Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
...tomorrow is the birthday of the entire universe. That’s because some folks credit 17th Century Anglican Bishop James Ussher’s stab at figuring out the exact date of the creation of the whole universe. He nailed it down to October 23, 4004 BC. Some say he pinpoints it at 9:00 AM, but Steven Jay Gould says noon in this article.
I like this piece. Gould was an atheist and a Darwinist, but he maintained a respectful attitude toward believers that is refreshing in these days of New Atheists who think that shouting “SCIENCE!” like Thomas Dolby lends an authority to their philosophical gruntings. Gould has the moxie to write an article in defense of Ussher rather than simple pull the cheap stunt (now so common in pop science circles) of pointing to some person who lived a long time ago and mocking them for not living now and being privvy to information we have. He praises Ussher for doing what a good naturalist and thinker should try to do: make sense of the evidence that is available to him. It’s a generous-hearted take on Ussher and I wish the New Atheists would stop their bigoted braying long enough to learn from Gould magnanimous approach.
In case you are wondering, I don’t think the world is 6000 years old. i think God created the universe roughly 13.5 billion years ago, that the earth came into being about 4.5 billion years ago, and that evolution is a perfectly fine way for God to do his business of making life on earth. In short, I don’t think the overwhelming testimony of the sciences is a vast conspiracy. What difficulties I have with evolution are not, for the most part, theological. That gets me in trouble with fundamentalists both Catholic and Protestant, but not with Holy Church, I so I don’t worry about it. In essential things, unity’ in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.