subheading says “Enter the Brianless” which is pretty funny, if not intentionally so ;-)

  4. Jr. Says:

    Happy Birthday, Earth! Sorry for all the crap we keep doing to you.

    I like the “Brianless” subheading too.

  5. sil-chan Says:

    For life is quite absurd
    And death’s the final word,
    you must always face the curtain with a bow…
    Forget about your sin
    give the audience a grin
    enjoy it it’s your last chance anyhow

  6. Ferin Says:

    Um, the autumnal equinox is in September.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equinox

  7. Ron Britton Says:

    Obviously it was supposed to be “brainless”. I’ve been writing some of these articles really late at night, and mistakes creep in.

    Whose leg do you have to hump to get a drink around here?

  8. Ron Britton Says:

    Ferin:

    If I understand the article correctly, Ussher did get the correct date for the autumnal equinox. He consulted astronomical tables calculated by Kepler.

    The reason it has shifted by about a month is because there was a lot of monkeying with the calendar in the old days. Is the date that we honor as the date he calculated really supposed to be Oct. 23? I don’t know. I guess we need to adjust for one or more of those calendar changes. It probably does belong in September, and we’re all reporting it wrong.

  9. The Watcher Says:

    “Of course, there will be those who disagree with Ussher’s calculations of time — especially evolutionists who need billions of years to explain their theory of how life sprang from non-life and mutated from one-celled animals into human beings.”

    Or, flipped around, there will be those who disagree with the modern scientific consensus — especially fundies who need to believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old because it says so in the Bible, despite any reliable evidence.