Thursday, November 7, 2013

No, It Is Not News That Pat Robertson Thinks the Earth Is Older Than 6,000 Years

In November 2012, in answer to a viewer question on whether the Bible allows for the existence of dinosaurs (spoiler alert: apparently, it does), Pat Robertson dismissed the idea that the Earth is only 6,000 years old (via Right Wing Watch):
“Look, I know people will probably try to lynch me when I say this, but Bishop Ussher—God bless him!—wasn't inspired by the Lord when he said it all took 6,000 years.  It just didn't.

And you go back in time, you've got radiocarbon dating, you've got all these things, and you've got the carcasses of dinosaurs frozen in time… And so there was a time that these giant reptiles were on the earth, and it was before the time of the Bible.  So don't try to cover it up and make like everything was 6,000 years.  That's not the Bible.  That's Bishop Ussher.  And so if you fight revealed science you're going to lose your children, and I believe in telling them the way it was.”
Turns out that for once, Pat Robertson had a prophecy come true, because in June, the Young Earth creationists over at Creation Today lynched him (okay, maybe not lynched exactly) for what he said:
“Do you assume, then, that Archbishop James Ussher had no actual evidence for his proposition when he wrote such a big book?  People talk about this ‘six thousand years that Archbishop Ussher came up with.’  Pat Robertson is claiming, then, that the 6,000 years comes from Ussher's book, not from the Bible.  The point is, where did Ussher get his figure of 6,000 years?… [Y]ou will find that he takes those dates from the Bible!  So the figure of 6,000 years comes from the Bible.  Now then, Pat Robertson, are you claiming that the Bible is not inspired, when the Bible clearly tells us that the world is 6,000 years old?”
The Bible clearly tells us.  I mean, it's so obvious that Archbishop Ussher had to write such a big book to explain it!  Anyway, they go on with a lot more creationist b.s.—most of which turns out to be nitpicking Robertson's choices of terminology—but you get the idea.  (If you keep watching the video, you get to hear one of the creationists actually invoke Occam's Razor in support of God and the Bible and creationism.  Take that, Carl Sagan!  Take that, Jodie Foster!)

As I said, that aired in June, but for some reason The Raw Story only found it yesterday:

Now, I'm not saying this isn't news because The Raw Story is just discovering a spat from 5 months ago (based on a comment made a year ago)—although curiously their article doesn't mention any of these dates, so their readers naturally assume this all just happened.  And why online news syndicators think it's fresh.

No, I'm saying this isn't news because I'm seeing people treating Pat's comment as something new, a "rare moment of sanity" probably akin to recent episodes of incongruous tolerance where he supported legalizing marijuana or said he was fine with sex-change operations.  (Although he more recently compared transgender people to gelding a stallion, so let's not give him any points for that last one.)  Or, as Addicting Info put it: 
Remember when Pat Robertson admitted that Earth is older than 6,000 years?

The civil war between conservatives seems to now be raging within the Christian Right. And 700 Club host Pat Robertson is the first to be attacked as not Christian enough. It all goes back to November 2012 when Robertson dismissed the notion that Earth is only 6,000 years old. In a rare moment of sanity, Robertson told a female viewer that dinosaurs pre-date humans and that she should not deny science.
No, the age-old Young Earth vs. Old Earth Creationist dispute is not a brand new "civil war" that threatens to tear apart the Christian Right.  No, Christian activists are not "turning their backs" on Robertson now en masse.  (Also, maybe don't title your blog post "Creationists Turn on Pat Robertson" because there's more than one way to read that.)  If all the different fundamentalist wings waged political war over every one of their doctrinal disputes, there'd be no organized Religious Right to speak of.

In truth, this is nothing new.  Pat Robertson has long rejected Young Earth creationism and its 6,000-year-old creation, and has long accepted a billions-year-old Earth and universe.  It was over 10 years ago, in 2002, when he castigated the founder of Patrick Henry University for requiring teachers to believe and teach a six-day creation (Warning—creationist link!):
“We could be looking at a solar day; we could be looking at a universal day; we could be looking at a galactic day. It doesn’t have to be one revolution of the Earth… Genesis was never intended as a science textbook.”
And back in 1997, Pat commented approvingly on his Christian Broadcasting Network's story of the lineage of England's 9,000-year-old Cheddar Man:

But hey, 9,000 years is small potatoes!  Let's go for the big money: here's Pat Robertson casually tossing off 500 million years, like it's no big theological deal, in this interview with Orthodox Jewish, MIT-trained physicist and creationist (yup, you read all that right) Gerald L. Schroeder:

(Masochists can watch the full 14-minute interview with Schroeder here.  I don't have the capacity to rebut Dr. Schroeder, but maybe one day I can get the interview in front of the likes of Richard Dawkins or Neil deGrasse Tyson and bait them into mentioning my blog on their million-follower Twitter accounts recruit them to respond.)

So what have we learned today?  That just because you're only now finding out about something, that doesn't make it "news."

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