Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/310

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hind-foot.[1] In still older forms the series of the digits will be more and more complete, until we come to the five-toed animals, in which most assuredly the whole series took its origin.

That is what I mean, ladies and gentlemen, by demonstrative evidence of evolution. An inductive hypothesis is said to be demonstrated when the facts are shown to be in entire accordance with it. If that is not scientific proof, there are no inductive conclusions which can be said to be scientific. And the doctrine of evolution at the present time rests upon exactly as secure a foundation as the Copernican theory of the motions of the heavenly bodies. Its basis is precisely of the same character—the coincidence of the observed facts with theoretical requirements. As I mentioned just now, the only way of escape, if it be a way of escape, from the conclusions which I have just indicated, is the supposition that all these different forms have been created separately at separate epochs of time, and I repeat that of such an hypothesis as this there neither is nor can be any scientific evidence, and assuredly, so far as I know, there is none which is supported, or pretends to be supported, by evidence or authority of any other kind. I can but think that the time will come when such suggestions as these, such obvious attempts to escape the force of demonstration, will be put upon the same footing as the supposition made by some writers, who are, I believe, not completely extinct at present, that fossils are not real existences, are no indications of the existence of the animals to which they seem to belong; but that they are either sports of Nature or special creations, intended—as I heard suggested the other day—to test our faith. In fact, the whole evidence is in favor of evolution, and there is none against it. And I say this, although perfectly well aware of the seeming difficulties which have been adduced from what appeal's to the uninformed to be a scientific foundation. I meet constantly with the argument that this doctrine of evolution cannot be correct, because it requires the Lapse of a very vast period of time, and that the duration of life upon the earth thus implied is inconsistent with the conclusions arrived at by the astronomer and the physicist. I may venture to say that I am familiar with those conclusions, inasmuch as some years ago, when President of the Geological Society of London, I took the liberty of criticising them, and of showing in what respects, as it appeared to me, they lacked complete and thorough demonstration. But, putting that point aside altogether, suppose that, as the astronomers, or some of them, and some physical philosophers, tell us, it is impossible that life could have endured upon the earth for as long a period as is required by the doctrine of evolution—supposing that to be proved, what I want to know is, what is the foundation for the statement that

  1. Since this lecture was delivered, Prof. Marsh has discovered in the lowest Eocene deposits of the West a new genus of equine mammals (Eohippus), which corresponds very nearly to this description.—American Journal of Science, November, 1876.