Chapter 5 : "How Old is the Earth?"
The Bible provides a chronology of history that extends back to the creation of Adam and Eve and to the creation of the earth. From this chronology it is possible to determine the date of the creation and hence the age of the earth. Archbishop Ussher of Armagh (1581-1657) had calculated the year of creation to be 4004 B.C. If that was not precise enough, Dr. Lightfoot of Cambridge worked out that the exact time when God completed His creation was 9 a.m. on Friday, October 23, 4004 B.C. (see the book Thinking about God by Sr. R. W. Maqsood, p. 63). Many religious groups and sects have used this date in predicting precise dates for the end of the world, but all such predictions have so far proved erroneous. The one fact against them is that the world is still intact and we are very much alive. One reason all of those predictions failed is that they are calculated from a false date of creation. If 4004 B.C. was the year of creation, that would make the earth less than six thousand years old. No scientist can accept this today.
Christians are not bound by the conclusions that Archbishop Ussher or Dr. Lightfoot drew from the Bible. In fact, some Geologists have a bit of fun every year on Archbishop Ussher's birthday. However, in defense of these men, we must keep in mind that they did attempt to use reason and scholarship to solve a problem - instead of forcing their interpretation into a text which is irrelevant to the argument - as Shabir is doing in this series.
Modern scientists estimate that the earth is 4.5 billion years old with a maximum error of 2.2 % (see The Bible, the Qur'an and Science, p. 148). Knowing this, many educated people lost faith in religion. They naturally felt that the Word of God should not contain errors of this kind. Others maintain that the Word of God was meant to teach only that truth which God wanted put into the scriptures for our salvation. It is therefore immaterial if the book contains historical or scientific errors. As the scientist Galileo put it, the Bible is there to teach people how to go to heaven; it is not there to teach people how the heavens go. Some maintain, therefore, that it is understandable that the book will contain some historical and scientific errors since it was written by human beings who lived a long time ago and did not share our modern knowledge.
Do scientists agree on the age of the earth? Shabir tells us that the earth is 4.5 billion years old while I have a text which says that it is 4.6 billion years old. In fact, during the last 130 years, the age of the earth (as assumed by scientists) has doubled at a rate of once every 20 years. Since 1900, the estimate of the age of the earth has increased by a factor of 100!
Shabir now uses an interesting variation of the argumentum ad ignorantiam to "prove" that the Qur'an is true. In other words, the Qur'an is correct about an issue simply because it does not mention the issue and risk being wrong! This argument is fallacious and very silly. Imagine if I claimed to be the best attorney in my city because I have never lost a case - in spite of the fact that I have never presented a case in a Court of Law!
Incidentaly Mr. Ally, the Qur'an contains numerous historical errors. For example, Sura 6:146 tells us:
One error in this passage is that the Hebrews were not called "Jews" when the Law was given to Moses. This term would appear about a thousand years in the future! Other historical problems are found in the section on Qur'an contradictions.
The Qur'an does, however tell us that God measured the sustenance of the earth in four periods (Qur'an 41:10). As to what could be the significance of these four periods, Dr. Bucaille comments as follows: "One could perhaps see in them the four geological periods described by modern science, with man's appearance, as we already know, taking place in the quaternary era. This is purely a hypothesis since nobody has an answer to this question" (The Bible, the Qur'an and Science, p. 150).
One could also compare translations of the text! Ali and Pickthall translate this as follows:
Only Shakir uses the term "periods". If Allah were attempting to write scientific knowledge into the Qur'an, why was He not more specific? This vague reference to "periods" invites a great amount of speculation and nearly any meaning can be poured into this term - as Mr. Ally has demonstrated!
How did the author of the Qur'an avoid the mistake in chronology committed by so many others, and believed in by so many others even up to our present day? Could a man in the seventh century have known that the earth was much more than six thousand years old? How could he come by this modern knowledge unless God was revealing knowledge to him? God tells us that the Qur'an is His book and not the work of any man (see Qur'an 10:37).
The fact is that Muhammad did not know! More on Muhammad's ignorance of the details of creation can be found in Chapter 3 : "Avoiding the Mistakes of Genesis".
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