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to manage, which, in connexion with his sailing upon a new ocean, will easily account for a few inadvertencies in his log-book.
Along with the reign of Neptune, the foundation of his strata has undergone a complete change. Part of the primitive rocks being now assigned to Pluto, the first-born of the former is declared to be the youngest child of the latter. For, though fire and water appear themselves to have been twins, and though the last-mentioned has been much more prolific than his fellow, yet his strata have been of a weaker kind; so that the crystalline constitution of granite is supposed clearly to designate the offspring of the fire-god. Baron Cuvier's skill in comparative anatomy appears to have failed him when dissecting the sturdy muscles of mother earth. In compliment to him, however, the appellation of primitive, which he gave to his foster-child, has not been taken away ; but the surname of unstratified has been appended, in order to point out the changeling.
What next will come, time—for which geologists are incessantly calling-time only can show. Perhaps there is now some Scotchman or Welshman unobservedly digging under the Silurian strata, who may suddenly bring to light some hidden spell which shall confound the “father of English Geology," and dissipate the theories of the fourth decade of the nineteenth century.
REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM.
Whilst biblical critics have so subtle and changeable an adversary to contend with, no wonder that they are constantly foiled, and that all the world exclaims against the impotency of their arguments. Geologists agree in declaring that they do not intend to attack the Bible, but only to oppose its mode of interpretation. They would all be satisfied with a few concessions on the part of the biblicist, and each wonders why some petty matters cannot be given up; forgetting the variety of their several demands, and how fearful an inroad would be made into the truth of scripture, were en a little conceded to each of the demurrers. The best plan is to keep to the present text, until geologists can agree upon the nature and extent of their requirements : then a parley may perhaps take place, and the
accounts be properly examined and mutually adjusted. It is not the Christian divines, but the philosophers, who disagree about the meaning of Moses; and they are as much at variance amongst themselves as with the common enemy.
Some of the defenders of the faith have unfortunately fallen into a similar error with the writers whom they have opposed. Instead of taking advantage of the disordered ranks of their adversaries, and helping one party to destroy another until they should all fall together, they have exposed themselves to the shafts of every detachment. By giving their own interpretation of the manner in which the world was created, the deluge brought on, and the earth re-peopled after its desolations, they have unwarily obtruded themselves upon the critical acumen of the cosmologist; and an incomplete exposition is made to appear in the light of an objectionable system. Should it then be asked, if a man has no right to explain the meaning of the holy scriptures; we reply, that some things are far beyond the powers of the human intellect to reach, or mortal genius to penetrate. Facts may be recorded which we receive as simple facts; the reason and manner of which we cannot hope to comprehend. Reason will not serve as a teacher in matters that are beyond its ability : so that, though we may depend upon its decision to a certain extent, yet there is a point where its guidance must fail, unless we should clothe it with the attribute of infinity. Eye-sight gives us information of our neighbourhood and the surrounding objects; but its discernment eventually ceases, and an impenetrable obscurity rests upon the minutize of a distant landscape. The telescope remedies this defect to a certain extent, and furnishes many details which the ocular observer could not have perceived ; yet it also has its limits of action, both from the rotundity of the earth, and the distance of the heavenly bodies, as well as from a want of sufficient light thrown upon the objects of observation. So it is with the province of our reasoning faculty, which, being limited in its own nature, should confine itself to those subjects where a sufficiency of data is afforded for its ground of operation.
It is quite true that we have learned something about the world, and have dug a little below its outer surface, and given names to compound substances there discovered, also to some of the unknown materials of which they are thought to be composed; but what is all this to the creation of a planet? A child may build up or pull down a grotto of oyster-shells; but the construction of a palace would be far beyond his diminutive powers. So a
may dissolve some of the simple salts in suitable liquids, and again precipitate them into their crystalline form: but this is a very different kind of attempt from that of rearing mountains of granite, or dissolving the elements of our globe. Never was a wiser hint given to geological theorists than that of the learned but modest Chalmers : “ We have no experience in the creation of worlds." When we shall once have been present at so glorious a display of might and wisdom, we shall be better able to explain the manner of its developement.
In every science, properly so called, there is a general harmony of opinion amongst those who are acquainted with its grand principles. Proceeding upon the Baconian method of reasoning from ascertained facts, and tracing them up to common causes or unvarying modes of action, every proposition which is laid down as a fundamental rule may be tested by actual experiment. Indeed, a failure in similar results on a single occasion is deemed sufficient to throw a well-founded suspicion upon that part of the system where the incongruity has occurred. No maxim can be received as truth in any science, where the facts of the case will not accord with the principia. The latter is not expected to precede the former; but the theory is supposed to follow a series of experiments, and to be grounded upon such certain data as to be altogether incontrovertible. This constitutes the difference between recent and ancient philosophy; and it is this clear method of procedure which has conduced to the brilliant discoveries of modern science. In former ages, a plausible conjecture was first brought forth from the prolific brain of an ingenious theorist, and an attempt was then made to explain contingent circumstances so as to suit the nature of the favourite scheme. Every thing which did not seem to agree with the darling hypothesis was forced into compliance, or was altogether discarded; whilst far-fetched examples were introduced to give it a delusive support. Admirers were soon found to minister help to the new system, and solid reason gave up her place to the more gay and fascinating fiction. But other philosophers followed, with cherished fancies of their own; and it became an object with them to expose the fallacy of their predecessors' schemes, that theirs might gain the wished-for place in popular favour. Nor is there any vagary, however wild, which may not find some specious argument in its defence. In this manner, one theory followed another in endless succession, without any real advancement in science being gained; for the new facts which were elicited only served to supplant the old, leaving the garden of knowledge as bare and disorderly as ever. A fresh light shone upon philosophy, when men learned first to gather and examine the materials of a subject, then to arrange them in a natural order of similarity or relationship, and finally to construct a system on this solid foundation of experience, with a superstructure of well-tested facts and logical arguments. An ancient sage could never be sure of being right, however boldly he might propound his dogmas, or however confident he might feel in his powers of reasoning; for he had not established the basis of his scheme, and could not, therefore, afford any proof of its dependent parts. Arithmetic and geometry formed splendid exceptions to the usages of olden philosophy; and their elements still remain in primitive glory, untouched by the ruthless hand of time,-stable monuments of human genius directed by the laws of truth, like a firm beacon in the midst of the ocean, round which the waves and tempests play their rude gambols, without moving a single stone by their most tumultuous efforts; and the whole fabric, systematically connected together, must stand inviolate, whilst the sea of time has any light of science to illumine its darkness and guide the practical navigator along its dangerous coasts.
Cosmogonists would take us back to the ancient method of building upon theory instead of experiment: and we wonder that some able mathematicians have in this instance abandoned the first principles of their favourite study, by relinquishing the only modes of propounding truth, which are now thought worthy of a philosopher. Whilst they complain that the public hesitates to adopt their systems, as if it doubted the skill displayed in their researches, and the sincerity of their statements, they seem to forget that we may acknowledge all their geological facts without receiting their subsequent lucubrations. We credit the truth of their description, as far as it goes, of the nature and properties of the earth's strata ; and, upon examination, we find that our confidence in their veracity has not been misplaced. But the same men may be excellent investigators, and very bad theorists. The facts adduced from actual observation may all be rightly laid down; whilst a system built upon these facts may be thought deficient in its mode of proof. Logic and nature are different studies ; so that an adept in the latter may be a mere novice in the former. A learned Brahmin is well acquainted with the heavenly bodies, in so far as the unaided eye of man can discern them; he understands their particular places and relative positions; he knows their phases, and calculates their eclipses; yet he is ignorant of the very elements of true astronomy, supposing the earth to stand upon the back of a tortoise, and the sun to move round it in diurnal revolutions. Here is the difference between the acquirement of certain facts, and a knowledge of scientific principles. We admire the elaborate skill of the patient Hindoo; but we refuse to assent to his philosophy. Although it may seem to account for many phenomena of the heavenly bodies, it is evidently inconsistent with the general scheme. Upon comparing it with several items of observation, the result proves satisfactory; but in other cases, it is deficient or contradictory, and the theory is therefore self-destructive. The principles of a true science must solve any problem connected with it, and answer every equation where sufficient data have been given.
Thus it is with the gravitation of matter. Experiments without number have been made, both respecting earth and heaven, and they have always been found to agree with the principles of Newtonian astronomy. Gravitation accounts for every motion of celestial, terrestrial, and atmospheric bodies. Had it failed to harmonize with any plainly-observed phenomena, it would have been instantly repudiated as a general law of physics. There is no discrepancy between men of science on this subject, or on any of the truths evidently drawn from its principles; for every mathematician may prove their consistency by a series of calculations. Astronomers may still differ about the mountains of the moon, the atmosphere of the sun, the nature of comets, and the inhabitants of those far-distant worlds; for these are deemed mere speculations, extraneous to the actual science, and forming an agreeable pastime in the prosecution of severer studies.
But the cosmogonist pursues the Brahminical mode of philosophy. He has formed a fanciful theory, corresponding with a few features of observation, but incongruous with other parts of the system, and the relations of which do not admit of a proof by the test of experiment. When, therefore, he leaves the plain ground of logical argument to travel in the airy regions of speculation, we refuse to follow his hazardous career, or to leave our accustomed paths of solid reasoning. He ought to have been content with ranging in the present world, which is large enough for the play of his genius; or at least to have dug a little deeper