Darwin’s Geologic Sense of Humor

Looking for a sophisticated way to call someone’s grasp of geology rudimentary or primitive? Want to tell them they’re backward without coming right out and saying so? Charles Darwin has you covered:

His Geology also is rather eocene…

You can adapt this phrase to any creationist of any background or gender, as well as use it on people who think they know a lot about geology but actually don’t. If they get what you’re saying, it’s just possible they’ll be able to extract their head from whatever orifice they’ve got it stuffed in and reconsider their understanding.

Something tells me I would have enjoyed spending time with Darwin.

Here is the phrase in context, in a letter to Joseph Hooker:

…I have been very deeply interested by Wollaston’s book (‘The Variation of Species,’ 1856.), though I differ GREATLY from many of his doctrines. Did you ever read anything so rich, considering how very far he goes, as his denunciations against those who go further: “Most mischievous,” “absurd,” “unsound.” Theology is at the bottom of some of this. I told him he was like Calvin burning a heretic. It is a very valuable and clever book in my opinion. He has evidently read very little out of his own line. I urged him to read the New Zealand essay. His Geology also is rather eocene, as I told him. In fact I wrote most frankly; he says he is sure that ultra-honesty is my characteristic: I do not know whether he meant it as a sneer; I hope not. Talking of eocene geology, I got so wrath about the Atlantic continent, more especially from a note from Woodward (who has published a capital book on shells), who does not seem to doubt that every island in the Pacific and Atlantic are the remains of continents, submerged within period of existing species, that I fairly exploded, and wrote to Lyell to protest, and summed up all the continents created of late years by Forbes (the head sinner!) YOURSELF, Wollaston, and Woodward, and a pretty nice little extension of land they make altogether! I am fairly rabid on the question and therefore, if not wrong already, am pretty sure to become so…

I have enjoyed your note much. Adios, C. DARWIN.

P.S. [June] 18th. Lyell has written me a CAPITAL letter on your side, which ought to upset me entirely, but I cannot say it does quite.

Though I must try and cease being rabid and try to feel humble, and allow you all to make continents, as easily as a cook does pancakes.

See? He even closes his letter with Spanish! Someone call the Doctor and get the TARDIS over here so we can go visit this man.

Charles Darwin, circa 1881. Photograph by Messers. Elliot and Fry. Via Wikimedia Commons.
Charles Darwin, circa 1881. Photograph by Messers. Elliot and Fry. Via Wikimedia Commons.

(h/t Glenn Branch)

Darwin’s Geologic Sense of Humor
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8 thoughts on “Darwin’s Geologic Sense of Humor

  1. 1

    I’ll be the first to admit that my knowledge of geology is rather limited. But I do know enough so that line doesn’t zoom right over my head.


  2. 3

    My knowledge of geology wasn’t up to the task. Wikipedia to the rescue! … or not. While what’s there is more specific than what I remembered, it really doesn’t help me with that line, either.

    For that matter, neither were Wikipedia or Google helpful with the line about Spanish. Or at least helpful enough to make me actually understand what you were talking about.

    Well, I do get that you think Darwin has humor … just not why. (On the other hand, while I’m no Dr. Who fan and have probably not seen even a quarter of one episode, TV- or movie-type stuff not being my thing, I’ve learned enough listening to people who are to understand that part.)

  3. 4

    Oh by the way, your page background looks a lot like the wall I’ve spent far too much time recently removing wallpaper and glue from …

  4. 5

    Doctor Who is good for educating children on geological stratigraphy! After making a horrible stumble by saying the previous rulers of the planet flourished in the Silurian era (in Jon Pertwee’s second adventure, all the way back in 1970), they corrected the error a couple of years later in The Sea Devils by having the doctor announce that they really ought of have been named the Eocenes instead. They then stumbled wrong immediately by giving the Silurians Eocenes a taxonomic name of Homo reptilia suggesting they were hominids rather than reptiles… so actually Doctor Who is pretty awful at actual scientific factual detail. It is however how I knew that the Eocene is one of the epochs preceding the current epoch of the Holocene, currently reckoned between 55 and 34 Mya, thus relatively soon after the fall of the dinosaurs and the rise of mammals.

  5. 6

    Ok, I’m going with Eocene being a reference to Eos the Goddess of the dawn, used in this sense to mean early or beginning
    eg: Eohippus, dawn or early horse.

    Therefore, “His Geology also is rather eocene” suggests his geology is early, undeveloped, rudimentary.

    Can I have my internet now?

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