eological reading, especially when of a strictly uniformitarian character and in warm weather, sometimes becomes monotonous; and I confess to a feeling of drowsiness creeping over me when preparing material for a presidential address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in August, 1883. In these circumstances I became aware of the presence of an unearthly visitor, who announced himself as of celestial birth, and intimated to me that being himself free from those restrictions of space and time which are so embarrassing to earthly students, he was prepared for the moment to share these advantages with me, and to introduce me to certain outlying parts of the universe, where I might learn something of its origin and early history. He took my hand, and instantly we were in the voids of space. Turning after a moment, he pointed to a small star and said, “That is the star you call the sun; here, you see, it is only about the third magnitude, and in a few seconds it will disappear.” These few seconds, indeed, reduced the whole visible firmament to a mere nebulous haze like the Milky Way, and we seemed to be in blank space. But pausing for a moment I became aware that around us were multitudes of dark bodies, so black that they were, so to speak, negatively visible, even in the almost total darkness around. Some seemed large and massive, some a mere drift of minute particles, formless and without distinct limits. Some were swiftly moving, others « 10 »stationary, or merely revolving on their own axes. It was a “horror of great darkness,” and I trembled with fear. “This,” said my guide, “is what the old Hebrew seer called tohu ve bohu, ‘formless and void,’ the ‘Tiamat’ or abyss of the old Chaldeans, the ‘chaos and old night’ of the Greeks. Your mundane physicists have not seen it, but they speculate regarding it, and occupy themselves with questions as to whether it can be lightened and vivified by mere attractive force, or by collision of dark bodies impinging on each other with vast momentum. Their speculations are vain, and lead to nothing, because they have no data wherefrom to calculate the infinite and eternal Power who determined either the attraction or the motion, or who willed which portion of this chaos was to become cosmos, and which was to remain for ever dead and dark. Let us turn, however, to a more hopeful prospect.” We sped away to another scene. Here were vast luminous bodies, such as we call nebulæ. Some were globular, others disc-like, others annular or like spiral wisps, and some were composed of several concentric shells or rings. All were in rapid rotation, and presented a glorious and brilliant spectacle. “This,” said my guide, “is matter of the same kind with that we have just been considering; but it has been set in active motion. The fiat ‘Let there be light!’ has been issued to it. Nor is its motion in vain. Each of these nebulous masses is the material of a system of worlds, and they will produce systems of different forms in accordance with the various shapes and motions which you observe. Such bodies are well known to earthly astronomers. One of them, the great nebula of Andromeda, has been photographed, and is a vast system of luminous rings of vapour placed nearly edgewise to the earth, and hundreds of times greater than the whole solar system. But now let us annihilate time, and consider these gigantic bodies as they will be in the course of many millions of years.” Instantaneously these vast nebulæ had concentrated « 11 »themselves into systems of suns and planets, but with this difference from ours, that the suns were very large and surrounded with a wide luminous haze, and each of the planets was self-luminous, like a little sun. In some the planets were dancing up and down in spiral lines. In others they were moving in one plane. In still others, in every variety of direction. Some had vast numbers of little planets and satellites. Others had a few of larger size. There were even some of these systems that had a pair of central suns of contrasting colours. The whole scene was so magnificent and beautiful that I thought I could never weary of gazing on it. “Here,” said he, “we have the most beautiful condition of systems of worlds, when considered from a merely physical point of view: the perfection of solar and planetary luminousness, but which is destined to pass away in the interest of things more important, if less showy. This is the condition of the great star Sirius, which the old priest astronomers of the Nile Valley made so much of in their science and religion, and which they called Sothis. It is now known by your star-gazers to be vastly larger than your sun, and fifty times more brilliant. Let us select one of these systems somewhat similar to the solar system, and suppose that the luminous atmospheres of its nearer planets are beginning to wane in brilliancy. Here is one of them, through whose halo of light we can see the body of the planet. What do you now perceive?” The planet referred to was somewhat larger in appearance than our earth, and, approaching near to it, I could see that it had a cloud-bearing firmament, and that it seemed to have continents and oceans, though disposed in more regular forms than on our own planet, and with a smaller proportion of land. Looking at it more closely, I searched in vain for « 12 »any sign of animal life, but I saw a vast profusion of what might be plants, but not like those of this world. These were trees of monstrous stature, and their leaves, which were of great size and shaped like fronds of seaweeds, were not usually green, but variegated with red, crimson and orange. The surface of the land looked like beds of gigantic specimens of Colias and similar variegated-leaved plants, the whole presenting a most gorgeous yet grotesque spectacle. “This,” said my guide, “is the primitive vegetation which clothes each of the planets in its youthful state. The earth was once so clothed, in the time when vegetable life alone existed, and there were no animals to prey upon it, and when the earth was, like the world you now look upon, a paradise of plants; for all things in nature are at first in their best estate. This vegetation is known to you on the earth only by the Carbon and Graphite buried in your oldest rocks. It still lingers on your neighbour Mars, which has, however, almost passed beyond this stage, and we are looking forward before long to see a still more gigantic though paler development of it in altogether novel shapes on the great continents that are being formed on the surface of Jupiter. But look again.” And time being again annihilated, I saw the same world, now destitute of any luminous envelope, with a few dark clouds in its atmosphere, and presenting just the same appearance which I would suppose our earth to present to an astronomer viewing it with a powerful telescope from the moon. “Here we are at home again,” said my guide; “good-bye.” I found myself nodding over my table, and that my pen had just dropped from my hand, making a large blot on my paper. My dream, however, « 13 »gave me a hint as to a subject, and I determined to devote my address to a consideration of questions which geology has not solved, or has only imperfectly and hypothetically discussed.
In evidence of these and other statements I may refer to Huggins’ recent address as President of the British Association, and to the “Story of the Heavens,” etc., by Sir Robert Ball.
We shall see farther on that there is reason to believe that the primitive land vegetation was more different from that of the Devonian and Carboniferous than it is from that of the present day.
Mars is probably a stage behind the earth in its development, and the ruddy hue of its continents would seem to b: due to some organic covering.
Such unsolved or partially solved questions must necessarily exist in a science which covers the whole history of the earth in time. At the beginning it allies itself with astronomy and physics and celestial chemistry. At the end it runs into human history, and is mixed up with archæology and anthropology. Throughout its whole course it has to deal with questions of meteorology, geography and biology. In short, there is no department of physical or biological science, with which this many-sided study is not allied, or at least on which the geologist may not presume to trespass. When, therefore, it is proposed to discuss in the present chapter some of the unsolved problems and disputed questions of this universal science, the reader need not be surprised if it should be somewhat discursive.
Perhaps we may begin at the utmost limits of the subject by remarking that in matters of natural and physical science we are met at the outset with the scarcely solved question as to our own place in the nature which we study, and the bearing of this on the difficulties we encounter. The organism of man is decidedly a part of nature. We place ourselves, in this aspect, in the sub-kingdom vertebrata and class mammalia, and recognise the fact that man is the terminal link in a chain of being, extending throughout geological time. But the organism is not all that belongs to man, and when we regard him as a scientific inquirer, we raise a new question. If the human mind is a part of nature, then it is subject to natural law, and nature includes mind as well as matter. Indeed, without being absolute idealists we may hold that mind is more potent than matter, and nearer to the real essence of things. Our science is in any case necessarily dualistic, being the product « 14 »of the reaction of mind on nature, and must be largely subjective and anthropomorphic. Hence, no doubt, arises much of the controversy of science, and much of the unsolved difficulty. We recognise this when we divide science into that which is experimental, or depends on apparatus, and that which is observational and classificatory—distinctions these which relate not so much to the objects of science as to our methods of pursuing them. This view also opens up to us the thought that the domain of science is practically boundless, for who can set limits to the action of mind on the universe, or of the universe on mind. It follows that science, as it exists at any one time, must be limited on all sides by unsolved mysteries; and it will not serve any good purpose to meet these with clever guesses. If we so treat the enigmas of the sphinx nature, we shall surely be devoured. Nor, on the other hand, must we collapse into absolute despair, and resign ourselves to the confession of inevitable ignorance. It becomes us rather boldly to confront the unsolved questions of nature, and to wrestle with their difficulties till we master such as we can, and cheerfully leave those we cannot overcome to be grappled with by our successors.
Fortunately, as a geologist, I do not need to invite attention to those transcendental questions which relate to the ultimate constitution of matter, the nature of the ethereal medium filling space, the absolute difference or identity of chemical elements, the cause of gravitation, the conservation and dissipation of energy, the nature of life, or the primary origin of bioplasmic matter. I may take the much more humble rôle of an inquirer into the unsolved or partially solved problems which meet us in considering that short and imperfect record which geology studies in the rocky layers of the earth’s crust, and which leads no farther back than to the time when a solid rind had already formed on the earth, and was already covered with an ocean. This record of geology covers but a small « 15 »part of the history of the earth and of the system to which it belongs, nor does it enter at all into the more recondite problems involved; still it forms, I believe, some necessary preparation at least to the comprehension of these. If we are to go farther back, we must accept the guidance of physicists rather than of geologists, and I must say that in this physical cosmology both geologists and general readers are likely to find themselves perplexed with the vagaries in which the most sober mathematicians may indulge. We are told that the original condition of the solar system was that of a vaporous and nebulous cloud intensely heated and whirling rapidly round, that it probably came into this condition by the impact of two dark solid bodies striking each other so violently, that they became intensely heated and resolved into the smallest possible fragments. Lord Kelvin attributes this impact to their being attracted together by gravitative force. Croll argues that in addition to gravitation these bodies must have had a proper motion of great velocity, which Lord Kelvin thinks “enormously” improbable, as it would require the solid bodies to be shot against each other with a marvellously true aim, and this not in the case of the sun only, but of all the stars. It is rather more improbable than it would be to affirm that in the artillery practice of two opposing armies, cannon balls have thousands of times struck and shattered each other midway between the hostile batteries. The question, we are told, is one of great moment to geologists, since on the one hypothesis the duration of our system has amounted to only about twenty millions of years; on the other, it may have lasted ten times that number. In any case it seems a strange way of making systems of worlds, that they should result from the chance collision of multitudes of solid bodies « 16 »rushing hither and thither in space, and it is almost equally strange to imagine an intelligent Creator banging these bodies about like billiard balls in order to make worlds. Still, in that case we might imagine them not to be altogether aimless. The question only becomes more complicated when with Grove and Lockyer we try to reach back to an antecedent condition, when there are neither solid masses nor nebulæ, but only an inconceivably tenuous and universally diffused medium made up of an embryonic matter, which has not yet even resolved itself into chemical elements. How this could establish any motion within itself tending to aggregation in masses, is quite inconceivable. To plodding geologists laboriously collecting facts and framing conclusions therefrom, such flights of the mathematical mind seem like the wildest fantasies of dreams. We are glad to turn from them to examine those oldest rocks, which are to us the foundation stones of the earth’s crust.
Other facts favour the shorter time (Clarence King, Am. Jl. of Science, vol. xlv., 3rd series).
What do we know of the oldest and most primitive rocks? At this moment the question may be answered in many and discordant ways; yet the leading elements of the answer may be given very simply. The oldest rock formation known to geologists is the Lower Laurentian, the Fundamental Gneiss, the Lewisian formation of Scotland, the Ottawa gneiss of Canada, the lowest Archæan crystalline rocks. This formation, of enormous thickness, corresponds to what the older geologists called the fundamental granite, a name not to be scouted, for gneiss is only a stratified or laminated granite. Perhaps the main fact in relation to this old rock is that it is a gneiss; that is, a rock at once bedded and crystalline, and having for its dominant ingredient the mineral orthoclase, a compound of silica, alumina and potash, in which are imbedded, as in a paste, grains and crystals of quartz and hornblende. We know very well from its texture and composition that it cannot be a product of mere heat, and being a bedded rock « 17 »we infer that it was laid down layer by layer in the manner of aqueous deposits. On the other hand, its chemical composition is quite different from that of the muds, sands and gravels usually deposited from water. Their special characters are caused by the fact that they have resulted from the slow decay of rocks like these gneisses, under the operation of carbon dioxide and water, whereby the alkaline matter and the more soluble part of the silica have been washed away, leaving a residue mainly silicious and aluminous. Such more modern rocks tell of dry land subjected to atmospheric decay and ram-wash. If they have any direct relation to the old gneisses, they are their grandchildren, not their parents. On the contrary, the oldest gneisses show no pebbles or sand or limestone—nothing to indicate that there was then any land undergoing atmospheric waste, or shores with sand and gravel. For all that we know to the contrary, these old gneisses may have been deposited in a shoreless sea, holding in solution or suspension merely what it could derive from a submerged crust recently cooled from a state of fusion, still thin, and exuding here and there through its fissures heated waters and volcanic products. This, it may be observed here, is just what we have a right to expect, if the earth was once a heated or fluid mass, and if our oldest Laurentian rocks consist of the first beds or layers deposited upon it, perhaps by a heated ocean. It has been well said that “the secret of the earth’s hot youth has been well kept.” But with the help of physical science we can guess at an originally heat-liquefied ball with denser matter at its centre, lighter and oxidised matter at its surface. We can imagine a scum or crust forming at the surface; and from what we know of the earth’s interior, nothing is more likely to have constituted that slaggy « 18 »crust than the material of our old gneisses. As to its bedded character, this may have arisen in part from the addition of cooling layers below, in part from the action of heated water above, and in part from pressure or tension; while, wherever it cracked or became broken, its interstices would be injected with molten matter from beneath. All this may be conjecture, but it is based on known facts, and is the only probable conjecture. If correct, it would account for the fact that the gneissic rocks are the lowest and oldest that we reach in every part of the earth.
Carbon dioxide, the great agent in the decay of silicious rocks, must then have constituted a very much larger part of the atmosphere than at present.
In short, the fundamental gneiss of the Lower Laurentian may have been the first rock ever formed; and in any case it is a rock formed under conditions which have not since recurred, except locally. It constitutes the first and best example of those chemico-physical, aqueous or aqueo-igneous rocks, so characteristic of the earliest period of the earth’s history. Viewed in this way the Lower Laurentian gneiss is probably the oldest kind of rock we shall ever know the limit to our backward progress, beyond which there remains nothing to the geologist except physical hypotheses respecting a cooling incandescent globe. For the chemical conditions of these primitive rocks, and what is known as to their probable origin, I may refer to the writings of my friends, the late Dr. Sterry Hunt and Dr. J. G. Bonney, to whom we owe so much of what is known of the older crystalline rocks as well as of their literature, and the questions which they raise. My purpose here is to sketch the remarkable difference which we meet as we ascend into the Middle and Upper Laurentian.
Hunt, “Essays on Chemical Geology”; Bonney, “Addresses to British Association and Geological Society of London.”
In the next succeeding formation, the middle part of the Laurentian of Logan, the Grenville series of Canada, we meet with a great and significant change. It is true we have still a predominance of gneisses which may have been formed in the « 19 »same manner with those below them; but we find these now associated with great beds of limestone and dolomite, which must have been formed by the separation of calcium and magnesium carbonates from the sea water, either by chemical precipitation or by the agency of living beings. We have also quartzite, quartzose gneisses, and even pebble beds, which inform us of sandbanks and shores. Nay, more, we have beds containing graphite which must be the residue of plants, and iron ores which tell of the deoxidation of iron oxide by organic matters. In short, here we have evidence of new factors in world-building, of land and ocean, of atmospheric decay of rocks, of deoxidizing processes carried on by vegetable life on the land and in the waters, of limestone-building in the sea. To afford material for such rocks, the old Ottawa gneiss must have been lifted up into continents and mountain masses by bendings and foldings of the original crust. Under the slow but sure action of the carbon dioxide dissolved in rainwater, its felspar had crumbled down in the course of ages. Its potash, soda, lime, magnesia, and part Of its silica had been washed into the sea, there to enter into new combinations and to form new deposits. The crumbling residue of fine clay and sand had been also washed down into the borders of the ocean, and had been there deposited in beds. Thus the earth had entered into a new phase, which continues onward through the geological ages; and I place in the reader’s hands one key for unlocking the mystery of the world in affirming that this great change took place, this new era was inaugurated in the midst of the Laurentian period, the oldest of our great divisions of the earth’s geological history.
I follow the original arrangement of Logan, who first defined this succession in the extensive and excellent exposures of these rocks in Canada. Elsewhere the subject has often been confused and mixed with local details. The same facts, though sometimes under different names, are recorded by the geologists of Scandinavia, Britain, and the United States, and the acceptance of the conclusions of Nicol and Lapworth has served to bring even the rocks of the Highlands of Scotland more into line with those of Canada.
Was not this a fit period for the first appearance of life? should we not expect it to appear, independently of the evidence of the fact, so soon at least as the temperature of the ocean falls sufficiently low to permit its existence? I do not propose to enter here into that evidence. This we shall have occasion to consider in the sequel. I would merely say here that we should bear in mind that in this latter half of the Lower Laurentian, or if we so choose to style it, Middle Laurentian period, we have the conditions required for life in the sea and on the land; and since in other periods we know that life was always present when its conditions were present, it is not unreasonable to look for the earliest traces of life in this formation, in which we find, for the first time, the completion of those physical arrangements which make life, in such forms of it as exist in the sea, possible.
Dana states this at 180°F. for plants and 120° for animals.
This is also a proper place to say something of the disputed doctrine of what is termed metamorphism, or the chemical and molecular changes which old rocks have undergone.
The Laurentian rocks are undoubtedly greatly changed from their original state, more especially in the matters of crystallization and the formation of disseminated minerals, by the action of heat and heated water. Sandstones have thus passed into quartzites, clays into slates and schists, limestones into marbles. So far, metamorphism is not a doubtful question; but when theories of metamorphism go so far as to suppose an actual change of one element for another, they go beyond the bounds of chemical credibility; yet such theories of metamorphism are often boldly advanced and made the basis of important conclusions. Dr. Hunt has happily given the name “metasomatosis” to this imaginary and improbable kind of « 21 »metamorphism. I would have it to be understood that, in speaking of the metamorphism of the older crystalline rocks, it is not to this metasomatosis that I refer, and that I hold that rocks which have been produced out of the materials decomposed by atmospheric erosion can never by any process of metamorphism be restored to the precise condition of the Laurentian rocks. Thus, there is in the older formations a genealogy of rocks, which, in the absence of fossils, may be used with some confidence, but which does not apply to the more modern deposits, and which gives a validity to the use of mineral character in classifying older rocks which does not hold for later formations. Still, nothing in geology absolutely perishes, or is altogether discontinued; and it is probable that, down to the present day, the causes which produced the old Laurentian gneiss may still operate in limited localities. Then, however, they were general, not exceptional. It is further to be observed that the term gneiss is sometimes of wide and even loose application. Beside the typical orthoclase and hornblendic gneiss of the Laurentian, there are micaceous, quartzose, garnetiferous and many other kinds of gneiss; and even gneissose rocks, which hold labradorite or anorthite instead of orthoclase, are sometimes, though not accurately, included in the term.
The Grenville series, or Middle Laurentian, is succeeded by what Logan in Canada called the Upper Laurentian, and which other geologists have called the Norite or Norian series. Here we still have our old friends the gneisses, but somewhat peculiar in type, and associated with them are great beds and masses, rich in lime-felspar, the so-called labradorite and anorthite rocks. The precise ‘origin of these is uncertain, but this much seems clear, namely, that they originated in circumstances in which the great limestones deposited in the Lower or Middle Laurentian were beginning to be employed in the manufacture, probably by aqueo-igneous agencies, of lime-felspars. This proves « 22 »the Norian rocks to be younger than the Lower Laurentian, and that, as Logan supposed, considerable earth-movements had occurred between the two, implying lapse of time, while it is also evident that the folding and crumpling of the Lower Laurentian had led to great outbursts of igneous matter from below the crust, or from its under part.
Next to the Laurentian, but probably after an interval, the rocks of which are yet scarcely known, we have the Huronian of Logan, a series much less crystalline and more fragmentary, and affording more evidence of land elevation and atmospheric and aqueous erosion than those preceding it. It has extensive beds of volcanic rock, great conglomerates, some of them made up of rounded fragments of Laurentian rocks, and others of quartz pebbles, which must have been the remains of rocks subjected to very perfect decay. The pure quartz-rocks tell the same tale, while slates and limestones speak also of chemical separation of the materials of older rocks. The Huronian evidently tells of previous movements in the Laurentian, and changes which allowed the Huronian to be deposited along its shores and on the edges of its beds. Yet the Huronian itself is older than the Palæozoic series, and affected by powerful earth-movements at an earlier date. Life existed in the waters in Huronian times. We have spicules of sponges in the limestone, and organic markings on the slaty beds; but they are few, and their nature is uncertain.
Succeeding the Huronian, and made up of its débris and that of the Laurentian, we have the great Cambrian series, that in which we first find undoubted evidence of abundant marine life, and which thus forms the first chapter in the great Palæozoic book of the early history of the world. Here let it be observed we have at least two wide gaps in our history, marked by the crumpling up, first, of the Laurentian, and then of the Huronian beds.
After what has been said, the reader will perhaps not be « 23 »astonished that fierce geological battles have raged over the old crystalline rocks. By some geologists they are almost entirely explained away, or referred to igneous action, or to the alteration of ordinary sediments. Under the treatment of another school they grow to great series of Pre-Cambrian rocks, constituting vast systems of formations, distinguishable from each other chiefly by differences of mineral character. Facts and fossils are daily being discovered, by which these disputes will ultimately be settled.
After the solitary appearance of Eozoon in the Laurentian, and of a few uncertain forms in the Huronian, we find ourselves, in the Cambrian, in the presence of a nearly complete invertebrate fauna of protozoa, polyps, echinoderms, mollusks and Crustacea, and this not confined to one locality merely, but apparently extended simultaneously throughout the ocean, over the whole world. This sudden incoming of animal life, along with the subsequent introduction of successive groups of invertebrates, and finally of vertebrate animals, furnishes one of the greatest unsolved problems of geology, which geologists were wont to settle by the supposition of successive creations. In the sequel I shall endeavour to set forth the facts as to this succession, and the general principles involved in it, and to show the insufficiency of certain theories of evolution suggested by biologists to give any substantial aid to the geologist in these questions. At present I propose merely to notice some of the general principles which should guide us in studying the development of life in geological time, and the causes which have baffled so many attempts to throw light on this obscure portion of our unsolved problems.
It has been urged on the side of rational evolution—and there are both rational and irrational forms of this many-sided doctrine—that this hypothesis does not profess to give an explanation of the absolute origin of life on our planet, or even of the original organization of a single cell, or of a simple mass « 24 »of protoplasm, living or dead. All experimental attempts to produce by synthesis the complex albuminous substances, or to obtain the living from the non-living, have so far been fruitless, and indeed we cannot imagine any process by which such changes could be effected. That they have been effected we know, but the process employed by their maker is still as mysterious to us as it probably was to him who wrote the words:—”And God said, Let the waters swarm with swarmers.” How vast is the gap in our knowledge and our practical power implied in this admission, which must, however, be made by every mind not absolutely blinded by a superstitious belief in those forms of words which too often pass current as philosophy.
But if we are content to start with a number of organisms ready made—a somewhat humiliating start, however—we still have to ask—How do these vary so as to give new species? It is a singular illusion, and especially in the case of men who profess to be believers in natural law, that variation may be boundless, aimless and fortuitous, and that it is by spontaneous selection from varieties thus produced that development arises. But surely the supposition of mere chance and magic is unworthy of science. Varieties must have causes, and their causes and their effects must be regulated by some law or laws. Now it is easy to see that they cannot be caused by a mere innate tendency in the organism itself. Every organism is so nicely equilibrated that it has no such spontaneous tendency, except within the limits set by its growth and the law of its periodical changes. There may, however, be equilibrium more or less stable. I believe all attempts hitherto made have failed to account for the fixity of certain, nay, of very many, types throughout geological time, but the mere consideration that one may be in a more stable state of equilibrium than another, so far explains it. A rocking stone has no more spontaneous tendency to move than an ordinary boulder, but « 25 »it may be made to move with a touch. So it probably is with organisms. But if so, then the causes of variation are external, as in many cases we actually know them to be, and they must depend on instability with change in surroundings, and this so arranged as not to be too extreme in amount, and to operate in some determinate direction. Observe how remarkable the unity of the adjustments involved in such a supposition!—how superior they must be to our rude and always more or less unsuccessful attempts to produce and carry forward varieties and races in definite directions! This cannot be chance. If it exists, it must depend on plans deeply laid in the nature of things, else it would be most monstrous magic and causeless miracle. Still more certain is this conclusion when we consider the vast and orderly succession made known to us by geology, and which must have been regulated by fixed laws, only a few of which are as yet known to us.
Beyond these general considerations we have others of a more special character, based on palæontological facts, which show how imperfect are our attempts as yet to reach the true causes of the introduction of genera and species.
One is the remarkable fixity of the leading types of living beings in geological time. If, instead of framing, like Haeckel, fanciful phylogenies, we take the trouble, with Barrande and Gaudry, to trace the forms of life through the period of their existence, each along its own line, we shall be greatly struck with this, and especially with the continuous existence of many low types of life through vicissitudes of physical conditions of the most stupendous character, and over a lapse of time scarcely conceivable. What is still more remarkable is that this holds in groups which, within certain limits, are perhaps the most variable of all. In the present world no creatures are individually more variable than the protozoa; as, for example, the foraminifera and the sponges. Yet these groups are fundamentally the same, from the beginning of the Palæozoic « 26 »until now, and modern species seem scarcely at all to differ from specimens procured from rocks at least half-way back to the beginning of our geological record. If we suppose that the present sponges and foraminifera are the descendants of those of the Silurian period, we can affirm that in all that vast lapse of time they have, on the whole, made little greater change than that which may be observed in variable forms at present. The same remark applies to other low animal forms. In types somewhat higher and less variable, this is almost equally noteworthy. The pattern of the venation of the wings of cockroaches, and the structure and form of land snails, gally-worms and decapod crustaceans were all settled in the Carboniferous age, in a way that still remains. So were the foliage and the fructification of club mosses and ferns. If, at any time, members of these groups branched off, so as to lay the foundation of new species, this must have been a very rare and exceptional occurrence, and one demanding even some suspension of the ordinary laws of nature.
We may perhaps be content on this question to say with Gaudry, that it is not yet possible to “pierce the mystery that surrounds the development of the great classes of animals,” or with Prof. Williamson, that in reference to fossil plants “the time has not yet arrived for the appointment of a botanical King-at-arms and Constructor of pedigrees.” We shall, however, find that by abandoning mere hypothetical causes and carefully noting the order of the development and the causes in operation, so far as known, we may reach to ideas as to cause and mode, and the laws of succession, even if unable to penetrate the mystery of origins.