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THE PRESENT ASPECT OF INQUIRIES AS TO THE INTRODUCTION
OF GENERA AND SPECIES IN GEOLOGICAL TIME.
BY J. W. DAWSON, LL.D., F.R.S., PRINCIPAL OF MCGILL COLLEGE UNIVERSITY.
From an (unpublished) Address before the Natural History Society of Montreal.
'HERE can be no doubt that the theory have myself endeavoured to apply this test
of it which is advocated by Darwin, has Silurian flora of Canada, and have shown greatly extended its influence, especially that the succession of Devonian and Carbonamong young English and American natural- iferous plants does not seem explicable on ists, within the few past years. We now the theory of derivation. Still more recentconstantly see reference made to these theo- ly, in a memoir on the Post-pliocene deposits ries, as if they were established principles, of Canada, now in course of publication in applicable without question to the explana- the Canadian Naturalist, I have, by a close tion of observed facts, while classifications and detailed comparison of the numerous notoriously based on these views, and in species of shells found embedded in our themselves untrue to nature, have gained clays and gravels, with those living in the currency in popular articles and even in Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the coasts of text-books. In this way young people are Labrador and Greenland, shown that it is being trained to be evolutionists without be- impossible to suppose that any changes of ing aware of it, and will come to regard the nature of evolution were in progress; nature wholly through this medium. So but on the contrary, that all these species strong is this tendency, more especially in have remained the same, even in their variEngland, that there is reason to fear that etal forms, from the Post-pliocene period natural history will be prostituted to the until now. Thus the inference is, that these service of a shallow philosophy, and that our species must have been introduced in some old Baconian mode of viewing nature will be abrupt manner, and that their variations quite reversed, so that instead of studying have been within narrow limits and not profacts in order to arrive at general principles, gressive. This is the more remarkable, since we shall return to the mediæval plan of great changes of level and of climate have ocsetting up dogmas based on authority only, curred, and many species have been obliged or on metaphysical considerations of the to change their geographical distribution, most flimsy character, and forcibly twisting but have not been forced to vary more nature into conformity with their require widely than in the Post-pliocene period ments. Thus "advanced” views in science itself. lend themselves to the destruction of science Facts of this kind will attract little attenand to a return to semi-barbarism.
tion in comparison with the bold and attrac In these circumstances the only resource tive speculations of men who can launch of the true naturalist is an appeal to the their opinions from the vantage ground of careful study of groups of animals and plants London journals; but their gradual accumuin their succession in geological time. I lation must some day sweep away the fabric of evolution, and restore our English science with only one to four segments, others with to the domain of common sense and sound as many as fourteen to twenty-six, while a induction. Fortunately also, there are work. great many species have medium or interers in this field beyond the limits of the vening numbers. Now, in the early primorEnglish-speaking world. As an eminent dial fauna, the prevalent Trilobites are at example, we may refer to Joachim Barrande, the extremes, some with very few segments, the illustrious palæontologist of Bohemia, as Agnostus, others with very many, as Paraand the greatest authority on the wonderful doxides. The genera with the medium fauna of his own primordial rocks. In his segments are more characteristic of the later recent memoir on those ancient and curious faunas. There is thus no progression. If crustaceans, the Trilobites,* he deals a most the evolutionist holds that the few-jointed damaging blow at the theory of evolution, forms are embryonic, or more like to the showing conclusively that no such progres- young of the others, then, on his theory, sive development is reconcileable with the they should have precedence, but they are facts presented by the primordial fauna. contemporary with forms having the greatest The Trilobites are very well adapted to such number of joints, and Barrande shows that an investigation. They constitute a well these last cannot be held to be less perfect marked group of animals trenchantly separ- than those with the medium numbers. Furated from all others. They extend through ther, as Barrande well shows, on the princithe whole enormous length of the Palæo- ple of survival of the fittest, the species with zoic period, and are represented by numer- the medium number of joints are best fitted ous genera and species. They ceased alto- for the struggle of existence. But in that gether at an early period of the earth's geo- case the primordial Trilobites made a great logical history, so that their account with mistake in passing at once from the few to nature has been closed, and we are in a con- the many segmented stage, or vice versa, and dition to sum it up and strike the balance of omitting the really profitable condition which profit and loss. Barrande, in an elaborate lay between. In subsequent times they essay of 282 pages, brings to bear on the were thus obliged to undergo a retrogade history of these creatures his whole vast evolution, in order to repair the error caused stores of information, in a manner most con- by the want of foresight, or precipitation of clusive in its refutation of theories of pro- their earlier days. But like other cases of gressive development.
late repentance, theirs seems not to have It would be impossible here to give an quite repaired the evils incurred; for it was adequate summary of his facts and reasoning after they had fully attained the golden mean A mere example must suffice. In the earlier that they failed in the struggle, and finally part of the memoir, he takes up the inodifica- became extinct. “ Thus the infallibility tion of the head, the thorax, and the pygi which these theories attribute to all the acts dium or tail-piece of the Trilobites, in geolo- of matter organizing itself, is gravely comgical time, showing that numerous and re- promised,” and this attribute would appear markable as these modifications are, in not to reside in the trilobed tail, any more structure, in form, and in ornamentation, no than, according to some, in the triple crown. law of development can be traced in them.
In the same manner the palæontologist of For example, in the number of segments or Bohemia passes in review all the parts of joints of the thorax, we find some Trilobites the Trilobites, the succession of their species
and genera in time, the parallel between * Published in advance of the Supplement to Vol.
them and the Cephalopods, and the relaIst of the Silurian System of Bohemia.
tion of all this to the primordial fauna generally. Everywhere he meets with the same so complete, and so marked, that it almost result; namely, that the appearance of new seems as if they had been contrived on purforms is sudden and unaccountable, and that pose to contradict all that these theories there is no indication of a regular progres- teach of the first appearance and primitive sion by derivation. He closes with the fol- evolution of the forms of animal life." lowing somewhat satirical comparison, of This testimony is the more valuable, inaswhich I give a free translation. “In the much as the annulose animals generally, and case of the planet Neptune, it appears that the Trilobites in particular, have recently the theory of astronomy was wonderfully been a favourite field for the speculations of borne out by the actual facts as observed. our English evolutionists. The usual arguThis theory therefore is in harmony with the mentum ad ignorantiam deduced from the reality. On the contrary, we have seen that imperfection of the geological record, will observation flatly contradicts all the indica- not avail against the facts cited by Barrande, tions of the theories of derivation, with refer- unless it could be proved that we know the ence to the composition and first phases of Trilobites only in the last stages of their dethe primordial fauna. In truth, the special cadence, and that they existed as long before study of each of the zoological elements of the Primordial, as that is before the Perthat fauna has shown that the anticipations of mian. Even this supposition, extravagant the theory are in complete discordance with as it appears, would by no means remove all the observed facts. These discordances are the difficulties.
THE INDIAN'S GRAVE.
Where the green leaves mournfully rustle and shake as they drearily wave
And the elk and the antelope fleet come down to the water to drink,
But the Chippewa brave sleeps on-and no more his war-cry is heard;
ALFREDUS REX FUNDATOR.
BY GOLDWIN SMITH.
FEW weeks ago an Oxford College | pure Gothic which marks the Neo-catholic
celebrated the thousandth anniver- reaction in Oxford, and which will perhaps sary of its foundation by King Alfred. hereafter be derided as we deride the classic
The College which claims this honour is mania of the last century, has led Mr. commonly called University College, though Gilbert Scott to erect a pure Gothic its legal name is Magna Aula Universitatis. library, which moreover has nothing in its The name “University College” causes much form to bespeak its purpose, but closely reperplexity to visitors, who are with difficulty sembles a chapel. Over the gateway of the taught by the friend who is lionizing them larger quadrangle is a statue, in Roman costo distinguish it from the University. But tume, of James II., one of the few memothe University of Oxford is a federation of rials of the ejected tyrant, who in his colleges, of which University College is one, course of reaction visited the college and resembling in all respects the rest of the had two rooms on the east side of the quadsisterhood, being, like them, under the federangle fitted up for the performance of ral authority of the University, and retain-mass. Obadiah Walker, the master of the ing only the same measure of college right; college, had turned Papist, and became one conducting the domestic instruction and dis- of the organs of the reaction, in the overcipline of its students through its own offi- throw of which he was involved, the fall of cers, but sending them to the lecture rooms his master and the ruin of his party being of the University Professors for the higher announced to him by the boys singing at teaching, and to the University examina- his window—“ Ave Maria, old Obadiah.” tion rooms to be examined for their degrees. In the same quadrangle are the chambers of The college is an ample and venerable Shelley, and the room to which he was sumpile, with two towered gateways, each moned by the assembled college authorities opening into a quadrangle, its front stretch- to receive, with his friend Hogg, sentence ing along the High Street, on the side op- of expulsion for having circulated an atheisposite to St. Mary's Church. The darkness tical treatise. In the ante-chapel is the of the stone seems to speak of immemorial Aorid monument of Sir William Jones. But antiquity; bnt the style, which is the later the modern divinities of the college are the Gothic so characteristic of Oxford, and so two great legal brothers, Lord Eldon and symbolical of its history, shows that the Lord Stowell, whose colossal statues fraterbuildings really belong to the time of the nally united are conspicuous in the library,
“That building must be very old, whose portraits hang side by side in the Sir," said an American visitor to the master hall, whose medallion busts greet you at the of the college, pointing to its dark front entrance to the common room.
Pass by Oh, no," was the master's reply, “the these medallions, however, into the common colour deceives you ; that building is not room itself, with its panelled walls, red curmore than two hundred years old.” In in- tains, polished mahogany table, and genevidious contrast to this mass, debased but rally cozy aspect, whither after dinner in imposing in its style, the pedantic mania for hall the fellows of the college retire to sip
their wine and taste such social happiness the palmy age of the universities. Then Oxas the rule of celibacy permits. Over that ford gloried in Grosteste, at once paragon ample fireplace, round the blaze of which and patron of learning, church reformer and the circle is drawn in the winter evenings, champion of the national church against stands the marble bust, carved by no mean Roman aggression ; in his learned and pious hand, of an ancient king, and underneath it friend Adam de Marisco; and in Roger are the words Alfredus Rex Fundator. Bacon, the pioneer and martyr of physical
Alas ! both traditions—the tradition that science. Then, with Paris, she was the Alfred founded the University of Oxford, great organ of that school philosophy, wonand the tradition that he founded Univer- derful in its subtlety as well as in its aridity, sity College-are devoid of historical foun- which, though it bore no fruit itself, trained dation. Universities did not exist in the mind of Europe to more fruitful studies, Alfred's days. They were developed cen- the original produce of mediæval Christenturies later out of the monastery schools. dom, though taking its forms of thought When Queen Elizabeth was on a visit to from the deified Stagyrite, and clothing itCambridge a scholar delivered before her self in the Latin language, which, however, an oration, in which he exalted the anti- was so much altered and debased from the quity of his own university at the expense classical language as to become, in fact, a of that of the University of Oxford. The classical and literary vernacular of the midUniversity of Oxford was roused to arms. dle age. Then her schools, her church In that uncritical age any antiquarian wea- porches, her very street corners, every spot pon which the fury of academical patriot- where a professor could gather an audience, ism could supply was eagerly grasped ; and were thronged with the aspiring youth who the reputation of the great antiquary Cam had come up, many of them begging their den is somewhat compromised with regard way out of the dark prison-house of feudalism, to an interpolation in Asser's Life of to what was then, in the absence of printing, Alfred, which formed the chief documentary the sole centre of intellectual light. Then support of the Oxford case. The historic Oxford, which in later times became, from existence of both the English universities the clerical character of the headships and begins with the reign of the scholar king, fellowships, the great organ of reaction, was and the restorer of order and prosperity the great organ of progress, produced the after the ravages of the conquest and the political songs which embodied with wondertyranny of Rufus-Henry I. In that reign ful force the principles of free government, the Abbot of Croyland, to gain money for and sent her students to fight under the the rebuilding of his abbey, set up a school banner of the university in the army of Siwhere we are told Priscan's grammar, Aris- mon de Montfort. totle's logic, with the commentaries of Por- It was in the thirteenth century that Uniphyry and Averroes, and Cicero and Quin-versity College was really founded. The tilian as masters of rhetoric, were taught founder was William of Durham, an English after the manner of the school of Orleans. ecclesiastic who had studied in the UniverIn the following reign a foreign professor, sity of Paris ; for the universities were then, Vacarius, roused the jealousy of the English like the church, common to all the natives monarchy and baronage by teaching Roman of Latin Christendom, then forming, as it law in the schools of Oxford. The thir- were, an ecclesiastical and literary federateenth century, that marvellous and roman- tion which, afterwards broken up by the Refortic age of mediæval religion and character, mation, is now in course of reconstruction mediæval art, mediæval philosophy, was also through uniting influences of a new kind.