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JOURNAL OF THE TRANSACTIONS

OF THE

VICTORIA INSTITUTE,

OR

PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY OF GREAT BRITAIN.

ORDINARY MEETING, APRIL 1, 1878.

C. BROOKE, Esq., M.D., F.R.S., V.P., IN THE CHAIR.

The Minutes of the last Meeting were read and confirmed, and the following Elections were announced :

LIFE MEMBERS :-A. Gibbs, Esq., M.A., Somerset ; Rev. F. A. Wigram,

M.A., Southampton.

ASSOCIATES :---The Rt. Rev. the Bishop of Fredericton, Canada ; Rev.

Canon Mather, M.A., Bristol ; Rev. H. T. Simpson, M.A., Cheltenham;
Mrs. A. Christian, Southport.

HONORARY LOCAL SECRETARY :-W. R. Cooper, Esq., 7, Trinity-terrace,

Ventnor.

Also the presentation of the following Works for the Library :" Transactions of the Royal Society." Part 185. From the Society. “Warwickshire Field Club Transactions, 1877."

From the Club. “Animal Construction and Adaptation.” From (! Brooke, Esq., F.R.S. ،، Chalmers' Astonomical Discourses."

Ditto. “Popery in alliance with Heathenism." By J. Ponder. Ditto. “Dr. Stroud on the Death of Christ."

Ditto.

The following Paper was then read by the Author :-

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MODERN GEOGONIES EXAMINED IN THEIR BDAR

INGS ON THE ANTIQUITY OF MAN. By the Rev.
Professor BIRKS, M.A.

I.-INTRODUCTION.

THE HE charge of error, freely brought in these days against the

the statements of the Bible concerning Creation and the Origin of Man, has been based on alleged scientific proofs of the high antiquity of the human race. When full allowance has been made for the various readings of the Hebrew and the Septuagint, it is perfectly clear that the Bible date for Adam's creation cannot be placed further back than seven or eight thousand years ago. These are no separable accidents, but main and integral parts of the grand message, that Adam was the first father of all men, that in him all die, through a common fall from innocence and uprightness, and that all are brought within the range of one great redemption, wrought by Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, the Lord from heaven.

Clergymen, as well as laymen, are now found who set aside these statements, as if they were 'only superstitious errors, which growing light and knowledge have disproved. А special sanction and currency has lately been given to this view, which many Christians must regard as a blow aimed directly, however unwittingly, against the historical foundation of the whole message to sinful man in the Word of God. The importance of the question thus raised is extreme. I

propose in this paper to carry further the course of thought in two former papers read before this Society, and to analyze the data upon which some have reared a conjectural pre-Adamite human history of two hundred thousand years.

2. The modern doctrine of Man's high Antiquity rests mainly on two premises, though these are supplemented by other presumptions of a secondary kind. First, certain flints from Brixham Cave, the valley of the Somme, and caverns in Belgium, are affirmed to have been plainly fashioned into tools, spears, or hatchets, by the hands of savage men.

And next, the beds of gravel or stalagmite, where they were found, are said to have been deposited many myriads of years ago. Human deposits are thought to occur in quaternary strata or drift, directly after the close of a great ice period. This period, again, has three different estimates of its remoteness by different geological speculators. One of them assigns two glacial periods to the dates 13,000 and 44,000 years before Christ. - Another offers the dates 210,000 and 850,000 years B.C. for a Post-Pliocene and a Miocene glacial period, while others have suggested a date still more remote for man's first appearance on the earth.

3. Mr. Whitley, in two able papers read before this Society, denies even the first premise. The so-called flint implements were formed, he thinks, by the natural change of fint nodules broken under strong pressure.

He offers many reasons from their position, their great number, their relation to the neighbouring beds, and the effects of artificial fracture, to support this view. Mr. Pattison agrees with Mr. Whitley as to a large proportion of the alleged implements, but admits that some are apparently of human origin.

He maintains, however, on a full review of all the features both of Brigham Cave and the valley of the Somme, that six or seven thousand years are time enough to account for all the later changes. Mr. Callard, in his short and able essay on the Geological Evidences of Man's Antiquity, argues forcibly for the same view. Whether or not Mr. Whitley is right in his denial of an artificial origin to each and all the so-called implements of the Drift, I think that Mr. Pattison and Mr. Callard are fully justified in their dissent from the other main premise of the theory. It may be shown that there is no scientific proof of theso immense ages since the close of a real or imaginary glacial epoch, but only a series of mere conjectures, based on wholly inadequate data ; and a more probable theory than any of those hitherto offered would reduce the distance of man's first appearance within a limit in complete harmony with the Scripture statement. Man has, doubtless, been contemporary with many animals now extinct; but this can never prove his entrance on our planet to have been 200,000 or even 20,000. years ago.

The theories I shall examine in succession are these:- First, Sir C. Lyell's doctrine of uniformity ; secondly, the thermodynamic theory of Sir W. Thomson ; thirdly, the excentric-pre

cession theory of Lieut.-Col. Drayson, who refers it to a great increase in the obliquity; and, fourthly, the view advocated with great labour and ability by Mr. Croll, in his work “ Climate and Time.” He there employs more than 500 pages in attempting to prove that a series of glacial periods have been due to successive maxima of excentricity of the earth's orbit during a space of three millions of past years.

II.--THE DOCTRINE OF UNIFORMITY.

4. The title of Sir C. Lyell's work is “Principles of Geology; or an Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface by Reference to Causes now in Operation." And he recommends an "earnest and patient endeavour to reconcile the former indications of change with these existing causes. And in Mr. Page's Advanced Text-book we are told, “When such hypotheses as nebular condensation, igneous fluidity, change of axis, secular contraction of the earth's mass, highly carbonated atmosphere, passage of the system through colder and warmer regions of space, are advanced to account for geological phenomena, the student must receive them as mere hypotheses, not as the true and sufficient causes of inductive philosophy. The legitimate progress of science lies over a pathway of observation, fact, and deduction, and is little aided by conjecture, however plausible. Let us strive first to exhaust the range of normal causation in existing nature, and even then continue to work and watch, rather than fall back on the idle and unphilosophical resort of abnormal conditions in primeval nature.” And, again, p. 374, “ There are two great schools of geology, the one ascribing every result to the ordinary operations of nature, combined with the element of unlimited time; the other, appealing to agents that operated during the earlier epochs of the world with greater intensity, and over wider

The former belief is certainly more in accordance with the spirit of right philosophy, though it must be confessed that many problems in geology seem to find their solution only through the admission of the latter hypothesis." And Sir C. Lyell, in his “ Treatise on the Antiquity of Man,” though his statements are indefinite, says, that the historical period seems "quite insignificant in duration, when compared with the antiquity of the human race” (p. 289), “and that natural barriers would ensure the isolation, for tens of thousands of centuries, of tribes in a primitive state of barbarism ” (p. 386). This implies a conviction of man's past existence on earth for several millions

areas.

of years.

5. Here, in the fundamental maxim assumed, there is a serious ambiguity. What is meant by “causes now in operation”? Does it mean simply the central forces, the attractions and repulsions, varying by certain laws of distance, of all the bodies or their component atoms that now exist? If so, the doctrine becomes only a sort of truism. The sudden bursting of a reservoir, the explosion of a magazine, the firing of a broadside, or a volcanic eruption, are as much from causes now in operation, as the quiet state, with no sudden or sensible change, which may have gone before, and lasted months or years. But if we mean by causes now in operation, all acting forces, with merely the same conditions as now exist, which vary with every hour, day, and year of their own action, the maxim is unphilosophical and untrue. We should explain the changes of the earth by causes acting under the conditions of the time when they occurred, and not under new conditions which may have come into being, through the action of those very causes, after many thousands or myriads of years.

6. Averages give a fair approximation, or are wholly fallacious, according to the nature of the facts to which they are applied. They are safe, chiefly when they are taken between two observed limits, since a small part of any curve does not vary widely from the line which joins its extreme points. In many cases the error may not be great for parts which lie beyond this limit, on one side at least. But let a chord of a hyperbola, near the vertex, be prolonged towards the vertex a hundred times beyond its own length, the distance from the answering point of the curve will be

very great, and the two will be tending in wholly opposite directions.

Now most of the cases to which the law of averages has been applied by uniformitarian geologists are of this very kind. Each step of past change tends to lessen the motive power on which the future changes depend. Thus every river transports a certain amount of soil in suspension from the high ground near its sources or from the bed through which it travels to the sea.

But every year the high ground is wasted, the mouth is silted up, and the soil probably hardens and becomes less easy to remove. The quantity annually carried down will thus diminish for three different reasons. It will also come to be spread over a wider area. Hence the present depth of the annual deposit is no proper test by which to give the average for many thousand years.

7. Let us take one case often referred to, the Delta of the

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