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.
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.
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.
I take it for granted that you do not wish to hear an echo from the pulpit nor from the theological class-room.
In short, the animal and vegetable lines, diverging widely above, join below in a loop.
I proceed with the proper subject of this discourse; namely, the further changes in scientific belief, which have occurred within my own recollection, even since the time when I first aspired to authorship, now forty- five years ago.
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.
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.
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.
Is it philosophical, is it quite allowable, to assume without evidence from fossil plants that the family or any of the genera was once larger and wide spread? and occupied a continuous area?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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