The Birth and Development of the Geological Sciences

The Birth and Development of the Geological Sciences

The Birth and Development of the Geological Sciences

The Birth and Development of the Geological Sciences

Excerpt

Every student of geology when first reading that great classic of the science, Lyell Principles of Geology cannot fail to have his attention arrested by the introductory chapters in which an account is given of the strange explanations which were put forward by ancient writers to account for certain occurrences or phenomena which they observed in nature. Outstanding among these was the presence of fossil shells, skeletons of fish, or the remains of other marine animals embedded in the rocks of the earth's crust on the summits of mountains high above the level of the sea. In the opinion of most ancient writers these were not the remains of animals at all, but had been brought into being by quite other forces than those of life. Some held that they had been developed by the action of the stars and gave their reasons for this opinion. Others were of the opinion that they owed their origin to some process allied to fermentation, which had been set up in the rocks in which they were embedded while these were still in a soft and plastic state. Others described them as "Freaks" or "Jokes" of nature, quaint and amusing productions of the creative power when at play; still others as the discarded remains of preliminary and experimental attempts at creation on the part of the great architect of the universe, preparatory to the actual creation of the world in which we live, the account of which is given in the book of Genesis and the result of which was pronounced by the Divine Creator to be "good." Yet others taught that these fossils had been developed through the influence of the powers of evil for the express purpose of deceiving mankind and giving rise to doubts concerning the truth of the teachings of the Bible, while champions of the Bible on the other hand arose, combating this opinion with all their might, and teaching that these fossils were the actual remains of living creatures, having been brought into their present positions on the mountain tops by the waters of the Mosaic Deluge, and that those preserved in the rocks confirmed instead of opposing the record of Holy Writ.

It is difficult for us now to understand how these old writers, very many of them men of keen intellect and outstanding ability, endowed with all the learning of their times, could put forward explanations so . . .

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