Boston: Gould & Lincoln, 1859. Later American edition. Frontispiece engraving of the author plus 58 text woodcuts. Publisher's blind-stamped cloth, rebacked, title in gilt on spine, new endpapers; first few leaves loose, small tears to edges of a few leaves, generally a very good copy. Later American edition of a book that went through a total of seventeen editions. The case study here is the asterolepis, a mid-Paleozoic fish (a Coelacanth) which Miller declared was a refutation of the "development hypothesis" of Lamarck and of Chambers' Vestiges. "Miller describes the asterolepis and other fossils with unmateched charm and eloquence. He also devotes considerable space to attacks on the development hypothesis; proving, i.e., that land plants did not arise from marine plants, and showing that the fossil record indicates degradation of forms instead, followed by new creations for each geological age" (McIver). He describes generally the precursors of the development hypothesis, indicating that it is not itself atheistic, but "it does decrease devoutness." He admits that his underlying objection to evolution is belief in immortality of the soul: if man evolved, then either other animals also have immortal souls, or we do not.In this book Miller performs "the unique feat of blending science and religion together instead of bending them together . . . The argument, so far as it was geological, rested on a demonstration that within the period with which the author was most familiar, the era of the old red sandstone, fossil forms do not advance in structure according to their chronological position.Miller (1802-1856) was self-taught geologist and poet from Scotland. At the age of seventeen he apprenticed himself to a stonemason, working in the trade for the next fifteen years, before becoming an accountant. It was during this time that he became interested in the study of geology. Considered to be one of Scotland's greatest paleontologists, he made a number of important fossil discoveries, though his fervent religious beliefs led him to strongly oppose the then-emerging theory of evolution. In the last year of his life he was plagued with terrible headaches and hallucinations; he took his own life while seeing this work through the press. Miller is perhaps best known for his work The Old Red Sandstone, in which he describes the Devonian fossil fish of Scotland. (Inventory #: 14588)
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