Geology Reference
In-Depth Information
Mysterious Rays
The true men of action in our time, those who
transform the world, are not the politicians and
statesmen, but the scientists.
W.H. Auden
Once a year scientists of all disciplines came together to parade
their most recent discoveries, their 'wild miracles'. Held in a dif-
ferent place each year, meetings of the British Association for
the Advancement of Science were a forum for hot debate on cur-
rent controversies. Consequently, in the 1890s, as arguments
raged about the age of the Earth, most BAAS meetings had an
'Age' discussion, and the Liverpool Meeting in 1896 was no
exception. That year it was the turn of the biologists to defend
their corner and Professor Poulton did this with fierce opposi-
tion to Kelvin and his meagre twenty million years. Responding
to a challenge from Kelvin - 'the burden of proof [falls] upon
those who hold to the vaguely vast age derived from sedimen-
tary geology' - Poulton brilliantly put the case for an ancient
planet, and suggested that for biological purposes the Earth
must be more than one thousand million years old. He argued
that in order for the oldest fossils then discovered to be as highly
evolved as they were seen to be, inordinate amounts of time
must have previously elapsed while life forms evolved to such a
complex stage of development.
Unfortunately, Kelvin was not listening because he was
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