Serial, Miscellaneous; Extract
Geology, Time, Biblical Authority, Palaeontology, Museums, Theory, Speculation, Infidelity, Natural Theology, Design, Catastrophism, Creation, Miracle, Comparative Anatomy, Natural Economy, Providence, Natural Law, Feeling
Thomas Burnet , Charles Bell , Isaac Newton
Observes that geology is the only source of information regarding the age of the earth, and that we must not therefore be surprised to learn 'that it is much older than we before supposed' (165). Relates that, while the Bible gives details of the creation of man and other creatures, it has nothing to say of the creation of the earth 'except that God made it "in the beginning"; and that it was without form and void, covered with water, and enveloped in darkness, when He saw fit to prepare it for its present inhabitants'. The 'records of geology' tell us what happened between these two dates. To those 'little readers' who might ask if the earth was inhabited by 'other orders of beings' before the human species, the writer observes that they should 'pay a visit to the long gallery at the British Museum, if they wish for a satisfactory answer, and look at the [...] sea, land, and flying reptiles in the upright cases round that room, and then tell us how they were dug out of the earth, if they were never in it'. Identifying himself as a geologist, the author distances himself from the 'theories and speculations' that geologists are 'so fond of indulging in', and promises to question asserted 'facts' and to proceed on this 'safe ground'. The series will consider geology 'in connexion with natural religion', taking as the basis of its arguments 'the work of Professor Hitchcock, of America'. Quotes from Hitchcock that 'the principles of geology have been regarded not only as hostile to revealed truth, but as favourable to atheism'. (166) Hitchcock intends to 'invert the tables' by showing the geological evidence for natural theology. The author considers the apparent disorder and wreckage of the surface of the earth, referring to a section based on his own quarry near Maidstone in which an Iguanadon skeleton was discovered (see , YM3/7/6/2). Extracts at great length Hitchcock's account of the underlying order in the geological phenomena. Hitchcock asserts that 'Geology furnishes evidence of direct and repeated acts of creative power', and argues for a series of geological epochs interspersed with catastrophic destructive events followed by the creation of new species by divine fiat. He refers to the evidence from comparative anatomy of the mutual adaptation of species within each epoch. Hitchcock asserts that 'Geology furnishes proof of the superintending Providence of God', and argues that each geological catastrophe has been held within defined limits, and has been designed for some good purpose (172). Observes that, while law-like events dull the feeling of providence, irregular but apparently designed incursions of powerful natural agents increase that feeling. Argues that geology does this and more: 'It shows us that the regular order of events on this globe has been repeatedly interfered with' (173). By preparing the mind to accept the likelihood of miracles, geology thus prepares the way for the reception of the Bible.
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
Printed from Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: An Electronic Index, v. 4.0, The Digital Humanities Institute <http://www.sciper.org> [accessed ]