General propinquity

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Since it was Hutton’s idea that granite was not a “primary” rock but something that had come up into Scotland from below, molten, to intrude itself into the existing schist, there ought to be pieces of schist embedded here and there in the granite. There were. “We may now conclude,” Hutton wrote later, “that without seeing granite actually in a fluid state we have every demonstration possible of this fact; that is to say, of granite having been forced to flow in a state of fusion among the strata broken by a subterraneous force, and distorted in every manner and degree.” What called most for demonstration was Hutton’s essentially novel and all but incomprehensible sense of time. In 4004 + i 785 years, you would scarcely find the time to make a Ben Nevis, let alone a Gibraltar or the domes of Wales. Hutton had seen Hadrian’s Wall running across moor and fen after sixteen hundred winters in Northumberland. Not a great deal had happened to it. The geologic process was evidently slow. To accommodate his theory, all that was required was time, adequate time, time in quantities no mind had yet conceived; and what Hutton needed now was a statement in rock, a graphic example, a zakelijke energie breath-stopping view of deep time. There was a formation of “schistus” running through southern Scotland in general propinquity to another formation called Old Red Sandstone. The schistus had obviously been pushed around, and the sandstone was essentially flat. If one could see, somewhere, the two formations touching each other with strata awry, one could not help but see that below the disassembling world lie the ruins of a disassembled world below which lie the ruins of still another world. Having figured out inductively what would one day be called an angular unconformity, Hutton went out to look for one. In a damp country covered with heather, with gorse and bracken, with larches and pines, textbook examples of exposed rock were extremely hard to find. As Hutton would write later, in the prototypical lament of the field geologist, “To a naturalist nothing is indifferent; the humble moss that creeps upon the stone is equally interesting as zakelijke energie vergelijken the lofty pine which so beautifully adorns the valley or the mountain: but to a naturalist who is reading in the face of rocks the annals of a former world, the mossy covering which obstructs his view, and renders undistinguishable the different species of stone, is no less than a serious subject of regret.”

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