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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/448

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

are "medals of creation." They are successive individuals struck from the same die, until the die is worn out or broken. Then a new die is made, and the process of coinage of identical individuals is renewed.

Thus the whole history of the earth was supposed to consist of a succession of alternate supernatural and natural events. The catastrophes were supernatural; the times of quiet were natural. The creation of new dies or creation of first individuals was supernatural; the coinage of individuals of successive generations was natural. But on the whole the successive conditions of physical geography and the successive faunas and floras were higher and more complex according to a preordained plan. The great apostles of catastrophism were Cuvier in France and Buckland in England. According to Buckland, the last of these great catastrophes was the Quaternary or drift period, and this period was, by him and by many others since, associated with the Noachian Deluge.

Lyell opposed this view with all his power. According to him we can not judge of geological causes and processes except by study of causes and processes now in operation and producing effects under our eyes. The slow operation of similar causes and processes is sufficient—given time enough—to account for all the phenomena in geological history. Thus arose the extreme opposite doctrine of uniformitarianism. Things have gone on from the beginning and throughout all time much as they are going on now. This view, of course, required illimitable time, and was of great service in enforcing this idea. But, in revulsion from the previous idea of catastrophism, it undoubtedly was pushed much too far.

Meanwhile the theory of evolution was incubating in the mind of Darwin. Even Lyell, while he established the doctrine of slow uniform changes so far as inorganic Nature was concerned, was still compelled to admit supernatural catastrophic changes in organic Nature. Species, even for Lyell, were still immutable—still there were supernatural creation of first individuals, and continuance of similar individuals by natural process of generation. On the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species by Descent with Modification, Lyell at once embraced the new view as a completion of his principle of causes now in operation and his doctrine of uniformitarianism. In a certain superficial sense evolution is certainly confirmatory of the doctrine of uniformity of causes and processes in the past and the present, but in a deeper sense it is quite contrary in its spirit. Uniformitarians of the Lyell school look upon geology as a chronicle of events—evolutionists as a life history of the earth. The one regards the slow changes as irregular, uncertain, without progress or purpose or goal; the other as an evolution to