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TO PROFESSOR SILLIMAN,
of Yale College, Connecticut.
SIR-The addition of your Syllabus to Bakewell's Geology, has given rise to this essay. I did not much mind the orthodox costume which Towmend, Kirvan, Kidd, Buckland, Ure, Mantell, &c. in England and under the Bourbons, Cuvier was obliged to wear. I got on very well also, notwithstanding my friend Dr. Hayden's reverence for the Mosaic deluge ; but when you came out in full theological garb, an orthodox Wernerian, I was compelled to obviate the difficulties which you had offered to the consideration of my class, and take up the gauntlet which you had thrown down on my table. My theories and my geological reputation were in jeopardy with my young men, and I found it absolutely necessary to stand upon my defence. My lecture on that occasion has brought on me much trouble; and as it is greatly misunderstood and equally misrepresented, I have found myself compelled to state my arguments in detail.
I offer them to your consideration, without claiming for them your assent. I know the force of pre-judgment, and the difficulty of changing, after one's mind has been made up. But you will agree with me, that the question has become of such magnitude, that it must be settled. Is there any such Era as the geological occurrence of a general Deluge? Is all Diluvium to be referred to that Era? If there be no other proof in its favor but the Pentateuch, it fails. I know of no other.
However you and I may differ on this subject, I feel sincere pleasure in bearing testimony to your valuable qualifications as a lecturer on Chemistry and Mineralogy, and to the great obligations you have laid the scientific world under by your excellent Journal. Be pleased, therefore, sir, to accept my assurances of unfeigned respect, and my earnest wishes for your health and welfare. THOMAS COOPER, M. D
ON THE PENTATEUCH.
SOME few years ago, when there were no lectures on Geology in the United States, publicly known, except those of the South Carolina College, and Dr. Silliman's, each of us recommended Bakewell's Geology as a text book to our classes. The English edition was the only one then known to me. Shortly afterward, Dr. Silliman published an American edition of Bakewell, with an appendix, containing a full syllabus of his own lectures on Geology, founded on the Mosaic account of the formation of the earth and of the Deluge, as being delivered under the authority of Divine inspiration.
I was thus compelled to put into the hands of my class, who could not easily procure any but the American edition of Bakewell, Dr. Silliman's Geological doctrines-as different from what I had been accustomed to deliver, as two opposite opinions could well be.
I greatly regret that Dr. Silliman should so far have committed his reputation for a man of science, as to publish that syllabus; containing positions which no well informed Geologist of Europe or this country, would now sanction, and which no well informed Theologian, of the present day, would venture to support; there being hardly a single Divine of reputation in Europe, who now believes that the book of Genesis, as we possess it, was written by Moses, or by any one else, under the influence of divine inspiration. But as the geological doctrines I complain of, have been published by Dr. S. as being based on the dictates of a divinely inspired writer, Moses, I must defend myself as well as I can, by shewing that the books
cailed the Pentateuch, commencing with Genesis and ending with Deuteronomy, were not in fact written by Moses; and are therefore subject to our examination, free from the trammels of supposed inspiration, or divine authority.
I shall make a few preliminary remarks, which will be easily conceded by every reader:
1st. A book is genuine, when it is really written by the author to whom it is ascribed. This must be proved by external, not internal evidence. A modern writer may manufacture a book, and ascribe it to a writer long ago dead.
2d. A book is authentic when the facts contained in it are asserted on good and competent authority: that is upon the testimony of witnesses of good sense and good character, having personal knowledge of the facts related, without any motive or bias to misrepresent them. Hence the necessity of cross examination of a witness in a court of justice, to discover the kind and degree of knowledge under which he relates the facts and the various circumstances that may mislead his judgment, or detract from the purity of his motives. Without this exercise of cross-examination, testimony would be of little worth.
3d. A historian who relates facts on the authority of others, ought to satisfy his readers, that the persons on whose authority he relates them, were competent witnesses, as to freedom from bias, veracity, good sense, and personal knowledge of the facts; otherwise we shall be at a loss in respect of those qualifications that are the main support of all credible testimony.
4th. Hence, facts detailed upon vague and remote tradition, on common report not accurately questioned, on hearsay evidence far removed-rest on very inadequate and imperfect evidence; such as would not suffice to transfer a dollar from A to B in any court of justice, which rejects all hearsay evidence.
5th. It is true, that all history does more or less consist of hearsay and report; so much the worse; and still worse, unless the historian shows that he has taken reasonable pains to discriminate between true and false, probable and improbable reports; and enables us to judge of the grounds and reasons on which he has proceeded.
5th. The objections against hearsay and vague report, are greatly strengthened by the frequent occurrence in modern as well as ancient times, of this kind of evidence in support of false and improbable stories, which we have no means of investigating. Miraculous cures and legends, ghost and apparition stories, for instance.
These objections bear more forcibly against tradition
from remote ages and ignorant people: for any narrator is at liberty to tell the story in his own way; there is none to check or correct him; each narrator may forget, may tax his imagination to supply imperfect recollection-may add, alter, or diminish, without being subject to any means of detection. Accuracy in historical narration, is the result of high literary civilization. Among the very numerous private conversations and transactions contained in the book of Genesis for instance, where there was, and could have been no witness-who can authenticate them? If it be said they were supernaturally communicated, who can prove this? You cannot prove it from the book itself, for you must first prove the genuine and authentic character of the book itself—you must show that it is entitled to credit from its scrupulous accuracy as to evidence, before it can become authority. It is not sufficient proof that the story of Aladdin, or of Sinbad the Sailor, in the Arabian Nights' entertainments are true, because the story teller relates it. Who is the story teller? Where, and when, and how did he get his facts? Who knows the author of Genesis.
Tradition is no authority whatever for detail, even where it may be admitted as evidence of some general fact. Suppose a man of acknowledged veracity tells you, that he heard his grandfather Richard, say that ghosts, apparitions and miracles were very common about a century before he was born, as he (Richard) had frequently heard from his grandfather. It is no evidence of the supposed ghosts and apparitions.
8th. Hence, in the present day, no man pretends to appeal to any history that does not acccurately cite its authorities.
9th. Even the best compiled histories are but imperfect evidence as to details and motives. The opinion of Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Robert Walpole as to this subject, are well known. Let any Lawyer call to mind the frequent wanderings from accuracy of witnesses in a court of justice, even when they do not mean to give a false account; and how often witnesses contradict each other. Even the irreconcileable differences of the gospel writers concerning the " Resurrection," are not defended on any other ground, than that differences as to the detail of facts among witnesses of the same transaction, are so common as to be expected; and amount to proof of absence of collusion, as well as inaccuracy or recollection. See note A. in the appendix.
10th. All masters of logic agree in the axiom, a posse ad esse non valet consequentia, that is, although a circumstance might by possibility have been thus or thus, it does not therefore follow, that it actually was, thus or thus; for it might as well also,