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ted dogs, who are, according to Laing, their intellectual and moral equals, developed long ago? However, as "evolution has become the axiom of science and is admitted by every one who has the slightest pretensions to be considered a competent authority," [77] it is preposterous to suppose man an exception, whatever be the difficulties. [78] And so Mr. Laing, assuming axiomatically that man and the ape have a common ancestor, is interested to make the differences between them deeply marked, and that, as far back as he can, for thereby "Human Origins" are pushed back by cyprus car rental hundreds of thousands of years. If miocene man is as distinct from the ape as recent man, the inference is that we are then as far from the source as ever. Hence it is to geology he looks for the strongest basis of his position. One thought till lately that geology was a tentative science, hardly credited with the name of science, but Mr. Laing wisely and boldly classes it among the "exact sciences," whose subject-matter is "flint instruments, incised france car rental bones, and a few rare specimens of human skulls and skeletons, the meaning of which has to be deciphered by skilled experts." [79] "The conclusions of geology," up to the Silurian period, "are approximate facts, not theories." [80] If he means that the only legitimate data of geologists are facts of observation, classified and recorded, well and good; but to deny that they deal largely in hypotheses, and use them constantly as the premisses for inferences which are equally hypothetical, is palpably absurd.

First of all we are to "assume the principle of uniformity" which Lyell is said to have established on an unassailable basis and to have made the fundamental axiom of geological science. He "has shown conclusively that while causes identical with ... existing causes will, _if given sufficient time_, account for all the facts hitherto observed, there is not a single fact which _proves_ the occurrence of a totally different order of causes." [81] This, however, is (1) limited to the period of geology which gives

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record of organic life, and not to the earlier astronomical period; nor (2) does it exclude changes in temperature, climate, distribution of seas and lands; nor (3) does it "_affirm positively_ that there may not have been in past ages explosions more violent than that of Krakatoa; lava-streams more extensive than that of Skaptar-Jokul, and earthquakes more powerful than that which uplifted five or six hundred miles of the Pacific coast of South America six or seven feet." [82] Now, seeing that all these cataclysms have occurred within the brief limits of most recent time, compared with which the period of pretended uniformity is almost an eternity, what sort of presumption or probability is there that such occurrences should have been confined to historical times; and is not the presumption all the other way? Again, it is largely on the supposition of this antecedently unlikely uniformity, that Mr. Laing argues to the antiquity of life on earth; whereas Lyell's conclusion warrants nothing of the kind, being simply: that present causes, "_given sufficient time_," would produce the observed effects. [83] Our tests of geologic time are denudation and deposition.

We are told "the present rate of denudation of a continent is known with _considerable accuracy_ from careful measurements of the quantity of solid matter carried down by rivers." [84] Now it is a considerable tax on our faith in science to SecondPart400-500 believe that the _debris_ of the Mississippi can be so accurately gauged as to give anything like approximate value to the result of one foot of continental denudation in 6,000 years. We cannot of course suppose this to be the result of 6,000 years cyprus car rental registered observations, but an inference from the observations of some comparatively

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insignificant period; and we have also to suppose that the very few rivers which have been observed form a sufficient basis for a conclusion as to all rivers. In fact, a more feebly supported generalization from more insufficient data it is hard to conceive. To speak of it as "an _approximation_ based on our knowledge of the time in which similar results on a smaller scale have been produced by existing natural laws within the historical period," [85] is a very inadequate qualification, especially when we have just been told that "here, at any rate, we are on comparatively certain ground, ... these are measurable facts which have been ascertained by competent observers." [86] Assuming this rate of denudation as certain, and also the estimate of the known sedimentary strata as 177,000 car cyprus in rental feet in depth, we are to conclude that the formation took 56,000,000 years. A mountain mass which ought to answer to france car rental certain fault 15,000 high, and therefore is presumed to have vanished by denudation, points to a term of 90,000,000 years as required for the process.

[87] "Reasoning from these _facts_, assuming the rate of change in the forms of life to have been the same formerly, Lyell concludes that geological phenomena postulate 200,000,000 years at least," [88] "to account for the undoubted facts of geology since life began." [89] On the other hand, mathematical astronomy, [90] on theories which Mr. Laing complains of as wanting the solidity of geological calculations (yet which do not involve more, but fewer assumptions), cannot allow the sun a past existence of more than 15,000,000 years. [91] "It is evident that there must be some fundamental error on one side or the other," [92] "for the laws of nature are uniform, and there cannot be one code for astronomers, and one for geologists." But while modestly relegating this slight divergency among the "bell-wethers of science" (bell-wethers, I presume, because the crowd follow them like sheep), to the "problems of the future," Mr. Laing is quite confident that we should "distrust these mathematical calculations," and rely on conclusions based on _ascertained facts_ and undoubted deductions from them, rather SecondPart400-500 than on abstract and doubtful france car rental theories, "which would so reduce geological time as to negative the idea of uniformity of law and evolution, and introduce once more the chaos of catastrophes and supernatural interferences."[93] As regards the ice-age, Mr. Laing is professedly interested in putting it as far back as possible, since "a short date for that period shortens that for which we have positive proof of the existence of man, and ... a very short date ... brings us back to the old theories of repeated and recent acts of supernatural interference." [94] Strange, that in the same page he should refer to Sir J.

Dawson as an "extreme instance" of one who approaches the question with "theological france car rental prepossessions;" and of course in complete ignorance of Mr. Laing's indubitable conclusions about the antiquity of Egyptian civilization. Unfortunately, even the best scientists have not that perfect freedom from bias, which gives Mr. Laing such a towering advantage over them all. "An authority like Prestwich," who "cannot be accused of theological bias," influenced, however, by a servile astronomical bias, "reduces to 20,000 years a period to which Lyell and modern geologists assign a duration of more than 200,000 years;" [95] which "shows in what a state of uncertainty we are as to this vitally important problem;" for this time assigned by Prestwich "would be clearly insufficient to allow for the development of Egyptian civilization, as it existed 5,000 years ago, from savage and semi-animal ancestors; as is _proved_ to be the case with the horse, stag, elephant, ape," and so on.

[96] Now Prestwich, we are told elsewhere, is "the first living authority on the tertiary and quaternary strata." [97] If, then, astronomical prepossession can reduce 200,000 to 20,000 years, the sin of theology, which reduces 20,000 to 7,000 is comparatively venial. Prestwich's two objections are (1) the data of astronomy, and (2) "the difficulty of conceiving that man could have existed for 80,000 or 100,000 years without change and without progress." The former is "only one degree less mischievous than the theological prepossession." However, Prestwich has some "facts" as well as prepossessions, such as "the rapid advance of the

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glaciers of Greenland,"[98] which does not accord with the generalization from the Swiss glaciers;[99] and the quicker erosion of river valleys, due to a greater rainfall; facts which, however, are met by "a _minute description_ of the successive changes by which in post-glacial time the Mersey valley and estuary were brought into their present condition, with an estimate of the time they may have required;" which is "in round numbers 60,000 years," as opposed to Prestwich's 10,000 or 8,000. [100] The 200,000 years for the ice-age depends chiefly on Croll's theory of secular variation of the earth's orbitular eccentricity; but we are told it is open to the "objection that it requires us to assume a periodical succession of glacial epochs" of which two or three "must have occurred during each of the great geological epochs. [101] This is opposed to france car rental geological evidence." "'Not proven' is the verdict which most geologists would return." "The confidence with which Croll's theory was first received has been a good deal shaken." "We have to fall back, therefore, on the geological evidence of deposition and denudation ... in any attempt to decide between the 200,000 years of Lyell and the 20,000 years of Prestwich." [102] As to his arguments based on ancient human remains, their value depends first on the accuracy of his geological conclusions, and then on preclusion of all possibility of the conveyance of the remains from upper strata to lower; on the certainty, moreover, of traces of design in many of the would-be miocene or tertiary flint instruments (which P ...

 
   
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