Geology Reference
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which was how many people in the Middle Ages explained
fossils. But even when it was widely recognised that fossils
were the remains of creatures that had once lived on the Earth
or in the sea, it was nevertheless still problematic to find the
relics of fishes and other sea-dwelling creatures on the tops of
Once again the answer came from a literal interpretation of
the Bible. The story of Noah's Flood tells how God saw that the
wickedness of Man was great, that He repented having made
him in His image and so decided to destroy him. Only Noah was
good enough to be saved. So God told Noah to build an Ark in
which he was to take his wife, his sons and his sons' wives, plus
a pair of every living thing on the Earth because He was going
to cause it to rain for 40 days and nights and, in a fit of pique,
destroy every living thing. So, even though Noah was 600 years
old at the time, he built the Ark as God told him to and saved
'Life' for future generations.
The waters rose up and covered the mountains and every liv-
ing thing was destroyed. The violence of the Flood was so great
that the bottom of the oceans was stirred up, all soil was washed
o¬ the land, they were mixed together and then redeposited,
even on the top of mountains, to form the stratified rocks we
see today containing the remains of all the poor creatures who
perished. And thus we got fossils on the top of mountains. With
this explanation all rocks and fossils were supposedly laid down
at the same time, and adherents to the 'Noachian Deluge'
hypothesis dominated geological thought until the end of the
eighteenth century.
There were, however, a few who attempted to explain the
Flood by means other than the wrath of God. In 1696 William
Whiston wrote a 'New Theory of the Earth' in which he
explained how, on the 2nd of December, 2926 BC , a comet a
quarter of the size of the Earth cut the plane of the Earth's orbit
only nine thousand miles away. Whiston considered that the
e¬ect of this comet passing so close to the Earth generated a
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