Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/203

This page has been validated.
191
DR. DRAPER'S LECTURE ON EVOLUTION.

original, the immutable fiat of God. In whatever direction we commune with Nature, the dominion of universal, of everlasting law confronts us.

The establishment of the theory of evolution has not been due to any one science, but is attributable to the conjoint movement of all. It is due to the irresistible advance of human knowledge. To refer it to geology alone, as is often done, is altogether a mistake. It was not possible that Astronomy should fail to maintain her grand position. She took the lead in the intellectual revolution which marks the close of the middle ages. Single-handed and alone, she fought and won the great battles of the globular form of the earth, the central sun, the plurality of worlds. It cost her the blood of some of her leaders. For some there wag the fagot, the rack, the prison-cell, the scourge. But they departed from their tormentors, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer even death in this cause. And now she found stepping-stones for herself in the trackless infinitude of space, and beckoned her comrade sciences to come and share with her the glorious view she had gained of the majesty of the universe. Anatomy, both human and comparative, paleontology, chemistry, physiology, microscopy, even philosophical history, have given their aid. Wherever any one science has made a marked advance, its movement has been covered by some of the others, and the ground thus occupied secured. As matters now stand, all are well to the front—the entire line is dressed.

It often takes many victories to establish one conquest. Knowledge, fresh from so many triumphs, unfalteringly continues her movement on the works of Superstition and Ignorance.

Now, in parting, let us bear this in mind: So great is the intellectual advance men have made, that questions which at one time divided Christendom into sects are now far in the rear. Those which once separated good men socially, are passing out of sight. They are replaced by others of a very different order. Among such, one of surpassing importance confronts us—the eternal reign of law. Let us bear in mind what the theory of evolution so loudly proclaims: "We are what we are, because the universe is what it is." If it acts upon us, we react upon it. Our conception of the sphere of being we occupy is enlarging, and we are thus brought into close relationship with all that is beautiful on earth, all that is magnificent in the heavens.

Then let us reverently commune with Nature. Let us try to raise our eyes from the varying phenomena of the world, to the solemn grandeur of that silent, that imperishable reign of law that governs all those changes; let each of us earnestly address to himself the remonstrance of "The Minstrel:"

"Oh! how canst thou renounce the boundless store
Of charms that Nature to her votary yields,