Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/323

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

men. This is easily comprehended. Invoking the authority of Murray, and the universality of habitat which he attributes to the genera of the rorqual and the dolphin, polygenists might be tempted to say: "Non-cosmopolitism already presents two exceptions; why may there not be a third? Two genera of cetaceans are naturally represented in all the seas; why may not the human genus have appeared at the start in every land?"

This reasoning fails at the base. The rorquals and the dolphins belong to the lowest order of mammalia. Men, if we regard the body alone, are the highest order. Unless we constitute them a single exception, they must obey the laws of the superior group; consequently, they can not escape the law of progressive cantonment. It follows, hence, that a human genus, as the polygenists understand it, must have occupied in its origin an area no more extended than that which has devolved on some genera of monkeys. But, among the monkeys themselves, all naturalists recognize a hierarchy; all place at their head the order of the anthropoid apes. It is, then, from the secondary groups of this family that polygenists should ask for indications of the possible extent of the area primarily accorded to the human genus; and you know how inconsiderable is the area of the genera gibbon, orang, gorilla, and chimpanzee. You see that, at whatever point of view we place ourselves, we have either to assume that man alone escapes the laws that have regulated the geographical distribution of all other organized beings, or to admit that the primitive tribes were cantoned upon a very restricted space. By judging from present conditions, by making the largest concessions, by neglecting the incontestable superiority of the human type over the simian type, all that the polygenist hypothesis permits is to regard that area as having been nearly equivalent to that occupied by the different species of gibbons, which range, on the continent, from Assam to Malacca; in the islands, from the Philippines to Java. Monogenism, of course, tends to restrict this area still more, and to make it equal at most to that of the chimpanzee, which extends nearly from Cairo to the Senegal. I am the first to recognize that we may perhaps have to enlarge these limits at some later time. I consider the existence of tertiary man to be demonstrated; and only the geographical distribution of the monkeys, his contemporaries, can furnish more precise information upon the primary extension of the center of man's appearance. Paleontology has taught us that the area formerly occupied by the simian type was evidently more considerable than it is now. It may have been the same with the anthropoid apes. But, till this time, no fossil is connected with that family. You know that the Dryopithecus, which was long regarded as belonging to them, has been shown by the examina-