an oar. I suppose I could sign on as a cabin boy and earn

Doubt and Doubtproblem2023-12-07 10:51:52 79 99322

Some few of these philosophers--as Robert Hooke and Steno in the seventeenth century, and Moro, Leibnitz, Buffon, Whitehurst, Werner, Hutton, and others in the eighteenth--had vaguely conceived the importance of fossils as records of the earth's ancient history, but the wisest of them no more suspected the full import of the story written in the rocks than the average stroller in a modern museum suspects the meaning of the hieroglyphs on the case of a mummy.

an oar. I suppose I could sign on as a cabin boy and earn

It was not that the rudiments of this story are so very hard to decipher--though in truth they are hard enough--but rather that the men who made the attempt had all along viewed the subject through an atmosphere of preconception, which gave a distorted image. Before this image could be corrected it was necessary that a man should appear who could see without prejudice, and apply sound common-sense to what he saw. And such a man did appear towards the close of the century, in the person of William Smith, the English surveyor. He was a self-taught man, and perhaps the more independent for that, and he had the gift, besides his sharp eyes and receptive mind, of a most tenacious memory. By exercising these faculties, rare as they are homely, he led the way to a science which was destined, in its later developments, to shake the structure of established thought to its foundations.

an oar. I suppose I could sign on as a cabin boy and earn

Little enough did William Smith suspect, however, that any such dire consequences were to come of his act when he first began noticing the fossil shells that here and there are to be found in the stratified rocks and soils of the regions over which his surveyor's duties led him. Nor, indeed, was there anything of such apparent revolutionary character in the facts which he unearthed; yet in their implications these facts were the most disconcerting of any that had been revealed since the days of Copernicus and Galileo. In its bald essence, Smith's discovery was simply this: that the fossils in the rocks, instead of being scattered haphazard, are arranged in regular systems, so that any given stratum of rock is labelled by its fossil population; and that the order of succession of such groups of fossils is always the same in any vertical series of strata in which they occur. That is to say, if fossil A underlies fossil B in any given region, it never overlies it in any other series; though a kind of fossils found in one set of strata may be quite omitted in another. Moreover, a fossil once having disappeared never reappears in any later stratum.

an oar. I suppose I could sign on as a cabin boy and earn

From these novel facts Smith drew the commonsense inference that the earth had had successive populations of creatures, each of which in its turn had become extinct. He partially verified this inference by comparing the fossil shells with existing species of similar orders, and found that such as occur in older strata of the rocks had no counterparts among living species. But, on the whole, being eminently a practical man, Smith troubled himself but little about the inferences that might be drawn from his facts. He was chiefly concerned in using the key he had discovered as an aid to the construction of the first geological map of England ever attempted, and he left to others the untangling of any snarls of thought that might seem to arise from his discovery of the succession of varying forms of life on the globe.

He disseminated his views far and wide, however, in the course of his journeyings--quite disregarding the fact that peripatetics went out of fashion when the printing-press came in--and by the beginning of the nineteenth century he had begun to have a following among the geologists of England. It must not for a moment be supposed, however, that his contention regarding the succession of strata met with immediate or general acceptance. On the contrary, it was most bitterly antagonized. For a long generation after the discovery was made, the generality of men, prone as always to strain at gnats and swallow camels, preferred to believe that the fossils, instead of being deposited in successive ages, had been swept all at once into their present positions by the current of a mighty flood--and that flood, needless to say, the Noachian deluge. Just how the numberless successive strata could have been laid down in orderly sequence to the depth of several miles in one such fell cataclysm was indeed puzzling, especially after it came to be admitted that the heaviest fossils were not found always at the bottom; but to doubt that this had been done in some way was rank heresy in the early days of the nineteenth century.

But once discovered, William Smith's unique facts as to the succession of forms in the rocks would not down. There was one most vital point, however, regarding which the inferences that seem to follow from these facts needed verification--the question, namely, whether the disappearance of a fauna from the register in the rocks really implies the extinction of that fauna. Everything really depended upon the answer to that question, and none but an accomplished naturalist could answer it with authority. Fortunately, the most authoritative naturalist of the time, George Cuvier, took the question in hand--not, indeed, with the idea of verifying any suggestion of Smith's, but in the course of his own original studies--at the very beginning of the century, when Smith's views were attracting general attention.

Cuvier and Smith were exact contemporaries, both men having been born in 1769, that "fertile year" which gave the world also Chateaubriand, Von Humboldt, Wellington, and Napoleon. But the French naturalist was of very different antecedents from the English surveyor. He was brilliantly educated, had early gained recognition as a scientist, and while yet a young man had come to be known as the foremost comparative anatomist of his time. It was the anatomical studies that led him into the realm of fossils. Some bones dug out of the rocks by workmen in a quarry were brought to his notice, and at once his trained eye told him that they were different from anything he had seen before. Hitherto such bones, when not entirely ignored, had been for the most part ascribed to giants of former days, or even to fallen angels. Cuvier soon showed that neither giants nor angels were in question, but elephants of an unrecognized species. Continuing his studies, particularly with material gathered from gypsum beds near Paris, he had accumulated, by the beginning of the nineteenth century, bones of about twenty-five species of animals that he believed to be different from any now living on the globe.

The fame of these studies went abroad, and presently fossil bones poured in from all sides, and Cuvier's conviction that extinct forms of animals are represented among the fossils was sustained by the evidence of many strange and anomalous forms, some of them of gigantic size. In 1816 the famous Ossements Fossiles, describing these novel objects, was published, and vertebrate paleontology became a science. Among other things of great popular interest the book contained the first authoritative description of the hairy elephant, named by Cuvier the mammoth, the remains of which bad been found embedded in a mass of ice in Siberia in 1802, so wonderfully preserved that the dogs of the Tungusian fishermen actually ate its flesh. Bones of the same species had been found in Siberia several years before by the naturalist Pallas, who had also found the carcass of a rhinoceros there, frozen in a mud-bank; but no one then suspected that these were members of an extinct population--they were supposed to be merely transported relics of the flood.



Latest articles

Random articles

  • the steps again, finding himself now nearly up to his armpits
  • of your last. I am the idea which sparked your most brilliant
  • And why not allow the sacred to be sacred, and leave it
  • experience, of where the lot of you can and will go, given
  • fit, often wandering along in the great flower garden that
  • Dr. Robert Muller...whose work on behalf of world peace
  • to have sex and creates tapes and weekend seminars to go
  • Is killing an appropriate political remedy, spiritual convincer,
  • he often spent much time with the white foreman of the
  • anger, releasing hostility, “righting a wrong,” or
  • Do whatever it takes to stay connected with God/God-dess/Truth.
  • a thing is a statement to the universe—a declaration
  • stars and waiting. He had lain thus and there many nights
  • Sex is sacred, too—yes. But joy and sacredness do mix
  • Yet once you come to know your truth, don’t keep changing
  • Guilt is often used by you in your attempt to feel bad
  • in an iron sluice gate. The Eurasian had passed it, but
  • I’ve answered the end of this question too, with what
  • The Source. It was, is, and always will be The Source Forever,
  • such as the collective good, a one-world overview, or a
  • said that his boys were resting and gaining strength after
  • be.” Nor can God not be like Itself. God cannot “un-God”
  • Good. Because now I’ve got a million questions. Statements
  • to remem-ber. Yet when the moment arrived, you immediately
  • the ray of light from Max's lamp impinged upon the opening
  • the last child is conceived is worse than naive. It violates
  • responsibilities as she sees them” is Who You Are, then
  • that. I’m not here to get you more mixed up. I’m here
  • one of our party was unable anywhere to purchase either
  • Indeed, the soul would have it no other way—for if the
  • By the highest standards I have observed humans devise,
  • concepts in ways that can and will be understood by the
  • ‘beware’ for nothing.” They were soon anxious for
  • A lot to ponder. Take some time off. Reflect on this. Ponder
  • this: It was the Original Blessing. For without this event,
  • part of you which yearns for that feeling again and again.
  • our tents. They were very civil, and offered us a house;
  • I can’t walk around with a yellow legal pad every minute
  • encourage masturbation, which some of you actu-ally call
  • them that what many people considered “right” at one
  • her arms, and laughed shrilly, insanely. Then she turned
  • and joy in life and absolute honesty have stood for me
  • you call imagination. God is creation. Cod is first thought.
  • God, and that is for God to not be God. God cannot “not
  • to sleep, rose and wandered out into the garden. The Hon.
  • there’s not enough time, there’s not enough love, there’s
  • might add—that a “day” is the “time” it takes
  • is bad. . . money is scarce. . .money may not be received
  • resources were at an end; it must be another's work to
  • to unravel Divine Mystery is to lust for knowledge beyond
  • tags