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Title: Essays on Darwinism
Author: Stebbing, Thomas R. R.
Language: English
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    _Late Fellow and Tutor of Worcester College, Oxford._


    [_All rights reserved_]



The opinions of Mr. Darwin have now been for many years before the
world. His own book on ‘The Origin of Species by means of Natural
Selection,’ unfolds and supports them with admirable clearness of
argument. Far from being an abstruse and tedious work, it carries the
reader on with unflagging interest to the close. Observations and
experiments, some the most simple, some the most elaborate, notes
on natural history, as well from every quarter of the globe as from
almost every province of nature, are brought to bear upon the subject
without confusion of thought or embarrassment of style. The language
flows easily in its calm, temperate, unegotistical course. There is no
disguising of objections, no seeking of opponents. There is an evident
searching after truth. Of its form or of its shadow the author’s mind
as evidently retains a bright clear vision, and what he sees he tries
to make others see as clearly as he sees it himself. The suspicion and
dislike which are aroused in some minds by the very name of Darwinism
cannot be retained by those who read Mr. Darwin’s own description
of his theory and the grounds which slowly led him to adopt it. Few
readers can be dull enough to feel no charm at finding the most
unlooked-for results deduced from the simplest illustrations, from
old familiar facts, from every-day occurrences, or at finding what
seem examples of the most special and varied contrivance reconciled to
the simplicity of a single general law. Many readers will be inclined
to whisper to themselves at many passages, ‘we never thought of that
before,’ ‘we never looked at the matter in that light,’ ‘how curious
if after all it should be true,’ ‘it looks less wicked and silly than
we used to think it.’ Whether the theory itself be right or wrong, the
general effect of the book which describes it can only be to quicken
the minds of its readers, to enlarge for them the circle of ideas, to
open up before them new lines of thought and enquiry, to let them see
the whole face of nature teeming with mysteries and revelations, an
inexhaustible vintage for the human reason to gather in.

Such being the character of Mr. Darwin’s own Work, the handful of
Essays and Letters contained in the present volume, supporting the same
views by almost the same arguments, may seem a superfluous contribution
to the literature of the question. And so it would be if all who
condemn and ridicule Darwinism would be at the pains to study Mr.
Darwin’s Work. But opinions passed upon it and allusions made to it in
common conversation and in popular lectures often testify to nothing
except supreme ignorance of its general merits. To judge by such
hearsay, one might believe that Mr. Darwin had lived all his life shut
up in a dove-cote, and never seen or examined any other living creature
than a pigeon. Another estimate will dismiss the whole subject, scathed
with indignant laughter, by simply explaining, that, according to
this fatuous theory, man is descended from a monkey. Naturally no
well-minded persons will consent to be _pithecoid_ in origin, whether
they know what _pithecoid_ means or not; still less can a theory be
accepted as moral and good, according to which, as some will tell
you, the giraffe lengthened its neck by a series of stretchings, and
the elephant acquired a trunk by continually pulling its own nose.
A disinterested advocate will perhaps be allowed to deprecate these
burlesque and ignorant representations, and to strip from what is
merely vulgar prejudice the guise of magnanimity and fine feeling. The
range of topics embraced in the present volume, however feebly handled,
and however inaccurate that handling may in some points prove to be,
should at least teach those who are willing to learn, that the whole
subject is a great one, and worthy of attention, claiming earnest
thought and varied learning to decide upon it in all its bearings;
it cannot be disposed of by caricaturing; it cannot be settled in
deference to any religious prepossession; it must be examined with open
eyes, and with the full candour of mind which great subjects demand,
and which great subjects nobly repay.

Some of the following papers treat of matters on which no man of
scientific education can be supposed at the present day to retain even
a vestige of doubt. But thousands of persons, whom in ordinary courtesy
we must call well-educated, although they know nothing of science,
hold opinions on the Flood and the age of the world as irreconcileable
with the best-approved scientific conclusions as they are with the
Darwinian Theory. In appealing to the judgment of such persons, as well
as in considering the measure of his own powers, the present writer
has thought it expedient to confine himself, for the most part, to the
clearest and simplest arguments, leaving on one side the subtle and

The letters collected at the end of the volume may be looked on
as short essays of a somewhat informal character. The apology for
reprinting them is this, that whereas in a regular essay the writer
assumes his own standpoint, and may be suspected of ignoring the
vantage-ground of his opponents, in replying to a correspondent he
must, at least to some extent, follow the lead of an antagonist, and
fight, if he fights at all, on the field which another has chosen. As
I cannot reprint the various able compositions which I have attempted
to answer, it will be fair, to one at least of the writers, to remark
that I have personal reason to know that he still retains the opinions
of which I attempted to disabuse him. He contrives to reconcile this
obduracy to his own intelligence by laying stress on the candid
admission made by Darwinians, that the Theory of Development is for the
present that which they call it,--a Theory, and not a demonstration.
No one pretends to answer fully every objection that has been urged
against the Theory. The evidence is as yet incomplete. By its very
nature it must perhaps always to some extent remain so. The proof
depends in part upon analogy, which leads to conclusions possible
or probable, rather than to what is demonstrably certain. But the
advocates of the Theory, remembering Bishop Butler’s maxim, that ‘to
us probability is the very guide of life,’ endeavour to maintain that
their opinions have far more than that minimum of preponderance which,
in Butler’s view, not only justifies, but imperiously exacts, the
adhesion of reasonable beings.

            THOMAS R. R. STEBBING.

    Torquay, Feb. 6, 1871.



    DARWINISM[1]                                               3

    THE NOACHIAN FLOOD[1]                                     34

    INSTINCT AND REASON[2]                                    62

    HUMAN NATURE AND BRUTE NATURE                             82

    THE LAPSE OF TIME[1]                                      93



    DARWINISM: THE NOACHIAN FLOOD                            147

    DARWINISM: SCIENCE AND RELIGION                          152

    DARWINISM, AND THE FIRST VERTEBRATE                      156




    THE GENESIS OF SPECIES                                   173

    INDEX                                                    181

NOTES to pp. 13 and 34.

It has been kindly pointed out to me by Mr. James Parker of Oxford
that there is an error in Mr. Darwin’s calculation reproduced in page
13 of this volume. Upon the data supplied, the increase in the number
of elephants there mentioned would require 750 years instead of 500.
The further increase calculated in the same page, would in like manner
require seven or eight additional centuries instead of five.

Mr. Parker also suggests that the expressions in page 34, ‘taken for
granted,’ ‘taught for centuries,’ seem to ignore Bishop Stillingfleet
and other writers of his time, who saw good reason for believing the
Flood in the days of Noah not to have been universal. I am glad to
explain that I did not by any means intend to imply that there were no
exceptions to the general state of opinion, for I am well aware that
there are at the present day some schools, a few nurseries, and even
one or two pulpits, into which the truth on this point has been allowed
to penetrate.



The object of this lecture is to explain, with as much simplicity as
possible, the opinions of Darwin on the chain of secondary causes
which has resulted in the wonderful structures known to us as living
creatures, and including, in an almost infinite variety, lichen and
moss, mite and mildew, grass and flower and branching tree; mollusk and
reptile and fish; the swan, the petrel, the ostrich and the eagle; the
cunning ape; the faithful hound; the elephant, sagacious and mindful of
insults; the lion, capable of generosity; the horse, patient of labours
and eager for victory; and, along with a multitude of others diversely
qualified, One, without doubt partaking of the animal nature that lives
and dies, yet seeming to partake of something beyond it, seeming to
be distinguished from all the rest by its postures, by its laughing,
by its cooking its food, by its articulate language, by its powers of
reasoning; and yet linked and united to its inferiors by a multitude
of affinities and sympathies, resemblances of form and nature, and
by the very details of its superiority. So ran the Pagan legend that
Providence had compacted man’s moral nature out of particles taken from
each of the lower animals, giving him the wisdom of the serpent and
the fiery courage of the lion[3]. To this sense of an intimate union
between man and the rest of the animate creation have the writers of
fables in all ages appealed, while imparting their lessons of prudence
and virtue under the guise of transactions between birds and beasts and
trees of the forest.

It is well known that after the discovery of almost every great
truth a sort of feeling or instinct of it can be traced back in
obscure hints, in chance expressions, in vague guesses, in flights
of imagination, so that people very soon begin to fancy that they
have all along understood and maintained the very theory, which, on
its first appearance, they violently rejected as something false and
even vicious. Darwinism has this characteristic of truth, that it has
often been obscurely anticipated. It has this other characteristic,
that its fiercest opponents have already begun insensibly to adopt its
conclusions, and to speak its language, to opine, even, that the credit
of its promulgation belongs to themselves.

In Mr. Darwin’s own historical sketch of the rise and progress of his
doctrine, he does full justice to those who have preceded and who
have worked with him in bringing it to light and in establishing its
foundations. The opinion that species originate, not by successive
miraculous interpositions or acts of creation, but by birth, was
held as far back as 1794-5, by four men of distinguished genius, by
Lamarck, by Mr. Darwin’s own grandfather, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, by
Geoffroy Saint Hilaire, and by the poet Goethe. In the present day, Mr.
Wallace, Mr. Herbert Spencer, the great zoologist Van Baer, and others,
independently of Mr. Darwin, seem to have come more or less to the same
conclusions, which have been warmly espoused and powerfully vindicated
by Dr. Hooker, Professor Huxley, and Sir Charles Lyell. I mention
these names because it seems to be their due, and not for the sake of
giving weight to any argument because of the scientific renown of its
advocates; there are names, it may be, equally distinguished on the
opposite side. But one thing ought to be observed, that the progress
of scientific enquiry has achieved so much during the last hundred
years that the opinions of the older Naturalists have an importance
when they agree with modern conclusions, which they cannot have when
they differ from them, unless it can be shown that the observations,
the experiments, the discoveries of late years had all been made by,
or were known to, the earlier enquirers. For those, however, who think
the opinions of a past generation of necessity more trustworthy than
those of the present, Sir Charles Lyell has done well to point out that
Linnæus himself looked forward to a time when it should be proved that
in botany, at least, all species of a genus had descended from the same

This is precisely Mr. Darwin’s opinion on the origin of species at
large. He applies it to the animal as well as to the vegetable kingdom.
He extends it by considering genera themselves as species of the orders
which contain them, and orders as species of the great classes to
which they as orders respectively belong. In a word, he considers that
all living forms whatsoever are descended from a very few original
ancestors of the simplest type, and that this primæval group itself
had, probably, a common parentage. Wildly improbable, ludicrously
absurd, degrading to humanity, and irreligious, no doubt this
hypothesis has appeared to many, and will continue so to appear till
it has been studied with attention, and studied without prejudice. To
rescue it from the prejudice which would make it in the eyes of some a
pernicious and forbidden study, is the hope which underlies the object
of the present lecture.

Round Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square there are four colossal
statue lions, the conception of a great artist. They look unnatural,
not because of their size, or their position, or the material of which
they are made, but because they are all so exactly alike; and exact
likenesses are scarcely ever found in animate nature, unless it be
among the very simplest organisms. When we speak of a striking likeness
between two human beings, we evidently imply that a high degree of
similarity is uncommon, and, therefore, noteworthy. What is true of
even the most highly organized animals, is true, as far as observation
goes, of all below them. Horses, dogs, sheep, kine, afford familiar
illustrations of this principle. To the uneducated eye, individual
differences may be totally unapparent, which are yet perfectly
conspicuous to the trainer, the huntsman, the shepherd, and the drover.
Wild creatures know their mates; wild herds select their leaders; the
bee and the ant are capable of distinguishing the various individuals
of their own communities, for strangers of the very self-same species
with themselves they repel or destroy[5]. As each creature is, in
numberless cases, the offspring of two unlike parents, it cannot be
an exact copy of either, and the influences of the two parents may
be combined in various proportions in each of the offspring; but the
parents themselves are continually changing, with the variations of
age and food and climate, so that the very rule of resemblance between
the producers and the produced will entail another rule of unlikeness
between the several members of an offspring not born all at once.

It is a fact, which cannot be denied, that in numberless instances the
young of a creature differ more or less from the parents and likewise
among themselves. Why it should be so has been in part explained.
This is the _Variability_, without which Natural Selection could
never have been thought of, because without differences there would
have been nothing to select. But this Variability being granted, the
Darwinian theory becomes possible--becomes quite capable of referring
back the elephant and the pig, for instance, to the same ancestry. The
difference between progenitors and their immediate offspring are, it
is true, comparatively slight. It would, indeed, be a prodigious birth
if one family contained at once a young monkey, a little pig, a big
donkey, and a great goose; but it is obviously possible that any amount
of unlikeness may be found between the descendants of common ancestors,
if we are not confined to the differences of a single generation, but
are allowed to multiply them through as many thousands as we require.
Say that two race-courses differ in length by one yard; multiply that
difference 1760 times and they will then differ by a whole mile. If,
on leaving this Lecture-room, you found the trees--which half-an-hour
ago were bare and leafless--clothed with summer verdure, your gardens
blooming with a wealth of roses, your orchards laden with autumnal
fruits, you would scarcely credit your senses; and yet, when the
requisite number of half-hours, reckoned by days and months, shall
have elapsed, you will greet these wonderful changes as perfectly
natural and nothing to be wondered at. In a dissolving view that is
well managed, Alpine peak and glacier-pass melt imperceptibly into some
tall cathedral and sunshiny market-place. The two scenes are wholly
unlike, and yet it is contrived that at no moment should the passage
from one to the other be discernibly abrupt. Is it not possible then to
conceive that through an immense multitude of generations the form of
an ape might be derived from the form of a fish? We do not mean to say
that this has actually happened, but supposing the descendant of the
fish to vary continuously in the direction of the ape-like form, the
result would be intelligible enough. What, then, is there to determine
variation in any particular direction, and what limits are there,
if any, to the system of interminable change which the principle of
variation seems to involve?

Of course it is understood that the general mass of characters or
qualities belonging to any creature are inherited by one generation
from its immediate ancestors and transmitted to its immediate
descendants, so that for a long period there would be a large number
of individuals in the world united into a group by common characters,
which according to their supposed importance we might call specific
or generic. But besides this, there is the very curious principle of
_Reversion_ to be taken into account, as largely conducing to the
comparative permanence of species. In Norway, I believe, when the
father’s name is Jack, and the son’s name is Tom, Tom is called Tom
Jackson, and Tom is in the habit of giving his own eldest son the
grandfather’s name, and then Tom Jackson’s son is called Jack Tomson.
Now, in the same way, in nature it not unfrequently happens that
when a long-nosed man is father of a short-nosed son, the son of the
short-nosed man inherits by reversion the more elongated feature of
his grandsire. Under certain conditions, which however greatly limit
it, the operation of this principle of Reversion may extend, so far as
we know, to any quality whatever after an interval of any number of
generations. The tendency, therefore, is to the permanence of species,
and yet, as will be shown in the sequel, it has furnished Mr. Darwin
with an additional argument to prove that species are not permanent. It
must be borne in mind that when a character reverts from a very distant
ancestor, the creature which inherits it will have numerous other
qualities, all probably more or less differing from those originally
united to the reversionary character; just as if, in the School of Art,
a picture by Raffaelle were shown to fifty pupils, and when it had been
copied by the first, the second pupil were to make a copy of the copy,
and so on to the end, each of the copies would no doubt differ more and
more from the original, and yet in the very last, by the help of memory
or sympathetic genius, there might be some beauty not to be found in
any of the others, recalling the hand of the great master; while it
is true, that if the sketch were something exceedingly simple, the
fiftieth copy, and all the intermediate ones, might be almost exactly
like the original; and so in nature, exceedingly simple organisms are
seemingly reproduced for almost endless generations with no change, or
scarcely any.

If it be true that all living creatures on this earth spring from a
very few, extremely simple, original germs of life, we have to explain
how it is that now there is an enormous variety of highly organised
creatures, and at the same time some of extreme simplicity. For, if the
simplest forms are permanent, how can the more complex be derived from
them? On the other hand, if the simplest forms vary, how is it that we
find, as we do, the very earliest known form of life still living at
the present day? The solution is easy to suggest, that the offspring
of very simple forms are sometimes exactly like their parents,
and sometimes not exactly like. From what has been said above of
Inheritance and Variation, this is in the highest degree probable, and,
this being admitted, it will follow that according to circumstances the
progeny that are like their parents, or those that are unlike, will
have the best of it. Why this follows will now have to be explained.

All over the surface of our globe there is _a struggle for life_ going
on. The instinct of self-preservation is probably stronger than any
other, so that we may rely upon it that the creatures of every race
will strive to preserve their own existence, if need be, at the expense
of that of others. It may be horrible to the sentimentalist, but it
is true; and remember that man as well as the tiger is a carnivorous
mammal. There is no beast or bird of prey that can be compared with
man for his ravaging, destructive, butchering, remorseless dissipation
of other forms of life, to preserve his own existence and make it
comfortable. He secures his gluttony from famine, as far as he can,
by being omnivorous. Moss and fungus, grass and herb, leaf and flower
and stem and fruit, all alike find a grave in man. The lion and the
flea are the victims of his fear; many a harmless snake and toad of
his antipathy; the otter and the fox die for his sport; the ostrich
and the ermine for his vanity. For his food, like a wolf, he slays the
harmless sheep; like a hawk, he pounces on the innocent chicken; like a
wily panther, surprises the antlered stag; devours fish like a shark;
spreads nets for his prey like a spider; and in some instances acquires
a well-developed taste for the flesh of his fellow-man. Practically
with all living animals, the first consideration is food. If all
living animals could obtain abundance of pleasant and suitable food
without preying on one another, the scene of war which Nature presents
would perhaps in a great measure disappear. Yet this warfare is as
conspicuous in the vegetable as it is in the animal kingdom. There is
a certain amount of nourishment in a given piece of ground, and for
that nourishment the plants upon it will compete, some thriving and
multiplying to the hindrance and destruction of the others. Here again,
if the surface of the globe supplied nutriment for all its plants,
there would be at least no need for this destructive competition.

And how is it that this wide, wide world does not supply food enough
for all the vegetable forms that make an effort to live upon it?
The answer to this curious question has long been known, though not
sufficiently attended to. It would not be fair to say that Nature is
stingy in her supplies of food, but rather that she is too generously
prolific of forms of life. For, take the supposition that all living
creatures, whether animal or vegetable, were shielded from all enemies
and influences at present hurtful to them, and let us see to what it
would bring us. A single grain of wheat produces an ear containing ten,
twenty, or some larger number of grains. But if the ear contained
only two grains, still, at that rate of increase, a single grain would
in thirty years be represented by more than a thousand millions of
grains[6]. What, then, would be the position of the world, if, starting
with a thousand millions of grains, this rate of increase were allowed
to continue unchecked, not for thirty years, but for three thousand?
But Mr. Darwin has calculated in regard to the elephant, which is
reckoned the slowest breeder of all known animals, that, according
to the very lowest probable rate of natural increase, a single pair
would in five hundred years have a progeny of fifteen million living
elephants[7]. Now fancy an island like our own, only in a climate
suitable to elephants, into which a couple should have found their
way a thousand years back. At the end of five hundred years, if all
that were born were enabled to breed unchecked, there would be at
least fifteen millions of their huge descendants stalking about the
land; but, at the end of five hundred years more, there would be one
hundred and twelve millions of millions of elephants. Goodness! What
a stupendous menagerie! What a zoological garden! What a prospect at
the end of the next five hundred years! And all this time, remember,
according to our sentimental, philanthropic, philelephantine,
nature-improving scheme, the men and women, the donkeys with a soul
above thistles, the thistles no longer toothsome to donkeys, the mice,
the rats, the cats, the oaks, the cabbages, the toadstools, would have
been multiplying, not in the same proportion as the elephants, but very
much more rapidly. The great desideratum would be standing room. The
back of an elephant, or the branch of an oak, would no doubt command an
enormous rent, and a right of way across the heads of your neighbours
would be religiously guarded by the law of the land. Nor would the
position of affairs be better in the surrounding sea; for while these
elephants have been computed to breed at the rate of two young ones
in thirty years, a single codfish has been found to produce in one
year more than six millions of eggs, and there are other creatures
infinitely more prolific[8].

You see, then, that the struggle for existence is an absolute
necessity; and out of this all-essential strife springs what has been
well called Natural Selection. What is meant by this will more easily
be understood by looking first at Artificial Selection, which has been
practised by man, sometimes consciously, and oftener unconsciously,
in the process of domesticating a great number of plants and animals.
Dogs, sheep, bulls, pigs, horses, fowls, pigeons, cabbages, and other
culinary vegetables, strawberries, and all manner of edible fruits,
together with gay-coloured, curiously-formed, sweetly-perfumed
garden-flowers innumerable, have been, and are still being, subjected
to man’s selection. That the wonderful changes which occur are indeed
due to man’s repeated choice of the varieties which suit his purposes,
is clear from this, that all the remarkable changes have taken place
in those particular qualities which man has valued, leaving the other
qualities comparatively unaltered. Let it be speed, size, taste,
colour, form, temper, the coat, the feathers, the flesh, the muscular
strength, the powers of endurance; in a vegetable, let it be the root,
the stem, the leaf, the flower, the fruit, the seed, let it be what
it will that is of value, that part and that character have been in
each case most highly developed. To take a few examples: You are fond
of peas, and you sow in your garden what your seedsman tells you are
the finest new varieties; you like strawberries, you admire roses, you
fancy a good cabbage, you are particular about having a mealy potato;
so in each case you plant what you understand to be the best new
kinds. What will you say if it turns out that the roses have improved
in their roots but not in the bloom, and the potatoes in the bloom
but not in their tubers; that the strawberries have remarkably fine
leaves but very small fruit; that the peas and the cabbages have indeed
enormous stems, while the seed of the one and the leaf of the other
are insignificant in size and tasteless to the palate? So, too, if you
purchase a race-horse and a pig from the most noted breeders of those
animals, will you not be disgusted if it turns out that the horse has
a remarkable propensity for fattening, while the pig is distinguished
by nothing but its extreme fleetness of foot? These disappointments do
not occur, because the variations of domesticated plants and animals
are selected by competent persons. Were strawberry-leaves of as much
importance in horticulture as they are in heraldry, many fine varieties
would soon be exhibited. As soon as the most minute tendency to vary
in any particular direction has been descried in any living creature,
the fancier can exaggerate the difference to an extent inconceivable
to the inexperienced. As a popular illustration of this we may take
the Big Gooseberry, which fills so large a space in the newspapers
when Parliament is prorogued. A gooseberry has been grown weighing
more than 37 pennyweights--that is, nearly two ounces[9]. But mere
size is not a fair test of the extreme plasticity of living organisms.
You may have your trees growing stiffly upright, or with pendulous
branches and prostrate stems; you may have your cattle long-horned,
short-horned, or with no horns at all; your rabbits straight-eared or
lop-eared; your fowls with every variety of comb and crest and wattles
and plumage; and your pigeons pretty well at discretion. A type is
prefigured, and the fancier produces it; and what is done for amusement
with pigeons, is done for food, for profit, for the good of mankind at
large, by the grower of corn, by the breeder of sheep, by all the wise
produce-masters of the world[10].

Such is Artificial Selection; but man is after all but one of Nature’s
works, and one of her numerous agents. All that he does, however
miraculous it may seem, can only be done under her conditions, and
by the means which she supplies. In Artificial Selection man does
but take advantage of the natural laws of Inheritance and Variation,
and while he is seeking by means of these to produce one alteration,
Nature herself is producing perhaps a hundred others. For, by the law
of _Correlation_, when one part changes, some other or others almost
inevitably change with it. Whether it be shortening the beak of a
pigeon or lengthening the neck of a giraffe that is in question, Nature
takes care, along with the change, to make other adaptations of the
structure in the creature’s interest under its altered circumstances.
Surely, the working of this principle of Correlation indicates a
far-sighted Providence of the results, the disastrous monstrosities,
that would otherwise have sprung from the law of Variation.

Man’s efforts are considerably limited, moreover, by the law of
Reversion. Now, supposing many differing species to be descended, as
we maintain, from common ancestors, what ought to be the observable
effects of this law? Evidently, we should expect the character of one
species now and then to appear in species allied to it, or species of
kindred origin to vary in the same manner. In accordance with such
an expectation, we find the horse and the ass sometimes assuming the
stripes of the quagga and the zebra; certain varieties of the pigeon,
the fowl, the turkey, the canary-bird, the duck, and the goose, all
have top-knots or reversed feathers on their heads; one kind of melon
resembles a cucumber in everything but taste; there are purple-leaved
varieties of the beech and the hazel; and a great multitude of plants
sometimes exhibit their leaves cut, blotched, and variegated[11].

Now, from the working of Nature under, as it were, man’s guidance, we
pass to the working of Nature when left to her own discretion. The work
of Natural Selection is a very slow and secret work: the slowness of it
veils the movement. As with the hour-hand of a tiny watch travelling
but an inch in a day, there is progress which you cannot discern, there
is change that can be marked and registered at intervals, though each
successive moment and each successive movement seem to leave things
exactly as they were. You have heard of the Greek simpleton who had
been told that a raven lived three hundred years, and so bought one
to see. We might live three thousand years instead of three hundred
without being able to prove the theory of Natural Selection by actual
observing. But when a group of most important observed facts can be
explained consistently by this theory, and by none other, while no
fact has been brought forward to make it inadmissible, it ought to be
accepted till some theory can be produced equally unimpeachable and
explanatory of a larger group of facts.

Qualities are inherited; but with this peculiarity, that very
generally, and sometimes of necessity, the inheritor comes into
possession of the inherited quality at the same period of life at
which it was acquired by the parent. As, for instance, the child
of a gouty father, though it may be destined in old age to inherit
the disease, is not born with the gout, any more than a calf is born
with horns, or a cherry-tree produced covered with cherries. In the
life of every creature there is not merely growth, but development.
At every stage of life it is possible for some quality acquired by
variation to be fixed by Natural Selection. But in the embryonic and
earliest stages of development, variation is least likely to be of
service to any creature. Such variations, therefore, will less often
be selected than others, and if it be true that many species have a
common ancestry, then it ought to be found that in their embryonic
and earliest stages they resemble one another. This is precisely what
we do find. Plants, the most remote in appearance and properties when
full grown, differ but slightly in their cotyledons: the difference
between the egg of a nightingale and the egg of an ostrich bears no
proportion to the dissimilarity between the two birds when fully
developed; nor by comparing the roe of a herring with the roe of a
salmon could you possibly guess, before experience, how the full-grown
fish would differ. But in the life of every human being there is a
stage of development, at which the most sagacious physician could
not distinguish him from the embryo of a snake, a lizard, a bird, or
an ape[12]. Now, if the simplest embryonic forms of life were the
progenitors of all existing forms, this is intelligible; but how else
can it be explained?

But, again, if species do not vary, how comes it that those living at
the present day are for the most part not to be found among the fossil
creatures of the ancient rocks? Well, some will tell you there have
been many distinct creations, following after many catastrophes potent
to destroy all the previous inhabitants of the globe. Well, I will
answer, if you rest on Scripture, that view has no basis in Scripture,
but if you do not rest on Scripture, it certainly has no scientific
foundation, for though the crust of the globe has been made what it is
almost exclusively by the action of fire and water, the effect of any
sudden convulsions has been a mere nothing as compared with the results
from the steady, slow-going, ceaselessly-operating forces of those two
agents. Besides, when you look back through the rocks of different
ages, not only do you find some forms the same in all, which testifies
to the permanent unity of the living creation, but in those forms which
differ, you find the differences increasing the further you go back,
and some forms you find which have no modern representatives, forms,
that is, which have been beaten in the struggle for existence.

Travel over the globe, and every country will present you with some
new species; distant rivers, distant islands, in the ocean shallows
separated by great deeps, the opposite sides of a continent, the twin
sides of a mountain chain, the foot, the spur, the knee, the breast,
the snow-clad head of an Alpine range, will all present you with their
own peculiar forms of life. And how came they there? Created, some
will say, _in_ those regions and _for_ those regions, because of their
special adaptation to them. Yet, since the globe has been inhabited,
vast tracts of it have changed their climates from tropical heat to
frozen gloom, and again, yielded the thick-ribbed ice to genial suns
and fragrant zephyrs. Unhappy species, the creatures of a fixed idea,
created for the temperate meridian of Devonshire, and condemned by the
thoughtlessness of nature, to pass their lives in a climate like that
of Nova Zembla!

But further, had each species been assigned to its station as some
suppose, by a single act of creation, is it not reasonable, does not
reverence require us to expect, that each species would have been best
off in its own station? But this is not the case. On the contrary,
imported species of plants and animals often thrive prodigiously in
their new _habitat_, and over-run it.

Once more, we find in numberless plants and animals rudimentary organs
that are of no use to the possessors,--mammæ, that give no milk;
pistils, in male florets; in insects wings too small for flight, and
soldered to the wing cases; the fifth toe in the hind-foot of the
dog; the spur of the hen; the wing of the Apteryx; and the stunted,
ineffectual, but ever-present tail in our noble selves.

On the old theory of creation, in face of these facts, we cannot
save the admired doctrine that nature does nothing in vain; but on
the Darwinian theory of creation, that doctrine still holds good,
and wisdom is still justified by all her productions; for Natural
Selection works only for the good of a species; it does not work in
vain, or waste its efforts in getting rid of any organ simply because
it is useless, so long as it is not injurious; it leaves it as it was
and where it was, a germ, a capacity, perhaps, in the future, to be
re-developed or fitted for a new purpose.

Here we have incidentally touched upon what seems to be morally the
grandest part of the whole theory, an even sublime explanation, as
far as it goes, of that small fraction which we see in terrestrial
life of the great and manifold works of God. We noted above that it
is to death, a necessity much hated, much maligned, that we owe the
possibility of our own birth and standing-room on the face of the
globe; but the theory of Natural Selection makes it further clear
that the causes of death which we most dread and think evil of--war
and famine and pestilence--are tending continually to improve the
races of living creatures. On the whole, the wisest, the strongest,
the healthiest survive to propagate their species. In the long run,
prudence, courage, and temperance prevail, and their owners become the
parents of the later generations.

When the competition for life becomes severe, as to every race
of creatures, man included, it does at times become, the smallest
advantageous variation will give its possessor a superior chance of
surviving, while the smallest that is disadvantageous will diminish
the chance. Take the apposite instance of a number of quadrupeds
incapable of climbing, supported by browsing on the leaves of trees
during a dearth of other suitable food. When the lower leaves within
the general reach were exhausted, the famine still continuing, those
animals alone would survive which, by some peculiarity, could reach the
higher leaves. In this way, those that could spring best, those that
could assume even a climbing posture, those endowed with the longest
legs, snouts, or necks, would be selected. In some such a way, then, we
can conceive the jumping powers of the kangaroo and the antelope, the
climbing powers of the bear and the cat, the trunk of the elephant, and
the long neck of the giraffe to have been evolved by natural selection.
The keen scent of the hound, the sharp eye of the lynx, the gay colours
of the butterfly, the splendid plumage of the bird of Paradise, are all
easy to account for on this principle of natural selection. So, too,
are the dull colours of many female birds, to whom obscurity is useful
in protecting their young; so, too, the almost blindness of the mole,
which works in the dark, and to which an instrument at once delicate
and useless, would entail the risk of positive injury.

The principle explains what no other hypothesis has ever done, not
only Nature’s perfection, which, in the hour of ease, we are ready to
believe in, but what has hitherto been a much greater puzzle to those
who knew of its existence, Nature’s imperfection. The whole creation is
in constant travail to bring forth something better than its present
best. The products of man’s reason are not, you will readily admit,
always perfect, and yet man’s reason is a part of the creation, and
of nature’s work. The waste of life is prodigious, if such a term
is applicable to the circumstance that often millions of spores are
produced in order that half a dozen plants may grow; millions of eggs
in the roe of a fish, in order that the parents may be represented by
three or four individuals. The bee defends itself by its sting, but its
weapon of defence is fatal to itself. Were a merchant habitually to
send five or six million articles of merchandize across the Atlantic
on the bare possibility that five or six articles out of the number
might reach their destination; or, were a father to arm his son with
a weapon on the presumption that the first time he used it, it would
cost him his life; you would think the man mad, not wise. Yet, if the
astonishing fecundity of the braken, the mushroom, and the codfish, if
the sting of the bee with its backward serratures, be the products of
direct creation, the analogy is somewhat telling. How different, on
the other hand, must our judgment be of those contrivances, when we
trace them to the simple, primary, beneficent law of natural selection,
working always steadily for the good of each species, and so working,
that we may feel tolerably sure that when any species dies out and
disappears, it has been replaced by something better. For by this law,
we see that fertility itself is a character which will be selected as
tending to the preservation of a species, and that many creatures must
have acquired the power of what looks like wasteful reproduction in the
long-continued struggle for existence. We can see, too, how in that
same struggle, it may have proved expedient for a creature to be armed
with a weapon capable of inspiring terror, yet so contrived that its
possessor should, of necessity, be peaceful towards its neighbours.
True, this might have been done by a single act of creation, but why,
then, was it not done also in the case of the mosquito, the wasp, and
the hornet?

On the theory of sudden creation, how can we account in any but an
arbitrary manner, for the innumerable cases in which slight differences
separate various species; for the confused neutral ground between
different classes, as where, for example, a creature seems half animal
half plant; for the isolation of many forms from the stations they
are admirably fitted to occupy; for the fact that many creatures are
hideous, weak, timid, violent, and venomous; for the imperfection of an
instinct in one species found perfected in another, which Mr. Darwin
exemplifies by comparing the cells of the humble-bee, the _melipona
domestica_ of Mexico, and the hive-bee, ranging from great simplicity
to an extreme perfection[13]? But the principle of natural selection
offers a solution to every one of these enigmas. It embraces all the
various phases of life of the ancient world as well as the modern, and
gives a key to the whole grand uninterrupted plan. It carries back the
mind to a period when the earth was destitute of life; when yet, as it
were, the thought in the Divine mind was still unspoken, that of one,
and that as good as dead, should spring seed like the sand which is
upon the sea-shore for multitude. Then it came to pass that the dust
of the earth was called into life by the Life-Giver, and received the
strange command and the mysterious power to multiply, and to replenish
the earth. As soon as living creatures multiplied to any great extent,
they would spread themselves into different lands and seas and
climates; they would find different sources of nourishment, and then
variation would come into play, and close upon variation would follow
selection, not of necessity destroying the old forms, but establishing
new ones, because in some stations the form that had not varied might
thrive best, in others the variety would have an advantage[14]. As time
went on, through the constant changes that the surface of the globe is
undergoing, one variety would be isolated from another, and in such
an isolation the differences would increase. And the more a species
varied, the more fitted it might become for some _habitat_, from which
it was completely cut off by a chain of mountains, a rapid river,
or a deep sea. As the competition became more intense, variations
would become more and more valuable, enabling creatures to occupy
positions before untenable, ocean-depths, sandy shores, holes in rocks,
fresh-water lakes, tops of mountains, branches of trees, the bodies
of other living beings. Some would be taught by necessity and enabled
by favourable variations to prey, as well as take up their abode, on
other creatures. And as the strife became more and more urgent, all
sorts of qualities that from our point of view may seem noxious and
degrading might prove of the highest service and advantage to their own
possessors. Plants with sharp thorns and envenomed hairs, poisonous
snakes, trichinæ and other parasites horrible to man, would find their
advantage at our cost, or by unparalleled fertility would defy all
efforts to extirpate them. Some species would profit by minuteness,
others by size; others, in various ways, by talons, beak, thread-like
tongue, prehensile tail, or furry coat; and, just as men are said to
go through fire and water for the sake of money, so for the sake of
preservation, no habit, no locality would be too uncongenial for a
species to develope adaptation thereunto. And, accordingly, we find
that the water-ouzel, which is a species of thrush, subsists entirely
by diving; there is a tree-climbing lobster in the Mauritius; there
are fishes which ramble about on the land, and one fish, the _anabas
scandens_, can climb eight or ten feet up the trunk of a palm[15].

The choice of food, the choice of habitation, the construction of
dwelling-places for themselves or their offspring, methods of defence,
methods of attack, are variously carried out by myriads of species.
The processes employed, in man we call for the most part rational; in
the lower animals we call them instinctive; but there are processes
employed for these self-same objects by vegetables as well as by men.
For plants, in one sense stationary, travel towards water by their
roots, towards light by their branches; they assimilate the elements of
nutriment that suit them, rejecting others. The Sensitive plant shrinks
from the touch, Venus’s fly-trap closes round unwary insects and
destroys them. Tendrils fasten on the supports that are offered them.
Trees keep in their delicate blossoms till the weather is genial. Many
a corolla folds carefully round stamens and pistils when the chilly
twilight approaches.

Pass from proceedings like these to the swimming movements of a
beheaded Dytiscus[16], and other reflex actions in animals, to the
food-seeking movements of the tentaculæ of the Hydra or fresh-water
Polype, which hover doubtfully between reflex and instinctive action:
go forward through the innumerable gradations of instinct till you
come, for instance, to the spider, weaving its symmetrical web, rushing
out of its lair to seize the prey when the web is shaken lightly,
but keeping itself close from a too dangerous foe when the web is
vehemently shaken. Examine the nest of the Mygale (the trap-door
spider) lined with silken tapestry, furnished with a door on a silken
hinge, which it covers above with materials like the surrounding soil,
and holds from beneath against an intruder, by applying its claws to
the most advantageous point, the point most distant from the hinge:
consider the little Sylvia Sutoria, or tailor-bird, which draws
filaments of cotton from the cotton-plant, and sews leaves together
with its beak and feet to form a nest; go to the huts and river-dams of
the beaver; attend a conclave of rooks judging an offender; look into
the hive of the hive-bee; observe the conscious vanity of the peacock;
preach liberty to the slave-making ants; watch the sagacious ways of
dogs and horses; and then lastly see if it be possible to resist the
conclusion that, were all forms that ever existed, from the earliest
geological times to our own, present before us in the order of their
genealogies, we should see them to be the members of a single family,
now, indeed, immensely divergent, yet all united by some affinity or
affinities, whether dimly or conspicuously shown.

How strangely men and beasts are united by similarity of blood and
fibre! How strangely fishes, birds, and mammals by the likeness of the
vertebrate skeleton! How strangely plants and animals by the phenomena
of generation, not only in the union of the sexes, but also in
(_agamogenesis_) or asexual reproduction! Need we wonder at community
of origin between a coral and a cactus, a whale and a sloth, a wolf and
a Shylock, when we find that a lady’s silken tresses, the bristles of
a boar, the quill of the porcupine, the feathers of the owl, and the
horns of the buffalo, are parallel and specifically interchangeable

Consider the vine, with its stem, branches, twigs, roots, rootlets,
leaves, tendrils, and the luscious grapes of the ripe cluster. From one
seed sprang all of these. On the bough of an orange tree there live
and grow together leaf and petiole, flower and fruit, the green unripe
fruit, the yellow and the golden-ripe. All these from one seed. Yet
there is no jealousy among them. No one disowns a kindred origin for
the root of the tree and its golden fruit, utterly unlike as these are,
but, like so many other utterly unlike things in this world, sprung
from the same germ.

To have produced and accumulated the vast divergences that now exist,
a lapse of time, indeed, must be conceded, unmeasured and perhaps
immeasurable; but this lapse of time is precisely what geology,
independently of Darwinism, has already demanded. As the Scriptures
speak of the earth as immoveable, because so it is in reference to
the senses of man, they speak also of the everlasting mountains, and
with them the rocks are a type of the eternal: compared with the life
of man these expressions are truthful and well-chosen, but they do
not mean to say the rocks are as eternal as God, nor yet everlasting
compared with the existence of the globe. It may have taken ten
thousand centuries to rear up a mountain, and yet, if we reckon the
age of the globe on the scale of a man’s life, the mountain be but of

The immense antiquity, not only of the globe, but of that thin crust of
it open to our inspection, has been ascertained by geology. Geology,
again, has made it certain that during millions of years, changes on
the earth’s surface have been in continual progress, so that not once
merely, but many times over, continents and oceans must have yielded
to one another, yet by no sudden, but ever by a gradual transposition,
such as is in constant progress at the present day.

Seeing that the dwelling-place of living creatures is thus continually
and continuously changing, how clumsy an arrangement it would have been
had the forms of life been made constant, instead of being endowed,
as they clearly have been, with a wonderful power of adaptation. The
question, be it remembered, is not for a moment whether God has made
the universe, but _how_ He has made that portion of it which He has
enabled us to see and examine. Nor yet, to be thoroughly accurate, is
it in question _how_ He has worked, but how He has been pleased to
exhibit His operations to the reasoning minds of men. What is worthy
of God we cannot indeed judge. We can only believe that the things
which are, stand worthiest of His wisdom and goodness, whatever
faults may seem in them to our rashly-judging short-sightedness. But
comparing theories of creation according to human notions, is it a
nobler conception that God should have made successively groups of
beings to fill the world, and then swept them away to make room for
others nearly like them; each time, as it were, improving on His first
idea, and so arguing the imperfection of what had gone before by the
very improvement of what followed; or that, foreseeing the perfect
types from the beginning, He should have called into existence seeds
of life capable, under the laws He gave them, of rising in successive
generations through countless ages, to endowments of the noblest order,
to a conscious life, to a reasoning faculty, to a moral sense, to a
knowledge of God? In such an origin there is for man no degradation,
since the lowliness of his parentage has ever been traced back to
the dust of the ground; and the lowest form of life is higher in
our imaginations than the dull brute earth. Indeed, if we desire to
exalt our self-appreciation, whether is it grander for us to have
been the work of an instant, or to have been elaborated with Divine
care through millions of ages? Will not any miracle in our behalf,
however stupendous, seem more credible on the latter than on the former
supposition? When we see what Development has already done for the
human species, we can the more readily imagine what, under the same
Lawgiver, it may do in the future for the individuals of our race.
When we find it possible or probable that our own bodies contain
resemblances to ancestors enormously remote in time, simply because
they contain atoms from the bodies of those very ancestors living
again in ourselves, we can understand how in a future, whether near or
enormously remote, atoms from the very body of the man that dies may
be called into a renewed existence, and clothed again with all that
is necessary to personal identity, though haply more transformed and
higher raised above the old self, than would be an orang-outang or a
naked savage, were either of these enabled to combine the chivalric
courtesy of Sir Philip Sydney with the genius of Sophocles and


Darwinism implies almost throughout that no universal Deluge has
drowned our globe, either within the last ten thousand years, or even
within a period indefinitely longer. Let us speak with due respect
of the contrary belief. It _seems_ to rest upon the testimony of
a Volume the most precious in the world. It was taken for granted
till a few years back as much in science as in religion. For a
while, the arguments that began to be raised against it were met by
counter-arguments so plausible, and the objectors differed so widely
among themselves, that unscientific opinion had a kind of right and
prudence in adhering to that which had been taught for centuries, and
was still taught without deviation in nursery, and school, and pulpit.

We should have asserted a better right and shown a higher prudence,
had we waited, in a matter which concerned science full as much as it
concerned religion, till, by learning facts and weighing arguments,
we had become able to form an opinion no longer unscientific, or, at
the very least, to appreciate the difficulties involved in the ancient

We are forced to take a controversy of this kind as it stands;
otherwise, there is a simple principle which ought to make all
controversy on the subject needless. All authors endowed with common
sense, let alone divine inspiration, use language which their intended
readers may be expected to understand, and language appropriate to the
scope and design of their writings. Unless, therefore, we suppose that
the Old Testament writers proposed to teach natural science to the
Hebrew nation, we ought to expect from them what we actually find: as
to natural phenomena, past and present, they use the language not of
far-advanced knowledge and minute particular research, but simply the
language current in their own day and nation.

But, setting aside the general principle, in the present instance there
is a second possibility of quashing the controversy, if it can be shown
or made probable that the author, whose narrative is in question, never
meant to imply that which for thousands of years has been held to be
his meaning.

The whole point at issue is the _universality_ of the Noachian
Deluge, and the narrative has been thought to be uncompromising in
its declarations that all the earth, to the very mountain-tops, was
indeed enveloped in water, and, excepting the handful rescued in the
ark, that all men and cattle and creeping things and fowls of the air
were inexorably destroyed. But to this view of the narrative there is
more than one objection upon the very surface of the narrative itself.
And, by way of preface, let it be remarked how vague and indefinite is
the use in ordinary language of such terms as ‘all’ and ‘every’ and
‘universal.’ For instance, if a popular lady gives a kettledrum, we
say, ‘all the world was at it,’ although 500 persons could not have
been squeezed into the rooms without being suffocated; or we say, ‘so
and so is a thing which every school-boy knows,’ when we only mean that
a good many lads of a particular age, in a particular rank of life, and
belonging to one particular country, have most probably been taught
it. And again we say, ‘smoking is universal with the Dutch,’ without
implying that every baby in Holland has a pipe instead of a rattle. You
are not to suppose that this is a view of language invented for the
occasion, frivolously explaining grave and sacred composition by the
trivialities of common speech. On the contrary, it is precisely to the
unquestioned prevalence of such phraseology, in all but the most exact
scientific writing, that the late Dr. M’Caul appealed, and appealed
successfully, against more than one of the objections to the authority
of the Pentateuch, which were raised some time ago by the well-known
and ingenious arithmetician who presides over the see of Natal. When we
read that ‘there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus that _all the
world_ should be taxed: and _all_ went to be taxed, _every one_ into
his own city,’ are we to infer either that the clever practical Roman
decreed the taxation of barbarians over whom he had not the faintest
shadow of control, or that every Israelite, without exception, found
and visited his ancestral home in Palestine--merchants from Gades and
Ophir and Tarshish, slaves and prisoners, sucking children, bed-ridden
old men, dying sufferers? We shall not, if we are wise, shut up either
Cæsar Augustus or the Evangelist St. Luke to so preposterous a meaning.

In this and ten thousand other instances, our general knowledge of the
attendant circumstances, or what we call ‘the nature of the case,’
supplies the necessary exceptions. To have them all drawn out in detail
would be tedious and troublesome. Suppose a glorious comet is about
to make its appearance, and some astronomer publicly advises every
one to be on the look-out for it on a certain night, how ridiculous
would he appear if he made express exception of persons on the other
side of the globe, of persons immured in dungeons, of persons not yet
born, of persons who were blind, of persons who were dead! Yet an
author, writing some three or four thousand years back, and borrowing
perhaps from picture-records, certainly from the traditions, however
delivered, of an age long anterior to his own, when language was far
less ample and precise than it has since become, is treated as though
every word must bear the full and exact force which it would have in
a carefully-written treatise upon logic in the present day. We may
assume that the author either had sound and accurate information in the
ordinary course of human tradition, or else that he was endowed with
a super-human knowledge of the historical events in question. But,
on either assumption, what conceivable warrant have we for imagining
that he was deprived of common sense? Either he knew the contradictions
which natural science offers to the belief in a recent universal
deluge, or he did not know them. If he knew them, we may infer from
his silence that his narrative was not open to those contradictions;
in other words, that the deluge of which he speaks was not universal.
If he did not know them, his ignorance points to the same conclusion:
otherwise, we shall have a divine miracle, intended for the warning
and the benefit of the human race, yet so contrived that all its most
surprising circumstances should be absolutely unknown to one half of
mankind, and as absolutely incredible to the other half.

The historical account informs us that ‘the waters prevailed
exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills that were under
the whole heaven were covered. Fifteen cubits upwards did the waters
prevail; and the mountains were covered.’ But Europe possesses
mountains rising to a height of more than 10,000 cubits or 15,000
feet--one peak in Asia is 29,000 feet above the level of the sea--so
that, on the common interpretation, the waters of the flood must have
risen to a thickness above the ordinary sea-level of nearly 30,000 feet
over the whole of the globe. But, on this supposition, the narrative is
not only bewildering and morally impossible, but positively untruthful,
for it declares the physical means employed in the production of
the flood to be the fountains of the great deep and the rain from
heaven--means entirely sufficient to produce a partial flood over
a limited area, but utterly and ludicrously inadequate to produce a
total deluge enveloping ‘all the high hills under the whole heaven.’
The notion is self-contradictory that the ocean can be employed to
raise its own level, or that its general height can be increased by the
rain which it is its own part to supply. Nor is there any indication
afforded that a supernatural supply of water was added to our planet,
to the extent of several hundred millions of cubic miles of liquid,
which would have been required for the purpose of drowning the Caucasus
and the Alps and Teneriffe and Popocatapetl and Chimilari. We must
consider also the difficulty of breathing, and the intense cold that
would have been experienced at that stupendous altitude. There is the
old question of space in the ark; there is the old question of the
food-supply, sufficient and appropriate, to be stored and sorted for
its various occupants, carnivorous and herbivorous, beasts of prey,
carrion-birds, and amphibious monsters. But what are these compared
with the question how life could be sustained in the bitter freezing
atmosphere, thousands of feet above the line of perpetual snow, by
creatures accustomed to the lowlands of the tropics? Supposing,
however, the atmosphere to have been completely warmed by the rise
of the ocean, or even if the air within the ark was kept warm by its
enormous crowd of denizens, we are confronted by a new difficulty, one
that might seem laughable and improper to mention but for its vast
and pressing importance in our own days, thwarting the physician,
perplexing the statesman, baffling the chemist and the engineer. To
this supposed epitome of the world’s inhabitants, shut up for months
within the ark, who were the scavengers?

But suppose every one of these problems to be solved by a miracle,
although of such miracles not a hint is given, there still remains
the statement to be dealt with, that ‘God made a wind to pass over
the earth, and the waters assuaged.’ Surely this, if nothing else, is
conclusive that the writer had all along been describing a local and
partial deluge upon which a wind could have some sensible effect, not
an universal flood wrapping all the mountains of the globe in water, in
which case the mightiest wind that ever was, or could be dreamed of,
could only have laid bare the surface of the land by piling up great
hills and precipices of water upon the ocean.

When we wish to expose the miracles of a false religion or of a
superstitious aberrant creed, we point out, as the case may be, that
they are frivolous, useless, unmeaning, devoid of adequate motive, the
end achieved and the means employed bearing no reasonable proportion;
or we show that the testimony in their favour is inconsistent with
itself, or that the consequences which should have flowed from the
miracle, had it been genuine, are certainly wanting, unless, to bolster
up one extreme improbability, a hundred others are invented and
swallowed. To every one of these imputations the common theory of the
Noachian Deluge lies open. But concede a few grains of common sense to
the narrator; read his narrative in the spirit in which such a person
must have written it; remember that he is not writing a scientific
treatise, nor using the phraseology of modern Europe; bear in mind that
he is speaking in an idiom no longer or now but seldom used, yet a just
and noble idiom, which ascribes to God all that is done upon earth,
whether good or evil, the works of man and the common processes of
nature, as well as things super-human and miraculous; and, with these
considerations before us, we shall save the venerable record from every
imputation, either of folly or of falsehood.

That which we have described to us is a vast penal catastrophe
sweeping away some great centre of civilization by means of a terrible
inundation. Along some ocean-border the far-stretching plains were
dotted thickly with towns and villages. There were fields waving
with corn; the vine and the olive, the orange and the palm abounded;
there were cattle feeding in green pastures beside the still waters;
there were populous tribes and nations carrying on all the business
and revelry of life; they bought, they sold, they builded, they
planted, they were marrying and giving in marriage, when suddenly
the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the earthquake
wave rolled in upon them, and swept all the beauty and the glory and
the sin remorselessly away. At the same time, the angry heavens were
overcast, and the floodgates of the clouds poured down their volumes of
ceaselessly-descending rain. The distant mountains were torn from the
sight; nay, every high hill under the whole heaven was itself covered
and enfolded in a liquid veil, for every rill was now a torrent, every
tiny silver thread of a cascade now a dark unbroken avalanche of
waters. One family alone, alone obedient to the warning which all had
received, were saved amidst this universal ruin, and took with them
into the ark of their refuge specimens of every bird and beast and
creeping thing that their own country produced, and that was in any
way serviceable to man. When cloud and mist had rolled away from the
mountain-tops, when the face of the ground was once more dry--with
these creatures they stocked their new settlement. The well-watered
plain was speedily replenished; the vine flourished; the cattle brought
forth abundantly; the children of the patriarch multiplied rapidly and
spread far and wide over their rich and undisputed inheritance.

Such is the narrative as it glimmers through the haze of forty
centuries, only told in the original with unrivalled simplicity and
force, grander than any description by forbearing to describe, told as
one would tell it, who in that convulsion of nature had lost kindred,
friends and countrymen, as one who had seen the whole world, so far
as he knew it or cared for it, foundering in the waves, and yet had
lived on through all the unutterable calamity to see himself once more
surrounded by fruitful fields and smiling homesteads, and all that
might make what was to him emphatically a new world the counterpart of
the old.

Some may permit themselves for a moment to set aside the limitation
we have suggested to the number of animals in the ark as fanciful and
unwarranted. It will be proper therefore to draw out the consequences
attaching to the old opinion. We find from the words of the narrative,
that the patriarch Noah was intrusted with the task of collection. To
achieve it, then, he must have gone in person, or sent expeditions,
to Australia for the kangaroo and the wombat, to the frozen North for
the Polar bear, to Africa for the gorilla and the chimpanzee; the
hippopotamus of the Nile, the elk, the bison, the dodo, the apteryx,
the emeu and the cassowary must have been brought together by vast
efforts from distant quarters. The patriarch or his agents must
have been endowed with a supernatural knowledge of natural history
far surpassing Solomon’s or that of our own times, that they might
properly distinguish varieties and species, so that no species might be
omitted and none represented by more than one variety. To accomplish
this with the minutest insects, they must have been provided with
powerful microscopes. Every portion of the dry land of the globe must
have been accessible to them; every jungle, cavern, and ravine. The
little islands that lose themselves in mid-ocean must all have been
ransacked; the search, too, that might not neglect any acre of ground
in all the continents of the world, would be distracted with the most
varied and incongruous pursuits. Sheep, game, caterpillars, beasts of
prey, snails, eagles, fleas and titmice, must all have their share of
attention. Unusual pains must be employed to secure them uninjured.
They must be fed and cared for during a journey, perhaps, of thousands
of miles, till they reach the ark; they must be hindered from devouring
one another while the search is continued for rats and bats and
vipers and toads and scorpions, and other animals which a patriarch,
specially singled out as just and upright and a lover of peace, would
naturally wish and naturally be selected to transmit as a boon to his
favoured descendants.

It might be asked how, with the supernatural knowledge requisite for
collecting all the terrestrial animals of the globe, and the unique
opportunity for observation afforded by a residence of some months
with them in the ark, no more scientific classification was arrived at
than that into birds and beasts and creeping things? But letting this
pass, or scattering it and other objections to the winds by inventing a
miracle to explain the gathering together of the animals, we shall then
have to give some account of their re-distribution. Instead of worrying
ourselves with the problem, shall we at once solve it by asserting
that they were miraculously re-transferred to the habitations from
which they came? This will be a highly satisfactory plan, if only it
will stop the mouths of those inquisitive persons who never know when
they are beaten in an argument. But one cavil may easily be foreseen,
requiring a new miracle to satisfy it; for many of the animals must
either have been miraculously supplied with provisions, or miraculously
enabled to do without them; or else, to take a single instance, two
spiders would have been limited to a couple of flies, and when the
flies had become extinct, because devoured by the spiders, the spiders
also would have become extinct through having no more flies to devour;
and thus their preservation in the ark, at the expense of a great many
unrecorded and highly improbable miracles, would have been utterly

Suppose, however, that they were spread over the earth again by the
slow process of natural distribution. Certain perplexities, indeed,
may have arisen when they first issued from the ark, when the cobra
and the rattlesnake, the hungry wolf and the relentless tiger were let
loose upon the impoverished world and its defenceless inhabitants.
For at that conjuncture to have destroyed even one cruel and venomous
beast might have blotted out a whole species. It is surely a little
remarkable that ravenous beasts and birds of prey should have been
limited, even while in the ark, to feeding upon animals in a ceremonial
or ecclesiastical sense clean; but if, after they had left the ark,
and had once more to provide for themselves, the wily panther and the
treacherous hyena must be imagined debating before every meal whether
their victim belonged to the sevens of the clean or the couples of the
unclean animals, shall we not turn in pity and vexation from any view
that involves and admits so monstrous a supposition?

But we will concede that every creature bore a charmed life, that it
might not perish by famine or violence till it had propagated its
kind. We should then expect to observe that species had distributed
themselves over the globe in lines either tortuous or direct, single
or branching, broad or narrow, but all diverging from a common centre.
Yet nothing of the kind is found. On the contrary, the species of the
new world differ from those of the old, the species of one continent
from those of another[18]. The marsupials of Australia and Polynesia
are generically distinct from all other animals on the globe except the
opossum. The elephant of Africa is not the same species as the elephant
of India: so with the lion, so with the rhinoceros. The apes and
baboons of the old world are nowhere to be found in America, nor the
American monkeys anywhere in the old world. In Madagascar, separated
from Africa by less than the breadth of England, all the species
except one, and nearly all the genera, are peculiar[19]. Everywhere
species are found limited in their range by natural barriers, such
as climate, rivers, mountains, oceans. Are we to suppose that the
prisoners could scramble into their prisons, and then suddenly became
incapable of scrambling out again? Everywhere, as a rule, this range
is consistent with the hypothesis of an origin central to the range,
inconsistent with that of an origin distant from it. Where, as on
mountain ranges, we find, contrary to the general rule, the same
species in different localities, the migration from the door of the ark
loses all semblance of probability, unless we are pleased to imagine
that creatures, now without the instinct of migration, for a long time
possessed it, and roamed about the world through many a sultry plain
to pick out a hill-side here and there with a temperature suited to
their constitutions. But the exceptional phenomenon, otherwise so hard
to account for, Darwin has admirably explained, by pointing out that
species adapted to a low temperature would naturally have occupied
lowlands in the Glacial Period, from which, as the cold gradually grew
less and less intense, they would as naturally have retired, some of
them northwards, others to the cool heights of various mountains.

That there was a Glacial Period, when great icebergs travelled over
England, a period geologically as but of yesterday, though enormously
more remote than any historical dates, is now beyond all question.
Equally beyond question is it that countless ages and generations
of living beings on the earth preceded that Glacial Period. And,
added to this, we find that there are forms of life just where they
would have been left by the effect of that period, had there been
an unbroken succession from that time to this, and just where it is
most unlikely they should be found, had they been forced to travel
to those habitations from the door of the ark within the practically
insignificant period of 4300 years.

But still further, we may compare the world of life before the Flood
with the world of life since. And here surely it needs not the genius
of Darwin or Lyell or Owen to perceive the conclusiveness of the
argument which their genius has pointed out and enforced. For instance,
where the marsupials now live, there lived marsupials in ages long
before Noah, as the fossil remains testify. The fossils are fossil
marsupials, but marsupials of species now extinct. So that the ‘door of
the ark’ theory requires us to believe that the marsupials found their
way to Australia, leaving no traces of their route on land, crossing
seas which they never subsequently recrossed, and planting themselves
precisely in that region which other marsupials, generically the same
but specifically different, had occupied before them.

We are to believe this of countless other species in all parts of the
world. We are to believe that they slowly and in many generations
worked their way back to these quasi-ancestral homes, and yet neglected
to occupy vast tracts equally or even better adapted to their wants.
We must believe also that some of the fleetest, strongest, and most
sagacious animals, as the horse and the elephant, failed to trace
out the abodes of their ancient representatives, since America, when
discovered a few years ago, possessed these quadrupeds only in fossil
and in no living species[20].

There is indeed one animal, whose powers of contrivance would account
for its distribution over the globe, even supposing it to have begun
with a single family, not more than 4300 years ago, and to have ranged
from a single centre. Man is that animal. Yet, if all the other
facts that bear on the universality of the Noachian Deluge were in
an agreement with it as entire as their irreconcileability is utter
and complete, still the circumstances of the human race alone would
disable us from believing that the Flood of Noah’s epoch extended
over all the globe. With other animals it might be advanced that the
different species and main varieties had been represented in the ark
and were thence disseminated; but in the case of man we are precluded
from such an explanatory device by the express terms of the diluvian
record. If the Noachian Flood was universal, then from Noah alone
must be descended all the races of man now upon the earth: all the
great and curious variations they display must have been evolved, not
in countless generations as Darwinism supposes, but in some two or
three hundred or less. From Noah alone must have sprung within a mere
handful of centuries races so widely unlike one another as Greeks
and Negroes, Jews and Egyptians, Saxons and Ojibbeways, Caffirs and
Hottentots, Fuegians and Patagonians, Californians and Chinese, Arabs
and Esquimaux. In the same archipelago we have the Malay, the Papuan,
and the dwarf snub-nosed Negrito. To give the contrast between the
two former in the words of Mr. Wallace[21]:--‘The Malay is of short
stature, brown-skinned, straight-haired, beardless, and smooth-bodied.
The Papuan is taller, is black-skinned, frizzly-haired, bearded, and
hairy-bodied. The former is broad-faced, has a small nose, and flat
eyebrows; the latter is long-faced, has a large and prominent nose,
and projecting eyebrows. The Malay is bashful, cold, undemonstrative,
and quiet; the Papuan is bold, impetuous, excitable, and noisy.
The former is grave, and seldom laughs; the latter is joyous and
laughter-loving,--the one conceals his emotions, the other displays
them.’ Such is the description and contrast of two types of mankind
geographically separated from one another by an interval of not more
than 300 miles; yet the line which separates these two races of the
human family is almost exactly coincident with that deep-sea line
which forms the boundary between two great zoological provinces.
Either, then, in these two distinct but neighbouring localities, the
whole multitude of species, man included, must have been undergoing
variation simultaneously for tens of thousands of years, or else the
differences in the whole multitude, man included, must have been
already established, or nearly so, when first they stepped forth
in singular procession from the door of the ark. But the former
alternative, which is the Darwinian, is consistent with the record of
the Noachian Flood in implying that the inundation was only partial;
while the latter alternative contradicts the record in an essential
point on which it is perfectly explicit, by necessitating the presence
in the ark of more than one human family.

As long as we are content to speak of 4000 years or so, some one might
be tempted to fancy, however erroneously, that such a period would be
adequate to produce the existing varieties of mankind, because there
is some evidence of comparatively rapid changes of colour having
taken place under the influence of climate, and because a new type of
features appears to be forming itself with a noticeable progress under
the absolutely unique circumstances which have governed the recent
colonization of North America. Unique those circumstances are, because
never before has there been so much mingling of the blood of different
nations and races in a new and unoccupied field, with much to stimulate
and nothing to curb or repress variation. Never before have men’s minds
and bodies in every faculty been so taxed and strained to activity
by the very superabundance of their resources, the virgin soil of a
new country, an inherited civilization, enormous and ever-enlarging
facilities for doing, for living, moving, and learning--facilities
sometimes that cannot be declined or escaped from, though they ‘fret
the pigmy body to decay, and o’er-inform the tenement of clay.’

But, in truth, there is no question of 4000 years in the matter; for
there were black people in the time of Herodotus and in the time
of Solomon. Already in the time of Moses there existed a race in
Palestine so different from the Israelites, that the first Hebrew
explorers were daunted by the sight of them, although, in fact, they
were looking on a race no longer in its prime, but one that was dying
out. Egyptian monuments, dating back to the same period and earlier,
give representations of Africans, Asiatics, and Europeans, with
their physical characteristics then as now unmistakeably distinct;
they portray the Negro as the Negro still is both in colour and in

If it took only 800 years, then, which is the interval between the
Flood and the birth of Moses, to originate and establish types so
distinct as Jews, Egyptians, Negroes, and Anakim, all gathered together
in a little corner of the world, might not Nature, having done so
much in so short a time for the highest animal, do a little more in a
longer time for lower animals, and so supply that origin of species
by variation for which Mr. Darwin contends? Would not the obvious
inference be that Nature had done so, if it were not fancied that
such an origin of species was still more repugnant to the Book of
Genesis than even a limitation of the area covered by the Flood? But
the Darwinian theory, happily for itself, is not dependent upon any
supposition so incredible as one which would warrant us in expecting
among the descendants, for example, of William the Conqueror, people
as little like one another as John Bull and John Chinaman, Uncle Sambo
and the last of the Mohicans. There are circumstances of immense
weight to convince us that certain marked divisions of mankind
originated in the regions which they are now occupying. There are
other circumstances preponderating for the common origin of mankind.
Darwinism has at length shown how these phenomena can be reconciled, by
simply connecting the history of man with that vast duration of life
upon the globe which geological science has unveiled. The likenesses
among races of men demand a common parentage for all those races; the
unlikenesses can only be accounted for on the view of an isolation
immensely protracted of one race from another. Thus the primary origin
is common to all; the secondary origin is peculiar to each: but now
that the primary origin has been proved to be so vastly more remote
than was once supposed, the secondary origin recedes of itself into a
far distant past, to give time for differences to arise and develope,
since, if the actually existing unlikenesses were only skin-deep,
instead of affecting, as they do, the bones of the skeleton and the
whole fibre of the mind, they would still be too great to admit a
common derivation of the whole human family from the patriarch Noah.

What Geology teaches to demonstration is, that all parts of the dry
land have been not once only but many times under the waters of the
ocean; but it teaches likewise to demonstration that at least for many
and many an age, almost beyond our powers of conceiving duration of
time, there has been no total submergence of the land. That interchange
of lake and sea with isle and continent which is now going on under our
eyes, has been going on for ages innumerable. By this and kindred means
human beings, like all kinds of animals and all kinds of plants, have
at intervals experienced severance into groups and isolation. Thus has
mankind been broken up into distinct families, at first with no line
of demarcation except the geographical, but gradually in successive
generations becoming more and more unlike in manners, morals, language,
features, intelligence, and civilization. But since the era of the
Noachian Deluge neither has there been time for Nature, with her slow
though certain processes, to effect so great a reconstruction of
barriers as to break up the human family, if till then continuous and
united; nor, if there had been time for the geographical severance,
would there have been time for the constitutional changes.

Among the ancients some believed that the sun, moon, and stars were in
reality about the size which they appear to the unassisted eyesight;
others supposed the vault of the sky to be a revolving dome of solid
crystal pierced with little holes through which men saw in starry
shapes the fire of the ethereal region beyond it. Persons with such
ideas of space and physical science might not readily have accepted on
the moment the Copernican system of astronomy. In the same way persons
with a narrow and limited view of the duration of time may find a
difficulty in receiving arguments based on or implying the enormous
extent of it, which all sciences are now combining to demonstrate.
But this mental incapacity, the result of false education and early
prejudice, may be defied to resist any real investigation of the facts
or study of what has been written upon them. Let any man of mature mind
and average intellect read through Sir John Lubbock’s ‘Prehistoric
Times,’ Mr. Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species,’ and Sir Charles Lyell’s
‘Principles of Geology,’ and retain if he can the opinion that our
globe was first peopled about 6000 years ago, and subsequently all
but depopulated by an universal Flood. Let him see, indeed, whether
he can read Sir Charles Lyell’s account of the progress of opinion
and controversy on these subjects and refrain from blushing. He
will recognize in that account a turmoil and clamour of fools and
philosophers, of laymen and divines. He will have to set to the credit
of intelligent humanity and enlightened Christendom a long tissue of
pious frauds, jesuitical defences, arguments based on imaginary facts,
and facts perverted by imagination, till he comes down to the present
time and finds a great multitude of all classes at length agreed in
affirming that life has endured on the globe with unbroken continuity
through a past as yet unfathomable. His own mind, he will perceive,
has actually reached maturity without having admitted the voice of
this multitude, although, to apply almost literally the words of his
great Master, ‘If these should hold their peace, the stones would cry

The world and its wonders are of no mushroom growth, although even
the mushroom, which is commonly supposed to spring up in a single
night, requires a much longer period, often many weeks, for its
production[24]. The Book of Genesis itself most clearly warns any
careful reader against attempting to build a chronology upon the brief
memoranda of names and dates which for other reasons are inserted in
it. For, taking them simply as they stand, Shem, the son of Noah,
is represented as long surviving the birth of Isaac, while Abraham,
the father of Isaac, appears as the contemporary of a vast number of
different and strange tribes and nations--Egyptians, Philistines,
Canaanites, Syrians, and many more, besides the Chaldeans from among
whom he came. To find a parallel to all this, we should imagine our
own Edward III, instead of dying in 1377 as he did, living on and
on to the present day, a forgotten old man, not noticed in the page
of history throughout 500 eventful years, during which the whole of
Europe was becoming peopled with descendants of himself and his
father, men speaking languages mutually unintelligible, holding creeds
mutually abhorrent, with strange diversities in dress, manners and
government, and some prevented by national custom from even eating at
the same table with guests of another neighbouring and kindred tribe.
In vain should we search through history for any actual parallel,
for any instance of developments so extraordinary, and estrangements
so complete, occurring within a space of only 500 years. If all the
nations spoken of as contemporary with Abraham were only 500 years
distant from the Flood, as the Book of Genesis shows them to have
been, we may be certain that they could trace back their lineage,
independently of Noah and his family, far beyond the era of the Deluge.
The monumental evidence of Egyptian chronology carries us back to a
Pharaoh reigning some three or four hundred years before that date[25].
The Book of Genesis introduces us to another Pharaoh reigning some
400 years after it. Are we to set aside the monumental evidence, and
make this later Pharaoh a descendant of Noah, reigning as a powerful
monarch, while Abraham, the rightful heir of a patriarchal monarchy
over all the earth, was nothing but a wandering shepherd? Religion,
morals, civilization, as far as we know anything about them in those
ages, whether we regard their advancement in some quarters or their
decay in others, all protest against having their progress cramped into
those four or five hundred years. They protest against being ascribed
with all their conspicuous diversities to the offspring of one man,
whose son, grandson, great-grandson and great-great-grandson, Shem,
Arphaxad, Salah, and Eber, were actually still living during all these
supposed revolutions[26].

Indeed, if we go back from our 400 to our 4000 years, the protests on
these points are almost equally forcible. In the matter of language,
estimate how many generations must have passed away before the children
of a common parent came to vary in speech as much as Chinese, Russians,
Englishmen, and clucking Hottentots. Form some estimate of the time
required for the rise and growth of civilization, not only in the
old-world centres of Nineveh and Babylon and Egyptian Thebes, but in
the separate and independent centres of Mexico and Peru. Explain,
moreover, what, on the hypothesis of a common Noachian descent, must
be called the rise and growth of barbarism. Show, if it be possible,
how, amidst the rapid strides of civilization, side by side with the
advancement of taste, literature, and science, the descendants of
Noah in some cases degenerated from all culture, sank away from all
morality, lost all religion, forgot all useful arts, even those most
essential to the lowest degree of comfort, the kindling of fire, the
use of metals, the construction of dwellings, while they learned the
habits and acquired something more than the innocent shamelessness of
brutes--learned to prefer the flesh of their own species to any other,
learned to make a duty in some regions of putting their parents to
death, in others, of eating their dead bodies[27]. Such customs we
have on record four centuries before Christ, such customs on record as
existing nineteen centuries after. Will any one attempt to persuade us
that the savages of Andaman and the Feejee Islands are cousins, through
an ancestor no more remote than Noah, of Chatham and Wilberforce, and
Lesseps and Brunel?

Traditions of a Deluge, it is true, are found almost everywhere. The
reason doubtless is that almost everywhere some tremendous calamity of
this description has at one time or another occurred. Inundations on
a small scale are common and frequent, but on a scale great enough to
surprise the imagination and become traditional in the memories of a
people, they would naturally be rare and infrequent in the extreme, so
that the fact of such an experience belonging to the history of so many
different races, is but another proof, or at least another indication,
of the antiquity of man. If stress is to be laid on the points of
similarity between the traditions, as proving that every land has been
ravaged by the waters of a flood, equal stress may in fairness be laid
on the points of difference, as proving that not one common universal
Deluge is spoken of, but many separate and partial floods, distinct in
time, in place, and in results. If stress again is to be laid on the
tradition because it is common to so many tribes, let equal importance
be granted to the traditions of time among the Chaldeans and the
Egyptians, the Chinese and the Hindus, who reckon the years of their
uninterrupted histories by tens of thousands[28].

Finally, we may ask, where are the traces of so tremendous and
unparalleled a convulsion as one that could wrap the whole world in
water, and hold all its dædal beauty for many months in that drowned
condition, till a tempest still more furious and unparalleled drave
heaven and earth, the clouds and ocean, once more asunder? We know
how the little trilobite in the Devonian seas behaved in its hour of
peril millions of years back; we know what food men ate long ages
before the Flood, what weapons they used, what houses they built, what
animals they tamed; but what became of man and beast and bird and
forest in the supposed universal Deluge, no one knows. The signs and
natural monuments of the catastrophe, which should have been visible
or discoverable on every side, can nowhere be ascertained,--things
that the waters should have swept away or torn down they have left
undisturbed, shell-mounds and glacier moraines and boulderstones on the
mountain-side; while the great museum of the dead which they should
have formed, one would think, over all the earth, to constitute one
striking and indisputable geological date, as well as a world-wide
monument of religion, is nowhere to be found.

What became of flower and herb, of creatures that live between the
zones of high and low water, of mollusk and coral and fish that require
an appropriate depth and a fitting temperature in their liquid homes,
it will be useless to speculate, if, after all that has been urged
upon other points, there are some who still think that the description
in Genesis is the description of a Flood that prevailed over all the
world, and intend still to believe in such a Flood, and to teach it
as a part of religious doctrine, notwithstanding any argument or
scientific proof to the contrary. For them we can do no more than
commend to their daily reflection a few lines from the lives of two
famous men:--‘In spite,’ says Dr. Wilson, ‘alike of the science and the
devout religious spirit of Columbus, the Salamanca divines pronounced
the idea of the earth’s spherical form heterodox, and a belief in
antipodes incompatible with the historical traditions of our faith:
since to assert that there were inhabited lands on the opposite side of
the globe would be to maintain that there were nations not descended
from Adam, it being impossible for them to have passed the intervening
ocean. This would therefore be to discredit the Bible, which expressly
declares that all men are descended from one common parent[29].’ And
thus another author describes a well-known incident in the life of
Galileo:--‘Clad in a penitent’s sackcloth, the mighty, self-relying
philosopher and genius fell upon his knees, and, with his hands laid
on the Holy Evangelists, declared that he abjured, detested, and
would never again teach, the doctrine of the sun’s stability and the
earth’s motion. Having confirmed his oath in writing, and promised to
perform the enjoined penance, he rose from his knees a pardoned man;
and turning about to one of his friends, stamped on the ground, and
pronounced in an emphatic whisper, “Eppure si muove[30],”--but still it
_does_ move.’

As the antipodes exist, as the earth goes round the sun, and as the
Bible continues to be true, in spite of the theologians and inquisitors
at Salamanca and at Rome, so will it continue to be true and full
of truth, when at length it shall be acknowledged, as it will be,
that there is nothing universal about the Noachian Deluge except the
disbelief in its universality.


An initial probability has been established by Mr. Darwin and Mr.
Wallace that the reason or mind of man, as well as his body, has
attained its present complete excellence through gradual development.
No one denies that, between a man’s birth and his prime of life, time
is required for the intellectual powers to unfold; but it demands an
effort which few have as yet made to see in this progression of the
individual mind a compendious history of the indefinitely slow process
by which the human mind itself has been formed, passing upward, step by
step, from simple vitality, dawning consciousness, the various grades
of so-called instinct, to the full capacities of the most enlightened

The theory of development or evolution has excited immense opposition
and distrust, because of its obvious application to the human body. Its
application to the human mind, which, though less obvious at the first
glance, almost inevitably follows, seems to have inspired Mr. Wallace
himself with alarm. He winds up the admirable series of essays in
which he supports the theory under discussion with one that earnestly
propounds ‘the _limits_ of natural selection as applied to man.’ His
arguments on this subject are drawn from physical science, though his
mind is evidently, and even confessedly, swayed throughout by other
than physical considerations. He represents, in fact, and endeavours to
reconcile to his own scientific views, the weight of popular prejudice
which has hitherto condemned those views with some vehemence of

The sentiment in question amounts to this, that certain powers or
faculties of the human mind are so wonderful and so unique, that they
could not have originated in the ordinary processes of nature without
some special intervention. Antecedents conforming to the usual observed
order in other living productions are not sufficiently magnificent
for the soul of man. Something sudden, something mysterious, is
demanded in the agency of its creation. It must be like Pallas Athene,
springing from the brain of Zeus, a goddess fully armed from her birth
in the panoply of wisdom and virtue. Yet the whole feeling thus to be
described of what is fit and worthy must be accredited, as we desire to
show, simply to prejudice. Nothing can really depend for its intrinsic
grandeur upon our knowledge or ignorance of its origin. A single cause
instantaneously producing its effect does not make the result in any
way more admirable or magnificent than the like result coming at the
close of an indefinitely extended chain of causation. Feelings of
surprise and wonder are excited when we find that ten thousand copies
of the _Times_ newspaper can be printed within a single hour; but the
same feelings move us in the granite-yards of Scotland, when we learn
that many months are required for cutting through a single block. At
the first proposal of railways, a pace of twenty or five-and-twenty
miles an hour was thought too wonderful for belief; while now, from
familiarity with far higher rates of speed, we think it miserably slow.
A child is surprised to learn that the light of the sun requires time
to reach the eye; but a new and even greater surprise is aroused by the
information that the time so required is only a few minutes for ninety
millions of miles. The swiftness of thought is proverbial. A single act
of thought is commonly supposed to be absolutely instantaneous; and
yet presence of mind, which depends on rapidity of thought, is fully
recognized as an uncommon quality, while it has now been ascertained by
experiment that every thought requires a definite, and in many cases
measurable, length of time for its production and exercise. Following
the analogy of these illustrations, we may expect that the popular
opinion or prejudice as to the instantaneous creation of the human mind
will vanish and subside when men become familiar with the idea of its
slow development. It will at least be seen that there is no special
dignity and grandeur in the supposed suddenness of its introduction
into the universe. The general scheme of nature, so far as we can
penetrate its working, seems to show that there is some proportion
observed between the time spent in producing and the perfection of
the thing produced. Religion itself is an unquestionable witness to
this method of procedure. There is no great religion of which the
adherents claim to have had it revealed to them from the first in its
full perfection. What is true of religion, is true of all arts and
sciences. Their progress has been gradual. The greatness of nations,
even when it seems to blaze forth in history most suddenly, ever
finds its true origin in numerous steps of slow preparation. A hardy,
frugal tribe of warriors is nursed in some obscure mountain cradle.
The struggle for existence fosters their preservative virtues. A line
of rulers is evoked, forced by the circumstances of their tenure to
acquire, as their leading qualities, cunning, prudence, self-control,
fertility of resource, promptitude of action, till at length the hour
and the man coincide, and a handful of barbarians give their name
to a great empire. The same rule prevails with languages, and the
literatures that adorn them. So fully is this established in regard to
literature, that men who examine the subject deeply are almost led to
disbelieve in originality of genius altogether, from the invariable
indebtedness of the noblest authors to the thoughts and imaginings
of earlier minds. There is, therefore, no antecedent improbability
that can fairly be pleaded against the gradual development of the
human mind. On the contrary, every possible analogy is in its favour.
A supposition so favoured becomes at least a lawful and reasonable
subject of enquiry. If it be true that the theory of evolution applies
to the mind of man, we should expect to find in that mind itself traces
of the earlier steps, or grades of development, through which it has
passed, and also in the world around creatures lower than humanity in
some sort representing those earlier stages of slowly unfolding reason.
In other words, we should expect to find in human nature itself those
very inequalities, that very conflict of the higher and the lower
elements on which moralists so urgently insist, and we should expect
to find affinities and resemblances, more or less close, pervading
the whole animal creation, and exhibiting human reason and brute
intelligence as, upon a broad view, one in kind, however different in

The first requisite for intelligence is the possession of memory.
Without this faculty, intelligence is impossible; but, on the other
hand, memory that does not subserve some sort of intelligence, is a
useless faculty; and in this the old theory of creation agrees with the
new, that nothing obtains a footing in the world without a use. It may
be urged, that the human memory is incomparably superior to that of
the lower animals; but there are surprising differences in the powers
of memory among human beings, and the effects of cultivation, with the
facilities for that cultivation supplied by language, should be taken
into account. It is important to observe also, that with brutes, as
with men, some individuals are quicker than others; that the memory of
brutes, like our own, can be improved by training; and that its powers
are not equally distributed to all classes. The dog, the horse, the
parrot, the elephant, are probably not further below mankind in the
faculty of memory, than they are superior in it to the oyster and the

To make the most of humanity, without introducing the question of
man’s material form and structure, one would naturally insist upon
his docility or power of being taught; upon his versatility or power
of adapting various means to the same or various ends; upon his
moral nature, embracing the different passions and affections, and
the knowledge of good and evil; and, lastly, no doubt, one would be
inclined and one would have a right to insist on the grandeur of his
aspirations. A crafty rhetorician would perhaps dwell on the collective
value of these endowments, and then exhibit them, separately, rising
to their height and fulness in men like Archimedes, and Chrysostom,
and Dante. He would dare us to trace back the mental ancestry of these
true heroes to apes and fishes. Yet the reason, piety, and imagination
of such men, are themselves developed between childhood and maturity;
their very pre-eminence shows that improvement in such qualities is
possible from one generation to another, and that therefore meanness of
origin needs only to be coupled with remoteness in time to reconcile
the supremacy of man’s intelligence with its ultimate derivation from
the lowest powers of consciousness.

Mr. Wallace has pointed out very clearly and conclusively the
fallacious character of the evidence on which the old theory of
instinct was founded. Starting with the notion that wild animals had
none of that docility and versatility which man possesses through his
reasoning powers, yet seeing them produce effects like those which
man produces by the help of teachers or his own choice of means, we
inferred the existence of as many separate faculties as there are kinds
of animals. Each of these faculties was thought to resemble reason
about as much as a jack-in-the-box resembles a man. The faculty came
into exercise in one invariable way without any choice on its owner’s
part, just as the jack starts up, whether he will or no, when his lid
is taken off. We wondered at the admirable contrivance and design
by which these very limited faculties were adapted in each case to
the wants and preservation of the species to which they belonged. At
times, it is true, with some inconsistency, we permitted ourselves to
upbraid the goose with its stupidity; to speak of the sheep as silly,
and the ostrich as wanting intelligence; we even expunged the dodo,
with its self-preserving instinct, from the face of the earth; but in
spite of these slips and mischances, we still kept gaping and wondering
at our own explanation of things, and calling it an excessively wise
and ingenious contrivance that every species of animal should have a
separate faculty to itself, when one and the same faculty for them
all would not only do just as well, but a great deal better. We were
far from perceiving how strong a support to Materialism our theory
involved, since if the lower animals without reason produce effects
like those of reason, then effects like those of reason in a number of
cases beyond calculation must be the result of bodily structure. It
might not follow that the effects of reason itself were the results of
bodily structure, but it would become startlingly probable.

The history of domesticated animals is a continuous proof that some at
least of the lower creatures are capable of learning, and how learning
can be achieved without intelligence has never yet been explained,
and is never likely to be. But Mr. Wallace points out that we have
made a gratuitous assumption, unsupported by evidence, in supposing
birds, for example, to build their nests by instinct rather than by
following the example and instruction of their parents. Many things,
he remarks, which we ourselves are said to do instinctively, such as
putting out our hands to save ourselves from falling, are acquired
habits, not instinctive actions, and in fact not possessed by infants.
Mr. Darwin[31] tells us of a species of ant which behaves differently
towards its slaves in England and in Switzerland respectively. In his
memorable account of the busy bee, he shows that some species of bees
are less clever at their work than others, and that the accuracy even
of the most advanced cell-makers has been overrated. This is the more
worthy to be noted, because the same persons who are extremely zealous
to set forth reason as superior in kind to what they call instinct,
are yet often eager to extol the effects of the lower faculty above
those of the higher. An interesting account has recently been given
of baboons in the neighbourhood of the Cape of Good Hope combining
to pursue, and after a chase of two days and a night, successfully
destroying a leopard which had invaded their haunts. Two tribes
of baboons in the same locality, the occupants of separate rocky
strongholds, are described as upon one occasion meeting in battle, the
result being, that nearly a hundred were afterwards found dead or
dying on the scene of action[32]. The shape of the creature, and the
combination for warlike purposes, which carries with it such a tinge
of humanity, can scarcely fail to affect the imagination. Yet these
isolated instances must be far less telling than the comparison which
Mr. Wallace has so ingeniously instituted between man as a builder and
birds in the same capacity. The shelter of the savage is in many cases
a less finished contrivance than the nest which the bird prepares for
its young. The featherless biped, like the feathered one, takes the
materials readiest to its digits. Generations upon generations follow
one another without improvement or signs of inventive skill. Even
in the days of enlightenment, and in nations which pride themselves
most upon it, the human nest is repeatedly constructed without the
smallest attention to comfort, health, or beauty. Men, whose fathers
before them have built long rows of red-brick boxes to live in, build,
by instinct if you will, for it can scarcely be by reason, more
lengthening chains of red-brick boxes. There is no reason, indeed,
for supposing that the bird consults any principle of beauty in the
construction of its nest, but a principle of expedience some birds
certainly do consult; the orchard oriole, for example, building its
nest shallow or deep, according as it is placed among firm and stiff
branches, or suspended from the slender wind-swayed twigs of the
weeping-willow[33]. The fact that birds build in human habitations,
and make use of human manufactures, is a proof that they are capable
of choice both as to locality and materials. The often-observed
circumstance, that animals in a newly-discovered country are without
fear of man,--a fear which they speedily acquire from experience of his
mischievous propensities,--is a clear proof that they are capable of
learning caution. It cannot be pretended that a caution which thus only
comes in conjunction with experience is instinctive, or anything else
than the result of observation, and therefore a sign of intelligent
judgment. The lower animals, then, can learn prudence; can profit by
experience. In the training of domesticated animals, the same motives
of pleasure and pain are applied, and applied effectually, as are used
in the education of human beings by parents and schoolmasters and
lawgivers. This could not be if the groundwork of the moral nature were
not the same in man and the lower animals. Addison was inclined to
hold the old opinion, that ‘God himself is the soul of brutes,’ _Deus
est anima brutorum._ ‘One would wonder,’ he says, ‘to hear sceptical
men disputing for the reason of animals, and telling us it is only
our pride and prejudices that will not allow them the use of that
faculty[34].’ And yet his charming essays upon the natural history
of animals, in which he took so keen a personal pleasure, with very
little alteration, might be read as arguments in defence of the opinion
he thus condemns. He remarks that birds, which ordinarily drive away
their young as soon as they are able to get their own livelihood,
nevertheless continue to feed them if they are tied to the nest, or
confined within a cage, or by any other means appear to be out of a
condition of supplying their own necessities. He observes, that the
brood-hen will leave her eggs longer in summer than in winter, because
in summer they will cool less speedily. But apart from the ingenuity
necessary for the propagation of the species, he considers the same
bird to be a very idiot, without the least glimmering of thought or
common sense, mistaking a piece of chalk for an egg, and sitting upon
it as though it were one, insensible of an increase or diminution
in the number of those she lays, not distinguishing between her own
and those of another species; and when the birth appears of never so
different a bird, cherishing it for her own.

It is curious that we should abuse the hen for being now and then
deceived by our impostures, considering the immense quantities of
counterfeit coin we ourselves accept as currency, and the strange
compounds of chalk and mud and alum and poisonous herbs and minerals
which, according to the analysts, we contentedly swallow down as
milk and butter, bread and beer. But the hen in a wild state is not
subject to our impositions, and possibly the domestic hen finds it
better for herself to overlook them. At any rate, as the mistakes
concern her progeny, if her conduct is other than beneficial, it is
an argument _against_ the perfection of instinct, which it tends to
bring down to the level of imperfect human reason. It is commonly
supposed that ducklings take to the water by instinct. And Addison
tells us that on one occasion, as he was walking in the yard of
his friend’s country-house, he ‘was wonderfully pleased to see the
different workings of instinct in a hen followed by a brood of ducks.
The young, upon the sight of a pond, immediately ran into it; while
the step-mother, with all imaginable anxiety, hovered about the
borders of it, to call them out of an element that appeared to her so
dangerous and destructive[35].’ In order to test the real force of
nature in this matter, as distinct from experience and education, I
ventured on the experiment of placing some little orphan ducklings,
which had been reared away from any pond, in a shallow bath of water
just deep enough for them to swim in. The experiment was two or three
times repeated, but in each case with a sort of impiety, or, at any
rate, gross disrespect towards the grand principle of instinct, the
ducklings, instead of enjoying themselves in their appropriate element,
made the most violent and unceasing efforts to escape from it. The
whole theory of instinct, indeed, probably rests on a multitude of
evidences which have themselves been taken for granted. At every point
minute observation, or actual questioning of the facts asserted,
undermines it. Addison himself must have begun to waver, before he
inserted in the numbers of the ‘Guardian[36]’ the French philosopher’s
account of the ant, and its wonderful ingenuity and perseverance. Nor
are passages wanting in his works, which might have been expressly
written in support of the theory of development. After commenting on
the various insensible gradations of perceptive being, ‘If we look,’
he says, ‘into the several inward perfections of cunning and sagacity,
or what we generally call instinct, we find them rising after the same
manner, imperceptibly one above another, and receiving additional
improvements, according to the species in which they are implanted.
This progress in nature is so very gradual, that the most perfect of an
inferior species comes very near to the most imperfect of that which is
immediately above it.’ Again: ‘The whole chasm in nature, from a plant
to a man, is filled up with divers kinds of creatures, rising one over
another, by such a gentle and easy ascent, that the little transitions
and deviations from one species to another are almost insensible;’ and
he quotes with approbation a passage from Locke, in which we read,
‘There are some brutes that seem to have as much knowledge and reason
as some that are called men[37].’ Pope, who pursues much the same track
in his ‘Essay on Man,’ permits himself to speak of ‘the half-reasoning
elephant.’ Any one who doubts the appropriateness of such an epithet,
not only to the elephant but to many other animals, should begin to
study the ways and doings of the lower creatures with an eye to this
very question,--at every turn asking himself how the action observed
can be accounted for by a blind irrational instinct. A stumbling
horse, for example, that is generally beaten for stumbling, starts
after a false step before the lash is applied. How ridiculous will it
be to ascribe to horses an instinct of starting after stumbling--a
conditional instinct, that appears only in those horses that have
been previously beaten when they stumbled! We need not suppose, as
Lord Bacon appears to have done, that ‘dogs know the dog-killer’ by a
kind of power of divination[38]. By their watchful habits, and quick
inference from acute observation of the few particulars they are able
to comprehend, it can scarcely be doubted that dogs learn something of
the dispositions and intentions of mankind, recognize their humours,
and distinguish those who are friendly to themselves from those who are

Numberless writers have noticed the different dispositions of the lower
animals, differing not merely in separate species, but in various
individuals of the same. There has been no scruple in taking the brutes
themselves as types and emblems of moral qualities. Almost every vice
and virtue has been unsparingly assigned to one or other of the brute
creation. They are brave or cowardly, savage and treacherous, gentle
and generous, industrious, idle, obedient, wayward, affectionate,
malicious, working always for the common good, or full of rapacity
and selfishness. It is likely enough that we often misapply these
epithets, and call that courage which is only consciousness of
strength, and that malignant ferocity which is really a hungry stomach
and a badly-furnished larder; for such mistakes we commit also in
judging of our fellow-men. But there are many beautiful instances on
record in which dumb creatures have shown themselves capable beyond
question of faithful friendship, and therefore as possessing at least
the beginnings, if not any high advancement, of a moral nature. None
perhaps is more beautiful than that told by Henry Brookes, a writer
of the last century, about one of the lions in the Tower of London.
A little spaniel picked up in the streets was thrown into the cage
of the largest of these beasts, called for his size the king’s lion.
‘Immediately the little animal trembled, and shivered, and crouched,
and threw itself on its back, and put forth its tongue, and held up
its paws, in supplicatory attitudes, as an acknowledgment of superior
power, and praying for mercy. In the meantime the lordly brute, instead
of devouring it, beheld it with an eye of philosophic inspection.
He turned it over with one paw, and then turned it over with the
other, and smelled to it, and seemed desirous of courting a further
acquaintance. From this day the strictest friendship commenced between
them, a friendship consisting of all possible affection and tenderness
on the part of the lion, and of the utmost confidence and boldness on
the part of the dog, insomuch that he would lay himself down to sleep,
within the fangs and under the jaws of his terrible patron.’

The sequel of the story is pathetic. To tell it briefly, in twelve
months the little spaniel sickened and died. The lion at first supposed
him to be asleep, but finding that all his efforts to awaken him were
in vain, he was filled with intense anguish, would not allow the dead
body to be removed, refused all sustenance or comfort, spending his
time between rage and grief, till after five days of such an existence,
one morning he was found dead, with his head lovingly reclined on the
carcase of his little friend[39].

Were this only a fable instead of an actual incident, there is nothing
in it revolting to our sense of probability, because we are perfectly
aware that the lower animals constantly give indications of what in
ourselves we call the moral feelings. We continually see them behaving
as we ourselves behave when we submit to self-sacrifice for the sake of
those we love.

We see many animals in possession of laws and constitutions answering
to our own in all but one particular, namely, that theirs appear to be
fixed while ours are continually changing. But most likely we overrate
both the fixed character of theirs, and the instability of our own.
Changes in the politics of an oyster may easily escape the notice of
a man in the midst of some vast revolution (as he thinks it) of human
affairs, some vast revolution which proves in the end to be nothing
more than a change of names. For mankind the acquisition of language
has indefinitely quickened the movement of ideas, but where language is
without the aids of writing and printing, as among savage tribes, and
where the language itself is an imperfect instrument of thought, the
same routine seems to prevail from generation to generation. Fashion in
dress changes but slowly when the dress itself is nothing but a girdle;
and the fashions of the mind change with as little facility when ideas
and wants, and the means of expressing the one and gratifying the
other, are all alike few and extremely simple.

So simple are the wants and ideas of the savage, so little above those
of the elephant and the ape, that Mr. Wallace finds himself driven
to the conclusion that the savage ‘in his large and well-developed
brain possesses an organ quite disproportionate to his actual
requirements--an organ that seems prepared in advance, only to be
fully utilized as he progresses in civilization.’ But anything _quite
disproportionate_ to its actual place in nature cannot have been
produced according to the theory of development. This theory therefore
Mr. Wallace deems and declares inapplicable to the brain and mind of
man. In support of his view he adduces several circumstances both of
man’s bodily and mental constitution, which he considers this theory
incapable of explaining. He maintains that natural selection will not
account for those rudiments of logical, moral, and æsthetic faculties
which are to be found in uncivilized man; for the nakedness of the
human skin, though hair upon the back would be of essential service to
the unclad savage; for the absence of prehensile power from the human
foot, a power which he thinks would be useful, or for those perfections
of hand and voice which he thinks would be useless, to uncultivated
human beings. The inference he draws ‘from this class of phenomena is,
that a superior intelligence has guided the development of man in a
definite direction and for a special purpose, just as man guides the
development of many animal and vegetable forms.’

In this illustration he overlooks the circumstance that man’s selection
is after all nothing more nor less than part and parcel of natural
selection. In his argument from the various uses and powers of the hand
and brain, which could have been of no service to men in a wild state,
he neglects the consideration that what is selected through being
useful in one direction may incidentally become useful in another.
Had he employed his usual ingenuity on the question of man’s hairless
skin, he might have seen the possibility of its ‘selection’ through its
superior beauty or the health attaching to superior cleanliness. At
any rate it is surprising that he should picture to himself a superior
intelligence plucking the hair from the backs of savage men, (to whom
according to his own account it would have been useful and beneficial)
in order that the descendants of the poor shorn wretches might, after
many deaths from cold and damp, in the course of many generations take
to tailoring and dabbling in bricks and mortar. In regard to the voice
he makes an assertion which is surely impossible for himself or any one
else to prove, namely, that ‘savages certainly never choose their wives
for fine voices.’ But upon this assertion the whole of his argument
about the voice depends. And as for the stress which he lays upon the
rudimentary moral and æsthetic faculties of savages, we have shown that
numbers of other animals likewise have rudimentary moral faculties,
while Mr. Wallace himself makes it probable that many have a taste for
colour[40], and that ‘their powers of vision and their faculties of
perception and emotion must be essentially of the same nature as our

Truly in one sense every variation is prepared in advance, only to be
fully utilized in the future progress of the creature that varies.
Every variation, I doubt not, is so prepared in advance by a superior
intelligence, but under the general laws which that intelligence
has ordained, and not by a special interference. The real progress
of each creature, within the spheres at least of consciousness and
intelligence, would seem to consist in its growing capacity for
perceiving and understanding, for entering into fellowship with, beings
superior to itself. In mental powers the dog and the horse become more
and more like man, the closer and the more continuous the intercourse.
Could they learn our language or we theirs, the progress might be
indefinitely hastened. In the general progress onwards and upwards,
man, it may be believed, then first became the indisputable lord and
chief over his fellow animals, when his reason had so far advanced
that he could comprehend the idea of God, when his reason had grown
into a capacity of hearing the divine voice, which since then, not by
interference with physical conditions, but by intercourse of mind with
mind, has led him forward step by step from darkness into twilight,
from the twilight is still leading him forward, as his eyes become able
to bear it, towards the beauty of the rosy-fingered dawn; and just as
those of the lower animals are considered the most intelligent which
make the most successful efforts at intercourse with man and at serving
him, so, by a true analogy, may the philosopher deem those men and
those races of men to be furthest on the path of enlightenment who know
most of God and serve Him best.


A poor slave, named Androcles, escaped from his master into a sandy
desert. While there a lion came suddenly upon him, and by signs made
him understand that it was in an agony of pain. This the slave was
able to relieve by extracting a large thorn from its paw and by gentle
treatment of the wound. From this time the lion shared its prey with
the man, till Androcles, pining for human society, and facing even
death to regain it, at length gave himself up to his master. It so
happened that the slave was sent to Rome to be exposed to wild beasts
at the same time that the very lion which he had befriended was
sent thither, among many others, to supply the cruel sports of the
amphitheatre. The moment came when Androcles was to be torn in pieces.
A huge famished lion rushed forth in fury upon him; then paused, crept
gently towards him, and ended by fawning upon him with caressing
movements. It was the lion he had known in the desert.

This is no fable, but a piece of well-known history; and the sequel is
equally well-known, that the applause and admiration of all beholders
at this wonderful instance of fraternity between man and beast, at this
marvellous exemplification of the powers of memory and gratitude in a
wild animal, secured the lives both of slave and lion.

Had this been recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, in that noble and
reverent phraseology which so often leaves out of sight all secondary
causes as by comparison insignificant, and ascribes all that is good
and wonderful directly to God, there can be little doubt that it would
have borne a striking resemblance to the miracles wrought in favour of
Elijah and Daniel; when for the one God commanded the ravens to feed
him, and the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning and
bread and flesh in the evening; and for the other God sent his angel
and stopped the mouths of the lions even in their den, and they did him
no hurt. Explain these miracles as you will, and the kindred one quoted
by St. Peter, or accept them all without explanation as occurrences
out of the course of nature and beyond our comprehension, it still
follows from the language of the sacred writers that they at least
supposed these brute creatures capable of intelligence, an intelligence
sufficient to receive the divine commands and to avoid, so far as they
might, opposition to God’s will. For how else could there be any moral
teaching in the circumstance that ‘the dumb ass speaking with man’s
voice forbad the madness of the prophet?’ How else can the miracle seem
anything else or anything better than a piece of puerile conjuring?
But this faculty, which the sacred writers therefore attribute to the
brutes, the faculty of hearing and obeying the voice of God, is the
basis of the highest intelligence, the basis of all true morality and

That which we are now concerned to prove is, that human reason is an
outgrowth and development of a faculty common to the whole animal
creation; that we are the heirs of the past in fact, as we are
inheritors of the future in hope; that an incalculable multitude of
small advantages acquired in successive generations has brought man to
his present vantage-ground of superiority; and that this very footing
of advantage has now become in its turn simply the starting-point for
future improvement to an estate indefinitely higher and better. It may
well be impossible in a few minutes’ discourse to do more than indicate
the bare outline of the proof; and even this might seem inappropriate
to the time and place, did we not hope to show further that these
opinions, startling or even dangerous as they may seem to some, give
support to high principles of humanity, and are in accordance with the
course and progress of God’s revelation of Himself to mankind.

It is well established that the human body in all its parts corresponds
to the structure of certain of the lower animals. When first discovered
this was extremely shocking to the sentiments of mankind, shocking
to their pride, but shocking also to their religious sentiment,
because they had been accustomed to speak of the ‘human form divine,’
to represent the supreme God, ‘Jehovah, Jove, or Lord,’ as wearing
the form and acting with the members of a man, and because in the
writings sacred alike to the Jew and to the Christian, they found it
written that God created man in His own image; in the image of God
created He him.’ They did not stop to enquire what sort of creation
was intended or what sort of likeness. They failed to observe that
the vague indefinite notion they entertained of a bodily likeness was
inconsistent with the Christian’s cardinal doctrine of the Incarnation,
according to which it is not man that wears the form of God, but God
that took upon him the form of man.

It will now for a time perhaps seem equally shocking that the mind
of man, which alone is left him for the divine resemblance, should
notwithstanding have been developed from the mind of a brute creature,
or if not developed, at any rate framed upon the same type and pattern.

A broad line has till lately been drawn between reason and instinct,
instinct appearing in a large number of instances to do or even to
surpass the work of reason, but within an exceedingly limited sphere,
and according to a fixed invariable course. Ingenious and thoughtful
men, however, taking their opinions not from hearsay and tradition, but
founding them on careful observation of the works and ways of God in
nature itself, have now shown the baselessness of this ancient estimate.

The bird building its nest does not follow an invariable rule,
but accommodates itself to circumstances, to the materials of the
locality, to the requirements of defence, as man does with his own
habitations. There is no proof that the bird builds untaught by its
elders, or that it does not improve by practice. Since wasps have been
known to construct their nest out of paper, itself a fabric of human
invention, it is impossible they can have chosen their material by an
original instinct. The cells which various bees construct attain to
various degrees of perfection, and imperfections may be found in the
most perfect. It has indeed been a curious fancy for men so long to
entertain, that though they were created in the image of God to have
dominion over the lower creatures, yet those creatures without reason,
without teaching, without the God-likeness, should be able to surpass
them, by a miracle or a mystery, in the accuracy or perfection of their

The pursuit which man in a low state of civilization has ever thought
most noble is that of war. The essence of war lies in the combination
of forces and the choice of opportunity. Of both these the lower
animals are known to be capable. Their armies resemble human armies in
following leaders, in posting sentinels, in carrying off captives, in
making slaves. Creatures that are very weak combine not unfrequently
to repel or to destroy an antagonist immensely too strong for their
individual efforts. That rooks and other animals try, and execute
justice upon, offenders against the laws and customs of their society
is probable, if it cannot be absolutely proved.

The objection is sure to be urged that if the dumb animals have the
progressive plastic intelligence which is thus claimed for them,
it ought, in the innumerable generations which have existed, to
have attained to something far higher than there is any pretence
for thinking it to have done. But this objection leaves important
considerations out of sight. It is true here, as in so many cases,
that to him that hath shall more be given. The intelligence of man
reached a point not all at once but by degrees, at which it was able
to invent helps and appliances for its own benefit and improvement,
and thenceforward its strides were more rapid and its distinction from
lower intelligences more marked. Cancel the art of printing, cancel
the signs of the alphabet, cancel the forms of articulate language,
and with each one of these steps you will thrust back and degrade, not
perhaps every single human intellect, but certainly the whole mass
and average of human intelligence. There is no need to ask or answer
the question whether thought without language is possible: without
language thought cannot move, it has no grasp upon the world; it may
flicker for a moment in the mind that kindles it, as a light under a
bushel, but it cannot shine before men that they may see its goodness
and glorify their Father in heaven. We see the proof of this in races
of men that have no printed books, no symbols for writing, and but
feeble imperfect languages. Civilization is wanting to them; their
worship is degraded; in their habits and general morality they rise but
little above the brute creation. Moreover, century after century they
continue without making any apparent improvement or advance. Contrast
or compare with these the lower animal creation, and it will be found,
if not in its separate members, still in the whole group, not to fall
so infinitely below humanity as human beings have long been pleased to
imagine: for the lower animals can be taught to recognize man as their
superior and friend, though his mind is beyond their comprehension,
and a similar recognition is exactly what we men have to attain to in
regard to God; they can be taught by pleasure and pain, motives by
which we ourselves both in childhood and in age are taught, motives by
which God Himself declares that He teaches us, if we are to believe His

That they are capable of our virtues has been shown in a notable
instance; that they are capable of our follies is clear in the
conspicuous vanity of the peacock; and no weakness cleaves more
pertinaciously to the human mind than this of vanity, which is often
found combined even with the noblest intellect. That they are
influenced by feelings like ours may be learned from the gay plumage
of the bird of Paradise, acquired under the same influence of the
preference and admiration of others, for which fair women wear fair
raiment, and for which the soldier, at extra risk to his life, is clad
in scarlet.

According to a principle now well known, the earlier the period of life
the greater the resemblance is likely to be between creatures akin to
one another. Hence we may explain the phenomenon that some children,
throughout their childhood prone to causeless mischief and stubborn
resistance, become at length reasonable and self-controlled men. As
for the child, so for the brute, a future of enlightened reason and
self-control may be in store. The largest and most generous minds are
now beginning to contemplate the possibility of an immortal destiny
for all animals whatsoever. To my own mind, as doubtless to many of
yours, such a conception has often seemed fanciful and ridiculous,
as the greatest and best notions often do to minds that are narrow
or unexpanded by a wisdom higher than their own. So it was that the
gossips and philosophers of Athens mocked when they heard of the
resurrection of the dead, though St. Paul was preaching only the
resurrection of human beings. To extend this belief in the resurrection
to all the animate creation is to extend our conception of the power
and the goodness of God, to make easy many things that otherwise seem
appallingly difficult in regard to His justice and His mercy. Does
it seem a thing impossible with you that God should raise the dead?
Is the Lord’s arm shortened that it cannot save, whether it be man,
or the worm that Scripture deems his fitting emblem? Or, as the Jews
were jealous that the Gentiles should be saved, are we jealous that
for creatures which we slaughter, trample on, enslave, and crowd out
of existence, happiness and life should yet be in store as well as for

Be willing to believe that language, reason, spiritual insight, which
is the reason elevated to the capacity of knowing God--be willing to
believe that these have been gradual acquisitions to humanity, and the
whole course of God’s Providence will at once stand out in a clearer,
purer light. Supposing the soul of man thousands of years back to have
been precisely what the soul of man is now, its requirements and its
aptitudes must have been the same then as they are to-day, so that
if the doctrine of the Trinity is essential now, it must have been
essential then, when it had not been revealed. On the same supposition,
too, either the record of God’s will in the earliest portion of the
Bible is incredibly defective, or the record of it in the completed
canon of Scripture must be charged with bewildering superfluity.

But God has not dealt so with His children. He has given them their
heavenly food as they were able to bear it. First by allegory and
parable He unfolds His will, as a father tells his little ones the
stories which they love to hear, minding ever within the stories and by
means of the stories to present the truth, the lessons of the beautiful
and the upright. The earliest revelation of God presents Him in the
simplest form, the easiest for us to understand, as the Great Patriarch
of mankind. Along with this revelation came simple commands and
prohibitions, the requirements of external sacrifice, the promise and
warning of temporal rewards and punishments. The law of retaliation, an
eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, seems brutal now, but it is the
beginning of a noble education. It says indeed, ‘Do to others as they
have done to you,’ but then in regard to injuries it bids you exact
no more than you have suffered, instead of taking a brutal revenge by
repaying the injury tenfold: and in regard to benefits it bids you
never forget to be grateful. From it springs the higher and better law,
of doing to others, not as they have done to you, but as you would
have them do to you. Without these beginnings the human mind could
never have comprehended or received the highest education--that we are
not only to forgive but to love our enemies. The system of material
sacrifices trained men to a capability of understanding and of offering
the sacrifice of the heart; the outward cleansings demanded by the law
led them by degrees to recognize the need of inward purity. By the law
came the knowledge of sin. Not till man knew that sin was sinful could
he either wish for or receive a Saviour. Hence it was that Christ came
not at the beginning, but only in the fulness of time. The gift of the
Holy Ghost was not outpoured till men in part were ready to receive
it. That it is still bestowed with so sparing a hand is not the fault
of God’s liberality, but of our backwardness to believe in God, to
commune with Him, and thereby to grow up into His likeness. We are the
mirror in which the divine image shines, if only the mirror can be made
to receive the requisite brightness.

To know that sin is sinful is to become conscious of the will of God,
to become conscious of a good and perfect will to which our own ought
to be conformed. Not to know this will is to be still brutish; to know
it only by the teaching of others is to be still among the things of
a child; to know it of oneself, which is in other words to know it by
the teaching of the Holy Ghost, who alone can implant the doctrine with
unfailing demonstration and enable us to receive His discipline,--this
at length is to be a man made in the image of God. For the fear of
the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and to depart from evil that
is understanding; and to love God with all the heart and all the
understanding and all the soul and all the strength, is the single aim
as it is the crowning effort of the highest and purest intelligence.
To be able to pray to God is the glory of reason; to do it, is the
safeguard of life.


The divergence of opinion between scientific and unscientific persons
is scarcely anywhere more conspicuous than in their measurements of the
age of the world we live in. A popular impression still prevails that
the old beldame earth, as Hotspur calls it, is about six thousand years
of age. A little margin is sometimes allowed. By an exercise of heroic
liberality a period of ten or twelve thousand years is occasionally
conceded for the earth’s existence. Any chronology discontented with
these ample limits comes within the domain of rash and dangerous
speculation. Some, indeed, who would fain conciliate all parties, are
willing to extend the bounds on certain conditions. They will grant a
large extra slice of time, provided that during that period the earth
was a shapeless uninhabited lump, or if inhabited, not inhabited by
men. ‘Come, now,’ says the cheap-jack, ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do with
you; I’ll throw you in another five thousand years; fifteen thousand
years! and take the lot. What! not do? I’ll make it twenty thousand.
Now, I’ll tell you what I’ll do with you: I’ll make it five-and-twenty
thousand years, and if that won’t satisfy you, you aren’t worth arguing

What scientific men think of the cheap-jack’s offer it is the object of
this essay to consider.

The problem upon which many thoughts and speculations of science are
for the moment converging is the origin of life. There are some who
believe that under certain chemical conditions living creatures are
continually coming into existence, ungenerated by any living parent,
born as it were without birth, acquiring an animated existence, with
powers of motion, feeding, and reproduction, from substances previously
wanting in one or all of these capacities; such creatures, in short,
as, if asked for their parentage, could but answer, each for itself, my
father was an atom, and my mother a molecule. It should be remembered
that the little animals supposed to arise in the manner described first
become visible, if at all, as the tiniest objects that microscopes
can detect. But whether there is or is not in these days a continual
coming into existence of these infinitesimal pigmies, they are just
such productions as the Theory of Development would suppose to have
arisen originally, constituting the first outburst of life upon the
globe, ancestral to the noblest forms of animated nature now extant,
progenitors in an unbroken line of man himself. As a rule, among living
things we find that offspring bear a tolerably exact resemblance
to their parents. The lower the organism the less easy is it to
distinguish specimens of one generation from those of another; and
even in the most highly organized creatures the points of resemblance
generally far outweigh the points of difference between the parents
and their children. In short, under ordinary circumstances, not one
generation only, but a hundred, may pass away without registering
any perceptible alteration in the character of a species. A hundred
generations of mankind would require a period of about three thousand
years. A hundred generations of less important creatures might not
perhaps require even as large a number of hours. But between the two
extremes the necessary periods would bear a kind of ratio to the
perfection of the organism. Variations might now and then follow one
another in quick succession, and then a pause come of a thousand
generations or so before any further changes in the character of a

Such are the conditions under which Mr. Darwin and his followers
believe it possible for the whole sequence of changes to have been
effected, which have ended in peopling the whole earth with a countless
variety of the most diverse forms of life. Many persons are horrified
at the notion of linking together a man and a monkey even by the most
distant ties of consanguinity; what will they say to a genealogy which
begins with an almost invisible speck and ends with a Patagonian
giant--a genealogy which asserts that, through the slow process of
minute changes occurring for the most part at rare intervals, our
fair humanity has been developed or evolved out of creatures which
no unaided human eye could distinguish from the dust on which we
carelessly trample. To some ears such a theory must sound wild and
preposterous beyond all the boundaries of sane and rational thinking.
And, in truth, no censure could be too severe, no ridicule too keen for
so extravagant a piece of folly as this theory must be, if the old and
still prevailing notions about the age of the world have any foundation
in fact. It only begins to be reasonable, if we can afford to stretch
our notions of history from the narrow margin of six thousand to the
broader field of six hundred thousand years, with an indefinite past in
the background.

This vast lapse of time, as commensurate with the existence of the
inhabited globe, is essential to the Theory of Development. It must be
established, as it has been, by independent evidence of its own, before
it can give to that theory its absolutely necessary support. But the
Theory of Development in its turn helps the mind to believe and realize
this enormous lapse of time, with its seemingly never-ending march and
flow, rank upon rank, wave upon wave, by finding work and employment
for all its almost measureless duration. It explains, as it were, why
the drama of life still goes on, why the play was not long ago played
out, and the curtain let fall upon all the busy multitudinous actors.

Time of itself does nothing; but nothing can be done without time.
It is not a personal agent, but a necessary condition. We cannot
even think, much less reason, of things as occurring out of time
and independently of it, any more than we can think or reason of
matter as existing independent of space. Every occurrence takes
time: and yet we may not leap from this fact to the conclusion that
a countless multitude of occurrences will require a vast duration of
time. Professor Tyndal, in his Lecture on the Scientific Use of the
Imagination, refers to waves of light less than 1/50000 of an inch in
length. How many do you suppose of such waves would be required to
compass a mile? How many to accomplish the 185,000 miles which light
travels in a second? Each undulation is a separate occurrence, so that
we have millions of millions of occurrences following one upon another
in a second of time. In studying, therefore, the complete fabric of
the globe, or even of the whole material universe as far as it comes
within our ken, the problem for solution is not whether these great
results could or could not have been brought to pass in an indefinitely
short space of time, in the twinkling of an eye, as one might say, but
whether the space of time employed in their production has actually and
in fact been indefinitely short or indefinitely long. We ought also to
bear in mind that the terms we use when we speak of _long_ and _short_,
are relative not absolute--relative to the duration of our own lives,
or to some other arbitrary standard which we are pleased to set up for
purposes of comparison. Thus a year is long compared with a minute, but
short compared with a millennium; a thousand years would be an enormous
length for the life of a mortal man, but compared with the ceaseless
flow of ages, which we call eternity, this same thousand years becomes,
as it were, an imperceptible speck, less than a drop of water compared
to the Atlantic, a point of time so inconceivably minute, that no human
mind could grasp it as an intelligible unit of measurement. For time,
we have an inexhaustible past on which to draw. Against any given
theory of production, no objection pure and simple that the theory
makes too large a demand upon time, can be maintained. An objection,
to be valid against the existence of life on the earth a million of
years back, must postulate that there was no earth then in existence,
or none capable of supporting life; for if we choose to stand by the
doctrine of final causes, life upon the earth must have begun as soon
as life upon the earth was possible, otherwise we should have a fair
and perfect design with its purpose unaccomplished; or, if we prefer
the Theory of Development carried out to its legitimate consequences,
equally must we admit, that as soon as the earth was fitted for living
creatures, living creatures would be generated upon it.

In tracing back the duration of the globe, the first demand of the
uninitiated will be for the written evidence of historical records. The
popular impression claims to be founded upon such evidence of the most
authoritative description. Little do the upholders of this impression
in general understand that they are building their faith, not upon the
Book of Genesis, or the inspiration of the Hebrew lawgiver, but on
the arithmetical speculations of an Irish archbishop, who lived in the
seventeenth century.

Before we can accept the Hebrew genealogies as competent data for
historical chronology, we must understand the principles on which they
were framed. In ancient languages we have abundant evidence to show
that the ties of blood were not as sharply distinguished as among
ourselves. The same word sufficed to designate son and grandson, and
even the most remote descendant. A man’s heir was called his son;
an usurping successor might receive the same title[43]; and, beyond
all this, it has been shown to have been ‘a common practice with
the Jews to distribute genealogies into divisions, each containing
some favourite or mystical number; and that, in order to do this,
generations were either repeated or left out.’ Some persons, perhaps,
will say, ‘We don’t believe it, or we don’t believe it in regard to
any of the biblical genealogies.’ And yet the very first chapter of
the New Testament is the most conclusive and incontrovertible proof of
the statement; for our Lord’s genealogy[44] is there expressly divided
into three periods of fourteen generations each, and the middle period
has been stripped of three generations in order to bring it down to the
pre-determined number. The names of three well-known princes (Ahaziah,
Joash, Amaziah), whose histories occupy several chapters in the Second
Book of Kings, are omitted, and Amaziah’s son is described, without
further note or comment, as a son begotten by one who was really his
father’s great-grandfather. In a matter so obvious, there cannot attach
to the compiler of the genealogy the very faintest suspicion of bad
faith. He was following the custom of his country, for reasons then
deemed, and perhaps in those days actually being, good and sufficient.
Can we make as satisfactory an apology for men in the present day,
who shut their eyes to the nature of the evidence on which they build
opinions about the age of the world opposed to the discoveries of
science? If in the first century of the Christian era, in times of
comparative enlightenment, by men of approved truth and uprightness,
genealogies could be compiled without the smallest regard being paid
to the actual number of successive generations, it becomes impossible
to attach any value as chronological evidence to Hebrew genealogies
fifteen hundred, or, for all that we can tell, fifteen thousand
years more ancient. Had the genealogy on which this conclusion rests
admitted a chance of error, had there been any motive for fraud in its
construction, did any suspicion lie against its authenticity, the case
would be weakened. But just because there neither was nor could have
been error in the mind of the writer, or deceit in his intention, just
because what he wrote, he wrote deliberately and of set purpose, it is
certain that his record is not, and was never meant to be, a measure
of time; and that those who persist in measuring time by similar
records, are the victims of a manifest delusion, ensnared, it may be
feared in too many cases, with their eyes open.

There is an old jest that, in the pride of antiquity, a Welshman
generally traces back his lineage not only as far as Adam, but a
great deal further. Nothing was easier, before the age of historical
criticism, than for men or nations, whose real origin was lost in
obscurity, to link their names to an illustrious past. Nothing was
easier than to develope the obscurity itself into a long line of remote
ancestors, whose names and virtues could be invented and multiplied
at pleasure. What the poet was only too willing to imagine, the
mathematician seemed able to confirm, by registering astronomical
occurrences in far-distant long-past ages with as much precision as
those which he predicted, and predicted truly, for his own and future
times. The Hindoo chronology reckons the age of the world by millions
of years. The Egyptians twenty centuries ago used to tell of 330
kings of whom they knew no more than the names. There were Greeks who
claimed to be older than the moon; others who anticipated the theory of
_abiogenesis_ by claiming to be sprung from the earth itself without
the intervention of parents; and yet others, who with more modesty
or more pride, as we please to regard it, derived their origin from
gods and demigods. None were willing to be thought new people. The man
of yesterday, the _novus homo_, the upstart, the parvenu, has ever
been disliked and laughed at by society. And in like manner, among
nations, a new rival excites the fears and encounters the ridicule
of the established clique. Claims to antiquity, therefore, were as
advantageous to possess as they were easy to forge. Those that have
been mentioned, being unattested by any corroborative facts, and,
where they are not obviously false, being unsusceptible of proof, are
worthless in themselves. One thing they tend to show, namely, that all
remembrance of the real origin of mankind, and of the date of that
origin, had been absolutely lost to those ancient peoples. From over
the sea, from beyond the mountains, from the bright east or the frozen
north, they might know that their forefathers had made pilgrimage
in distant ages--or they might know of no time, however far back,
when the seat of their habitation had not been occupied by their own
progenitors. In either case their ignorance of primeval history is as
absolute as it is conspicuous. One prevailing tradition, it is true,
is current alike in sacred and profane literature, of a far-off golden
time, an age of simplicity, when man conversed with the beasts of the
field, when the earth brought forth her fruits spontaneously, with
her bosom as yet unvexed by the ploughshare, ere the knowledge or the
discrimination of good and evil had come into the world--the record,
in one word, as all these details tend to prove, of a time before man
had become a moral being; a dim mysterious recollection, almost like a
dream, of a time before the animal nature had been decisively exalted
into humanity.

Some persons believe, against all probability of evidence, that spoken
language was a sudden original inspiration instead of a gradual
invention. None, however, assert the right of believing the same thing
in regard to letters or written language. The progressive origin of
alphabetical signs is admitted on all sides, so that there must have
been a time when man had to trust to his fallible memory instead of
written memoranda. The growth of picture-writing itself must have been
extremely slow, from the difficulty of establishing an agreement as to
the meaning of particular representations. What this difficulty amounts
to may to some extent be tested any day in a picture-gallery, where all
the appliances and skill of modern art are at our service. Without the
aid of a descriptive catalogue, it is but seldom that any two accounts
of the meaning of the same picture would be found to agree. The art of
drawing, it may well be supposed, was not an inspiration. It had to be
invented. The very idea of transmitting a record to future ages would
only occur with the advance of civilization. The crumbling surface of
the rock, the decaying bark of trees, would be the first perishable and
soon obliterated manuscripts. Before account could be taken of months
and years, astronomy must have made some progress. Before the flow of
centuries could be accurately noted, arithmetic must have advanced
far beyond the stage at which we still find it among numerous savage
nations. An Esquimaux couple, it is said, find it difficult to count
their own children, even when they are no more than four or five[45].

From these considerations alone we may feel perfectly certain that
numbers of ages elapsed before men acquired the means of recording
the duration of time by any definite measurements. Unconsciously and
without set purpose, perhaps the very earliest tribes and the most
untutored have left behind them traces not only of their existence but
of the date and era at which they lived; traces which we are only now
beginning to decipher, and to read with faltering lips.

All around us in England, in Devonshire, in Torquay, and all over the
globe, lie the memorials of human beings, of whose day and generation
the oldest historical records we possess know absolutely nothing. Here
and there the tale is told by a heap of shells. From such heaps we know
what dishes were served at the Dane’s dinner-table, at a time when
cereal crops were unknown in Denmark, and sea-weed was used instead of
salt[46]. Oysters and cockles, mussels and periwinkles, seem to have
been _ad libitum_; the stag, the roe-deer, and the wild boar were at
the service of that ancient Dane as often as he could catch them with
his weapons of wood, stone, horn, or bone[47]; when pork and venison
were scarce, his palate could content itself with dog or fox. From the
waters of the mountain-lake, from the centre of the high-piled barrow,
in the circles of giant stones upon broad-stretching plain or wild
moorland, from peat-moss and railway-cutting and limestone cavern,
we obtain, as Sir John Lubbock and Mr. Pengelly and others have so
well shown, the unwritten records of prehistoric man, of human beings
unnoticed in any credible history, and preceding all well-established
definite historical dates whether of sacred or profane literature.
Who reared the Titanic monuments of Stonehenge and Abury we know
not. We know not who constructed the extraordinary animal-mounds of
Wisconsin in North America--mounds hundreds of feet long, reared a
few feet above the level plains, in the figures of men and beasts and
birds and reptiles. These monuments, if such they were intended to be,
must have demanded prodigious industry for their construction. They
imply a considerable population, and some advance in artistic skill.
But why they were designed, and who designed them, are circumstances
alike unknown. It is necessary to press home this argument founded
upon our ignorance, and to dwell upon it with some emphasis, because
numbers of persons are pleased to imagine and assert that, within two
or three thousand years before the Christian era, the whole human
population of the globe was as it were still in the bud, and that from
a single family, not mustering a dozen members to start with, all its
tribes have since then been derived, with their endless diversities of
features, hair, complexion, customs, tastes, and other qualities both
of mind and body. According to the old chronology we are to suppose
that within this limited space of time, from under a single roof, the
children went forth, spreading over all lands, not only miraculously
forgetting the common ancestral language, but forgetting the arts, the
traditions, the sentiments, which they had in common, retrograding in
some cases into a savage ferocity or an almost imbecile simplicity,
in others retaining or developing forms of an advanced civilization.
Esquimaux and Hottentots, Japanese and Red Indians, the Negro and
the Greek, are thus united in ties of cousinship by no means remote.
Arts, monuments, and modes of life essentially different in spirit and
character are supposed, within these narrow bounds of time, to have
sprung up; nor only to have sprung up, but to have passed away, leaving
only a few faint vestiges to recall the artists, the heroes, the
lawgivers, the national temper, the genius of the time, whereunto they
owed their existence. It must surely be allowed that marriage customs
change with slow reluctance; an alteration of the sentiment with which
women are regarded is not easily or quickly produced. Yet on no subject
are the practices and opinions of mankind more widely diversified.
One wife to one husband is in some places the rule; but in others,
one husband to many wives, one wife to many husbands, or husbands
and wives without any special appropriation, which some societies
consider a selfish infringement of the general right. According to the
customs of different nations, wives must be fought for, or stolen,
or purchased, or caught in a race, or wooed and won with pin-money
and other endearments. According to the feeling of different races,
the wife is a chattel, a beast of burden, a slave, a stewardess, a
domestic ornament, an equal, or a master[48]. Let it be granted that
many of these customs and sentiments may have been contemporaneous in
their growth or development, the same thing cannot be admitted of the
different centres of colonization in which they grew and developed. Men
do not without cause quit their ancestral homes to found colonies in
remote parts of the world; and the causes only arise at intervals. When
the cause has arisen, and the new settlement been occupied, the exiles
retain for the most part, and long retain in affectionate remembrance
the manners and customs, the religion and laws, of the mother-country;
or when the remembrance is other than affectionate, they retain them
from the want of an alternative, from the conservatism in which all men
to a greater or less degree participate, from the incapacity of the
human mind to strike out new customs, or revolutionize ideas, except by
a gradual and half-unconscious progression.

Among the visible and tangible proofs of man’s and the earth’s
antiquity, few are more interesting than those presented in the
section, well known to geologists, cut by the railway through the delta
of the Tinière, a torrent flowing into the Lake of Geneva[49]. Three
layers of vegetable soil appear in the section, at depths of four and
ten and nineteen feet respectively below the present surface. These
layers contained distinctive relics. In the first were found ‘Roman
tiles and a coin,’ in the second ‘fragments of unvarnished pottery,
and a pair of tweezers in bronze;’ in the third, ‘fragments of rude
pottery, pieces of charcoal, broken bones, and a human skeleton having
a small, round, and very thick skull.’ The thick-headed owner of that
skull is computed to have lived, at the lowest estimate, about five
thousand years ago. But the cone of the delta began to be formed long
before the man was buried in it, and higher up the stream another cone
is found about twelve times as large, requiring therefore a time for
its formation about twelve times as long, unless we have recourse to
that miserable refuge for the destitute in argument, which consists in
supposing that causes now slow and comparatively regular, operated in
former times with an incomparably greater speed and a more spasmodic
violence, of which no trace remains, nor likelihood appears in the
record. In a word, we may infer that, so far from the shapely order and
decorous arrangement of the earth’s surface being only six thousand
years old, it has taken no less than fifty or a hundred thousand years
to pile up this one little heap of mud and gravel. The age of human
works buried under the fertilizing sediment of the stately Nile is much
disputed, but there can be little doubt, if we take into consideration
the ancient fluviatile deposits in terraces sometimes hundreds of
feet above the present alluvial plain, that the long-unknown sources
of the mysterious river have produced ten myriad repetitions of the
annual overflow, pouring down its waters to the sea through a thousand

But Egypt and Switzerland are a long way off; geologizing in a
railway-cutting has been before now a fatal employment; and digging
pits forty feet deep into the mud of the Nile is an operation attended
with difficulties peculiar to itself. Here, however, in Torquay, close
at hand, we possess a register of time as compact, as accessible, as
genuine, as the Library of the British Museum. Limestone, it is well
known, is formed beneath the waters of the sea. When it appears above
the sea-level, it must have been upheaved from its ocean-bed. How long
a period must be allowed for the hill which contains Kent’s cavern to
have been formed by this double process, may be left for the present
to the imagination. How long a time elapsed before the cavern was
burst open or eaten out from the solid limestone, we will not enquire.
Thanks to the diligent exploration of it; thanks to the unwearied
courtesy of its scientific curators[51], the contents of the cavern,
or at least a portion of them, are now well known. Not only do they
embrace the remains of animals not now existing in England, but they
embrace the remains of animals long since lost to the globe. With these
are mingled the products of human intelligence, the weapons of the
savage. The cave-earth which, as well as the stalagmite, contains these
relics of a most remote antiquity, is itself permeated with films of
stalagmite, a conclusive proof of its gradual introduction. Over the
lower portions have been formed in succession three solid stalagmitic
floors, remnants of which have quite lately been discovered still
imbedded in the cavern[52]. Let us for a moment consider what this
implies. If we transport ourselves to Matlock Bath in Derbyshire, for
the small fee of a penny, any one of its ‘petrifying wells’[53] will
be open to our inspection. In these curious grottoes whatever object
you please, natural or artificial, be it skull or the cap that once
covered it, be it basket or bird, or shell or leaf, may be encrusted
with a coating of stalagmite. The inexperienced visitor would like to
place an object in the well, and to wait while the ‘petrifying’ waters
do their work. He is surprised to find that in that case he must wait
and watch for months and years, while the slow persevering stream falls
upon his treasure with its ceaseless drip, drip, drip, and that the
work so slowly accomplished would not be accomplished at all if the
flowing of the stream were hastened. Imagine, then, in this famous
cavern of ours what an interminable song, though an intermittent one,
must have been sung with this drip, drip, drip, through ages and ages,
to produce, as in one place it has done, a solid stalagmitic mass full
twelve feet in thickness. Now, according to Usher’s chronology, we have
seventeen centuries from Adam to the Flood, and twenty-three centuries
from the Flood to the age of Julius Cæsar. If this chronology is to
be accepted, Kent’s cavern must have been filled either in the first
period or in the second. As the same arguments will apply to each, let
us assume that the second or longer period sufficed for this purpose,
and see what further admissions this assumption will involve. We have
three and twenty centuries at our disposal. At the end of that time
we know historically that Britain was occupied by tribes more or less
savage, some of them going about almost naked, destitute of almost
all the arts of civilization. We are to imagine the ancestors of this
wild race migrating from Asia and slowly pioneering their way to the
western limits of Europe. Necessity is the mother of invention; but
these men in their difficult adventurous travel through unknown seas
and pathless jungles tenanted by dangerous beasts, learn only how to
forget. They forget the use of brass and iron, and take to weapons and
tools of flint; they give up tillage; they give up building strong
towers, and shelter themselves in wooden huts or caves and dens of the
earth. The climate of Western Asia is warm and sunny, that of England
often, and in many parts, bleak and foggy and cold; therefore these
intelligent children of Noah, in order perhaps to harden themselves
in the process of acclimatization, as they force their way into the
fog and mist, instead of keeping or assuming the flowing robes of the
Asiatic, exchange their garments, at any rate in battle, for a wash of
paint. How interesting it would be to have the family portraits of a
Highland clan from the earliest times, showing how they gradually made
it fashionable to do without the various articles of clothing which one
by one they have been induced to resume[54]! During the same epoch,
within the same limits of time, migrating also from the warm regions
of Asia, came elephants and lions, hyenas and bears, the rhinoceros
and the elk. Little recked they then of change of climate, which now
they so ill endure. They prowled all over Europe; they swam across the
English Channel. Yet before the historical period begins in Gaul and
Britain, most of these species had had time not only to make their way
thither, not only to nourish and abound in these habitations, but to
die out and to be forgotten. We know for certain that elephants once
roamed over Devon. Did they succumb to the flint weapons of the savage?
Was the same savage able to extirpate the hyena and the lion, though
the representatives of those fierce beasts still partially set us at
defiance in India, notwithstanding the rifles and gunpowder of modern
civilization? Let us imagine that within the specified time all that
has been mentioned could have happened, and that some of the animals,
such as the woolly rhinoceros, had time to assume the characters of
northern species, or that the climate had time for vast changes and
alterations, or that the winds perhaps in those days blew hot and
cold with the same breath so as to suit arctic and tropical species
indifferently;--we must imagine further that within the same limits the
three floors of stalagmite could have been formed in succession, and
two of them successively broken up. They must have been formed, not
during the whole of the period, but only during that part of it which
_followed_ the introduction into Britain of wild beasts, and of men who
used flint weapons; for one unmistakeable weapon of human manufacture,
and innumerable bones of the great old cave bear have been found within
the rock-like breccia of stone and stalagmite and cave-earth, some feet
below both the floors of more recent formation[55]. The longer the
period, therefore, we allow for the migration from the East and the
dying out of civilized life, the shorter is the period left for the
stalagmitic formation. Yet probably the whole twenty-three centuries
would not suffice for the formation of one of the floors; how much less
could a fraction of the period suffice to form all three, and to supply
the intervals during which, through some change of circumstances, the
cave-earth was accumulating, and consequently no solid floor being

At Matlock the drip is continuous, being supplied by a stream, and not
being, as in Kent’s cavern, dependent on the chances of the rainfall
and the quantity of water that may percolate through a limestone roof.
At Matlock, for purposes of trade, it is an object that a coating of
stalagmite should be formed as quickly as possible. With this view the
water is allowed to fall at the rate of fifty or sixty drops a minute,
the drip being maintained at numerous points simultaneously. At Matlock
we may roughly estimate that an inch of stalagmite would require four
years for its formation, so that twelve feet and a half would require
six hundred years. In Kent’s cavern, on the other hand, the drip is
often interrupted. There is no commercial interest at hand to regulate
the speed in the most advantageous manner, so that it falls sometimes
too quickly and sometimes too slowly. The points at which it falls are
few and far between. It cannot reasonably be supposed in any year to
produce even a twentieth of the effect we have estimated for the drip
at Matlock. In other words, the two later floors of the cavern would
alone require a period of twelve thousand years for their formation.
Even at this rate the cavern would probably have been so extremely damp
and uncomfortable that no men or beasts would have chosen it for a
shelter in rainy weather.

But the cavern inscriptions make it as certain as can be that the rate
of speed here allowed for the formation of stalagmite is vastly too
high, and therefore that the time allowed for the formation is vastly
too low. The famous inscription of 1688 was shown to me a few days
back[56]. It was at that very time wet with the drip from the cavern
roof, a drip falling at the rate of thirty-four drops a minute. If
the date were really cut in the year 1688 (and there is no reason to
suppose that it was not), by our first calculation more than two inches
of stalagmite ought to have formed over it. Instead of which there is
but a thin veneer, a veneer that was observed upon it more than forty
years ago, and which has not in all those forty years increased enough
to make such a description of it inappropriate. If the date 1615 be
authentic, over which, in the opinion of the superintendents of the
exploration, not one-eighth of an inch of stalagmite has been formed
in more than two centuries and a-half, at the same rate of progression
twelve feet and a-half of stalagmite would demand for its formation
three hundred thousand years.

This cavern by itself, therefore--this one little crack in the
outermost rind of the earth’s surface--proves a comparatively immense
antiquity for the existence of organic life and of human beings upon
the globe. But to compare the antiquity of the cavern contents with
the antiquity of the limestone formation in which they are contained
is positively beyond any intelligible numerical measurement. Yet
the limestone formation itself is filled with the relics of living
creatures, and in some parts, if not in all, is one gigantic mass of
such remains.

In cliffs of sea-shore and river, in railway-cuttings, in mine-shafts
and quarries, we may often see layers of the earth’s crust in the
order of their original deposition. Except where the signs are
present of some subsequent violent interference, this order is
uniform and invariable. It is not that all the members of the series
are invariably present, far from it; but in order of deposition the
relations of higher and lower are never interchanged. Every one of
the many different layers which have been distinguished by geologists
has a distinctive group of fossils. You may, if you please, suppose
that for each of these layers of the earth’s crust there was a new
creation of living creatures, wonderfully like at each successive
step, though wonderfully different at long intervals, as though they
were the work of an artist whose ideas moved but slowly; but for
such a supposition you have no authority; the conception has neither
simplicity nor grandeur; it does not even accord with the facts, since,
amid the general change of organic structures, we find the permanence
of a few; and while the groups of two successive layers have, each
of them, numerous distinctive forms, it is impossible to draw any
definite boundary-line between the groups themselves, which sometimes
intermingle with an inextricable interlacing on their confines. Nothing
comes out more clearly to the student of the rocks, than that the world
of to-day is the world of millions of years back; from one point of
view ever-changing, yet ever essentially the same; from another point
of view, out of the utmost regularity of alternation, never producing
the same thing, or presenting the same aspect twice. We think that
the stage has been essentially altered, because in the days of that
immeasurable past _we_ did not strut upon it. We are unable to fathom
the depth of our own insignificance, and are unwilling to believe in a
march of time, compared with which the span of our own lives seems so
contemptible. In the depths of the ocean the formation of chalk is said
to be going on at this very day. Probably there is no time known to the
geologist at which the formation of chalk has not been going on in the
depths of the ocean; but its older layers have been altered by chemical
and mechanical forces, by fire, by pressure, and by other means.

We know that chalk and limestone do not form in the open air. If we
find them piled up in enormous hills and mountains high above the level
of the sea, and far from its coasts, we know that they did not grow in
that position; that once their proud crests and ridges lay low in an
ocean bed. They could not have been formed on a sudden, or rapidly, or
by any other than the slow steps of infinitesimally small successive
accumulations: for we find them filled throughout with the evidences of
life, shells and sponges, and corals of exquisite beauty and delicacy,
generations after generations of which must have had time to build up
their beautiful fabrics. Many things may be hastened; you may quicken
the growth of many; but you can’t hurry a sponge. Every foot and inch
of a chalk cliff, of a limestone mountain, must have been formed
originally under water with almost incredible slowness. It must have
been raised up to meet the clouds of heaven since its formation in the
ocean-depth. Do you think that this can have been a rapid process?
Volcanic cones, it is true, are sometimes piled up by a sudden effort.
But with widespread platforms of solid rock the upheaving forces deal
more respectfully. An average elevation of a foot or two in a century,
is perhaps a high exceptional speed for such movements. But this rate
requires a thousand centuries for a hill only one or two thousand feet
high, to rise, not from the depths, but from the surface of the water.
If we had only a single formation to deal with instead of scores of
them; if we had a thickness of only one thousand feet of the earth’s
crust to consider, instead of scores of thousands, the proved antiquity
of the globe would be enormous. What is to be said, then, when we stand
face to face with what geologists have been pleased to call the new
red sandstone? This formation cannot be less than millions of years
old, although in relation to the Devonian limestone it is indisputably
new. Those deep red rocks, that with their fantastic profiles in so
many places fringe the southern border of Devon, must have been formed
since the limestone; for the simple reason, that in every part they are
full of pebbles or fragments of the limestone containing characteristic
fossils of the earlier formations. It will at least be granted that you
cannot break off a piece from a rock before the rock itself exists.
Prior, then, to the very beginning of the formation of these red
conglomerates, the limestone rock must have been formed; it must have
been heaved up above the level of the sea; fragments must have been
broken off from it, rolled into pebbles, triturated into sand. As the
breaking, and the rolling, and the grinding went on, so with equal
steps would the growth of the conglomerate proceed. But the workshop
and the work must still have been beneath the waters of the ocean, and
not till the whole work of formation was finished could the further
process be begun of raising the work above the level of the waves.

It is not uncommon to find fossils in the pebbles of a conglomerate
rock showing lines of a dislocating fracture filled with spar. The
fossil shell or coral once had an inhabitant. We must allow time
for its life and death. Its vacant tabernacle must then have become
filled with extraneous matter. This must have required time to harden
into rock. While that rock was still in the mass, some cause must
have operated to fracture it, and such causes are not of every-day
operation. After this, more time was needed to fill up the divisional
line with spar; more time to break off the fragment containing the
shell from the general mass of the rock; more time to roll it into a
pebble; more time to imbed it hard and fast in a conglomerate rock;
more time to raise the rock high out of the waters; and, lastly, one
more vast addition of time for the crumbling away of the conglomerate
formation, so as to expose the tall sea-cliff from which human hands
might gather this memorial relic of untold ages.

The same tale is told by the coal-measures. Dr. Dawson, of Montreal,
has drawn out the argument from the carboniferous formation[57] with
extraordinary force and a convincing plainness that leaves nothing to
be desired, for the benefit of any one who will read his great work on
Acadian geology. The formation of coal depends on sub-aërial growths,
affected by sub-aqueous action. The trees and plants, out of which
coal is formed, for the most part could not possibly have grown under
water. The mud, the sand, the stone which cover seams of coal, could
not have been laid over them without the agency of water to bring them
down, and spread them out in regular layers of stratification. When the
hollow bark of a tall tree is found erect upon its roots, with those
roots still permeating the clay from which they once drew nourishment,
it is evident that time must be allowed for the growth of the tree,
for the almost complete decay which left nothing of it but its bark
and roots, and for the slow accumulation of sediment which has encased
without overthrowing it. A complete alteration must have taken place
in the conditions of the ground in the interval between the time when
the tree began to grow, and the time when a length of seven or eight
feet of its upright stem was buried in mud. Layers, indeed, of sand and
mud may be spread out over small areas by storms and inundations with
comparative speed; but if above the sands we come to thicknesses of
limestone composed almost entirely of animal remains, such as those
of shells and fish, not only are we forced to admit a long period for
the successive generations of those creatures, but we are forced to
observe the products of the ocean lying actually above the products of
the dry land, as though, according to the old poetical extravagance,
the stag and doe had taken to the waters and the fishes been building
in the tree-tops. The conclusion is inevitable, that what was once dry
land, fruitful in vegetation, in process of time became a swamp, and
from the swamp became a sea. It will be a fresh surprise, but a fresh
evidence of time’s duration, if above the limestone we find more clay
with more plants buried in more mud, and over-topped by more limestone.
Bearing in mind the old supposition, that order and beauty and life
upon the globe are only six thousand years’ old, astonishment should
reach its climax when we find, as we do, that within the thickness of
only a few feet of the earth’s crust, the record that we have been
describing is repeated again and again and again; but beyond the
climax, a fresh and overpowering marvel awaits us, when, as at one spot
in British America, the record expands itself from a few feet into
sixteen thousand, showing conclusively by eighty successive bands of
coal that fourscore times at least, and perhaps many more, while that
thickness of the earth’s crust was forming, the waters gave place to
dry land, and in turn the dry land to the waters,--showing conclusively
that during all the period of these changes tall forests of graceful
trees abounded on the globe, along with exquisite ferns and curious
reptiles, and beetles and winged insects of great size and beauty;
while fish replenished the waters, along with an infinity of shells and
corals, and other inhabitants of the deep. Yet these sixteen thousand
feet, these eighty successive forests, these hundred and sixty changes,
comprise but a small fraction of the whole known succession of strata.

It is true that different strata not only may, but must have been
forming at one and the same time in different parts of the world.
But when one stratum has been formed out of the wreck of another, it
is self-evident that they cannot have been formed together. The same
thing is obvious in regard to any number of layers found lying in
undisturbed succession one above the other. They must have been formed
successively, the lowest first, the highest last. But one point about
them is far from obvious, namely, the length of the interval that may
have intervened between the end of one formation and the beginning of
another. The great African desert has been the great African desert as
far back as human histories extend; yet in times geologically recent
it lay beneath the waters of the ocean. Should it be again submerged
before any fertilizing agencies have covered it with signs of its
sub-aërial exposure, another layer of sand may be thrown down upon it,
containing new marine fossils, and no memorial be left to the future
geologist of the vast era during which its kindly influence was warming
the winds of Europe, and saving us from a glacial climate. The ground
you stand on is passing through such an interval. It was under the sea
once; doubtless it will be under the sea again in the future. Look
into that future; look into that past. Can you measure either of those
intervals in the years of common chronology? Yet all over the world the
succession of geological strata proclaims the recurrence over and over
again of such intervals; silent, indeed, as to positive evidence, but
widening the possible limits of time’s duration to the furthest stretch
of fancy.

All our great continents have been ever so many times, either in the
mass or piecemeal, under the waves of the ocean. Nothing hinders that
the bed of every great ocean should have been ever so many times turned
into dry land. This interchange is going on now in numberless regions
of sea and land. All the facts as we find them are such as they might
be expected to be had this interchange been going on, as no doubt it
has been, through an indefinite past. We are bound to allow millions
of years for the formation of the strata that have been already
examined. There may be depths below the lowest depths yet explored by
geologists; there have certainly been immense intervals which have left
no materials for the geologist to explore; and when all the profoundest
deep of stratification shall have been explored, we may still find that
the record of all these unnumbered millions of years is but, as it
were, the latest page of the volume--a page that may have been preceded
by a thousand others now almost irrevocably lost or become utterly
illegible. There is nothing to hinder the supposition that those
earlier pages, if they existed, were, amidst innumerable differences,
still in their general aspect very like the latest, as long or longer,
as full of the memorials of eventful circumstance, of constant change
dominated by and springing from the operation of unchanging laws. As
the time is absolutely incalculable which the theory of evolution
requires to account for the highest forms of life upon the earth, so
the time which all these considerations leave open for the work is
absolutely beyond calculation. The theory cannot ask for more than the
facts make it possible to offer.

We hear men sometimes dwell on an expression which they fancy to be
Scriptural, ‘that there should be time no longer[58];’ as if time by
any possibility could ever come to an end! It is a pity that they
should completely misinterpret the passage on which their opinion
fancies itself to be grounded. It is a still greater pity that they
should use the language of rational human beings, without being at the
pains to determine whether their words have any intelligible meaning:
for certainly to the human mind any beginning or end of time is wholly
inconceivable. Language itself will not bear with the conception,
unless it be consistent to speak of a _time_ when time was not, of a
_time_ when time will be no more.

There is a poem, and a sweet one, by the present Poet-Laureate,
in which the murmuring brook is made to speak the language of the
moralist, and to proclaim the transitory nature of all human affairs,
by a comparison between the short duration of man’s life and its own
unceasing current--

    ‘For men may come, and men may go,
      But I flow on for ever.’

Such is the proud language of the murmuring brook. Yet the boast is
an untrue one; for if any conclusion in regard to the future can be
warranted from the facts of the past, none can be more sure than
that no particular brook will flow on for ever. Instead of a brook,
it may become a mighty river like the St. Lawrence; it may dash over
precipitous cliffs with a vaster fall and volume than Niagara; and,
after all, the slow inexorable changes of the earth’s crust will one
day make its flow impossible, and the channel of it shall know its
stream no more. Only the flow of time is unending, of time which does
nothing, but out of or without which nothing can be done,--of time,
replete with glorious wonders as far back as the knowledge or the
imagination of man can penetrate, through every age, through every
million of years that can be rescued from forgetfulness, bearing fresh
testimony, in the greatness and the endlessness of the work, to the
eternal power and wisdom of the Supreme Worker.


Presuming that there is not a particle of evidence as yet established
in favour of the supposition known as the doctrine of _abiogenesis_,
it does not follow that no such evidence ever will, or ever can, be
forthcoming. The advancement of science is continually doing away with
harsh, abrupt outlines, and revealing the softest shades of transition
in the varied scenery of nature. Between organic and inorganic matter,
between the inert and the living mass, the line of separation has
been hitherto, to our minds, the hardest and sharpest of all. We have
indeed become so accustomed to this violation of the cosmos, this harsh
interruption to the continuous order of nature, and to the simplicity
of its general plan, that we are apt to be rather annoyed than pleased
with the first efforts made to prove them only imaginary. There is a
dignity about life which requires, it is thought, to be defended from
too close a proximity in character to the chemical solids and liquids
amongst which it makes its appearance, even though the life whose
dignity is thus maintained exhibit little more than the functions of a
stomach, or be presented in the somewhat dull animation of a chrysalis
and the torpor of a slug.

A _Wellingtonia gigantea_, with its stupendous height and graceful
form, with its bark and wood, and sap and pith, and cones and
innumerable spikelets, seems wonderfully noble and vastly superior in
the scale of creation to a spoonful of salt; yet every one of the tiny
grains has, so far as we know, full as much sense and as much power
of enjoyment as the stately tree. The mineral and the vegetable are,
in fact, alike destitute of any qualities on which a comparison of
dignity can properly be founded. The organic depends ultimately upon
the inorganic for its nutriment. It is itself ultimately reduced to
the inorganic. It does not, therefore, seem incredible that living
organisms, simpler perhaps than any yet detected by the microscope,
should be or should have been produced without generation proper by the
mere combining of inorganic materials.

This is the hypothesis of Spontaneous Generation, so called, or
_abiogenesis_, unproved and extremely difficult of proof, but precisely
filling that gap in the order and continuity of nature which is so
puzzling without it.

Practically it makes no difference to the theory of development
whether the simple organisms from which that theory supposes the more
complicated to be derived, originated at a single era or at several.
The theory does not deny the perpetuation throughout vast ages of
extremely simple organisms. To the general cohesion of the theory,
therefore, it is unimportant whether we affiliate each of these
living motes to a parent like itself, or to a combination of chemical
substances previously without life.

Considering the vast results attributed to the principle of
_variability_, it has been thought strange that any organisms
should through great cycles of time have escaped its operation, and
transmitted their original simplicity to an endless succession of

On the hypothesis of spontaneous generation working continuously this
difficulty would disappear; simple organisms would be continually
losing their simplicity by variation, but new organisms of equal
simplicity would continually appear in the world, spontaneously

It might still be true that all but the least conspicuous members of
the world’s population belong to a single family, or to an extremely
small number of separate lines of descent. If we suppose that, as soon
as the globe was fitted for living occupants, a single simple organism
was spontaneously generated, or, if you please, created, or, in any
other way that may be named, introduced upon the earth, the results in
accordance with actual facts may be logically deduced agreeably to the
various principles of the theory of development. Its descendants would
multiply and replenish the earth, unchecked, in all parts suited to
their conditions of existence, till all such parts were occupied. No
further advance in the population of the world could then take place
until some variation had occurred, making possible the occupation of
new regions, or of the old regions, under new conditions. But the new
species, constituted by some advantageous variation, would be likely
to overrun the whole field, to the almost complete suppression of the
earlier and more simple form. The distance thus gained in the race of
progressive organization it would be likely not only to maintain, but
greatly to increase. Its descendants would vary in more than one useful
direction, till it might, as we have said, become the parent of all
the conspicuous members of the earth’s population. The earliest and
simplest form might still have representatives inheriting its likeness
by direct descent, but unable to make their way in the world, not from
wanting the power to vary, but from finding the world pre-occupied by
species too powerful for them to compete with. In this way they would
be restrained to their original insignificance.

Now exactly the same result would follow, if, instead of being born in
what we consider the ordinary course of parentage, these simple forms
were ever being spontaneously generated. They would find the world
pre-occupied against their advancement in the scale of organization;
they would rarely, if ever, be allowed to lead up by successive useful
variations to highly organized forms; and if ever, only in periods of
time so enormous as to perplex the acutest human understanding.

What is commonly supposed to be the Biblical theory of Creation, is
in truth a theory of spontaneous generation, only multiplying a
million-fold the difficulty, if it be a difficulty, involved in that
hypothesis. Unless we suppose the globe to have always existed, and
always to have been tenanted by creatures endowed with life, we are
forced to believe in the occurrence at some time or other of what,
in the language of science, must have been spontaneous generation.
As there is no historical reason for confining such an occurrence to
any particular era; as science can give no reason why, if it happened
once, it should not happen an indefinite number of times; as all
analogy is in favour of uniform laws of nature rather than exceptional
surprises; and, lastly, as numerous phenomena that have to do with
the reproduction and maintenance of life are all continuous, and
not interjectional--it seems at least an open question whether the
origin of life itself may not also be sometimes, or even continually
repeated. For, imagine what conditions we will to have prevailed when
the elementary substances coalesced, out of which were compounded the
first living being, it is difficult to imagine that the same conditions
should never have recurred to produce a similar result, since the
conditions are so far limited, that they must have been consistent, not
only with the birth, but with the life after its birth, of that most
antique animalcule. So many wonderful and hitherto unsuspected effects
in the working of Nature have of late years been unveiled, so much of
marvellous analysis successfully carried out, that it would surely be
superstitious to despair of finding fresh links in the chain that binds
together the lifeless and the living. Experiments in this direction
may hitherto have failed from want of skill or care, or proper means
at the command of those who conducted them. Yet it is not too much to
ask of men renowned in science, that in pointing out the errors, they
should abstain from discouraging the efforts.

Let it not be thought irreligious to anticipate the possible
establishment of the supposition now under discussion. It cannot be
irreverent to think that the bestowal of life upon a particle of matter
too minute for human eye to see, requires no more special apparatus
than that allotted to the exquisite crystals of the frost. ‘Out of
whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath
gendered it?’ Yet in the workmanship of these a Divine hand is to the
full as visible as in a diatom or a puff-ball. That the life-giving
energy should have been exhausted in a single effort, is contrary
beyond doubt to the analogy of religion, whatever may be thought of the
analogy of nature.

On the other hand, let it not be thought unscientific to advocate the
claims of an unproved hypothesis. It is the nature of hypotheses to
be unproved. As they gather proof, the hypothetical becomes a theory.
At length the theory goes on to demonstration. The use of hypotheses
has often been explained. The human mind is easily exhausted by the
observation of numerous incoherent facts. It is impelled to arrange
and classify, to find some thread or threads of association on which
the facts may be strung, some principle on which they may be parcelled
out into groups. The arrangement may be erroneous, the explanatory
principle untrue; they may be so plausible, so apparently satisfactory,
so fascinating withal in general aspect, as for a long time to hinder
the real solution of great problems; and nevertheless it may be judged
that their services in the advancement of knowledge far outweigh the
hindrances caused by the too servile acceptance accorded them. The
foibles of a great writer may long infect the literature which his
greatness has ennobled. A constitution grandly conceived in proportion
to the moral and social ideas prevailing at the time of its conception
may be clung to with servility long after it has been outstripped
by the progress of civilization. But neither the genius of the poet
nor the skill of the lawgiver could be spared in its own day and
generation; neither could have been sacrificed to prevent the follies
of the plagiarist, or the dulness of eyes that in after ages might read
the letter without discerning the spirit.

We may almost say that a bad hypothesis is better than none; but a
wrong hypothesis need not be a bad one. It may tend so to group around
it the facts contributed by supporters and opponents, that when the
real explanation of them all comes to be suggested, the fraternization
of the confronting armies may be easy, and the truth be greeted and
acknowledged with general acclaim.


The general who is for ever counter-marching and skilfully executing
retrograde movements cannot always sustain the enthusiasm of his
own troops, much less excite in his favour that of the civilian
multitude. To many minds, the reliance placed on the imperfection of
the geological record appears to be a rather damaging retreat in the
strategy of science. They were just beginning to believe in geology as
a wonderful revelation of the past history of the globe, when suddenly
they are told that the fragments of that history which have been saved
are merely tattered pages out of different chapters, giving no adequate
notion of the enormous bulk and varied contents of the whole volume.
Since, without the geological evidence of time’s duration and of the
countless changes in organic structures which that duration embraces,
the theory of development could never have been imagined, it seems
half ungrateful and inconsistent in the author of the theory to turn
round upon geological evidence and tax it with its extreme poverty
and even delusive misleading appearances. But, in fact, Mr. Darwin in
no way detracts from the value of geological evidence. The researches
necessary to extend it are invested, to those who accept his theory,
with tenfold interest. The deficiencies and interruptions in it which
he has pointed out as necessarily occurring must sooner or later have
become apparent. They were dangerous to science only as long as they
were unobserved, or not sufficiently taken into account.

That the record is really imperfect is not a matter which admits of
controversy. No one supposes that every species and variety that
ever existed in past ages on the globe is represented at this very
day by fossil specimens in prime enough condition to exhibit all the
characteristics of the creature as it once lived. No one supposes
that, if such specimens existed, all of them ever could or would be
found by human beings. It is not in the nature of a fossil to present
all the characteristics of the creature as it once lived. It cannot
possibly do it; for the fossil is without life and motion. There is no
respiration, no circulation of the blood going on. As a rule, only the
hard parts of the creature, such as shell, scales, or bony skeleton,
can be preserved. In most cases all these relics have been chemically
altered. Nevertheless, in fossils from the very lowest strata, from
the very earliest formations that yield any, we find certain analogies
to creatures now living. We reason from these analogies without any
hesitation to the characteristics which the fossil creature will
probably have presented in its living state. Our reasonings may
often be erroneous, but the mere fact of our accepting the apparent
analogies as a ground for reasoning at all, implies a belief in the
uniformity of the conditions of animal existence between our own times
and the most distant ages of the past. We argue as if generation had
succeeded generation without interruption, not as if there had been
new independent creations from time to time, since these would imply
new conditions replacing the old, and make the argument from analogy
between the items of the different creations of no value. For these
independent creations, whether capricious or not in themselves, could
only exhibit to our minds the symptoms of caprice. The mere fact of
their being independent one of another would be so wanting in congruity
with all the rest of our experience, that we should reasonably expect
their minor details as well as the general plan to be wholly fantastic.
In other words, the fossil memorials of life in past ages, imperfect
as we confess and maintain them to be, still present so many general
resemblances to one another and to living structures of the present
day, that if they do not prove the continuity of life upon the globe,
they cannot be held to prove anything at all; they should be regarded
as a very elaborate practical joke played upon the human reason.

Palæontology is defined as ‘the science which treats of fossil remains
both animal and vegetable.’ This principle of the continuity of life
from age to age may be considered as one of its definite acquisitions.
There is no single point of geological time at which it can be said,
‘at this epoch clearly all old species had passed away, all kinds
of life had become new.’ Not only is there no indication of such a
break, but there is the strongest evidence against any such having
ever occurred. In spite, however, of the completeness of the evidence
required for proving this single conclusion, the general incompleteness
and enormous deficiencies in some parts of the palæontological record
can be established beyond dispute. We are in the position of a man
who has kept the title-deeds to a large estate, while almost all the
estate itself has been buried under the encroachments of the sea. Here
and there some old landmarks may be discernible far out in the waters,
showing the extent of what had once been meadow and woodland, farm and
garden, but unable to show how these were distributed, or to exhibit
any of their details.

Mr. Parfitt, in his paper on ‘Fossil Sponge Spicules,’ told the
Devonshire Association last year (1870) that we have evidence more or
less exact of sponges in a fossil state as far back in time as the
Silurian system, mentioning specimens of _Acanthospongia Siluriensis_,
_Cliona antiqua_, and _Cliona prisca_, and stating in regard to the two
latter that the genus is still in our own seas. He then referred to
large masses of a fossil in the Devonian rocks of Cornwall, believed
by some to be sponges, and by others to be the remains of fish. That
these are in reality fish-remains has, in fact, been shown pretty
conclusively[59]. From this point, however, up to the Great Oolite,
Mr. Parfitt tells us that scarcely a vestige of the sponges is to be
found, although since that time they have been very abundant. Between
the Silurian and the Great Oolite the interval of time must have
been enormous. It is occupied by a vast series of sedimentary rocks,
embracing very varied mineral characteristics. From this series our
museums have been, and are still being, supplied with vast heaps of
fossil organic structures, including among numerous others, plants and
corals and fish and reptiles. Through all that protracted period there
is no reason to suppose, in regard to the outer rind of the globe, that
the general conditions of earth, air, and water were other than they
are now. All England may have been under water; delicate creatures may
have wintered at the North Pole for the sake of its genial climate;
and an infinity of other local and temporary differences may have
prevailed, without making the habitable globe of those days essentially
different from our own. The laws of chemistry and mechanics, the laws
of heat and motion, must have been just the same as they are now.
Then, as now, there must have been oceans and continents, winds and
currents, forests growing, decaying, and being buried, sand and chalk
being deposited in layers, molten minerals thrown up by volcanoes,
ice forming at a definite temperature, glaciers scoring the rocks,
icebergs transporting boulders, rains and rivers slowly washing down
the hills, and waves corroding the cliffs on the sea-shore. We have
evidence also that life in many forms abounded. Those forms, though
seldom transmitted to creatures of the present day with anything
approaching an exact likeness, can yet be classified under the same
general names with the most modern forms of life. Now sponges are forms
of an extremely simple organization. The silicious spicules are well
adapted for the wear and tear of a fossil existence. In the greensand
and the chalk they are actually found in extraordinary abundance. It
would be inconvenient upon any theory to have to suppose these very
simple structures introduced into the world for the first time quite
late in the series of living organisms, and after beings much more
complicated and higher in the scale of existence, unless, indeed, we
suppose that about the time of the Great Oolite the evolution of man
was first thought of, and the sponge accordingly prepared for him to
wash his face with. But even if the bath and the basin be admitted
as the final causes of sponge-existence, the conception of it must
be carried back, as we have seen, to the Silurian period; while,
according to Mr. Parfitt, the immense interval of Lias and Trias,
Permian, Carboniferous, and Devonian remains black and spongeless,
as though it were the appropriate era of the great unwashed. But if
the Darwinian theory be a true one, sponge-life having begun in the
Silurian period, and being in existence now, must have been continuous
through the whole interval; every single deposit in the entire series
since the Silurian must have been contemporary with some of the
sponges; and, as a matter of fact, Mr. Parfitt’s statement, however
true of the condition of our knowledge a few years back, must now be
qualified by the addition of several species spread over the interval
in Britain alone, even if we exclude some indefinite structures, of
which no opinion can be at present pronounced with safety. Mr. Parfitt
himself, in a paper read at Honiton in 1868, remarks that ‘the Devonian
formation has furnished a great number of specimens of what appear to
be species of sponges.’ From Permian and Triassic beds on the continent
of Europe, a very large number of forms are said to be more or less
distinctly made out. Mr. Salter, in 1864, reported the discovery of
Protospongia Fenestrata in the Lingula flags of St. David’s, thus
carrying back this form of life beyond the Silurian to the Cambrian
era. It is an interesting illustration of the great ambiguity of these
ancient fossils, that two such authorities as Mr. Salter and Dr.
Bowerbank differed about the Protospongia, the one supposing it to
exhibit the spicules, the other the fibre of the sponge. The simple
facts that species have to be moved backwards and forwards between the
amorphozoic and zoophytic groups, that relics may pass for fish in one
year and sponges in another, and by-and-by be recognised again as fish,
show the often imperfect condition of the record, even where it is not
a complete blank.

Where direct evidence of any kind is still unavailable, it may
possibly be said that no sponges are found for such and such a period,
because none existed in it. The plausibility of such an opinion can
only be tested in fresh illustrations of the general argument. The
coalfield of Nova Scotia has been described by Professor Dawson
of Montreal. As it afforded a fine field for the exertions of the
geologist, so it repaid him by its great richness in the fossil remains
of plants. But in the coal formations of England and of Westphalia
insects also had been found of different genera in addition to plants,
while Nova Scotia, with all its vegetable wealth, yielded the anxious
explorer but a single specimen of the still more interesting relics.
That specimen consisted of the head and some other fragments of a large
insect, probably neuropterous. That single specimen Professor Dawson
tells us he found in a coprolite, in the fossil excrement of a reptile
enclosed in the trunk of an erect sigillaria. Could any one invent a
more curious cabinet to preserve so fragile a specimen for millions
of years? Can it in this case be argued, that of insect remains
nothing was found in the carboniferous of Nova Scotia but the head
and some other appurtenances of a single neuropterous insect, because
that head and those appurtenances were all that had ever flourished
there? It cannot so be argued, not only because the analogies of the
carboniferous formation in other parts of the world are conclusive
against such argument, but also because within the last three or four
years, after long and diligent search, two more species have been added
to the collection of carboniferous insects from Nova Scotia itself.
Two delicate wings, one very large and one small, have been found, each
sealed, as it were, with a fern-leaf; each a frail but enduring record
of life that must once have been brilliant and abundant[60].

When the zeal of a collector adds a new species to those already
known, by finding the fragment of a butterfly’s wing that had been for
millions of years in a seam of coal, how many considerations are forced
upon the mind! Our sensitive nerves are comparatively seldom troubled
by the perceived presence of dead creatures. With the exception of our
own food, such sights are pretty well confined to the carcase of a dog
floating on a pool, the feathers of a torn bird, a parched mole, and a
sprinkling of blue-bottles in an unused room. Yet countless millions
of creatures are annually dying, ready and willing to become fossils.
Fossils, however, they do not become, simply because other creatures
eat them up. For this reason alone, not one in ten thousand of any
particular terrestrial species is likely to become fossil, because
to some creature or another it is almost sure to be good eating, and
therefore in the living state or the dead, sure to be ravenously seized
upon and devoured.

Some forms of marine life are indeed represented by a wonderful number
of specimens or fragments of specimens. Silicious and calcareous exuviæ
of minute creatures deposited in the still depths of the ocean may be
preserved by myriads, but neither these ‘in number numberless’ nor the
giant-bones of ancient Saurians convey any adequate notion of the whole
population of the globe at any one era. The palæontologist, guiding
himself only by prominent details of this description, would be like
a child over a child’s history of England, to whom the fabric of the
Constitution and the Reformation of the Church seem matters obscure,
and scarcely worthy of notice, while Alfred burning the cakes, and
Henry VIII in his well-known character of Bluebeard, stand out in bold

No one will doubt, that within the last ten years tens of thousands
of the common white butterfly have disported themselves in England,
yet a man might easily starve if he were allowed no food till he had
found some of their fossil remains. The dodo has not long been extinct,
but nevertheless fossil dodos are extremely rare. It may be thought
that the date of extinction has little to do with the matter, and that
each relic when enshrined in the rock, may claim to be by a sort of
indelible character ‘once a fossil and always a fossil.’ This, however,
is in reality far from its true condition. Let a creature’s remains
escape being devoured, or burnt, or trampled to pieces, or being
dissolved by the rain, or crumbled into dust by rolling waves and mud
and stones gathered upon them, their perils are not yet over. Even in
the grasp of the hard rock, the fossil may be horribly distorted by
pressure, split asunder by cleavage, boiled and baked and crystallized,
till none of its features remain what they were, or till the very fact
of its presence becomes only the question of a dim surmise. The rude
jolt of an earthquake, that splits asunder a mountain, may sometimes be
tender over a butterfly’s wing; but there are chemical agencies which
work without any compassion for what is fine and delicate, and by these
we find great thicknesses of rock apparently stripped of their fossils.
Where the whole stratum consists of remains of once living organisms,
as in seams of coal, it has been shown that we have no reason to
suppose that any complete or adequate memorials are left us of the
whole vegetation of any particular period or any particular area; since
Dr. Lindley has found, by actual experiment, that different vegetables
have very different powers of resisting decay, and that pines and
ferns and lycopodia will be well preserved after long immersion in
water, while the same treatment causes the disappearance of grasses and
sedges, of the oak-tree and the ash[61].

Even those rocks which preserve fossils most carefully may themselves
be crumbled to pieces, fossils and all, by the process of denudation.

Denudation is the laying bare of one stratum, or portion of a stratum,
by the removal of another. It is carried on principally by rains and
rivers and the action of the sea-waves upon the sea-border. To the
last-mentioned agency the geologist is highly indebted; to the others
also he owes a debt: but consider how they all do their work. Much
of the material dealt with they pound into mud or sand, and in these
any fragments that escape the trituration are, sooner or later, again
buried. They may tear open the rocks, and expose for a brief period the
most interesting and unique fossils; but, unfortunately, they carry
on their work by night as well as day, on desolate coasts, in places
where the Palæontographical Society has no missionaries, or when the
missionary, if there be one, is in-doors writing a book; so that a very
small percentage of all that might be discovered is ever actually found.

In the artificial denudation of mining and quarrying, though the
rude forces of Nature are dispensed with, the enlightened hammer of
the geologist can do very little by itself. In most cases it can but
follow where commercial enterprise leads the way, and be grateful for
permission to rummage among the _débris_, when pickaxe and blasting
have done their work.

The chances against a fossil’s being found to any useful purpose in
quarrying are very numerous. The rock must chance to split so as to
disclose it; the workman must chance to notice it; he must chance to
have knowledge enough to think it worth notice; have time enough to
stop from his work and take it; have sense enough to keep it safe; have
memory enough to recollect where he hides it; and, lastly, have the
luck to meet with a customer who knows its scientific value.

Numbers of rare specimens must continually be consigned to the furnace
and the limekiln, or buried under mounds and hills of refuse. Sometimes
the character of the matrix, by its hardness or its softness, makes
it impossible to disengage the fossil without complete disfigurement;
sometimes the fossil itself is so fragmentary as rather to confuse than
to teach. Dr. Hooker gives an instance, in which a geologist assigned
three pieces of fossil-leaf to plants of three different genera, which
a subsequent observer maintained to be merely the separated portions of
a single leaf of one and the same plant[62].

In the slates and limestones of Torquay, full as they are of marine
fossils, no fish-remains have been identified, with one exception. Yet
these rocks have been searched by numerous sharp eyes and clever hands,
professional as well as amateur, with regular investigation, and in
the sometimes more successful trifling of idle moments. It is worthy
of note that the one exception is no scarcely decipherable relic, the
nature of which might remain an open question, but a beautiful and
finely-preserved scale of _phyllolepis concentricus_[63]. Had there
been only one fish in the ‘Devonian’ waters of the neighbourhood, the
one fish must have had more than one scale; yet none of the others are
forthcoming. The science of to-morrow may find them; to the science of
to-day they are lost irrecoverably.

The still-living varieties of the oyster are a miserable remnant of
the 255 fossil species from the chalk described in Coquand’s recent
work. Professor Flower, in reviewing this monograph, remarks, that
‘with these mollusks, numerous as they are, there are no forms that can
fairly be recognized as transitional.’ But inasmuch as the succession
in time of these species is well-established by the different zones of
the chalk in which they are found, we must either accept some nine or
ten successive creations concerned in the production of oysters, or we
must allow the various fossil species to be connected with one another
by descent. Upon the latter alternative, a whole chain of transitional
links must once have existed between the earliest form of oyster and
the latest; and though many of these links have been preserved, still
more must have been lost, or deprived of their distinctive features; so
that here, where the geological record is, to all appearance, unusually
perfect, its actual imperfection is more clearly than ever established.

To conclude, then, in few words:--The majority of dead creatures never
become fossils at all.

The majority of fossils perish miserably in their hiding-places.

Of those that are saved, the majority cannot be got at by man.

Of those that can be, the majority never are.

Of those that are, a large number prove illegible; a large number are
fragments; a large number duplicates; and, lastly, a large number fall
into hands which again lose or destroy them.

We cannot therefore argue, because fossils of such-and-such forms of
life have never been found, that such-and-such forms never existed.
They may have existed, and left no fossils. The fossils may have been
left, and subsequently destroyed. The fossils may be undestroyed, but
never have been found. The sum-total of acquisitions is small, but
precious; it never can make a complete record, but it may make one
sufficiently ample to establish the Darwinian Theory, or to replace it
by some still wider and still simpler generalization.



Sir,--A friendly correspondent has done me the honour of noticing my
lecture on the Noachian Flood in more than one contribution to your
columns. The easy way in which he admits the possibility of a partial
deluge and of pre-Adamite races, together with other symptoms of
liberal thought and a trust in the conclusions of science, makes me
tremble to think what would have befallen him had he lived ‘in happier
ages of the Church.’ At the same time these dangerous and lamentable
tendencies towards free-thinking make it needless for me to urge upon
him those other and further conclusions towards which he is evidently
of his own accord rapidly finding his way. But there are numerous
persons who may read his pleasantly-written letters without perceiving
how very far gone he himself is from the original simplicity of an
unquestioning faith, and may, therefore, fancy that he is a champion
of orthodoxy putting down an anti-Scriptural disputant, or showing
at least, if he shows nothing more, that the questions in dispute
are still too unsettled and vague for plain folks to meddle with or
understand. Such a result is directly opposed to that which my lecture
aimed at, which was to show plain folks that the subject not only could
be understood, but ought to be; to convince them, if possible, that on
this subject, and perhaps a few others, they were bound by all the laws
of truth and honesty either to learn what there was to be learned, or
for the future to hold their peace. Two striking examples were quoted,
from the lives of Columbus and Galileo, to show that theologians had
dragged the Holy Scriptures through the dirt, by presuming to use their
authority for a purpose for which it was never designed, in a province
to which it never lays claim, namely, the trial of evidence in natural
science. It seems to have escaped the notice of your correspondent,
that geography and astronomy were no more advanced in those days than
geology and palæontology in our own. But will any one presume to tell
us that the Bible is a match for struggling infant sciences, and may be
quoted to contradict, suppress, and crush them, but that when they are
full-grown it must in turn succumb to their dictation? That is indeed
the principle on which, in the old Greek comedy, the son justifies
his thrashing his aged father, because in bygone years, when their
strength was different, his aged father had thrashed him. Only this, we
must remember, is the invention of an incomparable satirist, meant for
avoidance, not for imitation.

It may be remarked, by the way, that in taking objection to the
opening sentence of the lecture, my friendly opponent seems to have
misconceived its purport. ‘Darwinism implies,’ it says, ‘almost
throughout, that no universal deluge has drowned our globe,
either within the last ten thousand years, or even within a period
indefinitely longer.’ Now, since certainly no Darwinian accepts
the old views about the Deluge, this sentence could scarcely have
been written for the benefit of Darwinians; and it would have
been a very unsophisticated piece of rhetoric to say to a popular
audience--‘Darwinism is true, so you see the old views about the Deluge
are false,’ seeing that the popular audience might have disposed of the
argument by the simple plan of interchanging the two adjectives. But
the lecture opens with an acknowledgment that a recent universal deluge
would be an argument sufficient to upset the Darwinian Theory, prior
to showing that so important an objection to the theory is itself on
numerous independent grounds untenable. Some arguments are equally in
harmony with Darwinism, and inconsistent with the universality of the
Noachian Flood. One of these is to be found in the existing diversities
of the human race: but your correspondent appears to suppose that the
element of time has nothing to do with the theory of development, when
he says that ‘to represent the divergence of races as impossible in any
given period, however short, is strange ground for a Darwinian to take
up.’ He might as well require an engineer to believe that an engine had
been driven at six hundred miles an hour, because the engineer himself
believed it to have been driven at the rate of fifty or sixty. He only
half states the argument against a common Noachian descent founded
on the difference between the Papuans and the Malays. The striking
point is, that these two contrasted races are separated by almost the
very same line which separates two great zoological provinces. On the
old supposition of migration from the ark, that the lower animals, as
well as men, should have ‘agreed to differ’ on the opposite sides of a
narrow deep-sea channel, was indeed a remarkable bundle of coincidences.

That traditions of a deluge are wide-spread is acknowledged. That they
are traditions of a universal deluge neither is nor can be proved.
That with all their local variations and discrepancies they point
to one and the same deluge, is a question of probability, much more
proper to follow than to lead the main argument. We shall not gain much
for science or religion out of the story of Deucalion’s flood, which
attributes the origin of the new stock of men and women to the pebbles
that Deucalion and his wife threw over their shoulders; an ancestry
surely less dignified even than that from the orang-outang and the
gorilla with which Mr. Pengelly and Professor Huxley are supposed to
have mortified the dignity of mankind.

It is surprising that so many good Christian people should feel touchy
on this question of an enormously remote ancestry, although they
would, upon occasion, join with earnestness and true humility in the
confession that ‘dust we are, and unto dust shall we return.’ In their
reluctance even to examine the real truth of the question, they fail
to perceive that the true sons of the Prophets are not their lineal
descendants, but those who inherit their wisdom; and that ‘a man’s a
man for a’ that,’ although his great-grandfather should prove to have
been a lob-worm or a toad-stool.

Too much injury to religion has been done already by confounding false
science with Scriptural truth, to make it either ‘fair or reverent’
to hold back from protesting, whenever occasion offers, against the
mischief. Persons accustomed with presumptuous or careless ignorance
to denounce geology and Darwinism, and the results connected with
them, may have had their consciences soothed and encouraged by your
correspondent. My charitable object is to make those consciences uneasy

March 23rd, 1870.


Sir,--One of your correspondents has pithily observed, that if he
has denounced Darwinism, it is simply because he believes it to be
untrue. Could you not, Sir, in the interests of science and Christian
charity, prevail upon him to recall his denunciation, by showing him
that intellectual error requires not to be denounced, but to be set
right? The prejudice against Darwinism has undoubtedly arisen from
a conflict--real or apparent--between its conclusions and certain
passages of Scripture. Such a prejudice arose against the earlier
advancement of astronomy and geology, and the new conclusions arrived
at were ‘denounced in the interests of Christian orthodoxy,’ _simply
because those who denounced them believed them to be untrue._ It is
a little sad, though withal a little amusing, to observe how many
persons, eminent at once for piety and Protestantism, inveigh against
the Papal assumption of infallibility, while assuming an infallibility
of their own. They know precisely what is Scripture doctrine and what
is not. They know exactly what measure of inspiration God has been
pleased to give to this writer or the other. At one time they are
sure that a science is not true, because the Bible does not speak in
accordance with the language of the science; at another time they
discover that the science had all along been very clearly revealed in
the Bible under a disguise. It unfortunately escapes their notice that
by this means, while they are reverently denouncing the science ‘in the
interests of Christian orthodoxy,’ they are under a disguise denouncing
the Bible.

‘In my view,’ says your correspondent above referred to, ‘the Mosaic
writers were divinely taught, and knew what they wrote about with
a most perfect knowledge.’ In one sense, no doubt, they _did_ know
what they were writing about--they knew that it was religion, and,
therefore, they never pretended to ‘enunciate’ science, whether false
or true; but in any other sense to say that they knew what they wrote
about with a most perfect knowledge, is to assert what is highly
improbable, and cannot be proved. Either it makes every writer a
kind of god, so far as the attribute of infallibility is concerned,
or it destroys all independence of testimony. To claim for them a
perfect knowledge of which they made no use, except to mislead the
world for thousands of years, is surely to commit the capital offence
of ‘inciting to hatred and contempt’ of their writings. How alien,
moreover, is it to the spirit of the writers themselves--men who are
constantly confessing their own errors, doubts, and perplexities; men
whose path in moral, let alone intellectual excellence, was not always
direct and straightforward, and who knew and owned their infirmity of
nature. How contrary, too, to every analogy of life is this notion of a
Book, written in perfect language by men of perfect knowledge in every
subject that may be even incidentally referred to in its pages. For
not only is man an imperfect being, but his language is an imperfect
instrument of his imperfect thoughts. His conscience is fallible;
his understanding is fallible; let the Book which guides him be as
infallible as you please, he will still bring it back to the inherent
imperfection of things human by misreading and misconceiving it. That
the law of God is perfect, follows from the very thought of God; that
any particular exposition of that law to finite minds either is or can
be perfect, is almost, or altogether, a contradiction in terms. Far
from knowing all about modern systems of Botany, Moses did not even
know all about religion as the later prophets knew; nor did _they_
know as we know. Their mission would probably have been hidden rather
than forwarded, had they been able to ‘enunciate’ scientific truths in
advance of their age. Their new views in religion were often roundly
abused; their new views in science would hardly have escaped denouncing.

As a caution to the unwary, it should be remarked that the opposition
supposed to exist between Mr. Darwin’s phrase ‘Natural Selection,’ and
Mr. Herbert Spencer’s ‘Survival of the Fittest,’ is purely imaginary.
The latter, no doubt, is the more philosophically accurate, the former
is a convenient, popular, and telling metaphor. They both express
the same conception of a large and wonderful group of facts. Perhaps
it will be scarcely necessary to caution the unwary against taking
for granted that ‘vestigiform structures are proofs of a typical
formation;’ but if they are, they prove that in the typical formation
of man a tail was included, which would be such a disgrace to the
typical formation as would prevent all worthy and decorously-minded
persons from believing in typical formations for a moment.


Sir,--Your amiable and earnest correspondent does not seem to
understand that men like Darwin and Wallace, who have spent years of
patient labour and thought in amassing observations of nature, and
grouping together the facts out of which their theories have been
formed, have a right to ‘an air of philosophical superiority,’ if they
choose to display it, when questions are asked or arguments put forward
which imply ignorance or misconception of all they have been doing in
the interests of science. When Mr. Wallace ‘very coolly’ asserts that
he sees no force in an argument, it will as a rule be advisable for the
argument either to withdraw itself from the public gaze, or get itself
stated a little more lucidly. Again, when Mr. Darwin ‘rashly affirms
that he has distinct evidence’ of a thing, it would perhaps be a good
plan to get the Commissioners in Lunacy to examine the astonishing
number of hard-headed men whom he induces to believe his unfounded

But now that I have prevailed with your correspondent to give up
‘denouncing’ Darwinism, I wish further to press upon him the advantage
of ceasing to ‘deny’ it, and, above all, of ceasing to deny it with
any admixture of religious phraseology in his denial. He has himself
allowed that sciences, seemingly most at variance with the language of
Scripture, have come to be reconciled with it; he must see, therefore,
that the appearances of Scriptural language can be no objection to
Darwinism or to any other scientific theory whatever. Darwinism is
founded on the comparison of an enormous number of well-ascertained
facts issuing in a few generalizations of extreme importance if
true, but also of considerable importance, even if far short of
the truth. Every hypothesis which will explain a large number of
hitherto disconnected facts, though it may be in itself erroneous,
helps and guides men in the end towards the true explanation. To
‘deny,’ or, in other words, to make a public protest against such
hypotheses without having anything better or equal, or a tenth part
as good to offer in their stead, is to be a hinderer of science, and,
instead of being really pious and reverent, is a very pretty, though
doubtless unconscious imitation of that rhetoric which, because of the
acknowledged difficulties in every form of religion, ‘denies’ religion

That your correspondent _does_ lay just a little tiny claim to
infallibility is clear from the very letter in which he modestly
disowns it: for he therein prays always to be enabled to think and act
about the interpretation of Scripture as he now thinks and acts, which
would be a foolish prayer, if his present thoughts and actions might
possibly be wrong or misguided. And yet he differs from a very large
number of divines, in supposing that the prophets, for instance, knew
all that their own prophecies portended; so that if all those worthy
divines be right in assuming that the inspired writers did not always
‘know what they wrote about,’ then your correspondent, who makes the
contrary supposition, must be wrong,--and there will still be some hope
for Darwinism.

It is scarcely fair to ask for space to answer his momentous challenge
about the first vertebrate, or to explain the thoroughly sceptical
form which the challenge assumes. When the Apostle Thomas said,
‘except I see the print of the nails, I will not believe,’ he had
no logical claim to receive the proof of the resurrection which he
demanded, because _a priori_ it would have been quite fair to suppose
our Lord’s resurrection-body would retain no such signs of previous
outrage; and it is a kindred mistake to suppose that the truth of
the development-theory in any way hinges upon the possibility of
constructing an effigy of the first vertebrate either as it actually
was, or to suit an anti-Darwinian’s notions of what it ought to have
been. According to the development-theory, it must have been the
product of innumerable antecedent factors, itself the heir of many
far-descended and often modified characters; and yet, for all that, it
will probably have been a far simpler organism than the simplest modern
vertebrate. It is well known by what insensible gradations the natural
kingdoms and the classes in those great divisions pass, so to speak,
into one another; it need, therefore, cause no surprise if the primary
vertebrate of all the vertebrates should prove neither to have been
fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring; but for an actual specimen
of a living vertebrate that can neither ‘swim, crawl, fly, nor walk,’
I cannot do better than refer my philosophical opponent to a new-born


Sir,--Against your correspondent’s preference for vernacular terms
may be set a remark by Dr. Whewell, that ‘the loose and _infantine_
grasp of common language cannot hold objects steadily enough for
scientific examination, or lift them from one stage of generalization
to another. They must be secured by the rigid mechanism of a
scientific phraseology.’ To say that ‘the first vertebrate must have
been the product of innumerable antecedent factors,’ is, perhaps, an
expression more puzzling than if one merely said that ‘its immediate
progenitors’ were ‘a single pair;’ but then it has the advantage
of being considerably more suggestive, and a good deal more to the
purpose. Among these ‘factors’ of a living creature parents commonly
find a place,--two parents generally; in some cases, only one; in some
cases, not even one, if we are to believe the advocates of spontaneous
generation, or the still popular view in regard to the Creation. To
the parental factors of any particular offspring must be added those
which are constituted by food and climate and a multitude of changes
and chances in the whole course of its existence. Some characters it
may derive from remote ancestors, transmitted through, though not
developed in, its ‘immediate progenitors.’ It is now forty years since
two French anatomists showed the possibility, or even probability, of
a connection between the molluscous cuttle-fish and the vertebrate
type; and, considering the propensity of the highest vertebrate for
perpetually squirting ink at those who meddle with it, most readers
of controversy will think the instance well selected. Those who wish
to be told what the first vertebrate was probably like, should first
accurately define what they mean by a vertebrate. Is a jointed backbone
the only essential? And if so, how many vertebræ are essentially
requisite? A creature with two vertebræ would be as much a vertebrate
as a creature with three. What shall we say, then, of a creature
possessing, if we may use the expression, but a single vertebra? It
would not have a jointed backbone. It would not be a vertebrate. Yet,
by the simple multiplication of similar parts, in accordance with a
thousand analogies, a vertebrate could be developed from it. By the
differentiation of these similar parts, which not only might follow,
but must follow, a great variety of species could easily be evolved.
Those who really take an interest in the problems connected with this
subject, and whose ‘convictions’ are not too strong and absolute to be
swayed by ascertained facts and logical reasoning will do well to study
the ‘Principles of Biology,’ Herbert Spencer. They will there see
by what extraordinarily simple gradations the lowliest organisms are
connected with higher and the highest forms. They will there find that
‘modification of characters’ is a doctrine less intricate than might
be supposed, even if it cannot be wholly explained in words of one

If any intelligent persons can discern the undulatory theory of light
and the modern system of botany in the first chapter of Genesis, no
one would wish to complain of their ingenuity, unless they proposed to
support a particular theory of inspiration by these discoveries. But
then, if the theories of science are only ‘the undulations of human
opinion,’ it becomes necessary to ask why the botanical undulation of
the present day is accepted as a witness, and the Darwinian undulation
rejected. Had the famous Pagan critic, to whom your correspondent
‘R. T. E.’ refers, imagined the sentence, ‘Let there be light,
and there was light,’ to be a scientific description instead of a
theological one, we may feel sure that he would have condemned it for
bombast instead of praising it for its majesty of expression. As it
is, he does not declare it to be the sublimest sentence ever uttered,
but remarks that ‘the lawgiver of the Jews, no common man, having
comprehended the power of the divinity according to the just conception
of it, unfolded it agreeably thereto,’ both in this and in the parallel
phrase, ‘Let the dry land appear, and it was so.’ That all things which
_are_ and which _become_, both are what they are and become what they
become by the simple fiat of the supreme God, is a piece of elementary
philosophy and religion, which, I conceive, Sir, none of your
correspondents can have any wish to dispute; but that the writer of
Genesis anticipated by his scientific knowledge the epoch of Copernicus
and Newton, Young and Fresnel, Linnæus, De Jussieu and Cuvier, is not
only not proven by the few simple phrases of his writings that have
anything remotely to do with the branches of science which they so
nobly illustrated; much more than this, it would be a disgrace and
heavy imputation upon him had he known all _they_ believed, and yet
expressed himself so badly as to leave the world for thousands of years
in ignorance of the very germs of the true theories, so obscurely
that no one should ever have dreamed that he was alluding to the true
theories till after they had been independently discovered.

Your correspondent ‘Xn’ will find both his pleasure and his profit in
reading the chapter on Instinct in ‘Darwin’s Origin of Species.’ It
will give him some idea, I say not, how the reasoning faculty was first
acquired, but how it may have been gradually developed. By a careful
study of the same work he, and many others who need the knowledge, will
see that in accordance with Darwinism the deterioration of a species is
quite possible. His quaintly expressed argument about Adam’s ‘immediate
progenitor’ omits to notice that in the moral world it is a step
upward to become capable of sinning, just as in the physical world it
is a step upward to become capable of dying, so that the wretchedest
man with reason is higher in the scale than the noblest dog, and the
humblest plant than the costliest and most beautiful stone. The other
difficulty which he puts forward of an abrupt transition between the
first man with reason and the parents of such a man without reason is a
difficulty, like that in regard to the first vertebrate, one of words
rather than of facts. As with the origin of language and of languages,
as with the origin of the natural kingdoms and of every individual form
of life, so with the origin of reason; could we see the whole series of
steps, with their infinitely numerous and sometimes almost infinitely
fine and subtle points of discrimination, we should probably be unable
to fix upon any one definite division and say, here noise ends and
articulate language begins; or, here Saxon ends and English begins; or,
_this_ is the top of instinct, and _this_ the dawn of reason.


The interesting notice in your last number, of M. Coquand’s ‘Oysters of
the Chalk,’ draws inferences unfavourable to the theory of development
or evolution which scarcely seem warranted by the facts. It need not be
‘difficult to imagine the creature as existing under such conditions,
that one species, while engaged in “the struggle for existence,” should
starve out and extinguish another;’ for however widely we may find
a fossil species dispersed, it is not probable that it occupied the
whole of its territory at one and the same time, and in the limited
area occupied immediately before its extinction, new varieties may
have prevailed over and displaced the old by some slightly superior
adaptation to the food-supply of the region. The extinction of
any particular species may in some instances have been due to the
extinction, or loss by other means, of its own appropriate food.
Again, it is not necessary to suppose that the hinge, or the internal
or external structure of the shell of an oyster, has been altered by
what may be called the direct action of ‘natural selection,’ since by
the well-established principle of ‘correlation’ the variation in one
part of an organism is nearly or quite certain to produce variations
in other parts. ‘If any such change did occur,’ it is argued, ‘it must
have been _per saltum_, since with these mollusks, numerous as they
are, there are no forms that can fairly be recognised as transitional.’
But this appeal to the evidence of facts is somewhat premature. The
immense difference pointed out between the geological records of
England and France in regard to these very oysters of the chalk,
leaves it perfectly open for us to suppose that even the comparatively
full French record is itself exceedingly imperfect, and that the
transitional forms have either not been preserved, or remain yet to be
discovered. Mr. Darwin gives reasons for believing that when variation
once begins it continues with some vigour; hence, between two settled
wide-spread species connected genealogically together we might expect a
large number of transitional varieties, each represented by only a few
individuals, so that the whole number of these transitional forms might
well be lost to the genealogical record.

Finally, the objection from the scarcity of oysters at the present
day, compared with the great abundance of species in the past, does
not really touch the theory of development, which is concerned to
explain how species come into existence, not how they go out of it.
That varieties, species, genera, have been superseded or extinguished,
within longer or shorter periods, is a fact admitted on all hands.
The general principle of natural selection will account for this in
the rough, maintaining as it does that fresh varieties, species, and
genera better adapted to the surrounding circumstances have arisen,
and by their superior adaptation unavoidably ousted the older forms.
Digging down into the records of history we find a time when the
Romans were supreme in the civilized world; no two consecutive years
of the interval present any remarkable divergence of the prevailing
conditions, yet now we may say of that Roman supremacy in the civilized
world, that, ‘like the Mastodon, it is a thing of the past.’

Torquay, May 14, 1870.


The soul of many an anti-Darwinian will have been cheered by Mr. A. W.
Bennett’s paper on ‘The Theory of Natural Selection from a Mathematical
Point of View.’ It is, in fact, a very admirable piece of special
pleading, based on a skilful assumption of premisses which, to a
careless or biassed observer, might seem indisputable.

The tendency to variation is spoken of as something very mysterious, of
which no adequate account has ever yet been given. Yet the very simple
explanation is no bad one,--that where two parents are concerned in
the production of any offspring, the product in part resembling each
of the producers must of necessity also in part differ from each of
them. Between the parents themselves, Mr. Herbert Spencer has shown
that differences of age and external circumstances would ensure the
requisite want of resemblance in the absence of any other cause.

‘The rigid test of mathematical calculation’ is then applied to the
case of mimetic butterflies, with the view of showing that they could
not have been produced simply according to the laws of variation,
inheritance, and natural selection. In the application of this rigid
test, the very first step is a perfectly gratuitous assumption, ‘that
it would require, at the very lowest calculation, one thousand steps
to enable the normal _Leptalis_ to put on its protective form.’ Who is
to prove that fifty differences would be insufficient? An interval of
a thousand years might be granted for establishing each one of these
variations. Suppose even fifty thousand, instead of only fifty steps,
to be necessary, it is another gratuitous assumption that ‘the smallest
change in the direction of the _Ithomia_, which we can conceive on any
hypothesis to be beneficial to the _Leptalis_, is at the very lowest
one-fiftieth of the change required to produce perfect resemblance.’
How small a difference must decide the choice made by a donkey placed
equidistant between two bundles of hay! Certainly, then, a bird on the
wing, having to choose amidst myriads of butterflies, may be determined
by an almost infinitesimal distinction. Further, though the whole
change may be produced by an immense number of small changes, it is not
necessary to suppose that all the changes will be equally small. It
is merely begging the question to assume that the first change could
not possibly be large enough to be of any use. And if it may be of
use, the whole mathematical calculation, based on its being useless,
breaks down from the beginning. Again, since the _Leptalis_ may have
spent one million years in arriving at its present likeness to the
present _Ithomia_, it is impossible to assert that the normal forms
of the two butterflies were as wide apart at the beginning of that
period as they are at present. The mimicry having once set in, might be
retained by parallel variations. This, indeed, cannot fail to be the
case, if the protection is to be a lasting one; for when the _Ithomia_
varies in outward appearance, unless the _Leptalis_ varies in the same
direction, the resemblance will be lost. This progressive mimicry
would be more valuable than an imitation in which no changes occurred,
since the enemies of a mimetic species would in time become aware of
a fraud which had no variations at its command, as birds are said
now-a-days to pounce without hesitation upon caterpillars which very
much resemble twigs[67]. Even ‘a rough imitation’ may be useful in the
first instance, and yet when hostile eyes have long been exercised, and
have acquired greater and greater sharpness, finally nothing less than
_absolute identity_ of appearance may be thoroughly effective. Thus
the perfecting of the resemblance will be no ‘mere freak of Nature,’
nor shall we be ‘landed in the dilemma that the _last_ stages are
comparatively useless’ in this procedure.

The array of figures brought forward to prove that the _Leptalis_
could not have made twenty steps of variation in the direction of the
_Ithomia by chance_, would be much to the purpose if any exponent of
the theory of Natural Selection had ever argued or supposed that
it could. The calculation takes it for granted that the theory is
erroneous, instead of proving it to be in error. Upon this assumption,
it might have been put far more strongly, only that a stronger way
of putting it would have borne on the face of it the suspicion of
some inherent fallacy. It begins by supposing that there are ‘twenty
different ways in which a _Leptalis_ may vary, only one of these being
in the direction ultimately required;’ it might quite as truthfully,
or even more so, have said a thousand instead of twenty, and then the
second step would have given the chance as only one in a million,
instead of one in four hundred. But while the theory of Natural
Selection speaks of numerous minute useful variations, Mr. Bennett
will not allow that combination of terms. Let them be numerous and
minute, if you will, he says; but if small, they cannot be useful; if
useful, they cannot be small. He claims to have Mr. Darwin’s own word
for it, that a large variation would not be permanent, as though Mr.
Darwin had said, ‘living creatures have come to be what they are by
successive useful deviations of structure permanently propagated, but
no large deviations are permanent, and no small ones are useful.’ It
is quite obvious that in the use of relative terms, such as great and
small, Mr. Darwin neither intended to stultify himself nor has done
so. A thing may be large enough to be useful without being large as
compared with something twenty times its own size; and a man may be
said to have a huge brain in a very small body, although the body in
solid content far exceeds the brain. When Mr. Darwin says that ‘Natural
Selection always acts with extreme slowness’, he does not imply that
its steps must therefore be so numerous as to be too small to confer
any advantage. This would be a contradiction in terms. But the steps
may be exceedingly small notwithstanding, and also sometimes separated
by enormous intervals of time from one another.

In introducing his own explanation of things, Mr. Bennett affirms that
‘resemblances, and resemblances of the most wonderful and perfect kind’
in the vegetable kingdom, ‘are in no sense mimetic or protective.’ This
may be so, but it can hardly be said to be proved. When he speaks of
‘man’s reason’ having ‘assisted him so to modify his body as to adapt
himself to the circumstances with which he is surrounded,’ and suggests
that the instinct of animals may have assisted them also to modify
their bodies by slow and gradual degrees to the same purpose, it is
difficult to imagine the process intended, and still more difficult to
see how ‘the slow and gradual degrees’ will escape the rigid test of
mathematical calculation which Mr. Bennett has elsewhere applied; for
if the steps are great, they ought not to be permanent; and if small,
they ought not to be useful. A theory which makes it possible for a
bee to ‘modify its proboscis’ by instinct, or for a man to treat his
nose in the same manner by reason, seems harder of digestion than the

Torquay, Nov. 12, 1870.


A review in ‘Nature,’ by Mr. A. W. Bennett, of Mr. Mivart’s ‘Genesis of
Species,’ contains the following passage:--

‘It behoves, therefore, every Darwinian to satisfy himself that either
Mr. Mivart’s premisses or his line of argument is unsound.

‘The objections brought forward by the author are summed up as
follows:--(1) That Natural Selection is incompetent to account for the
incipient stages of useful structures. (2) That it does not harmonize
with the coexistence of closely similar structures of diverse origin.
(3) That there are grounds for thinking that specific differences may
be developed suddenly instead of gradually. (4) That the opinion that
species have definite though different limits to their variability is
still tenable. (5) That certain fossil transitional forms are absent
which might have been expected to be present. (6) That some facts of
geological distribution supplement other difficulties. (7) That the
objection drawn from the physiological difference between “species”
and “races” still exists unrefuted. (8) That there are many remarkable
phenomena in organic forms upon which Natural Selection throws no
light whatever, but the explanations of which, if they could be
attained, might throw light upon specific origination.

‘If these objections are not new, they are at least sustained by new
arguments. They are evidently of very unequal value. The third is very
difficult of proof or disproof. The fifth may be true in our present
state of knowledge, but would be very unsafe by itself as the basis of
an argument. The first, second, and eighth are of greatest value, and
are those which Mr. Mivart has most closely worked out[68].’

The review containing the above passage did not appear till the
present volume was on the very eve of publication. Even a hasty glance
at Mr. Mivart’s book is sufficient to show that Mr. Bennett has not
over-estimated its importance and value. It is scarcely possible here
to do more than make a few reflections upon its general scope, in reply
to the challenge offered to Darwinians. The first objection, as it
stands in the summary, wears the appearance of a misconception. It is
almost certain to produce one. When Mr. Darwin attributes the origin
of species to Natural Selection, he includes expressly, and where not
expressly, by obvious implication, the principle of Variability. He
never maintains that the first or any subsequent stage of a useful
structure can be produced by Natural Selection. Natural Selection
only operates to preserve. Without Variation it would have no sphere
in which to operate, so that from one point of view Mr. Darwin may
be said to attribute the origin of species to Variation rather than
Natural Selection. He is, moreover, far from ignoring the influence
of other principles, such as Inheritance, Reversion, and Correlation,
upon the total result. He may be thought inconsistent with himself in
laying stress at times upon the minuteness of the variations which he
supposes to have slowly accumulated into specific differences, and at
other times admitting the sudden appearance of variations which may
be considered as large ones, and which are certainly striking. But in
the first instance the great and almost overwhelming difficulty was to
induce a belief that forms specifically different could be connected
with one another by descent. By showing that a multitude of small
differences accumulated would make a large total difference, he made
as it were a bridge for the existing incredulity. It now appears that
the gulf may be passed with easy strides instead of the little slow
steps at first thought necessary. This fortifies the doctrine of the
Transmutation of Species, in proportion as there are fewer ‘missing
links,’ fewer transitional forms that need to be accounted for.

Of ‘the coexistence of closely similar structures of diverse origin,’
illustrated so forcibly by the instance of the eye, ‘in at least
three independent lines of descent, the Mollusca, the Annulosa, and
the Vertebrata,’ it can scarcely be denied that Natural Selection
alone would be an inadequate explanation. But here again it should
be observed that Darwinism does not attribute everything to Natural
Selection. It assumes, what must be allowed, that variations occur. In
obedience to what laws those variations themselves are produced is an
interesting speculation, and a most important subject of inquiry. That
such laws or conditions of Variation exist no one can doubt, unless he
has been seduced by Ovidian metamorphoses to believe in trees bleeding
human blood and human foreheads branching with the antlers of the stag.
A knowledge of those conditions might fully explain the coexistence of
similar structures of diverse origin, consistently with the principle
of Natural Selection. The ignorance of them is scarcely a proof that
such coexistence does not harmonize with it.

The objection that giraffes, which profited by long necks in a time
of drought, would find them a disadvantage subsequently, as requiring
a greatly increased size and strength of muscles to support them,
overlooks the law of correlation, by assuming that the elongated neck
would be out of proportion to the other conditions of the creature’s

Mr. Mivart’s fourth objection seems at least an extremely improbable
opinion. He refers to Mr. Darwin’s expression, that the goose appears
to have a highly inflexible organization, as if he himself thought
it possible for a species at length to attain to an organization
completely inflexible. Such a view would imply two parents exactly like
one another, producing offspring exactly like themselves; and of such
exact likenesses no known families afford examples.

The seventh objection recalls the still unexplained physiological
difference between ‘species’ and ‘races,’ unions between the former
being sterile, and between the latter fertile. In this branch of the
subject there is much scope still for inquiry. Some of the difficulty
may be due to a trick played us by language. True species have been
defined to be those that are not fertile together; and from the
definition it follows that races which _are_ fertile together are
not true species. But the question is obscured by the use of the two
different words ‘races’ and ‘species,’ the real issue being, whether
races that are and races that are not fertile together can originate
in the same way. The subject in its other bearings has been largely
discussed by Mr. Darwin in his work on ‘Animals and Plants under

It remains only to say a few words on the argument from the calculation
of chances which is supposed to reduce the survival by natural
selection of any particular useful variation almost or altogether to
an arithmetical impossibility. ‘The advantage,’ we are told, ‘whatever
it may be, is utterly outbalanced by numerical inferiority. A million
creatures are born: ten thousand survive to produce offspring. One of
the million has twice as good a chance as any other of surviving: but
the chances are fifty to one against the gifted individual’s being
one of the hundred survivors. No doubt the chances are twice as great
against any one other individual, but this does not prevent their
being enormously in favour of _some_ average individual[69].’ In this
calculation it seems to be overlooked that every individual will vary
more or less, and that out of a million variations there is a very
great probability that _one_ should give much more than the amount of
advantage which the calculation supposes. Nor does it follow that a
variation conferring great advantage in the struggle for life should be
great in comparison with a creature’s general organization. There is
a very probable alternative, that when the advantages are exceedingly
slight they may be shared by a great many, and that when falling to
the lot of only one or a few, they may be exceedingly important. The
doctrines of reversion and inheritance are pressed into the service
of the arithmetical argument to show that the acquired advantage
would be gradually diminished and finally lost. But Mr. Darwin tells
us that, ‘when a new character appears, it is occasionally from the
first well-fixed[70].’ The chances upon one principle that a character
will not be transmitted are not worth consideration, if, under the
operation of some other principle known or unknown, the transmission
of the character actually takes place. We are asked whether one white
man, introduced into an island otherwise inhabited only by negroes,
would be likely to give the whole island eventually a white, or even
a yellow, population. Without trying the experiment, we may perhaps
safely answer in the negative. But the illustration loses much or all
of its point, when we consider how little the circumstances of the
experiment would correspond with what ordinarily happens in nature,
how little we know whether the white man’s colour would be really an
advantage or the reverse, and how complicated are the differences
between a white man and a negro. If the blackness of the negro be due
to Natural Selection in any considerable degree, we should expect it to
suit the conditions which surround him in his native habitation better
than a white skin would do. In this case the pallor introduced into the
breed by a solitary stranger would gradually disappear in obedience
to the principles of Natural Selection, not in opposition to them. To
take once more the instance of the giraffe; the useful variation is
here by hypothesis an elongated neck; it is conceivable that out of
large herds the few survivors of a drought might be exclusively such as
possessed this advantage to some extent. These would probably transmit
to a large majority of their descendants the tendency to vary in a
given direction which they had themselves all more or less exhibited.
Their progeny, moreover, would be placed in exceptionally favourable
circumstances by the very fact that in the previous drought so many of
the same species had been starved to death, who would otherwise have
furnished their chief competitors in the struggle for existence. It
is still objected that upon this supposition many other animals ought
to have acquired giraffe-like necks. But such an expectation is far
from being warranted by the principles of Natural Selection. Since
all variations are potentially useful, but only those are preserved
which suit the surrounding conditions among which they are exhibited,
the calculation of chances will itself plead for the probability that
a variety of variations will be preserved, rather than the same many
times over. Other species competing with the giraffe for food would
be little likely to gain an advantage over it by a slight increase in
length of neck, though by other variations they might achieve a decided
superiority. It is obvious, also, that the advantage assigned to the
elongated neck would belong to many other possible variations, such as
a lengthened proboscis, far-reaching arms, the climbing powers of the
snake or the monkey, the flight of the bird or the insect; all of which
may be due to Natural Selection and the subsidiary principles which the
theory of Development embraces.

The calling in of subsidiary principles may be thought to spoil the
boasted simplicity of the theory. But such an opinion is hypercritical.
One might truthfully say of a great patriot that all he did was in
obedience to the simple law of duty, without implying that he was
exempt from the law of association of ideas, or independent of the
mechanical, chemical, and vital laws which regulate many of the
functions of all human beings alike.


[1] These papers were read at various dates between February 1869 and
January 1871, before the Torquay Natural History Society.

[2] Read before the Devonshire Association, July 1870.

[3] Horace, Odes, I. xvi. 13:--

    Fertur Prometheus addere principi
    Limo coactus particulam undique
      Desectam, et insani leonis
        Vim stomacho apposuisse nostro.

[4] Lyell, ‘Principles of Geology,’ vol. ii. p. 324. Tenth Edition.

[5] Darwin, ‘Animals and Plants under Domestication,’ vol. ii. p. 251.

[6] 1,073,741,824 grains.

[7] ‘On the Origin of Species,’ p. 74. Fourth Edition.

[8] Darwin, ‘Animals and Plants under Domestication,’ vol. ii. p. 379.

[9] 37 dwts. 7 grs., or 895 grs., between seven and eight times the
size of the wild fruit. See ‘Animals and Plants under Domestication,’
vol. i. p. 356.

[10] Darwin, ‘Animals and Plants under Domestication,’ passim.

[11] ‘Animals and Plants under Domestication,’ vol. ii. pp. 348-351.

[12] An important caution may here be quoted from Mr. Herbert Spencer.
‘An impression,’ he says, ‘has been given by those who have popularized
the sentiments of Embryologists, that, during its development, each
higher organism passes through stages in which it resembles the adult
forms of lower organisms--that the embryo of a man is at one time like
a fish, and at another time like a reptile. This is not the fact. The
fact established is, that up to a certain point the embryos of a man
and a fish continue similar, and that then differences begin to appear
and increase--the one embryo approaching more and more towards the form
of a fish; the other diverging from it more and more. And so with the
resemblances to the more advanced types.’--_Principles of Biology_,
vol. i. p. 143.

[13] ‘Origin of Species,’ p. 270. Mr. Darwin shows how the hexagonal
cells of the hive-bee can have arisen from the simple cylindrical form,
by bringing the cylinders sufficiently near together, so that their
outlines, if completed, would intersect.

The humble-bee makes separate and very irregular rounded cells.

The _melipona domestica_ makes cells that are nearly spherical, but too
near together for the spheres to be complete, flat walls of wax being
built where they tend to intersect.

A little extra regularity, advantageous for the saving of wax and
labour, would produce the symmetrical comb of the hive-bee with its two
layers of hexagonal prisms.

[14] See ‘Principles of Biology,’ vol. i. pp. 428-431.

[15] ‘Origin of Species,’ p. 213; ‘Principles of Biology,’ vol. i. pp.
392, 394. The walking-fishes of India and the mud-fishes of Ceylon
and New Zealand are described in an interesting article by Dr. Day of
Torquay, in ‘All the Year Round’ for June 11th, 1870. Dr. Day seems to
think the climbing powers of the _anabas scandens_ less satisfactorily
attested than other attributes of these extraordinary groups.

[16] Carpenter, ‘Animal Physiology,’ chap. 14.

[17] The design of this Essay was not, as has been erroneously
supposed, to disprove the universality of the Deluge by help of
Darwinism, but to remove one great obstacle to the general acceptance
of Darwinism by disproving the universality of the Deluge. Taking the
Theory of Development for granted, a recent universal Deluge would be
too obviously impossible to need arguing against.

[18] Lyell, ‘Principles of Geology,’ ii. 332.

[19] Ibid. ii. 344.

[20] Lyell, ii. 336.

[21] ‘The Malay Archipelago,’ vol. ii. p. 448.

[22] ‘Genesis of the Earth and of Man,’ p. 117; quoted in Sir J.
Lubbock’s ‘Prehistoric Times,’ p. 314.

[23] A religious and supremely orthodox poet of the last century
enquires, ‘Where is the dust that has not been alive?’--Young, ‘Night
Thoughts,’ Night IX, 1. 87.

[24] ‘Mushrooms and Toadstools.’--Worthington G. Smith, p. 17.

[25] ‘Genesis of the Earth and of Man,’ pp. 113, 114.

[26] Genesis, chap. xi.

[27] Sir John Lubbock, ‘Prehistoric Times,’ pp. 338, 346, 452;
Herodotus, iv. 26.

[28] See Mill’s ‘History of British India,’ book ii. ch. i. and notes.

[29] ‘Prehistoric Man,’ Dr. Daniel Wilson, p. 101.

[30] ‘The Daughter of Galileo,’ by the author of ‘Mary Powell,’ p. 283.

[31] ‘Origin of Species,’ p. 268.

[32] ‘Good Words for the Young,’ June 1870. Animal Defences. By A. W.

[33] Wallace, ‘Essays on Natural Selection,’ p. 227.

[34] ‘The Spectator,’ No. 120.

[35] ‘Spectator,’ No. 121.

[36] Nos. 156, 157.

[37] ‘Spectator,’ No. 519.

[38] ‘Natural History,’ § 985. ‘It is a common experience that dogs
know the dog-killer; when, as in times of infection, some petty fellow
is sent out to kill the dogs; and that though they have never seen him
before, yet they will all come forth, and bark and fly at him.’

[39] See ‘Knight’s Half-Hours with the Best Authors.’ No. 185: from
‘The Fool of Quality.’

[40] ‘Essays on Natural Selection,’ p. 248.

[41] Ibid. p. 128.

[42] This Essay was originally prepared as a sermon for Trinity
Sunday. For the text were quoted the well-known words of 2 Peter ii.
16, ‘The dumb ass, speaking with man’s voice, forbad the madness of
the prophet.’ The design was to show that some of the most unpopular
novelties in scientific opinion bore no necessary antagonism to the
deepest mysteries of Christian doctrine. In regard to such an attempt
it is perhaps needless to add that the kindliness of the design was not
fully appreciated by those for whose benefit it was intended.

[43] As in the inscription ‘Jehu, the son of Omri,’ referred to by Lord
A. C. Hervey, in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, Art. ‘Genealogy.’

[44] Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, Art. ‘Genealogy of Jesus Christ,’
Lord A. C. Hervey, referring to Dr. Mill. Compare also Hengstenberg,
Genuineness of the Pentateuch, vol. ii. p. 294, Translation, 1847.

[45] Sir J. Lubbock, ‘Prehistoric Times,’ p. 502, second edition.

[46] Ibid. p. 223.

[47] Ibid. p. 233.

[48] See chapter on Marriage, in Sir J. Lubbock’s ‘Origin of

[49] Sir J. Lubbock, ‘Prehistoric Times,’ p. 380; Sir C. Lyell,
‘Antiquity of Man,’ p. 27.

[50] Lyell, ‘Elements of Geology,’ p. 118, ed. 1865.

[51] Messrs. Pengelly and Vivian, resident at Torquay, acting members
of the distinguished committee of exploration.

[52] See Reports of British Association, 1868, p. 57, and 1869, p. 199,
by W. Pengelly, Esq., F.R.S.

[53] This is the popular name for them. They do not petrify the
specimens placed in them, but only coat them with stalagmite.

[54] The resuming process has not yet been adopted by the modern
Fuegians, for Dr. Hooker informs us that at the extreme south of
Tierra del Fuego, and in mid-winter, he has often seen the men lying
asleep in their wigwams, without a scrap of clothing, and the women
standing naked, and some with children at their breasts, in the water
up to their middles gathering limpets and other shell fish, while the
snow fell thickly on them and on their equally naked babies.’--Sir
J. Lubbock, ‘Prehistoric Times,’ p. 532. Jerome declares that he had
himself seen the Attacotti, a British tribe, eating human flesh.
See Gibbon (vol. iii. p. 270, ed. 1854), who in several passages
refers to the practice among various British tribes of going naked,
especially in war, citing Appian, Ammianus, and Giraldus Cambrensis
as his authorities for British customs. It will be remembered that
Cæsar speaks even of the Southern Britons as fighting ‘omnibus membris

[55] ‘Report of British Association, 1869,’ p. 201.

[56] Nov. 21, 1870.

[57] A formation later than the Devonian, and earlier than the New Red

[58] Revelation x. 6, Authorised Version.

[59] See Mr. Pengelly’s paper on the subject in the Transactions of the
Devonshire Association for 1868.

[60] ‘Acadian Geology,’ Dawson, p. 386.

[61] See ‘Lecture on Coal,’ by W. Boyd Dawkins, Esq., M.A., F.R.S.
Manchester, 1870.

[62] Address to the British Association, 1868, p. 66 of the Report.

[63] In the Collection of W. Pengelly, Esq., F.R.S.

[64] This and the three following letters were originally addressed to
the Editor of the _Torquay Directory_, in answer to a gentleman who,
in company with large multitudes of his fellow-Britons, both male and
female, holds and upon occasion upholds a mass of opinions on Science
and Religion, any one of which opinions individually may be right or
may be wrong, but which, when held collectively, seem to my humble
understanding to be logically incoherent.

[65] Reprinted from ‘Nature,’ No. 30.

[66] Reprinted from ‘Nature,’ No. 56.

[67] Applying to these caterpillars Mr. A Murray’s recent hypothesis
for explaining ‘mimicry’ by hybridization, we should draw the poetical
inference that a happy marriage is possible between a butterfly and a

[68] ‘Nature,’ No. 66.

[69] ‘Genesis of Species,’ p. 57, quotation (somewhat obscure as it
stands) from the North British Review for June, 1867.

[70] ‘Animals and Plants under Domestication,’ vol. ii. p. 63.


  Abiogenesis, note on hypothesis of, 126-132.

  Addison, his opinion about Instinct, 71;
    his description of the brood-hen, 72;
    his account of a hen with brood of ducks, 73;
    on the insensible gradations of species, 74.

  African desert, geological evidence of, 122.

  Anabas scandens, its climbing powers, 28;
    Dr. Day’s opinion thereon, 28, note.

  Androcles, story of, 82.

  Animal mounds, of Wisconsin, 105.

  Ants, slave-making, 29, 69;
    French philosopher’s account of, 73.

  Artificial selection, part of Natural selection, 16.

  Baboons, warfare of, 69.

  Bacon, Lord, his statement about dogs, 75.

  Barbarism, time required for development of, 57.

  Bees, progress of, in cell-making, 25;
    their accuracy overrated, 69, 86.

  Bennett, Mr. A. W., Mathematical test applied by, 168;
    Review by, 173.

  Birds’ nests, reasoning powers employed in construction of, 69, 86;
    compared with human dwellings, 70;
    use of human manufactures in, 71.

  British Association, exploration of Kent’s cavern by, 109.

  Britons, ancient, condition of, 111.

  Brookes, Henry, story of a lion quoted from, 76.

  Brutes, man’s treatment of, 11, 90;
    opinion that God is the soul of, 71;
    compared with men, 74;
    their moral qualities, 75, 88;
    their laws and constitutions, 77;
    their perceptions and emotions, 80;
    language of scripture about, 84;
    motives of pleasure and pain applied to, 88;
    children compared with, 89.

  Cannibalism, 57;
    of British tribes, 112.

  Caterpillars, resembling twigs, 170.

  Chalk, continuous formation of, 117.

  Civilization, its dependence on language and the art of writing, 88.

  Coal-measures, 119-121, 140.

  Columbus, his opinion of the earth’s spherical form condemned,
        60, 148.

  Coquand’s Oysters of the Chalk, Professor Flower’s review
        of, 145, 165.

  Correlation, 17, 166, 176.

  Creation, sudden, not reconcilable with the order of nature, 25;
    theories of, compared, 32;
    prejudice in favour of its suddenness, 63, 64;
    Biblical theory of, 129.

  Creations, many distinct, not warranted by scripture or science,
        20, 116, 135;
    special, for special localities, untenable, 21.

  Danes, ancient, food and weapons of, 104.

  Darwin, his account of the development of his theory, 4;
    his calculation about elephants, 13;
    allusion to his theory of Pangenesis, 33;
    his explanation of the fauna and flora of mountain-tops, 46;
    his account of slave-making ants, 69;
    his treatment of geology, 134;
    his chapter on instinct, 163.

  Darwinism, 3-33;
    obscurely anticipated, 2;
    its supporters, 3;
    prejudice against, 4, 152;
    its bearing on the seeming imperfection of nature, 24;
    inconsistent with a recent universal deluge, 31, 34.

  Dawkins, Mr. W. Boyd, lecture on coal by, 143.

  Dawson, Dr., Acadian Geology, 120, 140.

  Day, Dr., paper by, on the Mud-fish and Anabas scandens, 28.

  Denudation, 143.

  Deucalion’s Flood, argument from rebutted, 150.

  Development, theory of, by whom originated and supported, 4;
    opinion of its absurdity, 6;
    facts and principles necessary to, (variation, 7;
      Inheritance and Reversion, 9;
      struggle for life, 11;
      antiquity of the globe, 30;
      freedom of the globe from any recent universal catastrophe, 31);
    application of, to human body and mind, 62, 95;
    time required for, 122;
    not materially affected by hypothesis of spontaneous
        generation, 127.

  Ducklings, experiment with, 73.

  Earth, immense age of, required by Theory of Development, 30, 67;
    proved by geology, 31, 54, 107, 121;
    popular impression as to age of, 93, 121;
    reckoned by millions of years, 123.

  Egypt, its monuments, 51;
    its chronology, 56, 101.

  Elephant, its sagacity, 3;
    its rate of breeding, 13;
    its different species, 46;
    its memory, 66;
    epithet applied to it by Pope, 74;
    in Devonshire, 112.

  Esquimaux, their ignorance of arithmetic, 103.

  Flint-tools, 109, 111, 113.

  Flood, the Noachian, 34-61;
    historical account of, 38;
    explanation suggested, 41;
    how consistent with Darwinism, 50;
    traditions of a, 58;
    no traces of its universality, 59.

  Food, its influence on the animal and vegetable kingdoms, 12;
    in the competition for life, 22.

  Fossils, an evidence of variation, 20;
    different in different strata, 116;
    time required for vicissitudes of, 119;
    necessary imperfection of, 134;
    their scarcity and abundance, 141;
    numerous chances of loss and destruction for, 146.

  Fuegians, nakedness of, 112, _note_.

  Galileo, his doctrine of the earth’s motion condemned, 60, 148.

  Genesis, book of, its chronology, 55.

  ‘Genesis of Species,’ by Mr. Mivart, 173.

  Geology, its conclusions, 31, 53;
    imperfection of its record, 133-146.

  Giraffes, 176, 179.

  Glacial Period, its effect on distribution of species, 47.

  Gooseberry, the big, 16.

  Horse, career of, in America, 48;
    its endurance and ambition, 3;
    its intelligence, 66;
    instance thereof, 74;
    its intercourse with man, 80.

  Hypotheses, use of, 131.

  Inheritance, 9;
    at different periods of life, 18.

  Instinct, of bees, 25;
    employment and gradations of, in various animals, 28;
    compared with reason, 62-81, 164;
    fallacious theory of, 67;
    ignored by ducklings, 73;
    fancied excellence of, 86.

  Kent’s cavern, 109-115.

  Language, time required for variations of, 57;
    its influence on mankind, 77, 87;
    origin of, 103.

  Light, rapidity of, 97.

  Limestone, formation of, 109;
    contents of, 115;
    slow formation of, 117;
    Devonian, older than the New Red Sandstone, 118.

  Lindley, Dr., his experiment with immersed vegetables, 143.

  Linnæus, on the common descent of species, 3.

  Lion, its generosity, 3;
    instance of its affection, 76;
    instance of its gratitude, 83;
    in Britain, 112.

  Locke, on the reason of brutes, 74.

  Lubbock, Sir John, ‘Prehistoric Times,’ 54, 104, 107, 112;
    ‘Origin of Civilization,’ 107.

  Lyell, Sir Charles, ‘Principles of Geology,’ 3, 54;
    ‘Antiquity of Man,’ 107;
    ‘Elements of Geology,’ 109.

  Madagascar, its species and genera, 46.

  Malay, compared with the Papuan by Mr. Wallace, 49, 150.

  Man, his destructiveness, 11;
    his likeness to other animals in blood, fibre, and skeleton, 29;
    distribution of his varieties, 48;
    traced back for thousands of years, 51;
    a common origin for all families of, 52;
    his chief endowments, 67;
    compared as a builder with birds, 70;
    his brain and hairless skin, 73;
    his bodily structure, 85;
    his opinion of war, 86;
    real origin of, forgotten, 102.

  Marriage-customs, slow change of, 106.

  Marsupials, 46;
    fossil, 47.

  Matlock Bath, formation of stalagmite at, 110, 114.

  Memory, necessary to intelligence, 66;
    unequal distribution of, 66.

  Miracles, treatment of false ones, 40;
    of the Old Testament, 83.

  Mivart, St. George, Mr., ‘Genesis of Species’ by, 173.

  Mushroom, time required for its growth, 55.

  Mygale, the trap-door spider, its ingenious nest, 29.

  Natural Selection, illustrated by artificial selection, 14;
    the slowness of its movement, 18;
    explains the order of nature, and in part its seeming disorder, 26;
    limits of, propounded by Mr. Wallace, 62.

  Nile, articles in sediment of, 108.

  Origin of life, opinions on, 94.

  Oysters, memory of, 66;
    obscure politics of, 77.

  Palæontology, Lyell’s definition of, 135.

  Papuan, compared with the Malay, 49, 150.

  Parfitt, Mr., on Fossil Sponge Spicules, 136, 139.

  Pengelly, Mr., on pre-historic man, 105;
    exploration of Kent’s cavern by, 109, 110, 113.

  Pigeons, subjected to man’s selection, 14, 16, 17.

  Plants, their struggle for food, 12;
    their movements, 28.

  Pope, his epithet for the elephant, 74.

  Reason, progressive development of, in individual minds, 62, 67;
    that of men, one in kind with the intelligence of brutes, 66, 84;
    helps to, 86.

  Relative terms, 97, 171.

  Religion, development of, 64, 90.

  Reversion, 9;
    limits artificial selection, 17.

  Rudimentary organs, 21.

  Sandstone, New Red, 118.

  Savages, question of their degeneracy, 57;
    brain, skin, and voice of, 78.

  Science, not antagonistic to Christian doctrine, 82, _note_.

  Scripture, no warrant for distinct creations, 20;
    does not profess to
  teach Natural Science, 35;
    its use of ordinary language, 36;
    its historical account of the Flood, 38;
    explanation thereof, 41;
    disregard of secondary causes in, 83;
    character of genealogies in, 99;
    mistaken quotation of, 124;
    invidious connection of, with false science, 151;
    supposed opposition between it and Darwinism, 157.

  Species, permanence of, 9;
    some benefited by change of habitat, 21;
    variations of, how advantageous, 27;
    difficulty of collecting all for the Ark, 43;
    distribution of, 45.

  Spencer, Mr. Herbert, his caution about embryonic forms, 19, _note_;
    his accurate phrase, ‘Survival of the fittest,’ 154;
    his ‘Principles of Biology,’ 161.

  Sponges, not to be hurried, 117;
    range of in geology, 136;
    final cause of, 138.

  Stalagmite, thickness of in Kent’s cavern, 110;
    time required for forming, 113;
    dates carved upon, 115.

  Stratification, uniform order of, 116, 122.

  Struggle for life, 11;
    great fecundity useful to a species in, 24.

  Sylvia Sutoria, the tailor-bird, its nest, 29.

  Tails, rudimentary, in man, 22, 155.

  Tennyson, language of ‘the Brook’ in, 125.

  Theories, when to be accepted, 18.

  Thought, time required for, 64;
    movement of, depending on language, 87.

  Time, immense duration of, required by the Theory of Natural
        Selection, 30, 67;
    lapse of, 93-125;
    (see _Earth_, age of);
    inexhaustible, 98, 125.

  Tinière, delta of, 107.

  Tyndal, Professor, on ‘The Minuteness of Waves of Light,’ 97.

  Usher, archbishop, Bible-chronology of, 99, 110.

  Variability, 7;
    objection to, considered, 128.

  Vertebrate, the first, how originated, 158;
    type of, supposed to be connected with cuttle-fish, 161;
    definition of, investigated, 161.

  Vivian, Mr., exploration of Kent’s cavern by, 109.

  Wallace, Mr., his originality recognized, 5;
    his opinion of the limits of Natural Selection, 62;
    his exposure of fallacious views about Instinct, 67;
    his theory of birds’ nests, 69;
    his comparison of birds with men as builders, 70;
    his speculation about the brain of the savage, 78.

  War, in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, 12;
    combination of baboons for, 69;
    comparison of man and other animals engaged in, 86.

  Wasps, their defensive weapon, 25;
    materials used by, 86.

  Whewell, Dr., his remark on Scientific Phraseology, 160.

  Writing, invention of, 103.

Transcriber’s Notes

The cover of this eBook was made by the Transcriber, by combining the
original Title Page and the blank green cover provided with the printed
book. The result remains in the Public Domain.

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks remedied.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Footnotes, originally at the bottoms of pages, have been collected and
repositioned after the last chapter of the book, just before the Index.

Index not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page references.

Page 3: “One” was capitalized in “qualified, One, without doubt”.

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