« AnteriorContinuar »
we shall surely be enabled to trace in an admirable manner the former migrations of the inhabitants of the whole world. Even at present, by comparing the differences between the inhabitants of the sea on the opposite sides of a continent, and the nature of the various inhabitants on that continent in relation to their apparent means of immigration, some light can be thrown on ancient geography. The noble science of Geology loses glory from the extreme imperfection of the record. The crust of the earth with its imbedded remains must not be looked at as a well-filled museum, but as a poor collection made at hazard and at rare intervals. The accumulation of each great fossiliferous formation will be recognised as having depended on an unusual concurrence of favourable circumstances, and the blank intervals between the successive stages as having been of vast duration. But we shall be able to gauge with some security the duration of these intervals by a comparison of the preceding and succeeding organic forms. We must be cautious in attempting to correlate as strictly contemporaneous two formations, which do not include many identical species, by the general succession of the forms of life. As species are produced and exterminated by slowly acting and still existing causes, and not by miraculous acts of creation; and as the most important of all causes of organic change is one which is almost independent of altered and perhaps suddenly altered physical conditions, | namely, the mutual relation of organism to organism,_ the improvement of one organism entailing the improvement or the extermination of others; it follows, that the
amount of organic change in the fossils of consecutive
formations probably serves as a fair measure of the
relative though not actual lapse of time. A number of species, however, keeping in a body might remain for a long period unchanged, whilst within the same period several of these species by migrating into new countries and coming into competition with foreign associates, might become modified; so that we must not overrate the accuracy of organic change as a measure of time.
In the future I see open fields for far more important
researches. Psychology will be securely based on the foundation already well laid by Mr. Herbert Spencer, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Much light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history. Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual. When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Cambrian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled. Judging from the past, we
may safely infer that not one living species will transmit its unaltered likeness to a distant futurity. And of the
species now living very few will transmit progeny of any kind to a far distant futurity; for the manner in
which all organic beings are grouped, shows that the
greater number of species in each genus, and all the species in many genera, have left no descendants, but have become utterly extinct. We can so far take a
prophetic glance into futurity as to foretell that it will be the common and widely-spread species, belonging to the larger and dominant groups within each class, which will ultimately prevail and procreate new and dominant species. As all the living forms of life are the lineal descendants of those which lived long before the Cambrian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken, and that no cataclysm has desolated the whole world. Hono ~~ we may look with some confidence to a secure future of great length. And as natural selection works solely (2 by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and | mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection. --> It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the A largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life, and from use and disuse: a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life,
with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.
ABERRANT-Forms or groups of animals or plants which deviate in important characters from their nearest allies, so as not to be easily included in the same group with them, are said to be aberrant.
ABERRATION (in Optics).-In the refraction of light by a convex lens the rays passing through different parts of the lens are brought to a focus at slightly different distances, this is called spherical aberration; at the same time the coloured rays are separated by the prismatic action of the lens and likewise brought to a focus at different distances, this is chromatic aberration.
ABNORMAL.-Contrary to the general rule.
ABORTED.—An organ is said to be aborted, when its development has been arrested at a very early stage.
ALBINISM.–Albinos are animals in which the usual colouring matters characteristic of the species have not been produced in the skin and its appendages. Albinism is the state of being an albino.
ALGA.—A class of plants including the ordinary sea-weeds and the filamentous fresh-water weeds.
* I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. W. S. Dallas for this Glossary, which has been given because several readers have complained to me that some of the terms used were unintelligible to them. Mr. Dallas has endeavoured to give the explanations of the terms in as popular a form as possible. 307