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Descartes, however, attempted to discern a physical history of the Earth.His account was plausible by the immature standards of the Science of his times; however it quite definitely did not match the Biblical account of a completed creation in six days.If, in the year AD 1600, you had asked an educated European how old the planet Earth was and to recount its history he would have said that it was about 6000 years old and that its ancient history was given by the biblical account in Genesis.If you asked the same question of an educated European in AD 1900 you would have received a quite different answer.The great debate was won by the uniformitarians, so much so that the degree of gradualism was overstated and the importance of catastrophes was unduly minimized.
The chronicle of this great change can be broken into five periods; ran from AD 1600-1700.The rise of science produced a major change in attitude.In the pre-scientific world view the issue of the age of the Earth was a theological question.It was not ruled out, per se, but it was not necessary. In the new science, however, rational explanation was desirable. In 1640 Ussher produced his famous calculation that the Earth was created in 4004 BC.
In 1637 Descartes produced a cosmogony that was highly influential for more than a century. It was not in their estimates of the age of the Earth - Descartes retained the biblical date.
Ussher accepted the Biblical account at face value, relying on the Biblical genealogies and on extant historical records.