Even when the upholders of the former and more popular system mix up revelation with scientific discussion—which we decline to do—they by no means thereby render their view other than hypothetical. Agreeing that plants and animals were produced by Omnipotent fiat does not exclude the idea of natural order and what we call secondary causes. The record of the fiat—“Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed,” etc., “and it was so;” “let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth after his kind, and it was so”—seems even to imply them. Agreeing that they were formed of “the dust of the ground,” and of thin air, only leads to the conclusion that the pristine individuals were corporeally constituted like existing individuals, produced through natural agencies. To agree that they were created “after their kinds” determines nothing as to what were the original kinds, nor in what mode, during what time, and in what connections it pleased the Almighty to introduce the first individuals of each sort upon the earth. Scientifically considered, the two opposing doctrines are equally hypothetical.
The two views very unequally divide the scientific world; so that believers in “the divine right of majorities” need not hesitate which side to take, at least for the present. Up to a time quite within the memory of a generation still on the stage, two hypotheses about the nature of light very unequally divided the scientific world. But the small minority has already prevailed: the emission theory has gone out; the undulatory or wave theory, after some fluctuation, has reached high tide, and is now the pervading, the fully-established system. There was an intervening time during which most physicists held their opinions in suspense.
The adoption of the undulatory theory of light called for the extension of the same theory to heat, and this promptly suggested the hypothesis of a correlation, material connection, and transmutability of heat, light, electricity, magnetism, etc.; which hypothesis the physicists held in absolute suspense until very lately, but are now generally adopting. If not already established as a system, it promises soon to become so. At least, it is generally received as a tenable and probably true hypothesis.
Parallel to this, however less cogent the reasons, Darwin and others, having shown it likely that some varieties of plants or animals have diverged in time into cognate species, or into forms as different as species, are led to infer that all species of a genus may have thus diverged from a common stock, and thence to suppose a higher community of origin in ages still farther back, and so on. Following the safe example of the physicists, and acknowledging the fact of the diversification of a once homogeneous species into varieties, we may receive the theory of the evolution of these into species, even while for the present we hold the hypothesis of a further evolution in cool suspense or in grave suspicion. In respect to very many questions a wise man’s mind rests long in a state neither of belief nor unbelief. But your intellectually short-sighted people are apt to be preternaturally clear-sighted, and to find their way very plain to positive conclusions upon one side or the other of every mooted question.