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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/657

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EVOLUTION: WHAT IT IS NOT, AND WHAT IT IS.

It is conceived, in short, that most things "growed." Especially is it known that, in the opinion of the evolutionists as a body, we are all of us ultimately descended from men with tails, who were the final offspring and improved edition of the common gorilla. That, very briefly put, is the popular conception of the various points in the great modern evolutionary programme.

It is scarcely necessary to inform the intelligent reader, who, of course, differs fundamentally from that inferior class of human beings known to all of us in our own minds as "other people," that almost every point in the catalogue thus briefly enumerated is a popular fallacy of the wildest description. Mr, Darwin did not invent evolution any more than George Stephenson invented the steam-engine, or Mr. Edison the electric telegraph. We are not descended from men with tails any more than we are descended from Indian elephants. There is no evidence that we have anything in particular more than the remotest fiftieth cousinship with our poor relation the West African gorilla. Science is not in search of a "missing link"; few links are anywhere missing, and those are for the most part wholly unimportant ones. If we found the imaginary link in question, he would not be a monkey, nor yet in any way a tailed man. And so forth generally through the whole list of popular beliefs and current fallacies as to the real meaning of evolutionary teaching. Whatever people think evolutionary is for the most part a pure parody of the evolutionist's opinion.

But a more serious error than all these pervades what we may call the drawing-room view of the evolutionist theory. So far as Society with a big initial is concerned, evolutionism first began to be talked about, and therefore known (for society does not read, it listens, or rather it overhears and catches fragmentary echoes), when Darwin published his "Origin of Species." That great book consisted simply of a theory as to the causes which led to the distinctions of kind between plants and animals. With evolution at large it had nothing to do; it took for granted the origin of sun, moon, and stars, planets and comets, the earth and all that in it is, the sea and the dry land, the mountains and the valleys, nay, even life itself in the crude form, everything, in fact, save the one point of the various types and species of living beings. Long before Darwin's book appeared, evolution had been a recognized force in the moving world of science and philosophy. Kant and Laplace had worked out the development of suns and earths from white-hot star-clouds. Lyell had worked out the evolution of the earth's surface to its present highly complex geographical condition. Lamarck had worked out the descent of plants and animals from a common ancestor by slow modification. Herbert Spencer had worked out the growth of mind from its simplest beginnings to its highest outcome in human thought.

But society, like Gallio, cared nothing for all these things. The