IV. THE ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN GEOLOGY
"We have now considered the globe of this earth as a machine, constructed upon chemical as well as mechanical principles, by which its different parts are all adapted, in form, in quality, and quantity, to a certain end—an end attained with certainty of success, and an end from which we may perceive wisdom in contemplating the means employed.
"But is this world to be considered thus merely as a machine, to last no longer than its parts retain their present position, their proper forms and qualities? Or may it not be also considered as an organized body such as has a constitution, in which the necessary decay of the machine is naturally repaired in the exertion of those productive powers by which it has been formed?
"This is the view in which we are now to examine the globe; to see if there be, in the constitution of the world, a reproductive operation by which a ruined constitution may be again repaired and a duration of stability thus procured to the machine considered as a world containing plants and animals.
"If no such reproductive power, or reforming operation, after due inquiry, is to be found in the constitution of this world, we should have reason to conclude that the system of this earth has either been intentionally made imperfect or has not been the work of infinite power and wisdom."
This, then, was the important question to be answered—the question of the constitution of the globe. To accomplish this, it was necessary, first of all, to examine without prejudice the material already in hand, adding such new discoveries from time to time as might be made, but always applying to the whole unvarying scientific principles and inductive methods of reasoning.
"If we are to take the written history of man for the rule by which we should judge of the time when the species first began," said Hutton, "that period would be but little removed from the present state of things. The Mosaic history places this beginning of man at no great distance; and there has not been found, in natural history, any document by which high antiquity might be attributed to the human race. But this is not the case with regard to the inferior species of animals, particularly those which inhabit the ocean and its shores. We find in natural history monuments which prove that those animals had long existed; and we thus procure a measure for the computation of a period of time extremely remote, though far from being precisely ascertained.
"In examining things present, we have data from which to reason with regard to what has been; and from what actually has been we have data for concluding with regard to that which is to happen hereafter. Therefore, upon the supposition that the operations of nature are equable and steady, we find, in natural appearances, means for concluding a certain portion of time to have necessarily elapsed in the production of those events of which we see the effects.
"It is thus that, in finding the relics of sea animals of every kind in the solid body of our earth, a natural history of those animals is formed, which includes a certain portion of time; and for the ascertaining this portion of time we must again have recourse to the regular operations of this world. We shall thus arrive at facts which indicate a period to which no other species of chronology is able to remount.
"We find the marks of marine animals in the most solid parts of the earth, consequently those solid parts have been formed after the ocean was inhabited by those animals which are proper to that fluid medium. If, therefore, we knew the natural history of these solid parts, and could trace the operations of the globe by which they have been formed, we would have some means for computing the time through which those species of animals have continued to live. But how shall we describe a process which nobody has seen performed and of which no written history gives any account? This is only to be investigated, first, in examining the nature of those solid bodies the history of which we want to know; and, secondly, in examining the natural operations of the globe, in order to see if there now exist such operations as, from the nature of the solid bodies, appear to have been necessary for their formation.
"There are few beds of marble or limestone in which may not be found some of those objects which indicate the marine object of the mass. If, for example, in a mass of marble taken from a quarry upon the top of the Alps or Andes there shall be found one cockle-shell or piece of coral, it must be concluded that this bed of stone has been originally formed at the bottom of the sea, as much as another bed which is evidently composed almost altogether of cockle-shells and coral. If one bed of limestone is thus found to have been of marine origin, every concomitant bed of the same kind must be also concluded to have been formed in the same manner.
"In those calcareous strata, which are evidently of marine origin, there are many parts which are of sparry structure—that is to say, the original texture of those beds in such places has been dissolved, and a new structure has been assumed which is peculiar to a certain state of the calcareous earth. This change is produced by crystallization, in consequence of a previous state of fluidity, which has so disposed the concerting parts as to allow them to assume a regular shape and structure proper to that substance. A body whose external form has been modified by this process is called a CRYSTAL; one whose internal arrangement of parts is determined by it is said to be of a SPARRY STRUCTURE, and this is known from its fracture.