Popular Science Monthly/Volume 32/March 1888/Evolution: What it Is Not, and What it Is

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 32 March 1888  (1888) 
Evolution: What it Is Not, and What it Is
 
EVOLUTION: WHAT IT IS NOT, AND WHAT IT IS.

EVERYBODY nowadays talks about evolution. Like electricity, the cholera-germ, woman's rights, the great mining boom, and the Eastern question, it is "in the air." It pervades society everywhere with its subtile essence; it infects small talk with its familiar catchwords and its slang phrases; it even permeates that last strong-hold of rampant Philistinism, the third leader in the penny papers. Everybody believes he knows all about it, and discusses it as glibly in his every-day conversation as he discusses the points of race-horses he has never seen, the charms of peeresses he has never spoken to, and the demerits of authors he has never read. Everybody is aware, in a dim and nebulous semi-conscious fashion, that it was all invented by the late Mr. Darwin, and reduced to a system by Mr. Herbert Spencer, don't you know, and a lot more of those scientific fellows. It is generally understood in the best-informed circles that evolutionism consists for the most part in a belief about Nature at large essentially similar to that applied by Topsy to her own origin and early history. It is conceived, in short, that most things "growed." Especially is it known that, iu the opinion of the evolutionists as a body, we are all of us ultimately descended from men with tails, who were the final offspring and improved edition of the common gorilla. That, very briefly put, is the popular conception of the various points in the great modern evolutionary programme.

It is scarcely necessary to inform the intelligent reader, who, of course, differs fundamentally from that inferior class of human beings known to all of us in our own minds as "other people," that almost every point in the catalogue thus briefly enumerated is a popular fal- lacy of the wildest description. Mr, Darwin did not invent evolution any more than George Stephenson invented the steam-engine, or Mr. Edison the electric telegraph. We are not descended from men with tails any more than we are descended from Indian elephants. There is no evidence that we have anything in particular more than the re- motest fiftieth cousinship with our poor relation the West African gorilla. Science is not in search of a "missing link"; few links are anywhere missing, and those are for the most part wholly unimportant ones. If we found the imaginary link in question, he would not be a monkey, nor yet in any way a tailed man. And so forth generally through the whole list of popular beliefs and current fallacies as to the real meaning of evolutionary teaching. Whatever people think evolutionary is for the most part a pure parody of the evolutionist's opinion.

But a more serious error than all these pervades what we may call the drawing-room view of the evolutionist theory. So far as Society with a big initial is concerned, evolutionism first began to be talked about, and therefore known (for society does not read, it listens, or rather it overhears and catches fragmentary echoes), when Darwin pub- lished his "Origin of Species." That great book consisted simply of a theory as to the causes which led to the distinctions of kind between plants and animals. With evolution at large it had nothing to do; it took for granted the origin of sun, moon, and stars, planets and com- ets, the earth and all that in it is, the sea and the dry land, the mount- ains and the valleys, nay, even life itself in the crude form, everything, in fact, save the one point of the various types and species of living beings. Long before Darwin's book appeared, evolution had been a recognized force in the moving world of science and philosophy. Kant and Laplace had worked out the development of suns and earths from white-hot star-clouds. Lyell had worked out the evolution of the earth's surface to its present highly complex geographical condition. Lamarck had worked out the descent of plants and animals from a common ancestor by slow modification. Herbert Spencer had worked out the growth of mind from its simplest beginnings to its highest outcome in human thought.

But society, like Gallio, cared nothing for all these things. The evolutionary principles had never been put into a single big book, asked for at Miidie's, and permitted to lie on the drawing-room table side by side with the last new novel and the last fat volume of scandalous court memoirs. Therefore society ignored them, and knew them not; the word evolution scarcely entered at all as yet into its polite and refined dinner-table vocabulary. It recognized only the "Darwinian theory," "natural selection," "the missing link," and the belief that men were merely monkeys who had lost their tails, presumably by sit- ting upon them. To the world at large, that learned Mr. Darwin had invented and patented the entire business, including descent w^ith modi- fication, if such notions ever occurred at all to the world-at-large's speculative intelligence.

Now, evolutionism is really a thing of far deeper growth and older antecedents than this easy, superficial, drawing-room view would lead us to imagine. It is a very ancient and respectable theory, indeed, and it has an immense variety of minor developments. I am not going to push it back, in the fashionable modern scientific manner, to the vague and indefinite hints in our old friend Lucretius. The great original Roman poet—the only original poet in the Latin language— did indeed hit out for himself a very good rough working sketch of a sort of nebulous and shapeless evolutionism. It was bold, it was con- sistent, for its time it was wonderful. But Lucretius's philosophy, like all the philosophies of the older world, was a mere speculative idea, a fancy picture of the development of things, not dependent upon ob- servation of facts at all, but wholly evolved, like the German thinker's camel, out of its author's own pregnant inner consciousness. The Roman poet would no doubt have built an excellent superstructure if he had only possessed a little straw to make his bricks of. As it was, however, scientific brick-making being still in its infancy, he could only construct in a day a shadowy Aladdin's palace of pure fanciful Epicurean phantasms, an imaginary world of imaginary atoms, for- tuitously concurring out of void chaos into an orderly universe, as though by miracle. It is not thus that systems arise which regenerate the thought of humanity; he who would build for all time must make sure first of a solid foundation, and then use sound bricks in place of the airy nothings of metaphysical speculation.

It was in the last century that the evolutionary idea really began to take form and shape in the separate conceptions of Kant, Laplace, Lamarck, and Erasmus Darwin. These were the true founders of our modern evolutionism. Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer were the Joshuas who led the chosen people into the land which more than one venturous Moses had already dimly descried afar off from the Pisgah top of the eighteenth century.

Kant and Laplace came first in time, as astronomy comes first in logical order. Stars and suns, and planets and satellites, necessarily precede in development plants and animals. You can have no cabbages without a world to grow them in. The science of the stars was there- fore reduced to comparative system and order, while the sciences of life, and mind, and matter were still a hopeless and inextricable mud- dle. It was no wonder, then, that the evolution of the heavenly bodies should have been clearly apprehended and definitely formulated while the evolution of the earth's crust was still imperfectly understood, and the evolution of living beings was only tentatively and hypothetically hinted at in a timid whisper.

In the beginning, say the astronomical evolutionists, not only this world, but all the other worlds in the universe, existed potentially, as the poet justly remarks, in "a haze of fluid light," a vast nebula of enormous extent and almost inconceivable material thinness. The world arose out of a sort of primitive world-gruel. The matter of which it was composed was gas, of such an extraordinary and unim- aginable gasiness that millions of cubic miles of it might easily be compressed into a common antibilious pill-box. The pill-box itself, in fact, is the net result of a prolonged secular condensation of myriads of such enormous cubes of this primeval matter. Slowly setting around common centers, however, in anticipation of Sir Isaac New- ton's gravitative theories, the fluid haze gradually collected into suns and stars, whose light and heat are presumably due to the clashing to- gether of their component atoms as they fall perpetually toward the central mass. Just as in a burning candle the impact of the oxvo-en atoms in the air against the carbon and hydrogen atoms in the melted and rarefied wax or tallow produces the light and heat of the flame, so in nebula or sun the impact of the various gravitating atoms one against the other produces the light and heat by whose aid we are enabled to see and know those distant bodies. The universe accord- ing to this now fashionable nebular theory, began as a single vast ocean of matter of immense tenuity, spread all alike over all space as far as nowhere, and comparatively little different within itself when looked at side by side with its own final historical outcome. In Mr. Spencer's perspicuous phrase, evolution in this aspect is a change from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, from the incoherent to the co- herent, and from the indefinite to the definite condition. Difficult words at first to apprehend, no doubt, and therefore to many peo- ple, as to Mr, Matthew Arnold, very repellent, but full of meaning, lucidity, and suggestiveness, if only we once take the trouble fairly and squarely to understand them.

Every sun and every star thus formed is forever gathering in the hem of its outer robe upon itself, forever radiating off its light and heat into surrounding space, and forever growing denser and colder as it sets slowly toward its center of gravity. Our own sun and solar system may be taken as good typical working examples of how the stars thus constantly shrink into smaller and ever smaller dimen- sions around their own fixed center. Naturally, we know more about our own solar system than about any other in our own universe, and it also possesses for us a greater practical and personal interest than any outside portion of the galaxy. Nobody can pretend to be pro- foundly immersed in the internal affairs of Sirius or of Alpha Cen- tauri. A fiery revolution in the belt of Orion would affect us less than a passing finger-ache in a certain single terrestrial baby of our own household. Therefore I shall not apologize in any way for leaving the remainder of the sidereal universe to its unknown fate, and con- centrating my attention mainly on the affairs of that solitary little, out-of-the-way second-rate system, whereof we form an inappreciable portion. The matter which now composes the sun and its attendant bodies (the satellites included) was once spread out, according to La- place, to at least the farthest orbit of the outermost planet—that is to say, so far as our present knowledge goes, the planet Neptune. Of course, when it was expanded to that immense distance, it must have been very thin indeed, thinner than our clumsy human senses can even conceive of. An American would say, "too thin": but I put Americans out of court at once as mere irreverent scoffers. From the orbit of Neptune, or something outside it, the faint and cloud-like mass which bore within it Caesar and his fortunes, not to mention the remainder of the earth and the solar system, began slowly to con- verge and gather itself in, growing denser and denser but smaller and smaller as it gradually neared its existing dimensions. How long a time it took to do it is for our present purpose relatively unimpor- tant: the cruel physicists will only let us have a beggarly hundred million years or so for the process, while the grasping and extrava- gant evolutionary geologists beg with tears for at least double or even ten times that limited period. But at any rate it has taken a good long while, and, as far as most of us are personally concerned, the difference of one or two hundred millions, if it comes to that, is not really at all an appreciable one.

As it condensed and lessened toward its central core, revolving rapidly on its great axis, the solar mist left behind at irregular inter- vals concentric rings or belts of cloud-like matter, cast off from its equator; which belts, once more undergoing a similar evolution on their own account, have hardened round their private centers of gravity into Jupiter or Saturn, the Earth or Venus. Round these again, minor belts or rings have sometimes formed, as in Saturn's girdle of petty satellites; or subsidiary planets, thrown out into space, have circled round their own primaries, as the moon does around this sublunary world of ours. Meanwhile, the main central mass of all, retreating ever inward as it dropped behind it these occasional little reminders of its temporary stoppages, formed at last the sun itself, the main luminary of our entire system. Now, I won't deny that this primitive Kantian and Laplacian evolutionism, this nebular theory of such exquisite concinnity, here reduced to its simplest terras and most elementary dimensions, has received many hard knocks from later astronomers, and has been a good deal bowled over, both on mathematical and astronomical grounds, by recent investi- gators of nebulse and meteors. Observations on comets and on the sun's surface have lately shown that it contains in all likelihood a very considerable fanciful admixture. It isn't moi'e than half true; and even the half now totters in places. Still, as a vehicle of popu- lar exposition the crude nebular hypothesis in its rawest form serves a great deal better than the truth, so far as yet known, on the good old Greek principle of the half being often more than the whole. The great point which it impresses on the mind is the cardinal idea of the sun and planets, with their attendant satellites, not as turned out like manufactured articles, ready made, at measured intervals, in a vast and deliberate celestial orrery, but as due to the slow and gradual working of natural laws, in accordance with which each has assumed by force of circumstances its existing place, weight, orbit, and motion.

The grand conception of a gradual becoming, instead of a sudden making, which Kant and Laplace thus applied to the component bodies of the universe at large, was further applied by Lyell and his school to the outer crust of this one particular petty planet of ours. While the astronomers went in for the evolution of suns, stars, and worlds, Lyell and his geological brethren went in for the evolution of the earth's surface. As theirs was stellar, so his was mundane. If the world be- gan by being a red-hot mass of planetary matter in a high state of internal excitement, boiling and dancing with the heat of its emotions, it gradually cooled down with age and experience, for growing old is growing cold, as every one of us in time, alas! discovers. As it passed from its tiery and volcanic youth to its staider and soberer middle age, a solid crust began to form in filmy fashion upon its cooling surface. The aqueous vapor that had floated at first as steam around its heated mass condensed with time into a wide ocean over the now hardened shell. Gradually this ocean shifted its bulk into two or three main bodies that sank into hollows of the viscid crust, the precursors of At- lantic, Pacific, and the Indian Seas. Wrinklings of the crust, produced by the cooling and consequent contraction, gave rise at first to baby mountain-ranges, and afterward to the earliest rough drafts of the still very vague and sketchy continents. The world grew daily more com- plex and more diverse; it progressed, in accordance with the Spen- cerian law, from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, and so forth, as aforesaid, with delightful regularity.

At last, by long and graduated changes, seas and lands, peninsulas and islands, lakes and rivers, hills and mountains, were wrought out by internal or external energies on the crust thus generally fashioned. Evaporation from the oceans gave rise to clouds and rain and hail- storms; the water that fell upon the mountain-tops cut out the val- leys and river-basins; rills gathered into brooks, brooks into streams, streams into primeval Niles, and Amazons, and Mississippis. Volcanic forces uplifted here an Alpine chain, or depressed there a deep-sea hollow. Sediment washed from the hills and plains, or formed from countless skeletons of marine creatures, gathered on the sinking bed of the ocean as soft ooze, or crumbling sand, or thick mud, or gravel and conglomerate. Now upheaved into an elevated table-land, now slowly- carved again by rain and rill into valley and water-shed, and now worn down once more into the mere degraded stump of a plateau, the crust underwent innumerable changes, but almost all of them exactly the same in kind, and mostly in degree, as those we still see at work imper- ceptibly in the world around us. Rain washing down the soil; weather crumbling the solid rock; waves dashing at the foot of the cliffs; riv- ers forming deltas at their barred mouths; shingle gathering on the low spits; floods sweeping before them the country-side; ice grinding ceaselessly at the mountain-top; peat filling up the shallow lake—these are the chief factors which have gone to make the physical world as we now actually know it. Land and sea, coast and contour, hill and valley, dale and gorge, earth-sculpture generally—all are due to the ceaseless interaction of these separately small and unnoticeable causes, aided or retarded by the slow effects of elevation or depression from the earth's shrinkage toward its own center. Geology, in short, has shown us that the world is what it is, not by virtue of a single sudden creative act, nor by virtue of successive terrible and recurrent cata- clysms, but by virtue of the slow continuous action of causes still al- ways equally operative.

Evolution in geology leads up naturally to evolution in the science of life. If the world itself grew, why not also the animals and plants that inhabit it? Already in the eager active eighteenth century this obvious idea had struck in the germ a large number of zoologists and botanists, and in the hands of Lamarck and Erasmus Darwin it took form as a distinct and elaborate system of organic evolution. Buffon had been the first to hint at the truth; but Buffon was an emi- nently respectable nobleman in the dubious days of the tottering mon- archy, and he did not care personally for the Bastile, viewed as a place of permanent residence. In Louis Quinze's France, indeed, as things then went, a man who offended the orthodoxy of the Sorbonne was prone to find himself shortly ensconced in free quarters, and kept there for the term of his natural existence without expense to his heirs or executors. So Buffon did not venture to say outright that he thought all animals and plants were descended one from the other with slight modifications; that would have been wicked, and the Sorbonne would have proved its wickedness to him in a most conclusive fashion by promptly getting him imprisoned or silenced. It is so easy to confute your opponent when you are a hundred strong and he is one weak unit! Buffon merely said, therefore, that if we didn't know the contrary to be the case by sure warrant, we might easily have concluded (so fallible is our reason) that animals always varied slightly, and that such variations, indefinitely accumulated, would suffice to account for almost any amount of ultimate diflPerence. A donkey might thus have grown into a horse, and a bird might have developed from a primitive lizard. Only we know it was quite otherwise! A quiet hint from Buffon was as good as a declaration from many less knowing or suggestive people. All over Europe, the wise took Buffon's hint for what he meant it; and the unwise blandly passed it by as a mere passing little foolish vagary of that great ironical writer and thinker.

Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of his grandson, was no fool; on the contrary, he was the most far-sighted man of his day in England; he saw at once what Buffon was driving at; and he worked out "Mr. Buffon's" half-concealed hint to all its natural and legitimate conclu- sions. The great count was always plain Mr. Buffon to his English contemporary. Life, said Erasmus Darwin nearly a century since, began in very minute marine forms, which gradually acquired fresh powers and larger bodies, so as imperceptibly to transform themselves into different creatures. Man, he remarked, anticipating his descend- ant, takes rabbits or pigeons, and alters them almost to his own fancy, by immensely changing their shapes and colors. If man can make a pouter or a fantail out of the common sort, if he can produce a piebald lop-ear from the brown wild rabbit, if he can transform Dorkings into Black Spanish, why can not Nature, with longer time to work in, and endless lives to try with, produce all the varieties of vertebrate animals out of one single common ancestor? It was a bold idea of the Lich- field doctor—bold, at least, for the times he lived in—when Sam John- son was held a mighty sage, and physical speculation was regarded askance as having in it a dangerous touch of the devil. But the Dar- wins were always a bold folk, and had the courage of their opinions more than most men. So even in Lichfield, cathedral city as it was, and in the politely somnolent eighteenth century, Erasmus Darwin ventured to point out the probability that quadrupeds, birds, reptiles, and men were all mere divergent descendants of a single similar origi- nal form, and even that "one and the same kind of living filament is and has been the cause of organic life."

The eighteenth century laughed, of course. It always laughed at all reformers. It said that Dr. Darwin was very clever, but really a most eccentric man. His "Temple of Nature," now, and his "Botanic Garden," were vastly fine and charming poems—those sweet lines, you know, about poor Eliza!—but his zoological theories were built of course upon a most absurd and uncertain foundation. In prose, no sensible person could ever take the doctor seriously. A freak of genius—nothing more; a mere desire to seem clever and singular. But what a Nemesis the whirligig of time has brought around with it! By a strange irony of fate, those admired verses are now almost entirely forgotten; poor Eliza has survived only as our awful example of artificial pathos; and the zoological heresies at which the eighteenth cent- ury shrugged its fat shoulders and dimj^Ied the corners of its ample mouth, have grown to be the chief corner-stone of all accepted modem zoological science.

In the first year of the present century Lamarck followed Erasmus Darwin's lead with an open avowal that in his belief all animals and plants were really descended from one or a few common ancestors. lie held that organisms were just as much the result of law, not of mirac- ulous interposition, as suns and worlds and all the natural phenomena around us generally. He saw that what naturalists call a species differs from what naturalists call a variety merely in the way of being a little more distinctly marked, a little less like its nearest congeners elsewhere. He recognized the perfect gradation of forms by which in many cases one species after another merges into the next on either side of it. He observed the analogy between the modifications induced by man and the modifications induced by Nature. In fact, he was a thorough- going and convinced evolutionist, holding every salient opinion which society still believes to have been due to the works of Charles Darwin. In one point only, a minor point to outsiders, though a point of car- dinal importance to the inner brotherhood of evolutionism, he did not anticipate his more famous successor. He thought organic evolution was wholly due to the direct action of surrounding circumstances, to the intercrossing of existing forms, and above all to the actual efforts of animals themselves. In other words, he had not discovered natural selection, the cardinal idea of Charles Darwin's epoch-making book. For him, the giraffe had acquired its long neck by constant reaching up to the boughs of trees; the monkey had acquired its opposable thumb by constant grasping at the neighboring branches; and the serpent had acquired its sinuous shape by constant wriggling through the grass of the meadows. Charles Darwin improved upon all that by his suggestive hint of survival of the fittest, and in so far, but in so far alone, he became the real father of modern biological evolu- tionism.

From the days of Lamarck to the day when Charles Darwin him- self published his wonderful "Origin of Species," this idea that plants and animals might really have grown, instead of having been made all of a piece, kept brewing everywhere in the minds and brains of scientific thinkers. The notions which to the outside public were Btartlingly new when Darwin's book took the world by storm, were old indeed to the thinkers and workers who had long been familiar with the principle of descent with modification and the speculations of the Lichfield doctor or the Paris philosopher. Long before Darwin wrote his great work, Herbert Spencer had put forth in plain language every idea which the drawing-room biologists attributed to Darwin. The supporters of the development hypothesis, he said seven years earlier—yes, he called it the "development hypothesis" in so many words—" can show that modification has effected and is effecting great changes in all organisms, subject to modifying influences." They can show, he goes on (if I may venture to condense so great a thinker), that any existing plant or animal, placed under new conditions, begins to undergo adaptive changes of form and structure; that in successive generations these changes continue, till the plant or animal acquires totally new habits; that in cultivated plants and domesticated ani- mals changes of the sort habitually occur; that the differences thus caused, as, for example, in dogs, are often greater than those on which species in the wild state are founded, and that throughout all organic nature there -is at work a modifying influence of the same sort as that which they believe to have caused the differences of species—" an in- fluence which, to all appearance, would produce in the millions of years, and under the great variety of conditions which geological rec- ords imply, any amount of change." What is this but pure Darwin- ism, as the drawing-room philosopher still understands the word? And yet it was written seven years before Darwin published the "Ori- gin of Species."

The fact is, one might draw up quite a long list of Darwinians before Darwin. Here are a few of them—Buffon, Lamarck, Goethe, Oken, Bates, Wallace, Lecoq, Von Baer, Robert Chambers, Matthew, and Herbert Spencer, Depend upon it, no one man ever yet of him- self discovered anything. As well say that Luther made the German Reformation, that Leonardo made the Italian Renaissance, or that Robespierre made the French Revolution, as say that Charles Darwin, and Charles Darwin alone, made the evolutionary movement, even in the restricted field of life only. A thousand predecessors worked up toward him; a thousand contemporaries helped to diffuse and to con- fii-m his various principles.

Charles Darwin added to the primitive evolutionary idea the special notion of natural selection. That is to say, he pointed out that, while plants and animals vary perpetually and very indefinitely, all the varie- ties so produced are not equally adapted to the circumstances of the species. If the variation is a bad one, it tends to die out, because every point of disadvantage tells against the individual in the struggle for life. If the variation is a good one, it tends to persist, because every point of advantage similarly tells in the individual's favor in that ceaseless and viewless battle. It was this addition to the evolutionary concept, fortified by Darwin's powerful advocacy of the general prin- ciple of descent with modification, that won over the whole world to the "Darwinian theory," Before Darwin, many men of science were evolutionists; after Darwin, all men of science became so at once, and the rest of the world is rapidly preparing to follow their leadership.

As applied to life, then, the evolutionary idea is briefly this—that plants and animals have all a natural origin from a single primitive living creature, which was itself the product of light and heat acting on the special chemical constituents of an ancient ocean. Starting from that single early form, they have gone on developing ever since, from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, assuming ever more va- ried shapes, till at last they have reached their present enormous vari- ety of tree and shrub, and herb and sea-weed, of beast and bird, and fish and creeping insect. Evolution throughout has been one and con- tinuous, from nebula to sun, from gas-cloud to planet, from early jelly- speck to man or elephant. So at least evolutionists say—and of course they ought to know most about it.

But evolution, according to the evolutionists, does not even stop there. Psychology as well as biology has also its evolutionary ex- planation: mind is concerned as truly as matter. If the bodies of animals are evolved, their minds must be evolved likewise. Herbert Spencer and his followers have been mainly instrumental in elucidating this aspect of the case. They have shown, or they have tried to show (for I don't want to dogmatize on the subject), how mind is gradually built up from the simplest raw elements of sense and feeling; how emotions and intellect slowly arise; how the action of the environ- ment on the organism begets a nervous system of ever greater and greater complexity, culminating at last in the brain of a Newton, a Shakespeare, or a Mendelssohn. Step by step, nerves have built them- selves up out of the soft tissues as channels of communication between part and part. Sense-organs of extreme simplicity have first been formed on the outside of the body, where it comes most into contact with external nature. Use and wont have fashioned them through long ages into organs of taste and smell and touch; pigment-spots, sensitive to light or shade, have grown by infinite gradations into the human eye or into the myriad facets of bee and beetle; tremulous nerve-ends, responsive sympathetically to waves of sound, have tuned themselves at last into a perfect gamut in the developed ear of men and mammals. Meanwhile corresponding percipient centers have grown up in the brain, so that the colored picture flashed by an external scene upon the eye is telegraphed from the sensitive mirror of the retina, through the many-stranded cable of the optic nerve, straight up to the appropriate headquarters in the thinking brain. Stage by stage the continuous process has gone on unceasingly, from the jelly-fish with its tiny black specks of eyes, through infinite steps of progression, induced by ever- widening intercourse with the outer world, to the final outcome in the senses and the emotions, the intellect and the will, of civilized man. Mind begins as a vague consciousness of touch or pressure on the part of some primitive, shapeless, soft creature; it ends as an organized and co-ordinated reflection of the entire physical and psychical universe on the part of a great cosmical philosopher.

Last of all, like diners-out at dessert, the evolutionists take to poli- tics. Having shown us entirely to their own satisfaction the growth of suns, and systems, and worlds, and continents, and oceans, and plants, and animals, and minds, they proceed to show us the exactly analogous and parallel growth of communities, and nations, and lan- guages, and religions, and customs, and arts, and institutions, and literatures. Man, the evolving savage, as Tylor, Lubbock, and others have proved for us, slowly putting off his brute aspect derived from his early ape-like ancestors, learned by infinitesimal degrees the use of fire, the mode of manufacturing stone hatchets and flint arrow-heads, the earliest beginnings of the art of pottery. With drill or flint he became the Prometheus to his own small heap of sticks and dry leaves among the Tertiary forests. By his nightly camp-fire he beat out grad- ually his excited gesture-language and his oral speech. He tamed the dog, the horse, the cow, the camel. He taught himself to hew small clearings in the woodland, and to plant the banana, the yam, the bread-fruit, and the cocoanut. Pie picked and improved the seeds of his wild cereals till he made himself from grass-like grains his barley, his oats, his wheat, his Indian corn. In time, he dug out ore from mines, and learned the use first of gold, next of silver, then of copper, tin, bronze, and iron. Side by side with these long secular changes, he evolved the family, communal or patriarchal, polygamic or monog- amous. He built the hut, the house, and the palace. He clothed or adorned himself first in skins and leaves and feathers; next in woven wool and fiber; last of all in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptu- ously every day. He gathered into hordes, tribes, and nations; he chose himself a king, gave himself laws, and built up great empires in Egypt, Assyria, China, and Peru. He raised him altars, Stonehenges and Karnaks. His picture-writing grew into hieroglyphs and cunei- forms, and finally emerged, by imperceptible steps, into alphabetic symbols, the raw material of the art of printing. His dug-out canoe culminates in the ironclad and the Great Eastern; his boomerang and sling-stone in the Woolwich infant; his boiling pipkin and his wheeled car in the locomotive-engine; his picture-message in the tele- phone and the Atlantic cable. Here, where the course of evolution has really been most marvelous, its steps have been all more distinctly his- torical; so that nobody now doubts the true descent of Italian, French, and Spanish from provincial Latin, or the successive growth of the trireme, the Great Harry, the Victory, and the Minotaur from the coracles or proas of prehistoric antiquity.

The grand conception of the uniform origin and development of all things, earthly or sidereal, thus summed up for us in the one word evolution, belongs by right neither to Charles Darwin nor to any other single thinker. It is the joint product of innumerable workers, all working up, though some of them unconsciously, toward a grand final unified philosophy of the cosmos. In astronomy, Kant, Laplace, and the Herschels; in geology, Hutton, Lyell, and the Geikies; in biology, Buffon, Lamarck, the Darwins, Huxley, and Spencer; in psy- chology, Spencer, Romanes, Sully, and Ribot; in sociology, Spencer, Tylor, Lubbock, and De Mortillet — these have been the chief evolutionary teachers and discoverers. But the use of the word evolution itself, and the establishment of the general evolutionary theory as a system of philosophy applicable to the entire universe, we owe to one man alone — Herbert Spencer. Many other minds — from Galileo and Copernicus, from Kepler and Newton, from Linnæus and Tournefort from D'Alembert and Diderot, nay, even, in a sense, from Aristotle and Lucretius — had been piling together the vast collection of raw material from which that great and stately superstructure was to be finally edified. But the architect who placed each block in its proper niche, who planned and designed the whole elevation, who planted the building firmly on the rock and poised the coping-stone on the topmost pinnacle, was the author of the "System of Synthetic Philosophy," and none other. It is a strange proof of how little people know about their own ideas, that, among the thousands who talk glibly every day of evolution, not ten per cent are probably aware that both word and conception are alike due to the commanding intelligence and vast generalizing power of Herbert Spencer. — Cornhill Magazine.


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