THE MAN whose acquaintance with cosmogony and physiography is confined to what he learned in school, and, perhaps, afterward read in popular publications, has certain very definite notions about the shape of the earth and the construction of its interior. These notions, he thinks, are based upon the proven discoveries, or the impregnable theories of the scientists, and so he accepts them in blind faith. But the scientists themselves do not rest under the impression that they have solved every mystery that is buried in the bowels of the earth. While they hold to a general theory about the shape and constitution of the earth, that it is a rigid solid--a theory which is now beginning to supersede the older theory that it was a shell with a liquid interior--they admit that there are many questions raised by recent observations of facts that cannot be explained by their present theory.
To the scientist then, and also to the layman whose interest and encouragement may do much for scientific advancement, when he sees in what direction it is tending and what results it may have, are the following pages addressed. In them will be found a recital of certain well known and fuly authenticated facts of geography, exploration, and astronomy
which have not been satisfactorily explained by any of the theories of the shape and constitution of the earth so far held. Then, on the basis of these facts, a new theory is presented which I claim does explain them; does make them fit in with the accepted results of scientific investigation, and which does not conflict with any other relative facts in the world, but unites them all in an intelligible manner.
In any such attempt as this two tendencies have to be overcome before an author can secure a fair hearing. The first is the conservatism of scientists who do not care to revise their theories--and especially when that revision is made necessary by discoveries which are made independently of the great universities. I think, however, that the array of confirmatory evidence which I have brought to bear upon my position will be sufficient to counteract this conservatism and induce scientists to give my theory a respectful hearing and full discussion. The second adverse tendency which must be overcome is the erroneous notion of the general public that a scientific theory or hypothesis is, in reality, a final truth that must not be denied. The layman imagines that the scientists have some mysterious means of discovering the actual truth, and that once discovered it is final. In this matter of the composition and shape of the earth, for instance, he thinks that
the scientists actually know that the earth is a ball of a certain density and composition. Only a short time ago, however, the scientists thought that the earth was a solid shell with a liquid interior--and any layman would have sworn this was true just because the scientists imagined it. Nov the real fact of the matter is--and any scientist will admit it that a scientific theory, such as either of the two just mentioned, does not represent an ultimate truth. It is simply an essay of the imagination to weld certain facts, which are not apparently related, into some sort of connection. For instance, we have the facts of gravitation, electricity and light, all acting thru great spaces--and all having what are apparently common properties. To explain their action the scientists build up theories of wave motion through the ether. Now the layman accepts the luminiferous ether as a finality. But the scientist might discover some fact tomorrow which could not be explained on that assumption of a universal ether, and so he would have to construct a new theory more comprehensive than his former one, and which would make room for the new fact. I do not imply that such a theory is either likely or possible, but I simply give this as a convenient example of the same thing which I have done in the domain of cosmogony. And my point is, that a theory is good so long as it gives us such a view of the matter as will enable us to discover new facts, but good for that purpose only.
The copernican system of astronomy was a step in advance of the Ptolemaic system just because it enabled scientists to discover many new facts about the solar system which the error of the old view had hidden from their gaze. My own theory adds to the valuable results gained by the Copernican system, not by subverting it--for I imagine that no sane person would now try to do that--but by accepting it fully, and adding to it a different theory of the evolution of the several planets from their nebula, and from this new theory of evolution deducting certain presumptions about the interior of the earth. These presumptions I have supported by a wealth of facts discovered by the telescopic observations of astronomers of nebulæ and our sister planets, Mars, Venus and Mercury, and made by explorers of the most fascinating parts of our own planet--the polar regions.
In conclusion I would ask the reader to remember that I do not write as a scientist or claim to be a scientist. I simply claim to have applied the lessons of common sense to these problems. I do claim to have studied all the material, to have gathered my facts carefully. But there is nothing in my book that the layman cannot understand. It is written by a layman for him. It is to his common sense that it appeals.