Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/628

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
608
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

which he crowned the whole structure, namely, as regards the writer of Genesis, that "his knowledge was divine."[1]

Such was the skeleton of the structure; it was abundantly decoated with the rhetoric in which Mr. Gladstone is so skillful an artificer, and it towered above "the average man" as a structure beautiful and invincible—like some Chinese fortress in the nineteenth century, faced with porcelain and defended with bows and arrows.

But its strength was soon seen to be unreal. A single shot from a leader in the army of science wrecked it. In an essay admirable in its temper, overwhelming in its facts, and absolutely convincing in its argument, Professor Huxley, late President of the Royal Society, and doubtless the most eminent living authority on the scientific questions concerned, took up the matter.

Mr. Gladstone's first proposition, that the sacred writings give us a great "fourfold division" created "in an orderly succession of times," Professor Huxley did not presume to gainsay.

But, as to Mr. Gladstone's second proposition, that "this great fourfold division. . . created in an orderly succession of times. . . has been so affirmed in our own time by natural science that it may be taken as a demonstrated conclusion and established fact," Professor Huxley showed that, as a matter of fact, no such "fourfold division" and "orderly succession" exist; that, so far from establishing Mr. Gladstone's assumption that the population of water, air, and land followed each other in the order given, "all the evidence we possess goes to prove that they did not"; that the distribution of fossils through the various strata proves that some land animals originated before sea animals; that there has been a mixing of sea, land, and air "population" utterly destructive to the "great fourfold division" and the creation "in an orderly succession of times"; that so far is the view presented in the sacred text, as stated by Mr. Gladstone, from having been "so affirmed in our own time by natural science, that it may be taken as a demonstrated conclusion and established fact" that Mr. Gladstone's assertion is "directly contradictory to facts known to every one who is acquainted with the elements of natural science"; that Mr. Gladstone's only geological authority, Cuvier, had died more than fifty years before, when geological science was in its infancy [and he might have added, when it was necessary to make every possible concession to the Church], and, finally, he challenged Mr. Gladstone to produce any contemporary authority in geological science who would support his so-called scriptural view. And, when in a rejoinder Mr. Gladstone attempted to support his view on the authority of Professor Dana, Professor Huxley had no difficulty in showing from Professor Dana's works that Mr. Gladstone's inference was utterly unfounded.

  1. See Mr. Gladstone's "Dam of Creation and Worship," a reply to Dr. Réville, in the "Nineteenth Century," for November, 1885.