Re: Fossils and the flood

Glenn R. Morton (
Fri, 31 Jul 1998 21:51:32 -0500

At 10:38 AM 8/1/98 +1000, Jonathan Clarke wrote:
> Hi Glenn

>My understanding is that White's view of the history of science and faith
has >been completely discredited. Indeed, he can be credited with being
one of >the main publicists of
>the "Conflict model" on the relationship between science and faith, a myth
>we have suffered from ever since.

You are correct about White's approach, but that doesn't mean that
everything the guy said was pure manure. The joke on Beringer was quite
real and was quite embarassing.

"The famous episode of the hoax played on Johann Beringer at Wurzburg in
the 1720s, far from being typical of eighteenth century opinions on
fossils, is a bizarre manifestation of a debate that was by that time
dying. The 'planting' of artificial fossils, moulded to resemble insects,
birds, comets and other objects, was no light-hearted student prank but a
sordid conspiracy motivated by academic jealousy; and the success of the
deception reflects not so much Beringer's credulity as his genuine
puzzlement at a kind of fossil that had not been described by any of his
predecessors. The discovery of these strange specimens led him to review
systematically all previous theories about fossils; and since they seemd
(correctly) to be only 'imitations' of organisms he concluded that they
added weight to all the earlier arguments for the inorganic origin of
fossils. But by 1726 when Beringer published his work, such a conclusion
was already old-fashioned; and his personal humiliation when the hoax was
recognised may well have hastened its final disappearance." Martin S.J.
Rudwick The Meaning of Fossils, p. 89- 90

I didn't mean to have the second White quote in that note, it merely tagged
along from my data base.

>The Dane Nils Stensen (1638-1686) documented the origin "tongue stones" as
>fossil sharks teeth by writing a detailed comparison between the stones
and >the teeth of modern sharks. This established beyond reasonable doubt
that >many fossils were organic remains of past life forms (remember that
originally >the term "fossil" applied to any curiously shaped stone).
Stensen, better >known by his latin name of Nicolaus Steno, is widely
recognised as the father >of stratigraphy and became a bishop.

>Thus, while doubtless there were some Christians who doubted the organic
>origin of fossils, there is little evidence of systemic opposition to such
>theories among Christians or a systematic campaign by the church to
suppress >such views. Not only did did Steno become
>prominent in the Catholic Church, a number of the British naturalists of
>the 18th and early 19th century who played an important role in the
>development of geology were clergymen.

In Christ Jonathan

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