Page images
PDF
EPUB

present to us, before we can speculate about what is unknown and remote. To this rule we know of no exception.

But in an hypothesis based on assumption, such as Mr Darwin himself acknowledges his account of species to be - which is the same thing as confessing that it is devoid of proof-how can its author demand as his right the as. sent of those to whom it is addressed? But the assent of the reason is a sort of right which every writer may demand who is conscious that his statements are supported by accuracy of proof. Harvey, Cuvier, Hunter, de Candolle, Müller, Valentine, Owen, and other great names, take it for granted that the evidence of their statements must produce conviction, and they advance from step to step in their doctrine in perfect security of their position.

But with Mr Darwin a new principle is continually evoked, it is not the assent of the understanding, but it is faith :-'we must believe'-and the number of instances in which this is urged, or in which Mr Darwin says that ' he sees no great difficulty in believing' such or such a conjecture, is truly astonishing. It is necessary to believe that when a variety has once arisen it again varies, and that these varieties are preserved’ i.e. become good and distinct species’ (89), and so on continually. Here a fundamental principle of the Theory is proposed as an article of faith: it is not proved to us, but we must believe it. Many such examples have already been laid before the reader, and therefore they will not be repeated. In the note * references will be found to some remarkable

* See pages 89, 91, 99, 115, 152, 199, 207, 209, 211, 212, 213, 220, 221, 225, 229, 256, 258, 259, 265, 329, 336, 332, 333, 463, 469, 519, &c.

These references are to the third edition.

passages where this occurs, but by careful search the number might be considerably increased.

We may say generally that Mr Darwin's Theory is expressed in the form of a creed.

Now surely this is instructive, and must convince us that in order to avoid the miraculous, by seeking for a new method in the interpretation of nature, the end is not only not obtained, but the result is exactly opposite to our expectations. In the old method the great physiologists take it for granted that their researches can only reach a certain point, beyond which they cannot penetrate, there they come to the inexplicable, and they believe that barrier to be the Creator's power, which they leave at a respectful distance. This, according to the feelings of the ancients, was “the veil of nature which no mortal hand had ever withdrawn,' and as they approached it, they felt and spoke of it with reverence.

Now the new method is to discard the belief in a Creator, to reject the omniscience and omnipotence of a Maker of all things—to speak of the act * of creation with scorn—to charge us who believe in it with endeavouring to conceal our ignorance by an imposing form of words; and to undertake to explain the origin of all forms of life by another and a totally different hypothesis. What, then, is the result ? a long list of new and doubtful assertions, some of them of surpassing novelty and wildness, and all of them unaccompanied by proof, but proposed as points of belief. The marvellous in the old method is in

• Mr Darwin not unfrequently speaks of creation as a Theory:

• How inexplicable, on the Theory of Creation, is the variable appearance of stripes on the shoulders and legs of the several species of the horsegenus, and in their hybrids' (506), and other passages.

one point only, and that for the most part more implied than expressed, the belief in a paramount Intellect ordain. ing life and providing for its success. The marvellous in the new way is a vast assemblage of prodigies, strange and unheard-of events and circumstances that cannot be confirmed by any authentic evidence, and which, indeed, are out of the reach of evidence-a throng of aëry dreams and phantasies, evoked by the imagination, which we are called on to beliere as realities, as it is impossible to prore that they are so.

Therefore we affirm that if it were for nothing else than to get clear of the marvellous, it would be far wiser and more prudent to adhere to the old method, since the credulity demanded in the School of Transmutation, as essential for discipleship, very greatly exceeds any acts of faith habitual to the old way of thinking.

Mr Darwin, indeed, seems to think that he has opened a way for the augmentation of knowledge hitherto unknown, and that by the aid of his system he is to be the pioneer of immense discoveries. We shall never probably disentangle the inextricable web of affinities, but when we have a distinct object in view, and do not look to some un. known plan of creation, we may hope to make slow but sure progress' (464).

Is not, then, the progress that has hitherto been made sure? Have not the great naturalists, who have preceded Mr Darwin, or who have been his contemporaries, paid Jarge tribute into the treasury of science ? is all that they have taught uncertain, vacillating, and questionable ? and has the progress which knowledge has made been so very slow this century ? Has everything been at a stand-still, and were we all groping in the dark till this new light of

els

Sul

Transmutation blazed upon us? and will the discoveries of the Transmutationists be more sure than those by which Science has already been enriched ? When we hear that it has taken a long time to acquire a pair of wings, certainly the progress of that phenomenon must have been slow enough, but that it is more sure than a long list of physiological discoveries effected in this century is not quite so obvious.

Mr Darwin seems, in the zeal of his new creed, to think that a belief in the plan of creation has hitherto been the chief hindrance to the advance of science; truly a strange opinion to have adopted. We know how the world is indebted to the discoveries of Harvey, and we also know how, directed by the conviction that there is a plan in the works of creation, he made those discoveries. If we refer to Newton, the great sun of the scientific world, we know full well his sentiments on this subject, and we remember that he interwove his creed in the text of his immortal Principia. The sentiments of Cuvier on this head are no secret, and it is quite evident that his strong belief in the design of creation greatly influenced his scientific labours, and contributed in no small measure to their triumphant result. Even Laplace has shown us, by the doctrine of probabilities,* that the machinery of the heavens must have been devised by an original or first cause; and long indeed would be the list of men of distinguished intellect, who, in all departments of science, have felt that there is a plan in creation, and that the wisdom and beauty of its design prove the divine power of its Author.

* Laplace has shown by the calculus of probabilities that it is above four millions to one in favour of the forty-three motions from west to east (including rotation as well as revolution, and the motion of the rings as well as of the planets and satellites) having been directed by an original or first cause. And by the same calculation he has shown the probability of the sun's rising again on the moment of any given day, to be not much more than 1,800,000 to one; or in other words, that the rising of the sun is two million times less probable than the truth of the proposition that the motions in our system were designed by one first cause.

The name of Mr Darwin himself might, thirty years ago, have been placed in this list. Was he at that time groping in the thick fog of error and ignorance ? we might almost suppose he thinks so, by the following words:

when we no longer look at an organic being as a savage looks at a ship, as at something wholly beyond his comprehension, how far more interesting-I speak from experience—will the study of Natural History become' (521).

What then! do naturalists and anatomists of repute look at an organic being as a savage looks at a ship ? can they not explain a large portion of the design of that organization, though they be not adherents of Mr Dar. win's sect? and are all men of science in the civilized .. world staring at Nature like ignorant savages, because their eyes are not purged with the collyrium of Lamarck's prescription ?

Mr Darwin may indeed feel deeply interested in looking at his own organization as the result of twenty thousand improving apes, exterminated to bring him to perfection, but others, to whom the orang-outang genealogy is less attractive, and who have always believed that the first sire of their race was of the highest origin, will be not less satisfied with the ancient opinions regarding the history of their existence. But now that all things are to be made so clear by the bright morning light of Transmutation we may in. quire whether Mr Darwin has himself advanced the know. ledge of organization by his new method ? Not the least;

« PreviousContinue »