Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/72

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weapons of prehistoric man with those of modern savages, so that the use of even the rudest flint implements has become quite intelligible, that we can hardly wonder at the vast revolution effected in public opinion. Not only is the belief in man's vast and still unknown antiquity universal among men of science, but it is hardly disputed by any well-informed theologian; and the present generation of science-students must, we should think, be somewhat puzzled to understand what there was in the earliest discoveries that should have aroused such general opposition and been met with such universal incredulity.

But the question of the mere "Antiquity of Man" almost sank into insignificance at a very early period of the inquiry, in comparison with the far more momentous and more exciting problem of the development of man from some lower animal form, which the theories of Mr. Darwin and of Mr. Herbert Spencer soon showed to be inseparably bound up with it. This has been, and to some extent still is, the subject of fierce conflict; but the controversy as to the fact of such development is now almost at an end, since one of the most talented representatives of Catholic theology, and an anatomist of high standing—Prof. Mivart—fully adopts it as regards physical structure, reserving his opposition for those parts of the theory which would deduce man's whole intellectual and moral nature from the same source, and by a similar mode of development.

Never, perhaps, in the whole history of science or philosophy has so great a revolution in thought and opinion been effected as in the twelve years from 1859 to 1871, the respective dates of publication of Mr. Darwin's "Origin of Species" and "Descent of Man." Up to the commencement of this period the belief in the independent creation or origin of the species of animals and plants, and the belief in the very recent appearance of man upon the earth, were, practically, universal. Long before the end of it these two beliefs had utterly disappeared, not only in the scientific world, but almost equally so among the literary and educated classes generally. The belief in the independent origin of man held its ground somewhat longer, but the publication of Mr. Darwin's great work gave even that its death-blow, for hardly any one capable of judging of the evidence now doubts the derivative nature of man's bodily structure as a whole, although many believe that his mind and even some of his physical characteristics may be due to the action of other forces than have acted in the case of the lower animals.

We need hardly be surprised, under these circumstances, if there has been a tendency among men of science to pass from one extreme to the other, from a profession (so few years ago) of total ignorance as to the mode of origin of all living things, to a claim to almost complete knowledge of the whole progress of the universe from the first speck of living protoplasm up to the highest development of the human intellect. Yet this is really what we have seen in the last six-