Thoughts On Species -- By: James D. Dana
BSac 14:56 (Oct 1857) p. 854
Thoughts On Species
[Prefatory Note.—The discussion with respect to the Unity of the Human race based on the study of Nature, is naturally divided into three sections:
1. Is man of one, or of several species.
2. If of one species, was he created on one only, or on different continents, or in other words, was there a plurality of original birth-lands.
3. If of one centre only, was there but one first pair, or a plurality of first pairs.
The plurality of species, of birth-lands, of parentage, are three distinct subjects of inquiry.
If man is of more than one species, the creation of man on more than one continent and of more than one pair must necessarily be admitted; and hence the inquiry as to unity of species is of the widest import. The course which scientific discussion has recently taken, makes this, in fact, the great fundamental question, involving all others. It is understood, that proving a plurality of species, is putting down all opposing arguments at a stroke; and this is, therefore, the point towards which attention is now especially directed. It is hence of the first importance, to those who would consider the bearings of science on the
BSac 14:56 (Oct 1857) p. 855
grand topic, that this question should be profoundly considered.
In treating it, we might perhaps have made a more satisfactory argument to many minds, had we taken up the special results of observations on the distinctions and variations of species. But it is reasonable and profitable, first, to take a survey of the wide range of nature, and gather up the testimony which science in all her departments is bringing to light. These departments, although so diverse, are yet coordinate in their relations. Each sheds light into the precincts of the other, and all combine in harmonious exhibitions of truth. More than this, common ideas underlie the whole system of the universe, declaring a unity of nature, parallel with the unity of the Infinite Author. An appeal to general principles, is therefore an appeal to the deepest and widest range of knowledge.
Moreover, the argument from the direct study of individual plants and animals, is only in its incipient state of preparation; for we yet know little as to the limits of species and their laws of variation. Different investigators are at work on the subject; and until these and others have given it a long and thorough examination, it would be presumptuous to say with positiveness what the facts in this department of science do teach. We believe, that when fully worked out, they will only add force to the argument presented beyond.
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