Illustration of Principles of geology

1830 Principles of geology

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Charles Lyell geology Illustration of Principles of geology

Principles of geology

Agencies whose effects are observable today are sufficient to explain all conditions and anomalies in the geological record— types of rock (volcanic, sedimentary, metamorphic) faults and fissures, stratisgraphic displacements and depressions earthquakes, gradual building up of volcanos loess, diluvium, erratics, consolidation of masses uplifting, tilting, buckling, unconformities melting, crystallization, the formation of granite “granite penetrating metamorphic shists” fossilization of plant and animal remains. In short, catastrophes and supernatural events epochs of paroxysmal and paranormal changes are not needed for the science of geology, said Charles Lyell.


“The present is a key to the past.” We don’t need exceptions to the natural order to explain the actions of miracles we witness daily. Circumstances being equal the same methods produce the same results although circumstances are seldom equal. Things tend to take a lot of time except for those that happen suddenly unexpected. Things tend to fall except for those that fly. Things tend to die except for those that survive.


Charles Lyell wrote the book on geology that Darwin read on his first voyage on the Beagle but Lyell thought that Darwin was wrong expecting to find fossils of modern life even in the oldest sediments or admitting that new forms have appeared but not that they evolved from previous forms. The record gradually revealed the truth and Lyell became a proponent of evolution even the evolution of humans showing that science is not like religion; a good scientist admits when he was wrong.

Modern geology has been formed by an interplay of catastrophism and uniformitarianism. James Hall the Neptunist was a good friend of James Hutton the Plutonist who first suggested uniformitarianism; Hutton helped convert Hall to Plutonism. Charles Lyell was a good friend of Charles Darwin; Darwin helped convert Lyell to believe in evolution.

See also in The book of science:

Readings in wikipedia: