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The Daily Volcano Quote: volcanic chronostratigraphy entirely confuted 13 March 2009

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An English traveller, intending to extend the sphere of human knowledge, by his own experiments, found by examining the different layers emitted in the eruptions of Mount Aetna, that the world is at least fourteen thousand years old. There are, he says, to be seen in some places seven layers, or beds, one over the other, each covered with an excellent bed of soil, two thousand years are not more than sufficient to convert one of these layers into a good mould. Hence this mathematician infers there must have passed fourteen thousand years to convert these seven layers into earth. But if these layers are converted into mould, how did he find the seven yet entire, and a bed of earth between each layer and the next to it? It seems fourteen thousand years have not yet converted the first of the seven into mould, as this wonderful calculator found it entire, thus, instead of enlarging the science of mankind, he adds his mite to that immense stock of ignorance, and vanity, which we find in the writings of our modern travellers. Let us, however, suppose that this our traveller intended to say, that each bed of volcanic matter required two thousand years to cover it with vegetative earth, his observation would then coincide with the conjectures made by more intelligent men on the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, the layers of volcanic matter say they, are found in some places to the number of six, with a bed of vegetative earth between the layers of volcanic matter, hence they infer that ages without number must have elapsed before this accumulation could have been formed. One of these travellers however relates a fact which totally destroys these conjectures. The city of Herculaneum, buried by an earthquake, is in some parts seventy feet, in others one hundred and twelve feet under the present surface of the earth. Between the surface of the earth and the city, or rather the ruins of this city, are several layers of volcanic matter, and between these layers are beds of vegatative earth. Our English traveller would have found many thousands of years in this phenomenon, yet we know that eighteen hundred years have not passed since Herculaneum was a flourishing city.

Edmund Burke, A Treatise on the First Principles of Christianity: In which all Difficulties stated by Ancient and Modern Sceptics, are Dispassionately Discussed (Halifax, Nova Scotia: John Howe & Son, 1808). [This is the Right Rev. Edmund Burke (1753-1820), a Catholic missionary and bishop in Canada, not Edmund Burke (1729-97) the Irish statesman and philosopher.]

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