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The Factors of Organic Evolution

Paperback - 10 January 2018
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Description

Within the recollection of men now in middle life, opinion concerning the derivation of animals and plants was in a chaotic state. Among the unthinking there was tacit belief in creation by miracle, which formed an essential part of the creed of Christendom; and among the thinking there were two parties, each of which held an indefensible hypothesis. Immensely the larger of these parties, including nearly all whose scientific culture gave weight to their judgments, though not accepting literally the theologically-orthodox doctrine, made a compromise between that doctrine and the doctrines which geologists had established; while opposed to them were some, mostly having no authority in science, who held a doctrine which was heterodox both theologically and scientifically. Professor Huxley, in his lecture on "The Coming of Age of the Origin of Species," remarks concerning the first of these parties as follows: - "One-and-twenty years ago, in spite of the work commenced by Hutton and continued with rare skill and patience by Lyell, the dominant view of the past history of the earth was catastrophic. Great and sudden physical revolutions, wholesale creations and extinctions of living beings, were the ordinary machinery of the geological epic brought into fashion by the misapplied genius of Cuvier. It was gravely maintained and taught that the end of every geological epoch was signalised by a cataclysm, by which every living being on the globe was swept away, to be replaced by a brand-new creation when the world returned to quiescence. A scheme of nature which appeared to be modelled on the likeness of a succession of rubbers of whist, at the end of each of which the players upset the table and called for a new pack, did not seem to shock anybody.

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