Recently, I found my first paper on Genesis and Geology is now on-line as most of the volumes of The Churchman have been digitised. I wrote this back in 1997, but apart from a few minor errors I still regard it as giving a good account of the early 19th century.
My main thesis stands; that most educated Christians had no issue with geology AND, most importantly, Christians- and particularly Anglican clergy – were often at the forefront of geological advances
Many focus too much on the controversy between Uniformitarians (Lyell) and Catastrophists, with the latter often being presented as biblical literalists. They were not.
That would give another paper in itself but was summed up by de la Beche’s watercolour skit. This could be the Nant Francon and the little boy is being a little boy – Frank Buckland – and nanny comments “Bless the baby. What a walley he have a made.” This goes to the heart of the matter – and Buckland Sr was a catastrophist par excellence.
This is myself and ANO doing a (photo-shopped) re-enactment. Perhaps I’ve also done that on the Genesis vs geology myth!
Have fun with this mosaic and identify the following; John Henslow, William Hutton; Adam Sedgwick, William Buckland, Samuel Wilberforce, Charles Lyell,Arthur Holmes, William Smith
|Michael B. Roberts, “Geology and Genesis,” Churchman 112.3 (Autumn 1998): 225-255|
The challenge of geology to Genesis is often perceived to be one of the
issues of the ‘Victorian Crisis of Faith’. Geologists had, since Charles Lyell
published his Principles of Geology in 1831, been demonstrating that the
earth was somewhat older than Archbishop Ussher’s 6,000 years. Thus
Richard Dawkins wrote: ‘in 1862 the eminent physicist Lord Kelvin
greatly worried Darwin by “proving” that the sun and therefore the earth,
could not possibly be more than 24 million years. Although this estimate
was considerably better than the 4004 BC date for the creation then
favoured by churchmen .. .’ 1 The historian Josef Altholz argued in 1976:
‘The great majority of religious spokesmen condemned the doctrine of
evolution, without regard to its scientific merits, on the ground of its
repugnance to the text of the Bible and its tendency to degrade man to the
level of beasts … Both sides (ie clergy and scientists) seemed to identify
the substance of Christianity with the text of Genesis.’2 Both assume that
most clergy in mid-century were biblical literalists.
Neither Dawkins nor Altholz identified any of these literalists. Most
would assume that Samuel Wilberforce would have been a leading
literalist, as someone who damned doubters and attacked Huxley at the
British Association in Oxford. However Wilberforce was no literalist, and
had been on the committees of the Geological and Linnaean Societies, and
had attended Buckland’s lectures in geology at Oxford in the 1820s.3 In
fact, very few churchmen in the 1860s were biblical literalists.
carry on reading;
I hope you enjoyed the paper
Buckland in the hyena’s den at Kirkland, Yorkshire