Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/97

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87
IS DEVELOPMENT HYPOTHESIS SUFFICIENT?

of timid Christians, and the rising rage of polemic theologians, have been disappointed. But an interest has been excited in the subject of development. In the present state of the public mind, good may arise from showing that when the doctrine of development is properly explained and understood, and kept within its legitimate sphere, there is nothing in it inconsistent with natural or revealed religion; and that the scientific truths which Prof. Huxley has expounded in these lectures do not entitle him to draw the consequences which he has done in his "Lay Sermons" and other writings.

In his first lecture the professor had light work and an easy victory. He set up two targets and shot them down. He stated and overwhelmed two hypotheses: the first, that Nature has been all along very much in the same state as it now is; and the second, the poetical account given by Milton in "Paradise Lost." It did not need an Englishman to come 3,000 miles, it did not require a man of Prof. Huxley's knowledge and dialectic skill, to demolish these fancies. I cannot remember a single man eminent in science, philosophy, or theology, defending either of these views during the last half-century. The first hypothesis was never held by religious men, though it has been defended by a few scientific men—who might have been kept from error by looking to Scripture—such as Hutton, Playfair, and Lyell in his earlier writings. The book of Genesis speaks of an order and a progression in the origination of things and of a flood covering the then peopled earth. I should not expect any one but a Don Quixote to attack Milton's exposition of a popular belief. The view given in "Paradise Lost" was not the one entertained by several of the most eminent of the Christian fathers, such as Origen, and has not been entertained by any theologian of ability and scholarship for the last age or two. It must now be forty or fifty years since Chalmers and Pye Smith and certain well-known divines of the Church of England, and President Hitchcock of Amherst, adopted the discoveries of geology and sought to reconcile them with Scripture. It is an instructive circumstance that, while Milton's account cannot stand a moment's investigation, the record in Genesis is believed by many of our highest men of science to be perfectly consistent with the latest science. I name only Prof. Dana, Prof. Guyot, and Principal Dawson, the highest authorities on this continent, and superior to Prof. Huxley, not certainly in zoölogy, but in geology. I am quite ready to give up these two hypotheses to Prof. Huxley, to hew and hack them (to use one of his own phrases) like Agag.

The second lecture is written in his best manner. There is scarcely anything in it that I am inclined to object to. He is no longer killing hypotheses which died a natural death long ago. He is arranging his materials for the defense of the theory of Evolution. He has as yet only brought forward the cases which he acknowledges are not demonstrative of the truth of evolution, but are such as must exist if