Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/186

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smother it with ridicule or to crush it by vehemence of denunciation. ‘The struggle for existence’ and ‘Natural selection’ have become house-hold words and every-day conceptions. The reality and the importance of the natural processes on which Darwin founds his deductions are no more doubted than those of growth and multiplication; and, whether the full potency attributed to them is admitted or not, no one doubts their vast and far-reaching significance. Wherever the biological sciences are studied, the ‘Origin of Species’ lights the paths of the investigator; wherever they are taught it permeates the course of instruction. Nor has the influence of Darwinian ideas been less profound, beyond the realms of Biology. The oldest of all philosophies, that of Evolution, was bound hand and foot and cast into utter darkness during the millennium of theological scholasticism. But Darwin poured new life-blood into the ancient frame; the bonds burst, and the revivified thought of ancient Greece has proved itself to be a more adequate expression of the universal order of things than any of the schemes which have been accepted by the credulity and welcomed by the superstition of seventy later generations of men.

To any one who studies the signs of the times, the emergence of the philosophy of Evolution, in the attitude of claimant to the throne of the world of thought, from the limbo of hated and, as many hoped, forgotten things, is the most portentous event of the nineteenth century. But the most effective weapons of the modern champions of Evolution were fabricated by Darwin; and the ‘Origin of Species’ has enlisted a formidable body of combatants, trained in the severe school of Physical Science, whose ears might have long remained deaf to the speculations of à priori philosophers. * * *

If I confine my retrospect of the reception of the ‘Origin of Species’ to a twelvemonth, or thereabouts, from the time of its publication, I do not recollect anything quite so foolish and unmannerly as the ‘Quarterly Review’ article, unless, perhaps, the address of a Reverend Professor to the Dublin Geological Society might enter into competition with it. But a large proportion of Mr. Darwin's critics had a lamentable resemblance to the ‘Quarterly’ reviewer, in so far as they lacked either the will, or the wit, to make themselves masters of his doctrine; hardly any possessed the knowledge required to follow him through the immense range of biological and geological science which the ‘Origin’ covered; while, too commonly, they had prejudiced the case on theological grounds, and, as seems to be inevitable when this happens, eked out lack of reason by superfluity of railing.

But it will be more pleasant and more profitable to consider those criticisms, which were acknowledged by writers of scientific authority, or which bore internal evidence of the greater or less competency and, often, of the good faith, of their authors. Restricting my survey to a