Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/73

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teen years. Formerly difficulties were exaggerated, and it was asserted that we had not sufficient knowledge to venture on any generalizations on the subject. Now difficulties are set aside, and it is held that our theories are so well established and so far-reaching, that they explain and comprehend all Nature. It is not long ago (as I have already reminded you) since facts were contemptuously ignored, because they favored our now popular views; at the present day it seems to me that facts which oppose them hardly receive due consideration. And, as opposition is the best incentive to progress, and it is not well even for the best theories to have it all their own way, I propose to direct your attention to a few such facts, and to the conclusions that seem fairly deducible from them.

It is a curious circumstance that, notwithstanding the attention that has been directed to the subject in every part of the world, and the numerous excavations connected with railways and mines which have offered such facilities for geological discovery, no advance whatever has been made for a considerable number of years, in detecting the time or the mode of man's origin. The Palæolithic flint weapons first discovered in the north of France more than thirty years ago are still the oldest undisputed proofs of man's existence; and, amid the countless relics of a former world that have been brought to light, no evidence of any one of the links that must have connected man with the lower animals has yet appeared.

It is, indeed, well known that negative evidence in geology is of very slender value, and this is, no doubt, generally the case. The circumstances here are, however, peculiar; for many converging lines of evidence show that, on the theory of development by the same laws which have determined the development of the lower animals, man must be immensely older than any traces of him yet discovered. As this is a point of great interest, we must devote a few moments to its consideration:

1. The most important difference between man and such of the lower animals as most nearly approach him is undoubtedly in the bulk and development of his brain, as indicated by the form and capacity of the cranium. We should therefore anticipate that these earliest races, who were contemporary with the extinct animals and used rude stone weapons, would show a marked deficiency in this respect. Yet the oldest known crania—those of the Engis and Cro-Magnon caves—show no marks of degradation. The former does not present so low a type as that of most existing savages, but is—to use the words of Prof. Huxley—"a fair average human skull, which might have belonged to a philosopher, or might have contained the thoughtless brains of a savage." The latter are still more remarkable, being unusually large and well formed. Dr. Pruner-Bey states that they surpass the average of modern European skulls in capacity, while their symmetrical forms, without any trace of prognathism, compare