« PreviousContinue »
prove that Man is either the lineal descendant from the Gorilla, or the progeny of a common stirps.
His book is divided into three parts :
Part I. is a pleasant treatise “On the Natural History of the Man-like Apes,”—the evident intention of which is, to awaken an interest in his subject in the mind of the public, and prepare it for a favorable reception of his views. In regard to it we have nothing to say.
Part III. treats of the immense antiquity of some fossil remains of Man, with a view to establish the existence of a preAdamite race, holding a middle position between men and apes. As the same subject is more fully treated by Sir Charles Lyell, in his “Antiquity of Man,” we will reserve our strictures on that head till we come to review his work.
Part II. of Mr. Huxley's book is by far the most important part, and contains all the evidence and the argument by which he attempts to establish his proposition. We shall therefore deal with this portion only,- the first Part being merely introductory, and the last, an application of his peculiar views,
Mr. Huxley opens his subject with these imposing words :
“The question of questions for mankind,—the problem which underlies all others, and is more deeply interesting than any other,—is the ascertainment of the place which Man occupies in nature, and of bis relation to the universe of things. Whence our race has come ; what are the limits of our power over nature, and of nature's power over us; to what goal we are tending ;-are the problems which present themselves anew, and with undiminished interest, to every man born in the world."-page 71.
This statement is undoubtedly true in regard to Man's position as an intellectual and spiritual being ; but it is in no manner true in regard to his anatomical position in the Animal Kingdom, as determined by his structural affinities to the brutes,—which is the only view of the question taken by Mr. Huxley.
lle not only rejects from this question all recognition of Man's existence as a spiritual being, which alone gives it importance, but he also speaks, with ill-concealed contempt, of that Revelation which his spiritual nature demands, and which human reason declares to be the only source from which any positive information can be derived in regard to the origin of our race, and the goal to which we are tending. It would seem to be a self-evident truth, that no power, save the Creator, can reveal the secret of man's origin, or his future destiny. Whether he has made such a revelation or not, is a fair subject for argument; but if He has not, then we must necessarily be satisfied to remain in ignorance, for human investigation is incompetent to solve the problem.
Mr. Huxley gives us to understand, at the outset, that his effort is antagonistic to Revelation, and seems to think that his scepticism redounds to the credit of his originality as a scientific investigator. In connection with the passage above quoted, he adds :
“Most of us, shrinking from the difficưlties and dangers which beset the seeker after original answers to these riddles, are contented to ignore them altogether, or to smother the investigating spirit, under the feather-bed of respected and respectable tradition. But, in every age, one or two restless spirits, blessed with that constructive genius which can only build on a secure foundation, or cursed with the mere spirit of scepticism, are unable to follow in the well-worn and comfortable track of their forefathers and contemporaries, and, unmindful of thorns and stumbling blocks, strike out into paths of their own."
He thinks the importance of such an inquiry as he proposes, is intuitively manifested by the “sudden and profound mistrust of time-honored theories and strongly-rooted prejudices,” awakened in the least thoughtful man when“ brought face to face with these blurred copies of himself,”—the man-like A pes; but," for all who are acquainted with the recent progress of the anatomical and physiological sciences,” such mistrust of honored theories and dim suspicion of man's true position in nature, become conclusions from a “ vast argument fraught with the deepest consequences.”
No lover of truth has a right to complain of the most searching investigation into any matter which legitimately belongs to the domain of science, even if such investigation has a tendency to overturn our most cherished convictions and pre-conceived views of revealed Truth. But when the investigator goes out of his way to attack our convictions and destroy our faith in Revelation, by invoking the aid of science in support of his own speculations, he ought not to complain if his facts and his argument are also subjected to a destructive analysis ; and if his bantling cannot survive such a process, he must be content to see it perish.
If Mr. Huxley can prove that Man came not from the hand of his Creator, as a finished master-piece which was afterwards degraded through the machinations of the Devil,—but that he is the gradual development of a Marmoset, through a long series of monkies, baboons, and “man-like Apes,” till, at last, he finds his immediate progenitor in the Gorilla, --if he can prove this, we must be content to acknowledge this origin, however ignominious, and however subversive it may be of Revelation. But it behoves us to examine, with the most jealous care, the so-called scientific grounds on which such an hypothesis is based, for it involves far more than the bare question of the origin of Man. Its establishment involves the destruction of the doctrine of the Fall of Man by sin, and of his restoration by Christ, which is doubtless one of those doctrines referred to by our author as “tolerable chiefly on account of the ignorance of those by whom it was accepted.” Besides this, it is subversive of many other “respectable traditions,” “time-honored theories and deeply rooted prejudices,” with which the wisest and purest of mankind in every age have been persistently and consistently deluded, from the dawn of history, till 1863, when Mr. Huxley arose to dissipate, with the torch of science, these mists of ignorance and delusion.
We are pot called upon for any countervailing argument in support of Revelation, for the burthen of proof rests entirely with Mr. Huxley, both as regards the falsity of the Scriptures and the truth of his own proposition. Our task is a plain one; it is to carefully sift the facts and to rigidly scrutinize the argument which he advances. The task is enhanced in importance, while at the same time it is mingled with melancholy regret, by the fact that thousands of young men, who will never see these pages, will continue to read this popular volume, and will readily accept its scientifie sophistry, as a conclusive argument against that revealed Law to which their unchastened pride of reason refuses to be subject, solely “because the carnal mind is enmity to God." The truth of this divine declaration is fully attested by the personal experience of every thoughtful moral man, whatever may be his views of Revelation.
The philosophical question propounded in the opening words of our author, is indeed a most important one, for it embraces Man's advent upon this earth, his proper relation to the rest of the universe, his present moral dignity and his future destiny. But the subject is divested of all its grandeur, and assumes an entirely different aspect, the moment Mr. Huxley attempts its consideration. We learn, with infinite surprise, that this momentous question is to be settled solely by the aid of the “scalpel,” and that Man's true place in nature, involving, as it necessarily does, his moral relations and future destiny, is to be determined by his anatomical position in a system of Classification. He assumes that structural affinities are proofs of identity of nature, and that structural differences between animals classified in the same Order, are sufficiently accounted for by the doctrine of transmutation of species. He argues that, as Man differs in physical structure from the Monkey tribe no more widely than some members of this extensive family differ from one another, he must be classed in the same Order with them,-and therefore we are bound to conclude that he has been derived from a common origin.
This is truly, as our author asserts, “a vast argument, fraught with the deepest consequences,”—for, if it be a sound one, we must admit that men and brutes are identical as to their nature; that at present they are in different stages of development, but that they are alike tending to the same goal, and advancing to a common destiny.
To this conclusion of “unity of origin of men and brutes," Mr. Huxley arrives, after setting forth numerous anatomical facts in support of his argument, which he constantly repeats in proof of his conclusion. The vastness of such an argument . we freely admit, but we propose to show its entire fallacy.
“ The facts, (says Mr. Huxley,) I believe cannot be disputed; and if so, the conclusion appears to me to be inevitable. But if Man be separated by no greater structural barrier from the brutes than they
are from one another, then it seems to follow. that if any process of physical causation can be discovered, by which the genera and families of ordinary animals have been produced, that process of causation is amply sufficient to account for the origin of Man. In other words, if it could be shown that the Marmosets,* for example, have arisen by gradual modification of the ordinary Platyrhini,t or that both Marmosets and Platyrhini are modified ramifications of a primitive stock, then there would be no rational ground for doubting that man might have originated, in the one case, by the gradual modification of a man-like ape; or in the other cose, as a ramification of the same primitive stock as those apes.”—p. 125.
He asserts that such a process of physical causation has been discovered by Mr. Darwin, and that his hypothesis is just as true as the Copernican theory of the planetary motions.
As Mr. Huxley makes the acceptance of his own conclusions to depend upon the truth of Mr. Darwin's doctrine, we might safely leave the question of man's place in nature to this arbitrament, since we have proved, in the preceding part of this Essay, that this doctrine is a baseless and visionary hypothesis. But Mr. Huxley also rests his conclusion on the anatomical facts which he has set forth in proof of his fundamental proposition,
“That the structural differences which separate Man from the Go. rilla and the Chimpanzee, are not so great as those wbich separate the Gorilla from the lower apes."
Now, we are willing to admit all of Mr. Huxley's anatomical facts, though we shall take large exception to their application ; but we entirely dissent from his “ inevitable” conclusion, as being not only illogical in itself, but also as being a gratuitous corollary appended, inconsequentially, to his argument. We also undertake to prove that the argument itself is of no value in determining the great question propounded ; and that it is not only devoid of scientific merit, but that it is also eminently sophistical.
The first facts cited by Mr. Huxley are those which relate to development. These are introduced, not so much in direct
* Marmoset—a small animal of South America resembling a squirrel, but classed among the monkeys.
+ Platyrhini—(flat-nosed,) a group of South American animals classed among the monkeys.