Popular Science Monthly/Volume 7/August 1875/Correspondence

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search



To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly:

I HAVE been an attentive reader of The Popular Science Monthly for over two years, and in that time not one article, editorial, or note of correspondence, has escaped my notice. Also, I have been deeply interested from the first in all the advanced positions of the Monthly, and have noted its strictures on the narrow intolerance and ignorance of the clergy, and the many hints that they should enlarge the field of their observation and knowledge; and I am convinced that many of these hints are well-timed. But, then, ought not men of science also to be more liberal and better acquainted with biblical knowledge? The theologian observes in the writings of men of science the same narrowness and ignorance of the Bible that the scientist sees in the writings of theologians concerning his particular line of study and investigation.

In No. XXXVII. of The Popular Science Monthly, the editor says, in his notice of Dean Stanley's sermon on the death of Sir Charles Lyell: "Dean Stanley is far from being alone in his views; they are shared by many other eminent clergymen who recognize that the Mosaic account of creation is without authority." But, does Dean Stanley indeed "recognize that the Mosaic account of creation is without authority?" Be that as it may, ought not any man to lose the respect of his fellow-men who will consent to remain a clergyman, and yet reject the authority of the Bible?

Certainly no particular account of creation was intended by the author of the Book of Genesis—nothing more than a brief outline, and he gives no intimation as to the time when this world began to be. Nor is there any reason why the six days of creation should not be regarded as so many general periods, without any limitation as to duration. But, if you will carefully notice the statements of Moses, you will find some things hard for the scientist to dispose of, if the account of creation is without authority. Moses says: "In the beginning the earth was without form and void." Does not the scientist say substantially the same thing?

Then take the different stages in the progress of the world, as stated by Moses, and especially as to the appearance of life; do they not agree perfectly with the revelations of science? Moses says the first life was vegetable—grass, herb, tree. Next came a low form of aquatic animal life—"the moving creature that hath life" developing into fishes and fowls of the air. Then land-animals, and, lastly, man appeared on the earth. Now, what says modern science of this arrangement? Does it not fully sustain this Mosaic account of creation? Even the modern doctrine of evolution—Darwinism, if you please—is as nearly taught in the first chapter of Genesis as in the revelations of modern science; and spontaneous generation seems to appear on the very face of the statements of Moses as therein recorded. Read verses 20 and 24: "And God said. Let the waters bring forth abundantly," etc., "And God said. Let the earth bring forth," etc. And as for man, if God saw fit to straighten up a monkey and endow him with human reason, whether that took the Almighty one hour or a thousand years, who need object? It is certain that it can be proved neither by the Bible nor modern science, either that God did or did not make man in that way.

But here comes the question as to the authority of the Mosaic account of creation: How was the author of that account able to state in so brief a space the main points in the earth's development, just as they are now known by the revelations of science, when he wrote at least three thousand years before the sciences which have now brought these things to light were born? Was Moses a profound scientist? or did he write under the influence of divine inspiration?

Rev. J. C. Mahin.
Peru, Indiana, June 21, 1875.


To the Editor of The Popular Science Monthly:

In the afternoon of June 26, 1874, a thunder-storm passed over the town of Cummington, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, during which an exhibition of the mechanical power of lightning was displayed, which I believe is extremely rare, at least in this latitude.

A sugar-maple tree (Acer saccharinum), thirteen feet in circumference four feet from the ground, was struck, and split in several places, apparently throughout its diameter, from the ground to a height varying from twelve to twenty feet. On reaching the .earth, the main portion of the shaft passed to a piece of wet ground several rods distant, in its way ploughing a furrow from one to over three feet in depth, tearing seven trees, the largest six inches in diameter, from the ground, and throwing them several feet from their former places, A rock containing thirty-six cubic feet was torn from its bed, and rests on the surface, three feet from its original position. In its course it passed under another maple, two feet in diameter. The tree was not thrown down, but the earth was thrown up from beneath its roots, in places, to the depth of three feet. This tree stood about sixty feet from the one struck. It then passed thirty or forty feet farther, through earth so wet in some places that the trench made by it filled with water. After making a cut eight feet wide at the surface, and three feet deep through a knoll, it divided, and, after passing a short distance farther, struck at three points a half-inch lead water-pipe, running at right angles with its centre, filled with water at the time, and covered with about two feet of wet earth, which was thrown out, and the pipe destroyed for a distance of 200 feet. No trace of the pipe could be found in many places, excepting scattered gray oxide of lead. In its way from the tree to the pipe, large masses of mica-slate rock were shattered, and one observer saw large stones which were thrown above the top of the surrounding trees.

Nearly the whole distance traversed by the lightning was woodland, and the soil was firmly bound together by interlacing roots; many of these, large enough to resist the power of the strongest yoke of oxen, were snapped like pipe-stems, the fracture being almost as smooth as if cut with a saw. Lighter portions of the electricity radiated in various directions from the tree, turning up the earth like a plough, for a distance of from 40 to 100 feet. The tree was struck while the rain-cloud was at least two or three miles distant. Many people were out, making preparation for the coming shower at the time, and the bolt was seen by several persons as it darted from the coming cloud. I visited the place nearly a year after the event, but all that I have described is yet visible. I can only account for this tremendous force by supposing that the water in the soil, converted instantly to steam, produced these results.

Dewey A. Cobb.
Providence, R. I., June, 1875.