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and only at last, after a brief companionship with the highest of the four-footed and four-handed world, rises into the dignity of pure manhood. No competent thinker of the present day dreams of explaining these indubitable facts by the notion of the existence of unknown and undiscoverable adaptations to purpose. And we would remind those who, ignorant of the facts, must be moved by authority, that no one has asserted the incompetence of the doctrine of final causes, in its application to physiology and anatomy, more strongly than our own eminent anatomist, Professor Owen, who, speaking of such cases, Says (“On the Nature of Limbs,” pp. 39, 40)—“I think it will be obvious that the principle of final adaptations fails to satisfy all the conditions of the problem.” But, if the doctrine of final causes will not help us to comprehend the anomalies of living structure, the principle of adaptation must surely lead us to understand why certain living beings are found in certain regions of the world and not in others. The Palm, as we know, will not grow in our climate, nor the Oak in Greenland. The white bear cannot live where the tiger thrives, nor vice versd, and the more the natural habits of animal and vegetable species are examined, the more do they seem, on the whole, limited to Particular provinces. But when we look into the
facts established by the study of the geographical
distribution of animals and plants it seems utterly hopeless to attempt to understand the strange and apparently capricious relations which they exhibit. One would be inclined to suppose d priori that every country must be naturally peopled by those animals that are fittest to live and thrive in it. And yet how, on this hypothesis, are we to account for the absence of cattle in the Pampas of South America, when those parts of the New World were discovered 2. It is not that they were unfit for cattle, for millions of cattle now run wild there; and the like holds good of Australia and New Zealand. It is a curious circumstance, in fact, that the animals and plants of the Northern Hemisphere are not only as well adapted to live in the Southern Hemisphere as its own autochthones, but are, in many cases, absolutely better adapted, and so overrun and extirpate the aborigines. Clearly, therefore, the species which naturally inhabit a country are not necessarily the best adapted to its climate and other conditions. The inhabitants of islands are often distinct from any other known species of animal or plants (witness our recent examples from the work of Sir Emerson Tennent, on Ceylon), and yet they have almost always a sort of general family resemblance to the animals and plants of the nearest mainland. On the other hand, there is hardly a species of fish, shell, or crab common to the opposite sides of the narrow isthmus of Panama. Wherever we look, then, living nature offers us riddles of difficult solution, if we suppose that what we see is all that can be known of it. But our knowledge of life is not confined to the existing world. Whatever their minor differences, geologists are agreed as to the vast thickness of the accumulated strata which compose the visible part of our earth, and the inconceivable immensity of the time the lapse of which they are the imperfect but the only accessible witnesses. Now, throughout the greater part of this long series of stratified rocks are scattered, sometimes very abundantly, multitudes of organic remains, the fossilised exuviae of animals and plants which lived and died while the mud of which the rocks are formed was yet soft ooze, and could receive and bury them. It would be a great error to suppose that these organic remains were fragmentary relics. Our museums exhibit fossil shells of immeasurable antiquity, as perfect as the day they were formed; whole skeletons without a limb disturbed; nay. the changed flesh, the developing embryos, and even the very footsteps of primaeval organisms. Thus the naturalist finds in the bowels of the earth species as well defined as, and in some groups of animals more numerous than, those which breathe the upper air. But, singularly enough, the majority of these entombed species are wholly * [See page 60 Notc.]
distinct from those that now live. Nor is this unlikeness without its rule and order. As a broad fact, the further we go back in time the less the buried species are like existing forms; and, the further apart the sets of extinct creatures are, the less they are like one another. In other words, there has been a regular succession of living beings, each younger set, being in a very broad and general sense, somewhat more like those which now live. It was once supposed that this succession had been the result of vast successive catastrophes, destructions, and re-creations en masse; but catastrophes are now almost eliminated from geological, or at least palaeontological speculation; and it is admitted, on all hands, that the seeming breaks in the chain of being are not absolute, but only relative to our imperfect knowledge; that species have replaced species, not in assemblages, but one by one; and that, if it were possible to have all the phenomena of the past presented to us, the convenient epochs and formations of the geologist, though having a certain distinctness, would fade into one another with limits as undefinable as those of the distinct and yet separable colours of the solar spectrum. Such is a brief summary of the main truths which have been established concerning species. Are these truths ultimate and irresolvable facts, or are their complexities and perplexities the mere expressions of a higher law
A large number of persons practically assume the former position to be correct. They believe that the writer of the Pentateuch was empowered and commissioned to teach us scientific as well as other truth, that the account we find there of the creation of living things is simply and literally correct, and that anything which seems to contradict it is, by the nature of the case, false. All the phenomena which have been detailed are, on this view, the immediate product of a creative fiat and, consequently, are out of the domain of science altogether.
Whether this view prove ultimately to be true or false, it is, at any rate, not at present supported by what is commonly regarded as logical proof, even if it be capable of discussion by reason; and hence we consider ourselves at liberty to pass it by, and to turn to those views which profess to rest on a scientific basis only, and therefore admit of being argued to their consequences. And we do this with the less hesitation as it so happens that those persons who are practically conversant with the facts of the case (plainly a considerable advantage) have always thought fit to range themselves under the latter category.
The majority of these competent persons have up to the present time maintained two positions— the first, that every species is, within certain defined limits, fixed and incapable of modification; the second, that every species was originally pro