Story type: Essay
The following paper was read by me in a clear, resonant tone of voice, before the Academy of Science and Pugilism at Erin Prairie, last month, and as I have been so continually and so earnestly importuned to print it that life was no longer desirable, I submit it to you for that purpose, hoping that you will print my name in large caps, with astonishers at the head of the article, and also in good display type at the close:
Some Features Of Evolution.
No one could possibly, in a brief paper, do the subject of evolution full justice. It is a matter of great importance to our lost and undone race. It lies near to every human heart, and exercises a wonderful influence over our impulses and our ultimate success or failure. When we pause to consider the opaque and fathomless ignorance of the great masses of our fellow men on the subject of evolution, it is not surprising that crime is rather on the increase, and that thousands of our race are annually filling drunkards’ graves, with no other visible means of support, while multitudes of enlightened human beings are at the same time obtaining a livelihood by meeting with felons’ dooms.
These I would ask in all seriousness and in a tone of voice that would melt the stoniest heart: “Why in creation do you do it?” The time is rapidly approaching when there will be two or three felons for each doom. I am sure that within the next fifty years, and perhaps sooner even than that, instead of handing out these dooms to Tom, Dick and Harry as formerly, every applicant for a felon’s doom will have to pass through a competitive examination, as he should do.
It will be the same with those who desire to fill drunkards’ graves. The time is almost here when all positions of profit and trust will be carefully and judiciously handed out, and those who do not fit themselves for those positions will be left in the lurch, whatever that may be.
It is with this fact glaring me in the face that I have consented to appear before you to-day and lay bare the whole hypothesis, history, rise and fall, modifications, anatomy, physiology and geology of evolution. It is for this that I have poured over such works as Huxley, Herbert Spencer, Moses in the bulrushes, Anaxagoras, Lucretius and Hoyle. It is for the purpose of advancing the cause of common humanity and to jerk the rising generation out of barbarism into the dazzling effulgence of clashing intellects and fermenting brains that I have sought the works of Pythagoras, Democritus and Epluribus. Whenever I could find any book that bore upon the subject of evolution, and could borrow it, I have done so while others slept.
That is a matter which rarely enters into the minds of those who go easily and carelessly through life. Even the general superintendent of the Academy of Science and Pugilism here in Erin Prairie, the hotbed of a free and untrammeled, robust democracy, does not stop to think of the midnight and other kinds of oil that I have consumed in order to fill myself full of information and to soak my porous mind with thought. Even the O’Reilly College of this place, with its strong mental faculty, has not informed itself fully relative to the great effort necessary before a lecturer may speak clearly, accurately and exhaustingly of evolution.
And yet, here in this place, where education is rampant, and the idea is patted on the back, as I may say; here in Erin Prairie, where progress and some other sentiments are written on everything; here where I am addressing you to-night for $2 and feed for my horse, I met a little child with a bright and cheerful smile, who did not know that evolution consisted in a progress from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous.
So you see that you never know where ignorance lurks. The hydra-headed upas tree and bete noir of self-acting progress, is such ignorance as that, lurking in the very shadow of magnificent educational institutions and hard words of great cast. Nothing can be more disagreeable to the scientist than a bete noir. Nothing gives him greater satisfaction than to chase it up a tree or mash it between two shingles.
For this reason, as I said, it gives me great pleasure to address you on the subject of evolution, and to go into details in speaking of it. I could go on for hours as I have been doing, delighting you with the intricacies and peculiarities of evolution, but I must desist. It would please me to do so, and you would no doubt remain patiently and listen, but your business might suffer while you were away, and so I will close, but I hope that anyone now within the sound of my voice, and in whose breast a sudden hunger for more light on this great subject may have sprung up, will feel perfectly free to call on me and ask me about it or immerse himself in the numerous tomes that I have collected from friends, and which relate to this matter.
In closing I wish to say that I have made no statements in this paper relative to evolution which I am not prepared to prove; and, if anything, I have been over-conservative. For that reason I say now, that the person who doubts a single fact as I have given it to-night, bearing upon the great subject of evolution, will have to do so over my dumb remains.
And a man who will do that is no gentleman. I presume that many of these statements will be snapped up and sharply criticised by other theologians and many of our foremost thinkers, but they will do well to pause before they draw me into a controversy, for I have other facts in relation to evolution, and some personal reminiscences and family history, which I am prepared to introduce, if necessary, together with ideas that I have thought up myself. So I say to those who may hope to attract notice and obtain notoriety by drawing me into a controversy, beware. It will be to your interest to beware!0 views