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ART. VIII.-1. The Chronology of Creation; or, Geology and
Scripture reconciled. By Thomas Hutton, F.G.S., Captain,
Bengal Army. Calcutta. 1850. 2. A general view of the Geology of Scripture, in which the
unerring truth of the inspired narrative of the early events of the world is exhibited and distinctly proved, by the corroborative testimony of physical facts, on every part of the earth's surface. By George Fairholme, Esq. (American
Reprint.) Philadelphia. 1834. 3. The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise. A Fragment. By Charles,
Babbage, Esq. London. 1837. 4. Twelve Lectures on the connection between Science and Res
vealed Religion, delivered in Rome, by the Right Rev. Ni. cholas Wiseman, D. D., Bishop of Melipotamus. Second
Edition. London. 1842. 5. On the Relation between the Holy Scripture and some parts
of Geological Science. By John Pye Smith, D.D., F. R. S., and F. G. S. Divinity Tutor in the Protestant Dissenting College at Homerton. Third Edition, with many additions.
London. 1843. 6. Foot-Prints of the Creator ; or, the Asterolepis of Stromness.
By Hugh Miller, Author of the Old Red Sandstone, &c. London. 1849.
The heading and running title of this article may haply induce the supposition, that we are about to deviate from the path that has been hitherto followed in the choice of subjects for treatment in the pages of the Calcutta Review. This is not the case ; or, at all events, the deviation about to be perpetrated is not a very large or important one. While the element of orientalism, that is, a direct and easily perceptible connexion with “ India and the East,” has been ever: regarded as an essential condition of the admissibility of an article into the main body of the Review; the accident, as it may be called, of Indian publication, or even Indian authorship, has, from the first, been recognised as constituting a claim, on the part of a book, whatever be its subject; at least to a brief examination in the department of Miscellaneous Notices. The only irregularity, then, of which we are guilty, consists in the transference of the present article from the one department to the other. This transference is made simply on ac-> count of the length to which a notice of such a work as Captain
Hutton's must necessarily extend, if augbt like justice is to be done to it, or to the important subject of which it treats. We have added, indeed, the titles of two or three books on kindred subjects, because we shall have constant occasion to refer to them; but we desire it, for several reasons, to be distinctly understood from the outset, that our article is not to be regarded as a regular treatise on so large a subject, but mainly as a somewhat extended notice of the book, whose title occupies the first place at its head, and whose publication is the occasion of the appearance of the article.
Setting out from the incontrovertible axiom, that all truth is consistent with all truth, we come by a single step to & point where we must pause to make a choice betwixt these five conclusions; viz. (1), That the Mosaic account of the creation of the world, and the deductions from geological science respecting its antiquity, are both true, and are consistent with each other; or (2), that they are both false, but still consistent with one another; or (3), that the Mosaic account is correct, and the geological doctrines incorrect; or (4), that the geological doctrines are true, and the Mosaic narrative erroneous; or (5), that Moses and the Geologists are both wrong, while still their several doctrines are inconsistent with each other. There is no other alternative within the range of possibility, inasmuch as two propositions, both true, must be consistent ; but if they be both false, they may be either consistent or inconsistent; and if one be false and the other true, they must be inconsistent. Besides the necessary consistency between two truths, and the necessary inconsistency between truth and falsehood, and the possible agreement and possible disagreement between two falsehoods, there is no other case even supposable. The question at issue in the present case may, however, be somewhat narrowed by the immediate rejection of the second supposition, the probabilities against it being altogether overwhelming. “Truth is one, error is manifold;" and it is altogether so improbable as to be virtually impossible, that Moses and the Geologists, so differently situated, and subjected to so widely different influences, should have fallen upon the same individual one of the tens of thousands of possible errors. We may also leave out of view the fifth case supposed, viz., the erroneousness of both accounts ; since, whatever may be the case respecting minute details, there cannot be any reasonable doubt that, respecting the general question, with which alone we occupy ourselves, truth lies somewhere either within the domain of physical investigation, or within that of historical testimony. Indeed, the great ques. tion at issue being as to the antiquity of the earth, it may be so stated as to exclude altogether the supposition of the two accounts being at once false and mutually contradictory; as thus,Was the earth created about six thousand years ago, or at a much earlier period? If the former, how can the Geological phenomena be explained ? If the latter, how can the Scriptural narrative be explained ? We have now therefore to con• cern ourselves only with the three possibilities, that the historical account may be true and the geological erroneous; or the geological true and the historical erroneous; or lastly, that both are true, and that the apparent inconsistency between them is only apparent.
If we were to treat the question historically, it would not be, difficult to assign a period, during which each of these beliefs has been in the ascendant, and that in the order in which we have stated them. Before the origin of Geology as a science, (and its origin is within the memory of many yet alive) the great mass of those who had the Bible in their hands of course gave implicit credence to the Mosaic account. In the infancy of the science, when facts began to be observed, and too hasty generalizations—as is usual in the infancy of a science-began to be deduced from them, the great majority of those who assumed to themselves the name of Geologists took up with the idea that the Mosaic narrative is inconsistent with observed and indisputable facts; and with this idea they dealt according to their several tastes and inclinations. Some secretly, and others openly, willing to discredit the scriptural testimony, were not slow to maintain that the testimony is utterly false, and that the book which contains it, and the whole collection of books of which it is the first, should be henceforth rejected as altogether unworthy of credit. Others again, thoroughly convinced, on other grounds, of the substantial verity of holy writ, yet unable to explain the phenomena in a manner consistent with the narrative, or to explain the narrative in a manner accordant with the phenomena, were somewhat disquieted, though not alarmed, at the advantage which infidelity seemed to have acquired ;
And the boldest held his breath-for a time.
This period of suspense did not last long. We are safe in saying that there is now scarcely a single Geologist of any note, who does not hold to the belief that the history of the creation, as recorded in the book of Genesis, is a veritable history of the transaction, and is capable of being reconciled with the facts that are indisputably ascertained by investigation ; although there is still considerable difference of opinion as to the mode in which the reconcilement is to be effected. Thus, in the his. tory of this question, the actings of men's minds with respect to their belief in the inspired narrative have been in strict accordance with Lord Bacon's terse statement as to their actings in regard to Theism :-“ It is true that a little philosophy inclineth men's minds to atheism ; but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion.” It is very interesting to notice the uniformity with which this process has been described with respect to almost all branches of science, as admir: ably evinced by Dr. Wiseman in the work whose title is prefixed to this article. The almost unvarying stages have been, first, undoubting belief in the scriptures; second, doubts-cast on their truth ; third, ascertainment that there is no contradiction between Science and the Bible; and fourth, the confirmation of the truth, and illustration of the meaning, of the Bible, by means of scientific discoveries. In the case of the matter before us, the first two stages are passed over already; the only ques tion now is whether we be in the third or fourth stage.
Such being the present state of opinion respecting the question, and our present subject leading us more especially to the consideration of the harmony between the Mosaic account of the creation, and the ascertained facts of Geology, we shall pass over, with very little notice, the supposition that either the one or the other the statement or the facts—are unreal, and shall nearly confine ourselves to a notice of some of the ato tempts that have been made to evince the mutual consistency of the Mosaic and geological accounts.
The scriptural statement has been generally understood to declare that the world was created at a period somewhere about 6,000 years ago ; that the whole creation was effected in the space of six days, up to the commencement of which days no portion, even of the matter of which the earth consists, had existence; and at the end of which dạys, the earth existed sub• stantially in the same state in which it exists now. The facts that present themselves to the observation of Geologists are generally supposed, on the other hand, to indicate that the crea: tion of the matter of which the earth is composed, was effected at a very much earlier period, and that a very long period of time was occupied in the creation, from first to last ; that many races of animals existed and perished before the presently exista ing species were created ; and particularly that not five days, but many thousands of years, elapsed, between the original creation of the material components of the earth, and the time when the human race was called into being; and that, during a long portion of this very long period, the earth was not in a chaotic but in a habitable state, and was actually inbabited by numerous races of animals that lived and moved and had their being upon it, and whose bodies were subsequently mingled with its dust. Moreover, it is generally understood to be ascertained, that these races of animals were not created all at once, but that some races had existed and become extinct before others were created.
Men differ considerably, as might be expected, as to the details of the explanation to be furnished of the phenomena; but few are now so hardy as to attempt to deny the phenomena altogether. A mere statement of the straits, to which such attempts of necessity reduce those who make them, will suffice for our present purpose, and will comprehend all that we have got to say in reference to the supposition, that the geological phenomena are unreal. It will be at once seen, that the main difficulty to be got over is to account for the fossil remains that exist in such vast numbers in the various strata every where. It is clear that there is but one way of meeting this difficulty, in accordance with the plan of those whose views we are about to state. There is nothing that will serve their turn but a bold and brazen-faced denial of the trustworthiness of the human senses, and a confident assertion that, for aught we know, things may not be at all what they seem. We are indebted to Dr. Wiseman for the mention of several writers who have thus boldly set themselves in opposition to the common sense of mankind. haps, (says that eloquent writer), you will bardly believe me when. I say, that, for many years, the fiercest controversy was carried on in this country (Italy) upon the question, whether these shells were real shells, and once contained fish, or were only natural productions, formed by what was called the plastic power of nature, imitating real forms. Agricola, followed by the sagacious Andrea Mattioli, affirmed that a certain fat matter, set in fermentation by heat, produced these fossil shapes.
Mercati, in 1574, stoutly maintained, that the fossil shells, collected in the Vatican by Sixtus V., were mere stones, which had received their configuration from the influence of celestial bodies ; and the celebrated physician, Fallopio, asserted, that they were formed, wherever found, by the tumultuary movements of terrestrial exhalations.' Nay, this learned author was so adverse to all ideas of deposits, as boldly to maintain, that the pot-sherds, which form the singular mound, known to you all under the name of Monte Testaceo, were natural productions-sports of nature to mock the works of men. Such were the straits to which these zealous and able men found themselves reduced to account for the phenomena they had observed."