Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/114

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been more highly organized than any living members of their class." Does not this reasoning exactly remind one of that which was current when M. Boucher de Perthes first called attention to the Abbeville flints?

Now, I confess I am at a loss to comprehend why Professor Dawkins should be so anxious to escape the natural inference that these flints were split by an ancestor of man. If he were a determined opponent of evolutionism, it would be easy enough to understand his attitude; but, as he is a consistent and bold evolutionist, one can hardly guess why he should go so far out of his way to get rid of a simple conclusion. He argues most strenuously that man was fully developed in the Pleistocene age. He can not imagine that man reached this full development by a sudden leap or miraculous interposition. And, therefore, he might naturally conclude that an early and less differentiated ancestor of man was living in the Miocene age, and developing upward through the Pliocene times, till he reached that highly specialized specific form which he had demonstrably attained in the later Pleistocene period. Implements such as we should naturally expect a priori to be produced by such an intermediate form are actually forthcoming in the Miocene. The traces of use and marks of fire upon them seem irresistible proofs—the edges are chipped and worn exactly like those of undoubted flake-knives—while the regular repetition of their shapes is most noticeable. Yet, for some unknown reason, rather than accept the plain conclusion of M. de Mortillet, Professor Dawkins prefers to believe that they were produced by apes, and to leave man without any traceable ancestry whatsoever. Surely he does not believe that man was suddenly evolved, at a single bound, from a creature no nearer akin to him "than the anthropomorphous apes." Yet this is certainly the conclusion which most readers would draw from his facts and arguments.

It is clear that the difficulty in all these cases depends upon the too great definiteness of our words, with their hard-and-fast lines of demarkation, when applied to the gradual and changeful forms of evolving species. The very question as to the existence and character of "primitive" man thus becomes one of mere artificial and arbitrary distinctions. We try to draw a line somewhere, and wherever we draw it we must necessarily cause confusion. Let us try, then, to set forth the probable course of evolution in the line which finally culminates in civilized man, from the Eocene age upward, using so far as possible such language as will the least involve us in classificatory distinctions.

In the very first part of the Eocene age man's ancestors were very plastic and unspecialized placental mammals of the early "generalized" type. They were still so little removed from the original form, so little adapted for special habits and habitats, that they at the same time closely resembled the progenitors of the horses and the hedgehogs.