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means of geology what is the antiquity of the human race. In one of his earlier works Lyell says that it was presumptuous of those savants to attempt the solution of such a complicated problem without having collected numerous data. Lyell himself hesitated a long time before he published his book on this subject, and he never denied the difficulty of ascertaining the antiquity of man by geological means. While he was occupied in writing his book, Morlot imparted to him his calculation as to the age of the lake dwellings which I have already mentioned, and in doing so he observed that he knew very well that this was only a first imperfect and rash attempt, which had no value in itself so long as it was not confirmed by other similar attempts. Lyell wrote back to him, “ Some one must have the chivalry to begin.”i He therefore thought that the task of numerically estimating a geological period was so difficult, and gave so little hope of an assured result, that not only learning, cleverness, and prudence, but also chivalry was wanted before the first step in this slippery path can be taken. For this reason Lyell himself is far from considering the investigations described in his book as being conclusive, or as furnishing a valid and assured result. He repeats over and over again, that many more separate observations must be made before full knowledge can be attained ; that all the estimates of the antiquity of man quoted by him are only indefinite and experimental, and that the time has not yet arrived when geologists can come forward with any assured conclusion. I quote the testimony of another eminent English geologist. Professor Phillips,
i Bibliothéque universelle, Geneva 1862. Arch. xiii. 313.
speaking at the meeting of the British Association held at Bath in 1864, said that there was the greatest difficulty in obtaining trustworthy results as to the time which has elapsed, and that this occurred where it was least expected, namely, in the case of the deposits of the last geological period, that in which the history of man falls. It is therefore, he adds, selfevident that this field of inquiry must be very carefully trodden, and that in investigating facts and choosing measures of time all possible care must be taken before we can say that the human period, even in our regions carefully as they have been examined, is known through the natural phenomena, and before geology can assert that man lived on earth at a period much before that fixed by history and tradition.” In the following year he spoke at the meeting at Birmingham, and I give an extract from his speech : “Let us not expect or devise for them (these questions) a very quick, or at present a very definite settlement. Deep shadows have gathered over all the earlier ages of mankind, which perhaps still longer periods of time may not avail to remove.” He then enumerates a series of questions which must be considered, and continues : “Before replying finally to these questions further researches of an exact nature are desirable. . . . When these are completed, some future Lyell, if not our own great geologist, may add some fresh chapters to the Antiquity of Man.”? I have given you many quotations from the works of German savants, containing warnings against uncertain and
1 Athenæum, 24th Sept. 1864, p. 405. ? atheneum, 9th Sept. 1865, p. 343.
exaggerated geological calculations. I will add to these the declaration with which Pfaff closes his inquiries into this subject. “All the figures which are taken from natural measures of time, and which are given as estimates of the antiquity of man, are most uncertain ; the most trustworthy do not exceed 5000 to 7000 years.” K. G. v. Baer speaks in the same way in his last work, and says that the antiquity of man is very likely no greater than might be supposed from the Biblical narratives.”
You see I may safely assert that the assertion that geologists believe they have proved that man has existed from 50,000 to 100,000 years on the earth is incorrect. Geologists who deserve the name of thorough inquirers, and who confine themselves to the limits of their science, do not assert this. They are extremely prudent and modest in their assertions. No doubt we often see it said now-a-days that geologists have proved that the human race is 100,000 years old, or at any rate much older than the Bible says it is, or than has hitherto been thought possible; but the principal people who find pleasure in making this assertion, and in repeating it with all kinds of variations, are, first, men of science who, when they are treating matters of science in a popular form, invariably mix up their religious and philosophical views with them, and who speak the more bitterly about the Bible the less they know and understand it; among these I place Vogt and Schleiden. Then we find that this assertion is made by people who have not studied earnestly either natural science or history or theology, but who think they are qualified 1 Die neuesten Forschungen, p. 76.
2 Studien, p. 412.
to explain scientific questions to educated people of all classes by popular writings, in pamphlets and magazines. Now as boldness of assertion generally stands in inverse ratio to the extent and thoroughness of knowledge, we find that in this literature many things are said to be certain scientific conclusions which real savants have either never asserted, or do not now assert, or do not yet assert, but only regard as a hypothesis. And thus we find those writers unhesitatingly making the boldest assertions with reference to the antiquity of mankind, whereas the leaders of science still consider it a proof of chivalry to utter even hypotheses on this question.
I admit unhesitatingly that very eminent geologists think that the present state of the inquiry seems to show that the Biblical estimate of time is probably too short. But they do not consider that the researches which have only just been begun on a comprehensive scale, and which the investigators themselves say are very difficult and complicated, are in any way at an end, and we must therefore wait to see whether the researches will continue to bear out what now seems probable to geologists, or whether other results will be obtained. I have shown you that the theologian may safely admit that the so-called Biblical chronology is too short, and that the first appearance of the human race may be dated hundreds and even thousands of years before the year 4000 B.C. The question here is not so much of a contradiction between the Bible and natural science, as of one between the chronology assumed in history and “prehistoric” chronology. And I think I am justified by an argument from analogy in
confidently expecting that the progress of research will be favourable to historical chronology.
When the results of geological inquiry were first compared with the Mosaic Hexæmeron, the former seemed to confirm the latter in an accurate and remarkable manner, and the fossils gave irrefutable proofs of the Deluge. But after this first period of harmony between theologians and geologists, there followed another period of bitter enmity; the former geological theories were found to be untenable, and the newly obtained geological results seemed to be in hopeless contradiction with the Bible. Now we are living in the third, and to all appearance the last period, one of honourable peace; theologians do not claim to find in the results of geological inquiry a striking confirmation of the Biblical record, but they can prove that these results in no way contradict the statements of the Bible when these are rightly understood. The boundaries of both sciences have been now fixed, this was omitted or was probably impossible before; but it has been shown that if the two sciences will meet each other openly, the boundaries and limits of both can be decided in a manner satisfactory to both.
I think that the question of the antiquity of mankind will have a similar fate. Cuvier and his followers thought they had found geological proofs of the accuracy of the Biblical chronology ; that was the first period. Their views proved erroneous, and we are now living in the second period, in which there seems to be a hopeless contradiction between the theories of geologists and not only the Biblical statements, but also the views on the antiquity of the human race held by historians