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History of radiometric dating

It was not ruled out, per se, but it was not necessary. In the new science, however, rational explanation was desirable. In 1640 Ussher produced his famous calculation that the Earth was created in 4004 BC.

In 1637 Descartes produced a cosmogony that was highly influential for more than a century. It was not in their estimates of the age of the Earth - Descartes retained the biblical date.

Descartes, however, attempted to discern a physical history of the Earth.

His account was plausible by the immature standards of the Science of his times; however it quite definitely did not match the Biblical account of a completed creation in six days.

If, in the year AD 1600, you had asked an educated European how old the planet Earth was and to recount its history he would have said that it was about 6000 years old and that its ancient history was given by the biblical account in Genesis.

If you asked the same question of an educated European in AD 1900 you would have received a quite different answer.

In this period a number of comprehensive cosmogonies were proposed.

These were long on armchair speculation and short on substantive supporting evidence.

In short, Genesis was an allegory and not literal history.

Notable observations included: ran from about 1780-1850.

By the end of the 18'th century it was clear that the Earth had a long and varied history. The major debate was between the catastrophists, e.g., Cuvier, who held that the history of Earth was dominated by major catastrophic revolutions and the uniformitarians, e.g.

The physical models were open to question and, in retrospect, were naive. It became quite clear that many areas of the Earth had alternated between being land and being covered by seas, that there had been extensive slow sedimentation, that the mountains had not been created in situ as is but rather had a long history of slow deformation, and that long periods of erosion had shaped the Earth everywhere.

By the early 1800's it was generally accepted that the Earth had a long history. The uniformatarians (Hutton 1788, Lyell 1830) pictured the Earth as being indefinitely old.

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The selections and comments here are not a complete exposition of the works of the authors mentioned; rather they were chosen to illustrate and exemplify changing perspectives over time.