To the left is a video in which Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen claims that the Earth is 6000 years old. That such a claim is made by a U.S. state senator shocking enough. Certainly, one would think that to hold such a position a person must have enough general knowledge to understand the basics of issues up for debate such that, when discussing radioactive materials as it relates to the states interests (here, uranium), one has some understanding of the general importance of the material being discussed. As Keith Olbermann* points out at the end of the video, it is the decay rate of uranium by way of uranium-lead dating that provides some of the best evidence we have for the age of the Earth, about 4.6 billion years old. By suggesting that the age of the Earth is off by a factor of 1,000,000, Ms. Allen here demonstrates that she has no such understanding, and, as such, her opinion on the subject cannot be trusted.
Were that the worst of the problems, that would be bad enough. But it isn’t. The worst problem is the reason she brings up the supposed age of the Earth. She does so as a way of justifying her disregarding any concerns held over the possible environmental issues that might arise from having a uranium mine. Whether or not such concerns are legitimate or appropriate is not the issue. Educated people can have differing opinions. Allen’s position is clearly that she is unwilling to even consider the issues that might be of concern because, “This Earth’s been here 6000 years…long before anybody had environmental laws, and somehow it hasn’t be done away with…” Clearly, then, the reason the age of the Earth is of any importance has to do with Allen’s belief that environmental regulations are unnecessary. One can only surmise that Allen believes that because the Earth has somehow managed to survive 6000 years without being destroyed by our activities, there is no reason to be concerned that it will ever be destroyed by our activities.**
Such a view is laughably absurd. Whatever the possible affects we may or may not be having on the environment of the planet on which we live, it is ridiculous to suggest that merely because something has not happened before, when the causal force was not in place, it will not happen in the future. As causal forces change, effects change. That much is obvious. As such, one is forced to ponder the true source of Allen’s view that considering the effect we will have on the environment is misguided.
At this point I am forced to make some assumptions, but I do not think they are without any foundation at all. Allen obviously takes the Bible as literal. By taking the Bible literally Allen need not have any concern that we are going to damage the environment to such a degree that we will no longer be able to survive. The Bible is quite clear that it will not be environmental catastrophe that is our undoing. The Antichrist will be the thing that “destroys the world.” By taking that to be the Truth, Allen and those like her need not have any concerns about the outcome of the Earth. After all, they know how the story ends: they have read the Book. And that kind of certainty about knowing how things will end is what allows people like Allen to have such a cavalier disregard for those things that might affect the habitability of the planet. And that is why the rest of us should fear them and deal with them cautiously.
People like Allen are terrifying. If you are somehow under the impression that this stuff does not matter, you are mistaken. You should be concerned. We all should be very concerned.
*I am quite aware of the mistake that Olbermann makes in conflating uranium-lead dating and radiocarbon dating. I am willing to let this slide as I think it is plausible that he was attempting to group all radiometric dating techniques together, though I will admit that it is more likely that he is actually showing his own ignorance about the issue while attacking Allen for the same thing. Regardless, he is not guilty of what I consider to be the greater issue, and, more importantly, he is not a legislator using his willful ignorance to push forward an agenda that affects millions of people.
**It might be worth pointing out that it is highly unlikely that anyone believes that our activities are like to actually bring about the destruction of the planet itself. Rather, it is that people are concerned that we will alter the climate to such a degree as to make it uninhabitable for us.