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“ We see then why the Ocean has abandoned the highest mountains on which it has left incontestable marks of its former abode. We see why the animals and plants of the south may be transported into the climates of the north, where their relics and impressions are still to be found_lastly, it explains the short period of the existence of the moral world whose earliest monuments do not go much farther back than three thousand years.
The human race reduced to a small number of individuals in the most deplorable state, occupied only with the immediate care of their subsistence, must necessarily have lost the remembrance of all sciences and of every art; and when the progress of civilization has again created new wants, every thing was to be done again as if man had been just placed upon the Earth. But whatever may be the cause assigned by philosophers to these phenomena—we may be perfectly at ease with respect to such a catastrophe during the short period of human life.”
14. We may now understand what is meant by a formation. There is a formation going on just now at the bottom of our present ocean by those muddy depositions which are brought to it from all the rivers; and which, laid the one over the other, will form, it is supposed, the strata of a new continent. Mixed up with this there must be a constant accumulation going on both of shells and skeletons—and from the bony parts of the numerous and rapid generations by which the sea is peopled, there must accrue a perpetual addition to the solid materials of that deposit, which, by the operation of a coming catastrophe, may be the dry land of the next geological era. There is at present both a forming and a hardening process going forward under the waters of the deep-SO that, when these waters shall have shifted their position, there will emerge a continent of the same firm and concrete texture with that which is now inhabited by ourselves and like it too, lifted here and there into Alpine elevations, by the mighty violence that will then be abroad over the whole surface of the world. It is obvious that this new land will have been mainly built up from the waste and demolition of the present one_insomuch as now it is principally fed by the supply of new matter swept off from the earth by the flow of rivers, and transported into the cavities of the deep. It is thus that in geological language our present continent becomes the father of a new one; and that itself hath had a father and a grandfather, which venerable personage can further lay claim to an ancestry; and thus it is that on the face of our world there are characters by which to trace what may be called the pedigree of successive formations—the most recent of these formations being that which preceded the very last catastrophe; and the intervals between the catastrophes marking the distinct eras of a globe, which, for aught we know, might have been the theatre of many revolutions.
15. Now to come nearer to our argument. Correspondent to the marks by which one set of professional men, even the geologists, have arranged these various formations in the order of their antiquity--there is another set of professional men, even the anatomists or comparative anatomists, who in the course of their independent researches have by the study of fossil remains ascertained, they think, many of the species and genera of living creatures by which the world has been peopled during the respective eras of its physical history. It is certainly conceivable that a few stragglers may have survived the operation of one catastrophe -and transmitted their own proper genera and species to the era which immediately succeeded it, so as to leave a thin sprinkling of the same remains over the next formation in the series of the world's changes. But it would appear from the observations of Cuvier and others that though in this way an occasional species may have survived one or two of these destructive revolutions; yet that each catastrophe annihilated the great majority of the existing genera, and that a very few more swept every trace of them away from the surface of the globe. In none of the old formations hath he ascertained the vestige of the human skeleton-marking the recent origin of our own species. It is only in the latest of these formations that he discovered traces indeed of any of our existing genera of animals. And, in proportion as he carries his observation upward among the senior formations, does he lose sight of all resemblance to any of the known living creatures by which our earth is peopled. But there is still, it is affirmed, a most distinct and various and perfectly ascertained population; and these older formations are crowded with the remains of it. But they are wholly distinct from the animals of the present system. Or, in other words, at each new catastrophe old races must have perished and the world been stocked with new races distinct and diverse from the former ones.
16. It is to this peculiar object that the inquiries of the celebrated M. Cuvier are directed. Upon the former conclusions of geologists respecting the positions of the different strata, and the order of their formation_he grafts his own speculations as to the fossil remains which exist in them; and he finds that in proportion to the antiquity of the strata, is the dissimilarity of these remains to the present genera. . Of the remains of sea animals, he says, “ that their species and even their genera change with the strata; and although the same species occasionally recurs at small distances, it is generally the case that the shells of the ancient strata have formis peculiar to themselves—that they gradually disappear till they are not to be seen at all in the recent strata-still less in the existing seas, in which indeed we never discover their corresponding species, and where several even of their genera are not to be found—that on the contrary the shells of the recent strata resemble, as it respects the genera, those which still exist in the sea—and that in the last formed and loosest of these strata, there are some species which the eye of the most expert naturalist cannot distinguish from those which at present inhabit the ocean.”
17. From this extract it will be perceived that the alleged revolutions are numerous. From the
marks of rapidity and violence which are to be met with, it would also appear that they have been sudden. To this purpose might be alleged the breaking and overturning of the strata; and the heaps of debris and rounded pebbles which are found among the solid strata in various places.
18. And at length to bring our argument to a point. In conjunction with these phenomena, take the two following doctrines which are now held as being among the most firmly established in natural history. In the first place, were it not for certain residual phenomena which can with difficulty be disposed of, there is now about utterly exploded the old doctrine of a spontaneous or equivocal generation. As far as can be traced with positive certainty by the eye of observation, it is not known that either animal or vegetable is brought into existence in any other way than by transmission from an animal or vegetable of the same species. Many of those appearances which were at one time conceived to indicate the contrary to this, on a more strict and close examination, have been reduced to the ordinary process and the more narrowly that the search is prosecuted, the more is the semblance of exception done away -insomuch that we might hold it as being nearly the universal creed of naturalists, that throughout both the animal and the vegetable kingdom, each individual hath had a parent of his own likeness. This may at least be affirmed of all the distinct and definite specimens which compose the great bulk whether of the zoology or botany of our present era --so far at least, as that it might with all safety be