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"Everybody knows" that Newton and Kepler calculated the age of the Earth. My problem is that, whilst "everybody knows" this, no-one gives a reference that I can read for myself.

If, for example, I want to read what Thomas Burnett believed, I download a copy of Telluris Theoria Sacra and I can read for myself that he accepted the reality of Noah's flood. The same is true of St Augustine's beliefs as there are several online translations of City of God Against the Pagans.

But Newton and Kepler?

Zilch. Sweet F.A. Absolutely nothing.

Even when a website references a text, either I can't find the text, or there is no age-of-the-earth calculation in the text that I can find.

So, did either Newton or Kepler calculate the age of the earth, or is this just an urban myth? If it's true, does anyone have references that I can look at for myself. These will have to be secondary references (English translations) as I expect the actual primary reference to be in Latin, and sadly, I only read English.

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    $\begingroup$ This question would probably be a better fit for either SE History or SE History of Science & Mathematics. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Oct 24, 2019 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ I'm happy for you to move it to either of those sites if you think it would get more appropriate attention. $\endgroup$ Oct 24, 2019 at 16:06

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Your question may be better suited to either SE History or SE History of Science and Mathematics. The date of the so called creation of the Earth has nothing to do with Earth Science.

For Kepler I found he wrote the book KANONES PUERILES, in it he calculates the creation date to be 27 April 4997 BC.

The published works of Newton reveal little. Some authors on Newton mention an unpublished document he wrote in either 1704 or 1705. Any calculations he may have done regarding the so called date of creation may be in his unpublished writings.

You may need to review the bibliographies of authors who wrote biographies on Newton, such the 1855 book by Sir David Brewster, Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, volume 2.

Alternatively you can search Newton's papers at the University of Cambridge.

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  • $\begingroup$ Fred, thanks for taking the time to reply. Unfortunately, it tells me that this is not going to be a simple quest. Before I posted the question I had already seen and dismissed the first web page you reference because I can't find any usable link to Kanones. I have now downloaded a pdf of Memoirs from Internet Archive and I need to trawl through that, but I'm not hopeful given that the webpage itself didn't reference any calculation. If the calculation is in unpublished writings, I will need to go down the traditional route of library access to original works, which is a major task. $\endgroup$ Oct 24, 2019 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ @BarryStone: I don't envy you, good luck! ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Oct 24, 2019 at 16:32
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Click link to see image: Kepler's 3992 B.C. Calculation, from his German work, see the cover of Chronologia. 5612 (year of creation) - 1620 (date of paper cover) = 3992 B.C.

To obtain the source itself, look up the bigger volume: Astronomi Opera Omnia by Joannis Kepleri.

As for Newton, I cannot find the source for this. However, there has already been different kind of fact checking on this. This is the correspondence between Thomas Burnet and Isaac Newton where Newton on multiple occasions denied 6 x 24-hour creation days:

  • that the duration of the first and second days might be “as long as you please”
  • “a year for each days work” Just to name a couple. Therefore, if Newton had dated the creation to some young Earth 4000BC point in time, I could only assume he's either being inconsistent or the number he was doing was not meant to be treated as true creation date of the known universe but a direct assumption of 24 hour day universal definition as well as literal father-son definition (with the understanding that both of which can easily be refuted as absolute by any reasonable man) approach to Biblical calculation of the date with emphasis on "give or take" an x period of time you wish to put in should more information be made available.

So while Kepler could be Young Earth, Newton was hardly one.

Disclaimer, I'm not a Young Earth Creationist. Although, to understand Young Earth influence, I believe you must start with James Ussher and the now unpopular Millennial Day Theory paradigm that ruled the thinking of his sort that could be the first who promoted and insisted Young Earth theory as orthodoxy.

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I have never heard that Newton or Kepler calculated the age of the Earth, so I think it is most probably an urban myth. What I can tell you is that if they did any such calculation it must have been hopelessly inaccurate. In the 17th century, Archbishop Usher calculated the age of the Earth from Biblical sources and decided it was about 6,000 years old. In the mid-nineteenth century, Lord Kelvin, an eminent physicist, made a calculation based on how long it would take to cool down to its present temperature from an incandescent state, and came to the conclusion that it was about 100,000,000 years old.

Although he did better than Archbishop Usher, the reason for Lord Kelvin's inaccuracy was that in his day the atom and radioactivity were a closed book, so he couldn't take radioactive decay into account when doing his calculations. Radioactive decay not only keeps the Earth's interior hot, but enables us to measure the age of the Earth with reasonable accuracy. The decay of uranium to lead in zircons from very ancient rocks tells us that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

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    $\begingroup$ Today on Google Books, I found "How old is the universe" by David Wientraub, Page 14 states that . Isaac Newton's "Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms: Amended" contains Newton's calculation of creation to 3998 BC, I have now ordered the book by Wientraub and found "Chronology" on Internet Archive. (If Newton's date of creation is in Chronology, it's well hidden). But assuming I can find the actual calculation, that still leaves Kepler. Even Wientraub doesn't give a reference for Kepler's calculation. He just states that Kepler's date for creation was 3993 BC. Any suggestions? $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2019 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ I told you it would be hopelessly inaccurate. Kepler's was probably Biblical. $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2019 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ According to Wientraub, Kepler's calculation was a mixture of astrophysical calculation (unsurprising given how much time he had spent working out his eponymous laws) and some groundless assumptions about where the earth would have been when God created it (apparently, at solar apogee and in the constellation of Aires. Don't ask!). I have emailed Weintraub to ask him about both Kepler's and Newton's calculations. (Newton's Chronology is 400 pages of numerical gibberish). I have no idea if Wientraub will respond, but if you don't ask... $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2019 at 19:15

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