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A DISTINGUISHED American scholar has recently put forth the following declaration respecting the subject discussed in the present volume:
“It has been supposed that the first introduction of man into the midst of this prepared creation was distant six or seven thousand years from our day, and we had hoped to be able to read the record of his brief career even back to its beginning; but science is now accumulating so rapidly, and from so many quarters, proofs that the current estimate of his existence must be greatly lengthened out, - even perhaps many times multiplied, that universal acceptation of this conclusion is not, it appears, much longer to be avoided."
The opinion here expressed is - it may be safely said that entertained by a large class of professedly scientific, semi-scientific, and literary men of the day; that is, judging from the yearly reports of the meetings of the various scientific bodies, American and European, and papers frequently found in certain prominent quarterlies and other periodicals.
The object of the present volume is to show what science does teach in regard to the antiquity of man on earth.
Science, in its true sense, is based on actual facts and established principles; and a scientific conclusion is one that is fairly deduced from such facts and principles, though it is admitted that the words " science” and “ scientific” have an appropriate use in connection with supposed facts, or in reasoning about things that are confessedly only probable, or possible. And there is no objection to the phrase “scientific speculation;" for every science has connected with its true domain a marginmore or less wide — within which all things are, to say the least, not settled, and in which she must be allowed to speculate with the utmost freedom. It is only by allowing this freedom that the domain of true and real science can be enlarged. But always and everywhere great caution is to be observed in regard to taking a fact or principle belonging to this doubtful margin within the field of true science. The non-observance of this caution, it is well known, has been the occasion of endless and bitter disputes among scientific men.
Another caution is needed in this connection. In adducing scientific evidence in any discussion, it should be kept. in mind that it makes a difference whether the alleged facts are derived from the speculative margin of the science concerned, or from its positive domain ; e. g., when a demonstrated fact in astronomy or chemistry is brought forward, it should have the weight of scientific truth ; but when the alleged fact is a part of some theory or hypothesis not yet established, it certainly is not entitled to the same weight. Is not this principle, though so very obvious, often overlooked in so-called scientific reasoning?
Has it not especially been overlooked in the discussions of the subject treated of in this volume ?
This suggests another important fact, viz., that indicated by the very common and trite remark, --so common that an apology almost is required for introducing it,
that all the sciences harmonize among themselves ; that · one science can not conflict with another; that a truth
in one of her departments is consistent with all truth in every other department.
Science! Scientific KNOWLEDGE! Not supposition ! Knowledge of things in heaven above, in the earth be
neath, and the waters under the earth! Knowledge of , God, of angels, demons, and men! Knowledge of matter
and spirit! Knowledge, in short, of whatever can be known in this wide universe, whether connected with matter or mind, or the abstract principles of things! It is
true that there are things in the universe — or it is proba-- ble there are — respecting which so little is known that
they have not yet been assigned their true place in the realm of science. But in general, it may be said that the realm of science embraces the whole universe. But this universe is one, having one Author, and all its parts constituting one harmonious whole; and these parts, as represented in the various sciences, properly understood, perfectly harmonize with each other.
When Alexander's generals first saw the river Indus in the far east, they supposed it to be identical with the Nile, with which they were familiar in the west. This was in accordance with the well-known principle of the human mind to generalize all its knowledge. It was well enough, only they were a little hasty in their generalization. It is true the Nile and the Indus belong to the same system, as we may say, the facts connected with them being discussed by the same science. Does not this incident often find a parallel in the scientific speculations that have been recorded since the time of Alexander to the present day? How often is the gap between a meager premise and the conclusion as wide as that between the Indus and the Nile ! — the interval being unexplored, and as unknown as was that which separated those ancient rivers. The · literature of the subject discussed in the present volume abounds in such cases. * In order that the importance, drift, and application of these general remarks may be appreciated, a few specifications are called for.
* It has been said that all the sciences are parts of one whole, and consequently must harmonize together; that the facts of one science, rightly interpreted, can not conflict with those of another. This being the case, it follows that no one science has a right to decide a point, or regard a point as decided, – though it be clearly within her domain,- until she has obtained the concurrence of all her sister sciences.
As illustrative of this principle, let us take one or two obvious cases.
Philology, according to some of her students, says the great diversity of languages proves that these languages could not have had a common origin, or that the great diversity in the languages spoken by mankind proves the plural origin of the human races; and with a parade of facts makes out a plausible argument. But here other sciences, as ethnology, mythology, physiology, and natural history in some of her departments, step in and claim a right to have a voice in the discussion. Ethnology and mythology prove, or render highly probable, e. g, the common origin of the Semitic nations with those called Indo-European, and the same with other peoples speaking. diverse languages, affording strong analogical ground for extending the argument to all mankind; and physiology and natural history claim that they prove the common origin of the human race. On whichever side the weight of argument may be thought to be by the opposing advo