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The Testimony of Science to the Deluge

Nature volume 54, page 594 | Download Citation



IT is impossible to treat this book seriously. Such as it were common enough forty or fifty years ago, but we had hoped they had gone the way of the dodo. They are compounded after the following recipe: To the narrowest views in theology, add a general ignorance of the principles of inductive reasoning, collect a number of scraps from scientific books, mainly those written when geology was in its infancy, or if not, carefully separated from their context; stir all together into a hopeless confusion, and serve up with a sauce of pious intention flavoured by some inappropriate quotations from Scripture. Mr. Galloway is one of the stalwarts; he will be content with no local deluges; he will not let us off a square yard of the flood's extent, or a foot of its depth, except perhaps in equatorial regions. This cataclysm produced the rounded and scored rocks, the perched blocks and the boulder-clays with the scratched stones. But he does not explain to us why these products of a universal deluge are restricted to certain parts of the earth, and what were its leavings in districts where our so-called glacial deposits are wanting. A deluge, however, must have a cause. So Mr. Galloway finds this in a sudden shift of the earth's axis of rotation, amounting to about 18½°; and he unearths some speculations by Dr. Halley, fully two centuries old, in support of his hypothesis. He tells us also much about terrestrial magnetism which does not seem particularly applicable, but we find no explanation of what caused the shift, no proof that the resulting disturbances of water would be powerful enough to transport heavy rock masses in an open country—particularly when it is admitted that the axis may not have “jumped” from one position to the other, but that “several rotations of the earth would probably take place in the progress of the change.” Mr. Galloway cannot even cite his authorities accurately. J. Evans (now Sir John) becomes T. Evans, G. F. Browne's Ice-caves becomes Brown's Icy Caves, and so on. But it is waste of time to criticise this book. We present its author at parting with a motto which might have been printed appro priately on his title-page—“Deferar in vicum vendentem thus et odores, Et piper, et quicquid chartis amicitur ineptis.”

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