Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/621

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
601
NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

in exactly six days of ordinary time, each made up of "the evening and the morning"; and he ended with a piece of that peculiar presumption so familiar to the world, by calling on Cuvier and all other geologists to "ask for the old paths and walk therein until they shall simplify their system and reduce their numerous revolutions to the two events or epochs only—the six days of Creation and the Deluge."[1] The geologists showed no disposition to yield to this peremptory summons; on the contrary, the President of the British Geological Society, and even so eminent a churchman and geologist as Dean Buckland, soon acknowledged that facts obliged them to give up the theory that the fossils of the coal-measures were deposited at the Deluge of Noah, and to deny that the Deluge was universal. The combat deepened; churchmen and dissenters were alike aroused; from pulpit and press missiles were showered upon men of science. As typical we may take Fairholme, who in 1837 published his "Mosaic Deluge" and argued that no early convulsions of the earth, such as those supposed by geologists, could have taken place, because there could have been no deluge "before moral guilt could possibly have been incurred"—that is to say, before the creation of mankind. In touching terms he bewailed the defection of the President of the Geological Society and Dean Buckland—protesting against geologists who "persist in closing their eyes upon the solemn declarations of the Almighty."[2]

Still the geologists continued to seek truth, and those theologians who felt that denunciation of science as "godless" could accomplish little labored upon schemes for reconciling geology with Genesis. Some of these show amazing ingenuity, but an eminent religious authority, going over them with great thoroughness, has well characterized them as "daring and fanciful,"[3] Such attempts have been variously classified; but the fact regarding them all is that each mixes up more or less of science with more or less of Scripture, and produces a result more or less absurd. Though a few men here and there have continued these exercises, the capitulation of the party which set the literal account of the Deluge of Noah against the facts revealed by geology was at last clearly made.

One of the first evidences of the completeness of this surrender has been so well related by the eminent physiologist. Dr. W. B. Carpenter, that it may best be given in his own words: "You are familiar with a book of considerable value. Dr. W. Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible.' I happened to know the influences under which that dictionary was framed. The idea of the publisher and of the editor was to give as much scholarship and such results of modern criticism as should be compatible with a very judicious conservatism. There was to be no objection to geology, but the universality of the Deluge was to be

  1. See the works of Granville Penn, vol. ii, p. 273.
  2. See Fairholme, "Mosaic Deluge," London, 1837, p. 358.
  3. See Shields, "The Final Philosophy," p. 340.