lenger came fresh from bathysmal bottoms. Again and again he looked for it, but never could he discover it. It always hailed from home. The bottles sent there were reported to yield it in abundance, but somehow it seemed to be hatched in them. The laboratory in Jermyn Street was its unfailing source, and the great observer there was its only sponsor. The ocean never yielded it until it had been bottled. At last, one day on board the Challenger an accident revealed the mystery. One of Mr. Murray's assistants poured a large quantity of spirits of wine into a bottle containing some pure seawater, when lo! the wonderful protoplasm Bathybius appeared. It was the chemical precipitate of sulphate of lime produced by the mixture of alcohol and sea-water. This was bathos indeed! On this announcement "Bathybius" disappeared from science, reading us, in more senses than one, a great lesson on "precipitation."
This is a case in which a ridiculous error and a ridiculous credulity were the direct results of theoretical preconceptions. Bathybius was accepted because of its supposed harmony with Darwin's speculations. It is needless to say that Darwin's own theory of the coral islands has no special connection with his later hypotheses of evolution. Both his theory and the theory of Mr, Murray equally involve the development of changes through the action and interaction of the old agencies of vital, chemical, and mechanical change. Nevertheless, the disproof of a theory which was so imposing, and had been so long accepted, does read to us the most important lessons. It teaches us that neither the beauty—nor the imposing character—nor the apparent sufficiency of an explanation may be any proof whatever of its truth. And if this be taught us even of explanations which concern results purely physical, comparatively simple, and comparatively definite, how much more is this lesson impressed upon us when, concerning far deeper and more complicated things, explanations are offered which are in themselves obscure, full of metaphor, full of the pitfalls and traps due to the ambiguities of language—explanations which are incapable of being reduced to proof, and concern both agencies and results of which we are profoundly ignorant!—Nineteenth Century.
- "Narrative of the Challenger Expedition," vol. i, p. 939.