The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53
Evolution Refuted by Tue Fauna of New Zealand and Australia
Evolution Refuted by Tue Fauna of New Zealand and Australia.
In his lecture on the "Origin of Man," Mr. Denton, introducing one of those stray local allusions which were wedged into the stereotyped text to give the material freshness, ventured to string a shaft most fata1 to himself, Alluding to the total absence of quadrupeds native to New Zealand, he said: "If animals were created, for New Zealand?" He appears, however, to have hardly felt the ground safe, for in his previous delivery of the same lecture he attempted to account for this very singular feature in the fauna of New Zealand by asserting—and there is nothing like a bold front when such statements are advanced—that it was what might have been expected from the geological age of the country, In a full report of his lecture in Chistchurch on "The Age of Beasts and the Advent of Man" we find this passage: "Australia in its animals was behind other parts of the world, which he attributed to its smaller size and position. New Zealand was even more backward than Australia, as it was smaller and more isolated," The question of the geological age of New Zealand may be dismissed in a few sentences, That the country has existed from the remotest ages was positively affirmed by that veteran geologist, Dr. Hochstetter, and is abundantly proved by innumerable geological facts. We do not know a single authority on the subject who affirms anything else. And if the question were tried by purely evolutionary tests, it would require considerable daring to assert that the ages necessary to develop the moa from a monad would not suffice for the evolution of a kangaroo. A new light, however, has been thrown upon the geological history of New Zealand by the researches of Mr. A. R. Wallace. In that interesting little work, "Island Life," he contentds page 34 with great force that the characteristics of the New Zealand vegetation prove these islands to be the vestiges of a large Pacific continent extending in a north-westerly direction, and uniting in one mass of land New Zealand, Northern Australia, and New Guinea. New Zealand, therefore, is not only a geologically ancient country, but it is the preserved remnant of a vast continent. Why were its rich virgin lands untenanted by animal life? The answer, to those who believe in a Creation, is easy and reasonable. Creation had a center, and New Zealand, cut off from that center at an early geological period, shares with other islands of the Pacific the absence of every species of quadruped. But what answer can the evolutionist make? The founder of the doctrine of Evolution, Lamarck, at the close of the last century, longed for some ancient specimen of the domesticated dog to demonstrate his theory; the tombs of Egypt gratified the wish only to confound him. More recent disciples have rummaged in the bowels of the earth for some primitive skull to prove man's ignoble ancestry, and the remains of palæolithic man have extorted the confession that he possessed a cranium that might have "belonged to a philosopher." If a council of philosophers were assembled now for the purpose of devising a practical test of Evolution for the guidance of man a million years hence, what would they do but set apart some land in which the conditions are specially favourable for the generation of life, and after depositing the germs, leave the country to develop its own fauna. In New Zealand we have such a country, reserved from a time long anterior to the earliest appearance of mammalian life on the planet. In no country under the sun do animals of every kind multiply more rapidly or attain proportions so magnificent. If it is urged that the climate might, in past ages, have been less kindly, we reply that the vegetation and remains of coral formations afford evidence in thc other direction. Why, then, has not Evolution done its work? "Oh," replies some one, "perhaps the germs were not there." Let us see. Shall we go deep down in the Secondary Formation? If so, in the micacious sandstone cliffs of Waikato South Head and Kawhia, Hochstetter found cephalopods of the genera Ammonite and Belemnite identical with those of Old World celebrity. But that, perhaps, is too far back; well, let us try the Tertiary strata. Why, here are foraminifera common to the Arctic Ocean, the Shetlands, the River Dee, the boulder clays of Cheshire, the North Atlantic, and the Miocene strata of Yarra Yarra (Victoria)—shells fossilised in the Miocene strata that have still direct descendants living in the Mediterranean. But, perhaps, none of these contained the germ of a mammal. What, then, of the fishes that swarm our coasts in shoals? There were flat-fish groping for food along the mud banks, eels wriggling in the river slimes—was none enterprising enough to differentiate its fins into legs and walk ashore? What of those hoofed animals gone astray—the whales and the seals which disported themselves page 35 along our coast; was there no temptation to resume their aborted limbs and browse upon the native grasses? Or the birds—did no latent tendency move them to vary into flying squirrels and monkeys? "Yes, but," interposes some one, "what about those birds? How did they get here?" Well, Mr. Wallace, though an evolutionist, thinks it more probable from their characteristics that they flew here than that they reached the country in any other way. Birds unknown previously in New Zealand have made their appearance by migration within the last few years. "But the moa, it could not fly?" No, but Mr. Wallace frankly acknowledges that there is a very much simpler explanation of its presence than any idea of solitary development. He says: "So far as accounting for the presence of wingless birds in New Zealand is concerned, we have nothing whatever to do with any possible connection by way of a Southern continent or Antarctic island with South America and South Africa, because the nearest allies of its moas and kiwis are the cassowaries and emus, and we have distinct indications of a former land extension towards North Australia and New Guinea, which is exactly what we require for the original entrance of the struthious type into New Zealand." Again, "the ancestral struthious type may, like the marsupial, have once spread over the larger portion of the globe. . . .They are present still in Africa—and in New Zealand being isolated they may thus have been preserved."*
* "Island Life," by A. R. Wallace.
* "The Geographical Distribution of Animals," by A. R. Wallace.