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Title: An Expository Outline of the "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation" - With a Notice of the Author's "Explanations:" A Sequel to the Vestiges
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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       *       *       *       *       *

_Originally printed in a Supplement of_ THE ATLAS _Newspaper of August
30 and December 20, 1845._

       *       *       *       *       *




       *       *       *       *       *

The following tractate first appeared in the form of a literary review
in a supplement of the ATLAS; but two impressions of that journal having
been long since exhausted, and inquiries still continuing numerous and
urgent, the proprietor has granted permission for the article to be
reprinted in a separate, more convenient, and perhaps enduring vehicle
than that of a newspaper.

Few works of a scientific import have been published that so promptly
and deeply fixed public attention as the _Vestiges of Creation_, or
elicited more numerous replies and sharper critical analysis and
disquisition. Upon so vast a question as the evolution of universal
creation differences of opinion were natural and unavoidable. Many have
disputed the accuracy of some of the author's facts, and the sequence
and validity of his inductive inferences; but few can withhold from him
the praise of a patient and intrepid spirit of inquiry, much occasional
eloquence, and very considerable powers of analysis, systematic
induction, arrangement and combination.

In what follows the leading objects kept in view have been--first, an
expository outline of the author's facts and argument; next, of the
chief reasons by which they have been impugned by Professor SEDGWICK,
Professor WHEWELL, Mr. BOSANQUET, and others who have entered the lists
of controversy. These arrayed, the concluding purpose fitly followed of
a brief exhibition of the relative strength of the main points in issue,
with their bearing on the moral and religious interests of the

It is the fourth and latest edition that has been submitted to
investigation. In this impression the author has introduced several
corrections and alterations, without, however, any infringement or
mitigation of its original scope and character. More recently appeared
his "Explanations," a Sequel to the "Vestiges of the Natural History of
Creation;" in which the author endeavours to elucidate and strengthen
his former position. This had become necessary in consequence of the
number of his opponents, and the inquiry and discussion to which the
original publication had given rise. Of this, also, a lengthened review
was given in the ATLAS, which has been included; so that the reader will
now have before him a succinct outline of a novel and interesting topic
of philosophical investigation.

In the present reprint a few corrections have been made, and the
illustrative table at page 34, and some other additions, introduced.

_London, January_ 1, 1846.




It rarely happens that speculative inquiries in England command much
attention, and the _Vestiges of Creation_ would have probably formed no
exception, had it not been from the unusual ability with which the work
has been executed. The subject investigated is one of vast, almost
universal, interest; for everyone--the low, in common with the high in
intellect--find enigmas in creation that they would gladly have
unriddled, and promptly gather round the oracle who has boldly stepped
forth to cut the knot of their perplexities. The first impression made,
too, is favourable. No very striking originality, eloquence, or genius,
is displayed; yet there is ingenuity; and though the author betrays the
zeal of an advocate, desirous of leading to a determinate and _material_
conclusion, his address, like that of the apostle of temperance, is
mostly mild and equable, with occasionally a little gentlemanly fervour
to give animation to his discourse. His style is mostly felicitous,
sometimes beautiful, lucid, precise, and elevated. In tone and manner of
execution, in quiet steadiness of purpose, in the firm, intrepid spirit
with which truth, or that which is conceived to be true, is followed,
regardless of startling presentments, the _Vestiges_ call to mind the
_Mecanique Celeste_, or _Système du Monde_. In caution, as in science,
the author is immeasurably inferior to LAPLACE; but in magnitude and
boldness of design he transcends the illustrious Frenchman. LAPLACE
sought no more than to subject the celestial movements to the formulas
of analysis, and reconcile to common observation terrestrial
appearances; but our author is far more ambitious--more venturesome in
aim--which is nothing less than to lift the veil of ISIS, and solve the
phenomena of universal nature. With what success remains to be
considered. That great skill and cleverness, that a very superior
mastery is evinced, we have conceded, and, we will also add, great show
of fairness in treatment and conclusion.

No partial opening is made; the great design, in all its extent, is
manfully grappled with. The universe is first surveyed, next the mystery
of its origin. After ranging through sidereal space, examining the
bodies found there, their arrangement, formation, and evolution, the
author selects our own planet for especial interrogation. He disembowels
it, scrutinizing the internal evidences of its structure and history,
and thence infers the causes of past vicissitudes, existing relations,
and appearances. These disposed of, the surface is explored, the
phenomena of animal and vegetable existence contemplated, and the
sources of vital action, sexual differences, and diversities of species
assigned. Man, as the supreme head and last work of progressive
creation, challenges a distinct consideration; his history and mental
constitution are investigated, and the relation in which a sublime
reason stands to the instinct of brutes discriminated. The end and
purpose of all appropriately form the concluding theme, which finished,
the curtain drops, and the last sounds heard are that the name of the
Great Unknown will probably never be revealed; that "praise will elicit
no response," nor any "word of censure" be parried or deprecated.

"Give me," exclaimed ARCHIMEDES, "a fulcrum, and I will raise the
earth." "Give me," says the author of the _Vestiges_, "gravitation and
development, and I will create a universe." ALEXANDER'S ambition was to
conquer a world, our author's is to create one. But he is wrong in
saying that his is the "first attempt to connect the natural sciences
into a history of creation, and thence to eliminate a view of nature as
one grand system of causation." The attempt has been often made, but
utterly failed; its results have been found valueless, hurtful--to have
occupied without enlarging the intellect, and the very effort has long
been discountenanced. Great advances, however, have been made in science
since system-making began to be discredited; nature has been
perseveringly ransacked in all her domains, and many extraordinary
secrets drawn from her laboratory. Astronomy and geology, chemistry and
electricity, have greatly extended the bounds of knowledge; still, we
apprehend, we are not yet sufficiently armed with facts to resolve into
one consistent whole her infinite variety.

Efforts at generalization, however, and the systematic arrangement of
natural phenomena, are seldom wholly fruitless. If false, they tend to
provoke discussion--to lead to active thought and useful research. A
solitary truth, though new and useful, rarely obtains higher distinction
than to be quietly placed on the rolls of science, while a bold
speculation, traversing the whole field of creation, and smoothing all
its difficulties, satisfies for the moment, and fixes general attention.
Of this the _Vestiges of Creation_ are an example. Without adding to our
positive knowledge by a single new discovery, demonstration, or
experiment, they have excited more interest than the _Principia_ of
NEWTON. From this popular success, if good do not accrue, no great evil
need be anticipated. Hypotheses are most hurtful when accredited by an
irreversible authority--when erected into a tribunal without appeal,
they become the arbitrary dictator in lieu of the handmaid of science.
Discussion and invention, in place of being stimulated, are then
fettered by them; the human mind is enslaved, as Europe was for
centuries by the _Physics_ of ARISTOTLE, and still continues to be in
some of the ancient retreats and conservatories of exploded errors. But
these form the exceptions, not the rule of the age, which is free and
equal inquiry. Errors have ceased to have prescriptive immunities; and
mere conjectures, however sanctioned or plausible, if inconsistent with
science--with the ascertained facts of experiment and observation, are
speedily passed into the region of dreams and chimeras.

Whether this will be the fate of our author remains to be proved. The
moment selected for his appearance has at least been well chosen. The
_Vestiges_ have the air of novelty, a long time having elapsed since any
one had the hardihood to propound a new system of Nature. In common with
most manifestations of our time, his effort exhibits a marked
improvement on the crudities of his predecessors in the same line of
architectural ambition. Science has been called to his aid, and the
patient ingenuity with which he has sought to make the latest
discoveries subservient to his purpose challenges admiration, if not
acquiescence. Some of our contemporaries have been warmed into almost
theological aversion by the boldness of his conclusions, but we see
little cause for fear, and none for bitterness or apprehension. More
closely Nature is investigated and deeper the impression will become of
her majesty and might. Unlike earthly greatnesses, she loses no
power--no grandeur--no fascination--no prestige, by familiarity. The
greatest philosophers will always rank among her greatest admirers and
most devout and fervent worshippers.

Had our author proved all he has assumed our faith would not be
lessened, nor our wonder diminished. Whether matter or spirit has been
the world's architect, the astounding miracle of its creation is not the
less. What does it import whether it resulted direct from the fiat of
Omnipotence, or intermediately from the properties He impressed, or the
law of development He prescribed? He who gave the law, who infused the
energies by which Chaos was transmuted into an organized universe,
remains great and inscrutable as ever.

It is time, however, that we entered upon a more detailed and closer
investigation of the _Vestiges of Creation_. Our purpose is not hastily,
and without examination, to deprecate, deny, or controvert; but
patiently, and without prejudice, to inquire, to submit faithfully and
intelligibly the outlines of a remarkable treatise; describe briefly its
scope and bearing, the arguments by which they are supported, and the
counter reasons by which they appear to be wholly or partially impugned.
Our readers will thus be enabled to appreciate the merits of a
controversy, the most comprehensive and interesting that for a
lengthened period has occupied the attention of the scientific and
intellectual world.

For greater clearness of exposition we shall endeavour to follow the
order observed by the author in the division and treatment of his
subjects, commencing first with the


The author opens his subject with a brief but luminous outline of the
arrangement and formation of the astral and planetary systems of the
heavens. He first describes the solar system, of which our earth is a
member, consisting of the sun, planets, and satellites with the less
intelligible orbs termed comets, and taking as the uttermost bounds of
this system the orbit of Uranus, it occupies a portion of space not less
than three thousand six hundred millions of miles in diameter. The mind
cannot form an exact notion of so vast an expanse, but an idea of it may
be obtained from the fact, that, if the swiftest racehorse ever known
had began to traverse it at full speed at the time of the birth of
MOSES, he would only yet have accomplished half his journey. Vast as is
the solar system, it is only one of an infinity of others which may be
still more extensive. Our sun is supposed to be a star belonging to a
constellation of stars, each of which has its accompaniment of revolving
planets; and the constellation itself with similar constellations to
form revolving clusters round some mightier centre of attraction; and so
on, each astral combination increasing in number, magnitude, and
complexity, till the mind is utterly lost in the vain effort to grasp
the limitless arrangement.

Of the stars astronomers can hardly be said to know anything with
certainty. Sirius, which is the most lustrous, was long supposed to be
the nearest and most within the reach of observation, but all attempts
to calculate the distance of that luminary have proved futile. Of its
inconceivable remoteness some notion may be formed by the fact, that the
diameter of the earth's annual orbit, if viewed from it, would dwindle
into an invisible point. This is what is meant by the stars not having,
like the planets, a _parallax_; that is, the earths' orbit, as seen from
them, does not subtend a measurable angle. With two other stars,
however, astronomers have unexpectedly and recently been more fortunate
than with Sirius, and have been able to calculate their distances from
the earth. The celebrated BESSEL, and soon afterwards, the late Mr.
HENDERSON, astronomer royal for Scotland, were the first to surmount the
difficulty that had baffled the telescopic resources of the HERSCHELS.
BESSEL detected a parallax of one-third of a second in the star 61
Cygni, and in the constellation of the Centaur HENDERSON found another
star whose parallax amounted to one second. Of the million of fixed
glittering points that adorn the sky, these are the only two whose
distances have been calculated, and to express them, miles, leagues, or
orbits seems inadequate. Light, whose speed is known to be 192,000 miles
per second, would be three years in reaching our earth from the star of
HENDERSON; and starting from BESSEL'S star and moving at the same rate
it could only reach us in ten years. These are the nearest stars, but
there are others whose distances are immeasurably greater, and whose
light, though starting from them at the beginning of creation, may not
have reached our globe!

The stars visible to the eye are about 3,000, but the number increases
with every increase of telescopic power, and may be said to be
innumerable. They are not of uniform lustre or form, but vary in figure
and brightness. Some of them have a _nebulous_ or cloudy appearance; and
there are entire clusters with this dusky aspect, mostly pervaded,
however, with luminous points of more brilliant hue. In the outer fields
of astral space Sir WILLIAM HERSCHEL observed a multitude of nebulæ, one
or two of which may be seen by the naked eye. All of them, when seen by
instruments of low power, look like masses of luminous vapour; but some
of them had brighter spots, suggesting to Sir WILLIAM the idea of a
condensation of the nebulous matter round one or more centres. But when
these luminous masses are examined by more powerful instruments many of
them lose their cloudy form, and are resolved into shining points, "like
spangles of diamond dust." It is in this way several nebulæ have yielded
to the gigantic reflector of Lord ROSSE, and others with still greater
optical resources may follow. This brings us to the first questionable
and controversial portion of the _Vestiges_; namely,--the


It is among the gaseous bodies just described, in the outer boundary of
Nature, which neither telescope nor geometry can well reach, that
speculation has laid its _venue_, and commenced its aerial castles.
LAPLACE was the first to suggest the nebular hypothesis, which he did
with great diffidence, not as a theory proved, or hardly likely, but as
a mathematical possibility or illustration. His range of creation,
moreover, was not so vast as that of our author, which assumes to
compass the entire universe, but was limited to the evolution of the
solar system. The mode in which this might be evolved, LAPLACE thus

He conjectures that in the original condition of the solar system the
sun revolved upon his axis, surrounded by an atmosphere which, in virtue
of an excessive heat, extended far beyond the orbits of all the planets,
the planets as yet having no existence. The heat gradually diminished,
and as the solar atmosphere contracted by cooling, the rapidity of its
rotation increased by the laws of rotatory motion, and an exterior zone
of vapour was detached from the rest, the central attraction being no
longer able to overcome the increased centrifugal force. The zone of
vapour might in some cases retain its form, as we still see in Saturn's
ring; but more usually the ring of vapour would break into several
masses, and these would generally coalesce into one mass, which would
revolve about the sun. Such portions of the solar atmosphere abandoned
successively at different distances, would form planets in the state of
vapour. These masses of vapour, it appears from mechanical laws, would
have each its rotatory motion, and as the cooling of the vapour still
went on, would each produce a planet that might have satellites and
rings formed from the planet, in the same manner as the planets were
formed from the atmosphere of the sun.

All the known motions of the solar system are consistent and
reconcileable with this theory of LAPLACE, and upon it the author of the
_Vestiges_ has enlarged and founded his wider scheme of physical
creation. He supposes the void of nature to have been originally filled
with a universal FIRE MIST (p. 30), out of which all the celestial orbs
were made and put in motion. How this mist was put in activity, and
resolved into the luminous and revolving bodies that we now see, and one
of which we inhabit is the first urgent perplexity to surmount in the
conjecture. It is manifest that if a mist filled the entire region of
space, a mist it must for ever remain, unless acted upon by some cause
adequate to give it new action and arrangement. No sun, no stars or
planets could spontaneously emanate from an inert vapour any more than
from nothing. To meet this, his first difficulty, the author supposes
that there were certain _nuclei_, or centres of greater condensation,
analogous to those still remarked in the nebulæ of the heavens, and that
these nuclei, by their superior attractive force, consolidated into
spheres the gaseous matter around them:--

     "Of nebulous matter," says he, "in its original state we know too
     little to enable us to suggest _how nuclei should be established in
     it_. But supposing that from a _peculiarity_ in the constitution
     nuclei are formed, we know very well how, by the power of
     gravitation, the process of an aggregation of the neighbouring
     matter to these nuclei should proceed until masses more or less
     solid should be detached from the rest. It is a _well-known law in
     physics, that when fluid matter collects towards, or meets in a
     centre, it establishes a rotatory motion_. See minor results of
     this law in the whirlpool and the whirlwind--nay, on so humble a
     scale as the water sinking through the aperture of a funnel. It
     thus becomes certain, that when we arrive at the stage of a
     nebulous star we have a rotation on its axis commenced."

Up to this, however, the author has proved nothing. The existence of the
fire-mist and nuclei are assumptions only, and the way by which he tries
to account for rotatory motion is clearly erroneous. The aggregation of
matter round the nuclei by gravitation would have no such tendency; no
more than a perfect balance would of itself have a tendency to move
about its fulcrum, or a falling stone to deviate from its vertical
course. Gravitation would indeed compress the particles of matter, but
its tendency and entire action is towards the nucleus; it compresses
them no more on one side of the line of their direction to the centre of
force than on any other side; and hence no _lateral_ or _rotatory
motion_ would ensue. Rotation, therefore, is yet unaccounted for; though
the author says _it is a well-known law in physics_ that when fluid
matter collects towards, or meets in a centre, it establishes a rotatory
motion; and then for illustration refers to a whirlwind or whirlpool. No
such effect would follow the conditions stated, and an entire ignorance
is betrayed of the laws of mechanical philosophy. In the whirlpool and
the whirlwind the gyration is caused by the fluid passing, not _to_ the
centre, but _through_ it and away from it; in the whirlpool downwards
through the place of exit, in the whirlwind upwards to where the vacuum
has caused the rapid aggregation.

LAPLACE was too able a mathematician to commit these elementary
blunders; he did not assume to account for rotation by inapplicable
laws, but took for granted that the sun revolved upon its axis, and
thence communicated a corresponding motion to the bodies thrown from its
surface. But our author has sought to advance beyond his teacher, and in
this way has shown his ignorance of physics by an egregious mistake. At
this point we might stop, without following the ulterior steps by which
the solar system is made to evolve out of heated vapour. Having got
rotation, though by an impossible process, the author falls into the
illustration already given of the theory of LAPLACE. The rotation of
each nucleus or sun round its axis produces centrifugal force; that
force, by refrigeration, increases beyond the centripetal force of
gravity; in consequence rings are formed and detached from the surface,
whose unequal coherence of parts mostly causes them to break into
separate masses or planets, partaking of the motion of the bodies from
which they have been separated, and these primaries in their turn
becoming centres of gravitation and centrifugal force, throw off their
secondaries, or _moons_.

In this way the solar system and other systems upon a similar plan of
arrangement, it is conjectured, may have been formed. According to the
author the generative process is still in progress, and new worlds are
in course of being thrown off from new suns in the confines of creation.
These nebulous stars on the outer bounds of space, of varying forms and
brightness, are supposed to be the centres of new systems in different
stages of development, like children of various ages and growth in a
numerous family. This is the author's own illustration (p. 20), and
after giving it he proceeds:--

     "Precisely thus, seeing in our astral system many thousands of
     worlds in all stages of formation, from the most rudimental to that
     immediately preceding the present condition of those we deem
     perfect, it is unavoidable to conclude that all the perfect have
     gone through the various stages which we see in the rudimental.
     This leads us at once to the conclusion that the whole of our
     firmament was at one time a diffused mass of nebulous matter,
     extending through the space which it still occupies. So also, of
     _course_, must have been the other astral systems. Indeed, we must
     presume the whole to have been originally in one connected mass,
     the astral systems being only the first division into parts, and
     solar systems the second.

     "The first idea which all this impresses upon us is, that the
     formation of bodies in space is _still and at present in progress_.
     We live at a time when many have been formed, and many are still
     forming. Our own solar system is to be regarded as completed,
     supposing its perfection to consist in the formation of a series of
     planets, for there are mathematical reasons for concluding that
     Mercury is the nearest planet to the sun, which can, according to
     the laws of the system, exist. But there are other solar systems
     within our astral systems, which are as yet in a less advanced
     state, and even some quantities of nebulous matter which have
     scarcely begun to advance towards the stellar form. On the other
     hand, there are vast numbers of stars which have all the appearance
     of being fully formed systems, if we are to judge from the complete
     and definite appearance which they present to our vision through
     the telescope. We have no means of judging of the _seniority of
     systems; but it is reasonable to suppose that among the many, some
     are older than ours_. There is, indeed, one piece of evidence for
     the probability of the comparative youth of our system, altogether
     apart from human traditions and the geognostic appearances of the
     surface of our planet. This consists in a thin nebulous matter,
     which is diffused around the sun to nearly the orbit of Mercury, of
     a very oblately spheroidal shape. This matter, which sometimes
     appears to our naked eyes, at sunset, in the form of a cone
     projecting upwards in the line of the sun's path, and which bears
     the name of the Zodiacal Light, has been thought a residuum or last
     remnant of the concentrating matter of our system, and thus may be
     supposed to indicate the comparative recentness of the principal
     events of our cosmogony. _Supposing the surmise and inference_ to
     be correct, and they may be held as so far supported by more
     familiar evidence, we might with the more confidence speak of our
     system as not amongst the elder born of Heaven, but one whose
     various phenomena, physical and moral, as yet lay undeveloped,
     while myriads of others were fully fashioned, and in complete
     arrangement. Thus, in the sublime chronology to which we are
     directing our inquiries, we first find ourselves called upon to
     consider the globe which we inhabit as a child of the sun, elder
     than Venus and her younger brother Mercury, but posterior in date
     of birth to Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus; next to regard our
     whole system as probably of recent formation in comparison with
     many of the stars of our firmament. We must, however, be on our
     guard against supposing the earth as a recent globe in our ordinary
     conceptions of time. From evidence afterwards to be adduced, it
     will be seen that it cannot be presumed to be less than many
     hundreds of centuries old. How much older Uranus may be, no one can
     tell, far less how much more aged may be many of the stars of our
     firmament, or the stars of other firmaments, than ours."

All this is ingenious and fluently expressed. The author has an easy way
of surmounting his difficulties by the use of such little auxiliary
phrases, as "of course," "it may be surmised," "it is reasonable to
suppose," and so on; which, though trifling in themselves, help him in
their connecting inferences through many embarrassing perplexities. But
his hypothesis is yet unproved; his fire-mist is only a conjecture; his
nuclei, scattered like so many eggs in space out of which future suns
and worlds are in process of incubation, is of the same description, and
rotation, the first step in his process of creation, would not ensue
under the conditions he has assigned. Without dwelling on these
shortcomings, we shall terminate this portion of the author's inquiry
with a few general strictures. First, on its inconsistency with what we
know of the solar system; and, secondly, on its inadequacy to explain
the facts of which we are cognizant on our own globe.

In the first place, for the hypothesis to be applicable to our system,
it is requisite that the primary and secondary bodies should revolve,
both in their orbits and round their axes, in one direction, and nearly
in one plane. Most of the bodies of the system observe these laws, their
orbits are nearly circular, nearly in the plane of the original equator
of the solar rotation, and in the direction of that rotation. But there
are exceptions; the comets, which intersect the equatorial plane in
every angle of direction form one, and the most distant of the planets
forms another. The satellites of Uranus are retrograde. They move from
east to west in orbits highly inclined to that of their primary, and on
both accounts are exceptions to the order of the other secondary bodies.
Our author is so perplexed by this inconsistency that he first doubts
the fact, and next tries to explain it by alleging that "it may be owing
to a _bouleversement_ of the primary." What is meant by the
_bouleversement_ of a planet none of his critics seem to apprehend, nor
do we. But that the moons of Uranus are contrariwise to those of the
other planets, Sir JOHN HERSCHEL has indubitably established; so that
the author at any rate upon this point has sustained a bouleversement.

Our own moon forms a third exception to his theory. According to his
system, this satellite is a slip or graft from our planet, and in
constitution, it might be inferred, would partake of the elements of the
parent. But the fact is otherwise. The moon has no atmosphere, no seas,
or rivers, nor any water, and of course totally unfit for human
inhabitants, or organic life of any kind. It must, then, have had a
different origin, or be in some earlier stage of development than that
through which our earth has passed.

Leaving these exceptions, we may next inquire into the relevant purposes
of the nebular hypothesis, supposing its assumptions acquiesced in. Like
the fanciful theories of the ancient philosophers, it seems only to
involve a profitless topic of controversy, without solving natural
phenomena. It does not unravel the mystery of the beginning, brings us
no nearer to the first creative force. Like a good chemist, previous to
analysis, the author first throws all matter into a state of solution;
but granting him his fire-mist and nuclei in the midst, how or whence
came this condition and arrangement of nature? What was its pre-existing
state? or, if that be answered, how or whence was that preceding state
educed, for it, too, must have had one prior to it? So that the mind
makes no advances by such inquiries, is lost in a maze that can have no
end, because it has no beginning; and, like Noah's messenger, for want
of a resting place, is compelled to return to the first starting point.
Easier, and quite as satisfactory, it seems to believe, as we have been
taught to believe, that the celestial spheres were at once perfect and
entire, projected into space from the hands of the maker, than that they
were elaborated out of luminous vapour by gravity and condensation.
Hopeless inquiry is thus foreclosed, an inquisition that cannot be
answered, silenced, and removed out of the pale of discussion.

It is not from any attribute of the Deity being impugned that the
hypothesis is objectionable. Design and intelligence in the creation are
left paramount as before, and our impression of the skill exercised, and
the means employed, only transferred to another part of the work. He who
produced the primordial condition the author supposes, who filled space
with such a mist, composed of such materials, subjected to such laws,
such constitution, that sun, moon, and stars necessarily resulted from
them, appears omnipotent as ever. But it does not advance inquiry, nor
assist us in explaining the wonders we contemplate in our own globe.
Suppose a planet formed by the author's process, what kind of a body
would it be? Something, as Professor WHEWELL suggests, resembling a
large meteoric stone. How after wards came this unformed mass to be like
our earth, to be covered with motion and organization, with life and
general felicity? What primitive cause stocked it with plants and
animals, and produced all the surprising and subtle contrivances which
we find in their structure, all the wide and profound mutual dependence
which we trace in their economy? Is it possible to conceive, as the
_Vestiges_ inculcate, that man, with his sentiment and intellect, his
powers and passions, his will and conscience, were also produced as the
ultimate result of vapourous condensation?

One more conjecture of the author, in this division of his subject, we
shall only notice. It is that "the formation of bodies in space _is
still in progress_." What may be doing in the nebulæ, in the region
scarcely within reach of telescopic vision, in what may be considered
the yet uninclosed and commonable waste of the universe, is a subject,
we suspect, of much obscurity, and respecting which no precise
intelligence has been received; but limiting attention to the solar
system, which is nearer home and more within cognizance, the work seems
finished, perfect, and unchangeable, and, like the Great Architect, made
to endure for ever. This was the conclusion of LAPLACE; he proved that
the state of our system is _stable_; that is, the ellipsis the planets
describe will always remain nearly circular, and the axis of revolution
of the earth will never deviate much from its present position. He also
gave a mathematical proof that this stability is not accidental, but the
result of design, of an arrangement by which the planets all move in the
same direction, in orbits of small eccentricity and slightly inclined to
each other. Reasoning from analogy, as the author of the _Vestiges_ is
prone to do--extending our views from our solar system to other
systems--other suns and revolving planets--it is fair to conclude that
they are not less perfect in arrangement--subject to like conditions of
permanency, and alike exempt from mutation, decay, collision, or

Descending from this high region, we accompany the author to his next
and lower field--the


Our globe is somewhat less than 8,000 miles in diameter; it is of a
spheroidal form, the equatorial exceeding the polar axis in the
proportion of 300 to 299, and which slight inequality, in consequence of
its diurnal revolution, is necessary to preserve the land near the
equator from inundation by the sea. The mean density or average weight
of the earth is, in proportion to that of distilled water, as 5.66 to 1.
So that its specific gravity is considerably less than that of tin, the
lightest of the metals, but exceeds that of granite, which is three
times heavier than water.

Descending below the surface, the first sensation that strikes is the
increase of temperature. This is so rapid, that for every one hundred
feet of sinking we obtain an increase of more than one degree of
Fahrenheit's thermometer. If there be no interruption to this law, and
no reason exists to conclude there is, it is manifest that at the depth
of a few miles we must reach an intensity of heat utterly unbearable.
Hence it follows that by no improvements in machinery can mining
operations be carried down to a great depth below the surface. The
greatest depth yet penetrated does not exceed three thousand feet, and
forms a very small advance towards the earth's centre, distant 4,000

Geologists, however, without penetrating far into the earth, have found
means for obtaining an insight for several miles into its interior
structure, and armed with hammer, chisel, and climbing hook, they
explore the beetling sea-cliff, traverse the deepest valleys, and scale
the highest mountains, carefully examining their formation, disposition,
and substance, and are thus enabled to obtain some knowledge of the
earth's stomach, as it were, by scrutinising the deposits and eruptive
ejectments on its surface. For example, we come to a mountain composed
of a particular substance with strata or beds of other rock lying
against its sloped sides; we, of course, infer that the substance of the
mountain dips away under the strata that we see lying against it.
Suppose that we walk away from the mountain across the turned-up edges
of the stratified rocks, and that for many miles we continue to pass
over other stratified rocks, all disposed in the same way, till we begin
to cross the opposite edges of the same beds; after which we pass over
these rocks all in reverse order, till we come to another extensive
mountain composed of similar materials to the first, and shelving away
under the strata in the same way; we should then infer that the
stratified rocks occupied a basin formed by the rocks of these two
mountains, and by calculating the thickness right through these strata
could say to what depths the rock of the mountain extended below. In
this way has the interior of the globe been examined, and its contents
and arrangement, for several miles below the surface, ascertained. The
result of such inspection we leave the author of the _Vestiges_ to

     "It appears that the basis rock of the earth, as it may be called,
     is of hard texture, and crystalline in its constitution. Of this
     rock, granite may be said to be the type, though it runs into many
     varieties. Over this, except in the comparatively few places where
     it projects above the general level in mountains, other rocks are
     disposed in sheets or strata, with the appearance of having been
     deposited originally from water. But these last rocks have nowhere
     been allowed to rest in their original arrangement. Uneasy
     movements from below have broken them up in great inclined masses,
     while in many cases there has been projected through the rents
     rocky matter more or less resembling the great inferior crystalline
     mass. This rocky matter must have been in a state of fusion from
     heat at the time of its projection, for it is often found to have
     run into and filled up lateral chinks in these rents. There are
     even instances where it has been rent again, and a newer melted
     matter of the same character sent through the opening. Finally, in
     the crust as thus arranged, there are, in many places, chinks
     containing veins of metal. Thus, there is first a great inferior
     mass, composed of crystalline rock, and probably resting
     immediately on the fused and expanded matter of the interior: next,
     layers or strata of aqueous origin; next, irregular masses of
     melted inferior rock that have been sent up volcanically and
     confusedly at various times amongst the aqueous rocks, breaking up
     these into masses, and tossing them out of their original levels."

This, we believe, is a correct outline of the crust of the earth, so far
as it has been possible to observe it. It exhibits extraordinary signs
of commotion and vicissitude; the lowest rocks indicating a previous
condition of igneous fusion; those above them of aqueous solution. Fire
and water have thus been the chief tellurian anarchists, and the shaking
of continents and the constant shifting of level in sea and land still
continue to attest their restless energies. That igneous matter has,
during many periods, been protruded from below--that mountains have
risen in succession from the sea, and injected their molten substance
through cracks and fissures of superincumbent strata--are facts resting
on indubitable evidence. Many masses of granite became the solid bottom
of some portions of the sea before the secondary strata were laid
gradually upon them. The granite of Mont Blanc rose during a recent
tertiary period. "We can prove," says Professor SEDGWICK, "more than
mere shiftings of level, and that many portions of sea and land have
entirely changed their places. The rocks at the top of Snowdon are full
of petrified sea-shells; the same may be said of some high crests of the
Alps, Pyrenees, and Andes. We have proof demonstrative that many parts
of Scotland, and that all England, formed, during many ages, the solid
bottom of the sea. It may be true that the antagonist powers of nature
during the human period have reached a kind of balance. But during all
geological periods there have been such long intervals of repose, or of
such gradual movements, that we may trace the history of the earth in
the successive deposits formed in the waters of the sea." This is the
great business of geology.

Although at first sight the interior of the earth appears a confused
scene, after careful observation we readily detect in it a regularity
and order from which much instructive light is thrown on its past
vicissitudes. The deposition of the aqueous rocks and the projection of
the volcanic have unquestionably taken place since the settlement of the
earth in its present form. They are, indeed, of an order of events which
are going on under the agency of intelligible causes, down to the
present day. We may therefore consider these generally as recent
transactions. But advancing to the far distant antecedent era of its
existence, we may consider it to have been a globe of its present size
enveloped in the crystalline rock already described, with the waters of
the present seas and the present atmosphere around it, though these were
probably in considerably different conditions, both as to temperature
and their constituent materials, from what they now are. We may thus
presume that, without this primitive case of granitic texture, the great
bulk of the matters of our earth were agglomerated, whether in a fluid
or solid state is uncertain; but there cannot be any doubt that they
continue to exist in a condition of great heat and compression, having a
mean density of more than double that of the minerals on the surface.

Judging from the results and still observable conditions, it may be
inferred that the heat retained in the interior of the globe was more
intense, or had greater freedom to act, in some places than in others.
These become the scenes of volcanic operations, and in time marked their
situations by the extrusion from below of trap and basalts--rocks
composed of the crystalline matter, fused by intense heat, and developed
on the surface in various conditions, according to the particular
circumstances under which it was sent up; some, for example, being
thrown up under water, and some in the open air, which contingencies
would make considerable difference in its texture and appearance. It
would, however, be a mistake to infer that, previous to these eruptions,
the earth was a smooth ball, with air and water playing round it.
Geology tells us plainly that there were great irregularities--lofty
mountains, interspersed with deep seas--and by which, perhaps, the
mountains were wholly or partially covered. But it is a fact worthy of
observation that the solids of our globe cannot for a moment be exposed
to water or the atmosphere without becoming liable to change. They
instantly begin to wear down. The matter so worn off being carried into
the neighbouring depths and there deposited, became the components of
the successive series of stratified rocks, extending from the basal
envelope of granite to the earth's surface, and which it will be proper
briefly to describe.


The first of the series is the _Gneis and Mica Slate System_, of which
examples are exposed to view in the Highlands of Scotland and the west
of England. These earliest stratified rocks contain no matters which are
not to be found in the primitive granite. They are the same in
material--silica, mica, quartz, or hornblende--but changed into new
forms and combinations, and hence called by Mr. LYELL metamorphic rocks.
Some of them are composed exclusively of one of the materials of
granite; the _mica schist_, for example, of mica; the _quartz rocks_,
of quartz. In the metamorphic rocks no organic remains have been found,
and they are geologically below all the rocks that do contain traces of
animal life.

From the primary rocks we pass into the next ascending series, called
the _Clay Slate and Grauwacke Slate System_, which in some places is
found resting immediately on the granite, the antecedent bed being there
wanting. This deposit has been well examined, because some of its slate
beds have been extensively quarried for domestic purposes. By some
geologists it is called the _Silurian System_, it being largely
developed at the surface of a district of western England formerly
occupied by the Silures. It is found also in North Wales and in the
north of England, in beds of great thickness, and in Scotland, but there
the Silurian rocks are more feebly represented.

The _Old Red Sandstone, or Devonian System_, comes next. It forms the
material of the grand and rugged mountains which fringe many parts of
our Highland coasts, and ranges, on the south flank of the Grampians,
from the eastern to the western sea of Scotland. There is no part of
geology and science more clear than that which refers to the ages of
mountains. It is as certain that the Grampian mountains are older than
the Alps and Apennines, as it is that civilisation had reached Italy and
enabled her to subdue the world, while Scotland was the abode of
barbarism. The Pyrenees, Carpathians, and other ranges of continental
Europe are all younger than these Scotch hills, or even the
insignificant Mendip Hills of southern England. Stratification tells
this tale as plainly, and more truly, than LIVY tells the story of the
Roman republic. It tells us that at the time when the Grampians sent
streams and detritus to straits where now the valleys of the Forth and
Clyde meet, the greater part of Europe was a wide ocean.

The last three series of strata contain the remains of the earliest
occupants of the globe, and of which we shall soon speak. They are of
enormous thickness--in England, not much less than 30,000 feet, or
nearly six miles.

We have now arrived at the secondary rocks, of which the lowest group is
the _Carboniferous Formation_, so called from its remarkable feature of
numerous interspersed beds of coal. It commences with beds of the
mountain limestone, which in England attains a depth of 800 yards. Coal
is altogether composed of the matter of a terrestrial vegetation,
transmuted by putrefaction of a peculiar kind beneath the surface of
water, and in the absence of air. From examples seen at the present day
at the mouths of such rivers as the Mississippi, which traverse
extensive sylvan regions, it is thought that the vegetation, the rubbish
of decayed forests, was carried by rivers into estuaries, and there
accumulated into vast natural rafts, until it sank to the bottom, where
an overlayer of sand or mud would prepare it for becoming a stratum of
coal. Others conceive that the vegetation first went into the condition
of peat moss, that a sink in a level then exposed it to be overrun by
the sea and covered with a layer of sand or mud; that a subsequent
uprise made the mud dry land, and fitted it to bear a new forest, which
afterwards, like its predecessors, became a bed of peat--that, in short,
by repetitions of this process the alternate layers of coal, sand and
shell constituting the carboniferous group were formed.

The _Magnesian Limestone_ deposits succeed the carboniferous, and
sometimes pass into them by insensible gradations. In the south of
England they are represented by conglomerates, and partly composed of
the solid and more or less rounded fragments of the older strata. They
afford a proof of what geologists have often occasion to remark of the
long periods of time during which the ancient works of nature were
perfected; for the older rocks were solid as they are now, and their
organic remains petrified at the time these conglomerates were forming.

We can only briefly glance at the remaining chapters of geological
history. The _New Red Sandstone_ forms the base of the great central
plains of England, and is surmounted by the oliferous marls and red
arenaceous beds which pass under the succession of great oolitic
terraces that stretch across England from the coasts of Dorsetshire to
the north-eastern coast of Yorkshire. It marks the commencement of an
important era, being the strata in which land animals are first found.
The _Oolte System_ which follows marks the beginning of mammalia, and in
some of its beds in Buckinghamshire are found the exuviæ of tropical
trees. Near Weymouth, in the well-known dirt beds, are found trees with
their silicified trunks growing up in the position of nature, and their
roots embedded in the soil on which they grew.

Next we have the chalk or _Cretaceous Formation_, that makes such a
conspicuous figure in England. The celebrated cliffs of Dover are of
this era. It forms a stripe from Yorkshire to Kent, and is found in
France, Germany, Russia, and in North America. The English chalk beds
are 1,200 feet thick, showing the considerable depth of the ocean in
which they were formed. Their origin has been a questionable topic; they
were thought to be formed from the detritus of coral reefs, but
Professor EHRENBERG has recently announced, as the result of his
microscopical researches, that chalk is composed partly of inorganic
particles and partly of shells of inconceivable minuteness, a cubic inch
of the substance containing about ten millions of them.

In the hollows of the chalk-beds have been formed series of
strata--clay, limestone, marl alternating--to which the name of the
_Tertiary System_ has been given. It is irregularly distributed over
vast surfaces of all our continents, and must be considered as the beds
of estuaries left at the conclusion of the cretaceous period. London and
Paris rest on basins of this formation, and another such basin extends
from near Winchester under Southampton, and reappears in the Isle of

We hasten upward to the _Diluvial System_, which brings us near to the
present surface. To this era is referred the erratic blocks, or gigantic
boulder stones, which have been driven by floods across our continents,
or drifted in icebergs over valleys, and perched sometimes on mountain
tops. To it also must be referred the _till_ of Scotland and the great
brown clay of England, and our vast beds of gravel and superficial
rubbish, connected with the deluvium in the history of _ossiferous
caverns_, of which that examined by Dr. BUCKLAND at Kirkdale is an
example. They occur in the calcareous strata, as the great caverns
generally do, and have in all instances been naturally closed up till
the period of their discovery. At Kirkdale the remains of twenty-four
species of animals were found--namely, pigeon, lark, raven, duck,
partridge, mouse, water-rat, rabbit, hare, hippopotamus, rhinoceros,
elephant, weasel, fox, wolf, deer, ox, horse, bear, tiger, hyena. From
many of the bones of the gentler of these animals being found in a
broken state, it is supposed that the cave was the haunt of hyenas and
other predaceous animals, by which the smaller ones had been consumed.

We come last to the _Modern_ or _Superficial Formation_, of which the
best specimen is the great Bedford level, that spreads over the lower
lands of Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, and Lincolnshire, consisting of
accumulations of silt, drifted matter, and bog-earth, some of which
began before the earliest periods of British history. When these
accumulations are removed by artificial means, we find below sometimes
shells of recent species, and the remains of an old estuary, sometimes
sand-banks, gravel beds, stumps of trees, and masses of drifted wood. On
this recent surface are found skulls of a living species of European
bear, skeletons of the Arctic wolf, European beaver and wild boar, and
numerous horns and bones of the roebuck and red deer, and of the
gigantic stag or Irish elk. They testify to a zoology on the verge of
that now prevailing or melting into it. In corresponding deposits of
North America are found remains of the mammoth, mastadon, buffalo, and
other animals of extinct or living species.

Considering it best not to interrupt the description of the successive
formations, this is almost the only allusion that has been made to the
fossils which constitute so important a part of geological science. It
is now to be explained that from an early period, that is, from the
metamorphic deposit to the close of the rock series, each formation is
found to enclose remains of the organic beings, plants, and animals,
which flourished upon earth during the time they were forming; and these
organisms, or such parts of them as were of sufficient solidity, have
been in many instances preserved with the utmost fidelity, although for
the most part converted into the substance of the enclosing mineral. The
rocks may be thus said to form a kind of history of the organic
departments of nature apparently from near their beginning to the
present time. It is upon the commencement and progress of life under
these circumstances that the author of the _Vestiges of Creation_ has
put forth some of his most startling and controversial propositions; but
before noticing them it will be useful to prepare the way by shortly
describing the gradations of organic existences, following the same
order as observed in the rock series, by beginning with the lowest or
humblest forms of organization.


The interior of the earth reveals wonders not less impressive than those
of the skies. We have seen in the last section how the crust of our
globe is composed of successive layers or tiers of strata, rising
upward, terrace upon terrace, till we reach the present vegetable mould
or superficial platform of animated existence. In the aggregate these
formations or systems, marking the several epochs in nature's
development, may extend to a depth, as Dr. BUCKLAND conjectures, of ten
or fifteen miles below the surface, and each may be considered a vast
cemetery or graveyard, entombing the remains of ages long anterior to
human creation. We, in fact, live upon a pile of worlds, and
anticipating the future from past records and from changes still
manifest from the shallowing soundings of neighbouring seas, it is not
improbable that the existing scene of bustle may have heaped upon it as
many superincumbent masses as the lowest of the rocks enclosing the
vestiges of life.

If not with a kind of awe, it must have certainly been with intense
curiosity that the first investigators of fossilology looked upon the
earliest forms of animated being of which we have any traces as existing
upon this globe. These first denizens, however, seem to have been of a
simple structure and humble order, not fit to play high class
characters. No land animals are found among them, none which could
breathe the atmosphere, none but tenants of the water, and even animals
so high in the scale as fish were wanting. In popular language, the
earliest fossils are corals and shellfish.

But to make the subject generally intelligible it will be necessary
first to define the orders of the animal kingdom. CUVIER was the first
to give a philosophical view of the animal world in reference to the
plan on which each animal is constructed. According to him there are
four forms on which animals have been modelled, and of which ulterior
divisions are only slight modifications founded on the development or
addition of some parts that do not produce any essential change of

The four great branches of the animal world are the _vertebrata_,
_mollusca_, _articulata_, and _radiata_. The _vertebrata_ are those
animals which (as man and other sucklers, birds and fishes) have a
backbone and a skull with lateral appendages, within which the viscera
are excluded, and to which the muscles are attached. The _mollusca_ or
soft animals have no bony skeleton; the muscles are attached to the
skin, which often include stony plates called shells; such mollusca are
shell-fish, others are cuttle-fish, and many pulpy sea animals. The
_articulata_ consist of crustacea (lobsters, &c.), insects, spiders, and
annulos worms, which, like the other classes of this branch, consist of
a head and a number of successive portions of the body jointed together,
whence the name. Finally the _radiata_ include the animals known under
the name of zoophytes.

Now it is fossils of the _radiata_ division of the animal kingdom that
are found in the lowest stratified rocks, polypiaria and crinodia, the
first including various forms of these extraordinary animals
(corallines) which still abound in tropical seas, often obstructing the
course of the mariner, and even laying the foundation of new continents.
The crinoids are an early and simple form of the large family of
star-fishes; the animal is little more than a stomach, surrounded by
tentacula to provide itself with food, and mounted upon a many-jointed
stalk, so as to resemble a flower upon its stem. Along with these in the
slate system are a few lowly genera of crustacea, and of a higher class,
the mollusca, and the existence of these imply the contemporary
existence of certain humbler forms of life, vegetable and animal, for
their subsistence, forming a scene approaching to what is found in seas
of the present day, excepting that fishes, nor any higher vertebrata, as
yet roamed the marine wilds.

The animal species of this era seem to have been few in number, and
almost the whole had become extinct before the next group of strata had
been formed. In the Silurian deposit the vestiges of life become more
abundant, the number of species extended, and important additions made
in the traces of sea plants and fishes. Remains of fishes have been
detected in rocks immediately over the Aymestry limestone, being
apparently the first examples of vertebrated animals which breathed upon
our planet. (p. 64). The cephaloda, represented in our era by the
nautilus and cuttle-fish, pertain to the Silurian formation, and are the
most highly organised of the mollusca, possessing in some families an
internal bony skeleton, together with a heart and a head with mandibles
not unlike those of the parrot.

In the Old Red Sandstone the same marine specimens are continued with
numerous additions. Several of the strata are crowded with remains of
fish, showing that the seas in which these beds were deposited had
swarmed with that class of inhabitants. The predominating kinds are of
an inferior model to the two orders which afterwards came into
existence, and still are the principal fishes of our seas; the former
are covered with integuments of a considerably different character from
the true scales covering the latter, and which orders, from their form
of organization, are named stenoid and cycloid.

Up to the present we find proofs of the general uniformity of organic
life over the surface of the earth at the time when each particular
system of rocks was formed. The types of being formed in the old red as
in preceding deposits, are identical in species with the remains that
occur in the corresponding class of rocks in Brittany, the Hartz,
Norway, Russia, and North America; attesting the similarity and almost
universality, if not contemporary character, of terrestrial changes. A
few other geological facts may be here mentioned for recollection, and
which throw light on the marine animal and vegetable forms of this and
preceding eras. First there was comparatively an absence of salt in the
early ocean; and next the temperature of the earth is conjectured to
have been higher, and perhaps almost uniform throughout. The higher
temperature of the primeval times is attributed to the greater proximity
or intensity of the globe's internal heat, and which, poured through
cracks and fissures of the lately concreted crust, M. BRONGNIART
supposes to have been sufficiently great to overpower the ordinary
meteorological influences and spread a tropical climate all over its

It must be further borne in mind that as yet no _land animals or
plants_ existed, and for this presumable reason, that dry land had not
appeared. It is only in the next or carboniferous formation that
evidence is traced of island or continent. As a consequence of this
emergence there was fresh water; for rain, instead of returning to the
sea, as formerly, was collected in channels of the earth and became
springs, rivers, and lakes. It was made a receptacle for an advance in
organism, and land plants became a conspicuous part of the new creation.

According to the _Vestiges of Creation_, terrestrial botany began with
classes of comparatively simple forms and structure. In the ranks of the
vegetable kingdom the lowest place is taken by plants of cellular
tissue, and which have no flowers, as lichens, mosses, fungi, ferns, and
sea-weeds. Above these stand plants with vascular tissue, bearing
flowers, and of which there are two subdivisions: first, plants having
one seed-lobe, and in which the new matter is added within, of which the
cane and palm are examples; second, plants having two seed lobes, and in
which the new matter is added on the outside under the bark, of which
the pine, elm, oak, and all the British forest trees are examples. Now
the author of the _Vestiges_ states that two-thirds of the plants of
this era belong to the cellular kind, but to this one of his ablest
critics (_Edinburgh Review_ for July) demurs, asserting that the
carboniferous epoch shows a gorgeous _flora_--that the first fruits of
vegetable nature were not rude, ill-fashioned forms, but in magnificence
and complexity of structure equal to any living types, and that the
forest approached the rank and complicated display of a tropical jungle,
where the prevalence of great heat with great moisture, combined with
the fact that the atmosphere contained a greater proportion of the
natural food of plants, must undoubtedly have forcibly stimulated
vegetation, and in quantity and luxuriance of growth, if not fineness of
organization, produced it in rich abundance. The earth, it is likely,
was one vast forest, which would perform a most important part for the
good of its future inhabitants, helping to purge the air of its excess
of carbonic acid, by which the earth's surface would be prepared for its
new occupants.

The animal remains of this era are not numerous in comparison with those
that go before or follow. Contrary to what the author of the _Vestiges_
supposes (p. 111), insects were already buzzing in the air; there were,
however, no crawling reptiles on the ground, and it is a doubtful point
whether birds cheered the ancient forests with their song. But fishes
reached their most perfect organic type. They were the lords of
creation, and had a structure in conformity with their high office.
Since then the class has increased in its species, but has degenerated
to a less noble type.

In the next formation, the New Red Sandstone, reptiles make their
appearance. They are considered next to fishes in the zoological scale.
So nearly are they sometimes connected, that it is doubtful to which
class they belong. Many reptiles are also amphibious, adapted either to
water or land. The surface of the globe abounded in large flat, muddy
shores, and was suited to the new order of visitants called into

In the Oolite System, mostly consisting of calcareous beds, mammals make
their appearance. Some additions were made to the reptile form. One
animal (the behemite) appeared, but terminated in the next era. In the
following series of rocks mammals increase in abundance. The advance in
land animals is less marked, but considerable in the tertiary strata.
The tapir forms a conspicuous type. One animal of the kind was eighteen
feet long, and had a couple of tusks turning down from the lower jaw, by
which it could attach itself, like the walrus, to a bank, while its body
floated in the water. Many animals of a former period disappear, and are
replaced by others belonging to still existent families--elephant,
hippopotamus, and rhinoceros--though extinct as species. Some of these
forms are startling from their size. The great mastadon was a species of
elephant living on aquatic plants, and reaching the height of twelve
feet. The mammoth was another elephant, and supposed to have survived
till comparatively recent times. The megatherium is an incongruity of
nature, of gigantic proportions, yet ranking in a much humbler order
than the elephant, that of the edenta, to which the sloth, ant-eater,
and armadilla belong. The megatherium had a skeleton of enormous
solidity, with an armour-clad body, and five toes, terminating in huge
claws to grasp the branches on which it fed. Finally, beside the dog,
cat, squirrel, and bear, we have offered to us, for the first time,
oxen, deer, camel, and other specimens of the rumantia. Traces of the
quadrumane, or monkey, have been found in the older tertiaries of
France, India, and England. So that we may now be said to have arrived
at the zoological forms not long antecedent to the appearance of the
chief of all, bimana, or man, and shall here pause to consider the
conclusions of the author of the _Vestiges of Creation_ on the origin of
the organic existences that have been successively exhibited.

It will be convenient, however, first to introduce a synoptic view of
the evolutions of the earth as set forth in this and the preceding
section. For this purpose the author has introduced a parallel table,
exhibiting on one side a scale of animal life beginning with the
humblest and ascending to the highest species; and on the other side the
successive series of rock formations, in which their fossiliferous
remains have been found up to the present superficial deposits of the
globe. Objections have been made to the correctness of the author's
analogies, scale, and his classification of animals, the chief of which
will be adverted to in the next section; but the table is essential, as
presenting at one view an outline of the hypothesis he has sought to

                                                                   OF ROCKS.                RESEMBLES, IN
       1 Infusoria                      _Traces of Infusoria_(?)   1 Gneiss and Mica\
                                                                     Slate System    \
       2 Polypi                         Polypiaria             \                      \
       5 Echinodermata                  Echinodermata           \                      \
     { 7 Brachiopoda       {15-20       Brachiopoda} Crustacea   } 2 Clay Slate System  \  1st month, typically,
Moll-{ 9 Pteropoda   Artic-{Crustacea   Pteropoda  }            /                        } that of an
usca {10 Gasteropoda ulata {12-14       Gasteropoda} Annelides /                        /  avertebrated animal
     {11 Cephalopoda       {Annelides   Cephalopoda}            \                      /
                                                                 } 3 Silurian system  /
      _Vertebrata._                   {  _Remains of Fishes_    /                    /
                                      {  Fishes of low type;   \                        \
      32-36 Fishes                    {    heterocercal; allied }  4 Old Red Sandstone   } 2nd month, that of a fish;
                                      {    to crustacea        /                        /
                                      {  Sauroid Fishes       \
      37 Batrachia (frogs, &c.)          Batrachia             \
                                                                }  5 Carboniferous
      39 Sauria (lizards, &c.)           Sauria                /     formation
      40 Chelonia (tortoises)            Chelonia             /                            3rd month, that of a turtle;
      41-46 Birds                        _Footsteps of Birds_      6 New Red Sandstone     4th month, that of a bird;
      47 Cetacea (dolphins, whales, &c.) _Bones of a            \
                                         Cetaceous Animal_       } 7 Oolite
                                         _Bones of a Marsupial_ /
                                                                   8 Chalk
      48 Pachydermata (tapirs, &c.)      Pachydermata       \
      49 Edentata (sloths)               Edentata            \
      50 Rodentia (squirrels, hare, &c.) Rodentia             \                            5th month, that of a rodent;
      51 Marsupialia (opossums, &c.)     Marsupialia           \
      52 Ruminantia (oxen, stag, &c.)    Ruminantia             \                          6th month, that of a ruminant;
      53 Amphibia (seals)                                        } 9 Tertiary
      54 Digitigrada (dog, cat, &c.)     Digitigrada            /                          7th month, that of a digitigrade animal;
      55 Plantigrada (bear, &c.)         Plantigrada           /
      56 Insectivora (shrew, &c.)        Insectivora          /
      57 Cheiroptera (bats)              Cheiroptera         /
      58 Quadrumana (apes)               Quadrumana         /                              8th month, that of the quadrumana;
      29 Bimana (man)                    Bimana                   10 Superficial deposits  9th month, attains full human character.


In the two last sections we have gone through the earth's geological
history, first of the changes in its physical structure, next of the
mutations in the organic forms that have, in serial order, appeared in
the successive strata of its external envelope, from the period of that
far distant crisis when it was a molten globe on which its primitive
granitic covering was just beginning to concrete, in consequence of
abating heat, until we have arrived at the first prognostic signs of
approaching human existence.

The rock upon rock of vast thickness, by which the earth's crust,
through countless ages, has been formed, unquestionably constitutes a
most extraordinary phenomenon of physical creation, but hardly so
marvellous and incomprehensible as the beginning, progress, and end of
the divers orders of marine and terrestrial beings that filled each
world of life. It is to geologists, to PLAYFAIR, HUTTON, LYELL,
BUCKLAND, SEDGWICK, OWEN, and other great names, native and foreign, to
whom we are indebted for this singular revelation of Nature's works. It
is their unwearied research that has opened to us the surprising
spectacle we have attempted briefly to describe of the diversified
groups of species which have, in the course of the earth's history,
succeeded each other at vast intervals of time; one set of animals and
plants wholly or partly disappearing from the face of our planet, and
others, which apparently did not before exist, becoming the only or
predominant occupants of the globe.

Now the great question arises--whence, by what power, or by what law,
were these reiterated transitions brought about? Were the organized
species of one geological epoch, by some long-continued agency of
natural causes, transmuted into other and succeeding species? or were
there an extinction of species, and a replacement of them by others,
through special and miraculous acts of creation? or, lastly, did species
gradually degenerate and die out from the influence of the altered and
unfavourable physical conditions in which they were placed, and be
supplanted by immigrants of different species, and to which the new
conditions were more congenial?

The last, we confess, is the view to which we are most inclined--first,
because we think a transmutation of species, from a lower to a higher
type, has not been satisfactorily proved; and second, because of the
strong impression we entertain, that the universe, subject to certain
cyclical and determinate mutations, was made complete at first, with
self-subsisting provisions for its perpetual renewal and conservation.
We shall advert to this matter hereafter; but at present it is the
conclusions of the author of the _Vestiges_ that claim consideration. He
adopts the first interpretation of animal phenomena, namely, that there
has been a transmutation of species, that the scale of creation has been
gradually advancing in virtue of an inherent and organic law of
development. Nature, he contends, began humbly; her first works were of
simple form, which were gradually meliorated by circumstances favourable
to improvement, and that everywhere animals and plants exhibit traces of
a parallel advance of the physical conditions and the organic structure.
The general principle, he inculcates, is, that each animal of a higher
kind, in the progress of its embryo state, passes through states which
are the final condition of the lower kind; that the higher kinds of
animals came later, and were developed from the lower kinds, which came
earlier in the series of rock formations, by new peculiar conditions
operating upon the embryo, and carrying it to a higher stage. These
conclusions the author maintains geology has established, and of the
results thence derived he gives the subjoined recapitulation:--

     "In pursuing the progress of the development of both plants and
     animals upon the globe, we have seen an advance in both cases, from
     simple to higher forms of organization. In the botanical department
     we have first sea, afterwards land plants; and amongst these the
     simpler (cellular and cryptogamic) before the more complex. In the
     department of zoology, we see, first, traces all but certain of
     infusoria [shelled animalculæ]; then polypiaria, crinoidea, and
     some humble forms of the articulata and mollusca; afterwards higher
     forms of the mollusca; and it appears that these existed for ages
     before there were any higher types of being. The first step forward
     gives fishes, the humblest class of the vertebrata; and, moreover,
     the earliest fishes partake of the character of the lower
     sub-kingdom, the articulata. Afterwards come land animals, of which
     the first are reptiles, universally allowed to be the type next in
     advance from fishes, and to be connected with these by the links of
     an insensible gradation. From reptiles we advance to birds, and
     thence to mammalia, which are commenced by marsupialia,
     acknowledgedly low forms in their class. That there is thus a
     progress of some kind, the most superficial glance at the
     geological history is sufficient to convince us."

Now this appears plausible and conclusive, but the correctness of the
recapitulation here made, and its conformity to actual nature, have been
sharply disputed. It may be true that sea plants came first, but of this
there is no proof; and of land plants there is not a shadow of evidence
that the simpler forms came into being before the more complex: the
simple and complex forms are found together in the more ancient _flora_.
It is true that we first see polypiaria, crinoidea, articulata, and
mollusca, but not exactly in the order stated by the author. It is true
that the next step gives us fishes, but it is not true that the earliest
fishes link on to the lower sub-kingdom, the articulata. It is true that
we afterwards find reptiles, but those which first appear belong to the
highest order of the class, and show no links of an insensible gradation
into fishes. In the tertiary deposit of the London clay the evidence of
concatenation entirely fails. Among the millions of organic forms, from
corals up to mammalia of the London and Paris basins, hardly a single
secondary species is found. In the south of France it is said that two
or three secondary species struggle into the tertiary strata; but they
form a rare and evanescent exception to the general rule. Organic nature
at this stage seems formed on a new pattern--plants as well as animals
are changed. It might seem as if we had been transported to a new
planet; for neither in the arrangement of the genera and the species,
nor in their affinities with the types of a pre-existing world, is there
any approach to a connected chain of organic development.

For some discrepancies the author endeavours to account, and it is fair
to give his explanation:--

     "Fossil history has no doubt still some obscure passages; and these
     have been partially adverted to. Fuci, the earliest vegetable
     fossils as yet detected, are not, it has been remarked, the lowest
     forms of aquatic vegetation; neither are the plants of the
     coal-measures the very lowest, though they are a low form, of land
     vegetation. There is here in reality no difficulty of the least
     importance. The humblest forms of marine and land vegetation are of
     a consistence to forbid all expectation of their being preserved in
     rocks. Had we possessed, contemporaneously with the fuci of the
     Silurians, or the ferns of the carboniferous formation, fossils of
     higher forms respectively, _equally unsubstantial_, but which had
     survived all contingencies, then the absence of mean forms of
     similar consistency might have been a stumbling-block in our
     course; but no such phenomena are presented. The blanks in the
     series are therefore no more than blanks; and when a candid mind
     further considers that the botanical fossils actually present are
     all in the order of their organic development, the whole phenomena
     appear exactly what might have been anticipated. It is also
     remarked, in objection, that the mollusca and articulata appear in
     the same group of rocks (the slate system) with polypiaria,
     crinoidea, and other specimens of the humblest sub-kingdom; some of
     the mollusca, moreover, being cephalopods, which are the highest of
     their division in point of organization. Perhaps, in strict fact,
     the cephalopoda do not appear till a later time, that of the
     Silurian rocks. But even though the cephalopoda could be shewn as
     pervading all the lowest fossiliferous strata, what more would the
     fact denote than that, in the first seas capable of sustaining any
     kind of animal life, the creative energy advanced it, in the space
     of one formation, (no one can say how long a time this might be,)
     to the highest forms possible in that element, excepting such as
     were of vertebrate structure. It may here be inquired if geologists
     are entitled to set so high a value as they do upon the point in
     the scale of organic life which is marked by the upper forms of the
     mollusca. It will afterwards be seen that this is a low point
     compared with the whole scale, if we are to take as a criterion
     that parity of development which has been observed in the embryo of
     one of the higher animals. _The human embryo passes through the
     whole space representing the invertebrate animals in the first
     month, a mere fraction of its course._ There is indeed a remarkably
     rapid change of forms in such an embryo at first: the rapidity,
     says Professor Owen, is 'in proportion to the proximity of the ovum
     to the commencement of its development;' and, conformable to this
     fact, we find the same zoologist stating that, in the lowest
     division of the animal kingdom, (the Acrita of his arrangement,)
     there is a much quicker advance of forms towards the next above it,
     than is to be seen in subsequent departments. There is, indeed, to
     the most ordinary observation, a rapidity and force in the
     productive powers of the lowest animals, which might well suggest
     an explanation of that rush of life which seems to be indicated in
     the slate and Silurian rocks. With regard to the so-called early
     occurrence of fishes partaking of the saurian character, I would
     say that their occurrence a full formation after the earliest and
     simplest fishes, is, considering how little we know of the space of
     time represented by a formation, not early: their being later in
     any degree is the fact mainly important. The subsequent rise of
     new orders of fishes, fully piscine in character, may be explained
     by the supposition of their having been developed, as is most
     likely, from a different portion of the inferior sub-kingdom. In
     short, all the objections which have been made to the great fact of
     a general progress of organic development throughout the geological
     ages, will be found, on close examination, to refer merely to
     doubtful appearances of small moment, which vanish into nothing
     when rightly understood."

Upon some of the chief points here involved, it may be remarked that the
most eminent physiologists are not agreed; they are not agreed that
animals can be arranged in a series, passing from lower to higher; nor
that animals of a higher kind in the embryo state pass through the
successive stages of the lower kinds; the character of these stages, in
the asserted doctrine, being taken from the brain and heart, and man
being the highest point of the series. There are physiologists too who
deny that the brain of the human embryo at any period, however early,
resembles the brain of any mollusk or of any articulata. It never, they
assert, passes through a stage comparable or analogous to a permanent
condition of the same organ in any invertebrate animal; and in like
manner the spinal cord in the human vertebræ at no period agrees with
the corresponding part of the lower kind of animals. The moment it
becomes visible in the human embryo, it is entirely dorsal in position;
while in mollusks and articulatas a great part, or nearly the whole, is
ventral. The same is true of the heart, or centre of the vascular
system, which has always a different relative position in the great
nervous centre in the human embryo from what it has in any articulate
animal, and in most mollusks.

A second position in the _Vestiges_ appears not to have been
established--namely, as to the uniform geological arrangement of
different organic structures. It is not true that _only_ the lowest
forms of animal life are found in the lowest fossiliferous rocks, and
that the more complicated structures are gradually and exclusively
developed among the higher bands in what might be called a natural
ascending scale. On the contrary, the predaceous cephalopods and the
highly organized crustaceous are among the oldest fossils. Such appears
to be the order of nature as evidenced by facts, and it must be
admitted, however repugnant to preconceived notions or mere mortal
conjectural amendments.

In the third place the evidence seems to preponderate in favour of
_permanency of species_. There can be no doubt that both plants and
animals may, by the influence of breeding, and of external agents
operating upon their constitution, be greatly modified, so as to give
rise to varieties and races different from what before existed. But
there are limits to such modifications, as in the different kind and
breed of dogs; and no organized beings can, by the mere working of
natural causes, be made to pass from the type of one species to that of
another. A wolf by domestication, for example, can never become a dog,
nor the ourang-outang by the force of external circumstances be brought
within the circle of the human species.

In this opinion Mr. LYELL, Dr. PRICHARD, and Mr. LAWRENCE, concur. The
general conclusion at which they have arrived is, that there is a
capacity in all species to accommodate themselves to a certain extent to
a change of external circumstances; this extent varying greatly
according to the species. There may thus be changes of appearance or
structure, and some of these changes are transmissible to the offspring;
but the mutations thus superinduced are governed by certain laws, and
confined within certain limits. Indefinite divergence from the original
type is not possible, and the extreme limit of possible variation may
usually be reached in a short period of time; in short, Professor
WHEWELL concludes (_Indications of Creation_, p. 56), _that every
species has a real existence in nature_, and a transmutation from one to
another does not exist. Thus for example, CUVIER remarks that,
notwithstanding all the differences of age, appearance and habits, which
we find in the dogs of various races and countries, and though we have
(in the Egyptian mummies) skeletons of this animal as it existed 3,000
years ago, the relation of the bones to each other remains essentially
the same; and with all the varieties of their shape and size, there are
characters which resist all the influences, both of external nature, of
human intercourse, and of time.

What varieties, again, in the forms of the different breeds of horses
and horned cattle; racers, hunters, coach horses, dray horses, and
ponies; short-horns and long-horns, Devons and Herefords, polled
galloways and Shetlands; how unlike are the unimproved breeds of cattle
as they existed a century ago before the march of agricultural
improvement began, and how different were most of these as then existing
in what may be called the normal state from the wild cattle produced in
Chillington Park. It has been found, however, when external and
artificial conditions are removed, and these different breeds are
allowed to run wild, as in the Pampas and Australia, no matter what the
diversity of size, shape, and colour of the domestic breeds, they
reverted in their wild state, in these respects, to their primitive

So again with regard to cultivated vegetables and flowers. How different
are the species of the red cabbage and the cauliflower; who would have
expected them to be varieties of the wild _brassica oleracea_? Yet from
that they have been derived by cultivation. They have, however, a
tendency like animals to revert to the original type, or, in the
gardener's phrase, to degenerate, which it requires the utmost care on
his part to counteract. When left to a state of nature, they speedily
lose their acquired forms, properties and character, and regain those of
the original species.

If species be permanent--if no education or training can educe new
kinds--if the higher classes of animals are not the results of
meliorations of the lower--whence did they come? This question we are
not bound to answer. It might be as reasonably asked, whence did the
lower classes come? Geology, like other sciences, does not conduct us to
the _beginning_, it only takes up creation at certain ulterior stages of
development. The changes and construction of the globe may have been
different in different parts; it has not been proved that geological
revolutions have been either universal or contemporary. There may have
been climates and regions adapted to the existence of the higher class
of land animals, while contemporarily therewith other portions of the
globe might be undergoing changes beneath the ocean. It is not
improbable that the human species dwelt nearly stationary for ages on
the old continents of Africa and Asia, while Europe and America were
covered with water. Supposing these new continents formed, either by the
gradual subsidence of the sea or the rising of its bed, successive
inhabitants would follow in the order presented by existing organic
remains. While covered by the sea, what now form Europe and America
could only be peopled by marine animals; but as the land rose or the
waters subsided into their ocean channels, and dry land appeared,
reptiles and amphibiæ might become the occupants; next, as the earth
became drier and more salubrious, the new continent would be resorted to
by terrestrial animals; in a still more advanced stage of purification
and salubrity, man himself, as the lord of all the preceding classes of
immigrants, would take possession, and as he still continues the living
occupant it is premature to look for his petrifaction.


Science has mastered many perplexities, but is almost powerless as ever
in generation. All that lives, and still more all that moves, must have
a pre-existing germ formed independently of the created being, but which
is essential to its existence, and fixes the type of organization. The
old adage--_omne animal ab ovo_--may be taken as generally true. But
though every animal has its primordial egg or germ, all germs are not
identical. In the beginning of life there are other organic elements
besides the ovum. Partly on direct proof and partly on good analogy, it
may be inferred that these differ in different species--that each in the
first stages of existence is bound by a different and immutable mode of
development--and, if so, there can be no embryotic identity. "By no
change of conditions," says Dr. CLARKE, "can two ova of animals of the
same species be developed into different animal species; neither by any
provision of identical conditions can two ova of different species be
developed into animals of the same kind." If these views be right, and
we believe them to be so, there cannot be a transmutation of species
under the influence of external circumstances.

Baffled in the effort either to create species or organically to change
them, attempts have been made to approach nearer to the source of
vitality, and explain the chemical, electric, or mechanical laws by
which the vital principle is influenced. For this purpose various
hypotheses have been put forth; one is the noted conjecture of Lord
MONBODDO, that man is only an advanced development of the chimpanzee or
ourang-outang. A second explanation is that given by LAMARCK, who
surmised, and with much ingenuity attempted to prove, that one being
advanced in the course of generations into another, in consequence
merely of the experience of wants calling for the exercise of faculties
in a particular direction, by which exercise new developments of organs
took place, ending in variations sufficient to constitute new species.
In this way the swiftness of the antelope, the claws and teeth of the
lion, the trunk of the elephant, the long neck of the giraffe have been
produced, it is supposed, by a certain plastic character in the
construction of animals, operated upon for a long course of ages by the
attempts which these animals make to attain objects which their previous
organization did not place within their reach. This is what is meant by
the hypothesis of _progressive tendencies_, and which requires for its
validity not only the assumption of a mere capacity for change, but of
active principles conducive to improvement and the attainment of higher
powers and faculties. More recently ST. HILAIRE has published a paper in
which he speaks of the immutability of species as a conviction that is
on the decline, and that the age of CUVIER is on the close. Carried away
by what Professor PHILLIPS has called a poetical conjecture that cannot
be proved, this writer propounded the speculation that the present
crocodiles are really the offspring of crocodilian reptiles, the
difference being merely the effect of physical conditions, especially
operating during long geological periods upon one original race. The
human species, he contends, are but an advanced development of the
higher order of the monkey tribe, and that the negroes are degenerating
towards that type again. According to him the sivatherium--a fossil
animal that had been found in the Himalaya mountains--was the primeval
type that time had fined down into the giraffe from long-continued
feeding on the branches of trees. Dr. FALCONER and Capt. CAUTLEY,
however, have shown that anatomical proofs are all against this
inference, but if any doubt remained it must yield to the fact, that
among the _fauna_ of the Sewalik hills the sivatherium and the giraffe
were contemporaries.

The author of the _Vestiges of Creation_ has put forth an hypothesis
founded on the preceding conjectures, but more compact and conclusive.
He is, as we have seen, in favour of the progressive change of species,
adopting the notion that men once had tails, and that the rudiments of
this condal appendage are found in an undeveloped state in the _os
coccygis_ (p. 199.) His leading idea of the progress of organic life is
that the "_simplest and most primitive type under a law to which that of
like production is subordinate, gave birth to the type next above it;
that this again produced the next higher, and so on to the very
highest_, the stages of advance being in all cases very small--namely,
from one species only to another; so that the phenomenon has always been
of a modest and simple character." (p. 231.) The arguments by which the
author endeavours to prove his hypothesis may be thus compressed.

According to him foetal development is a science, illustrated by
HUNTER'S great collection of the Royal College of Surgeons, and
established by the conclusions of ST. HILAIRE and TIEDMANN. Its primary
positions are--1. That the embryos of all animals are not
distinguishably different from each other; and, 2. That those of all
animals pass through a series of phases of development, each of which is
the type or analogue of the permanent configuration of tribes inferior
to it in the scale. Higher the order of animals, the more numerous its
stages of progress. Man himself is not exempt from this law. His first
foetal form is that which is permanent in the animalcule; it next passes
through ulterior stages, resembling successively a fish, a reptile, a
bird, and the lower mammalia before it attains its specific maturity.
The period of gestation determines the species; protract it, and the
species is advanced to a higher class. This might be done by the force
of certain conditions operating upon the system of the mother. Give good
conditions and the young she produces will improve in development; give
bad conditions and it will recede. Cases of monstrous birth in the human
species are appealed to, in which the most important organs are left
imperfectly developed; the heart, for instance, having sometimes
advanced no further than the three-chambered or reptile form, while
there are instances of that organ being left in the two-chambered or
fish-like form. These defects arise from a failure of the power of
development in the mother, occasioned by misery or bad health, and they
are but the converse of those conditions that carry on species to
species. The _differences of sexes_ is the result of foetal progress
only one degree less marked than that of a change of species. Sex is
fully ascertained to be a matter of development. All beings are at one
stage of the embryotic progress _female_. A certain number of them are
afterwards advanced to the more powerful sex. For proof of this, the
economy of bees is cited; when they wish to raise a queen-bee, or true
female, they prepare for the larva a more commodious cell, and feed it
with delicate food. But we shall here stop to remark on the author's
argument up to this point.

It is manifest, according to his hypothesis, that neither sex nor
species depend on the ancestral germ, but simply on physical conditions
and mechanical development. But eminent physiologists deny that the
facts are such as he has stated; they deny, as we have stated in a
former section, that the foetal progress is such as the _Vestiges_
represent them to be; they deny that the human embryo, for example,
exhibits in successive stages the form of fish, lizard, bird, beast: on
the contrary, they contend that it is only in the earliest period of the
organic germ, when the manifestations are almost too obscure for
microscopic sense, that any resemblance exists; that immediately the
organic germ becomes sensible to observation, sex and species are found
to be fixed. Take, for example, the vertebrata; in these, by some
mysterious bond of union, the organic globules are seen to arrange
themselves into two nearly parallel rows. We may then say that the keel
of the animal is laid down, and in it we have the first rudiments of a
backbone and a continuous spinal chord. But during the progress and
completion of this first organic process no changes have been observed
assimilating the nascent embryo to any of the inferior animals. The next
series of changes in the germinal membrane are of two kinds--in one the
nervous system, the organs of motion, the intestinal canal, the heart
and blood-vessels are manifested; the other set of changes, which are
subsequent, produce the perfection of the animal and determine its sex.
All these manifestations result from germinal appendages that cannot be
severed or changed without ruin to the embryo, and the conditions
essential to life as the structure advances are due temperature, due
nutriment of the nervous organs, and due access to the atmospheric air.
Without, therefore, pursuing further this part of the inquiry, we shall
remark that the question at issue between the _Vestiges_ and its
opponents is one of facts--of conflicting evidence--to be tried by the
jury of the public, or rather by those who, from science or professional
pursuits, are competent to form an authoritative opinion. Our own
conclusion is, that in face of the testimony adduced against it, the
author's hypothesis is not yet established.

For proof that species do change, and that even new species have been
actually and recently produced, the author has adduced statements
certainly as questionable and little satisfactory as his representation
of foetal phenomena. We can only briefly enumerate them. First we are
told that oats sown at midsummer, if kept cropped down, so as to be
prevented shooting into ear, and then allowed to remain in the ground
over winter, will spring up next year in the form of rye (p. 226). This
need not be disputed about; the experiment can be easily tried; but if
rye were the result, it would be no conclusive proof of a translation of
species. Perhaps the oat-plants perished under the operation of repeated
cuttings, and the rye seed was dormant in the earth and sprung up in its
place; or, if not so, oats and rye may not be different species, only
varieties of the same species. They are scarcely more dissimilar than
the primrose, the cowslip, and the oxlip, which have all been raised
from the seed of the same plant, and are now regarded by botanists as
varieties instead of species.

When lime is laid on waste ground we are told that white clover will
spring up spontaneously, and in situations where no clover-seed could
have been left dormant in the soil (p. 182). But how is this to be
proved? It is certain that seeds will remain dormant in the soil for
centuries, and then spring up the first year the soil is turned up by
the plough. Some seeds have retained their vitality for thousands of
years in the old tombs of Egypt; they have been repeatedly brought to
England, sown, and produced good wheat.

We are next told that wild pigs never have the measles, they are
produced by a _hyatid_ and the result of domestication; that a _tinea_
is found in dressed wool that does not exist in its unwashed state; that
a certain insect disdains all food but chocolate, and that the larva of
_oinopota cellaris_ only lives in wine and beer. All these are articles
manufactured by man, and are adduced as proofs of animal life,
independent of any primordial egg. The entoza are dwelt upon; they are
creatures living in the interior of other animals, of which the
tape-worm that infests the human body is a melancholy instance. In
these illustrations we think the author has some show of reason, for we
feel convinced that there is such a thing as spontaneous generation from
the inorganic substance, wisely provided for clearing the earth of
noxious effluvia and putrid matter, and converting them into new
elements conducive to health and life. We believe in this source of
vitality from its wisdom and necessity, its necessity and wisdom, in our
estimate, being strong presumptive proofs of its existence in harmony
with the general forecast and economy of nature. Of the self-originating
spring of life, some of the examples adduced by the author are proofs,
and of which we have familiar illustrations in cheese-mites, maggots in
carrion, and the green fly that breeds so profusely in weak and decaying
vegetation; in all which by some inscrutable law the organic germ,
without an antecedent, appears to evolve from the dead or putrifying
mass for its riddance and transmutation.

Conceding, however, thus far to the author, we are not prepared to admit
that the creative powers of Messrs. CROSSE and WEEKES has been
established. These gentlemen are said (p. 190) to have introduced a
stranger in the animal kingdom, a species of _acarus_ or mite amidst a
solution of silica submitted to the electric current. The insects
produced by the action of a galvanic battery continued for eleven months
are represented as minute and semi-transparent, and furnished with long
bristles. One of the creatures resulting from this elaborate term of
gestation was observed in the very act of emerging, in its first-born
nudity, and sought concealment in a corner of the apparatus. Some of
them were observed to go back into the parent fluid and occasionally
they devoured each other; and soon after they were called to life, they
were disposed to multiply their species in the common way! So much for
the experiment; against its verity it is alleged, first, that the
_Acarus Crossii_ are not a new species, or if new, that neither Mr.
CROSSE nor Mr. WEEKES, who repeated Mr. CROSSE'S experiment, produced
them, but only aided by the voltaic battery the development of the
insects from their eggs. Such a mode of generation is contrary to all
human experience, and can only be believed in on the strongest
corroborative proof.

Neither by chemistry nor galvanism can man, we apprehend, be more than
instrumental and co-operative, not originally and independently
creative. In almost every form of life, whether animal or vegetable, art
can multiply varieties,--can train, direct--but cannot form new species.
This is the mockery of science. With all its invention and resource, it
cannot produce organic originals. It can rear a crab-apple into a
golden-pippin, or wild sea-weed into a luxuriant cabbage; it can raise
infinite varieties of roses, tulips, and pansies, but can create no new
plant, fruit, or flower. Man can make a steam-engine, or a watch, but he
cannot make a fly, a midge, or blade of grass. He is an ingenious
compiler, but not a creator; and his powers of manufacture and
conversion are restricted within narrow boundaries. He cannot wander far
in the indulgence of his fancies without being recalled, and compelled
to return to the first models set by the Great Architect. The further he
strays from primitive types in the effort to improve, by crossing,
cutting, and grafting, and proportionably less becomes the procreative
force. Hybrids are notoriously sterile. Garden fruit is not permanent,
and requires to be renewed from seed. The law seems universal in plants
and animals, that the vital energy or germ is less forcible and prolific
in the pampered and artificial, than in the natural and wild races.


It is ascertained that the basis of all vegetable and animal substances
consists in nucleated cells--that is, cells having granules within them.
Nutriment is converted into these before being assimilated by the
system. It has likewise been noted that the globules of the blood are
reproduced by the expansion of contained granules; "they are, in short,"
says the _Vestiges_, "_distinct organisms multiplied by the same
fissiporous generation_. So that all animated nature may be said to be
based on this mode of origin; _the fundamental form of organic being is
a globule, having a new globule forming within itself_, by which it is
in time discharged, and which is again followed by another and another,
in endless succession. It is of course obvious, that if these globules
could be produced by any process from inorganic elements, we should be
entitled to say that the fact of a transit from the inorganic to the
organic had been witnessed." (p. 176.) "Globules," the author
continues, "can be produced in albumen by electricity. _If_, therefore,
these globules be identical with the cells which are now held to be
reproductive, it _might_ be said that the production of albumen by
artificial means is the only step in the process wanting. This has not
yet been effected." (p. 177.)

These are the advances towards generation by chemistry and electricity.
The process, however, according to this detail, appears still far from
complete. Albumen is to be produced "by artificial means;" and even then
we should doubt entire success. Chemists have long commanded the power
to resolve the seeds of animal and vegetable life into their elements;
they have analysed them, and shown the exact weight and proportion of
each constituent; but they never could put them together again, or, by
any similar compound produce the primordial egg or organic germ, from
which a living being would arise. A connecting link--a vital spark, or
animating soul--is always wanting to complete the existence of the
Prometheus of the laboratory. Mark, too, the "_if_," and the "_might_,"
in this most lame and impotent hypothesis:--"_If_, therefore, these
globules be identical with the cells which are held to be reproductive,
it _might_ be said," &c. Globules can be easily produced; the passage of
the electric fluid through water will produce aerial globules in rapid
and expansive movement; boys can produce them with suds and a
tobacco-pipe in rapid succession, each, for aught we know, containing a
"granule" that multiplies by "fissiporous generation." But these are not
organic globules, and the author has committed the great perversion in
language or logic of confounding the organic globule of life with the
inorganic globule of a chemist. His theory is more fanciful than that of
LAMARCK, from whom it is derived, and who had, at least, his _petit
corps gelatineux_ to begin with--to commence weaving organic tissue
from--but our author's organic globule is not so substantive a
conception; and as he does not pretend to be able to produce even this
by physical means, he has not made a single step in generation.

This we consider the least satisfactory and successful portion of the
author's work. It assigns no intelligible cause for the origin of
life--it only _begs the question_, by the substitution of one mystery
for another. His law of DEVELOPMENT is of the same description,--without
sense or significancy, unsupported by applicable facts, and is not so
comprehensible a cause of vital changes as LAMARCK'S assigned
progressive tendencies of animals to master the appliances essential to
their wants.


The scheme of the _Vestiges_ is uniformly and consistently worked out;
all phenomena are resolved into gravitation and development--the first
as the law of inorganic, the latter of organic matter. By the last,
however, no new principle is revealed, only a new phrase devised, by the
amplified application of which the author's entire system may be said to
be _begged_ rather than proved; since development is used in a sense
implying an indefinite power of animate and inanimate creation; so that
at last we make no new discovery, only grasp a new nomenclature.

But the author is always interesting, either by the novel display of
facts or the ingenious concatenation of plausibilities. Consistently
with his fundamental notion of animal transmutation, he tries to prove a
family likeness or affinity from the humblest to the highest species. In
this way he seeks to explain the marvel with respect to the huge bulk of
many of the tertiary mammalia--the mammoth, mastadon, and megatherium;
they were in immediate descent from the cetacea, or whale and dolphin
tribe. (p. 267.) Again, human reason is considered no exclusive gift; it
exists subordinately in the instinct of brutes, and is alleged to be
nothing more than a mode of operation peculiar to the faculties in a
humble state of endowment, or early stage of development. CUVIER and
NEWTON are only intellectual expansions of a clown; and this notion is
extended to moral obliquities, the wicked man being characterised as one
"whose highest moral feelings are rudimental." (p. 358.) From a like
principle the writer concurs with Dr. PRICHARD, that mankind may have
had a common origin; that there exists no diversities of colour or
osseous structure not referable to climatable or other plastic agencies
influencing the development of the different races, commencing with the
lowest, or Negro tribe, and ascending upward through the intermediate
aboriginal American, Mongolian, and Malay, to the last and most perfect
stage of the Caucasian type.

Into the verity of these conclusions we are not called upon to enter;
they have been long in controversy, involve a great array of facts and
inductive inferences, and we have only referred to them as corollaries
or collaterals of the author's hypothetical fabric.


We have no charge of impiety to bring against the _Vestiges_. Final
causes, or to express ourselves more intelligibly, a _purpose_ in
creation, is nowhere impugned. The Deity is not degraded by
impersonification in the form and frailties of mortality, but everywhere
the author reverently bows to that august and unsearchable name,
acknowledges the grand and benevolent design--the admirable adaptation
of every created thing to its end and place, and finally concludes in a
strain of grateful and exulting Optimism, that we confess we have not
fully arrived at--namely, that everything "is very good." (p. 387.) From
this impression we have only one constructive drawback to notice in the
author's mechanical but fanciful constitution of the universe, by which
a special Providence in the government of the world seems to be
dispensed with, and the Almighty is placed in the sinecure position of
the Grand Elector of the Abbe SIEYES, with nothing to do. But no divine
attribute is abscinded--no glory of Omnipotence dimmed--whether it
pleases him to rule by direct interpositions of power, or his own
pre-ordained eternal laws.

Still less can we detect in the speculative inquiries of the _Vestiges_
conclusions hostile to the moral and social interests of the community.
Men are formed to be what they are; vice and crime are the fruits of
malorganization, and malorganization is the result of the unfavourable
conditions in which the subject of it has been placed, prior or
subsequent to birth. These are the author's leading metaphysical
inculcations. They impose grave duties upon individuals and upon
society, rightly understood and applied, but we cannot discern a hurtful
tendency in them. They are useful knowledge, knowledge that it would be
well for parents and rulers to master, by showing the importance of
education, of favourable circumstances, and of good moral and physical
training, for rearing happy, well-ordered, and virtuous members of the
community. Supreme in intelligence, man, we firmly believe, is not less
supremely blessed in the means of felicity, provided his real nature and
position in the scheme of creation were understood, recognised, and
carried out. He has his place, his office, and his destiny; he is no
enigma but as an individual; "in the mass," as the author emphatically
remarks, "he is a mathematical problem." His conduct is uniform and
consistent; the result of known and ascertainable causes--causes
calculable and predicable in their consequences, as the statistics of
crime have incontestibly established.


The heavens are wonderful, and the earth is wonderful, and man, who, by
force of intellect, has sought to comprehend the immensity of one and
unravel the formation of the other, is hardly less wonderful than
either. Still the great mystery remains unriddled; our researches have
brought us no nearer the beginning, and the first cause of all continues
unapproachable and undefinable as ever. Instead of explaining physical
creation, we begin with it; we take the existence of matter for granted,
and its attributes for granted, and forthwith begin to fabricate a
universe, without first ascertaining whence was matter, or whence the
laws by which it is impressed, and has been governed in its evolutions.

Nature's greatest phenomena are the celestial spaces and the bodies that
fill them; our own planet and its living occupants. Upon each of these,
their commencement and subsequent vicissitudes, the _Vestiges of
Creation_ have propounded an hypothesis, but one mystery is only sought
to be explained by another still more mysterious. For the fiat of a
Creator chemical affinities and mechanical laws have been substituted,
but aided by these the author has failed to produce a world such as we
find it. Hence we are again driven upon the old tradition, the old
sacred authority, that the world was created out of nothing; and this is
as easy to comprehend as the solution of the _Vestiges_, that it sprang
from that which is certainly next to nothing--a heated fog or universal

When the author deals with the facts of science he interests and
instructs, but when he speculates he only amuses or perplexes, without
advancing knowledge. His terse and luminous description of the astral
firmament deeply impresses with the might and the magnitude of the vast
design; but when he attempts to account for the elimination of suns and
worlds, their formation and arrangement, we are struck by the puerile
folly of his conjectural presumptions.

Descending from this august and glittering canopy to our own planet, we
are not less astonished by the exhibition of the extraordinary
revolutions it has undergone. Geology is the true historian of the
earth. Conducted by the lights it affords, we see an eternity of ages
has rolled before us; we discover a series of worlds rising through the
depths of ocean from the central sphere of heat, amidst boiling floods
and volcanic fires, each new platform of existence, that countless
periods of time had been requisite to form, peopled with its own
congenial forms of organic life, mostly commencing with the simpler, and
ascending by almost imperceptible gradations to the higher and more
complex structures of being. We are struck by the correspondence, by the
_pari passu_ development and formation of the earth's crust and organic
existences, and we are apt hastily to conclude that a relation has
subsisted between them, that contemporary changes have been cause and
effect, and that the improvement of the earth produced the correlative
improvement in animals and plants.

This forms the author's second questionable hypothesis; it is plausible,
but false--repugnant to fact and correct observation. We have no
credible evidence that species have changed, or are changeable by the
utmost efforts of art or favouring conditions; all we can effect is to
improve them within definite limits, but not alter their characteristic
types; and we have certain proof that neither man nor the animal nearly
next to him in organization, has changed either in habits, disposition,
form, or osseus structure during the last 3,000 years. Resemblance is no
proof of identity; and hence, though species run into each other by
almost inappreciable shades of difference, it is no proof that they are
derivative, or other than isolated and self-dependent creations. That
they are such, and shall continue such, seems a fixed canon of Nature,
who, apparently, has prescribed to each its circle of amendment and
range, that like shall beget like--that nought organic shall exist
without ancestral germ--and that the variety of species which
constitutes the beauty and order of nature shall by no chance,
contrivance, or mingling of races, be confounded.

Geological facts are in favour of this conclusion. They attest the
appearance of new species, not their improvement. In each species a
gradation of improvement, approximating from a lower to the next higher
organism, is not perceptible; but each seems to have been made perfect
at first, and most suited to the co-existent state of the earth. The
earliest reptiles were not reptiles of inferior structure; nor the
earliest fishes, birds, or beasts. They were adapted, as we now find
them, to their precise sphere of existence, without progressive
aptitude, preparatory to a higher and translated condition of being.
Geology rather points to the extinction and degeneracy of species than
their improvement; and the fossils of the old red sandstone, and of the
carboniferous formation, attest a loftier and more magnificent creation
of both marine and land products than any now subsisting.

For these and other reasons before adduced, we dismiss the hypothesis of
animal transmutation as unproved and untenable. It pleases and satisfies
superficial views, but confronted with the facts of nature, it vanishes
like a baseless vision. Man is _sui generis_, sole and exclusive in
organization, without pre-existing type or affinity to other species;
and his alleged recent metamorphosis from a monkey, and his first and
far more distant one from a snail or a tadpole, are paradoxes only
worthy of idle debating clubs.

Having attempted to unfold the progression of species by his law of
development, the author next essays to explain the commencement of the
vital principle itself. But here, too, he must have a beginning, and his
"organic globule" answers a similar purpose, in deducing the mystery of
life, as his nuclei in the "nebular hypothesis." In both the perplexity
and real difficulty is not solved or mastered, but evaded. But we have
already remarked on the point, and shall only observe that when the
author can elicit _thought_ from inorganic matter, either by chemistry
or galvanism, we shall think he has made a step in creation. Until then
he does not advance, only deceives himself and readers by verbal
subtleties and baseless suppositions.

Apart from its hypotheses, the _Vestiges_ form a valuable and
interesting work. It is the most complete, elaborate, and--with all its
faults of detail, logic, and inference--the most scientific expositor of
universal nature yet offered to the world. But its hypotheses are
unwarranted, not inductively derived, and can have no hold on men of
science, supported as they mostly are by fanciful analogies, facts
misunderstood or misstated, and illustrations selected without
discrimination or applicability. Theories do sometimes conduce to the
discovery of truth, but are often obstructive; occupy the mind, like
theological controversy, without advancing science; and are viewed with
the same aversion by the philosopher that the political abstractions
tendered to the multitude by the demagogue are viewed by the patriotic

The work, however, will live, and deserves to live. The temple of nature
has been looked into, not profoundly, perhaps, nor always successfully;
but in a fearless spirit, and with a highly-accomplished mind. Had the
divine COSMOS been more fully dwelt upon and depicted--had the harmony,
beauty, and beneficence of creation been more fully and exclusively
displayed--we should have been more gratified; but we are thankful, in
the main, for what we have received. An impulse has been given to
popular inquiry, and a vast field for discussion opened, from which we
can prospectively discern neither less love for man, nor reverence for

Who the author is we have no certain knowledge. It is not, we suspect,
Lord KING, nor Lord THURLOW, nor Lady BYRON; but it may be the author of
the _Essay on the Formation of Opinions_, and of the _Principle of
Representation_. Mr. BAILEY, of Sheffield, though little known,
possesses the fine reasoning powers, intellectual grasp, independence of
research, abstract analysis, and attic style, that would qualify him to
produce the _Vestiges of Creation_, though we never heard that he is a
great natural philosopher. But, as just hinted, deep science is not
evinced by the _Vestiges_, only an able, systematic, and tasteful
arrangement of its distant and recent advances.




(_From the_ ATLAS _of December 20, 1845._)

So many strong objections had been arrayed against the _Vestiges of
Creation_, that the author was called upon to elucidate and reinforce
his argument, or abandon the ground he had taken up. The more candid and
equitable of his judges--those who were disposed to try him upon the
merits, and independently test the claims of his inquiry, as in fairness
it ought to be, as strictly a scientific speculation, regardless of any
constructive bearings it might have on current opinions or
prejudices--could not arrive at any more favourable conclusion than that
he had failed to establish his hypotheses. Indeed this was the only
verdict that could be safely delivered in. The impugners of the work
were in the same helpless predicament as its author, who had, however,
more venturously presumed to unravel unsearchable mysteries, concerning
which, in the existing state of science, men can only conjecture,
wonder, and adore, utterly unable to affirm or deny aught respecting
them. What, for instance, with the remotest semblance of certainty, can
be predicated of the stellar orbs? Is it not idle almost to speculate on
the impenetrable secret of their origin when their very existence is
undefinable--when their end, their glittering discs, and all but
immeasurable distances are wholly unapproachable? Nor hardly less beyond
our grasp is the commencement of organic existences. We do pride
ourselves on recent advances to the sources of entity; we tear up the
dead, we torture the living, and sedulously chronicle every beat of the
heart and vibration of the brain to slake an insatiable curiosity, yet
how unsatisfactory our reach towards the hidden springs of life--how
limited our attainments, when the creation of a single blade of grass,
the humblest worm, a poor beetle, or gadfly, would baffle the utmost
structural skill of the greatest philosopher! Into the fathomless depths
of our own globe we have also essayed to penetrate. Poor beings! of
three score and ten, whose utmost historical span extends only to some
thousands of years, have sought to trammel up the terrene vicissitudes
of millions of ages anterior to their own existence! Does not this
savour of a vain research, or of a laudable thirst for knowledge?

Over all these dark and solemn inscrutabilities, however, the _Vestiges_
undertook to throw a glare of light, to reveal their beginning,
progression, order, relations, and law of development. Although daring
in aim, the attempt was not to be wholly deprecated. While religious
freedom had been secured, philosophy had become timid, official, and
timeserving; retentive as FONTENELLE of the truths within its grasp, and
fearful to give utterance to aught that might disturb the stillness of
the temple, the lecture-room, or fashionable auditory. Modern teachers
had been used so long to the Baconian go-cart, that they had become as
apprehensive of losing the inductive clue as the PALINURUSES of old of
the sight of the directing shore. But the time had arrived when it
seemed expedient to relax the strictness of the investigative rule, and
afford scope for a more systematic, if not speculative research. Science
had made great acquisitions, and it seemed desirable, if only for
experiment sake, to see what kind of FRANKENSTEIN would result from the
architectural union of her scattered limbs. This formed the scope of the
_Vestiges of Creation_; novelties were not propounded, only a portentous
skeleton raised from the truths physical astronomy, geology, chemistry,
physiology, and natural history had established. Does the author recoil
from his work? No; these _Explanations_ attest that he is steadfast in
the worship of the idol of his brain. He retracts nothing, he
re-asserts, elucidates, and often dexterously turns the weapons of the
most formidable and orthodox of his adversaries against them, by showing
from their writings that they had, in detail at least, acquiesced in
the truths that they now, in a generalised form, seek to controvert and
repudiate. So much adroitness and pertinacity in the author can hardly
fail to provoke resistance, if not asperity, despite of the
imperturbable temper in which he maintains the combat. The learned have
been disturbed in their daily routine, by the discharge from an unknown
hand, of a massive pyrites, that has diffused as much consternation
among the herd of modish elocutionists, college tutors, and chimpanzee
professors, as Jove's ligneous projectile among the lieges of the
standing pool. For this commotion we have, on a former occasion,
conceded that there existed valid reasons, and we hasten to see the way
in which they have been met in the rejoinder before us; contenting
ourselves, as we needs must, by briefly noticing some of the salient
points of the controversy.

First of the Nebular Hypothesis. The chief objection to this theory is,
that the existence of nebulous matter in the heavens is disproved by the
discoveries made by the telescope of the Earl of ROSSE. By the reach of
this wondrous tube, masses of light, rendered apparently nebulous by
their vast distance, have been resolved into clusters of stars, and
thence the assumption seemed unwarrantable that any luminous matter,
different from the solid bodies composing planetary systems existed in
the heavenly spaces. But to this the author replies, that there are two
classes of nebulæ--one resolvable into constellations--another
comparatively near, that remains unaffected by telescopic power, and
that until this last description can be separated, the nebular
hypothesis is not disproved. It is thus brought to an issue of facts,
both as to the existence of nebulæ of this latter kind, and the optical
power to resolve them into distinct stars.

But the author can hardly claim this negative success in grappling with
a second objection--namely, his assumed origin of _rotatory motion_.
According to him, a confluence of atoms round a spherical centre of
attraction, would cause the agglomerated mass to revolve upon its axis
in the manner of our earth. This was denied by everybody the least
acquainted with the laws of motion; and thus did one of his imaginary
solutions of a great phenomenon of the universe fall dead to the ground.
This he now seems to concede, but in a sentence unintelligible to us,
in which an undoubted physical law is spoken of as only an _abstract
truth_ (p. 20). He obviously still clings to his first mistaken
inference, and calls to his aid Professor NICHOL, whom he has also
pressed into his service to help him over the last-mentioned difficulty
by the Professor's affirmation of a diversity of nebulous clusters. But
the Professor does not commit himself to the extent of the author; his
aqueous whirlpool is cited from HERSCHEL, only in illustration, and
correctly said to be produced by the unequal force of convergence of a
fluid to a common centre. But the author's nuclei, disposed in his
notable "fire-mist," did not act with unequal force on the ambient
vapour, and whose central convergence in consequence, would not produce
rotation or motion of any kind. This was the real matter in question,
the author was taken up on his own premises, and the results he assumed
to follow from them proved to be inconsistent with the unquestionable
laws of gravitating matter.

He has gone over the geological portion of his subject with much care,
but if competent, it would be impossible within our narrow limits to
accompany him; nor could the discussion be made either interesting or
intelligible except to the scientific, who have devoted attention to an
extremely curious, but still obscure and unsettled field of
investigation. He has elaborately cleared up many points, and
successfully, we think, answered some weighty objections, but we are not
yet converts to his theory of organic development. One passage we shall
extract; after adverting to the facts established by powerful evidence,
that during the long term of the earth's existence, strata of various
thickness were deposited in seas composed of matter worn away from the
previous rocks; that these strata by volcanic agency were raised into
continents, or projected into mountain chains, and that sea and land
have been constantly interchanging conditions. He continues:--

     "The remains and traces of plants and animals found in the
     succession of strata show that, while these operations were going
     on, the earth gradually became the theatre of organic being, simple
     forms appearing first, and more complicated afterwards. _A time
     when there was no life_ is first seen. We then _see life begin, and
     go on_; but whole ages elapsed before man came to crown the work of
     nature. This is a wonderful revelation to have come upon the men of
     our time, and one which the philosophers of the days of Newton
     could never have expected to be vouchsafed. The great fact
     established by it is, that the organic creation, as we now see it,
     was not placed upon the earth at once; it observed a PROGRESS. Now
     we can _imagine_ the Deity calling a young plant or animal into
     existence instantaneously; but we see that he does not usually do
     so. The young plant and also the young animal go through a series
     of conditions, advancing them from a mere germ to the fully
     developed repetition of the respective parental forms. So, also, we
     can _imagine_ Divine power evoking a whole creation into being by
     one word; but we find that such had not been his mode of working in
     that instance, for geology fully proves that organic creation
     passed through a series of stages before the highest vegetable and
     animal forms appeared. Here we have the first hint of organic
     creation having arisen in the manner of natural order. The analogy
     does not prove identity of causes, but it surely points very
     broadly to natural order or law having been the mode of procedure
     in both instances."

To the allusion in the last sentence there can be no demur; that
there is "natural order or law" in creation who will contest? But it
is the author's law and the author's order that are in dispute--his
transmutation of species, the higher classes emerging from and
partly annihilating the lower, under meliorated conditions of being.
That the simpler form of organic life should first appear; that
remains of invertebrated animals should be first found; then, with
these, fish, being the lowest of the vertebrated; next, reptiles and
birds, which occupy higher grades; and finally, along with the rest,
mammifers, the highest of all--all this appears natural enough. _How
could it be otherwise?_ When the earth was a slimy bed, what but the
lowest forms of life--the mollusca, and other soft animals, without
bony structure--could possibly live in or occupy it? During the
carboniferous era, when the earth was enveloped in an atmosphere of
hydrogen, vegetation might thrive; but man, and animals like
him, dependent on vital air, could not exist; nor are remains of
them found in this epoch of the globe's vicissitudes. All this
is comprehensible. But the perplexing inquiry is, whence did
the successive grades of animals emerge? That they could not
contemporaneously exist; when the whole earth was a shoreless sea,
and that animals could not live is certain; but were they created in
succession by the Divine fiat, or did they emerge, as our author
supposes and elaborately tries to prove, from the humblest primitive
forms, by an inscrutable law of progression--evidenced, he contends,
by geological facts--though by some his facts are disputed--and
certainly not confirmed by any animal changes observable within the
limits of human experience?

There is another alternative offers, which would dispense both with the
author's hypothesis and the need of successive organic creations by a
special Providence. Is it a geological fact, since life began, that the
earth has _simultaneously_ undergone throughout its entire surface the
revolutions assigned to it? May it not always, from that period, have
consisted, as it now does, of water and dry land, alternately changing
their sites, but always apart, and allowing of the contemporary
existence on some portion of its surface of all the varieties of tribes
ever found upon it? The fossiliferous rocks that formed the primeval
sea-beds could only be deposited by the abrasion from the anterior and
higher rocks. It has always appeared to us that this conjecture is
worthy of consideration, and, if found tenable, would reconcile many

Upon subjects so obscure, and to which the human intellect has been only
recently directed, it is not surprising that men of science have not
arrived at uniformity of conclusion. Unable to reconcile phenomena with
positive knowledge, there are names of no mean repute who would reserve
certain domains of creation as the fields of special interventions. To
this class Dr. WHEWELL appears to belong, who assumes that "events not
included in the _course of nature_ have formerly taken place." In the
same way Professor SEDGWICK, to account for the appearance of certain
animals, says, "They were not called into being by any law of nature,
but by a power above nature." He adds, "they were created by the hand of
GOD, and adapted to the conditions of the period." To this the author of
the _Vestiges_ assents, with the explanation (p. 134) that their
existence was not the result of a "special exertion of power to meet
special conditions," but of an antecedent and primitive law of
development suited to the new exigencies, and emanating from the
Creator. This, he contends, does not lower our estimate of the Divine
character; and, in proof, cites Dr. DODDRIDGE, who cannot be suspected
of irreverence. "When we assert," says the pious and amiable author, "a
perpetual Divine agency, we readily acknowledge that matters are so
contrived as not to need a Divine interposition in a different manner
from that in which it had been constantly exerted. And it must be
evident that an unremitting energy, displayed in such circumstances,
_greatly exalts our idea of God, instead of depressing it_; and,
therefore, by the way, is so much more likely to be true." Against
constructive inferences it is urged, in the _Explanations_--

     "As to results which may flow from any particular view which reason
     may show as the best supported, I must firmly protest against any
     assumed title in an opponent to pronounce what these are. The first
     object is to ascertain truth. No truth can be derogatory to the
     presumed fountain of all truth. The derogation must lie in the
     erroneous construction which a weak human creature puts upon the
     truth. And practically it is the true infidel state of mind which
     prompts apprehension regarding any fact of nature, or any
     conclusion of sound argument."

The writer then quotes Sir JOHN HERSCHELL as having some years ago
announced views strictly conformable to those subsequently taken of
organic creation in the _Vestiges_:--

     "'For my part,' says Sir John, 'I cannot but think it an inadequate
     conception of the Creator, to assume it as granted that his
     combinations are exhausted upon any one of the theatres of their
     former exercise, though, in this, as in all his other works, we are
     led, by _all analogy_, to suppose that he operates through a series
     of intermediate causes, and that, in consequence, _the origination
     of fresh species, could it ever come under our cognizance, would be
     found to be a natural, in contradistinction to a miraculous
     process_,--although we perceive no indications of any process
     actually in progress which is likely to issue in such a result. In
     his address to the British Association at Cambridge, (1845), he
     said with respect to the author's hypothesis of the first step of
     organic creation--'The transition from an inanimate crystal to a
     globule capable of such endless organic and intellectual
     development, is as great a step--as unexplained a one--as
     unintelligible to us--and in any sense of the word as _miraculous_,
     as the immediate creation and introduction upon earth, of every
     species and every individual would be!'"

The Rev. Dr. PYE SMITH is next adduced:--

     "'Our most deeply investigated views of the Divine Government,'
     says he, 'lead to the conviction that it is exercised in the way of
     _order_, or what we usually call _law_. God reigns according to
     immutable principles, that is _by law_, in _every part of his
     kingdom--the mechanical, the intellectual, and the moral_; and it
     appears to be most clearly a position arising out of that fact,
     that _a comprehensive germ which shall necessarily evolve all
     future developments_, down to the minutest atomic movements, is a
     more suitable attribution to the Deity, than the idea of a
     necessity for irregular interferences.'"

Lastly, the reviewer of the _Vestiges_ in _Blackwood's Magazine_, who is
understood to be a naturalist of distinguished ability, expresses
himself in an equally decided manner:--

     "To reduce to a system the acts of creation, or the development of
     the several forms of animal life, no more impeaches the authorship
     of creation, than to trace the laws by which the world is upheld,
     and its phenomena perpetually renewed. The presumption naturally
     rises in the mind, that the same Great Being would adopt the same
     mode of action in both cases.... To a mind accustomed, as is every
     educated mind, to regard the operations of Deity as essentially
     differing from the limited, sudden, evanescent impulses of a human
     agent, it is distressing to be compelled to picture to itself, the
     power of God as put forth _in any other manner than in those slow,
     mysterious, universal laws, which have so plainly an eternity to
     work in;_ it pains the imagination to be obliged to assimilate
     those operations, for a moment, to the brief energy of a human
     will, or the manipulations of a human hand.... No, there is nothing
     atheistic, nothing irreligious, in the attempt to conceive
     creation, as well as reproduction, carried on by universal laws."

We have dwelt so much upon this matter because it is one in which
popular feelings are likely to be most deeply interested. We shall give
the author, too, the benefit of his _Explanations_ on another point,
elucidating his former statement of the transmutation of a crop of oats
into a crop of rye:--

     "'At the request,' says Dr. Lindley, 'of the Marquis of Bristol,
     the Reverend Lord Arthur Hervey, in the year 1843, sowed a handful
     of oats, treated them in the manner recommended, by continually
     stopping the flowering stems, and the produce, in 1844, has been
     for the most part ears of a very slender barley, having much the
     appearance of rye, with a little wheat, and some oats; samples of
     which are, by the favour of Lord Bristol, now before us.' The
     learned writer then adverts to the 'extraordinary, but certain
     fact, that in orchidaceous plants, forms just as different as
     wheat, barley, rye, and oats, have been proved by the most rigorous
     evidence, to be accidental variations of one common form, brought
     about no one knows how, but before our eyes, and rendered
     permanent by equally mysterious agency. Then says Reason, if they
     occur in orchidaceous plants, why should they not also occur in
     corn plants? for it is not likely that such vagaries will be
     confined to one little group in the vegetable kingdom; it is more
     rational to believe them to be a part of the _general system_ of
     creation.... How can we be _sure_, that wheat, rye, oats, and
     barley, are not all accidental off-sets from some unsuspected

It may be so; but this would only prove that the "unsuspected species"
included greater varieties, not that a really defined species was
transmutable into another. But it is a point upon which no satisfactory
result can be arrived at, since naturalists are not agreed in the
classification of species, nor what attributes constitute one.

The Broomfield experiment is again brought forward, as decisive of the
power to originate new life from inorganic elements. It will be
remembered that Mr. WEEKES, of Sandwich, continued during three years to
subject solutions to electric action, and invariably found insects
produced in these instances, while they as invariably failed to appear
where the electric action was not employed, but every other condition
fulfilled. In a letter to the author of the _Vestiges_--two are
inserted, one on the independent generation of fungi--Mr. WEEKES says--

     "One hundred and sixty-six days from the commencement of the
     experiment--the first acari seen in connexion therewith, six in
     number and nearly full-grown, were discovered on the outside of the
     open glass vessel. On removing two pieces of card which had been
     laid over the mouth of this vessel, several fine specimens were
     found inhabiting the under surfaces, and others completely
     developed and in active motion here and there within the glass.
     Making my visit at an hour when a more favourable light entered the
     room, swarms of acari were found on the cards, about the glass
     tumbler, both within and without, and also on the platform of the
     apparatus. At this identical hour Dr. J. Black favoured me with a
     call, inspected the arrangements, and received six living specimens
     of the acarus produced from solution in the open vessel."

Specimens of the insect were sent to Paris, when they set a whole
conclave of philosophers a-laughing, because they were found to contain
ova. Other specimens were sent to London, but there their fate was
sealed by their being found to be, not a new species, but one then
abundant in the country. For ourselves we think the experiment not
conclusive. We adopt HUME'S principle. All but universal experience
having established that life is _ex ovo_ only, we must have a
proportionate body of counter evidence to establish a different mode of
generation. At all events, Mr. WEEKES'S protracted gestation of 166 days
by his galvanic battery is not likely, in the existing rage for
despatch, to supersede the existing routine of reproduction.



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