Bertram Coghill Alan Windle.

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be fringed by beds of gravel, high and dry when the river
is low, submerged when it is in flood. The pebbles, sand,
and gravel making up these banks have been brought down
by the river, sometimes from a considerable distance. It
is the same agency which has converted them from rough
fragments into the well-known " water-worn " rounded
stones of greater or lesser size. Now in the case of the
river Thames and indeed of many, if not of all rivers, similar
banks of gravel in the form of terraces will be found lying in
tiers, one above the other, but all of them far above any point
now ever reached by the waters of the stream. Each such
terrace marks the position of the river at a former era ; and
what we learn from them is that the river has been busily
engaged in cutting its way deeper and deeper into its bed
and removing a large part of the " drippings," which it
makes during its work, to the floor of the sea. Some people
have thought that by ascertaining the rate of denudation
by a river to-day and by then measuring the amount of
denudation which has taken place since the stream began
its work, a kind of calendar of its existence might be con-
structed. Obviously, if this could be done, and if we could
fix a spot at which a human skeleton had been laid down
by some flood in the stream, we could also fix or very nearly
fix the date at which this occurrence had taken place, which
would be a most valuable piece of information for anthro-
pologists. Unfortunately there are so many factors to be
taken into consideration in this matter — notably differences
in the supply and flow of water — that the timing of events
by the means of river-erosion has come to be considered
an inaccurate method of calculation, at least in the great
majority of cases. There are cases — such, for example,
apparently is Niagara — where an approximation to accuracy
may be arrived at ; but such is certainly not the case with
the Thames, nor probably with the majority of rivers.
However, of this more must be said in succeeding chapters.

We must next consider water in the shape of ice, an agent


of the greatest potency. It acts as a rending force by
creeping into cracks as water ; and then, after freezing, it
exhibits that bursting power which we are painfully aware
of from time to time in our water-pipes. Then, as glacier
or river of ice, it has exercised an enormous influence upon
the surface of the earth notably in the northern parts of
Europe and America, as will be seen in the account of the
Glacial Epoch which will be given in a later chapter. The
full story of the work of the glaciers is much too long to
narrate here, and those who would study it may be referred
to the list of books given on p. 240. Here it will only be
possible to say that the effects of these ancient glaciers are
to be seen in the valleys which they have carved out, in
the rounded and scored rocks on which they have written
their signature, in the moraines or " spoil-banks " which
strew the countries where they have had former existence,
in the boulders or " erratics " often carried miles from their
original home and left in a distant country by the melting
ice, in the glacial lakes, and in many other objects which
cannot here be dealt with. Finally, whilst dealing with
the subject of water, one must not forget the influence of
the rain, not to speak of the wind which so often accom-
panies it, in shaping the contour of what we poetically call
the " eternal hills," forgetting or not knowing that the
greater hills are often if not usually amongst the youngest
features of the landscape.

By degrees the earth in the process of its cooling down
became capable of supporting life and life arose. Some at
least of its manifestations — when everything is considered,
a surprising number of its manifestations — managed to write
in one way or another their autographs on the book of
stone which forms the crust of the earth. Sometimes the
actual object itself remains, sometimes the object has been
petrified or converted into stone, sometimes it has left a
cast of itself, sometimes a footprint is all that remains to
show that it was once there. But in virtue of these various
kinds of evidences the third division of Geology — Palaeonto-
logy — exists : this is divided into Palasozoology, which deals
with animals, and Paleobotany, which has its domain in
the kingdom of plants. These remains of former living things



are of course for the most part associated with what are
called aqueous rocks — formations laid down by water either
running, brackish and stagnant, or sea. It will be under-
stood that a dead animal or part of one, say, the skull of
an ox, falling to the bottom of the sea or a river on to a bed
of mud, will gradually be covered by the same material,
and when that material turns to rock will be encased in it
and become what we call a fossil. Such aqueous rocks will
have, of course, a totally different kind of bedding from
igneous rocks which were once molten — in which one would
not expect to find, and does not find, anything in the
nature of life — and from met amorphic rocks in which the
heat has produced profound alterations. Granite, for
example, is an igneous rock and sandstone is of an aqueous
character. There are many others belonging to either class,
but those mentioned will be familiar to most and will serve
the purpose of examples.

After this exceedingly brief sketch of the general features
of geology — the chief object of which has been to impress
upon the reader the immense variety of operations to which
the earth, and particularly its crust, has been subjected,
and the immense period of time which these operations
must have occupied — we may endeavour to combine the
information derived from Stratigraphical Geology and
Palaeontology by giving a very brief account in very general
terms of the chief systems of strata recognised by geologists,
with a note of the chief kinds of fossils, if any, belonging
to each. For it will be found that there is a gradual develop-
ment of life, not a sudden commencement with all the
varieties which we see around us or can study in museums.
One form succeeds another; one dies out, another survives.
All these facts will assume importance from our point of
view when we come to consider the question of the Days
of the Creation.

As a preface to this brief sketch of the strata it is neces-
sary to say that the dispositions differ in different parts
of the world, as will very naturally be understood, and that
the names by which they are known also differ. All that
can be here attempted is to give a general idea of the main
outlines of the systems as they exist in Great Britain, with


an occasional note of American conditions. Such a sketch
will suffice to explain the purport of later chapters, and
those interested in the subject can pursue it further in
text -books relating to their own countries. In considering
the different strata it is obvious that one can commence
with the more recent formations and work downwards to
the older — the plan most commonly adopted in manuals of
Geology ; or one can reverse the method and start with the
most ancient rocks, working upwards from them to the
most recent strata. For the purposes of this book the
latter method will be followed as the more useful : the
facts laid down will be those given in the latest edition
of the " Encyclopaedia Britannica."

The Arch^an or Eozoic or Pre-Cambrian consists of
very ancient strata underlying the oldest Palaeozoic rocks.
There is a vast succession of these in Canada and the Lake
Superior region of the United States which have been
carefully studied. The lowest of these strata is known as
Laurentian. In the eastern part of Canada and in other
parts, sedimentary formations, below the Cambrian, have
been found to contain some obscure organisms. Archaean
rocks have also been studied in Scotland and in various
parts of Europe.

The Paleozoic or Primary rocks are divided into six
groups : —


The rocks belonging to this series display a marked
uniformity all over the world and consist chiefly of muds,
sands, grits, and conglomerates. There is abundant evi-
dence of the many movements of the earth which have
inclined, folded and faulted most of these rocks during the
long period which has elapsed since they were deposited.
They invariably retain their sedimentary characteristics,
muds becoming shales and slates ; sands and conglomerates,
quartzites and greywackes. 1 In Britain the Cambrian rocks,
as indeed their name implies, are chiefly met with in Wales.

1 With every desire to be as little technical as possible, the use of
terms hardly likely to be familiar to all cannot always be avoided
nor can explanations always be given. Any text-book will clear up
difficulties which are not elucidated in the account given here.


In North America there are Potsdam, Acadian, and Georgian

The Life of this period is interesting because the rocks
belonging to it are the oldest which, so far as we know at
present, contain definite and indisputable remains of living
organisms. With the exception of vertebrates all the great
classes of animals are represented. There was no plant
life except seaweeds, and the animal remains indicate that
these beds were deposited in more or less deep seas. Pro-
tozoa (the simplest forms of life), sponges, and Graptolites 1
were plentiful, but by far the most important animals were
the Trilobites, which belong to an extinct order of Crus-
tacea some species of which are as much as three feet in
length. 2


This group of strata, found in Wales and in North America
in Utica, Cincinnati, and Trenton, includes rocks of all
types of sedimentation, greywackes, grits, shales, con-
glomerates, and limestones. It was a period of remarkable
volcanic activity in the British Isles, where masses of con-
temporaneous igneous rocks, lavas, ashes and tuffs were
laid down, giving rise to local upheavals of the sea-floor
which resulted in shallow-water conditions.

The Life includes examples of all the sub-kingdoms of
Invertebrates. Brachiopods (the lamp-shells of to-day)
were abundant and Crinoids (or sea-lilies), and Corals occur
in calcareous deposits. Trilobites now take a secondary
place and Graptolites become the most characteristic fossils.
The earliest indications of vertebrate life have been found
in the Ordovician beds of Colorado.


These beds — found largely in Shropshire in England, in
South Wales and in North America, for example, in the
Niagara Shales — are almost entirely of marine origin and

1 Living creatures resembling the colonial zoophytes of to-day, such
as the " sea-mats " found on the beach at low tide.

* The Crustacea include Crabs, Lobsters, and Shrimps with other like
forms, and the Trilobite, thus named from its three-sectioned body, is most
nearly allied, amongst living things of to-day, with the so-called King-


consist of shales, marls, limestones, sandstones, and grits.
They were mostly deposited in comparatively shallow waters
and there do not appear to have been any contemporaneous
igneous rocks.

The Life is marked by the fact that Graptolites appear
to have become extinct during this period, whilst Brachio-
pods are perhaps the most characteristic fossils. It is
interesting to note that these exceedingly ancient shelled
creatures still exist, and in forms but little if at all differing
from those of their far-off predecessors. Corals flourished
during the Silurian period and often formed reefs. Organic
remains belonging to the great group of fishes become
abundant, the most conspicuous fish-like forms belonging
to the Ostracodermi or shell-skinned fishes. Seaweeds occur

Devonian or Old Red Sandstone

The strata of this series are of great thickness and appear
to have been laid down in fresh-water lakes or lagoons.
The typical rocks are sandstones alternating with layers of
sandy shales and beds of concretionary limestone, all more
or less coloured by peroxide of iron. In North America the
Onondaga limestones are examples of the lower strata of
this period and the Catskills red sandstones of the upper.

The Life presents to us as its most typical feature a
variety of fishes, associated with which are giant crustaceans
and an abundance of corals. Brachiopods attained their
maximum development. The lake deposits furnish us with
the earliest well-defined marsh-plants such as lycopods and


The abundance of vegetable remains, of which carbon is
the chief element, has given its name to this system. It is
from the remains of the abundant vegetation of this period
that almost all the seams of coal in all parts of the world
have been derived. In addition to these seams the strata
include limestones, sheets of hard gritstone, sandstones,
and shales. The limestones were deposited in open seas,
the grits and sandstones in the mouths of rivers, the coals
and ironstones in estuaries and swamps.


The Life of the carboniferous period, as already stated, is
mainly characterised by the abundant vegetation, and
amongst the cryptogams (or non-flowering plants) were
ferns, horsetails, and conifers. The carboniferous limestones
are rich in marine fossils, such as corals, brachiopods,
encrinites (sea-lilies), sponges, and protozoa.


The strata include volcanic and limestone breccias, con-
glomerates, red sandstones, limestones, shales, and marls.
There are occasional boulder beds which are of very great
interest, as they prove to us that during the period in ques-
tion there must have been a glacial epoch.

In the Life of this period we find reptiles for the first
time, though fishes and amphibians are the most important
vertebrates. The invertebrates include Brachiopods and
other molluscs, and the plants are closely allied to those of
the Coal Measures.

The Mesozoic or Secondary rocks next succeed : the
lowest of these are known as


The rocks of this system vary in different parts of the
world, being either Bunter Sandstones, Muschelkalk Lime-
stones or the marls and gypsum-bearing rocks of the Keuper
series. For example, in North America in New York,
Connecticut, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia- a series of
red sandstone (Newark series) contains land-plants and
Labyrinthodonts (a huge form of reptile) like the lagoon
type of central and western Europe. On the Pacific slope,
however, marine equivalents occur, representing the pelagic
type of south-eastern Europe. 1 Economically these strata
are of great interest and importance as the salt-bearing
portions of the earth's crust.

The Life so far as fossils go, for they are scarce, is not a
strong feature of this series, since it only includes a few
plants, fishes, crustaceans, and reptiles, but the Ichthyo-
saurus existed and there were massive forms of Dinosaurs
or bird-like lizards, very largely known by the footprints

1 " Encyc. Brit.," art. " Geology."


which they left upon the wet sands and muds : these are
very abundant. The most important groups of the In-
vertebrates are represented, such as molluscs and cuttle
fish. Perhaps most interesting of all, tiny mammals of the
marsupial branch make their appearance for the first time.


In this system there are two marked groups of strata,
Lias and Oolite. The Lias consists of thin beds of a marine
formation of blue and grey limestone and dark-coloured
argillaceous shales. The Oolite has alternating masses of
calcareous rocks with thick beds of soft clays and marls
partly estuarine, partly marine.

The Life of this period is very remarkable since there is
a great abundance and variety of organic remains. All
groups of plants are represented, but Cycads (allied to
palms) are specially typical of this period. Stumps of trees
have been found three to seven feet in height. Sponges
and Foraminifers 1 are abundant as are corals and crinoids.
Fishes include Elasmobranchs and Ganoids, two classes
existing at the present day. The reptiles were many and
remarkable, including the Ichthyosaurus, Plesiosaurus, and
Teleosaurus, with the Pterodactyle, a flying form, and the
Megalosaurus. Skeletons of these great creatures so long
extinct are amongst the most interesting objects in geo-
logical museums.

The first examples of birds are found in the Oolitic series.
Small marsupial mammals existed.


This owes its name to the chalk beds which, often with
flints, form one of its most characteristic features. The
flints are siliceous concretions, often around sponges, sea-
urchins, and the like. These and the chalk itself were laid
down in quiet waters. There are also sandstones, marls,
limestones, and clays.

The Life of this period is in many ways a continuation of
that of the last, for we still find the gigantic reptiles and

1 Creatures constructing microscopic shells, still in existence in almost
incredible numbers in deep parts of the sea.


flying lizards, though they are on the wane. Crocodiles and
fishes of many kinds, crustaceans, ammonites, nautili, the
usual brachiopods, and many other invertebrates, corals,
and sponges all flourish. Birds, chiefly water birds, are to
be found : they are more bird-like and less lizard-like. The
vegetable life is also like that of the Jurassic, and there are
Sequoias with oaks in places. Insects appear, and there are
still marsupial mammals, but, like their precursors, all of
small size.

The Cainozoic or Tertiary rocks include subdivisions
known as


which may be dealt with together to save space. The period
of deposition of strata which followed upon the Cretaceous
and terminated with the Glacial Epoch was one during
which the earth's surface was steadily approaching the
appearance of the present day. The strata are of great
lithological variety, most of the deposits being of marine,
estuarine or fluviatile origin. Volcanic and other disturb-
ances of the earth's crust gave rise to the great existing
mountain chains.

The Life of this period presents two important features
to us. In the first place, we see the disappearance of a very
large number of the older forms which marked the fauna of
earlier systems ; whilst on the other hand, there came into
existence many of the forms which we find around us to-day.
The birds include many forms which have now disappeared,
and so of course do the mammals which marked this period
and of which more will have to be said in connection with
the next.

Amongst plants, Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons now
take a position of pre-eminence over Cryptogams, as is the
case to-day. The climate appears to have been at first
warm, but in northern latitudes gave place, towards the
end of the period, to colder temperatures which led up to
the Great Ice Age.


The Quaternary or Post-Tertiary period subdivided

Pleistocene or Glacial and
Recent, Post-Glacial or Human

must be separately discussed, and with it must be con-
sidered certain points omitted in the above brief sketch of
geological conditions. But the account of the Glacial
Period and a number of other matters closely connected
with geological considerations must be postponed to a later
part of the book, and for this reason. As has often been
said in these pages the object of this book is not to teach
science to its readers, but to explain the bearing of present-
day science upon religious teaching. Hence the question
of Man and his existence upon the earth, which is a very
small item in the geological story, is to us by far its most im-
portant portion. It follows that the question of Man and
his appearance on the earth must receive very much more
consideration than all the other facts of Geology, which
indeed have only been so far considered as was necessary
for the comprehension of those matters which are of primary
interest to us here.

And so, after considering the Days of Creation and the
bearing of Holy Scripture and scientific knowledge upon
this matter, we shall turn our attention to what we have
learnt and what we surmise about the earliest men who
are known to have existed upon this earth.

Having studied this section of our subject, we may then
revert to geological considerations and examine the present
state of scientific opinion on the Glacial Period and on
man's relationship thereto. We shall then be in a position
to investigate the question of the age of the earth and the
far more interesting question — to us in this book — of the
age of man upon the earth.

But, it may be said, you are discussing the question of
Man before you have dealt with such matters as Life and
how it came into existence, of the relations of animals
and of plants, of evolution and of a number of other
matters of that kind. No doubt this is perfectly true, but
in a general account such as this it is by no means easy to


adopt that simple and straightforward order which is natural
when only geology, for example, is under discussion. It
is thought that by disposing of all the geological topics,
amongst which is included the advent of Man, before
taking up those of a biological nature, the clearest view of
the questions with which we have to deal will be afforded
to the general reader, for whom these pages are intended.


THERE is perhaps hardly any subject amongst those
under discussion in this book around which greater
strife has raged than that which has to be touched upon
in this chapter. The present writer, having no claims to
be regarded either as a theologian or as one skilled in
Biblical Criticism, can, of course, only deal at second-
hand with these topics. He has, therefore, contented him-
self with paraphrasing or quoting from other authors, and
especially from the writings of the Rev. Dr. Hugh Pope, from
whose pen the Catholic reader receives much assistance. 1

In discussing the relations between the account which
which we find in the Book of Genesis and what we learn
from Science it is in the first place necessary to be quite
clear as to what was the intention of the writer of the
Sacred Record. The primary intention was obviously not to
give a scientific description of the origin of the Universe.
The primary intention was to give an account which should
clearly bring out God's plan for the redemption of the human
race. Hence it tells of the creation of the Universe but
specially — one might almost say only — as it relates to the
creation of the world, and to that again chiefly as it relates
to the creation of Man. Further, for the History of Man
we may substitute the History of the Chosen Race, for
that is what the remainder of the Old Testament deals
with and that is what the Book of Genesis leads up to. We
must take it as it was intended and must not forget for whom
it was intended — namely, for a race in a primitive, pastoral

1 The arguments and quotations are taken from his work " The
Catholic Student's ' Aids ' to the Bible," Old Testament. London, Wash-
bourne, 1913.



condition who could not have comprehended a scientific
account if it had been laid before them, but who were
quite capable of gathering, as the simple of to-day can
gather, all the information necessary for the comprehension
o{ the scheme of Redemption with which the Bible is con-

Dr. Pope says (p. 192) that an examination of the account
given in Genesis shows us " (a) that creation was conceived
of as consisting in a definite series of operations ; (b) that it
is given in a more or less poetical form ; thus we note the
recurring formula ' and there was evening and morning,
one day,' etc.; (c) though it is the creation of the universe
which is treated of, it is yet clear that all is told from the
standpoint of the earth, in other words, we are not told
the story for its own intrinsic interest, nor from a purely
scientific point of view — we have not a cosmogony so much
as a geogony ; (d) the account is essentially anthropomor-
phic, i.e. God is depicted as a man, He acts, plans, and
speaks like a man ; (e) the whole account is essentially
popular, i.e. it is expressed in popular language and accord-
ing to appearances ; e.g. the description of the firmament.
If we ask what precise doctrinal teaching is to be gathered

Online LibraryBertram Coghill Alan WindleThe church and science → online text (page 16 of 38)