Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/855

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SOME UNSOLVED PROBLEMS IN GEOLOGY.

and one demanding even some suspension of the ordinary laws of nature.

Certain recent utterances of eminent scientific men in England and France are most instructive with reference to the difficulties which encompass this subject. Huxley, at present the leader of English evolutionists, in his "Rede Lecture"[1] delivered at Cambridge, England, holds that there only two "possible alternative hypotheses" as to the origin of species: 1. That of "construction," or the mechanical putting together of the materials and parts of each new species separately; and, 2. That of "evolution," or that one form of life "proceeded from another" by the "establishment of small successive differences." After comparing these modes, much to the disadvantage of the first, he concludes with the statement that "this was his case for evolution, which he rested wholly on arguments of the kind he had adduced"; these arguments being the threadbare false analogy of ordinary reproduction and the transformation of species, and the mere succession of forms more or less similar in geological time, neither of them having any bearing whatever on the origin of any species or on the cause of the observed succession. With reference to the two alternatives, while it is true that no certain evidence has yet been obtained—either by experiment, observation, or sound induction—as to the mode of origin of any species, enough is known to show that there are numerous possible methods, grouped usually under the heads of absolute creation, mediate creation, critical evolution, and gradual evolution. It is also true that almost the only thing we certainly know in the matter is, that the differences characteristic of classes, orders, genera, and species, must have arisen, not in one or two, but in many ways. An instructive commentary on the capacity of our age to deal with these great questions is afforded by the fact that this little piece of clever mental gymnastic should have been practiced in a university lecture and in presence of an educated audience. It is also deserving of notice that, though the lecturer takes the development of the Nautili and their allies as his principal illustration, he evidently attaches no weight to the argument in the opposite sense deduced by Barrande—the man of all others most profoundly acquainted with these animals—from the palæozoic cephalopods.

Another example is afforded by a lecture recently delivered at the Royal Institution in London by Professor Flower.[2] The subject is, "The Whales, Past and Present, and their Probable Origin." The latter point, as is well known, Gaudry has candidly given up. "We have questioned," he says, "these strange and gigantic sovereigns of the tertiary oceans as to their ancestors—they leave us without reply." Flower is bold enough to face this problem; and he does so in a fair and vigorous way, though limiting himself to the supposition of slow and gradual change. He gives up at once, as every anatomist must,

  1. Report in "Nature," June 21st, corrected by the author.
  2. Reported in "Nature."