Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/12

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ravages of insects. Now, however, it is the pivot on which the doctrine of man's origin hinges. The worlds themselves are too old to study, though the spectroscope reveals the existence of celestial protoplasm as their physical basis. The rocks are too rigid and the time too immense to come within the compass of our minds, but the living facts of evolution are with us to-day in these graceful forms and their constant changes, while the records more or less preserved in past times give us a clew to things hinted at in the earlier changes of present existing forms. It seems, therefore, at the present time, that a review of the work accomplished by American students for the doctrines of natural selection might be acceptable for several reasons, and first among them might be mentioned the fact that thus far no general review of the kind has been made; and, secondly, that with few exceptions all the general works upon the subject are from English or German sources, and filled with the results of work done there oftentimes to the exclusion of work done elsewhere. The oft-repeated examples in support of the derivative theory belong to Europe. The public are familiar with these facts only, and come naturally to believe that these examples alone exist, and from their remoteness do not carry the weight of equally or perhaps more suggestive facts which lie concealed in the technical publication's of our own societies. A review of the work accomplished by American students bearing upon the doctrine of descent must of necessity be brief. Even a review of a moiety of the work is beyond the limits of an address of this nature. And for obvious reasons I must needs here restrict it to one branch of biology, namely, zoölogy. For material, the scientific publications of the country have been scanned, and an attempt has been made to bring together the more prominent facts bearing upon natural selection. In this review the zoölogical science of the country presents itself in two distinct periods: The first period, embracing as to time-limits the greatest portion, may be recognized as embracing the lowest stages of the science; it included among others a class of men who busied themselves in taking an inventory of the animals of the. country, an important and necessary work to be compared to that of the hewers and diggers who first settle a new country, but in their work demanding no deep knowledge or breadth of view. And so the work to be done in tabulating the animals has more often been done by specialists who neither knew nor cared to know the facts lying beyond the limits of their studies; a work often prompted by the same spirit that one sees among children in the collection of birds'-eggs and postage-stamps. The workers in this class were compared by Agassiz to those who make the brick and shape the stone for the edifice, an indispensable work, but with it was raised not the edifice but an almost insuperable barrier against the acceptance of views more in accordance with reason and common-sense. So thoroughly interwoven with this work were certain conceptions believed to be infallible, that overpowering