The Ancient Life History of the Earth eBook

Henry Alleyne Nicholson
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 483 pages of information about The Ancient Life History of the Earth.
of any fossils which might have been originally present in the rock.  Metamorphism may affect rocks of any age, though naturally more prevalent in the older rocks, and to this cause must be set down an irreparable loss of much fossil evidence.  The most striking example which is to be found of this is the great Laurentian series, which comprises some 30,000 feet of highly-metamorphosed sediments, but which, with one not wholly undisputed exception, has as yet yielded no remains of living beings, though there is strong evidence of the former existence in it of fossils.

Upon the whole, then, we cannot doubt that the earth’s crust, so far as yet deciphered by us, presents us with but a very imperfect record of the past.  Whether the known and admitted imperfections of the geological and palaeontological records are sufficiently serious to account satisfactorily for the deficiency of direct evidence recognisable in some modern hypotheses, may be a matter of individual opinion.  There can, however, be little doubt that they are sufficiently extensive to throw the balance of evidence decisively in favour of some theory of continuity, as opposed to any theory of intermittent and occasional action.  The apparent breaks which divide the great series of the stratified rocks into a number of isolated formations, are not marks of mighty and general convulsions of nature, but are simply indications of the imperfection of our knowledge.  Never, in all probability, shall we be able to point to a complete series of deposits, or a complete succession of life linking one great geological period to another.  Nevertheless, we may well feel sure that such deposits and such an unbroken succession must have existed at one time.  We are compelled to believe that nowhere in the long series of the fossiliferous rocks has there been a total break, but that there must have been a complete continuity of life, and a more or less complete continuity of sedimentation, from the Laurentian period to the present day.  One generation hands on the lamp of life to the next, and each system of rocks is the direct offspring of those which preceded it in time.  Though there has not been continuity in any given area, still the geological chain could never have been snapped at one point, and taken up again at a totally different one.  Thus we arrive at the conviction that continuity is the fundamental law of geology, as it is of the other sciences, and that the lines of demarcation between the great formations are but gaps in our own knowledge.



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The Ancient Life History of the Earth from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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