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IN the year 1865 Professor Samuel Finley Breese Morse, to whom the world is indebted for the application of the principles of electro-magnetism to telegraphy, gave the sum of ten thousand dollars to Union Theological Seminary to found a lectureship in memory of his father, the Rev. Jedediah Morse, D.D., theologian, geographer, and gazetteer. The subject of the lectures was to have to do with "The relations of the Bible to any of the sciences." The ten chapters of this book correspond to ten lectures, eight of which were delivered as Morse Lectures at Union Theological Seminary during the early spring of 1895. The first nine chapters appear in form and substance as they were given in the lectures, except that Chapters VI. and VII. were condensed in one lecture. Chapter X. is new, and I have not hesitated to add a few paragraphs wherever the argument seemed especially to demand further evidence or illustration.
One of my friends, reading the title of these lectures, said: "Of man's origin you know nothing, of his future you know less." I fear that many share his opinion, although they might not express it so emphatically.
It would seem, therefore, to be in order to show that science is now competent to deal with this question; not that she can give a final and conclusive answer, but that we can reach results which are probably in
the main correct. We may grant very cheerfully that we can attain no demonstration; the most that we can claim for our results will be a high degree of probability. If our conclusions are very probably correct, we shall do well to act according to them; for all our actions in life are suited to meet the emergencies of a probable but uncertain course of events.
We take for granted the probable truth of the theory of evolution as stated by Mr. Darwin, and that it applies to man as really as to any lower animal. At the same time it concerns our argument but little whether natural selection is "omnipotent "or of only secondary importance in evolution, as long as it is a real factor, or which theory of heredity or variation is the more probable.
If man has been evolved from simple living substance protoplasm, by a process of evolution, it will some day be possible to write a history of that process. But have we yet sufficient knowledge to justify such an attempt?
Before the history of any period can be written its events must have been accurately chronicled. Biological history can be written only when the successive stages of development and the attainments of each stage have been clearly perceived. In other words, the first prerequisite would seem to be a genealogical * tree of the animal kingdom. The means of tracing this genealogical tree are given in the first chapter, and the results in the second, third, and fourth chapters of this book.
Now, for some of the ancestral stages of man's development a very high degree of probability can be *See Phylogenetic Chart, p. 310.
claimed. One of man's earliest ancestors was almost certainly a unicellular animal. A little later he very probably passed through a gastræa stage. He traversed fish, amphibian, and reptilian grades. The oviparous monotreme and the marsupial almost certainly represent lower mammalian ancestral stages. But what kind of fish, what species of amphibian, what form of reptiles most closely resembles the old ancestor? How did each of these ancestors look? I do not know. It looks as if our ancestral tree were entirely uncertain and we were left without any foundation for history or argument.
But the history of the development of anatomical details, however important and desirable, is not the only history which can be written, nor is it essential. It would be interesting to know the size of brain, girth of chest, average stature, and the features of the ancient Greeks and Romans. But this is not the most important part of their history, nor is it essential. The great question is, What did they contribute to human progress?
Even if we cannot accurately portray the anatomical details of a single ancestral stage, can we perhaps discover what function governed its life and was the aim of its existence? Did it live to eat, or to move, or to think? If we cannot tell exactly how it looked, can we tell what it lived for and what it contributed to the evolution of man?
Now, the sequence of dominant functions or aims in life can be traced with far more ease and safety, not to say certainty, than one of anatomical details. The latter characterize small groups, genera, families, or classes; while the dominant function characterizes all
animals of a given grade, even those which through degeneration have reverted to this grade.
Even if I cannot trace the exact path which leads to the mountain-top, I may almost with certainty affirm that it leads from meadow and pasture through forest to bare rock, and thence over snow and ice to the summit; for each of these forms a zone encircling the mountain. Very similarly I find that, whatever genealogical tree I adopt, one sequence in the dominance of functions characterizes them all; digestion is dominant before locomotion and locomotion before thought.
And it is hardly less than a physiological necessity that it should be so. The plant can and does exist, living almost purely for digestion and reproduction, and the same is true of the lowest and most primitive animals. A muscular system cannot develop and do its work until some sort of a digestive system has arisen to furnish nutriment, any more than a steamengine can run without fuel. And a brain is of no use until muscle and sense-organs have appeared.
This sequence of dominant functions,* of physiological dynasties, would seem therefore to be a fact. And our series of forms described in the second, third, and fourth chapters is merely a concrete illustration showing how this sequence may have been evolved. The substitution of other terms in the anatomical series there described-amoeba, volvox, etc.—would not affect this result. By a change in the form of our history we have eliminated to a large extent the sources of uncertainty and error. And the dominant function of a group throws no little light on the details of its anatomy.
* See condensed Chart of Development, etc., p. 309.
If we can be satisfied that ever higher functions have risen to dominance in the successive stages of animal and human development, if we can further be convinced that the sequence is irreversible, we shall be convinced that future man will be more and more completely controlled by the very highest powers or aims to which this sequence points. Otherwise we must disbelieve the continuity of history. But the germs of the future are always concealed in the history of the present. Hence-pardon the reiteration—if we can once trace this sequence of dominant functions, whose evolution has filled past ages, we can safely foretell something at least of man's future development.
The argument and method is therefore purely historical. Here and there we will try to find why and how things had to be so. But all such digressions are of small account compared with the fact that things were or are thus and so. And a mistaken explanation will not invalidate the facts of history.
The subject of our history is the development, not of a single human race nor of the movements of a century, but the development of animal life through ages. And even if our attempts to decipher a few pages here and there in the volumes of this vast biological history are not as successful as we could hope, we must not allow ourselves to be discouraged from future efforts. Even if our translation is here and there at fault, we must never forget the existence of the history. Some of the worst errors of biologists are due to their having forgotten that in the lower stages the germs of the higher must be present, even though invisible to any microscope. Our study of the worm is inadequate and likely to mislead us, unless we remember that a worm