Creationism, evolution, the order of the universe and AAPG have been linked throughout the Association's entire history. And the current debate over Earth's origins -- much of it taking place on the pages of this and the past few EXPLORERs -- confirms that the subject remains, for many, as emotional today as ever.
AAPG is no stranger to the confrontation, nor to the landmark trial that seems to define -- and divide -- people even today: The 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial," when legendary figures Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan battled as opposing attorneys in a Dayton, Tenn., courtroom over the teaching of Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species.
Darrow was defending a young teacher named John Scopes; Bryan offered his services to the prosecution, and to "defend the Bible against all attacks that scientists -- especially those who believed in evolution -- would make against the infallibility of the Word of God."
That quote was from one of those called by Darrow as an expert witness in the case: Kirtley Fletcher Mather, an AAPG member and noted professor of geology at Harvard University.
Mather, as expected, presented a textbook approach to the earth as seen through the eyes of a geologist, with plenty of comments germane to the trial:
"The facts of life development are so numerously displayed and so evident in the rocks of the earth's crust that every geologist with whom I am acquainted has accepted the evolutionary principle as demonstrated," he said in his opening statement.
Mather talked of fossils, of geologic eras, and how geologists tried to take a scientific approach to the question of Earth's creation.
Mather addressed the spiritual aspects of the trial, too.
"Knowledge and mystery exist side by side," Mather testified. "Mystery does not invalidate the fact. Men and science are working on those very problems.
"They have not learned -- and may never learn -- how God breathed a living soul into man's body. If they discover that process, and the method used, God will still be just as great a power."
Mather added that "the farther along the two avenues of investigation the scientist and the theologian go, the closer together they discover themselves to be ... neither the right kind of mind nor the right kind of heart will suffice without the other. Both are needed if civilization is to be saved."
With that in mind, we thought it would be interesting to see, for better or worse, what Wallace Pratt, the most often-quoted and perhaps most famed geologist AAPG has ever known, had to say about the subject.
Turns out, he said a lot.
Printed here is a talk Pratt presented to the Men's Clubs of the Episcopalian Churches of Midland., Texas, Jan. 12, 1958. An earlier address under the same title was delivered in the First Congregational Church at Houston, Feb. 26, 1928.
The text was sent to AAPG by Mark McElroy, a retired Phillips Petroleum geologist in Bartlesville, Okla.