2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM
Paper No. 276-4
Presentation Time: 2:25 PM-2:40 PM

Genesis and Geology in America: The Cooper—Silliman—Stuart Debate, 1829-1839

NEWELL, Julie, Social and International Studies, Southern Polytechnic State University, 1100 S. Marietta Parkway, Marietta, GA 30060, jnewell@spsu.edu

The first public Genesis-Geology debate in the United States began in 1829 with geologist Benjamin Silliman's appendix to the first American edition of Robert Bakewell's Introduction to Geology. Silliman (1779-1864) represented the widely popular effort to find accord between the Genesis record and the findings of geological science. Geologist Thomas Cooper (1759-1839) took offense to Silliman's addition to Bakewell's text, arguing that the Genesis account of creation was a forgery, and thus neither properly part of sacred scripture nor any concern of the student of earth history. Cooper's iconoclastic position was also idiosyncratic—his argument represented the views of no one but himself, despite the temptation to see him as a representative of a cohort of anti-scriptural geologists. Biblical scholar Moses Stuart (1780-1852) argued that just as interpreting the rock record required the professional knowledge of the geologist, interpreting scripture was properly a role for the trained philologist. Silliman's approach was carried forward in response to Stuart by one of Silliman's students, Edward Hitchcock (1793-1864). Except perhaps for Cooper himself, this was never a debate in which science and religion were opposed—it was about whether or not the two should be mixed.

As a result of this debate, the relationship between the Genesis record and the geologic record was a recognized question of professional and public concern in America by the mid-1830s. Silliman's approach, the reconciliation of Genesis and geology, would form a central theme in the work of his student and son-in-law, James Dwight Dana (1813-1895). Dana's landmark 1863 Manual of Geology leaves no doubt about his commitment to reconciliation.

2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 276
History of the Influence of Religion on Geology and Geology on Religion
George R. Brown Convention Center: 361C
1:30 PM-5:30 PM, Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 40, No. 6, p. 422

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