Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

surfaces to the tardy agents of disintegration, the tribes of plants and animals whose relics now cry out from the lowest vaults of their prison house, lived and flourished in all the vigour of their prime and in all the multitude and variety of their several races. Let him consider that the necessary and constant presence of water over the fields of stratification, utterly forbids the supposition that the terrestrial portion of the plants and animals which were inhumed, lived and died on or near the places where their relics are discovered. Let him consider these things, and will he not pause and hesitate as to the account which the geologists give of this whole process? Will he not deem it more credible that the stratifications should have been formed after an ample stock of plants and animals had been provided, and formed of materials already existing in a state to be rapidly separated and moved, and by the agency of the only deluge which upon any authority is known or believed to have overspread the whole earth?

The geologists argue that there was design in the formation of the several strata of different materials; that the separation of the metals, the limes, the coal &c. from other materials was to promote the convenience and facilitate the labours of man. But if there was design there was a designer as able when the occasion arose, to effect the needful changes in a rapid as in a slow and gradual manner; and the operations consequent on his design, instead of affording only a feeble and doubtful argument in support natural religion, may yield direct and signal evidence of revealed truths which are of the highest and most enduring concern to man.

Something further may need to be said as to the extent of simultaneous stratification, though the question whether the process was simultaneously co-extensive with the entire series, or even with the respective strata, or not, is of little importance as regards the theory of gradual formation ; since it prevailed in the case of every principal stratum, over fields too extensive to allow the supposition of their terrene fossils having been supplied by drift, had they existed elswhere

than upon those fields, and had there been water to float them. Mr. Lyell observes, “that until organic remains were minutely examined and specifically determined, it was rarely possible to prove that the series of deposits met with in one country, was not formed simultaneously with that found in another. But we are now able to determine in numerous instances, the relative dates of sedimentary rocks, in distant regions, and to show by their organic remains, that they were not of contemporaneous origin, but formed in succession." His proofs and illustrations, however, are founded wholly on the assumption that the deposits were formed by the gradual operation of second causes, and that the inferences made from the fossil remains of different strata are correct. ACcordingly, he argues that in a group or series of strata, the lowest must be older than that next above it, and so on. To determine the relative age of any two members of the series, therefore, you have but to ascertain which of them lies immediately under the other; for the nethermost must be the oldest, since if

formed by a slow process they could not be formed simultaneously. Then as to the difference of age of the same stratum in different countries, that is to be inferred from a comparison of the organic remains of distant regions which in numerous instances no doubt may be dissimilar, and for aught that appears, , may

be so for other reasons than their difference of age. When pressed by the evidences of a simultaneous formation in different regions, of a stratum containing fossil remains of terrestrial plants, which obviously could have had nowhere to grow, by reason of the prevalence of water, he argues, as his theory compelled him to do, that the presence of such terrestrial plants disproved the alleged extent of simultaneous formation, and required it to be so circumscribed and situated as to permit the growth of the plants and their transportation by some other means than the submergence of their soil ; while he at the same time affirms "the discovery of the remains of terrestrial vegetation in strata of every age, even the most ancient.”

Now since the remains both of terrestrial

and marine plants and animals are found in every sedimentary stratum, the theory of a gradual formation is not relieved a whit by supposing the extent of simultaneous deposit to have been more limited than the areas of the present continuous beds. For all agree that the plants and animals lived and died on or near the places where they were deposited ; those places therefore, to account for the diffusion of both classes of relics, must have been overflowed during the whole process.

There are a variety of facts and considerations treated of in the geological writings, which, though singly of little significance as to the truth of the main theory, would collectively be entitled to regard on the supposition that the theory itself was well founded. Thus the fact that no fossil remains of the human species have been found in any of the stratified formations, might, on supposition that those formations took place long prior to the creation of man, be adduced with some force in support of their alleged antiquity. But nothing conclusive can be inferred from that

« AnteriorContinuar »