scientific ignorance at taxpayers’ expense
Watching committee meetings about rural development doesn’t exactly make for must see TV and I think that it’s fairly safe to say that all those CSI and detective shows don’t have to worry about their ratings dropping as viewers flock to watch meetings on uranium mining. Then again, you never know what you might hear at one of those sessions, Maybe even a state senator casually remarking that we don’t need lots of environmental protection laws because “the Earth has been here for 6,000 years” and did just fine without them. That sound you’re hearing in the background are the collective howls and hushed expletives from science bloggers…
As our primary education should tell us, our planet is actually just a tad over 4.5 billion years old. It’s not just a random number scientists like to throw around for no good reason. The age of the Earth was actually a pretty big problem in geology and it took hundreds of years to refine exactly how old our world really is. Between the fact that asteroids from which all planets formed are almost all between 4.5 and 4.8 billion years old and how the proportions of radioactive elements in samples of the oldest terrestrial rocks indicate an age of 4.4 billion, it’s highly unlikely our planet formed just thousands of years ago. In fact, when we confirm the ages in a lunar sample and astronomical observations, it seems pretty clear that our planet has been around for a lot longer than a few millennia. The same uranium ore Sen. Allen wants to mine shows it very clearly with its 4.5 billion year half-life and its radioactive byproducts.
By contrast, the figure of 6,000 years comes from loose interpretations of certain Biblical commentary through the mid 1600s which places the start of the world on October 23rd, 4004 BCE. Since most religious scholars rejected the idea of the Old Testament being a literal timeline of Earth’s creation since ancient times, taking a more philosophical and metaphorical approach to reading its text, I’m sure you can see the problem in nailing down the day of creation based on random passages. Mainly, there’s not even a theological basis for a rough estimate of the planet’s age but it’s been mentioned enough and comes with enough vague quotes to feel like an authoritative figure to those who really want to believe in Biblical literalism for a validation of their views. To add insult to injury, not even Ken Ham’s Young Earth geologist believes the Earth is less than billions of years old which is why he writes about multi-billion year old rock formations when the boss isn’t looking.
And let’s not forget the really scary thing about a senator casually discarding about a century worth of science and intensive research, and using a number based on nothing more than murky theological musings as the backbone of her environmental policy. We pay her to do this. Not only that, but we pay her six figures a year as well as give her an office, a staff and healthcare for her family and aides. And instead of demanding that those who are supposed to lead our nation actually use evidence for their reasoning, we reelect them and keep the paychecks coming. As odd as it might seem, I would’ve had a lot more respect for Allen if she said that some of our environmental laws are a waste of effort because the Earth has been doing just fine for the last 4.5 GYA and will be fine after we’re gone. I might disagree on the technicalities, but at least her argument would’ve had a little tinge of actual science to it.