Geology Reference
In-Depth Information
22nd October, which was a Saturday. This date, 4004 BC , for the
Creation of the World as determined by Ussher was then printed
as a note in Genesis, the first chapter of the Bible, whereupon
it became 'gospel' and accepted without question in Christian
teaching for several centuries.
Other religions had very di┬Čerent ideas. Zoroaster, a Persian
prophet who lived in the sixth century BC , believed that the world
had been in existence for over twelve thousand years; the Roman
writer Cicero relates that the venerable priesthood of Chaldea in
ancient Babylonia held the belief that the Earth emerged from
chaos two million years ago, while the old Brahmians of India
regarded Time and the Earth as eternal. It seems that Ussher's
famous estimate probably represents the shortest period ever
assigned to the age of the Earth. However, at that time
Christianity in Europe was a powerful force, and a literal inter-
pretation of the Bible dominated the understanding of science
and the way people looked at the natural world. The result was
a distorted explanation of geological phenomena as naturalists
tried to cram millions and millions of years of Earth history
into less than 6000 years, and those few individuals whose
observations suggested that this interpretation might not be
scientifically reliable were branded as heretics.
Another big geological problem for biblical scholars was
the explanation of fossils. For thousands of years, ever since the
Greeks and probably long before, people had observed objects
trapped in rocks and wondered what they could be. For exam-
ple, Leonardo Da Vinci, writing five hundred years ago, accu-
rately deduced how fossils are preserved by closely observing
what happened around him: he saw shapes in the rocks that
looked like shells found on the sea shore, he saw rivers carry-
ing large volumes of mud down to the sea, and by putting two
and two together he deduced that fossils were once organisms
living in the sea that had been buried by mud from rivers and
turned to stone. He made sense of the world around him with-
out needing to invoke magic vapours or the works of the devil,
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