This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/ted-davis-reading-the-book-of-nature/genesis-and-geology-at-yale-the-days-of-creation
As always, comments and questions are welcome.
I find it amazing that men who lived 200 years ago sound like we do today on matters of scripture and science. My humanities professor told us that the history of ideas is more like a braid than like a stairway. Ideas take turns as the most visible, but never entirely disappear.
While geology and astronomy began to challenge traditional interpretation of scripture long before Darwin, the Bible’s references to a flat earth and the heavens rotating around it for only several thousand years are in passing, and not as prominently stated as Genesis’ account of creation. With Darwin’s theory seeming to throw out the most common interpretation of the creation story, the one part of the Bible that everybody has read, it seems to me that many Christians decided that re-interpreting Scripture in light of science had gone too far. Edward Hitchcock mentions in the 1840s that people were beginning to consider geology counter to faith by suggesting that the world was tens of thousands, if not millions of years old, but widespread resistance to science by religious people seems to have occurred only after Darwin published in 1859.
Very soon I’ll be writing a column about Hitchcock. Although I know him well, I don’t recall that exact passage. If you can send a precise reference to me off board (tdavisATmessiahDOTedu), I would be grateful.
What a marvelous quote you produced from a Geologist - - long before anyone ever worried about Darwinism or ‘evolution’ per se!
Benjamin Silliman, 1829:
“. . . the creation of the vegetable and animal races [species] appears to have gone on progressively with the deposition of the mineral strata and masses.” Adding almost immediately, “The only point that admits of discussion is, as to the amount of time employed,” he skirted around the details, maintaining a studied vagueness throughout.”
"Only at the very end did he come close to endorsing a particular scheme: “In the prefatory remarks I have expressed the opinion, that there is no real inconsistency between the Mosaic history, and the actual structure of the earth. As I understand the account there is not, but, on the present occasion, I shall not enter upon the discussion of that part of the subject; believing that the period is not distant,
when Geology will be admitted into the train of her elder sister Astronomy, and that both, however regarded while they were imperfectly understood, will be eventually hailed, as friends and allies of revealed religion.”
[From: Outline of the Course of Geological Lectures Given in Yale College, pp. 50 and 126) ]
I can imagine the abuse these more visionary Geologists must have received - - using the plain evidence of their tests and senses - - to see the great antiquity of the Earth.
I think we could say to Prof. Silliman that Geologists have indeed become especially credible experts on the nature of God’s ‘rocky’ universe. But we would also have to report that as the generations have progressed from his day in the 1800’s, Revealed Religion has become increasingly unwilling to accept the findings of Geologists, Physicists, Biologists or Cosmologies.
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