The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 31
To the Reading Public
To the Reading Public.
"The old order changeth; yielding Owe to new,"
Having been absent for two years from New Zealand, during which period I have travelled through a considerable part of Europe and the United States, I am concerned to find, on my return, that none of my reading friends have hitherto had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the opinions of Professor Huxley in support of the doctrine of Evolution, uttered in New York after his discovery of some of the missing links in the chain of the Evolution of the modern horse, of which the Professor thus speaks in his Buffalo address:—"It is commonly said there are no antiquities in America, and you have to come to the Old World to see the past, That may be, so far as regards the trumpery 3000 or 4000 years of human history. But in the larger sense, referring to the times before man made his momentary appearance on the Globe, America is the country to study antiquity. I confess that the reality has somewhat exceeded my expectations, It was my great good fortune to study in New Haven the excellent collection of my good friend Professor Marsh. There does not exist in Europe anything approaching it as regards extent, and the geological time it covers, and the wonderful light it throws on the problem of Evolution, which has been so ably discussed before you by Professor Morse, and which has occupied so much attention since Darwin's great work on species. Before the gathering of such materials as those to which I have referred, Evolution was more a matter of speculation and argument, though we who adhered to the doctrine had good grounds for our belief, Now things are changed, and it has become a matter of fact and history as much as the monuments of Egypt. In that collection are the facts of the succession of forms and the history of their evolution. All that now remains to be asked is, how the development was effected? and that is a subordinate question."
Nearly all the great naturalists, comparative anatomists., and men of science in England, Europe, and America, have yielded to the overwhelming weight of evidence in favour of the doctrine of Evolution, and it is therefore painful for me on my return to the Colony to find a worthy Clergyman in Dunedin in process of being ostracised by a number of well-meaning, but very imperfectly informed people, because he held, or was the exponent of, the truth of a doctrine which is now held to be proved to demonstration by such men as Helmholtz and Büchner, in Europe; Darwin, Wallace, Huxley, Tyndall, and a host of others, in England; and such men as Professors Morse, Marsh, Grote, and Wyman, in America.
The opposition to the doctrine of Evolution proceeds principally from uninformed people of strong prejudice, or from the Clergy of different sects who fear (in some instances no doubt) that their craft is in danger. At one time it was rank heresy to talk of the antiquity of man in any other than the old theological sense;" but now page break not only is the belief in man's vast and still unknown antiquity universal among men of science, but it is hardly disputed by any well informed theologian; and the present generation of science students must, we should think, be somewhat puzzled to understand what there was in the earliest discoveries that should have aroused such general opposition and been met with such universal incredulity."
"But the question of the mere 'antiquity of man' almost sank into insignificance at a very early period of the inquiry, in comparison with the far more momentous and more exciting problem of the development of man from some lower animal form, which the theories of Mr. Darwin and of Mr. Herbert Spencer soon showed to be inseparably bound up with it. This has been, and to sonic extent still is, the subject of fierce conflict; but the controversy as to the fact of such development is now almost at an end, since one of the most talented representatives of Catholic theology, and an anatomist of high standing—Professor St. George Mivart—fully adopts it as regards physical structure, reserving his opposition for those parts of the theory which would deduce man's whole intellectual and moral nature from the same source, and by a similar mode of development." (Sec Mr. Alfred R. Wallace's opening address as President of the Biological Section of the British Association for the advancement of science, delivered in Glasgow last year.)
Notwithstanding the general acceptance of the theory of the antiquity of man, and of other theories differing from old theological dogmas once considered vital to the faith, we find as much need for clergymen as ever. The necessity for teachers of religion and morals will be practically eternal. The world cannot get on without them, so long as there are weak souls requiring enlightenment and consolation. The teacher of Christ's morality will have a mission co-extensive with the duration of truth and time, so that whatever may happen to supernatural theories and beliefs, in their contact with scientific discovery, the teacher of moral truth is likely to have a long tenure of his office.
I heard a minister of the true blue persuasion the other day denouncing Darwinism in unmeasured and preposterous terms. I could see he was ignorant of the first principles enunciated by the Great Master, so I asked him if he had read any of Darwin's works. He had to confess that he had not; but he added, in a forcible manner, "I have seen his photograph, and that was enough for me! The moment I saw his photograph I could read the man through and through. He is as like a monkey as possible. I don't require to read the works of a man like that." It makes one miserable to meet with teachers of this description, and in the hope that their number rosy be speedily lessened, I commend the following utterances of Professor Huxley to their earnest attention.
W. A. L.M.The Asturi,
15th May, 1877.