Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/53

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43
PROFESSOR HUXLEY'S LECTURES.

times its worth in useful experience, directly benefiting the would-be benefactor. We do not overlook the fact that many mothers, particularly among those both educated and fruitful, pay the closest attention to these questions, and become expert therein, but, as they lack the means of record and transmission of their observations, their experience dies, so to speak, with each generation. Hence the nursing of babies continues to be a work of devotion, but does not become the coordinated and progressive art it ought to be in well-organized crèches open to criticism in public exhibitions. Thus in Vienna, at least, an opportunity was lost.

 
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PROFESSOR HUXLEY'S LECTURES.[1]
I.
THE THREE HYPOTHESES OF THE HISTORY OF NATURE.

WE live and form part of a system of things of immense diversity and perplexity, which we call Nature, and it is a matter of the deepest interest to all of us that we should form just conceptions of the constitution of that system and of its past history. With relation to this universe, man is, in extent, little more than a mathematical point; in duration, but a fleeting shadow. He is a reed shaken in the winds of force; but, as Pascal long ago remarked, although a reed, he is a thinking reed, and, in virtue of that wonderful capacity of thought, he has a power of framing to himself a symbolic conception of the universe, which, although doubtless highly imperfect, and although wholly inadequate as a picture of that great whole, is yet sufficient to serve him as a guide-book in his practical affairs. It has taken long ages of accumulated and often fruitless labor to enable man to look steadily at the. shifting scenes, phantasmagoria of Nature, to notice what is fixed among her fluctuations, and what is regular among her apparent irregularities; and it is only comparatively lately, within the last few centuries, that there has emerged the conception of a pervading order and a definite course of things, which we term the course of Nature.

But out of this contemplation of Nature, and out of man's thought concerning her, there has in these later times arisen that conception of the constancy of Nature to which I have referred, and which at length has become the guiding conception of modern thought. It has ceased to be almost conceivable to any person who is familiar with

  1. The first of three lectures on "The Direct Evidence of Evolution," delivered at Chickering Hall, New York, September 18th. From the report of the New York Tribune, carefully revised by Prof. Huxley.