Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/75

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DIFFICULTIES OF DEVELOPMENT, ETC.

natural selection into so specialized and altogether distinct a creature as man, must have risen at a very early period into the position of a dominant race, and spread in dense waves of population over all suitable portions of the great continent for this, on Mr. Darwin's hypothesis, is essential to rapid developmental progress through the agency of natural selection.

Under these circumstances we might certainly expect to find some relics of these earlier forms of man along with those of animals which were presumably less abundant. Negative evidence of this kind is not very weighty, but still it has some value. It has been suggested that as apes are mostly tropical, and anthropoid apes are now confined almost exclusively to the vicinity of the equator, we should expect the ancestral forms also to have inhabited these same localities West Africa and the Malay Islands. But this objection is hardly valid, because existing anthropoid apes are wholly dependent on a perennial supply of easily-accessible fruits, which is only found near the equator, while not only had the south of Europe an almost tropical climate in Miocene times, but we must suppose even the earliest ancestors of man to have been terrestrial and omnivorous, since it must have taken ages of slow modification to have produced the perfectly erect form, the short arms, and the wholly non-prehensile foot, which so strongly differentiate man from the apes.

The conclusion which I think we must arrive at is, that if man has been developed from a common ancestor with all existing apes, and by no other agencies than such as have affected their development, then he must have existed in something approaching his present form, during the Tertiary period and not merely existed, but predominated in numbers, wherever suitable conditions prevailed. If, then, continued researches in all parts of Europe and Asia fail to bring to light any proofs of his presence, it will be at least a presumption that he came into existence at a much later date, and by a much more rapid process of development. In that case it will be a fair argument that, just as he is in his mental and moral nature, his capacities and aspirations, so infinitely raised above the brutes, so his origin is due to distinct and higher agencies than such as have affected their development.

There is yet another line of inquiry bearing upon this subject to which I wish to call your attention. It is a somewhat curious fact that, while all modern writers admit the great antiquity of man, most of them maintain the very recent development of his intellect, and will hardly contemplate the possibility of men, equal in mental capacity to ourselves, having existed in prehistoric times. This question is generally assumed to be settled by such relics as have been preserved of the manufactures of the older races, showing a lower and lower state of the arts by the successive disappearance in early times of iron, bronze, and pottery; and by the ruder forms of the older flint