On this week's Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Neil deGrasse Tyson looked at how we know that the earth is 4.5 billion years old. It's an interesting story, but not quite as interesting as what that discovery lead to: a decades-long fight between industry, the government, and scientists over the dangers of emitting lead into the environment.
"Duck soup my ass"
Abby: Well, as has become a recurring theme, this episode directly contrasts a young-earth creationism theory with the major scientific achievements that disprove it. This time, it's Archbishop Ussher's chronology of the earth's age based on a literal reading of the Bible. Basically, Ussher added up all the lives and generations as written in scripture and concluded that the Earth was created on Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC, just around 6 pm.
Danielle: I love how elegantly he dismisses this theory. The last time Tyson alluded to young-earth creationism on the show, he explained that for a young-earth timeline to be true the edges of the visible universe would be have to be much closer to Earth -- and wondered who would want to believe in a smaller universe. Zing.
Abby: Right. Tyson has more or less provided us with a simple visual of what a young-earth universe would have to look like. That universe is just a fraction of the size of the Milky Way alone, and otherwise is much less wondrous than what we have observed to be the reality. There's no room for all those Kepler earth-like planets in a young universe.
Danielle: I liked how Tyson quickly explained the origins of the young earth theory, and then — with the help of a deconstructed Grand Canyon — explained why it’s impossible. Without ever allowing that a young earth is possible, as Bill Nye arguably did when he participated in a creationism debate a few months ago, Tyson simultaneously presents and destroys the possibly of a 6,000 year old earth.