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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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2349. EARTH, Theory of Creation.—
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2349. EARTH, Theory of Creation.—

give one answer to all theorists. That is as
follows: They all suppose the earth a created
existence. They must suppose a Creator then;
and that He possessed power and wisdom to a
great degree. As He intended the earth for
the habitation of animals and vegetables, is it
reasonable to suppose He made two jobs of His
creation, that He first made a chaotic lump and
set it into motion, and then, waiting the ages
necessary to form itself—that when it had done
this, He stepped in a second time, to create the
animals and plants which were to inhabit it?
As a hand of a Creator is to be called in, it
may as well be called in at one stage of the
process as another. We may as well suppose He
created the earth at once, nearly in the state
in which we see it, fit for the preservation of
the beings He placed on it. But, it is said, we
have a proof that He did not create it in its
present solid form, but in a state of fluidity;
because its present shape of an oblate spheroid
is precisely that which a fluid mass, revolving
on its axis, would assume; but I suppose the
same equilibrium, between gravity and centrifugal
force, which would determine a fluid
mass into the form of an oblate spheroid,
would determine the wise Creator of that mass,
if he made it in a solid state, to give it the
same spheroidical form. A revolving fluid
will continue to change its shape, till it attains
that in which its principles of contrary motion
are balanced; for if you suppose them not balanced,
it will change its form. Now, the balanced
form is necessary for the preservation of
a revolving solid. The Creator, therefore, of a
revolving solid, would make it an oblate
spheroid, that figure alone admitting a perfect
equilibrium. He would make it in that form
for another reason; that is, to prevent a shifting
of the axis of rotation. Had He created the
earth perfectly spherical, its axis might have
been perpetually shifting, by the influence of the
other bodies of the system, and by placing the
inhabitants of the earth successively under its
poles, it might have been depopulated; whereas,
being spheroidical, it has but one axis on which
it can revolve in equilibrio. Suppose the axis
of the earth to shift forty-five degrees; then
cut it into one hundred and eighty slices, making
every section in the plane of a circle of
latitude perpendicular to the axis: every one
of these slices except the equatorial one, would
be unbalanced, as there would be more matter
on one side of its axis than on the other.
There could be but one diameter drawn through
such a slice which would divide it into two
equal parts; on every other possible diameter,
the parts would hang unequal. This would produce
an irregularity in the diurnal motion. We
may, therefore, conclude it impossible for the
poles of the earth to shift, if it was made
spheroidically, and that it would be made
spheroidical, though solid, to obtain this end.
I use this reasoning only on the supposition that
the earth has had a beginning. I am sure I
shall read your conjectures on this subject with
great pleasure, though I bespeak, beforehand,
a right to indulge my natural incredulity and
To Charles Thomson. Washington ed. ii, 68. Ford ed., iv, 338.
(P. 1786)