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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/33

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AGASSIZ AND EVOLUTION.

they must shed on one another. The two guiding and animating principles of his scientific work were—1. That the embryonic development of one of the higher representatives of any group repeated in a general way the terms of the taxonomic series in the same group, and therefore that embryology furnished the key to a true classification; and, 2. That the succession of forms and structure in geological times in any group is similar to the succession of forms and structure in the development of the individual in the same group, and thus that embryology furnishes also the key to geological succession. In other words, during his whole life, Agassiz insisted that the laws of embryonic development (ontogeny) are also the laws of geological succession (phylogeny). Surely this is the foundation, the only solid foundation, of a true theory of evolution. It is true that Agassiz, holding as he did the doctrine of permanency of specific types, and therefore rejecting the doctrine of the derivative origin of species, did not admit the causal or natural relation of phylogenic succession to embryonic succession and taxonomic order as we no vv believe it—it is true that for him the relation between the three series was an intellectual not a physical one—consisted in the preordained plans of the Creator, and not in any genetic connection or inherited property; but evidently the first and greatest step was the discovery of the relation itself, however accounted for. The rest was sure to follow.

But more. Not only did Agassiz establish the essential identity of the geologic and embryonic succession, the general similarity of the two series, phylogenic and ontogenic, but he also announced and enforced all the formal laws of geologic succession (i. e., of evolution) as we now know them. These, as already stated and illustrated, are the law of differentiation, the law of progress of the whole, and the law of cyclical movement, although he did not formulate them in these words. No true inductive evidence of evolution was possible without the knowledge of these laws, and for this knowledge we are mainly indebted to Agassiz. He well knew also that they were the laws of embryonic development and therefore of evolution; but he avoided the word evolution, as implying the derivative origin of species, and used instead the word development, though it is hard to see in what the words differ. Thus, it is evident that Agassiz laid the whole foundation of evolution, solid and broad, but refused to build any scientific structure on it; he refused to recognize the legitimate, the scientifically necessary outcome of his own work. Nevertheless, without his work a scientific theory of evolution would have been impossible. Without Agassiz (or his equivalent), there would have been no Darwin.

There is something to us supremely grand in this refusal of Agassiz to accept the theory of evolution. The opportunity to become the leader of modern thought, the foremost man of the century, was in his hands, and he refused, because his religious, or, perhaps better, his philosophic intuitions, forbade. To Agassiz, and, indeed, to all men