he could acquaint himself with the-strongest arguments in favor of evolution. I wrote back in all good faith and simplicity, recommending him to go through a course of comparative anatomy and physiology, and then to study development. I am sorry to say he was very much displeased, as people often are with good advice. Notwithstanding this discouraging result, I venture, as a parting word, to repeat the suggestion, and to say to all the more or less acute lay and clerical "paper-philosophers" who venture into the regions of biological controversy—Get a little sound, thorough, practical, elementary instruction in biology.
|HOW THE EARTH WAS REGARDED IN OLD TIMES.|
WE are too apt in these times of popular education, and the cheap diffusion of knowledge, to forget the cost of scientific truth. We formulate a fact or principle, and administer it in the school-room, with but little regard to the circumstance that it may have cost thousands of years of toil to discover and establish it. We have found out, for example, a great deal about the figure, motions, and astronomical relations of the earth, with such exactness that, as Prof. Young tells us, we know the semi-diameter of our globe at the equator within two hundred feet—while to go "around the world" is now a mere frolic; and all this knowledge is given to children in an hour's lesson. But how few appreciate the long struggle of the human intellect in arriving at these simple results! Let us hastily glance at the early efforts of the human mind in trying to find out what sort of thing this earth is, in its form, extent, and relation to the heavenly bodies that surround it.
The history of the growth of any branch of knowledge has a double interest: that which comes from the knowledge itself, and its relation to the history of the operations of the human mind. Men think under the limitations of their times both as regards the extent
- Writers of this stamp are fond of talking about the Baconian method. I beg them, therefore, to lay to heart these two weighty sayings of the herald of Modern Science:
"Syllogismus ex propositionibus constat, propositiones ex verbis, verba notionum tesseræ sunt. Itaque si notiones ipsæ (id quod bask rei est) confusæ sint et temere a rebus abstractæ, nihil in iis quæ superstruuntur est firmitudinis."—("Novum Organon," ii., 14.)
"Huic autem vanitati nonnulli ex modernis summa levitate ita indulserunt, ut in primo capitulo Geneseos et in libro Job et aliis scripturis sacris, philosophiam naturalem fundare conati sint; inter vivos quarentes mortua."—(Ibid., 65.)
- The cuts of this article are from Flammarion's "History of the Heavens," and we have made free use of the text of Blake's "Astronomical Myths," which is based on Flammarion's work.