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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/743

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EVOLUTION AND THE ORIGIN OF LIFE.

similar process, that, "if, in the present state of science, the alternative is offered us—either germs can stand a greater heat than has been supposed, or the molecules of dead matter, for no valid or intelligible reason that is assigned, are able to rearrange themselves into living bodies, exactly such as can be demonstrated to be frequently produced in another way—I cannot understand how choice can be, even for a moment, doubtful." Having thus expressed himself, it was a little strange that Prof. Huxley forgot to inform his audience, five minutes afterward, what "valid or intelligible reason" he was able to assign for the occurrence of that evolution of non-living matter into living protoplasm in the remote past to which he alluded. A supernatural interposition of Creative Power would explain the presence of living things upon our earth, just as easily as a supernatural preservation of living matter from the destructive effects of heat would account for the presence of living organisms within certain experimental flasks. But Prof. Huxley most inconsistently says that, even in the face of scientific evidence concerning the destructive powers of heat upon living matter, he would rather explain the presence of organisms in certain flasks on the hypothesis of a (supernatural) preservation of germs, than believe in the otherwise proved occurrence of a present life-evolution, similar to that which he assumes to have taken place in the past. He is willing to accept the supernatural in the present, though he declines to interpret the past by its aid. He assumes this attitude because no "valid or intelligible reason" is assigned in explanation of life-evolution, a belief in which would render unnecessary any appeal to the supernatural in the present; though he himself postulates the occurrence of the same unexplained process in the past, solely in order to avoid recourse to the supernatural. Prof. Huxley's position in reference to this question is very puzzling, and one cannot help wondering through what monochromatic glass he had been taking his observations (from his "watch-tower"), in order to come to the conclusion that "the present state of science" gives any sanction to such vacillations, or entitles him to appeal to a supernatural preservation of germs, instead of trusting to the known uniformity of natural phenomena.

Sir William Thomson was certainly much more consistent. He, too, seemed inclined to explain the experiments of our own day by resorting to the hypothesis of a supernatural preservation of germs, and similarly, he seems not unwilling to explain the original advent of Life upon this globe, by another assumed process of "Contagion." He has resort neither to a creative hypothesis nor to the hypothesis of a natural becoming of living matter, but, shelving the question of "origin" altogether, he suggests that our earth may have become peopled with organic forms, owing to the advent upon it, in the remote past, of a "moss-grown fragment from the ruins of another world." Sir William Thomson's hypothesis seems strangely improb-