« PreviousContinue »
dence. Who, of the most daring speculators, would venture to affirm that man existed in the Eocene era ? For anything we can show to the contrary, man might have been an inhabitant of the earth at that period, but we are all satisfied that he was not, and we are convinced by negative evidence alone. Let, then, Mr Darwin say what he likes, when animals cannot anywhere be discovered before a certain point in the geological series, it will be believed that their non-appearance is owing to their non-existence; and it will also be believed that when we first find them in a certain geological formation, that then they first began to exist. This is the opinion of a crowd of * able geologists, and it is the deduction of common sense.
But Mr Darwin instinctively feels that geology is his worst enemy, and therefore, like an able tactician, he endeavours to damage its value and undermine its authority. * If we admit,' says he, that the geological record is imperfect in an extreme degree, then such facts as the record gives, support the Theory of descent with modification' (508).
This in plain English means thus much : ‘if you can bring yourself to disbelieve the testimony of geology, then
Take as an instance of the use made of negative evidence in geology, the following remarks of Lyell on the secondary formations :
"It is certainly a startling proposition to suppose that a continent covered with vegetation, which had its forests of palm-trees and tree-ferns, which was inhabited by large Saurians and by birds, was, nevertheless, entirely devoid of land quadrupeds. If the proofs were confined to the Wealden, we might besitate to lay much stress on mere negative evidence, since extensive deposits of the Eocene period, such as the London clay, have as yet yielded no mammiferous fossils, and the coal-slate of Great Britain, after baving been studied for so many years, are now only beginning to produce the bones of Saurians; but when we find the same general absence of Mammalia in strata of the Oolitic and Liassic eras, we can hardly refuse to admit, that the highest order of quadrupeds was very feebly represented in those ages, when the small didelphis of Stonesfield was entornbed' (iv. 235).
you may believe that animals have come to their present forms by transmutation from previous ones.' When a record is imperfect in an extreme degree,' who could trust it? This is the point to which Mr Darwin would bring us.
And then again, 'the noble science of geology loses glory from the extreme imperfection of the record. The crust of the earth, with its embedded remains, must not be looked at as a well-filled museum, but as a poor collection made at hazard and at rare intervals' (522).
But we must now more closely examine these statements. We falsely infer because certain genera or families have not been found beneath a certain stage, that they did not exist before that stage;' which also reads that if we were to state the truth, we should say that those genera did exist before that stage. This goes a step further, we have had the benefit of negative evidence denied us, now it is turned against us to prove the exact opposite of that which had hitherto been deduced from it.
If, however, there be anything clear in geology it is this, that there has been a succession of organic beings, not descending genealogically one from another, but appearing successively in order of time ; and that there are definite epochs where they can be first traced as existing, and also where they disappear. Now we have the ruminants in the miocene division of the tertiary formation, and the felidæ first appearing in the more ancient division of the tertiary, but the most careful search has never succeeded in discovering the slightest trace of them in the chalk formation. Did they exist in the chalk era ? certainly, according to Mr Darwin, because it would be impossible that Natural Selection could have had time to produce them in the Tertiary epoch, and the antecedent links from
some progenitor are wanting, therefore we must seek for them in periods infinitely more remote ; but by no means must we suppose that they came into being in the era when they first appear.
In this way there must always be disagreement between the records of geology and the exigencies of the Theory. The Theory will constantly be demanding that which geology denies, and denying that which geology affirms. It is impossible that they ever should be reconciled.
The testimony however of physiologists on the succession of organic beings is very clear. Buffon says: 'Qu'il y a eu des espèces, maintenant anéanties, dont l'existence a précédé celle de tous les êtres actuellement vivants ou végétans—qu'on peut determiner des époques dans la succession des existences qui nous ont précédés-que les empreintes de poissons, de crustacés, et de végétaux (qu'on ne trouve qu'à de grandes profondeurs) semblent nous indiquer que leur existence a précédé, même de fort loin, celle des animaux terrestres.'
Cuvier observes : Ce qui est certain, c'est que nous sommes maintenant au moins au milieu d'une quatrième succession d'animaux terrestres, et qu'après l'âge des reptiles, après celui des palæothériums, après celui des mammouths, des mastodontes, et des mégathériums, est venu l'âge où l'espèce humaine, aidée des quelques animaux domestiques, domine et féconde paisiblement la terre.'
M. Flourens * has well expressed this: That which is the essential object, the important point, is, in effect, the relation of strata and species, and that which that relation demonstrates to us is that the reptiles have appeared before the mammifers, since the reptiles are found in strata where
* Ontologie (303)
the mammifers are never found—that the marine mammifers have appeared before the terrestrial, because the marine mammifers are found in strata, where the terrestrial mammifers are never found, and that is not all, this relation between strata and species proves to us, that even with the terrestrial mammifers there has been a succession of species, and a very remarkable succession.'
This latter remark may be best explained in the words of Cuvier: 'First of all, all the genera now unknown, the palæotheriums, the anoplotheriums, &c., belong to the most ancient soils of which we are speaking, to those which rest on the Calcaire * grossier—in the second place, the most celebrated of the unknown species, which are connected with known genera, or to genera very nearly allied to those which are known, as the elephants, the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, the fossil mastodons, are not found together with the most ancient genera—it is only in the soils of transport that they are found. In fine, the bones of species which seem to be the same as ours, are not met with except in the last deposits of the alluvium.'
We have here established by the testimony of geology distinct deposits and distinct genera belonging to them, they are not found previously, and in most instances they are not found afterwards in the succeeding deposits.
Let us hear the testimony of another celebrated + geologist. “Every plant and animal that now lives upon earth began to be during the great Tertiary period, and had no place among the plants and animals of the great secondary
• Calcaire grossier is a formation of the Paris basin, take the chalk system (secondary) as the base, then we have resting on it the plastic clay, next in ascending scale the Calcaire grossier, and then the Gypsum of Montmartre-after which upper marine, &c.
† Hugh Miller, Testimony of the Rocks (195).
division. We can trace several of our existing quadrupeds, such as the badger, the hare, the fox, the reindeer, and the wild cat up to the earlier times of the Pleistocene, and not a few of our existing shells, such as the great pecten, the edible oyster, &c., up to the greatly earlier times of the coralline crag. But at certain definite lines in the deposits of the past, representative of certain points in the course of time, the existing mammals and molluscs cease to appear, and we find their places occupied by other mammals and molluscs; even such of our British shells as seem to have enjoyed as species the longest term of life cannot be traced beyond the times of the Pleiocene deposits. ....... We thus know that in certain periods, nearer or more remote, all our existing mollusca began to exist, and that they had no existence during the previous periods, which were, however; richer in animals of the same great molluscan group than the present time—a great number of still older shells have been detected in a single deposit of the Paris Basin, the Calcaire grossier, and a good many more in a more ancient formation still, the London clay. On entering the chalk, we find a yet older group of shells, wholly unlike any of the preceding ones, and in the Oolite and Lias yet other and different groups,' &c.
Thus testimonies to the same effect might be multiplied from almost every respectable book on geology. All writers agree on the subject that certain genera or species have made their appearance for the first time in certain deposits ; and as this is fatal to the Theory, we need not be surprised to hear Mr Darwin stoutly declaring that this evidence is false ; this is his own word, why do whole groups of allied species appear, though certainly they often falsely appear, to come in suddenly on the several geological