Geology is that branch of natural science which treats of the structure of the earth’s crust and the mode of formation of its rocks. It is a pleasant and profitable study, and to the man who has married rich and does not need to work, the amusement of busting geology with the Bible, or busting the Bible with geology is indeed a great boon.
Geology goes hand in hand with zoology, botany, physical geography and other kindred sciences. Taxidermy, chiropody and theology are not kindred sciences.
Geologists ascertain the age of the earth by looking at its teeth and counting the wrinkles on its horns. They have learned that the earth is not only of great age, but that it is still adding to its age from year to year.
It is hard to say very much of a great science in so short an article, and that is one great obstacle which I am constantly running against as a scientist.
I once prepared a paper in astronomy entitled “The Chronological History and Habits of the Spheres.” It was very exhaustive and weighed four pounds. I sent it to a scientific publication that was supposed to be working for the advancement of our race. The editor did not print it, but he wrote me a crisp and saucy postal card, requesting me to call with a dray and remove my stuff before the board of health got after it. In five short years from that time he was a corpse. As I write these lines, I learn with ill-concealed pleasure that he is still a corpse. An awful dispensation of Providence, in the shape of a large, wilted cucumber, laid hold upon his vitals and cursed him with an inward pain. He has since had the opportunity, by actual personal observation, to see whether the statements by me relating to astronomy were true. His last words were: “Friends, Romans and countrymen, beware of the q-cumber. It will w up.” It was not original, but it was good.
The four great primary periods of the earth’s history are as follows, viz, to-wit:
1. The Eozoic or dawn of life.
2. The Palaeozoic or period of ancient life.
3. The Mesozoic or middle period of life.
4. The Neozoic or recent period of life.
These are all subdivided again, and other words more difficult to spell are introduced into science, thus crowding out the vulgar herd who cannot afford to use the high priced terms in constant conversation.
Old timers state that the primitive condition of the earth was extremely damp. With the onward march of time, and after the lapse of millions of years, men found that they could get along with less and less water, until at last we see the pleasant, blissful state of things. Aside from the use of water at our summer resorts, that fluid is getting to be less and less popular. And even here at these resorts it is generally flavored with some foreign substance.
The earth’s crust is variously estimated in the matter of thickness. Some think it is 2,500 miles thick, which would make it safe to run heavy trains across the earth anywhere on top of a second mortgage, while other scientists say that if we go down one-tenth of that distance we will reach a place where the worm dieth not. I do not wish to express an opinion as to the actual depth or thickness of the earth’s crust, but I believe that it is none too thick to suit me.
Thickness in the earth’s crust is a mighty good fault. We estimate the age of certain strata of the earth’s formation by means of a union of our knowledge of plant and animal life, coupled with our geological research and a good memory. The older scientists in the field of geology do not rely solely upon the tracks of the hadrasaurus or the cornucopia for their data. They simply use these things to refresh their memory.
I wish that I had time and space to describe some of the beautiful bacteria and gigantic worms that formerly inhabited the earth. Such an aggregation of actual, living Silurian monsters, any one of which would make a man a fortune to-day, if it could be kept on ice and exhibited for one season only. You could take a full grown mastodon to-day, and with no calliope, no lithographs, no bearded lady, no clown with four pillows in his pantaloons and no iron-jawed woman, you could go across this continent and successfully compete with the skating rink.
There would be but one difficulty. Tour expenses would not be heavy. The mastodon would be willing to board around, and no one would feel like turning a mastodon out of doors if he seemed to be hungry; but he might get away from you and frolic away so far in one night that you couldn’t get him for a day or two, even if you sent a detective for him.
If I had a mastodon I would rather take him when he was young, and then I could make a pet of him, so that he could come and eat out of my hand without taking the hand off at the same time. A large mastodon weighing a hundred tons or so is awkward, too. I suppose that nothing is more painful than to be stepped on by an adult mastodon.
I hope at some future time to write a paper for the Academy of Science on the subject of “Deceased Fauna, Fossiliferous Debris and Extinct Jokes,” showing how, when and why these early forms of animal life came to be extinct.