I wish to apologise in advance.  My knowledge in science is rather limited - so my questions will probably seem stupid to most people here.  In fact, I was sent to a catholic private language school in my youth - which led me to speak 5 languages fluently by the time I was 18... The down side was: to that date I had never had education in Biology, Physics, Chemistry or Astronomy other than the books I bought and devoured (with more of less understanding) on my own... I proceded to get a masters degree in music.  After that, a deep interest in behaviour and behaviour modification - led me to an institute of animal behaviour modification where I did a 2 year course in behaviour mod. including the basic background of neuroscience and biology.  

Recently, I was having a discussion with a friend... We were talking about behaviour similarities between some mammals and humans (things like fear and escape behaviours) and tried to explain, that in the evolution of the brain, the inner layers developed earlier and are older than the outer parts that developed later.   Emotions/Instincts seeming to be an older necessity for survival (fear was essential to survival) while logical thinking and descerning, language, mathematical skills etc....seem to have evolved later.

To cut a long story short: I got attacked as an illiterate moron - because I should know by now that the theory of evolution has been disproved and is utterly wrong... She started explaining, that the age of the earth is no more than maximum 11,000 years because we have no definitive way of even measuring beyond that... I was under the impression that radiometric dating is somehow more or less reliable?  Then followed a lot of babbling about 60 scientists that have completely disproved the evolution theory and that it is absurd to believe we are derived from monkeys???  I kind of didn't think that in the first place... Weren't there different animals developing parallel to each other evolving into different species? I thought the main argument was a common ancestor not a direct lineage where a monkey some day gives birth to humans???  Of- course that is preposterous - but that is not what I was saying???

I was stumped - since I really AM illiterate on this subject - but the little I did think I know apparently is wrong???  I live in Austria in a region where there is an excavation of a fossil oyster riff that is dated at around 16 million years old.... Dr. Harzhauser, who also works at the natural history museum in Vienna - sometimes gives guided tours at this location "Fossilienwelt" (Fossil world) and was also talking about dates like this...a time when this area was actually under water!!! Is it possible that paleontologists are not up to date on the latest findings in evolutionary biology?

Is there any definitive proof for the theory of evolution?  Are the alternative views of creationist scientists in any way plausible?  How might one go about trying to sort through the different opinions to get to what we actually know as opposed to what we think.

Thanks in advance for any ressources that may be available... Is it true that one would have to have a phD to even begin comprehending the subject?

Best regards,