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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/28

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

changing environment—external factor; and, 2. Modification of organs by use and disuse—internal factor. In both eases the modifications are inherited and increased from generation to generation, without limit. This second factor seems to have taken, in the mind of Lamarck, the somewhat vague and transcendental form of aspiration or upward striving of the animal toward higher conditions. These are acknowledged to-day as true factors of evolution, but the distinctively Darwinian factor, viz., "divergent variation and natural selection," was not then thought of. The publication of Lamarck's views produced a powerful impression, but only for a little while. Pierced by the shafts of ridicule shot by nimble wits of Paris, and crushed beneath the heavy weight of the authority of Cuvier, the greatest naturalist and comparative anatomist of that or perhaps of any time, it fell almost still-born. I believe it was best that it should thus perish. Its birth was premature; it was not fit to live. The world was not yet prepared for a true scientific theory. Nevertheless, the work was not without its effect upon some of the most advanced thinkers of that time; upon Saint-Hilaire and Comte in France, and upon Goethe and Oken in Germany. It was good seed sown and destined to spring up and bear fruit in suitable environment; but not yet.

The next attempt worthy of attention in this rapid sketch is that of Robert Chambers, in a little volume entitled "Vestiges of a Natural History of Creation," published in 1844. It was essentially a reproduction of Lamarck's views in a more popular form. It was not a truly scientific work nor written by a scientific man. It was rather an appeal from the too technical court of science to the supposed wider and more unprejudiced court of popular intelligence. It was therefore far more eloquent than accurate; far more specious than profound. It was, indeed, full of false facts and inconsequent reasonings. Nevertheless, it produced a very strong impression on the thinking, popular mind. But it also quickly fell, pierced by keen shafts of ridicule, and crushed beneath the heavy weight of the authority of all the most prominent naturalists of that time, with Agassiz at their head. The question for the time seemed closed. I believe, again, it was best so, for the time was not yet fully ripe.

I know full well that many think with Haeckel that biology was kept back half a century by the baneful authority of Cuvier and Agassiz; but I can not think so. The hypothesis was contrary to the facts of science as then known and understood. It was conceived in the spirit of baseless speculation, rather than of cautious induction; of skillful elaboration rather than of earnest truth-seeking. Its general acceptance would have debauched the true spirit of science. I repeat it: the time was not yet ripe for a scientific theory. The ground must first be cleared and a solid foundation built; an insuperable obstacle to hearty rational acceptance must first be removed, and an inductive basis must be laid.