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How Long has Man Been on Earth?

Updated on June 19, 2013

If you are wondering how long has man been on Earth, then you may be interested to know that scientists have evidence to prove man has only been on this planet a very short time in its long history.

If the entire geological history of the world could be described in a 12 month calendar, then man only appeared on the 31st of December.

Even the mighty dinosaurs make their first appearance on December 12 and are gone by December 20.

In actual fact, the dinosaurs lived for about 200 million years, only dying out 65 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous Period.

The first single cellular organisms appeared on Earth early on, at the end of February and it is late November before plants first appeared on land.

Our early planet had no oxygen to speak of, and it was only the arrival, or evolvement, of plants that photosynthesized and oxygenized the air that allowed land-living breathing animals to evolve.

Bones of a Neanderthal child
Bones of a Neanderthal child | Source

The Evolution of Man

Going by the few fossil records recovered, man (homo sapiens), did not appear until about a quarter of a million years ago.

The earliest man-like fossilized bones recovered, the hominids, are about 2.4 million years old.

Obviously if you don't believe man evolved from the apes you will see both types of genus as being completely different and separate, but every single creature on the planet evolved from a different creature.

They had to. How else could sea mammals crawl onto land and start breathing and adapting to the atmosphere?

Early man would have had to learn spatial skills like language. No-one is entirely sure how long it took them to evolve from hunter-gatherers to farmers, and from there to builders and all the things man has learned how to do.

What is for sure is that these skills would have evolved, as no baby was born with the necessary skills and could not be taught if its parents had not grasped them either.

The earliest signs of human civilization date back at least 2 million years.

There are signs that these people used tools to kill animals to eat. By using radio-carbon dating scientists are able to see that the genus of people Homo, though not necessarily Homo Sapiens (us) did indeed use tools.

No animal in the world ever before Homo used tools, nor drew pictures on walls, nor built homes.

In 2012, fossil animal bones were found In Ethiopia with butchery marks consistent with them having been struck with a sharp object.

Carbon-dating placed them at 3.4 million years old, which moves the earliest date of the Homo genus back by a million years.

The Bible says the Earth is 4,000 years old

This is a common misconception by fundamentalist Christians.

I absolutely and totally blame a certain Dr John Lightfoot, a vicar and scholar who, in the mid-seventeenth century declared that the Earth was formed on the 26th of October, 4004 B.C, at 9 o'clock in the morning.

At this time a vice-chancellor of the prestigious Cambridge University, his word was taken as Gospel.

Let's not forget that witches were still being burned at the stake at this time!

England at that time lived in fear of the church, and John Lighfoot was an excellent orator. His calculations, which he worked out from the Bible, were accepted without comment.

How old is the world?

Until the end of the 19th century, people accepted the world was only 6000 years old.

As geologists studied the rocks of the Earth, they began to realise that what they were learning could not have taken place in such a short period of time.

The more they learned, from observations and from rock formations, they realised that the Earth had to be millions of years old to explain away what they were finding.

Layers and layers of igneous rocks appearing above sedimentary rocks and intrusions required 100s of millions of years, not just 4,000.

Then radio carbon dating was developed and scientists were able to prove that their calculations were indeed correct.

I believe there was a New Scientist article a year or two ago which shed some doubt onto the accuracy of carbon dating, but it has generally been accepted that the difference is minuscule and does not detract from the fact that the Earth is at least 4.5 billion (thousand million) years old.

The Ark
The Ark | Source

How can the Bible and Science be Reconciled?

Obviously there is a huge difference in what the Bible says is the history of the world, and the reality.

Let's remember that the Bible was written by men, and that men (in the form of Homo sapiens) have only existed for about 250,000 years.

So the Bible has to be written around about that age or younger.

God has never written anything. He always seems to direct others to do his writing for him.

The Great Flood

Throughout history, many races have believed in a Flat Earth. The Chinese, one of the most intelligent races ever, believed the Earth was flat right up until the 17th century!

The point of a flat Earth, instead of spherical, is that any major flood could be believed to encompass the whole world.

The Great Flood happened sometime B.C., and to a people who saw water from horizon to horizon. This would the mean the whole world to them, as there was an edge at the horizon of a flat Earth, over which you would fall to your death if you got too close.

Most of the advanced world, as they knew it, existed somewhere between Africa and the Middle East.

Noah may well have built an ark, and boarded his farm animals to save them.

Somehow the story has been corrupted in translation, but most likely it was a localized flood, and many civilizations have tales of a Great Flood.

God built the world in 6 days, and on the 7th, made man

Why not? That sounds perfectly reasonable to me, so long as Biblical days are not measured in the 24 hours that we know today.

Man made time.

Time to animals is completely different. When it is dark they hunt, or they sleep, depending on species.

Darkness falls at different times through the year unless you live in an equatorial country, yet animals instinctively know what action to take going just by daylight or darkness.

If the man who wrote Genesis lived in a polar region, how could he tell the passage of time when daylight lasts for months, or darkness lasts for months?

Perhaps God was trying to tell us about eons - large periods of time. But man could not understand and wrote down days instead.

T-Rex | Source

The Great Flood did not wipe out the dinosaurs

This is a common misconception.

The Great Flood happened in human times, within the last 250,000 years.

The dinosaurs disappeared 65,000,000 years ago.

They were a great race, and in their time, were top of the planetary food chain.

When they were wiped out, so was 80% of sea life.

Scientists do not yet know why the dinosaurs became extinct in such a short period of time (some believe it to be only 100 years).

They believe several factors were at play and that their populations had been in decline for a couple of hundred thousand years before the fatal blow.

This was believed to have been a 10km asteroid which hit the Earth, the main fragment believed to have caused the 200 km crater at Chicxulub on the Yacatan coast of Mexico.

At roughly the same time, other asteroids (or fragments of the same one) formed the 24km Boltysh crater in the Ukraine and the Silverpit crater in the North Sea.

These in turn caused atmospheric dust that would have blocked out the sunlight, preventing the photosynthesis and thus causing the death of most plants, effectively destroying the food chain.

The dinosaurs were not the first species to be wiped out

In Earth's long history, there have been many extinctions of both animals and plants.

The dinosaurs are perhaps the most famous, but throughout the eons there have been many creatures that existed for only a 100 million years or less, and their fossilized remains help scientists to date them and their surrounding rock.

Man, whose existence only became possible because of the extinction of the dinosaurs, is proving to be the best and most resilient of all life forms on Earth, ever.

There is no reason to believe that we won't continue to exist until the Earth is swallowed up by the sun in another 5 billion years.

Unless another giant asteroid hits the planet.....


Geology - David Rothery 2008 edition

Introducing Geology - D.V. Ager Reprinted 1968

Third Edition - Earth - Portrait of a Planet - Stephen Marshak 2008 edition


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