Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/71

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preceding attempt to estimate them makes sufficiently manifest, and to arrive at no more definite conclusion than was long ago arrived at by Pliny, that "vita arborum quarundam immensa credi potest" ("The life of some trees may be believed to be prodigious").—Longman's Magazine.


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SOME UNSOLVED PROBLEMS IN GEOLOGY.[1]

By Dr. J. W. DAWSON.

II.

AGAIN: we are now prepared to say that the struggle for existence, however plausible as a theory, when put before us in connection with the productiveness of animals, and the few survivors of their multitudinous progeny, has not been the determining cause of the introduction of new species. The periods of rapid introduction of new forms of marine life were not periods of struggle, but of expansion—those periods in which the submergence of continents afforded new and large space for their extension and comfortable subsistence. In like manner it was continental emergence that afforded the opportunity for the introduction of land animals and plants. Further, in connection with this, it is now an established conclusion that the great aggressive faunas and floras of the continent have originated in the north, some of them within the Arctic Circle; and this in periods of exceptional warmth, when the perpetual summer sunshine of the Arctic regions coexisted with a warm temperature. The testimony of the rocks thus is, that not struggle, but expansion, furnished the requisite conditions for new forms of life, and that the periods of struggle were characterized by depauperation and extinction.

But we are sometimes told that organisms are merely mechanical, and that the discussions respecting their origin have no significance, any more than if they related to rocks or crystals, because they relate merely to the organism considered as a machine, and not to that which may be supposed to be more important, namely, the great determining power of mind and will. That this is a mere evasion, by which we really gain nothing, will appear from a characteristic extract of an article by an eminent biologist, in the new edition of the "Encyclopædia Britannica"—a publication which, I am sorry to say, instead of its proper róle as a repertory of facts, has become a strong partisan, stating extreme and unproved speculations as if they were conclusions of science. The statement referred to is as follows: "A mass of living protoplasm is simply a molecular machine of great complexity, the total results of the working of which, or its vital phenomena,

  1. Address of the President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, delivered at Minneapolis, August 15, 1883. Reprinted from "Science."