Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 eBook

John Lord
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 372 pages of information about Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14.

How does the belief in the advancement of man from some low organized form bear on the belief in the immortality of the soul?  Sir John Lubbock has proved that the barbarous races of man possess no clear belief of the kind; but, as Darwin continually reminds us, arguments derived from the primeval beliefs of savages are of little or no avail on either side of a question.  Attention is directed by Darwin to the more relevant fact that few persons feel any anxiety from the impossibility of determining at what precise period in the development of the individual, from the first trace of a minute germinal vesicle, man becomes an immortal being.  He submits that there should be no greater cause for anxiety because the period cannot possibly be determined in the gradually ascending organic scale.

Darwin was well aware that the conclusions arrived at in the work before us—­namely, that man is descended from some lowly organized form—­would be highly distasteful to many.  The very persons, however, who regard the conclusions with distaste admit without hesitation that they are descended from barbarians.  Darwin recalls the astonishment which he himself felt on first seeing a party of Fuegians on a wild and broken shore, when the reflection rushed upon his mind that such men had been his ancestors.  These men were absolutely naked and bedaubed with paint, their long hair was tangled, their mouths frothed with excitement, and their expression was wild, startled, and distrustful.  They possessed hardly any arts, and, like wild animals, lived on what they could catch; they had no government, and were merciless to every one not of their own small tribe.  Remembering the impression made on him by the Fuegians, Darwin suggests that he who has seen a savage in his native land will not feel much shame if forced to acknowledge that the blood of some more humble creature flows in his veins.  “For my own part,” he says, “I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper,—­or from that old baboon, who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs,—­as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practises infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.”  Darwin holds, in fine, that man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; it is further submitted that the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hope for a still higher destiny in the distant future.

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Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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