Re: Fossils and the flood

Glenn R. Morton (
Fri, 31 Jul 1998 18:35:15 -0500

At 11:01 AM 7/31/98 -0400, Ted Davis wrote:
>Recent historical study of early geology has concluded that it was mainly
>the diluvialists (ie, those who believe in a major biblical flood) who were
>prepared to believe that fossils are really the remains of living creatures
>and not simply "freaks of nature" or Platonic forms not endowed with the
>"breath of life." An excellent example is the work of the Swiss naturalist
>Johann Jacob Scheuchzer, author of many important works including
>"Complaints and Claims of the Fishes" (1708). This curious book takes the
>form of a trial of mankind by the fossil fish, who speak up to defend their
>organic origin against men who deny it because they want to forget about the
>flood! Similar views, less creatively expressed, are found in Woodward and
>other early geologists.

I might note that one of the incentives to believe in fossils as organic
remains has to have been the 1726 'joke' played on Beringer. After such a
cruel joke, who in their right mind would want to hold Beringer's position
and risk the same? I would like a comment on whether White is correct in
his assertion that theology argued against the fossils being organisms.

"Of this period, when theological substitutes for science were carrying
all before them, there still exists a monument commemorating at the same
time a farce and a tragedy. This is the work of Johann Beringer, professor
in the University of Wurzburg and private physician to the Prince-Bishop -
the treatise bearing the title Lithographicae Wirceburgensis Specimen
Primum, 'illustrated with the marvelous likenesses of two hundred figured
or rather insectiform stones.' Beringer, for the greater glory of God, had
previously committed himself so completely to the theory that fossils are
simply 'stones of a peculiar sort, hidden by the Author of Nature for his
own pleasure,' that some of his students determined to give his faith in
that pious doctrine a thorough trial. They therefore prepared a collection
of sham fossils baked in clay, imitating not only plants, reptiles, and
fishes of every sort that their knowledge or imagination could suggest, but
even Hebrew and Syriac inscriptions, one of them the name of the almighty;
and these they buried in a place where the professor was wont to search for
specimens. The joy of Beringer on unearthing these proofs of the immediate
agency of the finger of God in creating fossils knew no bounds. At great
cost he prepared this book, whose twenty-two elaborate plates of facsimiles
were forever to settle the question in favour of theology and against
science, and prefixed to the work an allegorical title page, wherein not
only the glory of his own sovereign, but that of heaven itself, was
pictured as based upon a pyramid of these miraculous fossils. So robust
was his faith that not even a premature explosure of the fraud could
dissuade him from the publication of his book. Dismissing in one
contemptuous chapter this exposure as a slander by his rivals, he appealed
to the learned world. But the shout of laughter that welcomed the work
soon convinced even its author. In vain did he try to suppress it; and,
according to tradition, having wasted his fortune in vain attempts to buy
up all the copies of it, and being taunted by the rivals whom he had
thought to overwhelm, he died of chagrin. Even death did not end his
misfortunes. The copies of the first edition having been sold by a
graceless descendant to a Leipsic bookseller, a second edition was brought
out under a new title, and this, to is now much sought as a precious
memorial of human creduility."~Andrew D. White, A History of the Warfare of
Science with Theology in Christendom, 1, (New York: George Braziller,
1955), p.216-217
"We have already noted that there are generally three periods or phases in
a theological attack upon any science. The first of these is marked by the
general use of scruptural texts and statements against the new scientific
doctrine; the third by attempts at compromise by means of far-fetched
reconciliations of textuural statements with ascertained fact; but the
second or intermediate period between these two is frequently marked by the
pitting against science of some great doctrine in theology. We saw this in
astronomy, when Bellarmin and his followers insisted that the scientific
doctrine of the earth revolvong about the sun is contrary to the
theological doctrine of the incarnation. so now against geology it was
urged that the scientific doctrine that fossils represent animals which
died before Adam contradicts the teological doctrine of Adam's fall and the
statement that 'death entered the world by son.'"~Andrew D. White, A
History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, 1, (New
York: George Braziller, 1955), p.218


Adam, Apes and Anthropology
Foundation, Fall and Flood
& lots of creation/evolution information