Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/258

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

gile shell rested on the treacherous waters of the interior abyss, "the waters under the earth," and the sun overroasting, finally cracked and burst it; the broken fragments of the ruined world fell downward into the abyss, and the subterranean waters rushed out in a mighty flood to remain as our present seas and oceans, from which the broken crust protrudes as continents and islands. As might naturally be anticipated, the bursting out of the abyss corresponds to the Noachian deluge, which we thus perceive to have been profounder in its origin and wider reaching in its effects than we might previously have supposed. This, for distinction, we may call Burnett's deluge; of his geology we may say that it is cosmological, since it endeavors to trace the history of the earth backward to its origin in chaos; that it is catastrophic, because it attempts to account for all the great features of the earth by a single event which occurred suddenly and with violence; and that it is theologic, since it owes its inspiration to Holy Writ.

As geology grew older it went to school: what was the name of the school is not quite certain; some have called it "Science falsely so called," others more briefly, "Inductive Science." However this may be, the immediate effect on the manners of young geology was very distressing. It grew contradictory, and was frank in the expression of obnoxious opinions. One of its most irritating remarks was that the world was not made in a week, and it would appear that at this time the relations of child and foster-parent became not a little strained. Still, geology proved an apt scholar, and its progress was rapid. One of the most important lessons it learned was that if we want to know how the world was made, the first essential is to study the earth itself, to investigate with patient drudgery every detail that it presents, and particularly the structures that can be seen in river banks, sea cliffs, quarries, pits, and mines. Thus it discovered that the solid land beneath our feet is to a large extent composed of layers of sediment which were once deposited more or less quietly at the bottom of ancient seas, and certain curious bodies known as fossils it concluded to be the remains of plants and animals, seashells and the like, which were once the living denizens of these seas.

It discovered that these deposits lie so regularly, one upon another, that it compared them to a pile of books, or to a slanting row of books lying cover to cover; and that in some cases, at least, the simile was not strained, will appear if we trace the structure of England from Oxford westward toward Bristol. We then find that the thick bed of clay upon which Oxford stands lies evenly on a series of gently sloping beds known as the lower O├Âlites; these in like manner repose on those thin