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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/805

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PROFESSOR HUXLEY ON THE WAR-PATH.

the solid earth. The sea is bound by the most rigorous laws to keep its general level. The dry land is under no similar bondage to keep either its general or its local elevation. On the contrary, the same great force which keeps water with its peculiar properties in a fixed relation to its supports is the very force which ceaselessly tends to make those supports yielding and unsteady. It is true, indeed, that the ocean leans against the land with an attracted bulge. This bulge is not visible to the eye, nor can it, perhaps, be measured by any mechanical instrument; but the mind of man has recognized it as a necessary consequence of the law of gravitation. All land-masses above the water must attract more or less the sea which is beneath them. Independently of this, from ordinary hydrostatic causes, the ocean must always be lipping over along its shore—s ever ready, as it were, to take instant advantage of the smallest movement of depression. Deluges, therefore, by submergence are ever on the cards. They are the easiest and most natural operations in the world. Of course, Prof. Huxley knows all this, and, of course, he does not commit himself to any other doctrine; but he does argue against a partial deluge as if it involved of necessity the vulgar error of the sea being raised up and heaped over any area which may have been submerged. This is not ingenuous. What is the value of a scientific argument against any supposed occurrence which rests entirely on a popular delusion as to the physical causes by which that occurrence may have been brought about, while the controversialist knows all the time that the very same occurrence might very easily have been brought about by other causes perfectly natural and perfectly easy to conceive? Yet this is the way in which Prof. Huxley prances on his selected battle-horse of the Deluge. He elaborates picture after picture of the physical consequences involved in a partial deluge effected by a heaping up of unsupported waters over a fixed and steady land, and then he stamps upon the nonsense which he has himself adopted—in so far at least as it is useful to him, and has intensified where it could be made to be so.

This perverse dwelling upon an absurd physical conception, as a means of raising prejudice, is all the more gratuitous and irrelevant since, wherever else it came from, it certainly did not come from any description contained in the Hebrew narrative. On the contrary, one of the most salient and even mysterious characteristics of that narrative is that it is absolutely inconsistent with the idea of sudden, violent, and torrential action. Prof. Huxley himself, in the midst of his strained denunciation of what must have been involved in any partial deluge, stumbles on the fact that the Hebrew narrative assumes a rate of movement so slow and gradual that "if it took place in the sea, would be over-