Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/716

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the charge of gross carelessness in citation of testimony, and his paragraph is "manifestly founded on errors" for which it is hard to find any plausible excuse.

Lyell writes in the chapter already quoted, when referring to this fossil (which, by the way, was not, as Major Powell says, a human skeleton, but merely a broken pelvic bone):

"After visiting the spot in 1846, I described the geological position of the bones and discussed their probable age with a stronger bias, I must confess, to the antecedent improbability of the contemporaneous entombment of man and the mastodon than any geologist would now be justified in entertaining" (p. '200). "My reluctance in 1846 to regard the fossil human bone as of post-pliocene date arose in part from the reflection that the ancient loess of Natchez is anterior in time to the whole modern delta of the Mississippi .... If I was right in calculating that this delta has required more than one hundred thousand years for its growth, it would follow, if the claims of the Natchez man to have coexisted with the mastodon are admitted, that North America was peopled more than a thousand centuries ago by the human race. But even were that true we could not presume, reasoning from ascertained geological data, that the Natchez bone was anterior in date to the antique flint hatchets of St. Acheul .... Changes of level as great as that here implied have actually occurred in Europe during the human epoch, and may therefore have happened in America ... . Should future researches, therefore, confirm the opinion that the Natchez man coexisted with the mastodon, it would not enhance the value of the geological evidence in favor of man's antiquity, but merely render the delta of the Mississippi available as a chronometer."

The principles of exegesis which allow the extraction from these words of an affirmation that the bone was not found in the loess but in the "overplacement" are decidedly original and may be valuable in a case of urgent need. They recall to one's mind Prof. Huxley's satire on the Hebrew language. A case that stands in need of logic so bad and of quotation so erroneous must indeed be in a sorry plight. Sir C. Lyell evidently had no intention of denying the antiquity of the human pelvis. With characteristic caution he suspended judgment, and no one has any right to wrest his language in either direction. Whether ancient or not ancient, whether fraud or forgery or fact, matters not here. Testimony has been misquoted and authority misapplied. We plead not here for the genuineness or antiquity of the Mississippi man, but for fairness in logic and accuracy in statement.

We can not avoid the impression that in another place Major Powell somewhat transgresses the limits of accuracy where he says:

"Prof. Wright stands almost alone in his advocacy of a scientific doctrine. He has a few sympathizers and some defenders of some portions of his theory, but the great body of his work is repudiated by nearly every geologist in America and especially by the professorial corps."

The latter part of this extract may be true, but so far as they have declared themselves the following may rightly be claimed on his side: Dana, Hitchcock, Emerson, Crosby, Upham, and Bell. Others, in view of the pending discussion, await further evidence. Abroad a longer list of names may be drawn up, including that of the venerable Prestwich, ex-Professor of Geology at Oxford, Hughes, of Cambridge, Lamplugh, Crosskey, Kendall, and Dugald Bell in Groat Britain, Falsan in France, Credner and Diener in Germany, Hoist of Sweden, and Nitikin, state geologist of Russia. Sir H. H. Howorth says in a recent work,[1] "While the theory of a plurality of glacial periods has found several advocates in Germany, the French geologists are virtually unanimous on the other side." With such a list Prof. Wright stands "alone" in good company.

The scientific imagination is a faculty of the highest order and of great value so long as it is held in check by reason and knowledge. But when Pegasus runs or flies away with his rider, the result is often disastrous to the latter. We have already given proof of Major Powell's great command over the realm of fiction. He will excuse us if we further illustrate his supremacy in this region by another equally striking quotation. Writing of the so-called palæolithic implements recently found in New Jersey and some other places in the Eastern States, he says:

"These implements were gathered in very great numbers and collected in various museums in the United States and many collections were sent abroad to the great museums of the world. Several different collectors were engaged in this enterprise for some years and acquired great reputation for their proof of the antiquity of man on this continent and for their zeal in discovering the evidence, and to recompense them for this work they were made members of many scientific societies throughout the world and decorated with ribbons, and some were knighted."

We took the liberty in our last paper of calling indirectly on Major Powell for exact details regarding the Nampa image, but without very great success. Will he allow us respectfully to ask for some further particulars concerning this very startling paragraph of his, in order to remove the suspicion that spontaneously but irresistibly lurks in our mind that it too is "based on error"? It would be deeply interesting to the archaeologists of this country and of others to learn where are the "very great numbers" of these palæoliths from New Jersey, in what "museums of the United States" they are stored, and to what "foreign institutions

  1. The Glacial Nightmare and the Flood, p. 469.