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Young earth creationists are all the rage in todays US society, claming fault with evolution and whining to the courts that Intelligent Design isn't being taught. Much time and energy has been put forth to try to derail evolution as the de facto basis of biology in favor of a more religious (and slightly crazy) view that the world is only ten thousand years old, and Radiocarbon Dating is a tool of the Devil.
I think part of the problem why some people feel compelled to believe these religious extremists is simply a matter of scale. If you tell Joe Average on the street that humans are the decendants of a mammal that lived (for example) one million years ago, that number is completely incomprehensible to that person. Evolution provides the viewpoint that species develope over millions of years, however, the average person that has not had extensive scientific training cannot fathom five thousand years, let alone one million.
Can you fathom one million years? Here's a test:
Go and read this article. It's completely unrelated to evolution, but it's a short article and very interesting: The Crypt of Civilization
From the date that this journal entry is being written, the Crypt will not be opened for another 6107 years. That's well beyond all of 'recorded' human history. That's over 60 times longer than a lifetime.
Now think about that ancestor of ours that lived one million years ago. Over 160 times longer than the entire planned timespan of the Crypt of Civilization! That's ten thousand lifetimes if the life in question lives to be one hundred.
Asking Joe Average to fathom such large time scales is really the key to acceptance of evolution. Science just needs to find a way to 'reconceptualize' and explain one million years to the average layperson other than just saying 'millions of years ago'.
I'm sure many scientists aren't very concerned at the moment in the opinion of Joe Average. At some point however, in this climate of religious extremes convincing Joe Average could be the only way to keep science moving in the right direction.