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The Antiquity of Man
The "Antiquity of Man" was published in 1863, and ran into a third edition in the course of that year. The cause of this is not far to seek. Darwin's "Origin of Species" appeared in 1859, only four years earlier, and rapidly had its effect in drawing attention to the great problem of the origin of living beings. The theories of Darwin and Wallace brought to a head and presented in a concrete shape the somewhat vague speculations as to development and evolution which had long been floating in the minds of naturalists. In the actual working out of Darwin's great theory it is impossible to overestimate the influence of Lyell. This is made abundantly clear in Darwin's letters, and it must never be forgotten that Darwin himself was a geologist. His training in this science enabled him to grasp the import of the facts so ably marshalled by Lyell in the "Principles of Geology," a work which, as Professor Judd has clearly shown,* contributed greatly to the advancement of evolutionary theory in general. (* Judd "The Coming of Evolution" ("Cambridge Manuals of Science and Literature") Cambridge 1910 chapters 6 and 7.) From a study of the evolution of plants and of the lower animals it was an easy and obvious transition to man, and this step was soon taken. Since in his physical structure man shows so close a resemblance to the higher animals it was a natural conclusion that the laws governing the development of the one should apply also to the other, in spite of preconceived opinions derived from authority. Unfortunately the times were then hardly ripe for a calm and logical treatment of this question: prejudice in many cases took the place of argument, and the result was too often an undignified squabble instead of a scientific discussion. However, the dogmatism was not by any means all on one side. The disciples as usual went farther than the master, and their teaching when pushed to extremities resulted in a peculiarly dreary kind of materialism, a mental attitude which still survives to a certain extent among scientific and pseudo-scientific men of the old school. In more Recent times this dogmatic agnosticism of the middle Victorian period has been gradually replaced by speculations of a more positive type, such as those of the Mendelian school in biology and the doctrines of Bergson on the philosophical side. With these later developments we are not here concerned. In dealing with the evolution and history of man as with that of any other animal, the first step is undoubtedly to collect the facts, and this is precisely what Lyell set out to do in the "Antiquity of Man." The first nineteen chapters of the book are purely an empirical statement of the evidence then available as to the existence of man in pre-historic times: the rest of the book is devoted to a consideration of the connection between the facts previously stated and Darwin's theory of the origin of species by variation and natural selection. The keynote of Lyell's work, throughout his life, was observation. Lyell was no cabinet geologist; he went to nature and studied phenomena at first hand. Possessed of abundant leisure and ample means he travelled far and wide, patiently collecting material and building up the modern science of physical geology, whose foundations had been laid by Hutton and Playfair. From the facts thus collected he drew his inferences, and if later researches showed these inferences to be wrong, unlike some of his contemporaries, he never hesitated to say so. Thus and thus only is true progress in science attained. ......Buy Now (To Read More)
Ebook Number: 6335
Author: Lyell, Charles
Release Date: Aug 1, 2004
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