CHARLES LYELL-CHAMPION OF UNIFORMITARIANISM
The life of Charles Lyell (1797-1875) was an interesting one and from a study of his life we can learn how he thought and how he came to believe what he thought. His life is also an accurate reflection of many of the so-called scientific giants of his time. Not only were these Enlightenment “believers” driven by distaste for the excesses of the state run Anglican Church, but they also felt they were discovering new hidden truths of Nature with a capital “N,” truths which they felt minimized or obliterated the need for a Creator God. The study of the lives of Charles Lyell, James Hutton, Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley and other Bible minimalists is important for today’s Christians and other truth seekers. This is because by studying their lives one can learn that even though they may have at times exhibited competent experimental science, the effect they had on today’s world was mostly through the philosophies they developed and promoted and not through their science.
Not everyone understands that so called “natural history” or “historical science” is really not either history or science. The study of origins cannot be a study of history because the past is unproven and unprovable without historical documentation. Secular science, supported by naturalistic evolutionary philosophy, has no historical documentation to rely on concerning the origin of the universe, earth or life on earth. Therefore, nothing can really be definitely known about origins through the sole use of the scientific method.
On the other hand, Christians have God’s Word which is the only ancient document which provides that history; and since we believe that God would not lie to us, we have good reason to accept His account of the creation as being accurate and factual. With that as a foundational premise we also find that the creation itself can be easily correlated with the biblical accounts.
Charles Lyell was an untiring advocate for uniformitarianism and millions of years. He believed that by presupposing that the present geological rates of change are the key to all past geology, he could forensically reconstruct the past. He rejected any possibility of major catastrophe in the past, a concept mostly abandoned by today’s geologists, who recognize that much of the earth’s surface was formed by catastrophic actions not experienced today. It is true that the majority of secular scientists cannot conceive of a worldwide flood, but this is because of their presuppositions not because of the evidence.
The layman’s common sense and experience tells him that the past determines the present, which is exactly opposite to uniformitarianism which states that the “present is the key to the past.” Yet, it is so easy to accept ridiculous concepts just because they are promoted by an educated authority.
The scriptural geologists of Lyell’s time such as George Young did not accept those ridiculous concepts and strongly objected to them. Unfortunately, much of the Church did and does accept them.
Charles Lyell wrote numerous letters over his career many of which were reprinted in a published work by his sister-in-law in 1881 some six years after Lyell’s death. Entitled Letters and Journals of Sir Charles Lyell the work was published in two volumes. Volume I consists of 303 letters and journals on 489 printed pages and is available to the public on Googlebooks.com.
The reader of Lyell’s writings should endeavor to separate the science from the philosophy, and while doing that be aware of his own presuppositions as well as those of Lyell. Volume II is not available on the Internet so far as I know because I think Volume II is still under copyright protection. (Volume II is even more insightful regarding the philosophical foundations of uniformitarianism and millions of years.)