It was always understood that plants and animals, though completely contrasted in their higher representatives, approached each other very closely in their lower and simpler forms. But they were believed not to blend.
Many years ago it was taught that plants and animals were composed of different materials: plants, of a chemical substance of three elements,- carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen; animals of one of four elements, nitrogen being added to the other three.
Next it was found that it was physiologically and structurally the same in the plant, that it was the living part of the plant, that which manifested the life and did the work in vegetable as well as in animal organisms.
It was implicitly supposed that every living thing was distinctively plant or animal; that there were real and profound differences between the two, if only they could be seized.
The best opinion now is, that there are multitudinous forms which are not sufficiently differentiated to be distinctively either plant or animal, while, as respects ordinary plants and animals, the difficulty of laying down a definition has become far greater than ever before.
It remains to consider what attitude thoughtful men and Christian believers should take respecting them, and how they stand related to beliefs of another order.
This substance, which is manifold in its forms and protean in its transformations, has, in its state of living matter, one physiological name which has become familiar, that of protoplasm.
We have spoken of beings so low in the scale that the individuals throughout their whole existence are not sufficiently specialized to be distinctively plant or animal: yet these are definite life in simpler shape.
We may take it to be the accepted idea that the Mosaic books were not handed down to us for our instruction in scientific knowledge, and that it is our duty to ground our scientific beliefs upon observation and inference, unmixed with considerations of a different order.
Your candor is worth everything to your cause. It is refreshing to find a person with a new theory who frankly confesses that he finds difficulties, insurmountable, at least for the present.
Indeed upon much that may have to say, I expect rather the charitable judgment than the full assent of those whose approbation I could most wish to win.
I accept extinction as best explaining disjoined species. I see that the same cause must have reduced many species of great range to small, and that it may have reduced large genera to so small, and of families.
We have really, that I know of, no philosophical basis for high and low. Moreover, the vegetable kingdom does not culminate, as the animal kingdom does. It is not a kingdom, but a common-wealth; a democracy, and therefore puzzling and unaccountable from the former point of view.
Agassiz, when I saw him last, had read but a part of Origin of Species. He says it is POOR-VERY POOR!!. The fact is, he is very much annoyed by it.
Natural selection is not the wind which propels the vessel, but the rudder which, by friction, now on this side and now on that, shapes the course.
In short, the animal and vegetable lines, diverging widely above, join below in a loop.
The former conviction that these two kingdoms were wholly different in structure, in function, and in kind of life, was not seriously disturbed by the difficulties which the naturalist encountered when he undertook to define them.
This view, as a rounded whole and in all its essential elements, has very recently disappeared from science. It died a royal death with Agassiz.
Faith in order, which is the basis of science, cannot reasonably be separated from faith in an Ordainer, which is the basis of religion.
I am sufficiently convinced already that the members of a profession know their own calling better than anyone else can know it.
Yes, it is true that there are times when you do wonder if things are worth it but usually those moments pass as soon as they have come.
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