תמונות בעמוד

therefore our present races were originated in a way different from that in which they are now perpetuated by successive generations.

4. Let us now offer then a short exposition of this argument with Cuvier's theory of the earth, on which, not to ground, but only to illustrate the argument.

5. The water of our present ocean holds certain substances in solution-and is thereby adapted to the support of certain marine animals. Now it is conceivable that the nature of this solution may be changed, either by coming into contact with new substances and dissolving them, or by a mere change in the proportion of its present ingredients. Bụt it is probable, that, after the changes had been accomplished to a certain degree in the waters of the ocean, the present generation of marine animals could not exist in them. Those of them which were formed in nice dependence on the constitution of their element, would be the first to fall a sacrifice to its progressive alterations--the hardier would then follow-and, after the lapse of ages, it is conceivable that the change of element might be so great as to bring along with it the entire destruction of the existing genera.

6. The remains of marine animals must be accumulated every year in the bottom of the ocean. But this is not the only deposition that is going on there. There is an incessant deposition of sediment carried down by innumerable rivers, and obtained from the wearing of those various materials which compose the land. In addition to this, there may be the chemical precipitation of matter in a solid form from the water of the ocean itself. All these depositions may be spread over the bottom of the sea in successive layers or strata. They may be hardened by long-continued pressure into the consistency of stone. There may have Leen thousands of shells imbedded in them and what is more, the form even of the softer fishes may be retained in petrifaction; and handed down to the observation of very distant ages.

7. All this may be going on in the vast and inaccessible solitudes of the deep-but how can the vestiges of such a process ever be submitted to actual observation? The ocean may change its place. There are known causés perfectly competent to the production of such an effect. What is now dry land may be submerged—and the deserted bed of the ocean may come to be inhabited by land animals. By an exercise of creative power the sea may be stocked with new generations, adapted to the last changes which its waters have undergonem-and by another exercise of creative power, the new land which has been formed may also be peopled with living beings. If there be a rational being among the last like man, he might observe the traces of that process which took place in the last era of the history of the globe. He might learn from the vestiges of marine animals firmly imbedded in the stratified rock, that the ground he is now treading upon was at one time covered with the waters of the sea and by comparing specimens extracted from the fossil productions around him with the fishes of the present ocean, he might come to the wonderful conclusion that the former species have been extinguished, and given place to a new and totally dissimilar generation. . .

8. But this is not all. The various tribes of land animals now multiply and die, and deposit their remains in that very region which abounds with the marine productions of a former era. The sediment of rivers is not all carried forward immediately to the sea. A great part of it is arrested in its progress, and goes either to accumulate a soil upon their banks, or to form alluvial land at their mouths. The skeletons of land animals are enveloped in this mass of mineral substances. The ocean which has changed its place once may do it again. It may make a second irruption upon the land, and sweep away whole genera of living creatures from the globe. The surface that is left dry may be repeopled by a few out of the many who may have escaped this catastrophe-or an ever watchful Deity may again interfere; and, by another exercise of creative power, may occupy the new formed land by other generations. .

9. In this way the remains of land and of sea animals may be assembled together in the same neighbourhood. The successive retreats and irruptions of the Ocean may produce, not one, but a series of alternations. And the strata which are around us, each evincing its own relative antiquity by its position, and exhibiting the remains of its own peculiar animals, may serve the double purpose of recording the great revolutions which have taken place, both in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and upon the surface of our Globe.

10. And, apart from any violent changes in the place of the Ocean, it must be obvious that the surface of the Globe is not in a state of permanency. There is a constant wearing of the land. Even its hardest materials could not resist for ever the incessant operation of the air and the moisture and the frost to which they are subjected. The mighty continent would at length wax old and disappear; and the world that we now live in become a howling solitude of waters., 1. 11. To this it now tends, and thus to all appearance must it remain through eternity, but for a change in the place of the Ocean; and a change that may happen long before the degradation of the land to its own level. A slight change in the axis of the Earth would be altogether adequate for such an effect. It is to the diurnal revolution of the Earth round its axis, that we owe the deviation of its figure from a perfect sphere. The Earth is so much flattened at the poles and so much elevated at the equator, that the former are nearer to the centre of the Earth than the latter by so many English miles. What would be the effect then if the axis of the Earth were suddenly shifted? If the polar and equinoctial regions were to change places there would be a tendency towards an elevation of these miles in the one region, and as great a depression in the otherand the more transferable parts of the Earth's surface would be the first to obey this tendency. The Ocean would rush towards the new equator. The cohesion of the solid parts, would, it is likely, offer a feeble resistance, and give way to this

mighty conatus_nor would the Earth become quiescent till a new and elevated equator was formed at right angles to the former one, and passing through the present poles.

12. But it is not necessary to assume so entire a change in the position of the Earth's axis as to produce so great a difference in any of the existing levels_nor would any single impetus indeed suffice to accomplish such a change. The transference of the poles from their present situation by a few degrees, would give rise to a revolution sudden enough and mighty enough for a great physical era in the history of the Globe and a change of level indeed for a single quarter of a mile, would overwhelm its fairest regions, and destroy the vast majority of its living animals.

13. To show that we fear nothing from infidel science, let us present the following extract from La Place, the ablest and most exalted of its votaries, who in his book entitled “the System of the World,” after having reasoned on the likelihood that in the course of ages a comet might interfere with our Earth, thus pictures the effects of the collision :-“ It is easy to represent the effect of such a shock upon the Earth_the axis and motion of rotation changed the waters abandoning their ancient position to precipitate themselves towards the new equator-the greater part of men and animals drowned in a universal deluge, or destroyed by the violence of the shock given to the terrestrial globe-whole species destroyed all the monuments of human industry reversed—such are the effects which the shock of a comet would produce."

« הקודםהמשך »