Re: Age of the Earth

Eli Turkel (turkel@icase.edu)
Thu, 31 Jul 1997 09:47:00 -0400

Several references have been given to books that scientifically try to
explain the origin of the universe in ways that conform with the Bible. My
personal favorite, given by Aryeh Kaplan among others, is that there
existed other worlds before ours and what we see is evidence from previous
worlds.

Other people have prsented reasons that the scientific evidence is not
reliable e.g. change in decay rates, the flood etc. I find all these
attempts to be scientifically meaningless. Let me stress that that the
evidence that both the age of the Earth and the Universe is measured in
billions of years comes from myriads of fields not one piece of evidence.
It is impossible to read any magazine like Scientific American, Discover
etc. not to mention more professional journals without encountering an
article in virtually every issue that assumes an age beyond 5758 years. As
some examples, archaelogy of ancient societies, discussions of ancient
species, dinosaurs etc., plate tectonics and earthquakes, sun cycles,
formation of rivers and mountains, origin of coal, and of course astronomy,
including stars that are millions and billions of light years away.. I have
read that trees have been found with over 6000 rings indicating they grew
6000 years ago. Assuming everything was destroyed in the flood there should
be no vegetation or evidence of societies more than 5000 years ago. I am
not an expert in the area of dating. However, my reading indicates that
this is not simply based on the radioactive decay of some material. There
are various methods of dating and they all more or less give similar
numbers. The distance of stars is based on brightness and parallex
calculations. There is currently a dispute as the age of some stars seems
to be older than the accepted age of the universe. However, this plays out
we are talking about 15 billion years plus or minus a few billion. To say
that all scientific evidence is off by 15 billion years is hard to believe.
Scientific studies began when people starting relying on experiments rather
than authoritative statements of ancients. Otherwise we would still rely on
Aristotelian physics. To go to a scientist and tell him that all physics is
wrong because Chazal said the world is about 5700 years old is to invite
ridicule. Maimonides assumes that all celestial bodies are living beings.
Are we to accept this because he was a great Rishon? There are many
statements in the Talmud that contradict known biological facts (see an
article by Shlomo Sternberg in the latest issue of BDD). Should we claim
that all medical investigation is wrong when it disagrees with a statement
in the Talmud?

The idea that G-d planted all these evidence to test us I find against all
Jewish reason. The idea that G-d would construct myriads of "facts" in the
universe all of which are lies merely to test modern man's belief in a
literal reading of the Torah is too much. The Torah is not a history book
or a scientific study but a book of laws and ethics. The other theory that
all of these were created at the time of Genesis to look as if they were
old is logically inconsistent. If every scientific test cannot distinguish
between something that is really old and something that just seems to be
old than the difference is meaningless. As the old saying goes " if it
looks like a noodle and tastes and feels like a noodle then it is a
noodle". If Adam was created as an adult the crucual question is whether he
had a memory of earlier years. Assuming he did not then he was a newborn
infant with just a bigger body.

Eli Turkel
turkel@math.tau.ac.il