Such ideas as these, though still repugnant to some, and not long since to many, have so possessed the minds of the naturalists of the present day that hardly a discourse can be pronounced or an investigation prosecuted without reference to them. I suppose that the views here taken are little, if at all, in advance of the average scientific mind of the day. I cannot regard them as less noble than those which they are succeeding. An able philosophical writer, Miss Frances Power Cobbe, has recently and truthfully said:[V-8]
“It is a singular fact that, when we can find out how anything is done, our first conclusion seems to be that God did not do it. No matter how wonderful, how beautiful, how intimately complex and delicate has been the machinery which has worked, perhaps for centuries, perhaps for millions of ages, to bring about some beneficent result, if we can but catch a glimpse of the wheels its divine character disappears.”
I agree with the writer that this first conclusion is premature and unworthy—I will add, deplorable. Through what faults or infirmities of dogmatism on the one hand, and skepticism on the other, it came to be so thought, we need not here consider. Let us hope, and I confidently expect, that it is not to last; that the religious faith which survived without a shock the notion of the fixity of the earth itself may equally outlast the notion of the fixity of the species which inhabit it; that, in the future even more than in the past, faith in an order, which is the basis of science, will not—as it cannot reasonably—be dissevered from faith in an Ordainer, which is the basis of religion.
Toward Darwinism [vi-1]
(The Nation, October 16, 1873)
That homely adage, “What is one man’s meat is another man’s poison,” comes to mind when we consider with what different eyes different naturalists look upon the hypothesis of the derivative origin of actual specific forms, since Mr. Darwin gave it vogue and vigor and a raison d’être for the present day. This latter he did, not only by bringing forward a vera causa in the survival of the fittest under changing circumstances—about which the question among naturalists mainly is how much it will explain, some allowing it a restricted, others an unlimited operation—but also by showing that the theory may be made to do work, may shape and direct investigations, the results of which must in time tell us whether the theory is likely to hold good or not. If the hypothesis of natural selection and the things thereto appertaining had not been capable of being put to useful work, although, like the “Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation,” it might have made no little noise in the world, it would hardly have engaged the attention of working naturalists as it has done. We have