« PreviousContinue »
The question of design in the phenomena of Nature compels an advocate of that view to assume a position on the very borders of theology in all the topics under discussion; it has however been the aim of the writer to speak with reserve on the higher aspect of the argument, and to keep for the latter part of the examination a direct reference to the atheism of Transmutation. There need be no apprehension of any serious damage likely to accrue to the received opinions from the disciples of this school, notwithstanding the positiveness of their doctrine, and its high pretensions. Common sense will, in the long run, be too strong for all their efforts, and civilized society will continue to entertain that indelible faith by which we believe that the world was framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of the things which do appear ;' a formulary of words which precisely excludes Mr Darwin's Theory.
The interests of science may, however, suffer detriment for a season by the agitation of this controversy, and we may fear that the partisans of Transmutation will be disputing about the interests of their hypothesis, and neglecting the higher pursuit of strict science. When we find learned men occupied about such questions as 'chains of linking forms taking a circuitous sweep, and extinct forms which geological research has not revealed’ (Darwin, 324), this seems little better than the sterile occupation of blowing soap-bubbles of the imagination, to the neglect of all the more exact demands of science.
Cuvier has thus expressed himself on this subject : * “The
* 'L'échelle prétendue des êtres n'est qu'une application erronée à la totalité de la création, de ces observations partielles qui n'ont de justesse qu'autant qu'on les restreint dans les limites où elles ont été faites, et cetto application, selon moi, a nui, à un degré que l'on aurait peine à imaginer, aux progrès de l'histoire naturelle dans ces derniers temps.'--Règne Animal. Préface.
pretended chain of beings, as applied to the whole creation, is but an erroneous application of those partial observations, which are only true when confined to the limits within which they were made ; and in my opinion it has in these modern times impeded, to a degree which can scarcely be imagined, the progress of natural science.'
All this will, however, at last come right; and certain stars that have shot madly from their spheres, after a temporary blaze, will pass into the darkness of oblivion. Mr Darwin's labours in the interests of Transmutation must either be triumphant, or there will be an end of that Theory for ever; for as no one with so good a chance of success will ever appear again, if he should fail of his object, Transmutation will have to be carted back to the family vault of Epicurus, from which it was exhumed, and which is its congenial and appropriate resting-place.
Cuvier, in the dedication of his 'Ossemens Fossiles' to Laplace, mentions it as a great advantage to himself in his earlier days that by associating with the geometricians and philosopbers of the Institute, he was, to use his own words, ' penetrated with that severe spirit of synthesis and method which regulated his thoughts in his subsequent labours. It is greatly owing to that severe spirit that he became so illustrious in the scientific world. The imagination in him was held in firm restraint, without repressing the quickness of his sagacity and his innate genins. When the imagination is left at liberty in scientific pursuits, the result is almost always error and confusion.
"J'ai put surtout m'y pénétrer de cet esprit sévère, fruit de l'heureuse association établie dans son sein entre les mathématiciens et les naturalistes.'
TRANSMUTATION OF SPECIES
SPECIES AS TREATED BY MR DARWIN.
Mr Darwin begins his Introduction to the Origin of Species by the following words :—When on board H.M.S. Beagle as naturalist, I was much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the organic beings inhabiting South America, and in the geological relations of the present to the past inhabitants of that continent. These facts seemed to throw some light on the origin of Species ; that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers.'
Thus are we enabled to fix a date for the first suggestion of that theory which appears in its full maturity in “the Origin of Species. The cruise of H.M.S. Beagle was from the year 1832 to 1836, and Mr Darwin's publication of his researches in that cruise was in the year 1840.
In the last pages of the Researches is an interesting passage recommending to young naturalists a journey in