Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/462

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
446
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

their liberty may be abridged, and for an indefinite time if need be. By this curtailment of their freedom their line of descent is arrested, and this is the important object to accomplish. In a very inadequate manner, but with illustrations familiar to all, Nature's way has been appealed to as worthy of trial. This is the ringing lesson of natural selection as applied to this great problem, and we commend it, in all earnestness, to those who have the welfare of the submerged classes at heart.

 

NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

XVII.—GEOGRAPHY.

By ANDREW DICKSON WHITE, LL. D., L. H. D.,

EX-PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.

PART I.

1. The Form of the Earth.—Among various rude tribes we find survivals of a primitive idea that the earth is a flat table or disk, ceiled, domed, or canopied by the sky, and that the sky rests upon the mountains as pillars. Such a belief is entirely natural; it conforms to the appearance of things, and hence has entered into various theologies.

In the early civilizations of Egypt and Chaldea it was very fully developed. The Egyptians considered the earth as a table, flat and oblong, the sky being its ceiling; a huge "firmament" of metal. At the four corners of the earth were the pillars supporting this firmament, and on this solid sky were the "waters above the heavens." They believed that, when chaos was taking form, one of the gods by main force raised the waters on high and spread them out over the firmament; that on the under side of this solid vault or ceiling or firmament the stars were suspended to light the earth, and that the rains were caused by the letting down of the waters through its windows. This idea and others connected with it seem to have taken strong hold of the Egyptian priestly caste, thus entering into their theology and sacred science: ceilings of great temples, with stars, constellations, planets, and signs of the zodiac figured upon them, remain to-day as striking evidences of this.

In India and Persia we have theories of geography based upon similar conceptions and embalmed in sacred texts. The Chaldeans also believed that a firmament was spread out over the earth, and that it supported the ocean of celestial waters, from which fell dew and rain.

From these sources came geographical legacies to the Hebrews: