Leibniz’s theory of earth

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Leibniz’s theory of earth (also referred to as Leibnizian theory or, with different spelling, as Leibnitz’s theory) is a collection of vague and incoherent geological ideas by G.W. Leibniz published in several texts and sometimes cryptic sketches presented in subordination to Leibniz’s controversial philosophy of pre-established harmony.[1] Among them is the outline published in the Acta eruditorium (1693), more details are provided in the Histoire published by Paris Academy (1706-1707), the Miscelllanea Berolinensia (1710) and in the most popular and widely disseminated of Leibniz’s works, the Théodicée (1710). His chief geological text, the unfinished Protogaea, was published posthumously in 1749 and there are indications that J.G. Eckhart who proposed to publish it, also expressed his concerns about the book whether it would not set geology into a conflict with Scripture and for this reason first sought advice and the judgement of Paris Academy. With its focus on a local history of mankind and on „the former condition of the region“, the Protogaea was intended as a preface to the history of the House of Brunswick[1] – the family with famous lineage, member of which, duke Johann Friedrich, appointed Leibniz as librarian into a position of Privy Counselor.[2]

Brief description of theory

The Leibnizian theory of earth was notable in going back, more explicitly than his contemporaries, to a pre-sedimentary and pre-human period in the formation of earth’s crust. In what he called a Cartesian view,[1] Leibniz postulated an epoch of emergence of so-called consistentior status and simply supposed the earth to have been once a star, that is to say a molten body, an incandescent liquid, without explaining how it got into that state.[3] Heat of this molten body had diminished in the course of time and earth gradually obtained a vitrified core. He argued that this igneous and cooling pre-sedimentary phase of earth’s history can be detected in the oldest “vitrified” materials of the earth’s crust. For example, he interpreted the fragmentary evidence visible in the sands as detritus from ancient igneous deposits. After this igneous period, waters came and gathered in some unexplained way so as to cover most or all of the earth. Living organisms, deposited by these water and now found in fossils, are bafflingly described as being “brought in by sea or by land.” He asserted that the fossil forms found in Europe not corresponding to living species represent organisms transported from Indies. By adopting eisegesis onto scriptural text of Genesis, Leibniz obscurely reinterpreted the “separation of the light from darkness” to mean a distinction between the igneous earth and the dark (death) planets.[1][4]


Particular elements of Leibniz’s arguments and texts were selectively used by Buffon, the proponent and forerunner of evolutionary scientism. Among sympathizers of Leibniz’s views was also a partisan of libertinism Fontenelle, who during his long tenure as permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences in Paris manipulated the reports favorable to the role of the Flood in depositing fossils so that the Flood would appear as inadequate explanation of given phenomenon. Lord Kelvin pointed out that from perspective of scientific knowledge of the 19th century Leibniz’s theory was the best for the view of so-called uniformitarian geologists who required the longest periods for history of the earth. That’s why he picked it as a basis for his calculations of the upper limit of the Age of the Earth and showed them that then known physical laws related to dissipation of energy and conduction of heat do not allow a room for their uniformitarian hypotheses that assumed the availability of limitless time for Earth’s geological history.[3] Leinbiz's idea that living beings were “brought in by sea or by land” became a mantra of modern evolutionists,[5] although some of them adhere also to the idea of so-called panspermia.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Rhoda Rappaport (1997). When Geologists Where Historians, 1665-1750. Cornell University Press, 208–211, 214, 238. ISBN 978-0801-433863. “Leibniz’s texts are not especially clear about establishing a sequence of geological events … In fact, the several Leibniz texts published during his lifetime are not as clear and coherent as Leibniz himself thought.” 
  2. The House of Brunswick. Department of Philosophy, University of Houston. “In 1676 duke Johann Friedrich appointed Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz as librarian and counselor to his court. Toward the end of 1677, Leibniz was installed as Privy Counselor to duke Johann Friedrich.”
  3. 3.0 3.1 W. Thomson (Lord Kelvin) (1864 (Read 1862)). On the Secular Cooling of the Earth 167–169. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
  4. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1693). Acta eruditorium: 40. 
  5. Evolution Vs. God Movie 06min:40sec. Living Waters (6 Aug 2013). Retrieved on 25 July 2015.

See also