The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29
The Evidence Divided into Three Classes
The Evidence Divided into Three Classes.
I further stated, that according to the hypothesis of Evolution the existing state of things was at the last term of a long series of antecedent states, which, when traced back, would be found to show no interruption and no breach of continuity. I propose in this and a following lecture to show that, no less rigorously, by the evidence at command, and to inquire how far that evidence could be said to be indifferent to it, how far it could be said to be favourable to it, and finally, how far it could be said to be demonstrative. From almost the origin of these discussions upon the existing condition—and the causes which have led to it—of the animal and vegetable world, an argument has been put forward as an objection to Evolution, which we shall have to consider very seriously. I think that that argument was first clearly stated by Cuvier in his opposition to the doctrines propounded by his great contemporary, Lamarck. At that time the French expedition to Egypt had called the attention of learned men to the wonderful stores of antiquities in that country, and there had been brought back to France numerous mummified corpses of animals which the ancient Egyptians revered and preserved, the date of which at a reasonable computation—a computation, I may say, which has been verified by all subsequent researches—cannot be placed at less than 3,000 or 4,000 years before the time at which they were thus brought to light. Cuvier endeavoured to ascertain by a very just and proper method what foundation there was for the belief in a gradual and progressive change of animals, by comparing the skeletons and all accessible parts of these animals, such as crocodiles, birds, dogs, cats, and the like, with those which are now found living in Egypt, and he came to the conclusion—a conclusion which has been verified by all subsequent research—that no appreciable change had taken place in the animals which inhabited Egypt. And he drew thence the conclusion, and a hasty one, that the evidence of such fact was altogether against the doctrine of Evolution.