1. There was a time when animals did not exist, and also a time when they began to appear. Each species appeared as soon as the Earth acquired the conditions necessary to its existence; this we positively know. But how were the first individuals of each species formed? A first couple must have been formed. Many beings have sprung from them; but this first couple, whence did they spring? This is one of the mysteries of the beginning, about which one can form only hypothesis. If science cannot yet completely solve the problem, it can at least put us on the way to a solution.
2. The first question presenting itself is this: has each animal species sprung from a single first couple, or have many couples been created simultaneously in different places?
This last supposition is the most probable. One can even call it a result of observation. Accordingly, studies of the geological layers indicate the presence of the same species in great quantities — in terrains of identical formation — on points of the globe very distant from one another. Such generalized and somewhat contemporaneous multiplication would have been impossible with one single primitive type.
Moreover, the life of an individual, above all that of a growing child, is submitted to so many uncertainties, that an entire species would be endangered without a plurality of primitive types, which would not be in accordance with divine foresight. Besides, if one type has been able to form itself upon a certain point, there is no reason why it should not be formed in many places by the same cause.
All concur then in proving that there has been a simultaneous and multiple creation of the first couples of each animal and vegetable species.
3. The knowledge of the formation of the first living beings can be deduced by analogy from the same law, by means of which have been formed and are forming every day inorganic bodies. According as one studies the laws of nature, one sees the machinery which at first sight appears so complicated, become simplified, and blend into the great law of unit, which presides over the entire work of creation. One will comprehend it better if one will notice the formation of inorganic bodies, which is the first stage of it.
4. In chemistry are found a certain number of elementary substances, such as: —oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, chlorine, iodine, fluoride, sulfur, phosphorus, and all the metals. By their combination they form compound bodies: — the oxides, acids, alkalize, salts, and innumerable varieties resulting from combinations of these.
By the combination of two bodies, in order to form a third, a particular concurrence of circumstances is exacted, — either a determined degree of heat, dryness or humidity, movement or repose, or an electric current, etc. If these conditions do not exist, the combination does not take place.
5. When there is combination, the bodies composing it lose their characteristic properties, whilst the composition resulting from it possesses new ones, different from those of the first. It is thus, for example, that oxygen and hydrogen, which are invisible gases, being chemically combined, form water, which is liquid, solid or vaporous according to temperature. Water, properly speaking, is no more oxygen and hydrogen, but a new body. This water decomposed, the two gases, becoming again free, recover their properties and are no more water. The same quantity of water can thus be decomposed and recomposed ad infinitum.
6. The composition and decomposition of bodies take place according to the degree of affinity that the elementary principles possess for one another. The formation of water, for example, results from the reciprocal affinity of oxygen and hydrogen but, if one places in contact with the water a body having a greater affinity for oxygen than for hydrogen, the water is decomposed; the oxygen is absorbed, the hydrogen liberated, and there is no more water.
7. Compound bodies are always formed in definite proportions; that is to say, by the combination of a quantity determined by the constituent principles. Thus, in order to form water, one part of oxygen is needed and two of hydrogen. If you mix two volumes of hydrogen with more than one of oxygen, then cause them to unite, the hydrogen would only unite with one volume of oxygen; but, if in other conditions there are two parts of oxygen combined with two of hydrogen, in place of water, the dentoxide of hydrogen is obtained, — a corrosive liquid, formed, however, of the same elements as water, but in another proportion.
8. Such is, in few words, the law which presides at the formation of all natural bodies. The innumerable variety of these bodies is the result of a very small number of elementary principles combined in different proportions.
Thus oxygen, combined in certain proportions with sulfur, carbon, and phosphorus, forms carbonic, sulfuric, and phosphoric acids. Oxygen and iron form the oxide of iron, or rust; oxygen and lead, both inoffensive, give place to the oxides of lead, such as litharge, white lead, and red lead, which are poisonous. Oxygen, with metals called calcium, sodium, potassium, forms limestone, soda, and potassium. Limestone, united with carbonic acid, forms the carbonites of limestone, or calcareous stones, such as marble, chalk, building stones, the stalactites of grottos. United with sulfuric acid, it forms the sulfate of limestone, or plaster and alabaster; with phosphoric acid, the phosphate of limestone. The solid base of bones, hydrogen, and chlorine form hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid and soda form the hydrochloride of soda, or marine salt.
9. All these combinations, and thousands of others, are artificially obtained on a small scale in chemical laboratories. They are operated on a large scale in the grand laboratory of nature.
The Earth, in its beginning, did not contain these combinations of matter, but only their constituent elements in a state of volatility. When the calcareous and other soils became after a long time stony, they had been deposited on its surface. They did not at first exist as formations, but in the air were found in a gaseous state. These substances, precipitated by the effect of cold under the sway of favoring circumstances, have been combined according to the degree of their molecular affinity. It is then that the different varieties of carbonates and sulfates, etc., have been formed, — at first in a state of dissolution in the water, then deposited on the surface of the soil.
Let us suppose that by some cause the Earth should return to its primitive incandescent state; all that we see would decompose; the elements would separate; all fusible substances would melt; all those which were volatile would return to a state of volatility; after which a second cooling process would lead to a new precipitation, and the ancient combinations would form anew.
10. These considerations prove how necessary is chemistry to give us an intelligent idea of Genesis. Before the knowledge of the laws of molecular affinity, it was impossible to comprehend the formation of the Earth. This science has thrown an entirely new light upon the question, as astronomy and geology have done upon other points of view.
11. In the formation of solid bodies, one of the most remarkable phenomena is that of crystallization, which consists of the regular form which certain substances appropriate in their passage from the liquid or gaseous state to a solid condition. This form, which varies according to the nature of the substance, is generally that of geometrical solids, such as the prism, the rhomboid, cube, and pyramid. Everyone has seen the crystals of sugar candy, — rock crystals, or crystallized silica, which are prisms with six sides terminated by a pyramid equally hexagonal. The diamond is pure carbon, or crystallized coal. The designs which are produced upon window-panes in winter are due to the crystallization of the vapor from water under the form of prismatic needles.
The regular disposition of the crystals belongs to the particular form of the molecules of each body. These infinitely small particles occupy, nevertheless, a certain space, have been drawn toward one another by molecular attraction; they are arranged and in juxtaposition to one another, according to the exigency of form, in such a way that each one takes its place around the nucleus, or first center of attraction, and forms a symmetrical whole.
Crystallization only operates under the empire of certain favorable circumstances, without which it cannot take place. A right degree of temperature with repose is an essential condition. Too much heat, keeping the molecules separated, would prevent condensation; and, as agitation is opposed to their symmetrical arrangement, they would form only a confused and irregular mass under its influence, which is consequently not crystallization in the true sense of the word.
12. The law which presides at the formation of minerals leads naturally to the formation of organic bodies.
Chemical analysis shows us that all vegetable and animal substances are composed of the same elements as inorganic bodies. Of these elements those which play the principal role are: oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon; the others are only accessory to them. As in the mineral kingdom, the difference of proportion in the combination of these elements produces all varieties of organic substances and their various properties: such as, muscles, bone, blood, bile, nerves, cerebral matter, and fat among animals; and sap, wood, leaves, fruits, essences, oils, and resins in the vegetable kingdom. Thus no special body enters into the composition of animals and plants which is not also found in the mineral kingdom. *
*The following table of analysis of a few substances shows the difference of properties resulting solely in the difference in the proportions of the constituent elements in 100 parts: —
|Oil of nuts||79.774||10.570||9.122||0,534|
13. A few common examples will show the transformations which take place in the kingdom of organic beings by the modification of the constituent element alone.
In the juice of the grape is found neither wine nor alcohol, but simply water and sugar. When this juice has arrived at maturity, and is placed in favorable circumstances, fermentation is produced. In this process a portion of the sugar is decomposed. Oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon are separated, and combined in the required proportions to form alcohol. By drinking the grape-juice when it is first formed, one does not drink alcohol, as it does not yet exist therein; thus, the alcohol is formed from the constituent parts of water and sugar existent therein, without adding or taking away one single molecule.
In bread and vegetables that we eat, there is certainly neither flesh, blood, bone, bile, nor cerebral matter; yet these articles of food produce them by decomposing and recomposing in the labor of digestion, and produce these different substances solely by the transmutation of their constitutive elements.
In the seed of a tree there is neither wood, leaves, flowers, nor fruit; and it is a puerile error to believe that the entire tree, in a microscopic form, is found in the seed. There is not even in this seed the quantity of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon necessary to form a leaf of the tree. The seed encloses a germ which comes to light when, the necessary conditions are found. This germ grows by aid of the juices it draws from the Earth, and the gas that it inhales from the air. These juices, which are neither wood, leaves, flowers, nor fruit, by infiltrating themselves into the plant, form sap, as food with animals makes blood. This sap, carried by the circulation into all parts of the vegetable, according as it is submitted to a special elaboration, is transformed into wood, leaves, and fruits, as blood is transformed into flesh, bones, bile, etc.; and, although these are always the same elements, — oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon, — they are diversely combined.
14. The different combinations of the elements for the formation of mineral, vegetable and animal substances can then be formed only under propitious circumstances. Outside of these circumstances the elementary principles are in a sort of inertia; but, as soon as conditions are favorable, a work of elaboration commences. The molecules begin to move: they act, approach, and are drawn toward one another, and separate by virtue of the law of affinity, and by their multiple combinations compose the infinite variety of substances. If these conditions cease, the work is suddenly arrested, to recommence so soon as conditions are again furnished. Thus vegetation is active, retards, ceases, and resumes action under the power of heat, light, humidity, cold, and dryness; as some plants prosper in one climate or soil, and perish in another.
15. That which took place from the beginning is daily taking place under our eyes; for the laws of nature are always the same since the constituent elements of organic and inorganic beings are identical.
As we continually see them under the empire of certain circumstances form stones, flowers, and fruits, one can conclude that the bodies of the first living beings were formed as the first stones, — by the reunion of elementary molecules by virtue of the law of affinity, according as the conditions of vitality of the globe have been propitious to this or that species.
The similitude of form and color in the reproduction of individuals of each species can be compared to the similitude of form of each species of crystal. The molecules, being in juxtaposition under the dominion of the same law, produce an analogous whole.