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AGE OF THE EARTH
GEOLOGICALLY AND HISTORICALLY.
BY WILLIAM RHIND,
MEMBER OF THE ROYAL COLLEGE 07 BORG RONS, MEMBER OF THE ROYAL MEDICAL SOCIETY
ENVIRONS OY EDINBURGH,"&c.
Sit numine vestra
The following analysis of the prevailing geological opinions of the day would not have been attempted, had it not been thought that the question cannot long rest where it now stands. Neither would the author have set himself against an array of high authorities on the science, had he not been equally aware of the conflicting and unstable nature of opinion, even among those authorities, on the subject at issue. To any one who has watched the progress of theoretical geology for the last few years, - without even reverting to the speculations of the last century, where opinion has so often vacillated and changed on the subject, and where so many hasty conclusions have been formed, that scarcely has an autḥor his speculations half through the press, when the last part must be written as a caveat or contradiction of the first,—it will not be deemed a high degree of presumption to attempt an analysis of the points of discussion, and to place these in such a shape as may enable the general inquirer to comprehend the import and bearing of the whole question.
In a work recently published for the use of students, where the facts of geology alone are given, I have endeavoured to illustrate the practicability of teaching all that is really important in the science, apart from theoretical views. That work having already had a rapid circulation, I have in the present endeavoured to complete my original plan, by giving an analysis of those facts as they bear upon theoretical and historical views of the past condition of the earth. I am well aware, however, that the execution of this task is very incomplete, and could have wished that some one, having more extensive means of information, and
leisure from the anxieties of daily avocations, had undertaken it.
I must also here, in the outset, state, that I may be reckoned by some not an unpreju
diced judge of the questions before me; for, entertaining such a belief in the Sacred Writings as makes me confident that their general import was intended to be as readily understood by the mass of mankind as by the critical inquirer, I am disposed to give implicit credence to the narrative of creation, to the whole extent that it goes ; and whereever discrepancies present themselves, to await the issue of the approximation of geological knowledge to the sacred history, instead of attempting to torture this latter into a conformity with the former. I am not aware, however, that in these pages this bias has materially influenced the impartiality of my statements, or swayed, in any degree, my conclusions from facts.
The few practical illustrations which I have appended in the Notes are necessarily of a local nature, consisting of those which come more immediately under my inspection ; and they are given more with a view of shewing, that if the labours of research were sometimes directed to illustrate how far the fossils of the great leading formations may
coincide instead of differ, the results would perhaps