I’m currently working my way through Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. In order to fully understand the conversation in this book that I’m going to talk about in this post, I have to give a little summary of what the book is about.
The book takes place in the early 1800s in England. Elizabeth Philpot and her two sisters moved from London to Lyme Regis when their older brother married and they didn’t want to burden him and his new bride. Elizabeth stumbles upon a large number of small fossils along the beach, called curies (curiosities) to the locals and she begins to collect them. She meets a young girl who has collected curies her whole life and knows a little about how to gather and clean them. However, together they discover a 15-foot long creature that looks like a “modern” crocodile, but is also different in many aspects. So, Elizabeth begins to question what happened to this creature.
The following conversation is from p.92 of my library edition.
” ‘You see, Miss Philpot, it really is very simple,’ Reverend Jones said. He seemed much more confident now that he had the Bible with him. ‘All that you see about you is as God set it out in the beginning. He did not create beasts and then get rid of them. That would suggest He made a mistake, and of course God is all-knowing and incapable of error, is He not?’
‘I suppose not,’ I conceded.
Reverend Jones’ mouth writhed. ‘You suppose not?’
‘Of course not,’ I said quickly. ‘I’m sorry; it’s just that I am confused. You are saying that everything we see around us is exactly as God created it, are you not? The mountains and seas and rocks and hills–the landscape is as it was at the beginning?’
‘Of course.’ Reverend Jones looked around at his church, tidy and quiet…
But I was not done. ‘So every rock we see is as God created it at the beginning,’ I persisted. ‘And the rocks came first, as it says in Genesis, before the animals.’
‘Yes, yes.’ Reverend Jones was becoming impatient, his mouth chewing an imaginary straw.
‘If that is the case, then how did the skeletons of animals get inside rocks and become fossils? If the rocks were already created by God before the animals, how is it that there are bodies in the rocks?’
Reverend Jones stared at me, his mouth at last stilled into a tight straight line…
‘God placed the fossils there when He created the rocks, to test our faith,’ he responded at last. ‘As he is clearly testing yours, Miss Philpot.’ ”
I know the conversation is a little long, but I love it when these sorts of conversations come up. This might be because I’m not a very religious person due to the fact that I lack blind faith, which I believe is something you really need to have to be religious. I need evidence of things being what they are said to be–and I find no more evidence for God than Santa Claus. That is just my own personal opinion and I have nothing against anyone who is religious unless they start to tell me I’m wrong 🙂 But I don’t like it when anyone tells me my opinions are wrong.
Anyways, this conversation particularly caught my interest because I didn’t realize just how short of time ago it was when the theory of extinction was coming into the scientific world. I guess I never really thought of the fact that extinction accompanies evolution–that’s fairly obvious, but I guess I never put two and two together.
So, in short, I’m becoming very interested in this book. It is historical fiction, which I usually love. This just took a little for me to become interested in it, as it was a little boring earlier in the story. I can’t wait to see what science vs. religion conversations are yet to come–they always interest me.
PS- I just ordered We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson for our next RBC discussion 😀