Product has been added to the basket

God and the geologists


To coincide with one of the most significant anniversaries in science, 2009 sees the publication of ‘Geology and Religion’, charting the long history of interaction between these two seemingly disparate fields, writes Sarah Day.

Geoscientist Online 18 March 2009

From the cosmogony of the Inca civilisation to glaciology in communist China, the book spans centuries and continents of scientific and religious thought, bringing together a vast area of scholarship.  The collection includes papers from scientists, historians and theologians which explore the complex nature of the still-evolving relationship between geology and religion from a historical perspective.

‘Today’ notes M. Kolbl-Ebert, editor of the collection, ‘when referring to the relationship between geology and religion, people usually think immediately of Christian (and other) fundamentalists…and to a distrust of science in general and especially geology, palaeontology and evolutionary biology’.

As the book highlights, the reality is a far more complex history of interaction and collaboration, during which the development of both geological and theological theory have been closely intertwined.

‘With these historical considerations in mind, we may better understand the current situation and offer a dialogue between geology and modern theology’.
A prominent topic is that of ‘Flood Geology’. Originating alongside geology itself in the 18th Century, the theory held that the current geological features of the Earth have resulted from a global flood, as described in the Genesis account of Noah’s Ark. The theory was a popular one for centuries, until it was gradually realised that any such ‘flood’ would have had to take place far earlier than the existence of any literate societies. Now, however, flood geology is undergoing resurgence as part of the increasingly prevalent creationist movement.

Other key issues include the development of ideas about the age of the Earth, catastrophic events such as earthquakes being regarded as punishments from God, and attempts by various individuals to reconcile their personal religious convictions with the increasingly unfamiliar world geology was uncovering.

All reveal a relationship characterised by cooperation and conflict in equal measure. With the rise of various forms of creationist beliefs in more recent years, a new type of relationship is emerging, in which geological evidence is of pivotal importance. The later chapters explore this new debate, placing it in context with the historical setting from which it has originated.

In a year when the world celebrates the anniversary of one of science’s most important theories, it is worth noting that the reaction from the religious world to Darwin’s work was nowhere near as vitriolic as he had feared. ‘Geology and Religion’ highlights the ways in which these two fields of thought have coexisted amicably in the past, and questions the conventional view that, in today’s climate, consilience is impossible.