Geology and Cosmology How old is the earth? How old is the universe?
Nicholas Steno (1638 – 1686) • Fossils are in fact the remains of living creatures. • The layers we see in rocks – strata – are sedimentary deposits. Fossil shells found encased in these deposits were laid down with mud that later hardened into rock.
Since the strata are sediments, they must have been laid down horizontally therefore, in any case where we see them at an angle, they must have been shifted at some time subsequent to their formation. • It then follows that the lower strata must be older than the higher strata.
Noah’s flood becomes a geological event (in England) • Edmund Halley: A comet collided with the earth causing it to shift on its axis. • John Woodward: Steno’s strata were laid down during the flood.
In France geology discredits the bible. • George-Louis Leclerc, compte de Buffon: A comet struck the sun spewing out matter that later condensed into the solar system. • Pierre Simon Laplace: The sun and planets formed simultaneously out of a rotating nebulous cloud. • So not the hand of God, but real physics.
One fact – Two opposite conclusions • Laplace: “I don’t need that hypothesis. • Genesis 1:2, “The world was without form and void,” obviously refers to Laplace’s nebula.
Higher Criticism • The analysis of the Bible, not from a theological perspective, but from a historical , textural, and philological perspective.
One discipline – two opposite reactions • Higher criticism threatens the authenticity of the Bible. • Higher criticism, by showing the meager historical content of the Bible, liberates its spiritual content.
Scientists were stuck in the middle. • Every discovery became ammunition for two warring factions. • The solution – professionalize • In 1807 the Geological Society of London was founded.
Reaction • When you create an “in group” you automatically create an “out group.” • “Philosophical geologists” concentrated on geology per se, not its religious ramifications. • “Mosaical geologists” tried to conform scientific finding to literal readings of Genesis.
Another In Group • Higher Criticism: You don’t read ancient Hebrew and Greek? You don’t belong! • So you are excluded by the geologists and excluded by the linguists, what’s your response? Retrenchment!
It’s what you say in public that counts. • Philosophical geologists adhered to strict methodological naturalism. • Mosaical geologists used geology for apologetic purposes. (Apologetics: the branch of theology that aims to defend or prove Christianity.)
Polarization • This division has persisted up to the present time, especially regarding biological evolution.