This article, originally from The Defender, (date unknown), is one of a collection of articles by Price in Report on Evolution, published in 1971 by C. Wm. Anderson of Malverne N.Y.
The problem of evolution is an old problem, and like all such it has a history. Indeed, one of the very best methods of studying any vexed question is to get at its history. Evolutionists are not very proud of the history of their theory - unless we let them tell it as they like to tell it. The vast majority of the public are so wholly unacquainted with the history of natural science that a clever writer, like Henry Fairfield Osborn, can set forth an alleged history of the theory which looks almost like an argument in its favor, but which in reality is only a whitewash or a camouflage.
Such writers always tell us that the Greeks were evolutionists. This is only partly true. They were pagans, and of course might have taken kindly to any pagan idea, as evolution certainly is; they believed in a careless, non-critical way in spontaneous generation, and this idea is a very essential part of the theory of organic evolution, for it is the only naturalistic method of starting their scheme of development. The Greeks were such believers in spontaneous generation that they extended this theory to explain the origin of all the larger forms of life as well. Not only mice and frogs, but horses and elephants also at some time in the past - if you would only concede a sufficient length of time - had all sprung up spontaneously from the moist earth. Consistently also they extended this principle to include human beings; for they held that each country had its original inhabitants, who had sprung up from the soil; and they called these people autochthones, from two words meaning sprung from the earth by the generating power of the earth itself. And the nobles of Athens used to wear badges of golden grasshoppers, to indicate that they were the aboriginal people of that part of the world, in other words, they were the autochthones of Greece.
This of course is pagan enough, and also evolutionary enough, so far as it goes. But as Louis T. More has pointed out, the Greeks never has any real scheme of organic evolution; and indeed no persons could have any such a scheme until some system of geology had arisen which would claim to place the fossils in an alleged chronological order; for only by such a background of former kinds of life in an alleged historical sequence could any intelligent scheme of evolution be constructed. The ancient Greeks might deny the Christian doctrine of creation, as all pagans have done, and might have some vague, crude substitutes of their own; but Osborn and other evolutionists are very unhistorical when they seek to claim the ancient Greeks as believers in anything at all resembling the scheme which has grown up in modern times as an interpretation of the facts of geology and biology.
It is a very interesting and profitable study to examine the history of the early speculations regarding the changes that have taken place on the earth's surface. I have in preparation a volume dealing with the history of some of the chief scientific blunders; but in a brief sketch like the present we can touch on only a few of the high points. From a study of the history of the various sciences we learn that perhaps ninety-nine percent of all the serious blunders of scientists have been due to faulty reasoning of one sort or another, and not to faulty observations or faulty discoveries. Men of science make a great deal out of the necessity for careful and accurate observations of natural phenomena; but history shows that essentially all the strange blunders which have retarded the progress of science have been due to faulty logic instead of to faulty observations. And the history of geology and of biology, with their colossal blunder of organic evolution, is no exception to this general rule. Such blunders "have their day, they have their day and cease to be" as Tennyson reminds us; though during their vogue they may exert a very harmful influence on other lines of scientific study that are not in immediate connection with the blunder. But when new observations have been made which render the former theory impossible, it is then seen (in almost all cases) that the former theory was in reality based on unsound reasoning from the facts which had long been already known, so that the theory (now proved to be a blunder) was in reality a piece of slip-shod reasoning from the very beginning.
The first name in the history of geological theory which is of importance to us is that of Count de Buffon (1707-1788), who lived just before the French Revolution, and almost exactly a hundred years before Charles Darwin (1809-1882). Buffon was one of the leading men of his time, being in charge of the natural history museum of the French Kings in Paris; and he wrote a large work of fifteen volumes on certain phases of natural history which in his day was much after the order of some modern "Outline of Science," only on a much larger scale. He wrote other works which dealt especially with a theory of the earth; for in those days earth-science was never placed on the same level as the other sciences, such as botany or zoology, and was always handled separately as a speculation of how the world was made and the vissitudes through which it had passed.
Buffon took over without criticism the current theories to the effect that the earth is immensely old, and that it has gone through many ups and downs (literally, so far as its surface is concerned), which he represented as seven epochs or periods, which however would include the present epoch, and the future; and I am inclined to believe that Buffon knew about as much about the future as he did about the past, and was about as scientific in his dealings with the one as with the other. But the writings of Buffon had a very great vogue, for they were charmingly written, and had a very great influence in shaping subsequent views regarding the rocks and the history of the animals upon the earth. Indeed Buffon may very properly be regarded as the real founder of the theory of organic evolution.
But geology has for its founder as a separate science A.G. Werner (1749-1817), a teacher of mineralogy in Freiberg, Germany. He was a most enthusiastic exponent of his science (he called it geognosy), and attracted crowds of students from all the civilized countries, sending these pupils forth as flaming evangelists of the new learning.
His actual teachings may not have been as absurd as they now sound to us; for we must remember that he wrote essentially nothing, so that we are entirely dependent upon the statements of his pupils for what the master really taught. It is also probable that his theories regarding the origin of the various rocks and the historical sequence in which they originally occurred may have occupied only a very small part of his teachings. As in the case of so many other persons, he is remembered now chiefly by his mistakes. Thus it is with scientists as with other men:
The evil that men do lives after them,The famous onion-coat theory, for which Werner is now chiefly remembered, was an attempt to tell the exact order in which the various kinds of rocks were formed in the first place. He held that all of the materials now composing our earth's surface were originally held in an aqueous solution, being held dissolved in the ocean water. One by one these various substances were thrown down as precipitates, the exact order being: first the granites and associated greenstones; next hornblende schists and porphyries; then slates and graywackes, "followed in turn by limestone, coal, basalt, and ores; by sand, clay, soapstone and finally by volcanic ash, some lavas, and jasper." ("The Development of the Sciences," edited by W.W. Woodruff, p.207; Yale University Press, 1923.) And as these were all deposited from the univeral ocean as chemical precipitates, they must originally have been found occurring in a true historical sequence one above the other, each kind being in the first place all around the earth, like the coat of an onion. Hence the nickname of the "onion-coat" theory.
The good is oft interred with their bones.
It is astonishing how long this absurd theory held sway over all the studies regarding the minerals and rocks. True, it "worked" remarkably well; for it served to explain a multitude of facts: and it was taught in a gradually diminishing manner down until well on in the nineteenth century. The thing, of course, which finally brought it into discredit was the finding of rocks here and there in an oder of sequence which flatly contradicted the order taught by Werner. This was only to be expected; for Werner had never traveled, had never been more than a hundred miles away from his birth place; and of course he was not gifted with any supernatural knowledge of the past, that is, he could not really testify that the rocks had been deposited in a certain order; for he was not back there to watch the process, he could only judge from the order in which he found them. And his theory was helplessly at the mercy of any cold facts which might be discovered some day in Australia, or India, or France, or even in some other part of Germany. For Lyell tells us that within a few miles of Werner's home he might have seen instances of rocks in an oder directly contradicting his theory. But Alex. von Humboldt and many other naturalists of a century ago thought that they always found the rocks occurring as Werner had taught them to look for them.
Werner was fundamentally wrong in his method of reasoning. He had framed a universal conclusion from very limited data, ignoring all the countless unknown instances that might yet be discovered. Exactly the same crude method of blundering has characterized most of the theories since, which have tried to deal with the same problems which Werner attempted to solve. For as we shall see, we are still living under the vogue of an onion-coat theory of geology, though the present is a theory of biological onion coats, instead of a onion coats of minerals.
But gradually and imperceptably, during or soon after the close of the Napoleonic wars, Werner's system was displaced by another which aimed to classify the stratified rocks according to the kinds of fossils which they happened to contain. This new method was brought by William Smith (1769-1838), an ignorant land surveyor of the south of England. He had taught himself enough mathematics to enable him to act as assistant to those who were engaged in digging canals, building dams, digging wells, etc., and he wqas shrewd enough to see that a knowledge of the conditions underground in any particular locality would be of great service in such work. He kept traveling around a good deal in the southern and central part of England, though it is not certain that he ever saw Scotland and it is certain that he never was outside of Great Britain. He noticed that certain queer things (of which he did not know either the names or the scientific significance) were always found in certain beds ofrock, and he grew accustomed to guessing that when he found another distant outcrop of rock with the same curious things (fossils) which he had seen in the other place, the two kinds of beds were probably continuous with each other underground. Thus grew up the method of tracing separated outcrops of rock by their fossil contents, which happens to work admirably within a limited district, say of a hundred miles or so. But the method was considered of univeral applicability; and so we have today a system of geology which assumes that rocks in far distant countries, like England and India or South America, which show the same fossils, were deposited at about the same time. But this method also assumes (without the slightest justification) that rocks containing very different kinds of fossils were not deposited simultaneously, but either before or afterwards, the length of the interval being determined by the chronological scheme which has been worked out to tell the exact order in which all the various kinds of fossils were deposited.
William Smith (who was given the nickname of "Strata" Smith) thought that he noticed a general tendency in England for the strata to dip slightly to the east or south-east; and he crudely imaagined that all over the world the strata would always be found occurring, not merely in the same relative sequence, but all dipping to the east!!! Such were the crude absurdities of the man who is often called the "father of English geology."
With the onion-coat theory of Werner already firmly established, the geologists of that day eagerly adopted the new method of identifying the strata; but they held on with unthinking and uncritical persistency to the general scheme of successive sets of universal onion coats all around the globe, the merely changed the method of identifying them. So clearly was this the case that even Herbert Spencer, as late as July, 1859, sharply criticized the methods of Lyell and the other geologists of his day in the following pungent words: "Must we not own that, though the onion-coat hypothesis is dead, its spirit is traceable under a transcendental form, even in the conclusions of its antagonists?"
The great Baron Cuvier (1769-1832) of France undoubtedly had a vast influence in putting this fossiliferous onion-coat theory on a scientific basis and teaching it to the world; but we must pass along to note how this absurd idea became the foundation of Charles Darwin's scheme of evolution, and through him of the form of the theory prevailing today, though all acknowledge that Darwin's pet theories no longer hold good.
The man who really put the new form of geology before the world was Charles Lyell (1797-1875), who was knighted by Queen Victoria and was finally buried in Westminster Abbey. He took over the fossiliferous or biological form of the onion-coat theory as he found it, but he added to it the theory that all the geological changes of the past must be explained by the present-day action of the oceans, the rivers, and the winds, denying that any great catastrophe had ever happened to our globe in the past, but affirming that the present methods and the present rates of the forces of nature are sufficient to explain all the geological changes of the past. Thus we have the full modern geological theory of uniformity, as it is called, in contrast to the theory of catastrophism, which was very popular among some geologists till well on toward the middle of the nineteenth century.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) had started to study medicine at Edinburgh, but gave it up after two years of very elementary science, because he was bored by the lectures he had to attend. Next he was sent to Cambridge, to study for "holy orders," as the theological profession is called in England. He finished Cambridge in 1831, at the age of twenty-two, and instead of becoming a clergyman he went off on the ship "Beagle," which toured the southern seas for about five years, returning to England in the autumn of 1836, after which Darwin never left England. Darwin's duties aboard the "Beagle" were nil, he was his own boss and spent his time in collecting and writing notes of his observations. He had had no experience in dissecting animals (though he had been two years at a medical school); and so his collections and his notes of animals were quite worthless and were soon disposed of when he returned to England. The only line of science in which he had anay scientific training worth speaking of was geology, and this he had in a desultory way for several months along with Sedgwick, who was then teaching at Cambridge. Thus it will be seen that this young man, with a very scanty acquaintance with geology and essentially none of the ordinary biological sciences, was very ill equipped to start out to reform the entire scientific thought of the world, a scheme which he hit upon before he was thirty.
He had taken Lyell's "Principles of Geology" with him on his voyage to South America, and after returning to England was very intimately associated with Lyell for many years. He took over from Lyell both the biological onion-coat theory and the theory of geologic uniformity, which, as we have seen, denies point-blank that there was any such world-catastrophe as the Flood mentioned in Genesis. To all these theories he added his own private patent of "natural selection," which was merely a theory for explaining how species become changed or transformed into different species. But he was already a convinced evolutionist by the age of 28, or a year or more before he hit upon natural selection as a method of explaining how evolution came about. Hence it ought to be as clear as sunlight that it was the anti-Biblical views of geology as then prevailing as as obtained from Lyell and others, which were the real foundations of Darwin's evolution; his own theory was only a supplementary theory to explain the precise method of what he and others already believed to be a fact.
Reviewing our studies thus far, we see that Werner's onion-coat theory was professedly discarded because numerous examples were found where the rocks were in an order directly contradictory of the theory. Similarly the modern fossiliferous onion-coat theory ought to be discarded, because numerous examples have already been found where the rocks occur in an order of sequence the reverse of the "standard" or evolutionary order. For the details of these facts I beg to refer the interested reader to some of my books, such as "The New Geology, a Textbook for Colleges" (1923), and "Evolutionary Geology and the New Catastrophism" (1926), where these contradictory examples are given in full. Suffice it to say that the evolutionary onion-coat theory has been "peeled" very completely, and there is really no excuse in this day of intelligence for any person longer to hold an evolutionary theory of the rocks, unless he is determined to believe in a naturalistic theory of development somehow, whether the scientific facts support it or not; because the only alternative now, in the light of modern science, is to believe in the real literal Creation, as taught in the Bible.
Spontaneous generation was settled once and for all by Pasteur, about half a century ago. Evolutionary geology has now been disposed of for all who will take the trouble to look into the matter; and so we are now left face to face with that sublime truth of the Christian's Bible, "In the beginning God created."