New Publications

New York Times (July 1863)

[2] Professor Huxley is one of the new school of scientific men, and occupies a prominent place amongst those who are now engaged in widely disseminating the highest speculations of Natural History and Physiology on the varied works of Creation. His remarkable talent for popular exposition of abstruse subjects has been already shown in "Lectures on the Origin of Species," published by D. Appleton & Co., and lately noticed in this paper. The present work, in the same manner, originated from oral discourses delivered before a mixed audience, and, though on a more precise and special subject, is equally remarkable for interest, clearness and perspicacity. The theme of the writer is one that commends itself to the attention of all, and, indeed, forms a link in the grand chain of investigation–geological, ethnological and physiological–which seeks to determine man's place in the scale of creation, and his relation to the animals and inorganic worlds. Professor Huxley does not hesitate to call this "the question of questions for mankind–the problem which underlies all others, and is more deeply interesting than any other." In its widest range it includes doubts that present themselves anew and with undiminished interest to every man born into the world–whence our race has come; what are the limits of our power over nature, and of nature's power over use? to what goal are we tending? Though in every age, most men will shrink from the labor of original answers to these questions, and smother the investigating spirit under the dead weight of authority and tradition, yet higher minds can never cease agitating them afresh, while bringing to the inquiry all the light that each age's progress contributes to their solution. Professor Huxley's treatment may be briefly detailed: His first or introductory lecture, is devoted to the history of the large man-like apes, "our poor relations" (as some one wittily calls them,) if all scientific tales are true. Whatever foundation the primitive fables of centaurs and satyrs may derive from this source, these animals were unknown to classical antiquity, and the earliest mention Prof. Huxley has succeeded in finding of them is by the Portuguese Pigafetta in his description of the Kingdom of Congo, published in 1598. The succeeding 250 years have barely sufficed to arrive at a clear result deducible from the marvelous narrations of travelers from "Purchas' Pilgrims" to Du Chaillu, whose account of the gorilla proved so singularly provocative of controversy, which was the more remarkable, as he did little else than repeat the information published by the American Missionary, Dr. Savage, in the Boston Journal of Natural History fifteen years before. Actual examination reduces the species of apes to four well defined varieties; the orang-outangs, the gibbons, or long armed class, the chimpanzees and the gorillas. An examination of their structural peculiarities compared with those of man, is undertaken in Prof. Huxley's second lecture. It is conducted with the perfect knowledge of detail which has brought him out triumphantly from a contest with Prof. Owen, on the cerebral conformation of men and the apes, and the conclusion arrived at is "that the structural differences which separate man from the gorilla and the chimpanzee, are not so great as those which separate the gorilla from the lower apes." The last lecture examines the fossil remains of man lately discovered in the bone caverns of Belgium, and brought into prominence by Sir C. Lyell, in his work on the Antiquity of Man on the Earth. A comparison of these crania show them to be as distinctively human as those of our present race, and they afford no support to the Darwinian theory of progression from a lower stage of animal life to a higher and more elevated existence.

The conclusions arrived at by Prof. Huxley in his review of the physical relationship existing between man and animals have been received with much repugnance in many quarters, and a hardly defined dread of this possible consequences has been widely felt. How far this is reasonable may well be doubted. The exclusive mental differences which separate man from the animals–in the power of knowledge–the conscience of good and evil–the pitiful tenderness of human affections–are facts just as certain and self-evident as the gradually assimilating resemblances in the bodily form shown in Prof. Huxley's ghastly march of skeletons, commencing with the gibbons and ending with man. That these mental and moral qualities, deriving their source, in due gradation, from the "Father of Light" above, should exist independent of physical considerations is surely testament to their higher origin, and a conclusion arguing against the material that would attribute them to mere organization. All that tends to elevate the spiritual life of man must be essentially ennobling for the individual and the race, and we may rest satisfied that man's true place in creation was Allwisely determined for that purpose, nor need we fear the result of careful and honest inquiry.


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University