Professor Huxley on the Warpath

Duke of Argyll
The Nineteenth Century Jan 1891

[1] On the boundless subject of Religion it is not possible for any man, within the limits of a magazine article, to set forth his whole mind. If those who write such papers have cause to feel this, those who read them have not less occasion to remember it. Misconception is a constant danger. Beliefs which seem to be vehemently repudiated may nevertheless retain some hold when differently expressed. Doctrines which seem to be insisted on with passion may yet not be held without important modifications. These reserves may not be expressed only because the occasion for expressing them did not seem to arise. Large portions of the whole subject may be left out of view. Those which are actually dealt with may be treated, from the accidents of controversy, in a narrow and angry spirit.

It is with a sincere desire to remember all these reasons for caution that I now call attention to the article by Professor Huxley published in this Review for the month of July 1890.1 But, in fall remembrance of the caution, we may fairly say that this article is an open and avowed attack upon Christianity. Nobody has any right to complain of this. But everybody has a right to identify and recognise. it as a fact. That article is not a mere attack upon certain narratives and traditions of the Old Testament, on the ground that they have been incautiously admitted as integral parts of Christian belief, whilst in reality they need not and ought not to occupy any such position. On the contrary, this contention is repudiated ex[2]pressly, and with scorn. Professor Huxley patronises the school which insists on the basest literalism in the interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. He refers to Canon Rawlinson's Bampton Lectures (1859) as asserting ‘that the narratives contained in the canonical Scriptures are free from any admixture of error."2 He praises the justice and candour of the lecturer when he asserts as distinctive of Christianity among the religions of the world, that it claims3 to be historical. He represents him as insisting that Christianity is surely founded ‘upon events which have happened exactly as they are declared to have happened in its sacred books.'4 He further ascribes to the lecturer the argument that the ‘New Testament presupposes the historical exactness of the Old,' and that the demonstration of the ‘falsity' of the Hebrew records, especially in regard to those narratives which are assumed to be true in the New Testament, would be fatal to ‘Christian Theology.' 5 Having thus nailed the colours of Cbristianity to the bare poles of the very barest and narrowest literalism, the Professor jumps and leaps upon this teaching as giving him an easy fulcrum for tearing those colours down. He is enchanted by the reasoning of the Canon. He adopts it with effusion. ‘My utmost ingenuity,' he says, ‘does not enable me to discover a flaw in the argument thus briefly summarised’6 Nor does he conceal the full sweep of' the destructive work which he desires it to accomplish. Not only the whole story of Creation, the whole story of the Fall, the whole story of the Flood, the whole story of Abraham and of any special mission to the Hebrew people, but even the glorious idea and hope of a Messiah–the whole Messianic doctrine which binds the Jewish and Christian Churches–all are relegated to the same category as the Greek myths about Theseus or the Latin st.ories of the regal period of Rome. And as the writers of the New Testament have believed those stories and dwelt upon them, the authority of those writers is denounced as that of a body of men who ‘have not only accepted flimsy fictions for solid truths, but have built the very foundations of Christian dogma upon legendary quicksands.'7

This language–with plenty more of it–is unmistakable. Its tone is that of the whole article. It must be accepted, therefore, as a pronounced attack upon Christianity all along the line.

I do not stop to inquire whether the doctrines of Biblical interpretation which he ascribes to two eminent divines of the Church of England are, or are not, fair and correct summaries of their teaching. Fortunately, on this subject we are not at the mercy of any individual divines whether living or dead. The Christian Church, with its long and varied history of nearly two thousand years, has never been committed to it. The doctrine indeed of verbal inspiration, though never defined and never authoritatively adopted by any [3] Christian Church, has been often widely prevalent. But even this doctrine is exaggerated, distorted, and made ridiculous by its development in the hands of Professor Huxley. As patronised by him, the law of interpretation applied to some of the most ancient records of our race would exclude all the elements of allegory and of metaphor, of imagery, of parable, and of accommodated presentation. And this, too, when some of these records purport to set before us an idea of the origin of things. The argument is not only illogical but grotesque, that because Christianity claims to be an historical religion, therefore it follows that any accepted narrative attempting to give us some conception of the creative work, must do so in words as literal and prosaic as an account of the execution of Charles the First. 8 Creation, strictly speaking, is inconceivable to us. And yet creation is a fact. The system of visible things in which we live was certainly not the author of itself. If we are capable at all of receiving any mental impression: of its beginnings we can only do so through modes of representation which are charged with allegory. In his own special science no man has declared more clearly than Professor Huxley that the limits of our observation are not the limits of our knowledge Biology, for example, declares as its verdict, after much evidence has been taken, that, as matters now stand, the living is never generated by the not-living. Every form of organic life comes from some other older form which has already been established. But he points out that this has no adverse bearing upon the deductive conclusion that life must have had its first beginning otherwise. On the contrary, he admits that conclusion to be certain. ‘If,' he says, 'the hypothesis of evolution is true, living matter must have arisen from not-living matter."9 I venture to add that whether the theory of evolution be true or false, or whether (as is more likely) it be partly true and partly false, the certainty of this conclusion is not affected. But if that beginning is to be rendered conceivable by us it cannot be expressed in the language of experience. We have no experience to go upon. Of necessity, therefore, the very idea of a beginning must be dealt with in the language of metaphor or allegory. Accordingly even Darwin was compelled to have recourse to the familiar imagery of the Hebrew Scriptures when he had to express his idea of the origin of life. 'There were certain germs, he assumes., into which ‘life was first breathed.' What should we think of the rationality of a man who interpreted Darwin to believe that there was some big Being who originated life by emptying his lungs into certain bits of protoplasmic jelly? Yet this is the law of interpretation which Professor Huxley would impose upon the magnificent symbolism of Genesis. The events described–avowedly transcending the region of experience–must have happened ‘exactly as they are declared to have happened in the sacred books.' When we are told that God said, ‘Let [4] there be light,' we are to interpret this sublime image as an assertion that the Almighty did actually address this sentence in a definite language to the brute elements of chaos. We are to understand that the words thus attributed to the Creator were actual words like the words spoken by King Charles to Bishop Juxon on the scaffold at Whitehall. If we don't believe this, we are to believe nothing whatever coming from writers so unhistorical. In like manner, when we are told of the Almighty walking in an earthly garden ‘in the cool of the day,'10 and when the narrative seems to imply that Adam saw Him and hid, we are to understand this baldly and literally as an actual midday scene in a shady wood somewhere in Western Asia. Such is the childish argument which is to destroy Christian theology–such is the kind of logic in which Professor Huxley cannot, for the life of him, see any flaw. St. John may perhaps be credited with knowing, at least as well as the Professor, what would and what would not be fatal to Christian theology. Yet he does not seem to have been even conscious of the difficulty. Passages even stronger and more definite in the Old Testament, involving hyperbole, metaphor, and imagery, stood nothing in his way. He must have known the famous passage in Exodus11 in which Moses is represented as having spoken with God as a man speaketh with his friend. Yet the Professor's canon of interpretation is unknown to him. ‘No man hath seen God at any time’ is the grand sentence of the Apostle.12 But the extension of this argument to destroy all authority as belonging to the writers in the New Testament is perhaps a still more remarkable illustration of the reasoning which the Professor considers to be faultless. Men who accepted such narratives as those of Genesis are not to be trusted as themselves historically safe. If St. Paul did really believe in those primeval narratives we cannot trust him when he tells us of the light which burst upon him on his way to Damascus, and which changed him from a persecutor of the faith into the great Apostle of the Christian Church. And so of ourselves. If we do not consider ourselves bound to hold that an actual serpent was selected as the most persuasive advocate of evil–if we are disposed to think that there is all the air, and all the most obvious characteristics, of allegory in such words as the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’–if we do not accept it as a literal fact that the rotation of the earth was suspended to keep the Valley of Avalon above the horizon for a longer time than was due to the season of the year, then we are equally bound to distrust the truth of the migration of Abraham, and of the sojourn in Egypt, and of the conquest of Palestine, and of the Babylonish Captivity, and of the stream of prophecy pointing to some great Deliverer not for the Jews only but for all peoples–and of the life and death and teaching of our Lord. The whole argument, I confess, appears to me to be not only illogical, but irrational.

[5] This is a subject, however, of vast extent on which we have no right or reason to expect any special light or guidance from Professor Huxley. Even if he approached it in the careful and cautious spirit in which he has generally dealt with his own noble science of biology, it would not follow that he could deal with it as well. We know the confession which Darwin has made of the effect upon his own powerful mind of exclusive devotion to one class of ideas and to one purely physical pursuit, in rendering him comparatively insensible to the whole class of conceptions which are the warp and woof of the higher branches of philosophy. Even in this article, Professor Huxley tells us that when he tries to follow those who walk delicately among ‘types’ he soon ‘loses his way.’13 This is a strange confession to mke when even in his own special science ‘type’ is one of the most familiar of all words, and when the suggestions connected with it–for example, on the general development of the vertebrate skeleton–are confessedly of the most profound and far-reaching interest. It is still more strange when he himself–walking so delicately as to be most difficult to follow–has tried his hand a the definition of a ‘type.’ It is, he says, a ‘plan of modification of animal form.’14 He tells us he has ‘ a passion for clearness.' Is the above definition perfectly pellucid? All animal form is in itself a ‘plan.' Each modification, we now hear, is another ‘plan.' Is this what he means? And if so, what does he mean by a 'plan"? Does he mean what all other men mean by the word–some mental conception with a view to the future? Or does he mean only some accidental pattern such as a drop of water may leave when it splashes on a window-pane? Then what does be mean by a 'modification'? Does he mean some wonderful adaptation to some special use? And if he does, how does he account for that adaptation arising exactly when and where it is needed? Was it purely accidental? Does he worship at the shrine of the great goddess Fortuity? Where is his ‘passion for clearness' when all these questions are evaded? If he finds such mysteries in a purely physical science., why should he sneer at conceptions also ‘seen through a glass darkly,' in the spiritual regions of belief? He is certainly narrower than the higher aspects even of his own pursuit. But besides the cramping effect of all specialisms when exclusive, Professor Huxley has most clearly approached the subject under the strongest animus. 'The slings and arrows of outrageous' clerics at Church Congresses seem to goad him on. His one desire appears to be, to trample on them. If he can here and there catch some popular divine committing himself to some argument or idea which may be ridden to the death, he hugs it with effusion. He gives it the requisite dressings of his own verbal evolution. Then turning round he endeavours to tie down the whole of Christian theology to ridiculous conclusions under the choppings of a childish logic.

[6] But there is one thing we had a right to expect from Professor Huxley, and that is, that when in the course of his argument he comes across questions of. purely physical science, he should treat ,them as candidly and fairly when they are supposed to bear upon ‘Christian theology' as when he delivers a scientific lecture or writes an article for an encyclopedia. Yet this is just what he has failed to do in the case before us. His canons of biblical interpretation are not more crude and violent than his dealings with the discoveries of geology, and still worse, if possible, his dealings with the things which geology has not yet discovered. I proceed to define and illustrate what I mean.

Professor Huxley selects the story of the Deluge as his particular battle-horse in the fight. He is quite right, and well within his right, in doing so. That story is special in the fact that it purports–to give an account of an event within the limits of human experience, and that in doing so it naxrates occurrences which may to some extent be brought within the cognisance of discovery in more than one branch of physical science. Professor Huxley has a very definite theory as to the origin of the story. He thinks it probably arose out .of some terrible inundation of the two great rivers of Mesopotamia.15 This is quite an intelligible hypothesis, since we know from the facts of our own day, in the case of the Yellow River in China, what an enormous destruction of human life may be caused by river floods bursting in upon low flat plains thickly peopled. But this hypothesis fails to give any adequate explanation of the universality–or nearly so–of the tradition of a great flood among all branches of the human race. The late eminent French scholar Lenormant marshalled and collated the evidence on this subject not long ago, and came to the conclusion that a tradition so widespread, if not actually universal, must have arisen from the memory of some great catastrophe which did actually take place, and had left an indelible impression on the progenitors of every race. Professor Huxley takes no notice whatever of this argument, although the fact on which it rests is fairly stated in a careful and temperate article by Dr. A. Geikie upon the Deluge to which the Professor himself refers.16 No hypothesis which does not take notice of this fact can rest on adequate scientific reasoning.

. The question then naturally arises whether it is or is not possible that there may have been, since the birth of man, some great catastrophe far more widespread than the inundations of any river; and whether the narrative in Genesis of the Flood may not be the account. of this catastrophe–told in its religious aspect, just as the previous narrative of Creation is an account of that (to us) inconceivable operation–told in the same connection–that is to say, in its connection with the final causes of the Divine government and action.

[7] Now in dealing with this question scientifically there are three things which must be done–first, there must be a careful view given of the purely physical phenomena which are really of necessity involved in the form of the narrative in Genesis as it has come down to us; secondly, there must be another view given, as careful and complete, of any conclusions relative to the subject which have been established by geology or by any other branch of the physical sciences; third1y, there must be a frank and free confession of the ignorances of science–of the problems which it sees but which hitherto it has failed to solve, and of the unexhausted possibilities of physical causation which lie wholly unknown behind them. Professor Huxley’s article does not comply with any one of these conditions. He does not state fairly, but on the contrary most unfairly, what the narrative in Genesis does of necessity involve. He does not set forth fairly what are the related facts which geology may claim to have established; whilst–above all–with regard to the ignorances of science, he seems wholly unconscious even of that sober estimate of his favourite agnosticism which true science impresses on us all.

He starts with songs of triumph over the very general abonadonment of the idea that the deluge could have been universal, complete, and simultaneous over the whole glob. He might as well be jubilant over the cognate fact that the six creative days in Genesis are now never thought or spoken of as compelling us to believe that the whole creative work which has been done on our planet since it was in a state of chaos, was a work accomplished within six literal days of twenty-four hours each. Or he might as well shout over the still older movement of thought which divorced the conceptions of the Christian world from the literal language of the geocentric astronomy. It is quite a mercy that Professor Huxley has not trotted out our old friend Galileo again, and has taken refuge in such later and lesser lights as the late Canon William Harcourt, and the still living Canon Rawlinson. But even on this question of the possible universality of a deluge, Professor Huxley takes notice of certain features in the Hebrew narrative which manifest a most curious avoidance of the real scientific objection to a complete and universal deluge, in spite of some language which appears to assert it. It is not true, so far as I know, that any science has proved a universal deluge to be a physical impossibility. In particular, it is not true that there is any deficiency in our existing oceans of a quantity of water adequate–more than adequate–to cover the whole earth. On the contrary, it is a fact that the actual distribution of sea and of dry land on our planet is such that even a comparatively slight elevation of the floor or our oceans, together with some corresponding depression of land, would spill over upon our continents enough water to submerge them completely, and to submerge them all. My distinguished friend Dr. John Murray (of the ‘Challenger’ Expedition) has calculated that [8] there is enough water in our existing seas to cover the whole globe with water more than two miles deep. This is the latest calculation of scientific inquiry, and it is very curious. The fundamental objection to a complete and simultaneous deluge at so late a period of the earth's history, is not physical but biological. It lies in its bearing upon the history and development of organic life. Even this objection applies only to the completeness, and not to the universality, of a deluge. That is to say, biological facts may be perfectly compatible with the partial and contemporaneous submergence of every continent on the globe, but not with any such submergence having ever been total or complete. As regards the lower animals, there must have been, so far as we can reason, other refuges than an ark. There must have been many areas left uncovered. But this necessity is demanded quite as much by the narrative in Genesis as by the scientific evidence of the distribution of life. The repeopling of the deluged earth by ordinary generation requires this absolutely. The universal destruction of all terrestrial life would have necessitated a complete re-creation of all its forms. And yet this is exactly the consequence which the narrative in Genesis definitely excludes. The writer ascribes the subsequent repeopling of the earth, both as regards the lower animals and men, not to any re-creative work, but to ordinary generation. The divine employment of natural means is the dominant idea of the whole narrative. But seeing that the dimensions of the Ark represent a vessel considerably smaller than the ‘Great Eastern,' it is clear that without what are called miracles on the most stupendous scale–which the writer does not seem at all to contemplate–the whole creatures of all the continents of the globe could not have been represented in it, even if they could have been brought together and congregated in one spot in Western Asia. The writer or writers of the narrative in Genesis, or those still older recipients of tradition in whose hands that narrative grew into its present form and through whom it was transmitted, had presumably no more knowledge of the very existence of the new world, or indeed of the extent of the old world, and of the quantity of animal life which swarms upon both, than they had of the nature of the sun or of the orbit of the earth. What they conceived or thought upon this subject has no moral or religious significance. Whether the American mastodon and megatherium, and the European mammoth, and the woolly rhinoceros, and all the other huge Pleistocene mammalia, were. saved at all, even in single couples–whether all the lesser mammalia which have survived, could, or could not, be saved from drowning by the refuge afforded in a single vessel–these are questions which do not seem to have been even thought of. Accordingly the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews does not even take the smallest notice of such questions, or at all events brushing them aside, fixes on the central conception of the whole narrative, the effect of the Deluge upon man, and the per[9]sonal relations between one faithful patriarch and the Almighty Disposer of all events. He tells us that this one man ‘by faith, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house.'17 Here we have the whole essence and purport of the narrative in the Old Testament condensed, and reproduced by a Christian disciple who, whatever his name, is certainly, humanly speaking, one of the most powerful among the writers of the New. It matters nothing to this view of it, whether the Deluge was or was not conceived to be literally universal, complete, and simultaneous. It matters nothing what may or may not have happened at the same time to the kangaroos of Australia, to the moas of New Zealand, to the giraffes and countless antelopes of Central Africa, or to the llama and tapir world of the South American continent.. If there is any good scientific reasoning, as I think there is, which seems to prove that no deluge can have been at once complete, universal, and simultaneous, over the whole globe, then there is no more reason to believe it than there is to believe in the literal interpretation of the passages involving the rotation of the sun round the earth, or the still more striking passages which we have seen so summarily dealt with by St. John.

. Leaving, therefore, Professor Huxley to his jubilations over the geneial abandonment of a Deluge at once complete, universal, and simultaneous, let us see how he proceeds to deal with the alternative of a Deluge which may have been enormously wider than the Mesopotamian Valley, and yet may have been partial only–as regards the whole area of the globe.

The device of the Professor is to assume that belief in any such Deluge must of necessity involve the notion that whilst the existing levels of the land were fixed or unmoved, the waters were heaped up over some portion of it, without any containing banks or walls to keep or hold them in their new position. Over this ridiculous idea he runs riot, and enjoys quite a happy time of it. He shows triumphantly how it contradicts the fundamental laws of hydrostatics, how impossible it is to conceive any agency by which such a heaping up of loose waters could have been effected, and how tremendous must have been the outrush when any (inconceivable) restraints were removed. Now I am not concerned to inquire whether this conception as to the cause of a partial Deluge has or has not been ever formulated, or distinctly pictured, by any human being. Considering the absolute and widespread ignorance of all the physical sciences which prevailed in the world for centuries, it is quite possible that something like this may have been one of the popular ideas concerning the Deluge. It is perfectly natural that it should have been so. That in this world of ours the solid earth is the stable, whilst water is pre-eminently the unstable element, is the universal prepossession of mankind. It is not overcome even in countries where the land is [10] often trembling under earthquakes, or subject to the ravages of volcanic action. Over by far the largest part of the habitable globe, where men.have not even these suggestive experiences to consider, the preconception is insuperable that the land is comparatively steady, and that the sea is the most liable to change. That this preconception should have governed the reasonings of prescientific ages, and of ignorant men of the present. day, is not astonishing. But it is most astonishing indeed to see it patronised by Professor Huxley. The very first lesson of all geological science is to teach us, and to make us familiar with the idea, that in all relative changes between the areas of sea and land, the element of constancy is in the liquid water, and the element of mutability is in the solid earth. The sea is bound by the most rigorous laws to keep its general level. The dry land is under no similar bondage to keep either its general or its local elevation. On the contrary, the same great force which keeps water, with its peculiar properties, in a fixed relation to its supports, is the very force which' ceaselessly tends to make those supports yielding and unsteady. It is true, indeed, that the ocean leans against the land with an attracted bulge. This bulge is not visible to the eye, nor can it., perhaps, be measured by any mechanical instrument. But the mind of man has recognised it as a necessary consequence of the law of gravitation. All land-masses above the water must attract, more or less, the sea–which is beneath them. Independently of this, from ordinary hydrostatic causes, the ocean must always be lipping over along its shores–ever ready, as it were, to take instant advantage of the smallest movement of depression. Deluges, therefore., by submergence are ever on the cards. They are the easiest and most natural.operations in the world. Of course Professor Huxley knows all this, and of course he does not commit himself to any other doctrine. But he does argue against a partial deluge as if it involved of necessity the vulgar error of the sea being raised up and heaped over any area which may have been submerged. This is not ingenuous. What is the value of a scientific argument against any supposed occurrence which rests entirely on a popular delusion as to the physical causes by which that occurrence may have been brought about., whilst the controversialist knows all the time that the very same occurrence might very easily have been brought about by other causes perfectly natural and perfectly easy to conceive? Yet this is the way in which Professor Huxley prances on his selected battle-horse of the Deluge. He elaborates picture after picture of the physical consequences involved in a partial deluge effected by a heaping up of unsupported waters over a fixed and steady land, and then be stamps upon the nonsense which he has himself adopted–in so far at least as it is useful to him, and has intensified where it could be made to be so.

This perverse dwelling upon an absurd physical conception, as a [11] means of raising prejudice, is all the more gratuitous and irrelevant since, wherever else it came from, it certainly did not come from any description contained in the Hebrew narrative. On the contrary, one of the most salient and even mysterious characteristics of that narrative is that it is absolutely inconsistent with the idea of sudden, violent, and torrential action. Professor Huxley himself in the midst of his strained denunciation of what must have been involved in any partial deluge, stumbles on the fact that the Hebrew narrative assumes a rate of movement so slow and gradual that ‘if it took place in the sea, would be overlooked by ordinary people on the shore.’18 I say he stumbles upon it, because he mentions it only in so far as it comes handy for the purpose of showing the inconsistencies of the popular notions of heaped-up waters upon a steady land. But he does not deal with it or consider it in its true connection–namely, as showing that this popular notion finds no support in the Hebrew narrative. Dr. Geikie's early paper on the Deluge, written not lately but some thirty years ago, stands, as, regards this, in creditable contrast with the heedless representations of Professor Huxley. Dr. Geikie did, indeed, fall apparently into the same strange error of holding that every partial deluge must of necessity have involved a universal one, an argument which rests wholly on the notion that any such deluge must have been caused by a heaping up of water over a stationary land. But Dr. Geikie, with characteristic sagacity, emphasises and dwells upon the fact that the Hebrew narrative does not suppose any violent or convulsive action, and that in this respect the popular imagination of it has been quite unjustified..19 But even Dr. Geikie's paper, fair and candid as it intended to be, does not point out the unquestionable conclusion, that the whole idea of the narrative in Genesis assumes a deluge caused by a slow and gradual subsidence of the land, and not caused by any capture of it by some sudden assault and battery of the sea. This conclusion does not depend on the true meaning of archaic and obscure expression, such as the ‘breaking up of the fountains of the great deep,' which are almost incapable of an exact physical interpretation. It depends on the structure of the whole narrative, and on the incidents which it includes. Its importance does not lie in any question touching the sources of that narrative, or the conceptions entertained by those who have handed it down. Its importance depends on the suggestion which arises out of it, whether intended or not, that the physical impossibility of a partial deluge is an argument founded on the most ignorant of all preconceptions, and is demonstrably the grossest of all delusions. That there cannot have been partial subsidences of the crust of the earth–even on an enormous scale–would indeed be an ignorant proposition, contradicted alike by theory and observation.

But here we come to another branch of the subject, on which, if [12] anywhere, we had a right to expect from Professor Huxley something better than the most loose and yet the most dogmatic declamation. This branch is that which deals with the actual discoveries of modem science, so fax as they bear upon the question. Geology is a science which has made such rapid and enormous progress during a period spanned by the extreme measure of a single human life, that we are all apt to be a little drunk with our own success. And yet that progress has been marked by incidents which should make us sober. The field, though a small one, on which its victories have been achieved, is strewn with the bodies of the slain. Dead theories and abandoned speculations lie thick upon the ground, whilst some of the most mischievous preconceptions still encumber the progress of inquiry. One of the first great general conceptions which lifted the speculations of mere cosmogony to the dignity of a science, was the Huttonian theory.20 One part of it was securely true. Another part of it was profoundly false. It was true as regards the continuity of causes. It was false as regards the uniformity of their effects. It was true that the rocks have been built up by the interaction of the forces of elevation, and the forces of degradation and depression. It was true that the causes which heaved the hills, have been ever met and checked by causes which wore them down again. But it was not true that the operation of higher laws is never indicated, or that all we can ascertain is limited to a perpetual see-saw of monotonous repetition. As usual there were many minds which valued the Huttonian theory not for its truths, but mainly for its deficiencies and errors. The school of thought that delights to shut out those fountains of power from which all thought has come, were enchanted with a conception which reduced creation to the dull rounds of mechanical necessity. It was enthusiastic over the famous formula that geology saw ‘no trace of a beginning, no symptom of an end.' In this form it may be called the great hurdy-gurdy theory. Then came the discovery of a clue by which an order of succession could be established in time, and, with time, in the perpetual introduction of new forms of life. Of course the mechanists set to work again, and they are at work still. Lyell supplied them with the only philosophical basis on which they can stand at all, and preached the doctrines of uniformity with immense knowledge and with infinite skill. As in the previous case of the theory of Hutton and of Playfair, much of what he taught was true, whilst the errors and exaggerations of his teachings are now being gradually but surely left behind. ‘The bit by bit theory of our friend Lyell will never account for all our facts’ was the observation made to me one day by Lyell's compatriot, friend, and equal, Sir Roderick Murchison. On this subject happily there is no need of controversy with Professor Huxley. He has himself taken a creditable part in checking extreme opinions and in showing that the doctrine of uniformity, in the only [13] sense in which it can be rationally held, is quite consistent with any amount of catastrophe and convulsion. In fact the recurrence of catastrophe and convulsion may be part and parcel of uniformity itself. And so in like manner when the speculations of Darwin have furnished the mechanists with renewed passion for a new doll, Professor Huxley has hoisted more than once a caution signal. He has uttered a warning voice against converting a scientific hypothesis into a dogmatic creed.

It was high time. The passionate enthusiasm with which an obscure and confused verbal metaphor has been accepted as solving all the mysteries involved in the origin of new forms of organic life, will one day be seen to have been–what it is–only another great warning example of the impediments which beset the progress of knowledge. That the origin of species may be ascribed to something called ‘nature' selecting things which did not as yet exist, and could not therefore have been presented for selection, is among those mysteries of nonsense which are not uncommon in the history of the human mind. But even this delusion, prevalent as it has been, is breaking down, and assaults upon it all too timid though they be, are nevertheless increasing day by day. . I have therefore much sympathy with those who on the whole are reasonably proud of geology as regards its past, and are reasonably hopeful of it as regards its future. But its progress, and even our appreciation of its present teaching, is absolutely dependent on two conditions–first, that we bear constantly in mind the wide seas of ignorance which surround the little islands of our knowledge, and secondly, that we rightly estimate the full sweep and significance of the facts and laws which we can clearly see. It would be difficult to say whether the science has suffered most from forgetfulness of the things that we do not know, or from failure to appreciate or exhaust the consequences flowing from the things we do know. The vision of past worlds which geology presents may be compared to the view of some land seen at a distance upon the ocean, and upon which heavy banks of cloud are resting. Above, mountains and peaks are seen here and there, with outlines cut clear against the sky. Below, capes and headlands and promontories are also seen, cut as clearly against the sea. The middle slopes are only visible at intervals, and some great plains just roughen the verge of the horizon. Bat all details are lost. We do not even know whether we are looking at one continuous land or at a group of islands. Hills which seem united, or separated only by some narrow valley, may be really far apart, and broad channels of the deepest water may lie between them. So it is with the vast landscapes of the past in the revelations of geology. The general outlines of geological causation are clear enough: and so in broad outline, too, is the general succession of organic life. But both the exact history of the rocks, and [14] the exact history of the creatures which they entomb, are beset With mystery. We talk glibly of aqueous deposit as the physical origin of stratification. But we know little indeed of the physical conditions under this agency worked in early times. The scientific naturalists of the ‘Challenger' Expedition report as the result of their investigations that nowhere in the existing world of waters have they found going on anywhere such deposits as are necessary to account for the vast massive accumulations of the Palaeozoic Sandstones.

Before such mountains as those of the Cambrian formation on the north-west coast of Scotland–cut out of the thickness of apparently one continuous deposit–full of the ripple marks of the sea, and yet destitute of life–the theoretical uniformitarian may well stand abashed. Similar difficulties are crowded into the conditions' under which our great storages of carbon were provided for–by repeated elevations and depressions of the land, each elevation giving occasion for the growth of a dense and rich vegetation; and each depression potting it up and preserving it for future use. Similar difficulties beset the equally massive Limestone formations of the Secondary rocks. But even these difficulties are less serious and less profound than those which beset the progress of organic life. Only, in this case there are some great outlines which are clear and definite. We can see that organic life has advanced from less to more–from low to higher levels–from the generalised to the specialised and from various functions performed roughly by some one rude and simple mechanism–to the same functions separated, elevated, and committed to the care of selected and adapted organs. We can see how there is some strange but profound analogy between this magnificent line of march and that along which every living creature goes in its individual growth. Just as the science of embryology has in some measure revealed to us how–that is in what order–'the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child,' so in the embryology of this planet, as revealed to us in the rocks, we can see the steps of a process which is not only analogous but homologous. That is to say, the two pathways are not only vaguely like each other according to some dim resemblance, but are identical as corresponding parts in one plan, and of one intellectual method. We can see that the past ages were full of prophetic germs. We can see the rise, one after another, of structures which were incipient, useless, or comparatively useless for a time, but destined in the future for some splendid service. Our physiologists, and anatomists, and morphologists are wholly unable to resist this evidence when it is their business to describe the facts. The structure of their own mind compels them to admit it, even when they struggle hard to shut their eyes against it.

Few men have used language more expressive of conceptions which agnosticism repudiates, than Professor Huxley himself in his purely scientific writings. In his descriptions of the growth of living [15] things from the ovum to the finished creature, we seem to be listening to a literal reading and exposition of some page out of that book in which all ‘our members were written when as yet there were none of them.' It is surely remarkable that Nature should be so full of the spirit and of the characteristic ideas of Hebrew and of Christian theology. But so it is. In Professor Huxley's instructive work, on the Elements of Comparative Anatomy he is rich in the use of language descriptive of the preparations for that which is to be. Every change that arises in. the mysterious egg-substance is explained, as it can only be explained, by its relations with the future. Does a movement begin in the formless mass, establishing a long cleft or groove? It indicates the position ‘of the future longitudinal axis of the body.; Do the lateral boundaries of this groove at one end of it, ‘grow up into plates’? It is that this end is the end which ‘will become’ the interior region of the body, and these plates are the ‘dorsal laminae.’ Do these dorsal laminae at length unite? It is that they may ‘enclose the future cerebrospinal cavity.’ Does another portion of the mass grow downwards instead of up? It is that it may ‘form the vertical laminae,’ with a function in the future not less essential. 21 One thing can only be understood when it is conceived as ‘laying the foundations’ of another.22 A second thing can only be understood as ‘pre-shadowing’ the form and relations23 of a third, and so on throughout. Nor does Professor Huxley confine this great principle of interpretation to the development of the individual. foetus. This governing idea–of referring all organic growth to the work of preparation and prevision, he extends to the whole history of life since it first began. He quotes with approbation, and adopts the grand generalisation of John Hunter, that organisation is not the cause of life, but life is the, cause of organisation. Immense consequences are involved in this conception. Organism are the habitations and the homes of life, but life must build them before it can settle in them and take possession.. An organ is a structure for the discharge of function, but it must be shaped and made before the function can be discharged. This luminous idea sends its searching light through and through the stupidities which confound between things made for use and things that are said to be made by use. .Use as an intellectual aim must precede use as a physical cause. And so the prophetic interpretation of foetal development becomes the only possible interpretation of all organic growth so far as it is known to us. Accordingly Professor Huxley interprets the whole history of the vertebrate skeleton, and especially of the vertebrate skull., as the development of a ‘plan.' This is the word he has selected, and which he uses over and over again. A plan–we must repeat–is not a mere pattern, which may arise by accident; it is a construction of which all the leading component elements are [16] parts of one general conception having reference to a future. Such a plan, he tells us, can, be traced and identified in all skulls, from the skull of a pike to the cranium of a man. The immense differences which mask this unity of plan are due to successive adaptive modifications, with which, in all their wide extent, the original plan was destined from the very first to work in harmony.

These are grand conceptions. They are scientific conceptions in the highest sense of that word, because they bring phenomena into harmonious relations with the highest faculties of the human mind. They are the conceptions which confer all its dignity and interest on geology, and on the affiliated sciences of palaeontology and comparative anatomy. Although in one sense highly ideal, and in the best sense metaphysical, they are yet strictly literal, and absolutely true to fact. Hence Professor Huxley most truly asserts that the doctrine of ‘all bony skulls being organised upon a common plan' is a simple generalisation of the observed facts of cranial structure.24 It is curious that many of those who use these conceptions for the purposes of description immediately turn round and repudiate them for the purposes of philosophy. But the language which embodies them can only be useful for the purposes of explanation by reason of the similitudes which they involve between our own mental operations and those which are obvious in nature. Yet these very similitudes and intellectual homologies are most distasteful to the agnostic school; and very often, even in the mere work of description, every device is resorted to keep them out of sight. Thus some movements of the nervous and muscular apparatus in animals which involve the most complicated adjustments, are constantly spoken of as mere ‘reflex action'–as if they could be compared with the mere reflection–or bending back–of light from water, or of sound from a wall. So again ‘differentiation' is perpetually used to describe the processes preparation by which the building up of special organs is accomplished–just as if these wonderful processes could be described by a word which is equally applicable to the processes of corruption and decay. There is no disloyalty to truth so insidious as that which leads us to sin in this way against our own intellectual integrity. What our mind sees, we must confess to–at our peril. It may have been a brave thing in Nelson to turn his blind eye to the recalling signal of his admiral. But it is not a brave thing–quite the contrary–in any man to turn a blind eye to the instinctive perceptions of his own intelligence.

Nevertheless, it is possible to be true and faithful to the automatic workings of mind within us when it recognises and identifies the methods of its own vaster image in the external world, and yet to be not less true and faithful to our consciousness of ignorance. The great thing to do is to put our agnosticism not in the wrong, but in [17] the right, place. We may well rejoice in the clear and grand vision we have obtained through science, of organic life having been developed through unnumbered ages on lines which do in themselves constitute a 'plan.' We may rejoice with the truest intellectual delight in our perception of the relation which this plan bore, from the beginning, to the future in creation. We may admire without ceasing the combination in this plan between an obvious fundamental unity and a not less obvious fundamental subordination to endless change–wherever new needs had to be met and new functions had to be discharged. All this is science, and science of the highest quality. But the sense of it is compatible with a constant remembrance of the enormous gaps in our knowledge which remain unfilled. That which always we are most curious to know, remains always also unexplained. Geology has told us of a succession in the forms of life; but it has as yet told us nothing as to the methods by wbich this succession was brought about. There are, indeed, so-called ‘links’ but the links are never within each other's touch. The ‘imperfection of the record' is blamed for this. But there are portions of the record which seem continuous and complete–portions of time which were long enough to see the introduction of new species–and yet the mystery remains unsolved. In the Lias, for example, and in some other formations, we have beds of great thickness following each other in orderly and undisturbed succession. New shells appear in turn, and yet we never see how or whence they came. My friend Mr. Robert Etheridge, F.R.S.,F.G.S.,25 informs me that there is one bed no thicker than an ordinary mantelpiece in which a peculiar ammonite appears, and never appears again. So it is throughout the record, wherever it is accessible to us. New forms come like apparitions, and like apparitions they also go. We do not know where such new forms have arisen, nor how. We do know that the whole series must have begun somewhere, and at some time, in some initial operation which was not that of ordinary generation. We do not know that this initial operation has never been repeated, or, if it has been repeated, how often, or under what special conditions.

The abstract dicta–the vague verbal propositions–on the strength of which the possibility of this repetition has been denied, are splendid specimens of those cobwebs of the brain which used to entangle thought in the meshes of the scholastic philosophy. The ‘Law of Parsimony' is the ambitious phrase under which theorists have hid the stupid notion that what Nature does once she never repeats again, or that results which she has obtained by one method at some one time must never be compassed by the same method again. Hear how magniloquently the great agnostic Professor sets forth this marvellous dogma:–‘If all living beings have been evolved from pre-existing forms of life, it is enough that a single particle of living [18] should have once appeared upon the globe) as the result of no matter what agency. In the eyes of a consistent evolutionist any farther independent formation of protoplasm would be sheer waste.’26 This is very grand. The limitation of the possibilities of creation by the vision of a ‘consistent evolution’ is delicious. It reminds one of the American joke that the planets revolve round the sun, ‘always subject to the constitootion of the United States.’ But, unfortunately for the dogma, it renounces the testimony of facts, whilst sounder reasonings upon them are dead against it. Nature is economical, but she is not miserly. The prodigality of Nature is more conspicuous than her parsimony. The habitual expenditure and repetition of all her processes is at least more clear to us than her refusals to repeat them. Her fondness for identity of principle in all her various operations is more pervading than her casting aside of any method merely because it has been used already. That bits of living protoplasm with inconceivably complex potentialities within them, should have been called into being once, and that nothing similar should ever have been done again, may possibly be true. But it is not according to analogy, and we cannot accept it on the authority of Professor Huxley. Still less can so weighty a conclusion be hung securely on a gossamer structure of abstract and empty words.

But now–if Nature has indeed never stopped her operations at any one time–if they have been, on the contrary, always continuous in unity of plan amidst every change in method, then it follows that we do not know how often new germs may have been introduced and may have had their full development accelerated by processes of comparatively short duration. Darwin, in a passage but little noted, has thought of this. He speaks of stages of development being possibly ‘hurried through.'27 We see this actually done in the living world, although we do not often think of it as we ought. It is done in all the mysterious phenomena of metamorphosis. A comparatively low and simple organism goes to sleep, and in a few weeks–or a few days, or even, it may be, in a few hours–it awakes entirely re-formed, reconstructed, provided with new organs, and fitted for absolutely new spheres of activity and life. We do not 'know whether this method of creation may not have been repeated over and over again with abiogenic germs–just as it is now repeated in an infinite variety of forms among the germs which are biogenic. I am contending now for a true and honest agnosticism, and not for any theory. We do not know that inheritance by descent is the only possible, or the only actual, cause of likeness and homologies in organic structure. It is not the cause of it as regards the inorganic world, and it may not be the only cause of it in those houses which have been made out of inorganic materials to be the abodes of life. [19] It is indeed not possible that inheritance can be the only cause of likeness–if it be granted that the first starting-point of development must have been in germs which had no organic parent. On the other hand, we can be quite certain of the reason why organs should be made like each other, although we cannot be sure of the physical causes through which exclusively this likeness must be brought about. The reason is that certain needs must be met by appropriate apparatuses–vital, chemical, and mechanical. Extraneous matter must be assimilated, weight must be supported, circulating fluids must be supplied with oxygen, light must be caught upon adapted surfaces, and must be transmitted through focussed lenses, if sight is to be enjoyed. And so on., The Why is within our knowledge. The How is most doubtful and most obscure. Geology, above all other sciences, impresses this ignorance upon us–even as regards some of the simplest of her operations. Sometimes it is difficult to understand the conditions of original deposit. Very often it is still more difficult to understand the conditions of denudation or removal. The great earth-movements which have certainly taken place are full of mystery depressions and elevations, the cracks and ‘faults’ which dislocated the strata, the ‘downthrows,’ sometimes of thousands of feet, which have cut across the rocks as sharply as if the cutting had been effected by a knife, the overthrows and the overthrusts, the sinkings and the underthrusts, which have inverted the order of original formation, the metamorphism which has obliterated original structure here, and has left it wholly unaltered there; the vast thicknesses which are destitute of the remains of life, in juxtaposition perhaps with some one thin bed which is crowded with them; the methods by which, and the times during which, old forms of life have been destroyed, and new forms have been introduced–all these, and a thousand others, are questions on which our ignorance is profound.

Now it is a remarkable fact that all these difficulties are, as it were, multiplied and accentuated in that very period which is nearest to us–that period which was marked by the very latest changes of which geology has any cognisance–I refer to the period which is now generally called Quaternary. It is sharply marked off from previous periods by a strictly scientific definition. Shells, and particularly marine shells., may be called the time-medals of creation. Their comparative indestructibility, and the fact that the element in which their inmates live is the same element which preserves their habitations when they die, make it certain that in them geology keeps her oldest, most complete, and most authentic record. The Quaternary period is defined as that during which innovation was stopped as regards the development of shell-life–during which no new species was born–during which we find, with a few rare exceptions, [20] no shell which is not also an existing and a living species. As regards them, therefore, the Quaternary period is the existing period in the classifications of geology. It is the age in which we ourselves are now living. And yet this is the very period during which the greatest novelty of all seems to have been introduced, for it is in this period that we can first detect the advent of Man. Moreover it is in this period that there seem to have been some of the most mysterious earth-movements of which the science has any glimpse. Great dislocations of strata–great changes in the distribution of land and sea–great destruction of preceding forms of life, are among the familiar conceptions which its best ascertained phenomena suggest. Nor is this all. The vanishing of preceding forms of life in many older periods may have been gradual, and the creatures which disappeared may be supposed to have lived on in their modified descendants. But in our own Quaternary period multitudes of the vanishing beasts seem to have been destroyed by some great destruction, many of them leaving no descendants whatever to represent their antique and abandoned forms. Nature has simply obliterated them, altogether. All these circumstances, and many more, combine to make this present geological period in which we are still living–the Quaternary period–one of the darkest and most mysterious of all. Thus every possible question which is the most difficult in geology seems crowded and aggregated into the age which stands nearest to us, and to which geologically we ourselves belong.

If, then, there is any one of the halls of science into which we should enter with uncovered heads, it is surely that in which the grand problems of Quaternary geology are handled and discussed. If in her great temple there be any pavement on which a true and wise agnosticism would tread with cautious and humble steps, it is upon that which constitutes the threshold of inquiries so complicated as to facts, so difficult as regards the interpretation of them, and so profound in their bearing upon other subjects of the very highest interest and importance. Yet this is the threshold across which Professor Huxley comes tripping on the light fantastic toe. It would be hard to say whether his utterances are most conspicuous for their dogmatism or for their levity. All agnosticism is forgotten, and all sense of ignorance is denied or silenced. After pouring out the vials of his wrath and expending the arrows of his ridicule on a conception of the Deluge which nobody entertains, he turns fiercely on a German author who has ventured to suggest that some catastrophe, greater than any mere floods of the Euphrates and of the Tigris may possibly have happened among the many and obscure changes recorded in Quaternary geology. Professor Huxley seems very anxious to get this idea out of his way. He won't hear of it. He knows all about it, at least for the purposes of denial. He does not argue the question. He does not give any reasons. He simply [21] denies the possibility as of his own authority, and pronounces it to be ‘particularly absurd.'28 This attempt to settle by an ipse dixit what can and what cannot possibly have happened during the great physical changes of the Quaternary age, will never do. Even if it were only on account of our utter ignorance of all details respecting those changes, that ignorance is notorious enough to condemn such an attempt as an offence against all the legitimate methods of science.

But there is worse than this in the sentences which follow. Professor Huxley declares contemptuously that the occurrence of any catastrophe during the Quaternary age such as could give rise to the traditions of a Deluge is an ‘hypothesis which involves only the trifle of a physical revolution of which geology knows nothing.'29 Now here we have a positive assertion; and it is one which can only be met by a contradiction as direct and flat as truth demands, and as the courtesies of literature will allow. Once upon a time in discussion with an illustrious and venerable man, Professor Huxley felt called upon to say that his opponent’s assertions were ‘demonstrably contrary to fact.’30 I may safely assume, therefore, that this is a form recognised by the highest authority as occasionally required even in the calm and lofty debates of science. This, accordingly, is the form of contradiction which I now venture to adopt in meeting the confident assertion of Professor Huxley. I do so, however, declaring emphatically that I have no suspicion whatever that Professor Huxley intended to deceive anybody, whether himself or them. All I am sure of is that if others believe what he says on this matter they will be deceived, and deceived grossly. The explanation lies in the fact, that in the hot pursuit of his theological antipathies, he has made the very simple and natural mistake of confounding ‘geology' with himself. But these two are not identical or convertible terms. He may not have seen–because prejudice has shut his eyes–some things which geology has seen, and seen–very clearly too. He may not know of, or recognise the full import of, facts which geology does know of, and has established. But whether he knows of them or not–whether he' has ever ‘put two and two together' in respect to them–it does so happen that among the difficult problems of Quaternary geology, three great salient conclusions have been established. The first is, that among the very last and latest changes in the history of the globe there was a great extension to the south of the conditions of climate which are known as glacial. The second is, that during part of that time–and almost certainly during the very last part of it–or even since it ended–there was, over some great part at least of the northern hemisphere, a great submergence of the land under the waters of the sea.31 The third is [22] that man had already appeared upon the earth, and had more or less spread upon it, before that late submergence took place, and must, therefore, have been a witness, and may possibly have been a victim, to it. Now the first two of these conclusions are not only ‘known to geology,' but are amongst its most widely accepted doctrines; whilst the third has made great progress and is rapidly taking–if, indeed, it has not already taken–the same place and rank in the category of discovered and admitted truths.

If, then, these three great facts have acquired this position–and even if they be disputed by a few writers, or by Professor Huxley himself–it is ‘demonstrably contrary to fact' to allege that geology ‘knows nothing' of them. The science knows of them so well and so familiarly that ‘the last great depression' has become a stock phrase among Quaternary geologists–as referring to many ascertained phenomena which are capable of no other interpretation.

It may, however, be well asked how it is, if these three great facts have been established, that the conclusions flowing from them have not been followed up. The explanation is as easy as it is instructive. It has been due to that one cause which, perhaps more than any other, has impeded the advance of science–the blinding effect of invincible preconceptions. Sometimes these have been aggravated by such intellectual aversions as that which animates Professor Huxley against everything connected with Christian theology. But many desperate preconceptions have other sources. The authority of great men, who have fallen into some great error, has been one of the barriers most difficult to breach. Of this kind perhaps the most memorable example was the power of Sir Isaac Newton to postpone for nearly a century and a half the establishment of the undulatory theory of light. The furious and contemptuous attacks made upon Dr. Thomas Young, when in our own day he revived that theory and poured the light of his own genius upon it, remind one very much of the temper and the spirit in which some men are now meeting those movements of discovery that tend to reopen questions which only ignorance had closed, and to give to old ideas a new and scientific basis. Then there has been another source of abounding prejudice. The shape in which those old ideas were at first presented has often been really deforming and erroneous. This has been preeminently the case with the form under which the idea of a deluge has come across the pathway of geology. At first men would not believe in the reality of fossil shells. When this reality was proved to demonstration, then the supposition was entertained that they were carried into the solid rocks by the Noachian Deluge. The absurdity of this supposition was almost sickening, and it established a lasting sense of nausea in all the stomachs of geologists at the very mention of a deluge as coming at all within the cognisance of their science. This is just the attitude of mind which sets up the most [23] insuperable preconceptions, and renders men insensible to the force of any evidence which even seems to look in the direction of their disgust. In this very article Professor Huxley makes a confession upon this subject, which he does not mean as such, but which, nevertheless, is a confession most true and most significant. ‘At the present time,' be says, ‘it is difficult to persuade serious scientific inquirers to occupy themselves in any way with the Noachian deluge. They look at you with a smile and a shrug," &c.32 This is quite true. But it is also true that the attitude of mind thus depicted is most unsafe and most unphilosophical. I confess to having myself lain under the incubus of the same preconceptions for many years. It was of course easy to take refuge in the bolt-hole dug out by Lyell–that if there ever was a deluge it must have been an.event so ‘preternatural' in all its circumstances and effects, that there is no use in even thinking of it in connection with any of the physical sciences. Yet the promptings of our intellectual conscience will perforce suggest that though belief and reason are not coincident in extent, they ought to be coincident indirection, and that physical events of great magnitude, if they happened at all, however preternatural, were presumably brought about by physical agencies which must have left some effects behind them, unless subsequent obliteration has destroyed the evidence. This last alternative was indeed easily conceivable in the abstract. It is, however, always less easily conceivable in each actual case in proportion to the magnitude of the supposed events and the recency of their supposed occurrence. But this method of looking at the whole case, which is purely logical and scientific–this perception of alternatives turning upon evidence, and on the possible causes, of the want of any evidence at all–is a method which at once awakens our intelligence to the testimony of facts, and breaks down the stupid preconceptions which blind us to the true interpretation of them. It puts an end to that irrational attitude of the mind which Professor Huxley, strange to say, seems to approve of and applaud, in which we can hardly be persuaded ‘ to occupy our selves in any way’ with a great problem, and in which we can only look at it ‘with a smile and a shrug.’

Once roused from this paralysis of our reason, we soon find that there are abundant materials on which to exercise its powers. I live in a district of country over the whole of which the evidence of ‘the great submergence 'is as striking as it is ubiquitous. I estimate the depth of it as having been at least 2,000 feet. Not less decisive is the evidence that it must have happened among the very latest operations which have been at work upon the globe, Charles Darwin saw this in 1839, when he came to the West Highlands to look at the famous Parallel Roads of Glen Roy. His estimate of the minimum depth of it was at least 1,280 feet. He saw it, and he dwelt upon it [24] with emphasis in the celebrated paper in which he recorded his observations. No one who resides in the low country where the rocks are never seen except in quarries, can have any conception bow clear and unmistakable are the proofs of some temporary, and very recent, depression of our land, with almost all its mountains, under the level of the sea. Then comes corroboration after corroboration from every field of Quaternary geology. For thirty years and more, geologists have known, and have been staring helplessly on the fact, that in North Wales one of the hills of the Snowdon range is covered with a marine gravel at a level of 1,130 feet above that of the present sea. They have known the fact that this gravel contains shells in abundance, all of existing species. They have known it, but most of them have been reluctant to ‘occupy themselves about it in any way.' Even in recording it they generally leave it, if not ‘with a smile and a shrug ' at least with a timid and an embarrassed glance. Yet nothing in the whole range of their science is more mysterious and instructive than that Moel Trefan top. Old Ocean has been there, and be has been there very lately. He has been there as regards the area and the locality, and he has been there in a passing way, but be has not necessarily been there as regards its existing level. Professor Huxley tells us that a heaping of the sea over a particular place is a physical impossibility. I quite agree. Then it follows the Moel Trefan must have been sunk under the sea and raised out of it again all within our existing age. Can the learned Professor tell us how wide has been the area of depression in which Moel Trefan was included? Was it contemporaneous or not with a like submergence all over the Highlands of Scotland? And if so, where did it stop? Professor Prestwich has said that it prevailed over the whole of Ireland, over the whole of Wales, over all the centre and north of England and over the whole of Scotland.33 A large part of Russia, and all Northern Germany down to Holland, were also included.34 And is he certain that it was not wider still, and included larger areas of the whole northern hemisphere? Quaternary geology certainly suggests even if it does not establish, that it did. Italian geologists of the highest authority report the same facts from Calabria and from Sicily. Gravels with 300 kinds of existing shells are piled up at. elevations 2,400 feet above the Mediterranean. Was Charles Darwin an ignoramus in geology when he recognised exactly the same phenomena on the vast continent of South America? The facts he records respecting the massive marine gravels of Patagonia, the recency of them, and the correlative destruction of the great mammalia, are more astonishing even than the parallel facts in Europe.35 Are the geologists of Canada deceived when they report similar facts as establishing similar conclusions over the greater part of Northern America? [25] If the submergence was local, but the locality was as large at least as the British Islands, how ‘particularly absurd' is the assumed impossibility of a partial deluge. If it was far wider, then how absurd also is the denial that it may have been as wide as the whole area occupied by man. at some early stage of his dispersion. Further, can be tell us whether this 'great submergence' over more than one great area, was balanced or not by any corresponding elevation over some other? And if it was, then can he tell us whether the elevation may not possibly have been a raising of some ocean floor? And if it was, can he assure us that the ‘fountains of the great deep' did not perforce pour their waters over corresponding areas of the land? Can he tell us how deep the great submergence was, as well as how wide? Above all, can he tell us how slow it was or how rapid? If he can't tell us any one of these things, or make even a plausible attempt to do so, then he has no right to tell the world that Quaternary geology ‘knows nothing’ of any more adequate basis for the world-wide tradition of a deluge than a flood in Mesopotamia. Quaternary geology is still in great confusion, the prey of extreme theorists, and of many baseless hypotheses. But it is not quite in such a mess as Professor Huxley would represent it to be. For one thing, it has established ‘the great submergence’ with all its consequences.

But this is not all. When the scales of preconception and of spurious authority have fallen from our eyes, they are opened to other facts which have been as clearly ascertained, as timidly regarded, and as feebly interpreted. In particular we see the fleshly bodies, and the complete skeletons, and the collected and compacted bones of millions of great animals which have perished–very lately–many without leaving descendants–and have so perished as to be preserved in superficial deposits scattered over many portions of the globe. In my own case, it was the futility of the explanation given of these facts of Quaternary geology by the Lyellian school that first awoke my attention, now many years ago, to the untrustworthiness of the method in which these facts were handled. Nothing that savoured of the possibility of ‘catastrophes' would that school even look at fairly in the face. No idea that would not fit, or could not be squeezed, into their own narrow interpretations of the doctrine of Uniformity, could find entrance into minds swathed in the bandages of the great hurdy-gurdy theory. I cannot in these pages give, even in abstract, the astonishing facts which Quaternary geology has established respecting the death and preservation of what are called the Pliocene and the Pleistocene mammalia–and this too both in the old and in the new world. They have lately been collected and marshalled with exhaustive research and with admirable ability by Mr. Howorth, M.P., in his book on The Mammoth and the Flood. I observe that a most significant silence has been maintained respect[26]ing this array of facts and arguments, and that the old-school geologists have found it much more convenient to ignore than to answer it.

Then, lastly, the same observations apply to the abundant evidence which Quaternary geology has supplied that man was living before the mammoth and its compeers were all destroyed. The spirited outline of a living mammoth has been left to us by some incipient Landseer of a not very ancient world. The consequences which are involved in this fact were long evaded–never faced or followed–just as the consequences were long evaded of marine gravels heaped upon the tops or the high flanks of our existing mountains. When palaeolithic implements were first discovered, not many years ago, both. the religious and the agnostic world were fluttered and excited. The one hoped for, and the other feared, the establishment of some hitherto undreamed of antiquity for man. Both of them forgot that those old implements have, intellectually as well as physically, a double edge. They may serve to establish the extreme recency of some great convulsion–far more than they tend to prove the extreme antiquity of the creatures affected by it. With an instinctive dread of this alternative, vigorous attempts have been made to treat all implement bearing gravels as fluviatile–the work of existing rivers and the spoil of existing watersheds. It has been felt that indefinite drafts might then be drawn upon the bank of time–because the implemen-bearing gravels are often at high levels, and existing rivers must have been at work for some indefinite number of ages to cut their way down to the present lower channels. But again these attempts have broken down. Human implements–it is confessed–have now been found abundantly in gravels wbich must have been at least spread and redistributed not by rivers, but by the sea.36 Moreover it is admitted that the old implement-bearing gravels often exhibit the marks of ‘tumultuous action.' Thus all along the line Quaternary geology has established not only the possibility, but the certainty, of many of those events which Professor Huxley presumes to denounce as ‘particularly absurd.' Every year is opening up some new vista through the thick clouds which envelop the Quaternary acres. Professor Prestwich may almost be said to be the father of this geology in England. No one man has done so much for it; no one has been so minute and laborious in research, or so careful and conscientious in reasoning on its facts. The very last result he has arrived at37 is the probable discovery of the lowest stratum, or the base bed, of the Quaternary series in England. And what is it? It is a thick bed of marine gravel overlying an old terrestrial surface on which now extinct mammalia lived, and fed, and were destroyed. This gravel stretches up the valley of the Thames, till it reaches elevations 850 feet above the level of the sea.38 It contains pebbles, washed, rolled, and translated all the way from the rocks of the Ardennes. This alone [27] records a depression of the land great enough to swamp, not only the greater part of Europe, but the greater part of the habitations of man all over the globe. Professor Prestwich expressly connects these gravels with great changes in physical geography, and with the destruction of the older or 'Pliocene mammalia.' It is impossible in these pages to treat this subject in detail. I have dealt with it at all–and of necessity in the merest outline only because the confident assertions of a man so eminent as Professor Huxley are apt to intimidate young inquirers, and to keep up in their minds the fatal preconceptions of spurious authority. But they should remember that though Professor Huxley is a distinguished expert in biology in all its branches including palaeontology, he enjoys no similar authority in dynamical or stratigraphical geology. Ne sutor ultra crepidam. Still less can he, or indeed any other man, be allowed to browbeat our reason in coming to those conclusions which men of even ordinary understanding are perfectly competent to draw from facts which others have ascertained.

There are many miscellaneous things in Professor Huxley’s article on which I have no space to comment. It reminds me of a witty description once given of a favourite, but somewhat barbaric, Scotch dish–the boiled head of a sheep–‘There’s a lot of fine confused feeding upon’t.’ A few of these miscellaneous morsels may be tasted in the meantime. Professor Huxley makes a very lofty claim for science. It belongs to her, he tells us, to deal with the problem ‘of the origin of the present state of the heavens and the earth,’ and also that of ‘the origin of man among living things."39 ‘The present state' are limiting words which make the claim somewhat ambiguous. ‘The present state' of the earth certainly belongs to history, and much of it to very recent history indeed; and so with regard to the origin of man, it be equally limited to his ‘present state.' The present state of the members of the Royal Society would be an inquiry not leading us very far into the past. But if the ‘origin of their species among living beings' be intended, then science has hitherto offered no suggestion, except that they are all descendants from ‘some arboreal creature with pointed ears.' Science has a good deal to do yet if the task assigned to her by Professor Huxley is ever to be completed. Another boast goes very near to the assertion that to science belongs the power of deciding whether there are any agencies in the spiritual which can produce effects upon the material, world.40 I suppose we shall be told presently that science can decide by the microscope and the dissecting needle, whether the Sadducee was right in denying either angel or spirit, and the Pharisee was a fool in confessing both. Our agnostic Professor may well be happy in the prospect of such unbounded knowledge being obtained by such simple means.

Then we have a very lofty boast about the hopeless position of [28] Christian divines 'raked by the fatal weapons of precision with which the enfants perdus of the advancing forces of science are armed!41 We are tempted to ask if Professor Huxley himself is one of these ‘enfants'? If so he must have laid down his arms before he fired off this article. Anything less like a weapon of precision than that which he has shouldered in the fight, it is impossible to conceive. ‘Old Brown Bess'–with its clumsy bullet, its devious flight, its low penetration, and its enormous windage–is indeed almost a weapon of precision in comparison with that which Professor Huxley here flourishes against the massive foundations of Christian belief. But, perhaps, he means rather the small arms of the modern critical school. If he does, then precision is the very last characteristic which belongs to it. Its methods are largely subjective. Here and there it may have a clearly ascertained fact to rest upon. Here and there it may have arrived at some tolerably secure results. But in the main its methods are metaphysical, resting on nothing but individual preconceptions, applying tests and private canons of interpretation which are purely arbitrary. There is no credulity like that which leads the agnostic to swallow with open mouth everything that issues from that most copious fount of fads and follies–the inner consciousness of a. German professor.

The assumption which inspires the tone of Professor Huxley's language on this subject–that precision in research is undermining the credit of the Hebrew Scriptures–is an assumption almost comically at variance with fact. There is, in particular, one weapon of precision which has been of late working wonders in precisely the opposite direction. That weapon is the spade. And what bas it been unearthing? Everywhere over that narrow strip of out planet on which its human interests have been most impressive and profound–everywhere from Tyre and Sidon–from Carmel and Lebanon–on the West, to Babylon and Nineveh and the boundary mountains of Assyria, on the east–the spade has been disentombing continuous and triumphant proof of the genuine antiquity and historical character of the Jewish books. Out of them comes the light which guides the explorer; and out of them shines the light which is reflected from his spoils. They give the true and only key to the earliest partings of our race. They are true to the rise and progress of divided nations. The picture of manners which they present is not less faithful than the account they give of early habits and pursuits both in peace and wax. Only the other day Mr. Flinders Petrie42 has told us how the spade has uncovered those impregnable walls of the Amorite cities which were reported to invading Israel by the spies of Moses. They are found to be more than twenty-eight feet thick at the base–fit to support a superstructure of at least fifty feet in height. Then will come, I suppose, our wonderful agnostic critic to point out that the record in Deuteronomy says that these cities were ‘walled up to [29] heaven’43 But these walls of Lachish could never have reached the Pleiades. They could not have so much as touched the moon. Nay, it is certain that they could not have approached even the limits of our own atmosphere. Therefore the Book of Deuteronomy is unhistorical, and Christian theology is founded on the ‘quicksands of fable'!

But the spade, as a true weapon of precision, has done more for us than this. It has revealed to our living sight, in the remains of Nineveh and of Babylon, all the mysterious imagery of the prophets, and all the literal historic truth of their tremendous denunciations. It has revealed in numberless inscription44 the shameless confession of that inordinate pride and cruelty which dictated the policy, and the desolating deeds, of the great military monarchies of the East. It has explained their fall and their own subsequent retributive desolation as foreseen in the magnificent visions of Nahum and Zephaniah, of Ezekiel and Isaiah. Such hideous wickedness could not be allowed to last.. Their doom indeed was written in the moral law; and one of these Prophets expressly founds his predictions on his confidence in that law as the will of the ‘just Lord.:'Every morning doth He bring His judgment to light; He faileth not.'45 But when the chariots of Assyria were still issuing from the gates of Nineveh–'the bloody city’–it required a prophet's eye to read the sentence. When Nebuchadnezzar, or his latest successor, was still lounging in his palace richly coloured and shining with enamelled walls–when the hanging gardens of Babylon were still in bloom–it required some open vision to foresee the time when they should exist no more–when for centuries the very site of them should be uncertain–and when the mounds of their ruin should be given over to the owls and to the bats.

Then there is a higher sphere of prophecy into which we rise upon steps more solid even than the buried slabs of Nineveh. There are some splendid and powerful words in one of the Books of the New Testament which indicate the true value to be set upon the demonstrable facts of Hebrew Prophecy–first, as a support to our faltering, or to our faint, beliefs, and then as a guide to still deeper spiritual insight. I speak of the call which bids us ‘take heed' to ‘the more sure word of prophecy, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in our hearts.’46 They point especially to those Messianic visions in which some Jews, speaking to other Jews, yet burst through all the barriers of their intense exclusiveness, and tell them to look to a Deliverer in vhom the Gentiles were to trust, and who was to be the Desire of all nations. Other men than those who claim exclusively the name of critic, must really be allowed to have some inner consciousness of their own–some power to recognise voices which are full to overflow [30] of intimations from the spiritual world It is impossible for any open-minded man to follow those lofty strains without recognising the mystery and the majesty of their import. It is no more possible, when doing so, to listen to the carpings of the verbal critics than it would be to listen to the rasping noises of some petty mechanical operation when the thunders of heaven are pealing overhead.

And here I may be permitted to express a very strong opinion that in recent years Christian writers have been far too shy and timid in defending one of the oldest and strongest outworks of Christian theology. I mean the element of true prediction in Hebrew prophecy. It may be true that in a former generation too exclusive attention bad been paid to it, and too much stress had been laid upon details. Nay, more, it may be true that the attempted application of prophecy to time still future, has been the cause of great delusions amounting almost to religious mania. But the reaction has been excessive and irrational. A great mass of connected facts, and of continuous evidence, remains–which cannot be gainsaid. Even if the greater prophets could be brought down to the very latest date which the very latest fancies can assign to them, they depict and predict overthrows and vast revolutions in the East which did not take place for centuries. It is easy to see how and why this reaction has arisen. Besides that mere swing of the pendulum which affects more or less all progress in human thought, a false analysis of physical science has intimidated men into a languid submission to that greatest of all fallacies which is embodied in the very word ‘supernatural.' They tell us they cannot believe in what they call the supernatural. But neither need they do so. For my own part, I believe in nothing ‘above' nature, or outside of it, which is not also in it, and visibly shining through it. It is so particularly with predictive prophecy. There is nothing more thoroughly in harmony with the system of things in which we live. The conception that all future events are connected with the present by the links of natural consequence, is a conception. Familiar to all science and to all philosophy. That those links should be capable of being followed, and their results foreseen by adjusted eyes, is quite according to the natural constitution and course of things. Prophetic prediction is implicit–to an almost miraculous degree–in the mysterious instincts of many of the lowest animals. It is explicit, more or less, in all the intuitions of human genius and there is nothing difficult to conceive in this faculty being strengthened, intensified, and glorified, in minds whose relations with the spiritual world are close and special. In a more literal sense we may say of the Hebrew prophet what Tennyson says of the ideal poet:

The marvel of the everlasting will,
An open scroll,
Before him lay.

[31] It is a comfort to observe that Professor Huxley is not very sanguine as to the early triumph of his own nonsense. There is no ground,’ he says, ‘for much hope that the proportion of those who cast aside these fictions and adopt the consequence of that repudiation, are, for some generations, likely to constitute a majority.' Certainly not. Professor Huxley must know that the ranks of science are crowded with men, quite as eminent as himself, who are believers in Christianity. For more than ‘some generations' these men are likely to have successors. A few Christian sects have lately been showing signs of a disposition to divorce belief from facts, and from all definite conceptions of objective truth. An authority amongst them has lately uttered a warning voice. He has told them that they have in consequence been losing ground. ‘The undogmatic Churches have hitherto taken the multitude.’ 47 This is bad hearing for Professor Huxley. But it is good hearing for all who hold that morality itself cannot be maintained except in connection with definite beliefs. The result, so disappointing to agnosticism, is the result of a great law–Nature abhors a vacuum. Men cannot live on a diet of negation. Both our intellectual and our moral natures have digestive apparatuses of their own. They require their appropriate food, and Professor Huxley has none to give them. The sect of know-nothings is not likely to be ever popular, still less to overspread the world. It is too barren, too empty-handed. It makes even science poor, robbing it of half of its intellectual interest and of almost all its charm. Men who talk about ‘plans,’ and ‘apparatuses,’ and ‘contrivances,’ and then tell us they don’t mean what the words imply, are feeding themselves and us on husks indeed.

But Professor Huxley has his revenge. In words which seem to express the most supercilious contempt, he refers to those who, "having distilled away every inconvenient matter of fact in Christian history, continue to pay divine honours to the residue.'48 This is a bitter sentence. I do not think it is a just one as applied to the authors of the volume called Lux Mundi. But I fear it is more justly applicable to religionists of the Robert E1smere type. Professor Huxley ridicules them in a mock sentence supposed to be coming in some Bampton Lecture of the future: ‘No longer in contact with fact of any kind, faith stands now and for ever proudly inaccessible to all the attacks of the infidel.’49 I should not like to speak in this tone to, or of, any minds which are perplexed. But I agree with Professor Huxley that as flesh and blood must have a skeleton, so both sentiment and faith must have an object. They cannot hang in air with no footing either in earth or heaven. Nothing be more certain than that ‘nature' did not generate itself. The [32] things which are seen were certainly not made of things that do appear.50 The things which are seen are all temporal. It is the things which are not seen that are alone eternal. All this belongs to our universal experience, and is part of our all too scanty stock of necessary truths. What we call nature–ourselves included–must have had an origin and a cause. These are the objects of religion. Of two things we may be sure about theology: first, that there must be facts concerning it; and secondly, that these facts must be the supreme facts with which we have to do. They may or may not be accessible to us, but they must exist as realities–with all their dynamic apparatus, and with all their corresponding laws. It is the business of all men to see those facts as best they may, and to obey those laws as best they can. It is impossible, therefore, to admire or even to respect the, attitude of men who, in these matters, do nothing but stand by the high waysides of life mocking. Least of all is this attitude to be respected in our professed agnostics. They should at least remember that they have nothing to give us of their own. Ignorance–even factitious ignorance–is the motto on their flag. They do not plead it humbly as a confession, or use the sense of it as a stimulus to exertion. They claim it proudly as a boast, and use it as a weapon to repulse the light. With them knowledge is 'quite shut out,' not because they have by nature no sense enabling them to see it, but because they choose to close its door and to starve it into atrophy. They are the men who cannot rise to the higher interpretations even of their own science, or read the discoveries of their own dissecting knife. We accept their teaching as far as it goes, but we need not and cannot accept their mastership. We desire to assimilate every fact which they can prove, and we are grateful for all the thought, and care, and labour, through which alone these facts have been established. But other men must be allowed to see other related facts to which experts may be blind. On any pure question of biology there is no man to whom we can go more safely than to Professor Huxley. An original and careful investigator, a brilliant expositor, and in many things. a cautious reasoner, he enjoys, on his own ground, a high and a just authority. But off that ground he passes into the shadows of a great eclipse. He labours under insuperable bias. Through this, and this alone, and through–we may be sure–no conscious unfaithfulness to truth, there is one great subject on which his judgment is warped by an obvious antipathy. On all questions bearing on ‘Christian theology' he is not to be trusted for a moment. Loud and confident in matters on which both he and we are profoundly ignorant, we see him hardly less boisterous in asserting ignorance where the materials of knowledge lie abundant to our hands. We have seen his canons of criticism–how rude and undiscerning; his claim for the physical sciences–how [33] inflated; his own dealings with one of them–how shallow and how dogmatic. Professor Huxley may depend upon it, that the time has come when the great questions raised by the indisputable facts of Quaternary geology–of which the Deluge is perhaps the least important–must be taken out of the hands of men who, by his own confession, have hitherto dealt with them in no voice more articulate than a smile, and in no attitude more intellectual than a shrug.

1 Nineteenth Century, July 1890: ‘The Light of the Church and the Light of Science.’
2 P. 7
3 Ibid.
4 P. 7.
5 Ibid.
6 P. 8
7 Ibid.
8 P. 7.
9 Encycl. Brit. 9th ed. vol. iii. ‘Biology,’ p. 689.
10 Gen. iii. 8.
11 Exod. xxxiii.11.
12 John i. 18.
13 P. 20.
14 Comparative Anat. p. 7.
15 P. 14-15.
16 Kitto’s Encycl. of Bibl. Lit. ‘Deluge’
17 Heb. xi.7
18 P. 13
19 Kitto’s Encycl. of Bibl. Lit. ‘Deluge,’ p. 243.
20 Theory of the Earth, by James Hutton, M.D. 1795.
21 P. 65-6.
22 P. 137.
23 P.. 142.
24 Comp. Anat. p. 278.
25 Assistant Keeper Geol. Depart. British Museum (Natural History).
26 Encycl. Brit. 9th ed. ‘Biology,’ p. 689.
27 Origin of Spec. 6th ed. p. 149.
28 P. 13.
29 P. 14.
30 Comparative Anatomy, p. 98.
31 Text Book of Geology, by A. Geikie, p. 891.
32 P. 12.
33 Proceed. Roy. Soc. No.. 196, 1879.
34 Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc. August 1887.
35 Naturalist’s Voyage, ed.1852, pp. 170-76.
36 The Great Ice Age, by James Geikie,pp. 50506.
37 Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc. Feb.1890, p. 85.
38 Ibid. May 1890, p. 140.
39 P. 10.
40 Ibid.
41 P. 22.
42 In connection with the Palestine Exploration Fund.
43 Deut. i. 28.
44 Assyrian Discoveries, by Geo. Smith, pp. 256-282, and passim.
45 Zeph. iii. 5.
46 2 Peter i. 19.
47 Address of the President of the Congregational Union at a late meeting.
48 P. 22.
49 Ibid.
50 Heb. xi. 3


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University