table of contents

Excerpts from Hugh Miller’s “The Testimony of the Rocks”, 1857.
by Andrew MacRae

Back to previous chapter,  “LECTURE SEVENTH”

[Comments in square brackets are mine.  Comments in braces, “{}” are Miller’s]


A century has not yet gone by since all the organic remains on which the science of Palaeontology is now founded were regarded as the wrecks of a universal deluge, and held good in evidence that the waters had prevailed in every known country, and had risen over the highest hills. Intelligent observers were not wanting at even an earlier time who maintained that a temporary flood could not have occasioned phenomina so extraordinary. Such was the view taken by several Italian naturalists of the seventeenth century, and in Britain by the distinguished mathematician Hooke, the contemporary, and in some matters rival, of Newton. But the conclusions of these observers, now so generally adopted, were regarded both in Popish and Protestant countries as but little friendly to Revelation; and so strong was the opposite opinion, and so generally were petrifactions [i.e. fossils] regarded as so many proofs of a universal deluge, that Voltaire felt himself constrained, first in his Dissertations drawn up for the Academy at Bologna, and next in his article on shells in the Philosophical Dictionary, to take up the question as charged with one of the evidences of that Revelation which it was the great design of his life to subvert. And with an unfairness too characteristic of his sparkling but unsolid writing, we find him arguing, that all fossil shells were either those of fresh [p.321]
water lakes and rivers evaporated during dry seasons, or of land snails developed in unusual abundance during wet ones; or that they were shells which had been dropped from the hats of pilgrims on their way from the Holy Land to their homes; or that they were shells that had gone astray from cabinets and museums; or, finally, that they were not shells at all, but mere shell-like forms, produced by some occult process of nature in the bowels of the earth [this last was a genuine issue of great controversy in the 1600s and early 1700s]. In fine, in order to destroy the credibility of the Noachian deluge, the brilliant Frenchman exhausted every expedient in his attempts to neutralize that Palaeontologic evidence on which geologists now found some of their most legitimate conclusions. But he only succeeded, instead, in producing compositions of which every sentence contains either an absurdity or an untruth, and in raising a reaction against the special school of infidelity which he had founded, that at length bore it down. He wrote in the middle of the Paris basin [mainly Tertiary in age], with its multitude of fossil shells and bones; and, when penning his article for the Encyclopaedia, he had, he tells us, a boxful of the shell-charged soil of the Faluns of Touraine actually before him; but the deluge had to be put down, whatever the nature or bearing of the facts; and so he could find in either no evidence of a time when the sea had covered the land. He found, instead, only “some mussels, because there were ponds in the neighborhood.” As for the “spiral petrifactions termed cornu ammonis,” [i.e. ammonites] of which the Jurassic Alps are full, they were not nautili [i.e. coiled cephalopods like the modern Nautilus], he said; they could be nothing else than reptiles [i.e. snakes]; seeing that reptiles take almost always the form of a spiral when not in motion; and it was surely more likely, that when petrified they should still retain the spiral disposition, than that “the Indian Ocean [where stranded shells of the modern Nautilus can be found] should have long ago overflowed the mountains of Europe.” Were there not, however, real shells of the Syrian type in [p.322]
France and Italy? Perhaps so. But ought “we not to recollect,” he asked, “the numberless bands of pilgrams who carried their money to the Holy Land, and brought back shells? or was it preferable to think that the sea of Joppa and Sidon had covered Burgundy and Milanais?” [a basic puzzle was the “tropical” nature of the shells that were recognizably similar to modern ones] As for the seeming shells of the less superficial deposits [i.e. deeper/older than the Tertiary of the Paris Basin], “Are we sure,” he inquired, “that the soil of the earth cannot produce fossils?” Agate in some specimens contains its apparent sprigs of moss, which, we know, never existed as the vegetable they resemble; and why should not the earth have, in like manner, produced its apparent shells? Or are not many of these shells mere lake or river petrifactions? — one never sees among them “true marine substances”!! “If there were any, why have we never seen bones of sea dogs, sharks, and whales?”!!! And thus he ran on, in the belief apparently that he had to deal with an ignorant priesthood, too little acquainted with the facts to make out a case against him in behalf of the Mosaic narrative, and whom at least, should argument fail him, he could vanquish with a joke.

There was, however, a young German, who had not at the time quite made up his mind either for the French school or against it, who was no uninterested reader of Voltaire’s disquisitions on fossil shells. And this young man was destined to be in the coming age what the Frenchman had been in the closing one, — the leading mind of Europe. He, too, had been looking at fossils; and having no case to make out either for or against Moses, or any one else, he had received in a fair and candid spirit the evidence with which they were charged. And the gross dishonesty of Voltaire in the matter formed so decided a turning point with him, that from that time forward he employed his great influence in bearing down the French school of infidelity, as a school detestably false [p.323]
and hollow; — a warning, surely, to all, whether they stand up for Revelation or against it, of the danger of being, like the witty Frenchman, “wicked overmuch.” “To us youths,” says Goethe, in his Autobiography, “with our German love of truth and nature, the factious dishonesty of Voltaire, and the perversion of so many worthy subjets, became more and more annoying, and we daily strengthened ourselves in our aversion from him. He could never have done with degrading religion and the sacred books for the sake of injuring priestcraft, as he called it; and thus produced in me many an unpleasing sensation. But when I now learned, that to weaken the tradition of a Deluge, he had denied all petrified shells, and only admitted them as lusus naturae, he entirely lost my confidence; for my own eyes had on the Baschberg plainly enough shown me that I stood on the bottom of an old dried-up sea, among the exuviae of its ancient inhabitants. These mountains had certainly once been covered with waves, — whether before or during the Deluge did not concern me: it was enough that the valley of the Rhine had been a monstrous lake, — a bay extending beyond the reach of eyesight: out of this I was not to be talked. I thought much more of advancing in the knowledge of lands and mountains, let what would be the result.” I know not in the whole history of opinion a more instructive passage than this. Little could Voltaire have known what he was in reality doing, or how egregiously he was overreaching himself, when, in laboring to bear down the evidence borne by fossils to the ancient upheavals and cataclysms, he suffered himself to make use of assertions and arguments so palpably unfair. And those who employ, in their zeal against the geologists, what is still exceedingly common, — the Voltairean style of argument, — especially if they employ it in what [p.324]
they deem the behalf of religion, might do well to inquire whether they are not in some little danger of producing the Voltairean result.

No man acquainted with the general outlines of Palaeontology, or the true succession of the sedimentary formations, has been able to believe, during the last half century [i.e. 1800-1850s], that any proof of a general deluge can be derived from the older geologic systems, — Palaeozoic, Secondary [Mesozoic], or Tertiary. It has been held, however, by accomplished geologists, within even the last thirty years, that such proof might be successfully sought for in what are known as the superficial deposits [i.e. Quaternary or Pleistocene and Recent]. Such was the belief of Cuvier, — a man who, even in geologic science, which was certainly not his peculiar province, exerted a mighty influence over the thinking of other men. “I agree with MM. Delue and Dolomieu in thinking,” we find him saying, in his widely famed “Theory of the Earth,” “that if anything in geology can be established, it is, that the surface of the globe has undergone a great and sudden revolution, the date of which cannot be referred to a much earlier period than five or six thousand years ago.” But from the same celebrated work we learn that Cuvier held that this sudden catastrophe, — occasioned, as he supposed, by an elevation of the sea bottom and a submergence of the previously existing land, — had not been universal; seeing he could entertain the belief that the three great races of the human family, — Ethiopian, Mongolian, and Caucasian, — had all escaped from it in several directions. In referring to the marked peculiarities of the Mongolian race, so very distinct from the Caucasian, he merely intimates, that he was “tempted to believe their ancestors and ours had escaped the great catastrophe on different sides;” but in dwelling on the still more marked peculiarities of the Negroes, we find him explicitly stating, that, “all their [p.325]
characters clearly show that they had escaped from the overwhelming deluge at another point than the Caucasian and Altaic races; from which they had perhaps been separated,” he adds, “for a long time previous to the occurrence of that event.” For a season, geologists of high standing in our own country, such as Buckland and Conybeare, followed Cuvier so far as to hold, that the superficial deposits [Quaternary] bore evidence everywhere of a great cataclysm, the last of the geologic catastrophes; and which might be identified, they believed, with the Noachian Deluge. Against this view one of the most distinguished Scottish naturalists, Dr. John Fleming, raised a vigorous protest as early as the year 1826, and conclusively showed that no temporary flood could have produced the existing appearances. And so thoroughly were his facts and reasonings confirmed by subsequent discovery, that the geologists of name who had acquiesced, wholly or in part, in the Cuvierian view, read in succession their recantations: Dr. Buckland in especial, who had written most largely on the subject, and committed himself most thoroughly, did so a very few years after: nor does the hypothesis of Cuvier appear to have been since adopted by any writer of scientific reputation. Instead, therefore, of contending with arguments or inferences which there are now no parties in the field to maintain, I shall briefly refer to a few of the leading characteristics of those superficial deposits [Quaternary sediments] on which the abandoned conclusions were originally based, and show, in the passing, that they are not such as a temporary deluge could have produced.

The superficial deposits include what is known as the mammaliferous crag, the drift [i.e. glacial drift], the boulder and brick clays, the stratified sands and gravels, the travelled rocks [i.e. erratics], the ösars, and moraines of the higher latitudes. For it is a fact very significant in its bearings on the diluvial controversy, [p.326]
that it is in the higher latitudes in both hemispheres that these peculiar deposits are chiefly to be found. They have been traced in Patagonia [southern South America] in the one hemisphere, from the southern limits of the country to the forty-first degree of south latitude; and in Europe in the other, to the fortieth; and in America to even the thirty-eighth degree of north latitude. But in the great belt, nearly eighty degrees in breadth, which, encircling the globe from east to west, includes with the torrid the warmer portions of the temperate zones, they have scarce any existence at all, or exist at least in different forms and exceedingly reduced proportions [It was not known in Miller’s time, but sediments of similar composition are known from equatorial regions, but are much older, and occur as part of the Paleozoic, rather than the recent “surficial” deposits Miller is talking about]. The superficial deposits, in their most characteristic conditions, are deposits of the colder portions of the globe, and in many parts indicate that there prevailed during their formation a much severer climate than now obtains in the regions in which they occur. The shells which they contain in Britain, for instance, though almost all of existing species, are many of them such as are not now to be found in the British seas, but in seas about ten degrees further to the north; and there is evidence that the line of perpetual snow must have descended at the time to lower level than that attained by our second-class hills, and that almost every Highland valley had its glacier. They represent, too, vast periods of time; — earlier periods, during which the land gradually sank, till only its higher eminences were uncovered, and great floats of icebergs went careering over its submerged plains and lower hills; and later periods, during which the land as gradually arose, after apparently many pauses and oscillations, until at length, when it had reached a level scarce eighty feet higher than that which it at present maintains, the climate softened, and the glaciers which had formed in the later times among its hills ultimately disappeared. Beds of sea-shells of the boreal type, that belong to those [p.327]
ice ages, may be still found occupying the places in which they had lived and died, many miles inland, and hundreds of feet over the sea level. Boring shells, such as the pholodadidae, may be detected far out of sight of the ocean, still occupying the cells which they had scooped out for themselves in hard limestone or yielding shale; and serpula [polychaete worm tubes] and nuliporate [bryozoan?] encrustations may be seen still adhering to rocks raised to giddy elevations over the sea [The significance here is: they were not merely transported to these locations, because they are encrusting]. The group of mammals, however, which lived during this period, and to whose abundant tusks and skeletons one of its older deposits (the mammaliferous crag) owes its name, was marked by so peculiar a character, that evidence of a universal deluge has been often sought for in their remains. The group, — that which immediately preceded the animals of our own times, and included not a few of the indigenous species which still inhabit our country, — was chiefly remarkable for containing many genera, all of whose existing species are exotic. It had its great elephant, its two species of rhinoceros, its hippopotamus, its hyaena, its tiger, and its monkey; and much ingenious calculation has been employed by such writers such as Granville Penn, in attempting to show how these remains might have been transported from the intertropical regions during the Flood, not only to Britain, but even to the northern wastes of Siberia, — a voyage of from four to five thousand miles. There are instances on record in which the bodies of the drowned have been drifted from ninety to a hundred and fifty miles from the spot where they had been first submerged; but they have always been found, in these cases, in a condition of sad mutilation and decay; whereas the carcass of the ancient elephant which was discovered, a little ere the commencement of the present century, locked up in ice in Siberia, three thousand six hundred miles from where elephants now live, was in such a state of excellent keeping , [p.328]
that the bears and dogs fed upon its flesh. It seems a significant circumstance too, that the remains of these fossil elephants, tigers, and hyaenas, should be associated in even our own country with those of well known northern species, — with the remains of reindeer, of the red deer, of the Lithuanian auroch, of the European beaver, of the European wolf, of the wild cat, the fox, and the otter. Writers, however, such as Mr. Penn, got over both difficulties. He showed, for instance, how a ship had once run across the Atlantic under bare poles, during an almost continued hurricane, at the rate of two hundred and eighty-eight miles in twenty-four hours, — nearly the rate at which the great American steamers cross the same ocean now; and why, he asked, might not the carcasses of elephants have drifted northwards at an equal rate on the tides of the deluge? And for the mixed character of the group with which these remains are found associated, that was exactly what Mr. Penn would have expected in the circumstances. It was the result of a tumultuary flood, which had brought together in our northern region the floating carcasses of the animals of all climates, to sink in unwonted companionship, when putrefaction had done its work, into the same deposits. He had, however, unluckily overlooked the fact, that comparative anatomy is in reality a science; and further, that it is a science of which men such as Cuvier and Owen know a great deal more than the men who never studied it, however respectable. It is the recorded decision of these great anatomists, — a decision which has been many times tested and confirmed, — that the northern species of elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, and hyaena, were entirely different from the intertropical species; that they differed from them very considerably more than the ass differs from the horse, or the dog from the wolf; and that, while there is a preponderating amount [p.329]
of evidence to show that they were natives of the countries in which their remains are now found, there is not a shadow of the evidence to show that they had ever lived, or could have lived, in an intertropical country. Of the northern elephant [the mammoth], it is positively known, from the Siberian specimen, that it was covered, like many other subarctic animals, with long hair, and a thick crisp undergrowth of wool, about three inches in length, — certainly not an intertropical provision; and so entirely different was it in form from either of the existing species, African or Indian, that a child could be taught in a single lesson to distinguish it by the tusks alone. In fine, the assumption that challenges the remains of the old Pleistocene carnivora and pachydermata as those of intertropical species brought northwards by a universal deluge, is about as well based and sound as if it challenged the bones of foxes occasionally found in our woods for the remains of dogs of Aleppo or Askalon brought into Britain by the Crusaders, or as if it pronounced a dead ass to be one of the cavalry horses of the fatal charge of the Balaklava, transported to England from the Crimea as a relic of the fight. The hypothesis confounds as a species the Rosinante of Quixote with the Dapple of Sancho Panza, and frames its argument on the mistake.

That this extinct group of animals inhabited for ages the countries in which their remains are now embedded, is rendered evident by their great numbers in some localities, and from their occurrence in various states of preservation, and in beds of various ages. The five hundred mammoths whose tusks and grinders [teeth] were dragged up in thirteen years by the oyster dredgers of the Norfolk coast from a tract of submerged drift, could not all have been contemporary in a small corner of England, but must have represented several generations. And of course the two [p.330]
thousand grinders brought up from the exposed surface of the drift must have borne but a small proportion to the thousands still dispersed throughout the entire depth of the deposit. Any argument, however, founded on the mere numbers of these elephantine tusks and grinders, and which evaded the important question of species, might be eluded, however unfairly, by the assertors of a universal deluge. Floods certainly do at times accumulate, in great heaps, bodies of the same specific gravity; and why might not a universal flood have accumulated on this special tract of drift, the carcasses of many elephants?  But it will be found greatly more difficult to elude the ingenious argument on the general question of Professor Owen.  Next, perhaps, to the extinct elephant, one of the most numerous animals of this ancient group was the great Irish elk, Megaceros Hibernicus, a creature that, measured to the top of its enormous antlers, stood ten feet four inches in height, and exceeded in bulk and size the largest horses.  Like all other species of the deer family, the creature annually shed and renewed its horns;  “and a male deer may be reckoned,” says Professor Owen, “to have left about eight pairs of antlers, besides its bones, to testify its former existence upon the earth.  But as the female has usually no antlers, our expectations might be limited to the discovery of four times as many pairs of antlers as skeletons in the superficial deposits of the countries in which such deer have lived and died.  The actual proportion of the fossil antlers of the great extinct species of British Pliocene deer (which antlers are proved by the form of their base to have been shed by the living animals) to the fossil bones of the same species, is somewhat greater than in the above calculation.  Although, therefore, it may be contended that the swollen carcass of a drowned exotic deer might be borne along a diluvial [p.331]
wave to a considerable distance, and its bones ultimately deposited far from its native soil, it is not credible that all the solid shed antlers of such species of deer could be carried by the same cause to the same distance;  or that any of them could be rolled for a short distance, with other
{Fig. 111.  MEGACEROS HIBERNICUS.  (Irish Elk.)}
heavy debris of a mighty torrent, without fracture and signs of friction.  But the shed antlers of the large extinct species of deer found in this island and in Ireland have [p.332]
commonly their parts or branches entire as when they fell;  and the fractured specimens are generally found in caves, and show marks of the teeth of the ossivorous hyaenas by which they have been gnawed;  thus at the same time revealing the mode in which they were introduced into those caves, and proving the contemporaneous existence in the island of both kinds of mammalia.”

But the contents of the bone caves, consisting in large part of the extinct mammals, ought of themselves to be decisive in this question.  As the opening of the Kirkdale cavern is only about four feet each way, a diluvial wave, charged with the wreck of the lower latitudes, could scarce have washed into such an orifice any considerable number of the intertropical animals.  And yet there has been found in this cave, — with the teeth of a very young mammoth, of a very great tiger, of a tiger-like animal whose genus is extinct, of a rhinoceros, and of a hippopotamus, — the fragmentary remains of from two to three hundred hyaenas.  Further, even supposing, what is impossible, that a diluvial wave had swept them all from the tropics into the four-feet hole, on what principle is it to be explained that the bones thus washed into the cave should be all gnawed bones, even those of the hyaenas themselves, wheras the bones of the same creatures found in the mammaliferous deposits of the country bear no marks of teeth?  Mr. Granville Penn, however, gets over the difficulty of the cave, which is hollowed, I may mention, in a limestone of the Oolitic series [Jurassic Period], inclosing the ammonite and belemnite, by asserting that its mammaliferous contents may be somewhat older than itself!  The limestone existed, he holds, as but a mere unformed pulp at the time the intertropical animals came floating northwards:  they sank into it;  the gasses evolved during putrefaction blew up the plastic lime above them into a [p.333]
great oblong bubble, somewhat as a glass-blower blows up a bottle;  and hence the Kirkdale cavern, with its gnawed bones and its amazing number of teeth.  And certainly a geologic argument of this ingenious character has one signal [sic] advantage, — it is in no danger whatever of being answered by the geologists.  Mr. Penn, in a second edition of his work, expressed some surprise that an Edinburgh Reviewer should have merely stated his argument without replying to it!!

But I need not dwell on the arguments for a universal deluge which have been derived from the superficial deposits.  They all belong to an immature age of geologic science, and are no value whatever.  Let us pass rather to the consideration of the facts and arguments which militate against the universality of the catastrophe.

The form and dimensions of Noah’s ark are definitely given in the sacred record.  It seems to have been a great oblong box, somewhat like a wooden granary, three stories high, and furnished with a roof apparently of the ordinary angular shape, but with a somewhat broader ridge than common;  and it measured three hundred cubits in length, fifty cubits in breadth, and thirty cubits in height.  A good deal of controversy has, however, arisen regarding the cubit employed;  some holding, with Sir Walter Raleigh, and most of the older theologians, such as Shuckford and Hales, that the Noachian cubit was what is known as the common or natural cubit, “containing,” says Sir Walter, “one foot and a half, or a length equal to that of the human fore-arm measured from the sharp of the elbow to the point of the middle finger;”  others contending that it was the palm-cubit, “which taketh,” adds my authority, “one handful more than the common;”  yet others, the royal or Persian cubit of twenty-one inches;  and so on;  for there are, it seems, five [p.334]
several kinds of cubit to choose from, all differing each from the others.  The controversy is one in which there is exceedingly little footing for any party.  I am inclined, however, to adopt, with Raleigh and Hales, the natural cubit, for the following reason.  The given dimensions of the ark form the oldest example of measurement of which we have any record;  and all, or almost all, the older and simpler standards bear reference to portions of the human frame.  There is the span, the palm, the hand-breadth, the thumb-breadth (or inch), the hair-breadth, and the foot.  The simple fisherman on our coasts still measures off his fathoms by stretching ut both his arms to the full;  the village sempstress still tells off her cloth-breadths by finger-lengths and nails;  the untaught tiller of the soil still estimates the area of his little field by pacing along its sides.  Man’s first and most obvious expedient, when he sets himself to measure, is to employ his own person as his standard;  and the first or common cubit was a measure of this natural description equal in length to the extended fore-arm and hand.  All the other cubits were artificial compounds of after introduction;  and so, in the absence of direct evidence on the point, I accept the most natural and oldest cubit as in all probability the one employed in the oldest recorded piece of cubit measurement.  And the ark, if measured by the common or natural cubit, must have been a vessel four hundred and fifty feet in length, seventy-five feet in breadth, and forty-five feet in height.  Dr. Kitto, however, though we find him remarking that in computations of Scripture measures the cubit may be regarded as half a yard (Sir Walter’s estimate), adopts, in his own computation of the size of the ark, without assigning any reason why, the palm-cubit, or cubit of twenty-one inches and nearly nine lines (21.888 inches);  and, waving all controversy [p.335]
on the question, let us, for the arguments sake, admit the larger measure. Let us, — however much inclined to hold with Raleigh, Shuckford, and Hales, — agree with Dr. Kitto that the ark was five hundred and forty-seven feet in length, by ninety-one feet in breadth. Such dimensions, multiplied by three, the number of stories in the vessel, would give an area equal to about one seventh that of the great Crystal Palace of 1851. Or, to take a more definite illustration from the same vast building, the area of the three floors of the ark, taken together, would fall short by about twenty-eight thousand square feet of that of the northern gallery of the Palace, which measured one thousand eight hundred and forty-eight feet in length, by ninety-six feet in breadth. And thus, yielding to our opponents their own larger measurements, let us now see whether the non-universality of the deluge can not be fairly predicated from the dimensions of the ark.

I may first remark, however, that measures so definite as those given by Moses (definite, of course, if we waive the doubt regarding the cubit employed) were effectual in setting the arithmeticians to work in all ages of the Church, in order to determine whether all the animals in the world, by sevens and by pairs, with food sufficient to serve them for a twelvemonth, could have been accomodated in the given space. It was a sort of stock problem, that required, it was thought, no very high attainments to solve. Eighty years have passed since kind old Samuel Johnson, in writing to little Miss Thrale a nice little letter, recommending her to be a good girl, and to mind her arithmetic, advised her to try the ark problem. “If you can borrow `Wilkins’ Real Character,'”we find him saying to the young lady, “a folio which perhaps the booksellers can let you have, you will have a very curious calculation, [p.336]
 which you are qualified to consider, to show that Noah’s ark was capable of holding all the known animals of the world, with provision for all the time in which the earth was under water.” Unluckily, however, though the dimensions of the ark were known, the animals of the world were not; and so the question, in at least one of its terms, had to be very frequently restated. Let us take it as we find it presented (drawn, however, from a much older source), in Sir Walter Raleigh’s magnificent “History of the World.” “If in a ship of such greatness,”says this distinguished man, “we seek room for eighty-nine distinct species of beasts, or, lest any should be omitted, for a hundred several kinds, we shall easily find place both for them and for the birds, which in bigness are no way answerable to them, and for meat to sustain them all. For there are three sorts of beasts whose bodies are of a quantity well known; the beef, the sheep, and the wolf; to which the rest may be reduced by saying, according to Aristotle, that one elephant is equal to four beeves, one lion to two wolves, and so of the rest. Of beasts, some feed on vegetables, others on flesh. There are one-and-thirty kinds of the greater sort feeding on vegetables, of which number only three are clean, according to the law of Moses, whereof seven of a kind entered into the ark, namely, three couples for breed, and one odd one for sacrifice; the other eight-and-twenty kinds were taken by two of each kind; so that in all there were in the ark one-and-twenty great beasts clean, and six-and-fifty unclean; estimable for largeness as ninety-one beeves; yet, for a supplement (lest, perhaps, any species be omitted), let them be valued as a hundred and twenty beeves. Of the lesser sort feeding on vegetables were in the ark six-and-twenty kinds, estimable, with good allowance for supply, as fourscore sheep. Of those which devour flesh were two-and-thirty kinds answerable [p.337]
to threescore and four wolves. All these two hundred and eighty beasts might be kept in one story or room of the ark, in their several cabins; their meat in a second; the birds and their provision in a third, with space to spare for Noah and his family, and all their necessaries.” Such was the calculation of the great voyager Raleigh, — a man who had a more practical acquaintance with stowage than perhaps any of the other writers who have speculated on the capabilities of the ark; and his estimate seems sober and judicious. It will be seen, however, that from the vast increase in our knowledge of the mammals which has taken place since the age in which the “History of the World”was written, the calculation which embraced all the eighty-nine known animals of that time would embrace those of but a single centre of creation now; and that the estimate of Sir Walter tells, in consequence, on the side, not of a universal, but of a partial deluge.

As man extended his acquaintance with the mammals, he found their number greatly increasing on his hands. Buffon, like Raleigh, though a professed naturalist, and a writer of admirable genius, had no very distinct notions of species. He was inclined to question whether even the ass might not be merely a degraded horse; and confounded many of the mammals of the New World with their representative congeners in the Old. And yet, in summing up his history of the mammaliferous division [basically Tertiary to Recent], he could state, that though it included descriptions of “a hundred and thirty-four different species of creatures that suckled their young, many of which had not been observed or described before,”it was necessarily incomplete, as there were still others to add to the list, for whose history there existed no materials. At the same time he remarked, however, that the “number of quadruped animals whose existence is is certain and well established does not amount to more [p.338]
 than two hundred on the surface of the known world.” Yet here was the extreme estimate of Raleigh, with what he deemed large allowance for the unknown animals, fairly doubled; and under the hands of more discriminating naturalists, and in the inevitable course of discovery, the number has so enormously increased, that the “eighty-nine distinct species”known to the great voyager have been represented during the last thirty years by the one thousand mammals of Swainson’s estimate, the one thousand one hundred and forty-nine mammals of Charles Bonaparte’s estimate, the one thousand two hundred and thirty mammals of Winding’s estimate, and the one thousand five hundred mammals of Oken’s estimate. In the first edition of the admirable “Physical Atlas”of Johnston (published in 1848) there are one thousand six hundred and twenty-six different species of mammals enumerated; and in the second edition (published in 1856), one thousand six hundred and fifty-eight species. And to this very extraordinary advance on the eighty-nine mammals of Raleigh, and the two hundred mammals of Buffon, we must add the six thousand two hundred and sixty-six birds of Lesson, and the six hundred and fifty-seven reptiles of Charles Bonaparte; or at least, — subtracting the sea snakes, and perhaps the turtles, as fitted to live outside the ark, — his six hundred and forty-two reptiles*
{Footnote: The following estimate of the air-breathing vertebrates (that of the “Physical Atlas,”second edition, 1856) may be regarded as the latest. It will be seen that it does not include the cetacea [whales] or the seals: — 
Quadrumana 170
Marsupialia 123
Edentata 28
Pachydermata 39
Terrestrial Carnivora 514
Rodentia 604
Ruminantia 180
———- 1658
Birds ———- 6266
Reptiles 657
Turtles -8
Sea Snakes -7
———- 642

[Total is: 8566 species]

Great as is this number of animals, compared with those known a century ago, there are indications that the list is to be increased rather than diminished. Even by the latest European authorities the reindeer is represented as consisting of but a single species, common to the subarctic regions of both the Old and New Worlds; whereas in the “Canadian Naturalist”for 1856 I find it stated, on what seems to be competent authority, that America has its own two species of reindeer [caribou], and that they both differ from the European species.} [p.339]
Such is the number of the known vertebrates, exclusive of the fishes, with which in this question we have now to deal. Still, however, there are a few lingering theologians, some of them very intelligent mean, who continue to regard the ark as quite big enough for them all. Dr. Hamilton of Mobile, for instance, after fairly stating Swainson’s estimate, namely, one thousand mammalia, six thousand birds, and one thousand five hundred reptiles and amphibiae, goes on to say, that “it must not be forgotten, that of all these, the vastly greater proportion are small; and that numbers of them could be placed together in the same compartment of the ark.” This, however, permit [sic] me to say with all respect, is not meeting the real difficulty. No doubt many of the birds are small, — many of the reptiles are small, — many even of the mammals are small, — many small animals were known in the days of Raleigh, and a much greater number of small animals are known now; but the question proper to the case seems to be, What proportions do both the large and the small animals now known bear to the large and small animals known in the days of Raleigh or Buffon; and how much additional accomodation-room would they require during their supposed voyage of a twelvemonth? There are two different ways in which [p.340]
the list of the known animals have been increased, especially of the known mammals. They have been increased in a certain appreciable proportion by discovery; and as discovery has been made chiefly in islands, — for the great continents had been previously known, — and as the mammals of islands, as has been well remarked by Cuvier, are usually small, of this appreciable proportion of the bulk is comparatively not great. The great kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), though the inhabitant of an island which ranks among the continents, would not much exceed in bulk, tried by Raleigh’s quaint scale of measurement, a sheep and a half, or at most two sheep; and yet I know not that discovery in the islands has added a larger animal to the previously known ones than the great kangaroo. Mr. Waterhouse, when he published, in 1841, his “History of the Marsupialia,”reckoned up one hundred and five distinct species of pouched animals; and eighteen species more, — in all one hundred and twenty-three, — have since added to the order. With the exception of an opossum or two, all these marsupiata may be regarded as discoveries made since the time of Buffon; most of them, as I have said, are small. And such, generally, has been the nature of the revelations made during the last seventy years by positive discovery. It is not, however, by discovery, but by scientific scrutiny into the true nature and distinctions of species, that the recent enormous increase in the number of the known mammals has mainly taken place. And in these cases it will generally be found that the new species, which had been previously confounded with some old ones, so nearly resemble the latter in bulk, as well as aspect, as to justify in some degree the mistake. Let us take two of the greatest animals as examples, — the elephant and the rhinoceros. Buffon confounded the African with the Asiatic elephant. We now know that they represent [p.341]
two well marked species, Elephas Africanus and Elephas Indicus; and that an ark which contained the ancestors of all the existing animals would require to have its two pair of elephants, not the one pair only which would have been deemed sufficient eighty years ago. Again, with respect to the rhinoceros, Buffon was acquainted with the single horned animal, and had heard of the animal with two horns; and so, though by no means certain that the “variety was constant,” that “two distinct species might possibly be established.” But we now know that there are six species of rhinoceros (seven, according to the “Physical Atlas,”) — Rh. Indicus, Rh. Javanus, Rh. Sumatrensis, Rh. Africanus, Rh. simus, and Rh. ketloa; and that, instead possibly four, at least twelve, or more probably fourteen, animals of the genus would require, on the hypothesis of a universal deluge, to have been accomodated in the ark. Buffon even held that the bison of America might be identifical with not simply the auroch of Europe, which it closely resembles, but with even the European ox, which it does not resemble. But it is now known, that while the European aurochs are provided by nature with but fourteen pairs of ribs, the American bison is furnished with fifteen. Of each of the ruminants that divide the hoof, there were seven introduced into the ark; and it may be well to mark how, even during the last few years, our acquaintance with this order of animals has been growing, and how greatly the known species, in their relation to human knowledge, have in consequence increased. In 1848 (in the first edition of the “Physical Atlas”) Mr. Waterhouse estimated the oxen at thirteen species; in 1856 (in the second edition) he estimates them at twenty. In 1848 he estimated the sheep at twenty-one species; in 1856 he estimates them at twenty-seven. In 1848 he estimated the goats at fourteen species; in 1856 he estimates them [p.342]
at twenty. In 1846 he estimated the deer at thirty-eight species; in 1856 he estimates them at fifty-one. In short, if, excluding the lamas and the musks as doubtfully clean, tried by the Mosaic text, we but add to the sheep, goats, deer, and cattle, the fourty-eight speices of unequivocally clean antelopes, and multiply the whole by seven, we shall have as the result of a sum total of one thousand one hundred and sixty-two individuals, — a number more than four times greater than that for which Raleigh made provision in the ark, and considerably more than twice greater than that provided for by the students of Buffon. Such is the nature and amount of the increase which has taken place during the last half century in the mammaliferous fauna. In so great a majority of cases has it increased its bulk in the ratio in which it has increased its numbers, that if one ark was not deemed more than sufficient to accomodate the animal world known to the French naturalist of eighty years ago, it would require at least from five to six arks to accommodate the animal world known in the present day.

Even in the days of Buffon, however, and at a still earlier period, the ark, regarded as a natural means of preservation from death by drowning, was usually coupled, in the case of at least the carnivorous animals, with certain miraculous provisions against death by starving. It seems to have been generally taken for granted, that the flesh-eating animals, when introduced to the shelter of the ark, entirely changed the nature indicated by their form of teeth, the character of their stomachs, and the shortness of their bowels, and fed, for the time they remained in it, exclusively on vegetable substances, which, in ordinary circumstances, their lacteals could not have converted into chyle. Certain figurative expressions in Scripture taken literally, which refer to a class of wild animals whose real destiny is [p.343]
rather, it would seem, to be extirpated than to be changed, coupled with the belief, now no longer tenable, that there was a time, ere man had sinned, when there was no death among the inferior creatures, and of course no eaters of flesh, rendered the belief easy of reception; but it involved a miracle nowhere recorded; and the burden of the proof that such a miracle actually took place in the circumstances lies of necessity on the assertors of a universal deluge. Further, of even the creatures that live on vegetables, many are restricted in their food to single plants, which are themselves restricted to limited localities and remote regions of the globe. Dr. Hamilton has not referred, in his list of animals, to the insects, — a class which, though they were estimated in 1842 to consist of no fewer than five hundred and fifty thousand species, might yet be accomodated in a comparatively limited space. But how extraordinary an amount of miracle would it not require to bring them all together into any one centre, or to preserve them there! Many of them, like the myriapoda [millepedes] and the thysanura [unwinged insects], have no wings, and but feeble locomotive powers; many of them, such as the ephemera and the male ants, live after they have got their wings only a few hours, or at most a few days; and ther are myriads of them that can live upon but single plants that grow in very limited botanic centres. Even supposing them all brought into the ark by miricle as eggs, what multitudes of them would not, without the exertion of further miracle, require to be sent back to their proper habitats as wingless grubs, or as insects restricted by nature to a few days of life! Or, supposing the eggs all left in their several localities to lie under water for a twelvemonth amid mud and debris, — though certain of the hardier kinds might survive such treatment, by miracle alone could the preponderating majority of the class be preserved. And be it remembered, [p.344]
that the expedient of having recourse to supposititious miracle in order to get over a difficulty insurmountable on every natural principle, is not of the nature of argument, but simply an evidence of the want of it. Argument is at an end when supposititious miracle is introduced.

But the very inadequate size of the ark, though a conclusive proof that all, or nearly all, the progenitors of our existing animals could not have harboured within it from any general cataclysm, does not furnish a stronger argument against the possibility of any such assemblage, than the peculiar manner in which we now find these animals distributed over the earth’s surface. Linnaeus held, early in the last century, that all creatures which now inhabit the globe had proceeded originally from some such common centre as the ark might have furnished; but no zoologist acquainted with the distribution of species can acquiesce in any such conclusion now. We now know that every great continent has its own peculiar fauna; that the original centres of distribution must have been, not one, but many; further, that the areas or circles around these centres must have been occupied by their pristine animals in ages long anterior to that of the Noachian Deluge; nay, that in even the latter geologic ages, they were preceded in them by animals of the same general type. There are fourteen such areas or provinces enumerated by the later naturalists. It may be well, however, instead of running any risk of losing ourselves amid the less nicely defined provinces of the Old World, to draw our illustrations from two and a half provinces of later discovery, whose limits have been rigidly fixed by nature. “The great continents,”says Cuvier, “contain species peculiar to each; insomuch that whenever large countries of this description have been discovered, which their situation had kept isolated from the rest of the world, the class of quadrupeds [p.345]
which they contained has been found extremely different from any that had existed elsewhere. Thus, when the Spaniards first penetrated into South America, they did not find a single species of quadruped the same as any of Europe, Asia, or Africa. The puma, the jaguar, the tapir, the cabiai, the lama, the vicuna, the sloths, the armadilloes, the opossums, and the whole tribe of sapajous, were to them entirely new animals, of which they had no idea. Similar circumstances have recurred in our own time, when the coasts of New Holland [New Guinea??] and the adjacent islands were first explored. The various species of kangaroo, phascolomys, dasyurus, and perameles, the flying phalangers [flying lemurs], the ornithorynchi, and echidae, have astonished naturalists by the strangeness of their conformations, which presented proportions contrary to all former rules, and were incapable of being arranged under any of the systems then in use.” New Zealand, though singularly devoid of indigenous mammals and reptiles, — for the only native mammal seems to be a peculiar species of rat, and the only native reptile a small, harmless lizard, — has a scarce less remarkable fauna than either of these great continents. It consists of almost exclusively of birds, some of them so ill provided with wings, that, like the wika of the natives, they can only run along the ground. And it is a most significant fact, that both in the two great continents and the New Zealand islands there existed, in the later geologic ages, extinct faunas that bore the peculiar generic characters by which their recent ones are still distinguished. The sloths and armadilloes of South America had their gigantic predecessors in the enormous megatherium and mylodon, and the strongly armed glyptodon; the kangaroos and wombats of Australia had their extinct predecessors in a kangaroo nearly twice the size of the largest living species, and in so huge a wombat, that its [p.346]
bones have been mistaken for those of the hippopotamus; and the ornithic inhabitants of New Zealand had their

{Fig. 112. MYLODON ROBUSTUS [giant sloth]}
{Fig. 113. GLYPTODON CLAVIPES [glyptodon is somewhat similar to a giant armadillo]}

predecessors in the monstorous birds, such as the dinornis, the aptornis, and the palapteryx, — wingless creatures like [p.347]
the ostrich, that stood from six to twelve feet in height. In these several regions two generations of species of the genera peculiar to them have existed, — the recent generation by whose descendants they are still inhabited, and the extinct gigantic generation, whose remains we find locked up in their soils and caves. But how are such facts reconcileable with the hypothesis of a universal deluge?

The deluge was an event of the existing creation. Had it been universal, it would either have broken up all the diverse centres, and substituted one great general centre instead, — that in which the ark rested; or else, at an enormous expense of miracle, all the animals preserved by natural means by Noah would have had to be returned by supernatural means to the regions whence by means equally supernatural they had been brought. The sloths and armadilloes, — little fitted by nature for long journeys, — would have required to be ferried across the Atlantic to the regions in which the remains of the megatherium and glyptodon lie entombed; the kangaroo and wombat, to the insulated continent that contains the bones of the extinct macropus and phalcolomys; and the New Zealand birds, including its heavy flying quails and its wingless wood-hen, to those remote islands of the Pacific in which the skeletons of Palapteryx ingens and Dinornis giganteus lie entombed. Nor will it avail aught to urge, with certain assertors of a universal deluge, that during the cataclysms, sea and land changed their places, and that what is now land had formed the bottom of the antediluvian ocean, and, vice versa, what is now sea had been the land on which the first human inhabitants of the earth increased and multiplied. No geologist who knows how very various the ages of the several table-lands and mountain chains in reality are could acquiesce in such an hypothesis; our own Scottish shores, — if to the term of the existing we add that of the [p.348]
ancient coast line, — must have formed the limits of the land from a time vastly more remote than the age of the deluge. But even supposing, for the argument’s sake, the hypothesis recognized as admissible, what, in the circumstances of the case, would be gained by the admission? A continuous tract of land would have stretched, — when all the oceans were continents and all the continents oceans, — between the South American and the Asiatic coasts. And it is just possible that, during the hundred and twenty years in which the ark was in building, a pair of sloths might have crept by inches across this continuous tract, from where the skeletons of the great megatheria [giant sloth] are buried, to where the great vessel stood. But after the Flood had subsided, and the change in sea and land had taken place, there would remain for them no longer a roadway; and so, though their journey outwards might, in all save the impulse which led to it, have been altogether a natural one, their voyage homewards could not be other than miraculous. Nor would the exertion of miracle have had to be restricted to the transport of the remoter travellers. How, we may well ask, had the Flood been universal, could even such islands as Great Britain and Ireland have ever been replenished with many of their original inhabitants? Even supposing it possible that animals, such as the red deer and the native ox might have swam across the Straits of Dover or the Irish Channel, to grave anew over deposits in which the bones and horns of their remote ancestors had been entombed long ages before, the feat would have been surely far beyond the power of such feeble natives of the soil as the mole, the hedgehog, the shrew, the doormous, and the field-vole.

Dr. Pye Smith, in dealing with this subject, has emphatically said, that “all land animals having their geographical regions, to which their constitutional natures are congenial, [p.349]
— many of them being unable to live in any other situation, — we cannot represent to ourselves the idea of their being brought into one small spot from the polar regions, the torrid zone, and all the other climates of Asia, Africa, Europe, and America, Australia, and the thousands of islands, — their preservation and provision, and the final disposal of them, — without bringing up the idea of miracles more stupendous than any that are recorded in Scripture. The great decisive miracle of Christianity,”he adds, — “the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, — sinks down before it.” And let us remember that the preservation and redistribution of the land animals would demand but a portion of the amount of miralce absolutely necessary for the preservation, in the circumstances, of the entire fauna of the globe. The fresh water fishes, molluscs, crustacea, and zoophytes, could be kept alive in a universal deluge only by miraculous means. It has been urged that, though the living individuals were to perish, their spawn might be preserved by natural means. It must be remembered, however, that even of some fishes whose proper habitat is the sea, such as the salmon, it is essential for the maintenance of the species that the spawn could be deposited in fresh water, nay, in running fresh water; for in still water, however pure, the eggs in a few weeks addle and die. The eggs of the common trout also require to be deposited in running fresh water; while other fresh water fishes, such as the tench and carp, are reared most successfully in still, reedy ponds. The fresh water fishes spawn, too, at very different seasons, and the young remain for very different periods in the egg. The perch and grayling spawn in the end of April or the beginning of May; the tench and roach about about the middle of June; the common trout an powman in October and November. And while some fishes, such as the salmon, remain from ninety to a hundred days in the egg, others, [p.350]
such as the trout, are extruded in five weeks. Without special miracle the spawn of all the fresh water fishes could not be in existence as such at one and the same time; without special miracle it could not maintain its vitality in a universal deluge; and without special miracle, even did it maintain its vitality, it could not remain in the egg state throughout an entire twelvemonth, but would be developed into fishes of the several species to which it belonged at very different periods. Further, in a universal deluge, without special mracle vast numbers of even the salt water animals could not fail to be extirpated; in particular, almost all the molluscs of the littoral [coastal] and laminarian [intertidal?] zones. Nor would the vegetable kingdom fare greatly better than the animal one. Of the one hundred thousand species of known plants, few indeed would survive submersion for a twelvemonth; nor would the seeds of most of the others fare better than the plants themselves. There are certain hardy seeds that in favorable circumstances maintain their vitality for ages; and there are others, strongly encased in water-tight shells or skins, that have floated across oceans to germinate in distant islands; but such, as every florist knows, is not the general character of seeds; and not until after many unsuccessful attempts, and many expedients had been resorted to, have the more delicate kinds been brought uninjured, even on shipboard, from distant countries to our own. It is not too much to hold that, without special miracle, at least three fourths of the terrestrial vegetation of the globe would have perished in a universal deluge that covered over the dry land for a year. Assuredly the various vegetable centres or regions, — estimated by Schouw at twenty-five, — bear witness to no such catastrophe. Still distinct and unbroken, as of old, either no effacing flood has passed over them, or they were shielded from its effects at an expense of miracle many times more considerable [p.351]
than that at which the Jews were brought out of Egypt and preserved amid the nations, or Christianity itself was ultimately established.* {*Footnote: If I do not introduce here the argument founded on the great age of certain gigantic trees, such as the Baobab of intertropical Africa, or the Taxodium of South America, it is not because I have any reason to challenge the estimates of Adanson or Candolle. The one tree may have lived its five thousand, the other its six thousand, years; but as the grounds have been disputed on which the calculations respecting their vast age have been founded, and as they cannot be reexamined anew by the reader, I wholly omit the evidence, in the general question, which they have been supposed to furnish.}

There is, however, a class of learned and thoroughly respectable theologians who seem disposed to accept rather of any amount of unrecorded miracle, than to admit of a merely partial deluge, coextensive with but the human family. “Were the difficulty attending this subject tenfold greater, and seemingly beyond all satisfactory explanation,”says Dr. William Hamilton, “if I yet find it recorded in the Book of Revelation, that in the deluge `every living thing in which is the breath of life perished, and Noah only remained alive, and they which were with him in the ark,’ I could still believe it implicitly, satisfied that the difficulty of explanation springs solely from the imperfection of human knowledge, and not from any limitation in the power or the wisdom of God, nor yet from any lack of trustworthiness in the document given us in a revelation from God, — a document given to men by the hands of Moses, the learned, accomplished, and eminently devout Jewish legislator.” Here again, however, Dr. Hamilton seems to have mistaken the question actually at issue. The true question is, not whether Moses is to be believed in the matter, but whether or no we in reality understand Moses. The question is, whether we are to regard the passages in which he describes the Flood as universal, as [p.352]
belonging to the very numerous metonymic texts of Scripture in which a part — sometimes a not very large part — is described as the whole, or to regard them as strictly and severely literal. Or, in other words, whether we are, with learned and solid divines of the olden time, such as Poole and Stillingfleet, and with many ingenious and accomplished divines of the passing age, such as the late Dr. Pye Smith and the Rev. Professor Hitchcock, to regard these passages as merely metonymic; or, with Drs. Hamilton and Kitto, to regard them as strictly literal, and to call up in support of the literal reading an amount of supposititious miracle, compared with which all the recorded miracles of the Old and New Testaments sink into insignificance. The controversy does not lie between Moses and the naturalists, but between the readings of theologians such as Matthew Poole and Stillingfleet on the one hand, and the readings of theologians such as Drs. Hamilton and Kitto on the other. And finding all natural science arrayed against the conclusions of the one class, and in favor of those of the other, and believing, further, that there has been always such a marked economy shown in the exercise of miraculous powers, that there has never been more of a miracle employed in any one of the dispensations than was needed,* {*Footnote: The following excellent remarks on the economy of miracle, by Chalmers, bear very directly on this subject:– “It is remarkable that God is sparing of miracles, and seems to prefer the ordinary processes of nature, if equally effectual for the accomplishment of his purpose. He might have saved Noah and his family by miracles; but he is not prodigal of these, and so he appointed that an ark should be made to bear up the living cargo which was to be kept alive on the surface of the waters; and not only so, but he respects the laws of the animal physiology, as he did those of hydrostatics, in that he put them by pairs into the ark, male and female, to secure their transmission to after ages, and food was stored up to sustain them during their long confinement. In short, he dispenses with miracles when these are not requisite for the fulfillment of his ends; and he never dispenses with the ordinary means when these are fitted, and at the same time sufficient, for the occasion.”– Daily Scripture Readings, vol. i, p.10.} I must hold that the theologians who believe that the deluge was but coexistensive with the moral purpose which [p.353]
it served are more in the right, and may be more safely followed, than the theologians who hold that it extended greatly further than was necessary. It is not with Moses or the truth of revelation that our controversy lies, but with the opponents of Stillingfleet and Poole.

To only one of the other arguments employed in this controversy need I at all refer. The cones of volcanic craters are formed of loose incoherent scoriae and ashes, and, when exposed, as in the case of submarine volcanoes, such as Graham’s Island and the islands of Nyoe and Sabrina, to the denuding force of waves and currents, they have in a few weeks, or at most a few months, been washed completely away. And yet in various parts of the world, such as Auvergne in central France, and along the flants of Aetna [Etna, on Sicily, Italy], there are cones of long extinct or long slumbering volcanoes, which, though of at least triple the antiquity of the Noachian deluge, and though composed of the ordinary incoherent materials, exhibit no marks of denudation. According to the calculations of Sir Charles Lyell, no devastating flood could have passed over the forest zone of Aetna during the last twelve thousand years, — for such is the antiquity which he assigns to its older lateral cones, that retain in integrity their original shap; and the volcanic cones of Auvergne, which inclose in their ashes the remains of extinct animals, and present an outline as perfect as those of Aetna, are deemed older still. Graham Island arose out of the sea early in July, 1831; in the beginning of the following August it had attained to a circumference of three miles, and to a height of two hundred [p.354]
feet; and yet in less than three months from that time the waves had washed its immense mass down to the sea level; and in a few weeks more it existed but as a dangerous shoal. And such inevitably would have been the fate of the equally incoherent cone-like craters of Aetna and Auvergne during the seven and a half months that intervened between the breaking up of the fountains of the great deep and the reappearance of the mountain-tops, had they been included within the area of the deluge. It is estimated that even the newer Auvergne lavas are as old as the times of the Miocene. It is at least a demonstrable fact, that the slow action of streams had hollowed them in several places into deep chasms nearly two thousand years ago; for the remains of Roman works of about that age survive, to show that they had then, as now, to be spanned over by bridges, and that baths had been erected in their denuded recesses; and yet the craters out of which these lavas had flowed retain well nigh all their original sharpness of outline. Now wave ever dashed against their symmetrically sloping sides. Now, I have in no instance seen the argument derivable from this class of facts fairly met. The supposed mistake of the Canonico Recupsero, or rather of Brydone, who argued that the “lowest of a series of seven distinct lavas of Aetna, most of them covered by thick intervening beds of rich earth, must have been fourteen thousand years old,”has been often referred to in the controversy. Brydone or the Canon mistook, it has been said, beds of brown ashes, each of which might have been deposited during a single shower, for beds of rich earth, each of which would have taken centuries to form. The oldest of the series of lava beds, therefore, instead of being fourteen thousand, might be scarce fourteen hundred years old. And if Brydone or the Canon were thus mistaken in their calculations, why [p.355]
may not the modern geologists be also mistaken in theirs? Now, altogether waiving the question as to whether the ingenious traveller of eighty-six years ago was or was not mistaken in his estimate, — for to those acquainted with geologic fact in general, or more particularly with the elaborate descriptions of Aetna given during the last thirty years by Elie de Beaumont, Hoffmann, and Sir Charles Lyell, the facts of Brydone, in their bearing on either the age of the earth or the age of the mountain, can well be spared, — waiving, I say, the question of whether the traveller was in reality in mistake, I must be permitted to remark, that the concurrent testimony of geologists cannot in fairness be placed on the same level as the testimony of a man who, though accomplished and intelligent, was not only no geologist, but who observed and described ere geology had any existence as a science. Further, I must be allowed to add, that geology is now a science; and that individuals unacquainted with it in its character as such place themselves in positions greatly more perilous than they seem to think, when they enter on the field of argument with men who for many years have made it a subject of special study. It is not by “bidding down”the age of the extinct or quiescent volcanoes by a species of blind haggling, or by presuming mistake in the calculations regarding them, simply because mistakes are possible and have sometimes been made, that the portion of the cumulative evidence against the universal deluge which they furnish is to be neutralized or set aside. The argument on the general question is a cumulative one; and while many of its component portions are of themselves so conclusive, that only supposititious miracle, and not presentable argument, can be arrayed against them, its aggregate force seems wholly irresistible. In passing, however, from the facts and reasonings that bear against the hypothesis of a [p.356]
universal deluge, to indicate in a few sentences both the possible mode in which a merely partial flood might have taken place, and the probable extent of area which it covered, I shall have to remove from very strong to comparatively weak ground,– from what can be maintained as argument, to what can at best be but offered as conjecture.

There is a remarkable portion of the globe, chiefly in the Asiatic continent, though it extends into Europe, and which is nearly equal to all Europe in area, whose rivers (some of them, such as the Volga, the Oural, the Sihon, the Kour, and the Amoo, of great size) do not fall into the ocean, or into any of the many seas which communicate with it. They are, on the contrary, all turned inwards, if I may so express myself; losing themselves, in the eastern part of the tract, in the lakes of a rainless district, in which they supply but the waste of evaporation, and falling, in the western parts, into seas such as the Caspian and the Aral. In this region there are extensive districts still under the level of the ocean. The shore line of the Caspian, for instance, is rather more than eighty-three feet beneath that of the Black Sea; and some of the great flat steppes which spread out around it, such as what is known as the Steppe of Astracan, have a mean level of about thirty feet beneath that of the Baltic. Were there a trench-like strip of country that communicated between the Caspian and the Gulf of Finland to be depressed beneath the level of the latter sea, it would so open up the fountains of the great deep as to lay under water an extensive and populous region, containing the cities of Astracan and Astrabad, and many other towns and villages. Nor is it unworthy of remark, surely, that one of the depressed steppes of this peculiar region is known as the “Low Steppe of the Caucasus,”and forms no inconsiderable portion of the great recognized centre of the human family. [p.357]
The Mount Ararat on which, according to many of our commentators, the ark rested, rises immediately on the western edge of this great hollow; the Mount Ararat selected as the scene of that event by Sir Walter Raleigh, certainly not without some show of reason, lies far within it. Vast plains, white with salt, and charged with sea shells, show that the Caspian Sea was at no distant period greatly more extensive than it is now. In an outer region, which includes the vast desert of Khiva, shells also abound; but they seem to belong, as a group, rather to some of the later Tertiary eras than to the recent period. It is quite possible, however, that, — as on parts of the western shores of our own country, where recent marine deposits lie over marine deposits of the Pleistocene age, while a terrestrial deposit, representative of an intervening paroxysm of upheaval, lies between, — it is possible, I say, that in this great depressed area, the region covered of old by a Tertiary sea, which we know united the Sea of Aral with the Caspian, and rolled over many a wide steppe and vast plain, may have been again covered for a brief period (after ages of upheaval) by the breaking in of the great deep during that season of judgement when, with the exception of one family, the whole human race was destroyed. It seems confirmatory of this view, that during even the historic period, at least one of the neighboring inland seas, though it belongs to a different system from that of the Caspian and the Aral, covered a vastly greater area than it does now, — a consequence, apparently, of a more considerable depression in the Caucasian region than at present exists. Herodotus, as quoted by Cuvier in his “Theory of the Earth,”represents the Sea of Azoff as equal in extent to the Euxine.

With the known facts, then, regarding this depressed Asiatic region before us, let us see whether we cannot [p.358]
originate a theory of the Deluge free from at least the palpable monstrosities of the older ones. Let us suppose that the human family, still amounting to several millions, though greatly reduced by exterminating wars and exhausting vices, were congregated in that tract of country which, extending eastwards from the modern Ararat to far beyond the Sea of Aral, includes the original Causcasian centre of the race: let us suppose that, the hour of judgement having at length arrived, the land began gradually to sink, as the tract in the run of Cutch sank in the year 1819 [India], or as the tract in the southern part of North America, known as the “sunk country,”sank in the year 1821: further, let us suppose that the depression took place slowly and equably for forty days together, at the rate of about four hundred feet per day, — a rate not twice greater than that at which the tide rises in the Straits of Magellan, and which would have rendered itself apparent at but a persistent inward flowing of the sea: let us yet further suppose, that from mayhap some volcanic outburst coincident with the depression, an an effect of the same deep seated cause, the atmosphere was so affected, that heavy drenching rains continued to descend during the whole time, and that, though they could contribute but little to the actual volume of the flood, — at most only some five or six inches per day, — they at least seemed to constitute on of its main causes, and added greatly to its terrors, by swelling the rivers, and rushing downwards in torrents from the hills. The depression, which, by extending to the Euxine Sea and the Persian Gulf on the one hand, and to the Gulf of Finland on the other, would open up by three separate channels the fountains of the great deep, and which included, let us suppose, an area of about two thousand miles each way, would, at the end of the fortieth day, be sunk in its centre to the depth of sixteen [p.359]
thousand feet,– a depth sufficiently profound to bury the loftiest mountains of the district; and yet, having a gradient of declination of but sixteen feet per mile, the contour of its hills and plains would remain apparently what they had been before, — the doomed inhabitants would see but the water rising along the mountain sides, and one refuge after another swept away, till the last witness of the scene would have perished, and the last hill-top would have disappeared. And when, after a hundred and fifty days had come and gone, the depressed hollow would have begun slowly to rise, — and when, after the fifth month had passed, the ark would have grounded on the summit of Mount Ararat, — all that could have been seen from the upper window of the vessle would be simply a boundless sea, roughened by tides, now flowing outwards, with a reversed course, towards the distant ocean, by the three great outlets which, during the period of depression, had given access to the waters. Noah would of course see that “the fountains of the deep were stopped,”and “the waters returning from off the earth continually;” but whether the Deluge had been partial or universal, he could neither see nor know. His prospect in either case would have been equally that described by the poet Bowles: —

“The mighty ark
Rests upon Ararat; but nought around
Its inmates can behold, save o’er the expanse
Of boundless waters the sun’s orient orb
Stretching the hull’s long shadow, or the moon
In silence through the silver-curtained clouds
Sailing, as she herself were lost and left
In hollow loneliness.”

Let me further remark, that in one important sense a partial Flood, such as the one of which I have conceived as adequate to the destruction, in an early age, of the whole [p.360]
human family, could scarce be regarded as miraculous. Several of our first geologists hold, that some of the formidable cataclysms of the remote past may have been occasioned by the sudden upheaval of vast continents, which, by displacing great bodies of water, and rolling them outwards in the character of enormous waves, inundated wide regions elevated hundreds of feet over the sea level, and strewed them over with the rock boulders, clays, gravels, and organic debris of deep sea bottoms. And these cataclysms they regard as perfectly natural, though of course very unusual, events. Nor would the gradual depression of a continent, or, as in the supposed case, of a portion of a continent, be in any degree less natural than the sudden upheaval of a continent. It would, on the contrary, be much more according to experience. Nay, were such a depression and elevation of the great Asiatic basin to take place during the coming twelvemonth as that of which I have conceived as the probable cause of the Deluge, though the geologists would have to describe it as beyond comparison the most remarkable oscillation of level which had taken place within the historic period, they would certainly regard it as no more miraculous than the great earthquake of Lisbon [Portugal], or than that exhibition of the volcanic forces which elevated the mountain of Jorullo in a single night sixteen hundred feet over the plain. And why have recourse, in speculating on the real event of four thousand years ago, to supposititious miracle, if an event of apparently the same kind would not be regarded as miraculous now? May we not in this matter take our stand beside the poet, who, when recognizing a Providence in the great Calabrian earthquake, and in the overwhelming wave by which it was accompanied, pertinently inquired of the skeptics, — [p.361]

“Has not God
Still wrought by means since first he made the world?
And did he not of old employ his means
To drown it? What is his creation less
Than a capacious reservoir of means,
Formed for his use, and ready at his will?”

The revelation of Noah, which warned him of a coming Flood, and taught him how to prepare for it, was evidently miraculous: the Flood itself may have been purely providential. But on this part of the subject I need not dwell. I have accomplished my purpose if I have shown, as was attempted of old by divines such as Stillingfleet and Poole, that there “seems to be no reason why the Deluge should be extended beyond the occasion of it, which was the corruption of man,”but, on the contrary, much reason against it; and that, on the other hand, a Flood restricted and partial, and yet sufficient to destroy the race in an early age, while still congregating in their original centre, cannote be regarded as by any means an incredible event. The incredibility lies in the mere human glosses and misinterpretations in which its history has been enveloped. Divested of these, and viewed in its connection with those wonderful traditions which still float all over the world regarding it, it forms, not one of the stumbling-blocks, but one of the evidences, of our faith; and renders the exercise a not unprofitable one, when, according to the poet, —

“Back through the dusk
Of ages Contemplation turns her view,
To mark, as from its infancy, the world
Peopled again from that mysterious shrine
That rested on the top of Ararat.”


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