Re: Wesley and extinction

From: Michael Roberts <>
Date: Mon Aug 01 2005 - 17:49:47 EDT

BUT in the 18th century some had accepted extinction and even Palissy in the
17th century on Ammonites, eg Buffon. Also there was discussion on
extinction eg the mastodon found in Ohio in 1765 and Pallas finding similar
in Siberia. Also in 1790 Blumenbach was considering extinction and then
later the illustrious Baron Cuvier, (who thought sloths to be very bad
design - frankly a case of unintelligent design) pulled it altogether and
made the case clear. Remember not much could be said as you could not get a
sequence of life forms until after 1800 when anti-evolutionary fossilists
worked it all out. (see Gohau Les Sciences de la Terre 1990) under Especes

Wesley was no original thinker but had a good educated knowledge of science
of his day. He never grappled with a vast age of the earth as that really
only came up in a big way after 1775.

I cant follow what Cornelius is saying.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ted Davis" <>
To: <>; <>; <>;
Sent: Monday, August 01, 2005 6:38 PM
Subject: Wesley and extinction

> George Hunter wrote, relative to extinction:
> #1 goes back to Wesley and Jefferson in the 18th century. How's that for
> bracketing the theological spectrum? A Wesleyan (literally) and a deist
> both
> making the same identical point, that God would not have species go
> extinct.
> Ted comments:
> I'm interested to have more precise information about Wesley. In my cases
> in my experience, when people cite Wesley on some aspect of nature, it's
> something from Wesley's "Compendium of Natural Philosophy," a massive work
> that has lots of passages taken wholesale from Charles Bonnet and other
> authors. It can be tricky to know which opinions are Wesley's and which
> aren't. My general advice it, not to cite Wesley on natural philosophy
> without first checking the larger context for the citation.
> Now, assuming that Wesley agreed with the general 18th century (and late
> 17th century) consensus view, that a good God would not allow extinction,
> then the crucial person to confront next is not Darwin but Cuvier. It was
> Cuvier who made the argument from various forms of fossil elephants, that
> extinction is a reality in nature. Ironically, in order to establish this
> point, he had to rule out transmutation (ie, evolution). First he asks,
> why
> don't we find these exact animals out there anymore? He then considered 3
> possibilities: (1) transmutation--they have become something else; ruled
> out
> on actualistic (ie, a posteriori) grounds, since we have no evidence that
> transmutation happens and abundant evidence that it doesn't (namely, we
> observe no evolution over 5,000 years in mummified animals and humans from
> Egypt). (2) migration--the "extinct" animals are still out there
> somewhere
> in unexplored regions of the globe, a possibility he ruled out for animals
> as large as elephants as geographical knowledge grew and we still didn't
> find them. and (3) actual extinction, so that the economy of nature has
> been broken up.
> George Murphy's comments on the "chain of beings," etc are a propos here.
> Belief in the sanctity of speces per se is rooted both in the Christian
> tradition (God values what God creates, hence no extinction) and in the
> Greek philosophical tradition (God's goodness requires that whatever can
> exist must exist, and once it exists it would not be good were it no
> longer
> to exist). My students seem to think that valuing species as species is
> some wild belief coming from "tree huggers" and other modern folks; some
> even associate this (believe it or not) with "evolutionists." It of
> course
> has quite different roots. Ironies all over the place today.
> Ted
Received on Mon Aug 1 17:54:08 2005

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