Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/36

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32
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

made. The structure of the Elk mountains in Colorado is distinct and every feature stands out so sharply that a child in geology can read the story. But the case was very different before W. H. Holmes recognized in the crumpled mass of fragments merely a crushed, faulted fold and restored the original lines. The symmetry of the Jura mountains is the admiration of geologists, but the key to unlock its case of mysteries was not found until H. D. Rogers, fresh from his Appalachian studies, proved the simplicity of its structure. The older geologists made our geology. In most of the United States, Canada and Europe, the share of recent geologists is like that of workmen who fill up cracks in the walls and interior of a building and put on the finishing touches, that the edifice may be the better fitted to resist the ravages of time.

The writer is not of those who believe that the older days were better than these or that the geologists of half a century ago were superior to those of our own day. Such a conception would be arrant folly. But he is convinced that in some respects the work of too many geologists is defective and that the cause is not hard to find. The methods are too refined and dependence on them tends to make the process too mechanical. The older geologists had practically no appliances except their eyes, and comparatively few of them had more than a passing knowledge of topography. The contrast appears sharply in the reports. The writer, in endeavoring to ascertain conditions prevalent during deposition of coals in the United States and Europe, has examined carefully scores of thousands of pages in several languages, so that he writes feelingly. Within recent times the tendency has been to record chiefly such observations as have the accuracy of instrumental determination. Other matters seem to be unimportant; they are commonplaces, unworthy of record. Yet those commonplaces are the essentials of pure geology. Certainly, one is justified in asking that men who have only to revise, with the aid of later developments, the work of other men, should add greatly to knowledge in the province of pure geology. It is more than probable that the demand for economic facts dulls the vision for other things, as it did too often 60 years ago, but there is room for protest against continuance of the condition. One may be pardoned for expressing the conviction that the weird work of Land Classification for the United States is likely to be, as it were, a red-hot iron rod passed close to the eyes of probably the ablest corps of geologists this world has known.