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Creationism, or the set of beliefs claiming that the universe, Earth, and all of its inhabitants were created by a deity less than 10,000 years ago (the “young earth” variety), is scientifically untenable. We have no evidence to suggest that the Earth is so young, or that organisms have persisted in their present form since time’s beginning.

It is interesting then, to take the creationist position and compare it to the scientific one, to see just how divergent the conclusions are. Granted, the creationist position does not accept the timeline proposed by geology, biology, and archaeology, substituting a more “pop into existence” approach. But what if the Earth were only 6,000 years old? How would it’s history scale down?

As a thought experiment, here is a timescale of Earth’s history, based on the 6,000 year time frame of creationism:

Based on this scale:

  • Modern humans evolved just in time to vote for Barack Obama’s first term.
  • The last dinosaur died a mere 85 years ago, spoiling the premier of Alfred Hitchcock’s first film.
  • Earth’s most extreme mass extinction event, where up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species went extinct, occurred during the Ottoman Empire’s siege of Vienna.
  • As fish evolved and radiated in the Denovian period, King Henry the VIII was wrapping up his reign in the English Monarchy.
  • The Italian renaissance was interrupted by the appearance of hard-bodied organisms during the Cambrian Explosion.

Of course, if we try to fit what we know to be scientifically accurate within what is proposed by creationism (which denies this accuracy), the conclusion is conceptually bizarre. By starting with two contradictory premises we will get hardly useful conclusions. Though the above scale does not depict the tenets of creationism, it does show how important it is to understand the lengths of time we are dealing with in biology and other related sciences. It is understandable to me that it would be hard to accept the idea that the diversity of life sprung up from an ancient common ancestor if 80 human lifetimes were all I had to work with. Grasping geologic time, i.e., billions of years, makes evolution’s slow plod of adaptation sound much more feasible to those unfamiliar with it.

Hardcore creationists do not accept evolution (by definition), and disagree with modern geologic dating. Therefore I doubt that this thought experiment will impact them. But recognizing this temporal mismatch is important because even casual, “old Earth” creationists often do not take their position to its logical conclusions. Creationism’s focus is mainly on refuting evolutionary theory, but it too conflicts with many historical, geological, and archeological findings.

In science we look for evidence that helps generate hypotheses, which in turn form the foundation of theories. Every theory we have coaxed out of nature so far indicates that the canyons we see, the diversity of life we observe, require orders of magnitude more time than is allowed in a “young Earth” worldview. Not only this, but these same theories make a “pop into existence” view, the main tenet of creationism, highly implausible at the most and unnecessary at the least.

Simply put, we don’t need the “pop into existence” hypothesis to explain anything we have yet observed. Creationism clumsily uses a sledgehammer to fit a square peg in a round hole, leaving a dented mess of history.

[Scale via I Love Charts]