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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/452

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

form characteristic of early thought. The forces originating oceanic basins still continue to deepen them and to increase the size and height of continents, but other forces are at work, some antagonizing (i.e., cutting down the continents and filling up the ocean beds), and still others determined by causes we little understand, by oscillations over wide areas, greatly modifying and often obscuring the effects of the basin-making movements. Here, then, we have two kinds of crust movements: the one fundamental and original, determining the greatest features of the earth and moving steadily onward in the same direction, ever increasing the features which it originates; the other apparently lawless, uncertain, oscillating over very wide areas, modifying and often obscuring the effects of the former. The old uniformitarians saw only the effects of the latter, because these are most conspicuous; the new evolutionists add also the former and show its more fundamental character, and thus introduce law and order into the previous chaos. The former is the one movement which runs ever in the same direction through all geologic time. The latter are the most common and conspicuous now and in all previous geologic time. The former underlies and conditions and unifies the history; the latter has practically determined all the details of the drama enacted here on the surface of the earth. Of the causes of the former we know something, though yet imperfectly. Of the causes of the latter we yet know absolutely nothing. We have not even begun to speculate profitably on the subject, and hence the apparent lawlessness of the phenomena. A fruitful theory of these must be left to the coming century.

Mountain Ranges.—If oceanic basins and continental domes constitute the greatest features of the earth's face, and are determined by the most fundamental movements of the crust, surely next in importance come great mountain ranges. These are the glory of our earth, the culminating points of scenic beauty and grandeur. But they are so only because they are also the culminating points, the theaters of greatest activity, of all geological forces, both igneous and aqueous—igneous in their formation, and aqueous both in the preparatory sedimentation and in the final erosive sculpturing into forms of beauty. A theory of mountain ranges therefore lies at the bases of all theoretical geology. To the pre-geologic mind mountains are the type of permanence and stability. We still speak metaphorically of the everlasting hills. But the first lesson taught by geology is that nothing is permanent; everything is subject to continuous change by a process of evolution. Mountains are no exception. We know them in embryo in the womb of the ocean. We know the date of their