I’ve run into more than a few fundamentalist Christians who have insisted that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.
“Then please explain the results of radiometric dating,” I typically ask, adding that even carbon dating can accurately date materials up to 60,000 years old, far older than 6,000 years.
Most modern savvy Young-Earthers won’t fight me on the general usefulness or accuracy of carbon dating. Instead, they will insist that A) God has created an Earth that only looks like it is billions of years old, and B) I need to have faith. That is how they would explain everything older than 6,000 years old, including the Old Tjikko tree in Sweden, which certainly appears to be 9,550 years old. God must have transplanted it from another universe when he made this universe.
The Young-Earthers thus offer an provocative argument. I don’t believe it, but there’s would be no way for me to disprove it. They do not offer any way to falsify their claim (a topic on which I recently posted). In that way this young Earth argument reminds me of idea that I’m actually a head in a jar and that I’m dreaming all of this stuff that I think I’m experiencing. On many days, it’s an argument that brings to mind the idea of multiverses. The proposal can’t be disproved, though one can certainly doubt the premises as far-fetched, as an obvious violation of Occam’s Razor.
The reason I’m bringing up this topic is that I recently discovered that there is a phrase that describes the claim that God created the universe such that it only looks much older than it is. I’m referring to the “Omphalos hypothesis,” and there is a Wikipedia entry on the topic. Here’s the Wikipedia description:
God must have created the Earth with mountains and canyons, trees with growth rings, Adam and Eve with hair, fingernails, and navels (omphalos is Greek for “navel”), and that therefore no evidence that we can see of the presumed age of the earth and universe can be taken as reliable.
In the past, I might have gotten frustrated with jury-rigged explanations like the Omphalos hypothesis. Nowadays, I take a different approach. I assert that my God told me that the universe is actually billions of years old. As I understand algebra, the opposing Gods then cancel each other out, and then we can get back to discussing carbon dating or counting rings on extraordinarily old trees (here’s a whole bunch of them). Methuselah, the oldest living non-clonal tree was apparently not washed away in the Great Flood (according to this Christian site, the Great Flood “began approximately 4,359 years ago in the year 1656 AM or 2348 BC.” If you insist on learning the methodology for these numbers, Answers in Genesis would be happy to sell it to you). Perhaps Noah anchored the ark to it, assuming that it was tall enough to stick out of the water.
So little time. So many questions.
Note: If you’d like to know more about the debate of whether Adam and Eve had belly buttons, a Christian church was once formed as a result of that debate.