Neo-Ussherianism gets its name from James Ussher, Archbishop of the Church of Armagh. Many who hold to his ideas do not even know who he is, but that is a common thing in theology. I wasn’t aware of who John Calvin was until after I had already accepted many Calvinist ideas. Many Arminians today are convinced they aren’t Arminian because they differ in one area or a few. To continue this trend, if you call someone a Neo-Ussherian, they will probably ask what you mean. For all intents and purpose, Neo-Ussherian can be rightly applied to any Young-Earth Creationist, even if they disagree with a few minor points in Ussher’s chronology or theology.
Ussher popularized the idea of counting back the genealogies to see how old the Earth was. Using this method, he gives us an exact date of the beginning of the world. That date is October 23rd, 4004 B.C.
But here is the most interesting part, Ussher did not think the Bible outright taught the age of the Earth, but merely hinted at it through the genealogies. Ussher used contemporary scientific, chronological, historical and biblical scholarship to arrive at his conclusion. In his day, this was considered a serious piece of scholarship and despite disagreeing with it (hindsight is 20-20) it remains the best defense of the Young-Earth Creationist position as far as totality of argument goes.
That being said, Neo-Ussherians today reject this type of inquiry, for it would lead them away from thinking the world was 6,000 years old. The commitment to this view has become dogma, so much so, that many will say you aren’t Christian if you don’t accept it.
This makes conversation between Christians on this issue rather difficult, because your faith is invalidated because you don’t accept Ussher’s chronology.
Grand Canyon In 5 Minutes
Back in the day, there was a popular Neo-Ussherian Youtuber by the name of VenomFangX. He most notably made the claim in defense of a world wide flood that the grand canyon could have been formed in five minutes. Thankfully, I haven’t heard this claimed by anyone for years, but it’s still worthy to address.
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long. To travel that distance in five minutes, you’d have to be traveling 5 times the speed of sound.
The Grand Canyon has had a few theories on how it came to form. None of the three major theories support a Young-Earth creation account. At best, the Grand Canyon took six million years to form where it is today. Though currently, It may be older than we thought, as a study has claimed that it could be 17 million years old.
The Search For Water On Other Planets Is Futile
This was another claim made by VenomFangX in particular, but other Neo-Ussherians have used it as well. That is, until an express probe took pictures of water on Mars. Surely, since people believe the earth is flat and that the moon landing was fake, I’m sure some think the water on Mars is just another myth from Hollywood to discount the Bible.
The popular Neo-Ussherian website “Answers in Genesis” has an article where they talk about ice ages. You may wonder, when did the ice age occur if the Earth is only 6,000 years old? Well, AiG has the answer for you.
AiG tries to squeeze the ice age into the Bible but fails. The Pleistocene Epoch’s events and organisms prevents a real challenge to fit into a YEC timeline, without some special pleading or God of the gaps level of argumentation.
Summarizing AiG’s paper on this topic, the following timeline is their proposal.
- 2350 B.C.—Noah’s flood
- 2350 to 2250 B.C.—Antarctica becomes covered by forests, then gets covered by its ice cap.
- 2250 to 2000 B.C.—Ice age on the rest of Earth.
- approx. 2300 B.C.—First mastadons.
- 2250 B.C.—First human tools in archeological record. Tower of Babel.
- approx 2200 B.C.—First woolly mammoths.
- approx 2200 to 2100 B.C.—Age of the Neanderthals.
- approx 2150 B.C.—Humans migrate into Australia.
- approx 2100 B.C.—Humans migrate into North America.
- 2000 B.C.—End of the Ice age. Abram born.
You can read an in-depth analysis of this timeline here.
There are several problems with this timeline.
Their hypothesis does not account for the rapid melting of the ice caps, it also doesn’t account for several things. I will paraphrase some of the research done by Kelvin Nelstead. You can read his critique of the timeline here.
Ancient Soils– In the Pleistocene there are instances where there are multiple, stacked paleosols. Some exposures of the wind-borne Palouse deposits have as many as 19 soils on top of each other, this implies alternating periods of silt accumulation and development, this would take time. The horizons include animal burrows and root casts, which also indicate to us that it was a long time.
HyperEvolution– According to the Neo-Ussherians, there was a rapid diversification of life after the flood. There may have even been a few thousand kinds on Noah’s Ark, but these evolved into the tens of thousands of species that were on Earth during the period. They even give an example of diversification of the “elephant kind” into elephants, mastodons, and woolly mammoths. Just how long would that have taken? This all happened between 2350 and 2200 B.C? Such an evolutionary explosion that would make a punctuated equilibrium advocate blush. This is especially true for mastodons, who have a very different tooth structure from elephants. The Young-Earth Creationist unknowingly argues for a level of Evolution that doesn’t seem to be physically possible.
Pre-Historic Humans– The Neo-Ussherians pack in all of human prehistory such as the Neanderthals, into the time from the flood (2350 B.C according to their time chart) to Abraham (2000 B.C.). If you look at the poster I linked, Neanderthals were around for roughly 100 years according to them. The Neo-Ussherians in this case would have to completely ignore archeological sites with multiple levels of habitation.
This is just a few examples of Neo-Ussherians making wild and inaccurate claims, which is a reason why people laugh at them.
Presuppositionalism Over Science
Presuppositionalism becomes a blinder to new scientific discovery when used improperly. An example of this is Dr. Jason Lisle, who wrote a book titled “Taking Back Astronomy.”
It is no wonder that Neo-Ussherians look up to him, he has some hefty credentials. He recieved his Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Colorado Boulder. He earned his undergraduate degree from Ohio Wesleyan University summa cum laude with a double-major in physics and astronomy and a minor in mathematics. His postgraduate research was on solar dynamics, utilizing NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) to monitor the surface of the sun. His dissertation “Probing the Dynamics of Solar Supergranulation and its Interaction with Magnetism” is available from the University of Colorado and he has also published numerous papers in legitimate scientific journals concerning convection cells in the sun.
With such an impressive resume, you’d expect nothing but the best. Dr. Lisle is an amazing scientist, however, I think he lets presuppositionalism get in the way of his scientific thinking. I will show you what I mean.
Dr. Lisle argues that we shouldn’t change what scripture says in light of new scientific evidence (pg.37) because in reality, that evidence would not be actual evidence, because the Bible is true.
Ironically, Dr. Lisle says that the majority of Geology and astronomy textbooks are guilty of circular reasoning because they don’t have a standard. (pg. 41) He even goes on to say “Many scientists believe the world is old because they believe most other scientists think the world is old.” This is remarkably simplistic and a silly line of argumentation.
Maybe if you said that most laymen simply believe the earth is old because they went to COSI once, I’d believe you. But to say that scientists are just going with the flow of the other scientists seems unlikely. Dr. Lisle has peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals, he should know that scientists don’t just try to prove things they also try to debunk them. If the age of the earth was so easy to debunk, someone besides a fringe group of scientists would have done it.
Here’s the thing, let’s say the Earth is 6,000 years old. Why would scientists hide it or not believe it? Just because the Earth is young doesn’t necessarily mean Christianity is true. If there was evidence of a young-earth, any respectable scientist would accept it as true. I think Neo-Ussherians honestly assume that secular scientists either are dishonest people or are blinded to the truth.
But this results in unproveable claims and conspiracy theories, rather than rigorous scientific research.
Dr. Lisle also says that “the big bang is secular speculation….an alternative to the Bible”
This is nonsense. The Big bang isn’t speculation, it’s a theory. Lisle paints it as if it’s just a hypothesis. Some atheists may use the Big Bang as an excuse to not believe the Bible, but the Big Bang isn’t a competitor to the Bible, the Big Bang is a competitor to Neo-Ussherianism, the longer you conflate the two, the more trouble you get yourself in.
The most astonishing claim and why I can understand why some would laugh at even an otherwise respectable scientist like Dr. Lisle is when he says “According to the Big Bang, the universe is nearly 14 billion years old…The Bible indicates the universe is about 6,000 years old. For those who claim to believe the Bible, this difference alone should be sufficient reason to reject the Big Bang.” (pg.43)
This is not scientific nor was this conclusion derived from the scientific method, this is just presuppositionalism. Dr. Lisle again begs the question (Bible = Neo-Ussherianism) and assumes his conclusion to defeat the imaginary opponent.
Even intelligent well-reasoned scientists can be laughed at when they do flops like this.
Why do people laugh at Neo-Ussherians? Scientists laugh at them because their claims are not scientific. Atheists laugh at them because they make Christianity seem dumb. Philosophers laugh at them because they establish a dogma and then interpret everything in the lens of that dogma. Christians laugh at them because they equate their tradition with scripture.
All things being said, Neo-Ussherians are our brothers and sisters in Christ, this is a sibling rivalry, not a contest of who’s going to heaven.