Relations of the Earthand its Inhabitants
FROM the statements which have been made in the preceding chapters, it appears that five principal causes have been instrumental in producing the actual condition of the surface of our globe. First, The passage of the unstratified crystalline rocks, from a fluid to a solid state. — Secondly, The deposition of stratified rocks at the bottom of the ancient seas. — Thirdly, The elevation both of stratified and unstratified rocks from beneath the sea, at successive intervals, to form continents and islands. — Fourthly, Violent inundations; and the decomposing Power of atmospheric agents ; producing partial destruction of these lands, and forming, from their detritus, extensive beds of gravel, sand, and clay. — Fifthly, Volcanic eruptions.
We shall form a better estimate of the utility of the complex disposition of the materials of the earth, which has resulted from the operations of all these mighty conflicting forces, if we consider the inconveniencies that might have attended other arrangements, more simple than
[098 RELATIONS OF THE EARTH] those which actually exist. Had the earth's surface presented only one unvaried mass of granite or lava; or, had its nucleus been surrounded by entire concentric coverings of stratified rocks, like the coats of an onion, a single stratum only would have been accessible to its inhabitants; and the varied intermixtures of limestone, clay, and sandstone, which, under the actual disposition, are so advantageous to the fertility, beauty, and habitability, of the globe, would have had no place.
Again, the inestimably precious treasures of mineral salt and coal, and of metallic ores, confined as these latter chiefly are, to the older series of formations, would, under the supposed more simple arrangement of the strata, have been wholly inaccessible; and we should have been destitute of all these essential elements of industry and civilization. Under the existing disposition, all the various combinations of strata with their valuable contents, whether produced by the agency of subterranean fire, or by mechanical, or chemical deposition beneath the water, have been raised above the sea, to form the mountains and the plains of the present earth; and have still further been laid open to our reach, by the exposure of each stratum, along the sides of valleys.
With a view to human uses, the production of a soil fitted for agriculture, and the general
[099 TO THE USES OF MAN.] dispersion of metals, more especially of that most important metal iron, were almost essential conditions of the earth's habitability by civilized man.
I would in this, as in all other cases, be unwilling to press the theory of relation to the human race, so far as to contend that all the great geological phenomena we have been considering were conducted solely and exclusively with a view to the benefit of man. We may rather count the advantages he derives from them as incidental and residuary consequences; which, although they may not have formed the exclusive object of creation, were all foreseen and comprehended in the plans of the Great Architect of that Globe, which, in his appointed time, was destined to become the scene of human habitation.*
" It is true that by applying ourselves to the study of nature, we daily find more and more uses in things that at first appeared useless. But some things are of such a kind as not to admit of being applied to the benefit of man, and others too noble for us to claim the sole use of them. Man has no farther concern with this earth than a few fathoms under his feet was then the whole solid globe made only for a foundation to support the slender shell he treads upon? Do the magnetic effluvia course incessantly over land and sea, only to turn here and there a mariner' s compass? Are those immense bodies, the fixed stars, hung up for nothing but to twinkle in our eyes by night, or to find employment for a few astronomers? Surely he must have an overweening conceit of man's importance, who can imagine this stupendous frame of the universe made for him alone.
[100 RELATIONS OF ANIMALS] With respect to the animal kingdom, we acknowledge with gratitude, that among the higher classes, there is a certain number of living species, which are indispensable to the supply of human food and raiment, and to the aid of civilized man in his various labours and occupations; and that these are endowed with dispositions and faculties which adapt them in a peculiar degree for domestication:* but their number bears an extremely small proportion to the total amount of existing species; and with regard to the lower classes of animals, there are but very few among their almost countless multitudes, that minister either to the wants or luxuries
Nevertheless, we may so far acknowledge all things made for man as that his uses are regarded conjointly with those of other creatures, and that he has an interest in every thing reaching his notice, and contributing either to the support of his body, the improvement or entertainment of his mind. The satellites that turn the night of Jupiter into day, assist him in ascertaining the longitude, and measuring the velocity of light: the mighty sun, that like a giant holds the planets and comets in their orbits, enlightens him with its splendour, and cherishes him with its warmth: the distant stars, whose attraction probably confines other planets within their vortices, direct his course over the boundless sea, and the inhospitable desert.". — Tucker's Light of Nature, book iii. chap. ix. p. 9.
See an excellent note on prospective provisions, to afford materials for human arts, and having reference to the future discoveries of human sciences, in Rev. W. D. Conybeare's Inaugural Address to Bristol College, 1831 .
* See Lyell's Principles of Geology, 3rd edit. vol. ii. book 3, c. 3.
[101 TO THE USES OF MAN.] of the human race. Even could it be proved that all existing species are serviceable to man, no such inference could be drawn with respect to those numerous extinct animals which Geology shows to have ceased to live, long before our race appeared upon the earth. It is surely more consistent with sound philosophy, and with all the information that is vouchsafed to us respect ing the attributes of the Deity, to consider each animal as having been created first for its own sake, to receive its portion of that enjoyment which the Universal Parent is pleased to impart to each creature that has life; and secondly, to bear its share in the maintenance of the general system of co-ordinate relations, whereby all families of living beings are reciprocally subservient to the use and benefit of one another. Under this head only can we include their relations to man; forming, as he does, but a small, although it be the most noble and exalted part, of that vast system of universal life, with which it hath pleased the Creator to animate the surface of the globe.
" More than three-fifths of the earth's surface," says Mr. Bakewell, " are covered by the ocean; and if from the remaining part we deduct the space occupied by polar ice and eternal snow, by sandy deserts, sterile mountains, marshes, rivers and lakes, the habitable portion will scarcely exceed one-fifth of the whole of the globe.
[102 RELATIONS OF THE EARTH.] Nor have we reason to believe that at
any former period the dominion of man over the earth was more extensive
than at present. The remaining four-fifths of our globe, though
by mankind, are for the most part abundantly stocked with animated
that exult in the pleasure of existence, independent of human control,
and no way subservient to the necessities or caprices of man. Such is,
and has been for several thousand years, the actual condition of our
nor is the consideration foreign to our subject, for hence we may feel
less reluctance in admitting the prolonged ages or days of creation,
numerous tribes of the lower orders of aquatic animals lived and
and left their remains imbedded in the strata that compose the outer
of our planet." Bakewell's Introduction to Geology, 4th edit, p.6.