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At present it is to us a result absolutely inconceivable. Your reviewer sneers with justice at my use of the
Pentateuchal' terms of one primordial form into which life was breathed ;' in a purely scientific work I ought perhaps not to have used such terms; but they will serve to confess that our ignorance is as profound on the origin of life as on the origin of force and matter.” 1
Burmeister closes the section of his History of Creation, in which he speaks of the first appearance of vegetable and animal life on the earth, with the following sentence, which is quite appropriate in the mouth of a scientific man: “Be then what thou wilt, thou first earliest day of life; we have no eyes now to see thee, no feeling to understand thee, and therefore no pen to describe thee according to thy nature.” ?
If the final result of natural science is that it can tell us nothing of the origin of the first organic beings, it cannot of course object when to
1 Cf. Zöckler, Op. cit. ii. 623. 2 Gesch. der Schöpfung. p. 354.
3 “The appearance of vegetables, of animals, and of men on the surface of the globe is a fact; but we have not yet, and perhaps never shall have, knowledge enough to explain it, or even to point out its immediate cause. This fact no longer occurs in our time, and we have not been able to reproduce it even among the lowest species. On this subject, then, we are without those elementary data, which the study of the inorganic world supplies when we wish to explain the formation of minerals and rocks. In consequence of this, we have so far no means of understanding the mode in which these beings are formed. Can this want of information upon the causes and conditions of the appearance of organized beings be supplied by observation of what now occurs ? No; for the phenomena that produce are very different from those that preserve. Observation can establish these, but those we have no means of guessing at. A man who is ignorant of metallurgy and its industrial processes, can acquaint himself with the mechanism of a watch, and become an excellent clockmaker. But so long as he confines himself to the study of his chronometers, the greatest intelligence, the most profound meditations will never teach him the origin of the metals of which the wheels are made ; how they have been worked,
the question which it refuses to answer, the Bible replies that the origin of organic beings must be traced back to the creative will of God. And if, notwithstanding all this, savants inveigh against the doctrine, it is because unluckily not all men of science have such a distinct view, as those whom I have quoted above, of the work and the limits of their science ; or are so careful to avoid mixing up the results of exact inquiry with their own personal philosophical or unphilosophical views. Let me quote one of the many who fall into this error. Hæckel says: “ The spontaneous generation of Monera has no doubt not yet been certainly observed ; but it does not seem at all impossible in itself, and for general reasons it must be assumed as the beginning of the peopling of the earth with living beings, as the origin of the animal and vegetable world.”? Even the expressions “in itself," and “ for general reasons,” show us that we are dealing with a philosopher, or whatever Hæckel may be called, but certainly not with a man of science. On another occasion Hæckel openly admits that “the question of spontaneous generation depends not upon empirical science, but upon philosophy.”3 The “general reasons” which, according to Hæckel, oblige us to assume that the first organisms originated by spontaneous generation reduce themselves to these; he thinks that the idea of a spiritual being existing before and outside the visible world, a God who created the world, is inadmissible. Now if the first organic beings did not originate of themselves by spontaneous generation, we must suppose that they were produced by a force independent of matter; and as, according to Hæckel, this supposition would be absurd, there is no escape from the other supposition, the hypothesis of spontaneous generation.
or by what processes the iron has been transformed into steel, to manufacture the mainspring. The physiologist and the anthropologist, in' dealing with animals and plants, or with men, are in the position of our clockmakers ; and unfortunately they have not yet discovered any equivalent for the schools to which the clockmaker can go for instruction." Quatrefages, Rapport, etc., p. 242. Histoire de l'Homme, iii. p. 14.
Burmeister, Gesch. der Schöpfung. p. 284. Rolle, Ch. Darwin's Lehre, p. 220. Preyer, Der Kampf und Dasein, p. 40. O. Schmidt, Das alter der Menschheit, p. 23.
s Ueber die Entstehung, etc., p. 10.
An intellectual French writer, Th. H. Martin, makes a striking observation about this confusion between the hypothesis of spontaneous generation and atheism. By denying the divine providence and the creation, certain defenders of heterogeny who pretend to support the experimental method, commit two faults-first, they proceed from a still doubtful hypothesis as if it were a demonstrated truth, and secondly, and still worse, they draw therefrom a conclusion which could not be drawn even if the fact of heterogeny were undisputed. In this they proceed from the principle, either boldly asserted or cautiously implied, that as life began on the earth, it must necessarily have originated of itself by some natural development of inorganic matter, and therefore primitive heterogeny must be certain a priori in order to explain the first origin of all species and of the human race, because it is the only possible hypothesis. This is the triumphant argument with which people who talk a good deal about experimental science and its methods, would close the discussion about the origin of all species of plants and
animals ! But either this argument is strangely thoughtless nonsense, or those who bring it forward silently assume that the creation and organization of the world by Divine Providence are impossible hypotheses, as God does not exist, and matter alone is necessary and eternal. In trying therefore to prove atheism by heterogeny, they assume atheism as the basis of their proof.
Hæckel no doubt tries to palliate the arbitrariness of this proceeding by saying that if we do not accept the hypothesis of spontaneous generation, we must “have recourse to the miracle of a supernatural creation” in this one point only ; while in all other cases, the regular process of development of matter proceeds entirely without the interposition of the Creator. By the “ regular process of development of matter,” Hæckel means this, the whole history of the earth divides itself into two great parts, whose line of separation is the origin of the first organic beings. In the first part, the earth formed itself into an igneous fluid ball, out of matter existing from all eternity, “under the exclusive dominion of invariable and necessary natural laws, the åváyın, which is in all times and in all places the same, and never changes,” 3 this ball then received a solid crust, continents, seas, etc. ; and at last the form in which it was fitted to be the dwellingplace of organic beings. All the first half of the earth's history can be scientifically explained without its being necessary to have recourse to “ the wretched
· Les Sciences, pp. 106, 120.
Cf. Anthropogenie, pp. 367, 383.
expedient of a personal Creator,” to use Hæckel's own words. The second half of the earth's history begins with the origin of the first Monera, the Bathybius Hæckelii, and similar organisms. This also occurs under the exclusive dominion of invariable and necessary laws of nature. The åváykn in nature has caused more perfect organisms to develop from the Monera, and from these still more perfect ones, and so on through millions of developments, up to and including man. By the theory of Descent, which I shall discuss in my next lecture, we can prove, according to Hackel, that all the species of the animal and vegetable world proceed from the Monera, and in this history of development we need not once have recourse to any other force than that which lies in nature itself, to any other law than that of the åváryan which governs nature. Thus the whole history of the earth from the primæval mist dispersed in space to the first appearance of man, yes, even to the present day, runs its course evidently according to purely natural laws, and there is no necessity for the interposition of any Being existing outside the world. Only one chasm remains to be bridged over, the chasm which separates the two great parts of the earth’s history from one another, and divides the organic from the inorganic world. Given the first Monera we are all right, these will suffice to explain all that follows. If their origin requires no creator, nothing requires one, and as we require one for nothing else, we surely shall not allow our argument to be disturbed for the sake of this one small animal, but rather calmly assert that the origin of the first organisms by spontaneous generation