Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/56

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46
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

diate it. But, by the arguments they used, it might have been possible to justify this hypothesis.

The second hypothesis is that to which I have referred as the hypothesis which supposes that the present order of things had at some no very remote time a sudden origin, so that the world, such as it now is, arose. That is the doctrine which you will find stated most fully and clearly in the immortal poem of John Milton, the English "Divina Commedia," "Paradise Lost." I believe it is largely to the influence of that remarkable work, combined with daily teachings to which we have all listened in our childhood, that this hypothesis owes its general wide diffusion as one of the current beliefs of English speaking people. If you turn to the seventh book of "Paradise Lost" you will find there stated the hypothesis to which I refer, which is briefly this: That this visible universe of ours made its appearance at no great distance of time from the present day, and that the parts of which it is composed made their appearance in a certain definite order in the space of six natural days, in such a manner that in the first of these days light appeared; in the second, the firmament or sky separated the water above from the water beneath it; on the third day the waters drew away from the dry land, and upon it a varied vegetable life similar to that which now exists made its appearance; that the fourth day was devoted to the apparition of the sun, the stars, the moon, and the planets; that on the fifth day aquatic animals originated within the waters; that on the sixth day the earth gave rise to our four-footed terrestrial creatures, and to all varieties of terrestrial animals except birds, which had appeared on the preceding day; and, finally, that man appeared upon the earth, and the work of fashioning the universe was finished. John Milton, as I have said, leaves no doubt whatever as to how, in his judgment, these marvelous processes occurred. I doubt not that his immortal poem is familiar to all of you, but I should like to recall one passage to your minds, in order that I may be justified in what I have said regarding the perfectly concrete, definite conception which Milton had respecting the origin of the animal world. He says:

"The sixth, and of creation last, arose

With evening harps and matin; when God said,
'Let the earth bring forth soul living in her kind,
Cattle and creeping things, and beast of the earth,
Each in their kind.' The earth obeyed, and straight
Opening her fertile womb, teemed at a birth
Innumerous living creatures, perfect forms,
Limbed and full-grown; out of the ground uprose,
As from his lair, the wild beast, where he wons
In forest wild, in thicket, brake, or den;
Among the trees in pairs they rose, and walked;
The cattle in the fields and meadows green;
Those rare and solitary, these in flocks