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The Chain of Life in Geological Time A Sketch of the Origin and Succession of Animals and Plants   By:

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Transcriber’s note: Genus names are not consistenly italicized in the original book. These have been corrected for consistency according to the modern usage except in the Index where they are consistently printed in regular fontface.

[Illustration: LIFE IN THE SILURIAN AGE.]

THE CHAIN OF LIFE IN GEOLOGICAL TIME

A SKETCH OF THE ORIGIN AND SUCCESSION OF ANIMALS AND PLANTS

BY SIR J. WILLIAM DAWSON C.M.G., LL.D., F.R.S., F.G.S., ETC.

AUTHOR OF “ACADIAN GEOLOGY,” “THE STORY OF THE EARTH,” “EGYPT AND SYRIA; THEIR PHYSICAL FEATURES IN RELATION TO BIBLE HISTORY,” ETC.

THIRD AND REVISED EDITION

WITH NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS

THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY, 56 PATERNOSTER ROW; 65 ST. PAUL’S CHURCHYARD; AND 164 PICCADILLY

1888

RICHARD CLAY AND SONS. LONDON AND BUNGAY.

PREFACE.

Questions as to the origin and history of life are not at the present time answered by mere philosophical speculation and poetical imagining. Such solutions of these questions as science can profess to have obtained are based on vast accumulations of facts respecting the remains of animals and plants preserved in the rocky beds of the earth’s crust, which have been successively accumulated in the course of its long geological history. These facts undoubtedly afford the means of attaining to very certain conclusions on many points relating to the history of life on the earth. But, on the other hand, they have furnished the material for hypotheses which, though confidently affirmed to be indisputable, have no real foundation in nature, and are indirectly subversive of some of the most sacred beliefs of mankind.

In these circumstances it is most desirable that those who are not specialists in such matters should be in a position to judge for themselves; and it does not appear impossible in the actual state of knowledge, to present, in terms intelligible to the general reader, such a view of the ascertained sequence of the forms of life as may serve at once to give exalted and elevating views of the great plan of creation, and to prevent the deceptions of pseudo scientists from doing their evil work. Difficulties, no doubt, attend the attempt. They arise from the number and variety of the facts, from the uncertainties attending many important points, from the new views constantly opening up in the progress of discovery, and from the difficulty of presenting in an intelligible form the preliminary data in biology and geology necessary for the understanding of the questions in hand. In order, as far as possible, to obviate these difficulties, the plan adopted in this work has been to note the first known appearance of each leading type of life, and to follow its progress down to the present time or until it became extinct. This method is at least natural and historical, and has commended itself to the writer as giving a very clear comprehension of the actual state of our knowledge, and as presenting some aspects of the subject which may be novel and suggestive even to those who have studied it most deeply.

In selecting examples and illustrations, the writer has endeavoured to avoid, as far as possible, those already familiar to the general reader. He has carefully sought for the latest facts, while rejecting as unproved many things that are confidently asserted; and has endeavoured to avoid all that is irrelevant to the subject in hand, and to abstain from all technical terms not absolutely essential. In a work at once so wide in its scope, so popular in its character, and so limited in its dimensions, a certain amount of hostile criticism on the part of specialists is to be expected, some portion of it perhaps just, other portions arising from narrow prejudices due to limited lines of study... Continue reading book >>




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