« EelmineJätka »
affect the mental organization of man. His brain alone would have increased in size and complexity, and his cranium have undergone corresponding changes of form, while the whole structure of lower animals was being changed. This will enable us to understand how the fossil crania of Denise and Engis agree so closely with existing forms, although they undoubtedly existed in company with large mammalia now extinct. The Neanderthal skull may be a specimen of one of the lowest races then existing, just as the Australians are the lowest of our modern epoch. We have no reason to suppose that mind and brain and skull modification, could go on quicker than that of the other parts of the organization; and we must therefore look back very far in the past, to find man in that early condition in which his mind was not sufficiently developed, to remove his body from the modifying influence of external conditions and the cumulative action of “natural selection.” I believe, therefore, that there is no à priori reason against our finding the remains of man or his works in the tertiary deposits. The absence of all such remains in the European beds of this age has little weight, because, as we go further back in time, it is natural to suppose that man's distribution over the surface of the earth was less universal than at present.
Besides, Europe was in a great measure submerged during the tertiary epoch; and though its scattered islands may have been uninhabited by man, it by no means follows that he did not at the same time exist in warm or tropical continents. If geologists can point out to us the most extensive land in the warmer regions of the earth, which has not been submerged since Eocene or Miocene times, it is there that we may expect to find some traces of the very early progenitors of man. It is there that we may trace back the gradually decreasing brain of former races, till we come to a time when the body also begins materially to differ. Then we shall have reached the starting point of the human family. Before that period, he had not mind enough to preserve his body from change, and would, therefore, have been subject to the same comparatively rapid modifications of form as the other mammalia.
Their Bearing on the Dignity and Supremacy of Man,
If the views I have here endeavoured to sustain have any foundation, they give us a new argument for placing man apart, as not only the head and culminating point of the grand series of organic nature, but as in some degree a new and distinct order of being. From those infinitely remote ages, when the first rudiments of organic life appeared upon the earth, every plant, and every animal has been subject to one great law of physical change. As the earth has gone through its grand cycles of geological, climatal, and organic progress, every form of life has been subject to its irresistible action, and has been continually, but imperceptibly moulded into such new shapes as would preserve their harmony with the ever-changing universe. No living thing could escape this law of its being ; none (except, perhaps, the simplest and most rudimentary organisms), could remain unchanged and live, amid the universal change around it. At length, however, there came into existence a being in whom that subtle force we term mind, became of greater importance than his mere bodily structure. Though with a naked and unprotected body, this gave him clothing against the varying inclemencies of the seasons. Though unable to compete with the deer in swiftness, or with the wild bull in strength, this gave him weapons with which to capture or overcome both. Though less capable than most other animals of living on the herbs and the fruits that unaided nature supplies, this wonderful faculty taught him to govern and direct nature to his own benefit, and make her produce food for him, when and where he pleased. From the moment when the first skin was used as a covering, when the first rude spear was formed to assist in the chase, when fire was first used to cook his food, when the first seed was sown or shoot planted, a grand revolution was effected in nature, a revolution which in all the previous ages of the earth's history had had no parallel, for a being had arisen who was no longer necessarily subject to change with the changing universe—a being who was in some degree superior to nature, inasmuch as he knew how to control and regulate her action, and could keep himself in harmony with her, not by a change in body, but by an advance of mind. Here, then, we see the true grandeur and dignity of man. On this view of his special attributes, we may admit, that even those who claim for him a position as an order, a class, or a sub-kingdom by himself, have some show of reason on their side. He is, indeed, a being apart, since he is not influenced by the great laws which irresistibly modify all other organic beings. Nay more; this victory which he has gained for himself, gives him a directing influence over other existences. Man has not only escaped “natural selection ” himself, but he is actually able to take away some of that power from nature which before his appearance she universally exercised. We can anticipate the time when the earth will produce only cultivated plants and domestie animals; when man's selection shall have supplanted “natural selection;” and when the ocean will be the only domain in which that power can be exerted, which for countless cycles of ages ruled supreme over all the earth.
Their Bearing on the future Development of Man.
We now find ourselves enabled to answer those who maintain, that if Mr. Darwin's theory of the Origin of Species is true, man too must change in form, and become developed into some other animal as different from his present self as he is from the Gorilla or the Chimpanzee; and who speculate on what this form is likely to be. But it is evident that such will not be the case ; for no change of conditions is conceivable, which will render any important alteration of his form and organization so universally useful and necessary to him, as to give those possessing it always the best chance of surviving, and thus lead to the development of a new species, genus, or higher group of man. On the other hand, we know that far greater changes of conditions and of his entire environment have been undergone by man, than any other highly organized animal could survive unchanged, and have been met by mental, not corporeal adaptation. The difference of habits, of food, clothing, weapons, and enemies, between savage and civilized man, is enormous. Difference in bodily form and structure there is practically none, except a slightly increased size of brain, corresponding to his higher mental development. We have every reason to believe, then, that man may have existed and may continue to exist, through a series of geological periods which shall see all other forms of animal life again and again changed; while he himself remains unchanged, except in the two particulars already specified—the head and face, as immediately connected with the organ of the mind and as being the medium of expressing the most refined emotions of his nature, and to a slight extent in colour, hair, and proportions, so far as they are correlated with constitutional resistance to disease.