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Difficulties of Geologists in respect to an Extinction of Light, and the Creation of the Atmosphere.
How now do geologists extricate themselves from the difficulty in which they are thus involved by the supposition of an extinction of light, and an obliteration of continents and islands? We might justly expect that it would engage their profoundest attention, and a satisfactory solution be felt to be indispensable before those supposed catastrophes would be assumed to be facts, and incorporated as fundamental elements in the inductive processes by which they rear the vast fabric of their system. No such justification, however, of the great postulates on which they proceed, have they thought necessary. Not a syllable of proof has been alleged; not a pretence has been uttered, that any evidence exists that those events in fact occurred. Not the faintest attempt has been made to reconcile them with the principles of geology. By most they are assumed without any intimation of the causes by which they can have been produced; and the few who have offered any suggestions in respect to the mode of the suppression-of light, have only contradicted the laws of matter, and shown the inextricable embarrassment in which their postulate involves them. The existence of light, contemporaneously with the plants and animals, which they refer to ages anterior to the creation recorded in Genesis, is fully admitted and asserted by them. Dr. Buckland says:—
"The first evening may be considered as the termination of the indefinite time which followed the primeval creation announced in the first verse, and is the commencement of the first of the six succeeding days, in which the earth was to be fitted up and prepared in a manner fit for the reception of mankind. We have in the second verse a distinct mention of earth and waters as already existing, involved in darkness. Their condition also is described as a state of confusion and emptiness—tohu bohu, words which are usually interpreted by the vague and indefinite Greek term 'chaos,' and which may be geologically considered as designating THE WRECK AND RUINS OF A FORMER WORLD. At this
intermediate point of time, the preceding undefined geological periods had terminated, a new series of events commenced, and the work of the first morning of this new creation was the calling forth of light from a temporary darkness, which had overspread the ruins of the ancient earth.
"We have evidence of the presence of light during long and distant periods of time, in which the many extinct fossil forms of animal life succeeded one another upon the early surface of the globe; this evidence consists in the petrified remains of eyes of animals found in geological formations of various ages. In a future chapter I shall show that the eyes of Trilobites, which are preserved in strata of the transition formation, were constructed in a manner so closely resembling those of existing Crustacea, and that the eyes of Ichthyosauri in the lias contained an apparatus so like one in the eyes of many birds, as to leave no doubt that these fossil eyes were optical instruments, calculated to receive in the same manner impressions of the same light which conveys the perception of sight to living animals. This conclusion is farther confirmed by the fact that the heads of all fossil fishes and fossil reptiles, in every geological formation, are furnished with cavities for the reception of eyes, and with perforations for the passage of optic nerves, although the cases are rare in which any part of the eye itself has been preserved. The influence of light is also so necessary to the growth of existing vegetables, that we cannot but infer that it was equally essential to the development of the numerous fossil species of the vegetable kingdom, which are coextensive and coeval with the remains of fossil animals."—Bridgewater Treatise, i. pp. 26, 31.
He thus assumes as geological facts the wreck of the former world, and the extinction or disappearance of light after the burial of the plants and animals that are found fossilized, and makes them the basis of his whole system, without attempting to offer either the slightest evidence of their occurrence, or explanation of the causes by which they were produced. This is truly extraordinary. Can it be that it did not occur to him to inquire whether such an assumption is authorized either by the laws of interpretation, or the axioms of geology? Is it possible that he can have been wholly unconscious that the towering structure he was rearing had but a mere groundless hypothesis for its foundation, and must at the first shock of criticism give way and fall to ruins? A reconciliation of the geological theory with the Mosaic record, accomplished by an assumption that not only is not proved, and does not admit of proof, but that both directly contradicts that record and the principles of geology itself! Was there ever a more singular mistake! He can no more assume the wreck of the earth and the extinction of light betwixt the creative fiats of the first and the third verses, than he can assume that originally those events were recorded in the text, and were subsequently erased by some extraordinary catastrophe. It is truly surprising that so obvious a consideration should have escaped his notice, and the notice of the writers who preceded and followed him in this ascription to the earth of a long existence prior to the epoch of the Mosaic creation. The vast chasm which he thought to bridge over so easily, thus instead of supporting, ingulfs his whole theory. No deductions can hold that are detached from their premise by such an impassable abyss. By his failure to verify this assumption on which he proceeds, his argument from the fossil plants and animals becomes an argument against him, and overthrows his system. As light indisputably existed during the life of those plants and animals—and there is not only no geological proof that it was subsequently annihilated, but the principles of the science forbid the supposition—those vegetables and animals must be taken as evidences that the light that was contemporaneous with them, was that which was created on the first of the six days, and thence that their period of existence was subsequent to that date.
Several authors attempt to justify the supposition that betwixt the epochs of the first and the third verses a vast period of vegetable and animal life intervened that was followed by a wreck of the earth and annihilation of light, by instances of the omission in other narratives of occurrences that are known to have taken place in an interval between the events that are narrated; and they allege Exodus ii. 1, 2, as an example.
"So far from its being contrary to the usage of Scripture, in its succinct and even in its detailed narratives, to pass over much intervening matter without notice in an appa