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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/804

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

good scientific reasoning, as I think there is, which seems to prove that no deluge can have been at once complete, universal, and simultaneous, over the whole globe, then there is no more reason to believe it than there is to believe in the literal interpretation of the passages involving the rotation of the sun round the earth, or the still more striking passages which we have seen so summarily dealt with by St. John.

Leaving, therefore, Prof. Huxley to his jubilations over the general abandonment of a deluge at once complete, universal, and simultaneous, let us see how he proceeds to deal with the alternative of a deluge which may have been enormously wider than the Mesopotamian Valley, and yet may have been partial only—as regards the whole area of the globe.

The device of the professor is to assume that belief in any such deluge must of necessity involve the notion that while the existing levels of the land were fixed or unmoved, the waters were heaped up over some portion of it, without any containing banks or walls to keep or hold them in their new position. Over this ridiculous idea he runs riot and enjoys quite a happy time of it. He shows triumphantly how it contradicts the fundamental laws of hydrostatics, how impossible it is to conceive any agency by which such a heaping up of loose waters could have been effected, and how tremendous must have been the outrush when any (inconceivable) restraints were removed. Now I am not concerned ' to inquire whether this conception as to the cause of a partial deluge has or has not been ever formulated or distinctly pictured by any human being. Considering the absolute and wide-spread ignorance of all the physical sciences which prevailed in the world for centuries, it is quite possible that something like this may have been one of the popular ideas concerning the Deluge. It is perfectly natural that it should have been so. That in this world of ours the solid earth is the stable, while water is pre-eminently the unstable element, is the universal prepossession of mankind. It is not overcome even in countries where the land is often trembling under earthquakes or subject to the ravages of volcanic action. Over by far the largest part of the habitable globe, where men have not even these suggestive experiences to consider, the preconception is insuperable that the land is comparatively steady and that the sea is the most liable to change. That this preconception should have governed the reasonings of prescientific ages and of ignorant men of the present day is not astonishing; but it is most astonishing indeed to see it patronized by Prof. Huxley. The very first lesson of all geological science is to teach us and to make us familiar with the idea that in all relative changes between the areas of sea and land the element of constancy is in the liquid water and the element of mutability is in