Essay; Letter, Extract
Geology, Piety, Biblical Authority, Imagination, Infidelity, Astronomy, Extra-terrestrial Life, Time, Cosmogony, Expertise, Theology of Nature, Palaeontology, Discovery, Comparative Anatomy
Warns readers that there is 'a species of science, "falsely so called"', and quotes from Col. 2. 28: 'Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ'. Notes that this is 'especially the case with regard to Geological researches', in which human tradition is often preferred to biblical testimony. Argues that the Holy Spirit, knowing the 'mere curiosity' of mankind, did not, in dictating the scriptures, impose 'any unnecessary restrictions upon his imagination, or those higher faculties of the mind which bespeak his immortality'. (193) Allows that 'the Bible was not intended to teach philosophy', but argues that many who 'sincerely love the truth [...] allow its testimony in matters of mere human science to be set aside without mature consideration, as if they were not even called upon to vindicate its declarations from the sceptic and the infidel' (193–94). Describes the spurning of the Bible by some infidels on astronomical grounds, since it 'appears to contemplate only the well-being of one of the least planets'. Argues that the Bible asserts a plurality of worlds. Reports that the geologist 'loves to quarrel' with biblical chronology. (194) Allows for a long earth history, arguing that Moses seems 'to refer to two distinct periods in his cosmogony'. Relates that John F W Herschel supposes that the galaxy of which earth is a part 'bears evident traces of a more recent origin than its surrounding spheres of light', concluding: 'but far be it from us to regard the testimony of the greatest among philosophers, as of much value'. (195) Draws on 2 Pet. 3. 5 to argue that the 'idea of a successive series of worlds' is not inconsistent with scripture (196). Observes that the principle of consistency underlies Granville Penn's views, while noting that there are many 'facts and details' in geology and astronomy that 'cannot be satisfactorily accounted for' (196–97). Draws on further scriptural quotations 'as evidence that our world has been wrecked, and restored by processes abundantly sufficient to explain all the geological records which are closeted within it' (197). Discusses the origin of fossil remains, observing (in reference to a letter quoted from the Christian Observer) that those which are unlike living species are not to be accounted for by the flood. Makes these comments in the context of a letter from 'W H B' (i.e. W H Bensted), quoted in full, reporting his discovery of the remains of a large vertebrate at a quarry in Maidstone, which the editor reports has 'already excited considerable interest among geologists' (199). The writer has visited the spot, and considers the remains those of a saurian. He and Bensted have attempted to find similar specimens in Andrew Ure's New System of Geology and a work by Gideon Mantell respectively, and the writer considers it to be a Megalosaurus.
Swinton 1951Mantell 1834F[airholme] 1834
© 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 ]