Last words on evolution PDF book by Ernst Haeckel

Last words on evolution PDF book; a popular retrospect and summary by Ernst Haeckel (1905)

Last words on evolution

Content of the book:
The controversy about creation.--The struggle over our genealogical tree.--The controversy over the soul.--Appendix: Evolutionary tables.--Postscript: Evolution and Jesuitism

Introduction

A few months ago the sensational announcement was made that Professor Haeckel had abandoned Darwinism, and given public support to the teaching of a Jesuit writer. There was something piquant in the suggestion that the ' Darwin of Ger- many" had recanted the conclusions of fifty years of laborious study. Nor could people forget that only two years before Haeckel had written with some feeling about the partial recantation of some of his colleagues. Many of our journals boldly declined to insert the romantic news, which came through one of the chief international press agencies. Others drew the attention of their readers, in jubilant editorial notes, to the lively prospect it opened out. To the many inquiries addressed to me as the "apostle of Professor Haeckel," as Sir Oliver Lodge dubs me in a genial letter, I timidly represented that even a German reporter sometimes drank. But the correction quickly came that the telegram had exactly reversed the position taken up by the great biologist It is only just to the honorable calling of the reporter to add that, according to the theory current in Germany, the message was tampered with by subtle and ubiquitous Jesuistry. Did they not penetrate even into the culinary service at Hatfield?

I have pleasure in now introducing the three famous lectures delivered by Professor Haeckel at Berlin, and the reader will see the grotesqueness of the original announcement. They are the last public deliverance that the aged professor will ever make. His enfeebled health forbids us to hope that his decision may yet be undone, He is now condemned, he tells me, to remain a passive spectator of the tense drama in which he has played so prominent a part for half a century. For him, the red rays fall level on the scene and the people about him.


It may be that they light up too luridly, too falsely, the situation in Germany; but the reader will understand how a Liberal of Haeckel's temper must feel his country to be between Scylla and Charybdis between and increasingly clear alternative of Catholicism or Socialism with a helmsman at the wheel whose vagaries inspire no confidence. The English reader will care to be instructed on the antithesis of Virchow and Haeckel which gives point to these lectures, and which is often misrepresented in this country.



Virchow, the greatest pathologist and one of the leading anthropologists of Ger- many, had much to do with the inspiring of Haeckel's Monistic views in the fifties. Like several other prominent German thinkers, Virchow subsequently abandoned the positive Monistic position for one of agnosticism and skepticism, and a long and bitter conflict ensued. It is hardly too much to say that Vir- chow's ultra-timid reserve in regard to the evolution of man and other questions has died with him. Apart from one or two less prominent anthropologists, and the curious distinction drawn by Dr. A. R. Wallace, science has accepted the fact of evolution, and has, indeed, accepted the main lines of Haeckel's ancestral tree of the human race. In any case, Haeckel had the splendid revenge of surviving his old teacher and almost life-long opponent.


Berlin had for years been dominated by the skeptical temper of Virchow and Du Bois-Reymond. The ardent evolutionist and opponents of Catholicism were impatient of a reserve that he felt to be an anachronism in science and effective support of reactionary ideas. It was, therefore, with peculiar satisfaction that he received the invitation, after Virchow's death, to address the Berlin public. Among the many and distinguished honors that have been heaped upon him in the last ten years, this was felt by him to hold a high place. He could, at last, submit freely, in the capital of his country, the massive foundations and the imposing structure of a doctrine which he holds to be no less established in science than valuable in the general cause of progress.






Author: Ernst Haeckel
Translator Joseph McCabe
 Publication Date: 1905 

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