페이지 이미지
PDF

differences in their vertebrae, nasal passages, and one or two other points. The guinea-pig has teeth which are shed before it is born, and hence can never subserve the masticatory purpose for which they seem contrived, and, in like manner, the female dugong has tusks which never cut the gum. All the members of the same great group run through similar conditions in their development, and all their parts, in the adult state, are arranged according to the same plan. Man is more like a gorilla than a gorilla is like a lemur. Such are a few, taken at random, among the multitudes of similar facts which modern research has established; but when the student seeks for an explanation of them from the supporters of the received hypothesis of the origin of species, the reply he receives is, in substance, of Oriental simplicity and brevity—“Mashallah it so pleases God!” There are different species on opposite sides of the isthmus of Panama, because they were created different on the two sides. The pliocene mammals are like the existing ones, because such was the plan of creation; and we find rudimental organs and similarity of plan, because it has pleased the Creator to set before Himself a “divine exemplar or archetype," and to copy it in His works; and somewhat ill, those who hold this view imply, in some of them. That such verbal hocus-pocus should be received as science will one day be regarded as evidence of the low state of

[graphic]

intelligence in the nineteenth century, just as we amuse ourselves with the phraseology about Nature's abhorrence of a vacuum, where with Torricellis compatriots were satisfied to explain the rise of water in a pump. And be it recollected that this sort of satisfaction works not only negative but positive ill, by discouraging inquiry, and so depriving man of the usufruct of one of the most fertile fields of his great patrimony, Nature. The objections to the doctrine of the origin of species by special creation which have been detailed, must have occurred, with more or less force, to the mind of every one who has seriously and independently considered the subject. It is therefore no wonder that, from time to time, this hypothesis should have been met by counter hypotheses, all as well, and some better founded than itself; and it is curious to remark that the inventors of the opposing views seem to have been led into them as much by their knowledge of geology, as by their acquaintance with biology. In fact, when the mind has once admitted the conception of the gradual production of the present physical state of our globe, by natural causes operating through long ages of time, it will be little disposed to allow that living beings have made their appearance in another way, and the speculations of De Maillet and his successors are

the natural complement of Scilla's demonstration of the true nature of fossils.

[graphic]

A contemporary of Newton and of Leibnitz, sharing therefore in the intellectual activity of the remarkable age which witnessed the birth of modern physical science, Benoit de Maillet spent a long life as a consular agent of the French Government in various Mediterranean ports. For sixteen years, in fact, he held the office of ConsulGeneral in Egypt, and the wonderful phaenomena offered by the valley of the Nile appear to have strongly impressed his mind, to have directed his attention to all facts of a similar order which came within his observation, and to have led him to speculate on the origin of the present condition of our globe and of its inhabitants. But, with all his ardour for science, De Maillet seems to have hesitated to publish views which, notwithstanding the ingenious attempts to reconcile them with the Hebrew hypothesis contained in the preface to “Telliamed,” were hardly likely to be received with favour by his contemporaries.

But a short time had elapsed since more than one of the great anatomists and physicists of the Italian school had paid dearly for their endeavours to dissipate some of the prevalent errors; and their illustrious pupil, Harvey, the founder of modern physiology, had not fared so well, in a country less oppressed by the benumbing influences of theology, as to tempt any man to follow his example. Probably not uninfluenced by these considerations, his Catholic majesty's Consul

[graphic]

General for Egypt kept his theories to himself throughout a long life, for “Telliamed,” the only scientific work which is known to have proceeded from his pen, was not printed till 1735, when its author had reached the ripe age of seventy-nine; and though De Maillet lived three years longer, his book was not given to the world before 1748. Even then it was anonymous to those who were not in the secret of the anagrammatic character of its title; and the preface and dedication are so worded as, in case of necessity, to give the printer a fair chance of falling back on the excuse that the work was intended for a mere jeu d'esprit. The speculations of the suppositious Indian sage, though quite as sound as those of many a * Mosaic Geology,” which sells exceedingly well, have no great value if we consider them by the light of modern science. The waters are supposed to have originally covered the whole globe; to have deposited the rocky masses which compose its mountains by processes comparable to those which are now forming mud, sand, and shingle ; and then to have gradually lowered their level, leaving the spoils of their animal and vegetable inhabitants embedded in the strata. As the dry land appeared, certain of the aquatic animals are supposed to have taken to it, and to have become gradually adapted to terrestrial and aerial modes of existence. But if we regard the general tenor and style of the reasoning in relation to the state of knowledge of the day, two circumstances appear very well worthy of remark. The first, that De Maillet had a notion of the modifiability of living forms (though without any precise information on the subject), and how such modifiability might account for the origin of species ; the second, that he very clearly apprehended the great modern geological doctrine, so strongly insisted upon by Hutton, and so ably and comprehensively expounded by Lyell, that we must look to existing causes for the explanation of past geological events Indeed, the following passage of the preface, in which De Maillet is supposed to speak of the Indian philosopher Telliamed, his alter ego, might have been written by the most philosophical uniformitarian of the present day :

[graphic]
[graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic]
[graphic]

o Ce qu'il y a d'étonnant, est que pour arriver à ces connoissances il semble avoir perverti l'ordre naturel, puisqu'au lieu de s'attacher d'abord à rechercher l'origine de notre globe il a commencé par travailler à s'instruire de la nature. Mais à l'entendre, ce renversement de l'ordre a été pour lui l'effet d'un génie favorable qui l'a conduit pas à pas et comme par la main aux découvertes les plus sublimes. C'est en décomposant la substance de ce globe par une anatomie exacte de toutes ses parties qu'il a premièrement appris de quelles matières il était composé et quels arrangemens ces mêmes matières observaient entre elles. Ces lumières jointes à l'esprit de comparaison toujours nécessaire à quiconque entreprend de percer les voiles dont la nature aime à se cacher, ont servi de guide à notre philosophe pour parvenir à des connoissances plus intéressantes. Par la matière et l'arrangement de ces compositions il prétend

[graphic]
« 이전계속 »