Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/378

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
views in derogation of Darwin's long-accepted theory of the coral islands, and was actually induced to delay it for two years. Yet the late Sir Wyville Thomson, who was at the head of the naturalists of the Challenger expedition, was himself convinced by Mr. Murray's reasoning (p. 255).

Clearly, then, it could not be Mr. Murray's official chief who gave him this advice. Who was it? And what was the exact nature of the advice given? Until we have some precise information on this head, I shall take leave to doubt whether this statement is more accurate than those which I have previously cited.

Whether such advice was wise or foolish, just or immoral, depends entirely on the motive of the person who gave it. If he meant to suggest to Mr.. Murray that it might be wise for a young and comparatively unknown man to walk warily, when he proposed to attack a generalization based on many years' labor of one undoubtedly competent person, and fortified by the independent results of the many years' labor of another undoubtedly competent person, and even, if necessary, to take two whole years in fortifying his position, I think that such advice would have been sagacious and kind. I suppose that there are few working men of science who have not kept their ideas to themselves, while gathering and sifting evidence, for a much longer period than two years.

If, on the other hand, Mr. Murray was advised to delay the publication of his criticisms, simply to save Mr. Darwin's credit and to preserve some reputation for infallibility, which no one ever heard of, then I have no hesitation in declaring that his advisor was profoundly dishonest, as well as extremely foolish, and that, if he is a man of science, he has disgraced his calling.

But, after all, this supposed scientific Achitophel has not yet made good the primary fact of his existence. Until the needful proof is forthcoming, I think I am justified in suspending my judgment as to whether he is much more than an anti-scientific myth. I leave it to the Duke of Argyll to judge of the extent of the obligation under which, for his own sake, he may lie to produce the evidence on which his aspersions of the honor of scientific men are based. I can not pretend that we are seriously disturbed by charges which every one who is acquainted with the truth of the matter knows to be ridiculous; but mud has a habit of staining if it lies too long, and it is as well to have it brushed off as soon as may be.

So much for the "Great Lesson." It is followed by a "Little Lesson" apparently directed against my infallibility—a doctrine about which I should be inclined to paraphrase Wilkes's remark to George III when he declared that he, at any rate, was not a Wilkite. But I really should be glad to think that there are people who need the warning, because then it will be obvious that this raking up of an old story can not have been suggested by a mere fanatical desire to damage men of science. I can but rejoice, then, that these misguided en-