Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/376

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

knowledge of what a coral reef is, have endeavored to master the very difficult biological and geological problems involved in their study. I happen to have spent the best part of three years among coral reefs and to have made that attempt; and, when Mr. Murray's work appeared, I said to myself that until I had two or three months to give to the renewed study of the subject in all its bearings, I must be content to remain in a condition of suspended judgment. In the meanwhile, the man who would be voted by common acclamation as the most competent person now living to act as umpire, has delivered the verdict I have quoted; and, to go no further, has fully justified the hesitation I and others may have felt about expressing an opinion. Under these circumstances, it seems to me to require a good deal of courage to say "no serious reply has ever been attempted"; and to chide the men of science, in lofty tones, for their "reluctance to admit an error" which is not admitted; and for their "slow and sulky acquiescence" in a conclusion which they have the gravest warranty for suspecting!


Darwin himself had lived to hear of the new solution, and, with that splendid candor which was eminent in him, his mind, though now grown old in his own early convictions, was at least ready to entertain it, and to confess that serious doubts had been awakened as to the truth of his famous theory (p. 252).

I wish that Darwin's splendid candor could be conveyed by some description of spiritual "microbe" to those who write about him. I am not aware that Mr. Darwin ever entertained "serious doubts as to the truth of his famous theory"; and there is tolerably good evidence to the contrary. The second edition of his work, published in 1876, proves that he entertained no such doubts then; a letter to Professor Semper, whose objections, in some respects, forestalled those of Mr. Murray, dated October 2, 1879, expresses his continued adherence to the opinion "that the atolls and barrier reefs in the middle of the Pacific and Indian Oceans indicate subsidence"; and the letter of my friend Professor Judd, printed at the end of this article (which I had perhaps better say Professor Judd has not seen) will prove that this opinion remained unaltered to the end of his life.


. . . Darwin's theory is a dream. It is not only unsound, but it is in many respects the reverse of truth. With all his conscientiousness, with all his caution, with all his powers of observation, Darwin in this matter fell into errors as profound as the abysses of the Pacific (p. 249).

Really? It seems to me that, under the circumstances, it is pretty clear that these lines exhibit a lack of the qualities justly ascribed to Mr. Darwin, which plunges their author into a much deeper abyss, and one from which there is no hope of emergence.