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The Watch on the Heath

Science and Religion Before Darwin

Keith Thompson

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Early C19 scholars wellaware of problems of taking Bible literally - two different versions of the Floos, and two of the creation of women. Plus already much that was in disagreement with modern science.

Up until then, you weren't allowed to question Bible. Just had to accept it, not ask for factual evidence.

Scienceis about discovering causes of the knowable world. Above all it seeks explanations thatcan be expressed in terms of universal laws and so establishing a world of lawful, predictable behaviour.

Relis built on certainties and stability. Science has at its heart qusetioning and testing, finding new explanations as new evidence emerges.

One of the certainties of early belief was that the sun orbits the Earth. And this is implicit in Joshua's story (Joshua 10:12-14) that God made the sun stand still, and for Isaiah, God made the sun move 10 degrees backward (II Kings20:11).

Paley's watch analogy had been common knowledge for fifyty years before his book.

Natural theology (which seeks to provide arguments for the existence of a deity based on reason and ordinary experience of nature) only works if you see the works of nature as perfect. Hume offered the contrary view that nature is fundamentally imperfect. Nature is 'good enough' not 'perfect'.

Prime example of the human (and all primates) eye. A squid or an octopus has an eye sensibly 'designed' - with the sensory erves going from the back of the retina to the brain. But in all primates the retina is back to front. The nerves are wired to the front of the retina, then passed back through the eye through a hole to the optic nerve. This hole is a blind spot with no receptors at all. So Q is why wd God design such an imperfect design,partic since, according to Genesis, he had already 'done' the sea creatures with their much more sensible design?

Problem with Paley's watch is that the watch is not alive, and does not have the means to sustain it's own operation, or to reproduce.

C17 and C18 geology upset the applecart. Mining and canal building revealed complex structures, but with 2 obvious major characteristics - change and layering. Some types came striaght from volcanoes, some were from erosion. Some had been laid down on land, some in rivers, some in the sea. And many contained fossils. Whereas the Church had been teaching for 2000 years that the Earth was (a) young and (b) created in one event, it was now clear that it involved multiple events over very long period of time.

Added problems with the fossils. (1) they were mostly of extinct species (ie mistakes) (2) found in different layers, implying multiple Floods (3) seemed to confirm other geological evidence for an ancient Earth.

20 Feb 1835 Beagle's officers had just finished surveying the coastline around Concepcion, Chile, when an earthquake struck. When they resurveyed the harbour, they found the southern end raised 8 feet, the centre9, and the northern end, 10 feet. Clearly vindicated Lyell and Hooke's views that earthquakes lifted up the earth.

The timeline of geologic theory. Earliest, and most obvious observation that rocks erode to gravel and sand and eventually build up new sediments in the water or soli onn the land. And because these processes acted slowly, this meant that the Earth ws very old.

Hutton's Theory of the Earth cited Siccar Point in Scotland as evidence that the Earth had been drastically restructured over the ages. There he found one (upper) layer of horizontal sandstone lying flat on top of a much older (lower) starta of schist that had been folded into a vertical orientation. This clearly showed both multiple events and a very long epriod of time.

Next step was to accept that living species had changed through time - species had gone extinct. Before Darwin, most writers tried very hard to include God into their story.

Darwin's S American exploration showed him that fossils of extinct animals were very similar to living species, suggesting that one had replaced the other over time. Then, on the Galapagos islands, he saw that each island had its own version of the same animal or plant.

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