Knowing the exact age of the earth doesn't seem like a big deal. Whether you believe it’s billions of years old, or just a few thousand, it doesn’t change the fact that tomorrow you’ll have to wake up and go to work just the same.
So for most Wisconsinites, the fact that state Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, believes the world to be just 6,000 years old doesn’t matter much. Nor does it matter that, when pressed for an answer himself, Gov. Scott Walker dodged the question completely.
Kremer explained that the 6,000-year-old figure is “my biblical belief. Other people believe the same thing.” And that’s fine for him to espouse, or even promote.
The problem is that there is overwhelming evidence, beyond the biblical citations he supports, that says otherwise. And his misguided belief, if shared by enough lawmakers, could have implications for how our government is run.
Human writings alone contradict the 6,000-year figure, making it clear that people were writing things down long before “In the Beginning” was penned. The story of Noah and the flood isn’t even an original Bible tale: the legend of Utnapishtim and the Epic of Gilgamesh, which mirrors the flood story, predates Noah (and Genesis) by thousands of years.
Geological evidence further demonstrates that the world is much older than any preserved writings may come across. It was Clair Patterson, a scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project (and who would later become instrumental in the push against leaded gasoline), who first determined the precise age of the earth, using isotopic dating methods that have been repeated several times in the lab to verify authenticity. Patterson first told his mother of his discovery, then announced his findings publicly for the first time right here in the Badger State.
More scientific evidence discounts Kremer’s ideas. The stars themselves grant us answers for the age of the universe, for example. Stars that are millions of light years away, visible to us in the night sky, indicate that their light has traveled an equal amount of time. In fact, were the world and universe truly only 6,000 years old, we’d only be able to see but a small handful of stars in the Milky Way. We know that light from the opposite end of our galaxy is about 100,000 light years away — meaning, the light from them takes 100,000 years to reach us. And the farthest galaxy we know of is more than 13 billion light years away!
Neil deGrasse Tyson explained it best on the program Cosmos a few years ago: “To believe in a universe as young as six or 7,000 years old is to extinguish the light from most of the galaxy, not to mention the light from all the hundred billion other galaxies in the observable universe.”
So why does this all matter? Shouldn’t Kremer be free to express his views as he sees fit? Of course he should. His comments came after discussion of free speech rights, and in no way should those rights be diminished because he fails to accept science as a guiding principle for the age of the world and universe.
But that hits a much larger point: Kremer is rejecting science, which indicates that he’d also reject other notions that are based on facts and scientific evidence in order to appease his own personal beliefs.
Our government deserves leaders who are willing to listen to the science, decide for themselves what’s accurate and what’s questionable, and vote on legislation based on sound reasoning. Religious beliefs are fine to hold — but grasping onto beliefs that are demonstrably false, as Kremer demonstrates he’s willing to do, raises doubts about his capabilities to make reasoned judgments.
Chris Walker of Madison blogs regularly at Political Heat.
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