How Old is Earth?

Part of the Darwin exhibition.

Earth, the blue marble

Could life on Earth have evolved? Before 1800, only a handful of naturalists in England and France had given this idea serious consideration. And even they couldn't see how there could have been enough time for evolution to occur.

Relying on interpretations of the Bible, most people in England believed that Earth was only about 6,000 years old—not nearly old enough for countless species to have evolved.

Today, we know from radiometric dating that Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Had naturalists in the 1700s and 1800s known Earth's true age, early ideas about evolution might have been taken more seriously.