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ceeding any change observable on organic life under domestication, Mr. Darwin, conceives, and produces many illustrations in confirmation of his idea, that not only the origin of species, but the wider differences which distinguish genera, and all higher divisions of the organic kingdom may be accounted for by the same prolonged processes of variation and natural selection. His “ Origin of Species,” is no product of a rash theorist, but the result of the patient observation and laborious experiments of a highly gifted naturalist, extending over a period of upwards of twenty years, and—like the Reliquia Diluviane of Buckland,-it will be found to embody thoughts and facts of great permanent value, whatever be the final decision on its special propositions. From the high authority of the writer, his well-established character as an accurate observer, and the bold and startling nature of his views, it cannot be doubted that his workwith the promised additions to the evidence now produced,—will tend to re-open the whole question, and give courage to other assailants of those views of the permanency of species, which have seemed so indispensable alike to all our preconceived ideas in natural science, and to our interpretations of revealed cosmogony. Before Mr. Darwin's “ Origin of Species" appeared from the press, Sir Charles Lyell-himself no hasty or incautious doubter,--had remarked of it: " he appears to me to bave succeeded by his investigations and reasonings, in throwing a flood of light on many classes of phenomena, connected with the affinities, geographical distribution, and geological succession of organic beings, for which no other hypothesis has been able, or has even attempted to account." In relation to opinions advanced on questions of such profound interest and difficulty, by a distinguished naturalist, as results of the experience and observations of many years, our attitude ought clearly to be that of candid and impartial jurors. We must examine for ourselves, not reject, the evidence thus honestly given. The experience of the past shows how frequently men have contended for their own blundering interpretations, while all the while believing themselves the champions and the martyrs of truth. All truth is of God, alike in relation to the natural and the moral law, and of the former, as truly as of the latter may we say: “ if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it ; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”
But meanwhile in another, though allied direction, truth is the
gainer by this widening of the scientific horizon. In 1857 our greatest English naturalist, Prof. Owen, set forth his remarkable new system of classification of mammals, based on the form and complexity of the brain. In this novel and ingenious system he separates man, on clearly defined grounds of cerebral structure and proportions, into a distinct and crowning order of ARCHENCEPHALA ; thereby supplying by anticipation, a scientific antidote to one at least of the fallacies of Professor Powell, which may be thus stated : regarding the duration of time and the number of species as equally unlimited, he argues :-“While the number of species thus tends to become infinitely great, the extreme difference between man at one end and a zoophyte at the other end of the scale is constantly finite; hence the average difference between any two species tends to become infinitely small; multiplied by the number of species, it must still be equal to a finite quantity ; and the product being finite, if the first factor be infinity the second must be zero."
It is scarcely necessary to observe that the tendency of species to an infinite multiplication of intermediate links, which is implied here, is a perfectly gratuitous assumption. The duration of time and the multiplication of species may be equally infinite ; that it will be so we assuredly have no right to assume; but in that case the analogies which palæontology reveals do not suggest the idea that such prolonged manifestations of the Creator's power to produce an infinite series of new forms will be exercised intermediately between those two fixed points of zoophyte and man. What if creative power should go on beyond the latter, into still higher manifestations of the divine image 2 Man cannot be demonstrated to be an absolute finality in organic creation. Apart, however, from any question of future creations, we look in vain among organic fossils for any such gradations of form as even to suggest a process of transmutation. Above all, in relation to man, no fossil form adds a single link to fill up the wide interval between him and the most anthropoid of inferior animals, when viewing him purely in those salient physical aspects to which the observation of the palæontologist is limited. The Archencephale of Owen stands as the crowning masterpiece of organic creation, separated from the highest type of inferior animal organization by as well defined and broad a line of demarkation as an insular kingdom from the states, republics, and confederacies of a neighbouring continent; and if the difference between man and the
inferior animals, not only in mere physical organization, but still more in all the higher attributes of animal life, be not relative but absolute, then no multiplication of intermediate links can lessen the obstacles to transmutation. One true antidote therefore to such a doetrine, and to the consequent denial of primary distinctions of species, seems to offer itself in such broad and unmistakeable lines of demarkation as Professor Owen indicates, between the cerebral structure of man and that of the most highly developed of anthropoid or other mammals.
Thus the widening range of observation is leading to other, yet related questions and discoveries of no slight importance. The whole compass of that latter one has been embraced in one aspect, in the remarkable introductory essay of Prof. Agassiz, “On Classification,” which accompanies the first portion of the great American work now issuing by him under the title of “ Contributions to the Natural History of the United States." Like all that comes from the gifted pen of Louis Agassiz, the Essay is bold, comprehensive, and valuable ; but also it is not free from conclusions akin to those which in others of that distinguished naturalist's writings have been open to the charge of rash and hasty deductions from imaginary or defective premises. A more recent contribution to the same department of science is Prof Owen's communication to the Zoological section of the British Association, “On the Orders of Fossil and Recent Reptilia, and their distribution in time." In introducing his subject Professor Owen remarked, that, “ with the exception of geology no collateral science had profited so largely from the study of organic remains as zoology. The catalogues of animal species have received immense accessions from the determination of the nature and affinities of those which have become extinct, and much deeper and clearer insight has been gained into the natural arrangement and sub-division of the classes of animals since palæontology has expanded our survey of them.” The result of such study in the hands of the great comparative anatomist, has not accordingly been to ignore species, but to reconsider their classifications. The boundary which modern zoological systems maintained between the classes Pisces and Reptilia is shown to be untenable, and a new group is discerned, within which extensive gradations of development link and blend together fishes, amphibia, and reptiles in one great natural series. No more important contribution has recently been made to
zoological science ; illuminating, as it does, our knowledge of existing orders by the deeper insight acquired into forms of organic life that have long been extinct, it is a collateral contribution to scientific truth, analogous in kind, though not in degree, to that comprehensive demonstration of the typical skeleton, by which it is traced in all its details, from the highest to the lowest vertebrate forms. Such grand generalizations, based, not on theory, but on laborious and exhaustive induction, reveal to us the plan of the Creator, wrought out in His unchangeable purpose, through all the countless ages during which our planet has been the theatre of life. They tell us, moreover, in unmistakeable language, that even to work out one single idea of the Divine mind, it has required the unmeasurable duration of time since that initial act in which God said let there be light, and called into being this well-ordered material world. “Lo these are parts of his ways; but how little a portion is heard of him; but the thunder of his power who can understand ?”
In the fossil radiata and mollusca of our Canadian palæozoic formations, illustrated and described in the recently published Decades of our Geological Survey, we are aided in the investigation of life as it existed in that primary geological period in which the earliest traces of organic form appear ; but an altogether different interest has been recently excited by discoveries at the very opposite end of the geological scale. It is now nearly ten years since M. Boucher de Perthes announced the discovery of the traces of human art in the same undisturbed gravel of the north of France, in which the bones of the fossil elephant and other extinct mammals are found. More recently fresh discoveries have tended to show that the statements set forth in the “ Antiquités Celtiques et Antedil uviennes ” merited greater attention than, on various accounts, they received ; and the testimony of Mr. Prestwick, Sir Charles Lyell, and other thoroughly trustworthy observers appears to place the fact beyond all controversy that artificially wrought weapons and implements of flint have been found both in France and England, in such contiguity with the extinct fossil mammals of the drift, as to leave little room for question that at a period long anterior to the earliest indications of history or tradition, the north of Europe was occupied by a human population in a condition not less rude than the Indian aborigines of our own American Forests.
Purposing as I do, to take up the comprehensive inquiries to which
such discoveries point, in greater detail than could be permitted in this address, I shall only remark, meanwhile, that those who appear to be most startled with the apparent bearings of such discoveries, overlook the nearly analogous evidence we already possessed of the antiquity of the primeval colonization of the British Isles. Fully ten years since, and before the publication of M. Boucher de Perthes' work, in discussing the prehistoric traces of British population, I based one important line of argument for its antiquity on the discovery of artificial lances and harpoons, found beside the gigantic Balænopteræ of the Scottish drift in the Carse of Stirling. These extinct fossil mammals-one of them seventy-two feet long-lay stranded at the base of the Ochills, twenty-one feet above the present tide level, and from seven to twenty miles distant from the nearest ocean reach. Whatever difficulties may seem to arise from the recent disclosures at Abbeville and Amiens, or the older ones at Hoxne in Suffolk, in relation to the age of man, the chronology which suffices to embrace the ancient Caledonian whaler of the valley of the Forth within the period of human history will equally answer for the more recently discovered allophylian of the French diluvium. Meanwhile it may not be unprofitable to note here also the changing phases of scientific theology. The difficulty now is to reconcile the discovery of works of human art alongside of the fossil mammals of the drift. But when, in 1712, certain gigantic fossil bones,which would now most probably be refered to the Mastodon,--were found near Cluverach, in New England, the famous Dr. Increace Mather communicated the discovery to the Royal Society of London ; and an abstract in the Philosophical Transactions duly sets forth the comforting opinion of the New England divine, of the confirmation thereby afforded to the Mosaic Narrative, that there were giants, or at least “men of very prodigious stature,” in the Antediluvian world: for one of their teeth, a grinder, weighed four pounds and three-quarters, and a thigh bone measured seventeen feet long! Let it suffice for the present that geology in all its trustworthy and well established evidence still affirms that it is only in the latest posttertiary, or modern strata, that the traces of man and his arts are found : ancient indeed when compared with the times of authentic history or tradition, but only “of yesterday" when placed alongside of the Silurian organisms of our Canadian Decades, or even of the vertebrates of Geology's comparatively modern Tertiary formations.