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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/219

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PROFESSOR HUXLEY'S LECTURES.

PROFESSOR HUXLEY'S LECTURES.[1]
II.
THE NEGATIVE AND FAVORABLE EVIDENCE.

IN my lecture on Monday night I pointed out that there are three hypotheses which may be entertained, and which have been entertained, respecting the past history of life upon the globe. According to the first of these hypotheses, life, such as we now know it, has existed from all eternity upon this earth. We tested that hypothesis by the circumstantial evidence, as I called it, which is furnished by the fossil remains contained in the earth's crust, and we found that it was obviously untenable. I then proceeded to consider the second hypothesis, which I termed the Miltonic hypothesis, not because it is of any particular consequence to me whether John Milton seriously entertained it or not, but because it is stated in a clear and unmistakable manner in-his great poem. I pointed out to you that the evidence at our command as completely and fully negatives that hypothesis as it did the preceding one. And I confess that I had too much respect for your intelligence to think it necessary to add that that negation was equally strong and equally valid whatever the source from which that hypothesis might be derived, or whatever the authority by which it might be supported.

I further stated that, according to the hypothesis of evolution, the existing state of things was the last term of a long series of antecedent states, which, when traced back, would be found to show no interruption and no breach of continuity. I propose in this and a following lecture to test this hypothesis rigorously by the evidence at command, and to inquire how far that evidence could be said to be indifferent to it, how far it could be said to be favorable to it, and, finally, how far it could be said to be demonstrative. From almost the origin of these discussions upon the existing condition—and the causes which have led to it—of the animal and vegetable worlds, an argument has been put forward as an objection to evolution, which we shall have to consider very seriously. I think that that argument was first clearly stated by Cuvier in his criticism of the doctrines propounded by his great contemporary, Lamarck. At that time the French expedition to Egypt had called the attention of learned men to the wonderful stores of antiquities in that country, and there had been brought back to France numerous mummified corpses of animals which the ancient Egyptians revered and preserved, the date of which, at a reasonable

  1. The second of three lectures on "The Direct Evidence of Evolution," delivered at Chickering Hall, New York, September 20th. From the report of the New York Tribune, carefully revised by Prof. Huxley.