Impossible Monsters

Michael Taylor

Impossible Monsters
Vintage Publishing
United Kingdom
19 March 2024

Impossible Monsters

Michael Taylor

In 1811, when the self-schooled daughter of a carpenter pulled some strange-looking bones from Britain's southern shoreline, few people dared to question that the Bible told the accurate history of the world. But Mary Anning had discovered the 'first' dinosaur, and over the next seventy-five years - as the science of palaeontology developed, as Charles Darwin posited theories of evolutionary biology, and as religious scholars identified the internal inconsistencies of the Scriptures - everything changed.

By the 1850s, dinosaurs were a prominent feature of the second Crystal Palace exhibition. By the 1860s, when Matthew Arnold stood on Dover Beach and saw faith ebbing away, Britain had plunged into a crisis of religious belief. By the 1870s, T.H. Huxley - Darwin's 'bulldog' - was preaching a new history of the world in which mankind was merely an accident of evolution. By 1886, following a six-year battle which had seen him beaten, imprisoned, and forcibly removed from Parliament, Charles Bradlaugh was able to take his seat in the House of Commons as the first openly atheist MP.

Told through the lives of the men and women who found these vital fossils and who fought about their meaning, some humble, some eccentric, some utterly brilliant, Impossible Monsters tells the story of the painful, complicated relationship between science and religion over these seventy-five years, of the growth of secularism, and of the role of dinosaurs and their discovery in changing perceptions about the Bible, history and mankind's place in the world.

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