Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/541

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NO subject in recent times has received so much attention, or been so carefully investigated, as the question of the origin and age of man. Even that large class of scholars who long since came to regard the development of man from lower forms as a closed question have persistently held that it would be extremely desirable to ascertain the full extent to which visible and indisputable evidences could be discovered and authenticated, bearing upon this particular issue of the antiquity of man in the developed form we now call a human being. And it is safe to add that no investigations have ever been carried forward with more circumspection on the one side, or under the fire of a more searching and severe criticism on the other. For this question, involving the origin, and age of man as such, constitutes the very pith and animus of the captious contention still going on as to the soundness of what is commonly called, in a broader sense, the doctrine of evolution.

If the theory of the gradual unfolding of all other organic life could possibly have been accepted without disturbing the belief in the recent and exceptional origin of man, it doubtless would have long since received the approval of all intelligent minds.

It is because man, the head and consummation of all animate existence on the globe, is drawn into the restless current of all common and lower life, although in the van yet as part and parcel, kith and kin of it, that the whole theory of evolution is at first thought and to many minds fearful and shocking. Therefore the arguments and the objections constantly hurled against the broad conception of evolutionary descent involving man are legion, and this theory could never have held its ground against such an assault but for the one controlling fact that, fortunately or unfortunately, it is true. It is so true that, like a principle in morals, or the philosophy and spirit of Christianity, or a logical sequence, or a theorem in mathematics, when once understood, it compels belief.

Its critics, therefore, from whose ranks nearly all converts to the theory have been made, regarding the antiquity and origin of man as its most objectionable feature, have very naturally and from the first attempted to discredit all evidences of his prehistoric existence.

  1. Read before the Fortnightly Club for the Study of Anthropology, of Yonkers, N. Y., February 16, 1893, by G. Hilton Scribner, president.