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Age Of The Earth Quotes (10 quotes)

As there is not in human observation proper means for measuring the waste of land upon the globe, it is hence inferred, that we cannot estimate the duration of what we see at present, nor calculate the period at which it had begun; so that, with respect to human observation, this world has neither a beginning nor an end.
Abstract of a Dissertation... Concerning the System of the Earth, its Duration, and Stability (1785), 28.
Science quotes on:  |  Measurement (148)  |  Observation (418)

Geologists have not been slow to admit that they were in error in assuming that they had an eternity of past time for the evolution of the earth's history. They have frankly acknowledged the validity of the physical arguments which go to place more or less definite limits to the antiquity of the earth. They were, on the whole, disposed to acquiesce in the allowance of 100 millions of years granted to them by Lord Kelvin, for the transaction of the whole of the long cycles of geological history. But the physicists have been insatiable and inexorable. As remorseless as Lear's daughters, they have cut down their grant of years by successive slices, until some of them have brought the number to something less than ten millions. In vain have the geologists protested that there must somewhere be a flaw in a line of argument which tends to results so entirely at variance with the strong evidence for a higher antiquity, furnished not only by the geological record, but by the existing races of plants and animals. They have insisted that this evidence is not mere theory or imagination, but is drawn from a multitude of facts which become hopelessly unintelligible unless sufficient time is admitted for the evolution of geological history. They have not been able to disapprove the arguments of the physicists, but they have contended that the physicists have simply ignored the geological arguments as of no account in the discussion.
'Twenty-five years of Geological Progress in Britain', Nature, 1895, 51, 369.
Science quotes on:  |  Controversy (16)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Baron William Thomson Kelvin (50)

I admitted, that the world had existed millions of years. I am astonished at the ignorance of the masses on these subjects. Hugh Miller has it right when he says that 'the battle of evidences must now be fought on the field of the natural sciences.'
Letter to Burke A. Hinsdale, president of Hiram College (10 Jan 1859), commenting on the audience at Garfield's debate with William Denton. Quoted in John Clark Ridpath, The Life and Work of James A. Garfield (1881), 80.
Science quotes on:  |  Evidence (157)  |  Geology (187)  |  Ignorance (190)  |  Hugh Miller (14)  |  Natural Science (62)

I came into the room, which was half dark, and presently spotted Lord Kelvin in the audience and realised that I was in for trouble at the last part of my speech dealing with the age of the earth, where my views conflicted with his. To my relief, Kelvin fell fast asleep, but as I came to the important point, I saw the old bird sit up, open an eye and cock a baleful glance at me! Then a sudden inspiration came, and I said Lord Kelvin had limited the age of the earth, provided no new source (of energy) was discovered. That prophetic utterance refers to what we are now considering tonight, radium! Behold! the old boy beamed upon me.
Speech at the Royal Institution (1904). Quoted in Arthur S. Eve, Rutherford (1939), 107.
Science quotes on:  |  Baron William Thomson Kelvin (50)  |  Radioactivity (26)  |  Radium (19)

If catastrophic geology had at times pushed Nature to almost indecent extremes of haste, uniformitarian geology, on the other hand, had erred in the opposite direction, and pictured Nature when she was 'young and wantoned [sic] in her prime', as moving with the lame sedateness of advanced middle age. It became necessary, therefore, as Dr. [Samuel] Haughton expresses it, 'to hurry up the phenomena'.
The Age of the Earth and other Geological Studies (1908), 303.
Science quotes on:  |  Catastrophe (17)  |  Err (4)  |  Extreme (36)  |  Geology (187)  |  Haste (4)  |  Hurry (5)  |  Lame (3)  |  Middle Age (6)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Opposite (39)  |  Phenomenon (218)  |  Uniformitarianism (7)  |  Wanton (2)

Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is, I dunno. If The Eiffel Tower were now to represent the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; and anybody would perceive that the skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno.
[Declaiming Alfred Russel Wallace's 'anthropocentric' theory, that the universe was created specifically for the evolution of mankind.]
'Was the World Made for Man?' (1903) in What is Man?: and Other Philosophical Writings (1973), 106. Twain used the age of the earth accepted in his time; it is now estimated as 4,500 million years. Man's origin is now estimated as 250,000 years.
For the complete essay, see Was The World Made For Man?.
Science quotes on:  |  Eiffel Tower (9)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Mankind (196)  |  Paint (17)  |  Universe (563)  |  Alfred Russel Wallace (28)

Science is complex and chilling. The mathematical language of science is understood by very few. The vistas it presents are scary—an enormous universe ruled by chance and impersonal rules, empty and uncaring, ungraspable and vertiginous. How comfortable to turn instead to a small world, only a few thousand years old, and under God's personal; and immediate care; a world in which you are His peculiar concern.
The 'Threat' of Creationism. In Ashley Montagu (ed.), Science and Creationism (1984), 192.
Science quotes on:  |  Chance (122)  |  Comfort (42)  |  Complexity (80)  |  Creationist (15)  |  Fear (113)  |  God (454)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Religion (210)  |  Science (1699)  |  Universe (563)

The age of the earth was thus increased from a mere score of millions [of years] to a thousand millions and more, and the geologist who had before been bankrupt in time now found himself suddenly transformed into a capitalist with more millions in the bank than he knew how to dispose of ... More cautious people, like myself, too cautious, perhaps, are anxious first of all to make sure that the new [radioactive] clock is not as much too fast as Lord Kelvin's was too slow.
1921 British Association for the Advancement of Science symposium on 'The Age of the Earth'. In Nature (1921), 108, 282.
Science quotes on:  |  Anxiety (15)  |  Bankrupt (2)  |  Capitalist (6)  |  Caution (15)  |  Clock (26)  |  Fast (24)  |  Geologist (42)  |  Increase (107)  |  Baron William Thomson Kelvin (50)  |  Radioactivity (26)  |  Slow (36)  |  Time (439)  |  Transformation (47)

The great age of the earth will appear greater to man when he understands the origin of living organisms and the reasons for the gradual development and improvement of their organization. This antiquity will appear even greater when he realizes the length of time and the particular conditions which were necessary to bring all the living species into existence. This is particularly true since man is the latest result and present climax of this development, the ultimate limit of which, if it is ever reached, cannot be known.
Hydrogéologie (1802), trans. A. V. Carozzi (1964), 77.
Science quotes on:  |  Evolution (482)  |  Origin Of Life (32)

Words are to the Anthropologist what rolled pebbles are to the Geologist—Battered relics of past ages often containing within them indelible records capable of intelligible interpretion—and when we see what amount of change 2000 years has been able to produce in the languages of Greece & Italy or 1000 in those of Germany, France & Spain we naturally begin to ask how long a period must have lapsed since the Chinese, the Hebrew, the Delaware & the Malesass had a point in common with the German & Italian & each other.—Time! Time! Time!—we must not impugn the Scripture Chronology, but we must interpret it in accordance with whatever shall appear on fair enquiry to be the truth for there cannot be two truths. And really there is scope enough: for the lives of the Patriarchs may as reasonably be extended to 5000 or 50000 years apiece as the days of Creation to as many thousand millions of years.
Letter to Charles Lyell, 20 Feb 1836, In Walter F. Cannon, 'The Impact of Uniformitarianism', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 1961, 105, 308.
Science quotes on:  |  Language (155)  |  Truth (750)

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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