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There are a lot of people in the tiny town of Glen Rose who believe that the world is perhaps 6,000 or 7,000 years old. It might seem like a hard belief to maintain, especially when your town is criss-crossed by dinosaur tracks that are roughly 113m years older than that
Rhys Parsons's profile photoStephen Ertel's profile photoSteve Greene's profile photoStephen Whitecar's profile photo
This happens when you are in a sense, "trapped" in a situation that you can not control. You are not necessary taught wrong, but you are taught by people who are incompetent, and pass the same information on, and so on. This is no different than Warren Jeffs who controlled people.
as a muslim i belive that the world as it is, is about 6-7000 years old but some million years ago this same world maybe inhabited by other creatures. 
I would agree with +Piotr Azia that confirmation bias rules out any arguments successfully changing the minds of these people. What I find most interesting is just how polarized US society has become, and how regional that polarization is. Natural confirmation bias doesn't seem to be enough to explain this.
+Paul Hemmings What you might want to look into is cultural cues from people who are around you. If everyone else in town (publicly) believes X, there's a strong push to conform to that belief and to reject critiques of it. Even if X is utterly ridiculous and without merit, it is perceived as a portion of identity that becomes more difficult to reject than mere confirmation biases.

It is interesting to see that this has accelerated to make communities less and less diverse, particularly smaller ones, and this helps explain why there's a regional aspect to American polarization. It's not all that surprising really. Southern and frontier politics have always been somewhat distinct from the East coast.
How do we know for sure that the earth is 6,000 / 7,000 years old or even billions of years old? The answer is which ever age you believe, your belief is faith based.

Those that hold the 6,000 / 7,000 age believe based on faith in Biblical accounts.

Those that hold the earth is billions of years hold have their faith in scientific theories (not scientific fact).
+Stephen Ertel - an interesting comment, but one that doesn't fully appreciate the scientific method. Perhaps the argument hasn't been defined correctly. It would be more accurate to state that current physical evidence supports the theory that the earth is more than a few billion years old. If evidence ever appeared to counter than then theory would be changed. This is almost the complete opposite to "faith", which by its very nature has to ignore any contrary position or evidence.
Not sure I would go so far as to call that an interesting comment as it twists the meaning of "belief" and "theory" into nonconventional definitions.
The article states as fact that the dinosaur prints are 113m years older.

How can that be proven as a fact? It's an assumption based on a theory. You have to have faith that that theory is correct to believe the 113m year age on the prints.

The scientific method, as I understand it, states that tests to prove or disprove a theory have to be repeatable.

To my knowledge, there hasn't been a repeatable way of confirming something to be 113m years old. Carbon 14 dating is often used as a method of determining age. But Carbon 14 dating started in the early 1900's.

It's a theory that Carbon 14 dating works backwards for millions of years. It's not a fact, because it can't be tested.

Perhaps 113m years from now, it can be proven as fact. But today, it is based on theory.
I guess what you're saying is until we find a black monolith with the date inscribed on it buried 113 million years ago we can never be sure, as extrapolating carbon isotope decay over millions of years based on (repeatable) tests of decay observed over a mere one hundred years is debatable?

I'm not a nuclear physicist so I can't disprove that assertion.

Would that argument be similar though to saying that light travelling over millions of light years may change its speed dramatically for all we know, as we have only ever measured its speed over short distances?
Maybe. I think it would be more accurate to state my assertion this way:

It would also be like saying a 30 year old person starts measuring sediment at the mouth of the Lewis River (flows from Mt St Helens).

The 30 year old, could say during his entire life time, "x" amount of sediment has accumulated there. He could get an average for the 30 years, and then measure the total amount of sediment deposited.

He could then create a theory using the total amount of sediment divided by the yearly average measured over his entire life time, that river must have been depositing for "n" number of years.

But that wouldn't account for the volcanic eruption in 1980 which dumped a significant amount of ash into the river.

He would have had no way to know about that event without a recorded history, and his best guess on the age would be off.
I don't take issue with people that believe the dinosaur prints are 113 million years old. It's a reasonable belief based on faith in the age-dating theories. My assertion is that it is still faith based.
I guess my (final) summation would be that the constant velocity displayed by Carbon 14 isotope decay makes it a statistically viable method for calculating the age of something, even over millions of years. I wouldn't call that "faith" though, so maybe we are just arguing semantics. Great photo of the lioness though.
I've decided my last comment should be to thank the +The Economist for putting all these great articles up on G+. I've been an avid Economist reader for years now and it's fantastic to see them embrace social media. I just wish the quality of my comments matched the quality of their writing.
+Paul Hemmings I think you're referring to radiometric dating in general (such as the various uranium/[daughter], the rubidium/strontium, potassium/argon, argon/argon, etc. dating methods), and not to C14 specifically, because in fact the C14 method can only be practically used out to about 60,000 years or so because of its relatively "short" half-life of about 5,730 years. Of course, in terms of archaeology, C14 is certainly quite sufficient to blow young earth creationism out of the water. But in regard to the other radiometric dating methods, more appropriate to geological research, we have voluminous data about various geological strata which show that these features have been around, as you point out, for millions and billions of years. Young earth creationists are deeply into denial-of-reality mode in order to cling to their personal religious beliefs. It's really quite sad.
+Stephen Ertel This difference between belief and faith is that faith is held despite evidence that contradicts it. Belief in the scientific process is very different from faith in religion.

One might have faith that the world is 6,000 years old - because there is lots of evidence to suggest that it is much, much older than that. However, one might believe that dinosaurs existed millions of years ago, for which there is huge evidence.

Faith ignores facts. Belief is built on facts.

However, I also think it's really important not to be absolutist about scientific methods. They do not yield 'truth'; but they provide an important framework for our understanding of the world that has proved itself time and time again.
+Rhys Parsons Thank you. And that is my point. It is not a "truth" or a "fact' that those dinosaur prints were put there 135 million years ago. The article states that as a fact, and uses that fact to imply that those that have a different belief must be wrong because of the assumed "fact" or "truth".

Maybe those prints were put there 500 million years ago. Maybe they were put there 5000 years ago.

What we have is a hypothesis that they were put there 135 million years ago. But it can not be scientifically proven that they were--because we can't repeat it.
+Stephen Ertel Uh... The fact that the relevant geological data (stratigraphy) and physics data (radiometric dating) is rather more complex and voluminous than whether or not a fuel injector gives your engine more power does not change the fact that it's a fact that the fossil prints are far less than 500 million years old, and far more than 5,000 years old. Ignorance of the relevant scientific facts does not excuse false beliefs. Furthermore, people who boldly make such declarations as "Maybe those prints were put there 500 million years ago, maybe they were put there 5000 years ago" demonstrate two things: (1) They don't know what they're talking about (that's the ignorance of the relevant scientific details), and (2) they possess a nefarious attitude - in this context, typically motivated by personal beliefs in false religious doctrines - that it's okay to make bold declarations despite the fact that if they were to be genuinely honest about it they'd have to say they didn't really know enough about the subject to be making such declarations in the first place.

Don't take this as a personal attack, because it is not. I'm just saying it like it is.
Actually that did seem like a personal attack to me. But sometimes saying "you don't know enough to know that you don't know what you're talking about" is an accurate statement. I'd already seen the meanings of "theory", particularly in the scientific context, and "belief" grossly misinterpreted throughout and decided it was best to ignore this behavior rather than challenge it openly. I don't think it should be our job to freely dispense the education in science and scientific methods that we apparently have failed to provide at public expense up until now. As a further problem, an underlying law (in Tennessee) that has spawned this debate does not appear to be questioning the provision of that science education as it relates to evolution in particular. What it is doing is acknowledging that a lot of people don't understand this science and are angry or perceive controversy. Given that there are a lot of places where people are angry and perceive controversy in other fields that have far more immediate bearing on public policy than the indirect effect of how we teach a particular subject within overall science courses at the junior high level, I tend to worry a little more about those.

This sort of argument is annoying certainly, and its commonality is depressing (when one considers it as part of a broader problem of education and science as in need of great attention for which this is but one symptom among many), but it's not like a misguided belief in creationism has to have a great deal of immediate impact on anyone's life. A misguided belief in drug interdiction tactics or the supposed perils of immigration or international trade does have impacts on many people's lives.
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