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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/812

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Nelson to turn his blind eye to the recalling signal of his admiral. But it is not a brave thing—quite the contrary—in any man to turn a blind eye to the, instinctive perceptions of his own intelligence.

Nevertheless, it is possible to be true and faithful to the automatic workings of mind within us when it recognizes and identifies the methods of its own vaster image in the external world, and yet to be not less true and faithful to our consciousness of ignorance. The great thing to do is to put our agnosticism not in the wrong but in the right place. We may well rejoice in the clear and grand vision we have obtained through science of organic life having been developed through unnumbered ages on lines which do in themselves constitute a "plan." We may rejoice with the truest intellectual delight in our perception of the relation which this plan bore from the beginning to the future in creation. We may admire without ceasing the combination in this plan between an obvious fundamental unity and a not less obvious fundamental subordination to endless change wherever new needs had to be met and new functions had to be discharged. All this is science and science of the highest quality; but the sense of it is compatible with a constant remembrance of the enormous gaps in our knowledge which remain unfilled. That which always we are most curious to know remains always also unexplained. Geology has told us of a succession in the forms of life; but it has as yet told us nothing as to the methods by which this succession was brought about. There are, indeed, so-called "links"; but the links are never within each other's touch. The "imperfection of the record" is blamed for this; but there are portions of the record which seem continuous and complete—portions of time which were long enough to see the introduction of new species and yet the mystery remains unsolved. In the Lias, for example, and in some other formations, we have beds of great thickness following each other in orderly and undisturbed succession. New shells appear in turn, and yet we never see how or whence they came. My friend Mr. Robert Etheridge, F. R. S., F. G. S.,[1] informs me that there is one bed no thicker than an ordinary mantel-piece in which a peculiar ammonite appears and never appears again. So it is throughout the record wherever it is accessible to us. New forms come like apparitions, and like apparitions they also go. We do not know where such new forms have arisen nor how. We do know that the whole series must have begun somewhere and at some time, in some initial operation which was not that of ordinary generation. We do not know that this initial operation has never been repeated, or,

  1. Assistant Keeper Geological Department British Museum (Natural History).