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THE HISTORICAL AND GEOLOGICAL DELUGES COMPARED.
By Edward Hitchcock, Prof. of Chem. and Nat. Hist. Amherst College.
THERE is one other branch of the argument for a deluge from diluvial phenomena, which we must not pass in entire silence. It is derived from an examination of the contents of certain caverns and fissures. We can, however, give but a very brief view of it; although to make it well understood, requires a volume. And happily that volume has been written. We refer to Dr. Buckland's Reliquiae Diluvianae.*
In the Repository for January 1837, we expressed doubts as to what were the real opinions of Dr. Buckland at present respecting the geological evidence of a deluge; or rather, how far his opinions, as given in his Reliquiae, had been modified. On receiving his Bridgewater Treatise, we found that he had not abandoned the opinion that there has been a recent inundation of the earth, as shown by geology: but he doubts whether its identity with the Noachian deluge can be made out. The following are his views-"The evidence which 1 have collected in my Reliquiae Diluvianae, 1823, shows that one of the last great physical events that have affected the surface of our globe was a violent inundation which overwhelmed a great part of the northern hemisphere, and that this event was followed by the sudden disappearance of a large number of the species of terrestrial quadruVOL. XI. No. 29.
In 1821, the attention of Dr. Buckland was called to the contents of a cavern in limestone, in Yorkshire, that had recently been opened and found to contain numerous peculiar bones. He found this cavern to contain on its floor the following substances. At the bottom was a coating of stalagmite, or concreted limestone, that had dripped from the roof; then succeeded a layer of mud, which contained, as did also the stalagmite beneath it, numerous fragments of the bones of animals, most of them extinct. Above the mud was a second layer of stalagmite, destitute of bones; and the cavern appeared to have been closed since the period when the mud was introduced; the lower stalagmite having been deposited previous to that time, and the upper stalagmite subsequently. More than twenty species of animals were made out from these relics; and they were mostly tropical animals. From all the facts in the case, which were examined with great care by Prof. Buckland, he made several very important inferences: First, that this cave
peds, which had inhabited these regions in the period immediately preceding it. I also ventured to apply the name Diluvium, to the superficial beds of gravel, clay and sand which appear to have been produced by this great irruption of water. The description of the facts that form the evidence presented in this volume, is kept distinct from the question of the identity of the event attested by them, with any deluge recorded in history. Discoveries which have been made, since the publication of this work, show that many of the animals therein described, existed during more than one geological period preceding the catastrophe by which they were extirpated. Hence it seems more probable, that the event in question was the last of the many geological revolutions that have been produced by violent irruptions of water, rather than the comparatively tranquil inundation described in the Inspired Narrative. It has been justly argued, against the attempt to identify these two great historical and natural phenomena, that as the rise and fall of the waters of the Mosaic deluge are described to have been gradual, and of short duration, they would have produced comparatively little change on the surface of the country they overflowed. The large preponderance of extinct species among the animals we find in caves, and in superficial deposits of diluvium, and the new discovery of human bones along with them afford other strong reasons for referring these species to a period anterior to the creation of man. This important point however cannot be considered as completely settled, till more detailed investigations of the newest members of the Pliocene, and of the diluvial and alluvial formations shall have taken place." Bridgewater Treatise, p. 94, Note. London, 1836.
for a long time previous to the bringing in of the layer of mud, was the abode of hyenas, which dragged in thither the bones of other animals for their food. Secondly, that the mud was introduced by some general flood, and not by local inundations. Thirdly, that since the introduction of the mud, a considerably long period must have elapsed during which the upper layer of stalagmite was formed. Fourthly, that numerous tropical animals inhabited England at the period immediately preceding this inundation. Fifthly, that these became extinct at that time. By examining other similar caves and fissures in England and on the continent, he was able to add, Sixthly, that the period of the introduction of the mud corresponded with the epoch at which diluvium was deposited all over the world; and, Seventhly, that man did not probably exist in Europe previous to that period; since none of his remains have been found there in diluvium; though more recently some of the French geologists have maintained that human remains occur in such circumstances as to indicate that man must have been contemporary with elephants, hyenas, etc. But Dr. Buckland, in his recent Bridgewater Treatise, still maintains that "no conclusion is more fully established than the important fact of the total absence of any vestiges of the human species throughout the entire series of geological formations."* Finally, it was inferred from the facts respecting the caverns and fissures, that the sea and land did not change places at the last deluge; that is, the antediluvian continents did not then sink down, and the post-diluvian continents rise, as has been frequently imagined.
These conclusions, we are aware, have been assailed from all quarters; and we observe that not many geological writers seem now disposed to admit them in their full extent. Perhaps, indeed, Dr. Buckland made some inferences which the facts more thoroughly understood will not justify. And he also attempted to identify the deluge that filled the caverns and fissures with that of Noah; a point which he has himself since abandoned. But viewing the facts as indicative of a deluge, and not of the Mosaic deluge, we have never seen any refutation of the general conclusions that we have stated above. Indeed, they correspond well with similar facts taught by other parts of geology, and a presumption is thereby created in favor of their truth. Taken independently of the other phenomena of diluvium,
* Bridgewater Treatise, Vol. I. p. 103. London, 1836.
which we have detailed, we doubt whether this antediluvian charnel house could have given us so clear an insight into the early history of our globe. Nor has Dr. Buckland attempted to separate the two classes of phenomena; and until we meet with stronger objections than any we have yet seen, we must regard his history of the contents of caves and fissures as an interesting branch of diluvial agency on the globe.
We have thus endeavored to present a somewhat extended view of the argument furnished by geology, and derived chiefly from our own country in proof of an extensive if not universal deluge in comparatively modern times. We freely confess that we cannot explain the phenomena in any other way, than by admitting the occurrence of such a catastrophe. But we have no disposition to be dogmatical on the subject; and we have endeavored to show that the denial of any such deluge does not bring us at all into collision with the inspired history. But admitting such a deluge, is it, or is it not identical with that described by Moses? On this point we shall be still less disposed to dogmatize. Yet we will present our readers with the arguments in favor of their identity, as well as with those opposed to it.
In the first place, the deluges of geology and of Scripture agree in being comparatively recent. We know the date of the latter; but though geology has left on imperishable monuments the traces of many distinct epochs, it tells us of few chronological dates. Hence we can only compare the diluvial epoch with those that preceded it. And with the exception of the modern epoch, that is the commencement of the deposition of alluvium, the time when diluvium was deposited was the last of these epochs. It might indeed have been earlier than the date of Noah's deluge: yet we have in another place presented arguments to prove that it could not have been excessively remote. And until it can be proved that it was more remote than the flood described by Moses, why should he give it a gratuitous antiquity that we might not identify it with the latter? True philosophy, it seems to us, ought to regard them as synchronous until very strong evidence be presented to the contrary.
Secondly, the two deluges agree together in being of great extent. We do not say, in being universal, because it may be doubted and often has been, in regard to each of them, whether they were so. We think we have shown that the geological deluge extended over a large part of the northern hemisphere :