Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/695

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Like all other persons who have to deal with physical science, we confine ourselves to matters which can be ascertained with precision, and nothing is more remarkable than the exactness which has been introduced into the mode of ascertaining the physical qualities of man within the last twenty-five years. One cannot mention the name of Broca without the greatest gratitude; and I am quite sure that, when Prof. Flower brings forward his paper on cranial measurements on Monday next, you will be surprised to see what precision of method and what accuracy are now introduced, compared with what existed twenty-five years ago, into these methods of determining the physical data of man's structure. If, further, we turn to those physiological matters bearing on anthropology which have been the subject of inquiry within the last score of years, we find that there has been a vast amount of progress. I would refer you to the very remarkable collection of the data of sociology by Mr. Herbert Spencer, which contains a mass of information useful on one side or the other in getting toward the truth. Then I would refer you to the highly-interesting contributions which have been made by Prof. Max Muller and by Mr. Tylor to the natural history of religions, which is one of the most interesting chapters of anthropology. In regard to another very important topic, the development of art and the use of tools and weapons, most remarkable contributions have been made by General Lane Fox, whose museum at Bethnal Green is one of the most extraordinary exemplifications that I know of the ingenuity, and, at the same time, of the stupidity of the human race. Their ingenuity appears in their invention of a given pattern or form of weapon, and their profound stupidity in this, that, having done so, they kept in the old grooves, and were thus prevented from getting beyond the primitive type of these objects and of their ornamentation. One of the most singular things in that museum is its exemplification—the wonderful tendency of the human mind when once it has got into a groove to stick there. The great object of scientific investigation is to run counter to that tendency.

Lastly, great progress has been made in the last twenty years in the direction of the discovery of the indications of man in a fossil state. My memory goes back to the time when anybody who broached the notion of the existence of fossil man would have been simply laughed at. It was held to be a canon of paleontology that man could not exist in a fossil state. I don't know why, but it was so; and that fixed idea acted so strongly on men's minds, that they shut their eyes to the plainest possible evidence. Within the last twenty years we have an astonishing accumulation of evidence of the existence of man in ages antecedent to those of which we have any historical record. What the actual date of those times was, and what their relation is to our known historical epochs, I don't think anybody is in a position to say. But it is beyond all question that man, and not only man, but, what is more to the purpose, intelligent man, existed at times when