Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/114

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104
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

treated Prof. Huxley with courtesy, though it could be wished that the clergy would inform themselves a little more thoroughly upon the subject before answering him with such perfunctory promptness.

In one thing both the professors, auditors, and the public generally, have been seriously disappointed. They have been led to regard Huxley as a man of pugnacious temper, a kind of controversial bully, who is only happy when in a fight. And so they expected to see some brilliant aggressive work, and that he would "polish off" his adversaries in the most approved and exciting style of polemical pugilism. But Prof. Huxley indulged in nothing of the kind, and so it was murmured round that the lectures were disappointing, and not at all up to what was expected from him. That is, the man himself, when observed, and heard, and known, contradicted the preconceived theory of the man. And here is the proper place to say that this current theory of Prof. Huxley's character is quite erroneous. He has been a good deal in controversy, no doubt, and has often hit hard; but it is a total mistake to suppose that he has ever sought or provoked strife because of combative propensities. His dominant tastes and inclinations are all, on the contrary, for quiet scientific inquiry. Controversy has, however, been thrust upon him. Standing prominently as the exponent of a doctrine that has been regarded with horror for the last twenty years by all classes, high as well as low, he has been misrepresented, and badgered, and vilified, with a recklessness that would have aroused vigorous resistance and sharp counterstrokes in any man of spirit.

In his opening lecture Prof. Huxley showed first that Nature, or the universe, has not always been what it is now. To minds that seek for causes it therefore presents the problem, How did it come to be what it is now? The theoretical solution of this problem that has prevailed in the past and is still widely accepted is, that it was called into existence a few thousand years ago in much the condition that we now know it. This is the Mosaic theory, in its old and popular interpretation. But as the Mosaic records have been reinterpreted in recent times, and as the question whether or not the doctrine is taught there is hotly disputed among those who defer to Mosaic authority, Prof. Huxley did not assume to settle the question, and wisely let the Mosaic account alone. Some newspapers were indignant at this, and charged him with cowardice and evasion for not pitching into Moses. But that was not his business, and if he had done so he would have been open to the charge of going out of his way to drag in a foreign question, and make an assault upon the Christian religion—there is no pleasing everybody. But, while keeping clear of the Scriptures, he still had to deal with the doctrine which has been universally believed for centuries to be grounded in Scripture authority, and so he took it as vividly and concretely described by a classic Christian poet more than two centuries ago. He called it the "Miltonic hypothesis," and read a graphic passage from "Paradise Lost" describing the way the animal world came into existence. Herbert Spencer has been soundly belabored by various critics for calling this view the "carpenter theory" of creation, but the great Christian poet certainly lends his authority to this interpretation of the case. He describes the creative work with great literalness as a mechanical operation, in the following lines:

". . . . In his hand

He took the golden compasses, prepared
In God's eternal store, to circumscribe
This universe, and all created things:
One foot he centred, and the other turned
Bound through the vast profundity obscure;
And said, 'Thus far extend, thus far thy
bounds,

This be thy just circumference world.' "

But further comment is unnecessary, as the reader will find the full lecture in our pages.