Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/853

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SOME UNSOLVED PROBLEMS IN GEOLOGY.

ries of evolution suggested by biologists to give any substantial aid to the geologist in these questions. In looking again at the points there set forth, I find they have not been invalidated by subsequent discoveries, and that we are still nearly in the same position with respect to these great questions that we were in at that time—a singular proof of the impotency of that deductive method of reasoning which has become fashionable among naturalists of late. Yet the discussions of recent years have thrown some additional light on these matters; and none more so than the mild disclaimers with which my friend Dr. Asa Gray and other moderate and scientific evolutionists have met the extreme views of such men as Romanes, Haeckel, Lubbock, and Grant Allen. It may be useful to note some of these as shedding a little light on this dark corner of our unsolved problems.

It has been urged, on the side of rational evolution, that this hypothesis does not profess to give an explanation of the absolute origin of life on our planet, or even of the original organization of a single cell or of a simple mass of protoplasm, living or dead. All experimental attempts to produce by synthesis the complex albuminous substances, or to obtain the living from the non-living, have so far been fruitless; and, indeed, we can not imagine any process by which such changes could be effected. That they have been effected we know; but the process employed by their Maker is still as mysterious to us as it probably was to him who wrote the words, "And God said, Let the waters swarm with swarmers." How vast is the gap in our knowledge and our practical power implied in this admission, which must, however, be made by every mind not absolutely blinded by a superstitious belief in those forms of words which too often pass current as philosophy!

But if we are content to start with a number of organisms ready made—a somewhat humiliating start, however—we still have to ask, How do these vary so as to give new species? It is a singular illusion in this matter, of men who profess to be believers in natural law, that variation may be boundless, aimless, and fortuitous, and that it is by spontaneous selection from varieties thus produced that development arises. But surely the supposition of mere chance and magic is unworthy of science. Varieties must have causes, and their causes and their effects must be regulated by some law or laws. Now, it is easy to see that they can not be caused by a mere innate tendency in the organism itself. Every organism is so nicely equilibrated, that it has no such spontaneous tendency, except within the limits set by its growth and the law of its periodical changes. There may, however, be equilibrium more or less stable. I believe all attempts hitherto made have failed to account for the fixity of certain, nay, of very many, types throughout geological time; but the mere consideration that one may be in a more stable state of equilibrium than another so far explains it. A rocking stone has no more spontaneous tendency