Charles Darwin and Geological Time, Part One

8 Feb

From .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

In this series of blogs I intend to examine the stories created in the imagination of scientists to explain the creation and development of the world. It’s necessary to take it in parts, starting with the concept of geological time which was developed by eminent scientists in the nineteenth century, then moving to the creation stories developed in the twentieth century and to the present regarding geological time. It’s a long story and in order to see how things really are it’s necessary to start at the beginning. So bear with me. I’ve tried to make the story as entertaining as possible, while adhering closely to scientific fact and the scientific method.

I am not a scientist, yet I’ve studied science all my life, throughout my career as a lawyer and in the last few years since I have given up the practice of law. Even though not a scientist, I am an expert, from thirty years of law practice, in analyzing evidence and developing proof of a disputed principle or point from a given set of facts. I bring this well-developed strength to my analysis.

As a young man I was an avid rock collector and would dig into the sides of cliffs with a rock hammer to find specimens and layers of rocks. So I’m not entirely ignorant of the science of geology.

Here I will develop proof of my thesis that the concept of geological time is a product of the use of flawed methods of science. The geological myth of the creation of the earth 4.5 billion years ago, and the stages through which the earth has passed from then until now, is purely a myth, with no more provable validity than the Biblical creation myth, or the Asian myth of the earth being supported on the back of a giant turtle. Let me show you how this is so.

Charles_Darwin_1854 Charles Darwin in 1856.

I am first going to tell anew the story of Charles Darwin and his masterful Theory of Evolution. I will emphasize some parts of his story which have perhaps fallen out of favor in science. My information comes directly from reading Darwin’s lengthy works from start to finish. I want you to see Darwin as Darwin saw himself, as an angelic apostle of truth who disregarded the superstitions of organized religion in order to set right the boundaries of our earth and its productions.

While bringing forth his theories of evolution, he at the same time set the boundaries for the earth sciences and geological time which are still valid today. Bear with me as over several posts I lay out these standards and limitations for the study of geological time and paleontology. Darwin’s original and quite sound theories have been hijacked and distorted by geologists and paleontologists for their own ends. Darwin’s almost totally factual and accurate observations have themselves “evolved” into a fantasy world of delusion and science fiction which does not deserve the name of Evolution.

Darwin in 1859 dispelled the mass delusion that all organic forms were formed by God exactly as they exist and are not subject to change. Those who were his contemporaries and who followed throughout the nineteenth century and even to the present, though, created another mass delusion: that the age of the earth is 4.5 billion years, and that the age of various portions of the earth can be determined by the visual observation of rocks on the surface of the earth, or, in the twentieth century, by running simple radiometric tests on rocks on the surface of the earth.

It is time for the mass delusion created after 1859 to be uncovered and tossed into the dust bin of history. It is time that we see the mass delusion of geological time for what it is: a structure created solely from the imagination of men who believed in nothing but their own infallibility. These were good men and true; so were the 19th century creationists good men and true. Yet being good and true is not the same thing as being scientifically accurate and wise in the interpretation of data.

The uses to which this good man Darwin’s words have been put in the years from 1859 to the present are unprecedented in their inaccuracy and speculation. These alterations have supported the egotistical self-aggrandizement of many scientists who had less regard for the truth or accuracy of what they “discovered,” than that what they discovered would make them famous and world-renowned. As I said, they were not bad men, only good men who reached too far.

In 1859 when he published “The Origin of Species,” Charles Darwin did a great service to mankind. He wiped away hundreds of years of fantastic speculations on the nature of creation and opened up a magnificent new way of scientific analysis. Many of the actual physical science developments which have given us a better way of life have come about because Darwin wiped away massive and unsupportable superstitions which impeded clear thinking.

In his own words Darwin described the myth he effectively dismissed. “Until recently the great majority of naturalists believed that species were immutable productions, and had been separately created.” He proved beyond doubt that mutability was a primary characteristic of living organisms, including. He also wiped away the insupportable myth that all these immutable organic productions were created at the same time in 4004 BC. He dismissed the notion that “Man” was not an organic being like other plants and animals. He factually undermined the delusion of the time that Man was created whole and faultless in his present form, and has lived as the pinnacle of creation since this miraculous creation separate from the beasts.

In his first prominent popular work, The Voyage of the Beagle, which was made available to the public in about 1845, Charles Darwin demonstrated the characteristics which would propel him to world fame. One of these characteristics was his ability to write prose in a clear and transparent manner, with great emotion and poetic turns of phrase. His writing style was as timeless as that of Charles Dickens, and almost as modern as that of John Grisham.

The Voyage of the Beagle was a travelogue which recounted sights and deeds both daring and spectacular, and excited the imagination of the most common as well as the most educated reader. At the same time as he provided high entertainment, though, he regaled the reader with thousands of cultural and scientific facts and observations. He never pushed any scientific theory, yet it was obvious to the reader that the degrees of variety of plants, animals, rocks and humans were incredibly diverse at different places in the world. He actually had thousands of specimens and thousands of pages of notes to back up the descriptions in this book.

Another rather unique characteristic of Charles Darwin was that he was an extremely effective observer of nature, and would intently drill down to the very smallest point in any matter which caught his attention as a naturalist, seeking the factual evidence wherever it led. This ability to see all of the parts of a work of nature was evident in The Voyage of the Beagle, and was even more pronounced in each of his later works.

Darwin engaged is the finest application of the scientific method, and few scientists before him had maintained sufficient discipline to examine anything other than the larger picture. During the middle of the nineteenth century, Louis Pasteur was one of the few other natural scientists to make observations with the same level of commitment.  Darwin would dissect and pull apart everything down to the smallest blade of grass or the contents of a handful of sand. Thus he and men such as Louis Pasteur created a whole new paradigm for the scientific method, which has served mankind well ever since.

In his 1859 ground-breaking book The Origin of Species, Darwin was quite cautious about offending the prevailing religious opinions of the day. So he confined himself in this work to analyzing all organic living species other than Man. With this decision made, he pushed his arguments forward with an imposing and confident force, using the thousands of observations he’d made and specimens he’d examined, which he described as far too numerous to include in his book. Even so, he probably used in this 700-page work ten times as much data as was necessary to make his point that organic species were mutable; yet it was Darwin’s nature to collect and collate information all the way to the point of exhaustion. He rarely speculated about anything in these early works, letting the facts speak for themselves.

His beautifully poetic and transparent style of prose was also in full force as he plowed through the difficult feat of writing The Origin of Species. Every word is easy to read and understandable and flows with a rhythm much like a song. Throughout the work he never once made a wrong step or wrote a confusing or boring sentence. The style is, as I have said, comparable with the great authors such as Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, and John Grisham.

Only in Chapters 10, 11 and 12 did Darwin give any expression to speculation, when he wrote about the relationship of the geological or fossil record to the theory of natural selection. Here he was not speculating himself. He was attempting to engage in an acknowledgment of the speculations of the early nineteenth century geologists and paleontologists, most of whom were his friends. These men had constructed a definite geological history going back millions, even billions of years.

Darwin was too much of a gentleman to want to alienate his colleagues or debunk their theories, but he couldn’t help bringing his clear-thinking scientist’s soul to bear on the subject. In addition, he needed to make the simple point that the world was old and that species had evolved over a long period of time. He just hadn’t observed any facts showing how old the world was, only that it was old.

In damning his colleagues with faint praise, he let the reader know he didn’t think much of their very precisely drawn and fantastically ancient geological time periods. He reminds his reader that one Professor Ramsay claimed to have actually measured the thickness of rock crusts in Great Britain to a depth of almost fourteen miles. The irony in the description is thicker and deeper than the supposed fourteen mile hole in the earth’s crust, which is of course even now impossibility.

Here’s more of Darwin’s faint acknowledgment of the ancient geological periods which were being presented as facts by his colleagues, from The Origin of Species:

But we continually overrate the perfection of the geological record…. We continually forget how large the world is, compared with the area over which our geological formations have been carefully examined…. It seems to me to be about as rash to dogmatize on the [ancient] succession of organic forms throughout the world, as it would be for a naturalist to land for five minutes on a barren point in Australia, and then to discuss the number and range of its productions…. We should not forget that only a small portion of the world is known with accuracy.

And in another place in the same book:

I look on the geological record as a history of the world imperfectly kept…. Of this history we possess the last volume alone, relating only to two or three countries. Of this volume, only here and there a short chapter has been preserved; and of each page, only here and there a few lines.

By readily admitting to the great antiquity of the earth, Darwin successfully refuted the then predominant creationists who spoke of 4004 BC as the beginning of time. Nevertheless, he correctly spoke of this antiquity in general terms. When getting specific he mostly referred to the periods as recent in time as the mastodons, which was about 14,000 years ago and could be confirmed by the presence of frozen animal specimens.

So Darwin was a man of science who proceeded based on observable facts, and he saw very few observable facts in the geological and paleontological speculations on ancient times which were in vogue in his day as proven fact. We will return to the subject of paleontology and the accuracy of the geological record after a few more useful digressions.

First, in his 1859 work, The Origin of Species, he avoided any discussion of the lineage and mutability of mankind. The principle was nevertheless implicit in the text, yet the connection was so subtle that the average Victorian would not make the intellectual leap (or get angry). The proven premise is that all organic beings are subject to change due to natural selection and evolution. Mankind is an organic being. Therefore mankind is subject to the same change as any pigeon or blade of grass. The logic is flawless, yet Darwin couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud.

When he finally found it necessary to publish The Descent of Man twelve years later in 1871, he admitted to having been studying the subject of the mutability of mankind since the 1840’s, yet had felt it was too controversial and uncertain to write about. When he finally did write, his prose was unusually turgid and quite boring, as though he was agitated, or too overly restrained, to reach the poetic high notes of his earlier works. It was difficult for him to assert that man was descended from the apes, even though he had good scientific proof that this was so.

He did, though, in this book, depart from his usual practice. There was a high degree of speculation in his discussions regarding the nature of the influences which may have brought man by natural selection from the stage of a beast to the present condition of humanity. It’s interesting to note that his strict scientific method based solely on observation largely deserted him when discussing the descent of himself and his fellow man.

Nevertheless, he did take pains to point out each instance where he was speculating or imagining as opposed to stating a known fact. And he continued to base most of his arguments on currently observable comparisons between savage societies and civilized man, and current comparisons between the structure and behavior of apes and the structure and behavior of man.

Once again, though, he correctly asserted that the geological record was too thin to make sweeping “genealogical” statements about the prehistoric descent of man in the far distant geological past. Once again, he was firmly in touch with reality, and rather intolerant of those who were not so grounded.

Darwin, as I said, was uncomfortable in his speculations about the origins of mankind, and he should have been, and he was. It was clear to him that mankind evolved from earlier mammalian forms of life, yet he couldn’t explain why mankind was endowed with a spirit and soul so conspicuously absent in the other plants and animals of the earth. We must remember that Darwin was an atheist, and as such was unable to admit that there was a time in the history of earth when mankind was touched with the spirit of God and humanity and self-awareness, and became something more than the other organic productions of the earth.

In part two of this essay I am going to shift gears and get into how Darwin’s almost totally factual and accurate observations have themselves “evolved” into a fantasy world of delusion and science fiction which does not deserve the name of Evolution.



Please allow me to make a few comments which are not a part of the thesis of this series of essays, in the interest of full disclosure of my personal bias. I am a Christian and at the same time I am a great admirer of the original work of Charles Darwin. As a Christian, I believe that God did at some time in the recent history of the earth, perhaps in the last 14,000 years, endow mankind with a spirit which was wholly separate from the forms of the physically remote predecessor bodies described by Darwin. I also, along with most Christians and Jews, have a different interpretation of the Book of Genesis than that held by those creationists who insist that the world was formed in 4004 BC and that Adam was the first man.

The first part of the interpretation is to assume that the Biblical description of the seven days of creation are symbolic, in that they represent the various stages of the evolution of the earth over an unstated period of time up until the creation of mankind. If read with a clear eye, Genesis 1: 26-28 describes the creation of human beings of all kinds on the sixth day of creation: well before Adam was created. These human beings, male and female, were made in the image of God and were given dominion over the other creatures of the earth, and went forth and multiplied throughout the earth.

The seven days of Genesis clearly describe an evolution from fish and birds to plants to animals, all the way to the pinnacle of God’s creation, human beings, who resembled Him. Thus there was a recapitulation of a gradual increase in the species until the recent times when human beings were specifically endowed with the spirit of God. Except for his atheism, Darwin may in his works have been describing the book of Genesis in his Origin of the Species and The Descent of Man. The two are not entirely incompatible.

The creation of Adam and Eve in Chapter 2 of Genesis thus has nothing whatsoever to do with the “creation of human beings, male and female,” which was completed in Chapter 1 on the sixth day of the general creation. What the Bible seems to be doing in Chapter 2 and following was to create in Adam and Eve a special Chosen People, who were intended to put forth and represent the principle of one God all powerful, the Judeo-Christian God who carried through the entire Old Testament.

The connection of the Chosen People within the New Testament is gained by the recitation of the lineage of Jesus directly from Abraham, who was descended from Noah (Genesis 10 and 11), who was descended directly from Adam (Genesis 5). Thus the Judeo-Christian Bible is a description of the lives of the Chosen People. It is not a description of all human beings, who resembled God and peopled the whole earth, after God had animated all human beings with spirit and a soul.

The Bible was never meant to be a description of the progress of all of mankind. The various races and degrees of civilization of human beings were evolving at their own pace throughout the whole of the planet. What we have in the Bible is a record of the evolution of the Chosen People of the Judeo-Christian world, in which I and those around me live.

We know for sure that there were more creations in heaven and earth than the Judeo-Christian people. It is not good to be intentionally blind to the different peoples of the earth, and the differing ways which they picture God or do not picture a deity.

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