Mr. Hardhack on the Derivation of Man from the Monkey

If I had been Chief justice of England when that high priest of "natural selection" first tried to oust me out of the fee-simple of my species, I would have given him an illustration of "the struggle for existence" he wouldn't have relished
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CAN stand it no longer, sir. I have been seething and boiling inwardly for a couple of years at this last and final insult which science has put upon human nature, and now I must speak, or, if you will, explode. And how is it, I want to know, that the duty of hurling imprecations at this infernal absurdity has devolved upon me? Don't we employ a professional class to look after the interests of the race?—fellows heavily feed to see to it that gorilla and chimpanzee keep their distance?—paid, sir, by me and you to proclaim that men—ay, and women too—are at the top of things in origin, as well as in nature and destiny? Why are these retained attorneys of humanity so confoundedly cool and philosophical, while humanity is thus outraged? What 's the use of their asserting, Sunday after Sunday, that man was made a little lower than the angels, when right under their noses are a set of anatomical miscreants who contend that he is only a little higher than the monkeys? And the thing has now gone so far, that I 'll be hanged if it is n't becoming a sign of a narrow and prejudiced mind to scout the idea that we are all descended from mindless beasts. You are a fossilized old fogy, in this day of scientific light, if you repudiate your relationship with any fossilized monstrosity which, from the glass case of a museum, mocks at you with a grin a thousand centuries old. To exalt a man's soul above his skeleton, is now to be behind the age. All questions of philosophy, sir, are fast declining into a question of bones,—and blasted dry ones they are! The largest minds are now all absorbed in the ugliest brutes, and the ape has passed from being the butt of the menagerie to become the glory of the dissecting-room. And let me tell you, sir, that, if you make any pretensions to be a naturalist, you will find those of your colaborers, who defend the dominant theory as great masters of hard words as of big ones; and if you have the audacity to deny that man is derived from the monkey, it is ten chances to one they will forthwith proceed to treat you like one.

Now I go against the whole thing, sir. When the public mind first took its bent towards science, I, for one, foresaw that the Devil would soon be to pay with our cherished ideas. Under the plea of exercising some of the highest faculties of human nature, these scientific descendentalists have exclusively devoted themselves to the lowest objects of human concern. The meaner the creature, the more they think of it. You, sir, as a free and enlightened citizen of this great Republic, doubtless think something of yourself; but I can tell you there is n't one of these origin-of-species Solons who would n't pass you over as of no account in comparison with any anomalous rat which you would think it beneath your dignity to take the trouble of poisoning. There is n't a statesman, or philanthropist, or poet, or hero, or saint in the land, sir, that they would condescend to look at, when engaged in exploring the remains of some ignorant ass of the Stone Period. As for your ordinary Christian, he has no chance whatever. The only man they think worth the attention of scientific intelligence is pre-historic man, the man nearest the monkey. And this is called progress! This is the result of founding schools, colleges, and societies for the advancement of knowledge! No interest now in Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton,—in Leonidas, Epaminondas, Tell, and Washington,—in Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and Napoleon. They, poor devils, were simply vertebrates; their structure is so well known that it is unworthy the attention of our modern prowlers into the earth's crust in search of lower and obscurer specimens of the same great natural division. What do you think these resurrectionists on a great scale, these Jerry Crunchers of palaeontology, care for you and me? Indeed, put Alfred Tennyson alive into one end of a museum, and one of those horrible monsters whose bones are being continually dug up into the other, and see which will be rated the more interesting object of the two by the "great minds" of the present day.

And now what is the consequence of thus inverting the proper objects of human concern? Why, if you estimate things according to their descent in the scale of dignity, and occupy your faculties exclusively with organized beings below man, you will tend to approach them. Evil communications corrupt good manners. You can't keep company with monkeys without insensibly getting be-monkeyed. Your mind feeds on them until its thoughts take their shape and nature. Into the "veins of your intellectual frame" monkey blood is injected. The monkey thus put into you naturally thinks that monkeydom is belied; and self-esteem, even, is not revolted by the idea of an ape genealogy. In this way the new theory of the origin of man originated. Huxley must have pretty thoroughly assimilated monkey before he recognized his ancestor in one. The poor beast himself may have made no pretensions to the honor, until he was mentally transformed into Huxley, entered into the substance of Huxley's mind, became inflamed with Huxley's arrogance. This is the true explanation not perhaps of the origin of species, but of the origin of the theory of the origin; and I should like to thunder the great truth into the ears of all the scientific societies now talking monkey with the self-satisfied air of great discoverers. Yes, sir, and I should also be delighted to insinuate that this progress of monkey into man was not so great an example of "progressive development" as they seem inclined to suppose, and did n't require the long reaches of prehistoric time they consider necessary to account for the phenomenon. Twenty years would be enough, in all conscience, to effect that development.

Thus I tell you, sir, it is n't monkey that rises anatomically into man, but rather man that descends mentally into monkey. Why, nothing is more common than to apply to us human beings the names of animals, when we display weaknesses analogous to their habitual characters. But this is metaphor, not classification; poetry, not science. Thus I, Solomon Hardhack, was called a donkey the other day by an intimate friend. Thought it merely a jocose reference to my obstinacy, and did not knock him down. Called the same name yesterday by a comparative anatomist. Thought it an insulting reference to my understanding, and did. But suppose that, in respect both to obstinacy and understanding, I had established, to my own satisfaction, a similarity between myself and that animal, do you imagine that I would be donkey enough to take the beast for my progenitor? Do you suppose that I would go even further, and, having established with the donkey a relation of descent, be mean enough to generalize the whole human race into participation in my calamity? No, sir, I am not sufficiently a man of science to commit that breach of good manners. Well, then, my proposition is, that nobody who reasons himself into a development from the monkey has the right to take mankind with him in his induction. His argument covers but one individual,—himself. As for the Hardhacks, they at least beg to be excused from joining him in that logical excursion, and insist on striking the monkey altogether out from their genealogical tree.

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