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The following examination of Mr Darwin's ‘Origin of Species’ is intended as a common sense answer to a Theory, which needs only to be carefully compared with itself to be completely confuted. By a common-sense answer is meant such a view as any person of ordinary understanding would take of the question of design, in any of the more striking instances of contrivance for a special object, in the works of Nature. In Mr Darwin's Theory the idea of design in every form of organic life is steadfastly denied, and it is asserted that all existing plants and animals have been produced by slow changes, without any plan or intention, from some antecedent forms.
To oppose this Theory the following pages have been written, in a full confidence that the common sense of mankind cannot be mistaken in this momentous question ; and that it can only be by an artificial pressure on the reasoning faculties that any one can be induced to believe in the accidental evolution of organic beings.
As a more particular illustration of the meaning of a common-sense answer, take the following passage from Cicero: “As soon as the animal is born, if it be one that
is to be nourished by milk, almost all the food of the mother turns to milk, and the young animal, without any direction, by the pure instinct of nature, immediately seeks for the teat, and is therefore fed with plenty: That which makes it evidently appear that there is nothing in this fortuitous, but the work of a wise and foreseeing Nature, is that those females which bring forth many young, as sows and bitches, have many teats, and those which have a small number have few.'—(De Nat. Deorum, 52.).
This popular illustration of the argument of design is in fact as convincing as anything we could learn from a scientific disquisition of the highest order : it is one of the ten thousand cases to be found in Nature; and if any one of them be admitted to be true, it must be fatal to the Theory of Transmutation.
Should any one be disposed to object that it is presumptuous, without a panoply of science and ability, to confront a giant in the physiological kingdom, the answer would be that when great men leave the beaten track of acknowledged science to wander in the wilderness of fiction and paradox, they lose much of their redoubtable attributes, and come down to the level of meaner intellects; for, to use the words of Shakspeare, ‘See now how wit may be made a Jack-a-lent, when 'tis upon ill employment.'—(Merry Wives of Windsor.)
At any rate such has been the conviction of the writer of these pages, so that he has entertained a hope that if there be yet Goliaths in the world, there may be still found some smooth stones of the brook adequate for the formidable duel.
Mr Darwin, in the legitimate walks of science, stands high among the chief; for to say nothing of other pub
lications, who, in this generation, has given to the world a more instructive or a more beautiful book than the Researches of the Cruise of the Beagle'? A new edition of the work is advertised, and it is to be hoped that it will appear without any alterations or additions, to accommodate it to the author's new creed. A view of Nature taken as the production of the Creator's will, can never be made to harmonize with the blind force of cellular tissues sprouting by accident into all the phenomena of life.
M. Flourens has published a short answer to Mr Darwin, contenting himself chiefly with pointing out the abuse of terms, and the verbal inaccuracies with which the Origin of Species is argued. The answer, as far as it goes, is very effective, and successfully assails the foundation of the Theory; but it is to be regretted that a writer, so well qualified for the task, should have confined himself chiefly to one view of the subject.
The services of Professor Philipps in this cause have been considerable. Quotations from his valuable publication, Life, its Origin and Succession,' appear in the fol. lowing chapters.
The whole of this controversy was indeed agitated more than thirty years ago, when Professor Sedgwick undertook to confute the author of the “Vestiges of Creation' in a celebrated article in the Edinburgh Review, and in another examination of the Theory of Transmutation in the learned Professor's prolegomena to the Studies of the University of Cambridge. The Vestiges never recovered from that severe concussion; the book has ever since been considered an exploded romance by the scientific world.
Mr Darwin places himself in the old battle-field occupied by the Vestiges, maintaining in reality the very
ground held by his predecessor. In the method of managing the argument there is a difference between the two writers, but in the object of the argument there is none; so that the force of proof urged by Professor Sedgwick against the Vestiges, applies in . most points against Mr Darwin's Origin of Species.
In the Edinburgh Review there have been some able articles on Mr Darwin's Theory. In the April number of 1863, an article, of which the title is, o Professor Huxley on Man's place in Nature,' is well worthy the careful attention of all those interested in this subject. The Review quotes an observation of Dugald Stewart : “From those representations of human nature which tend to assimilate to each other the faculties of man and of the brutes, the transition to atheism is not very wide.'*
This transition is pointed out in the following pages, and it is shown how with some of the disciples of Transmutation there is no wish to conceal the atheistic import of the Theory.
The Edinburgh Review remarks that it is necessary we should know to what this so-called Theory of Development is leading us. If it means that all the phenomena of the universe are the result of Nature's great progression from blind force to conscious intellect and will, to which alone we are to ascribe creative power, that is purely and simply the scientific form of the doctrine which denies a Creator altogether, or places the creative mind at an incalculable distance from its works' (p. 589).
* One of these articles is from the pen of the Duke of Argyll, for a part of it at least re-appears in the Reign of Law,'a book destined to celebrity for its successful opposition to Mr Darwin's Theory, as well as for its other intrinsic merits.