Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/24

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

the world acknowledged in Mm its chief contemporary ornament, and to this hour his fame rightly continues. But there was in him, as in Linnæus, a survival of certain theological ways of looking at the universe and certain theological conceptions of a plan of creation; it must be said, too, that while his temperament made him shy of new hypotheses, of which he had seen the birth and death of so many, his environment as a great functionary of state, honored, admired, almost adored by the greatest, not only in the state but in the Church, his solicitude lest science should receive some detriment by openly resisting the Church, which had recaptured Europe after the French Revolution and had made of its enemies its footstool—all these considerations led him to oppose the new theory. Amid the plaudits, then, of the foremost churchmen and laymen he threw across the path of the evolution doctrines the whole mass of his authority in favor of the old theory of catastrophic changes and special creations.

Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire stoutly withstood him, braving nonrecognition, ill-treatment, and ridicule. Treviranus, afar off in his mathematical lecture room at Bremen, seemed simply forgotten.

But the current of evolutionary thought could not thus be checked; dammed up for a time, it broke out in new channels and in ways and places least expected; turned away from France, it appeared especially in England; great paleontologists and geologists arose there whose work culminated in that of Lyell. Specialists throughout all the world now became more vigorous than ever, gathering facts and thinking upon them in a way which caused the special creation theory to shrink more and more. Broader and more full became these various rivulets, soon to unite in one great stream of thought.

In 1813 Dr. Wells developed a theory of evolution by natural selection to account for varieties in the human race; about 1820 Dean Herbert, eminent as an authority in horticulture, avowed his conviction that species are but fixed varieties; in 1831 Patrick Matthews stumbled upon and stated the main doctrine of natural selection in evolution; and others, here and there, in Europe and America, caught an inkling of it.

But no one outside of a circle apparently uninfluential cared for these things: the Church was serene; on the continent it had obtained reactionary control of courts, cabinets, and universities; in England Dean Cockburn was denouncing Mary Somerville and the geologists to the delight of the established churchmen; and the Rev. Mellor Brown was doing the same thing for the edification of dissenters.

In America the mild suggestions of Silliman and his compeers were met by the protestations of the Andover theologians headed