Darwin, and After Darwin (Vol. 1 and 3, of 3)
by George John Romanes
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But although for these, and certain other less important reasons which I need not wait to detail, we must conclude that the evidence from geographical distribution is not to be regarded as a crucial test between the rival theories of creation and evolution in all cases indiscriminately, I must next remark that it is undoubtedly one of the strongest lines of evidence which we possess. When we once remember that, according to the general theory of evolution itself, the present geographical distribution of plants and animals is "the visible outcome or residual product of the whole past history of the earth," and, therefore, that of the conditions determining the characters of life inhabiting this and that particular area continuity or discontinuity with other areas is but one,—when we remember this, we find that no further reservation has to be made: all the facts of geographical distribution speak with one consent in favour of the naturalistic theory.

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The first of these facts which I shall adduce is, that although the geographical range of any given species is, as a rule, continuous, such is far from being always the case. Very many species have more or less discontinuous ranges—the mountain-hare, for instance, extending from the Arctic regions over the greater portion of Europe to the Ural Mountains and the Caucasus, and yet over all this enormous tract appearing only in isolated or discontinuous patches, where there happen to be either mountain ranges or climates cold enough to suit its nature. Now, in all such cases of discontinuity in the range of a species the theory of evolution has a simple explanation to offer—namely, either that some representatives of the species have at some former period been able to migrate from one region to the other, or else that at one time the species occupied the whole of the range in question, but afterwards became broken up as geographical, climatic, or other changes rendered parts of the area unfit for the species to inhabit. Thus, for instance, it is easy to understand that during the last cold epoch the mountain-hare would have had a continuous range; but that as the Arctic climate gradually receded to polar regions, the species would be able to survive in southern latitudes only on mountain ranges, and thus would become broken up into many discontinuous patches, corresponding with these ranges. In the same way we can explain the occurrence of Arctic vegetation on the Alps and Pyrenees—namely, as left behind by the retreat of the Arctic climate at the close of the glacial period.

But now, on the other hand, the theory of special creation cannot so well afford to render this obvious explanation of discontinuity. In the case of the Arctic flora of the Alps, for instance, although it is true that much of this vegetation is of an Arctic type, it is not true that the species are all identical with those which occur in the Arctic regions. Therefore the theory of special creation would here have to assume that, although the now common species were left behind on the Alps by the retreat of glaciation northwards, the peculiar Alpine species were afterwards created separately upon the Alps, and yet created with such close affinities to the pre-existing species as to be included with them under the same genera. Looking to the absurdity of this supposition, as well as of others which I need not wait to mention, certain advocates of special creation have sought to take refuge in another hypothesis—namely, that species which present a markedly discontinuous range may have had a corresponding number of different centres of creation, the same specific type having been turned down, so to speak, on widely separated areas. But to me it seems that this explanation presents even greater difficulty than the other. If it is difficult to say why the Divinity should have chosen to create new species of plants on the Alps on so precisely the same pattern as the old, much more would it be difficult to say why, in addition to these new species, he should also have created again the old species which he had already placed in the Arctic regions.

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So much, then, for discontinuity of distribution. The next general fact to be adduced is, that there is no constant correlation between habitats and animals or plants suited to live upon them. Of course all the animals and plants living upon any given area are well suited to live upon that area; for otherwise they could not be there. But the point now is, that besides the area on which they do live, there are usually many other areas in different parts of the globe where they might have lived equally well—as is proved by the fact that when transported by man they thrive as well, or even better, than in their native country. Therefore, upon the supposition that all species were separately created in the countries where they are respectively found, we must conclude that they were created in only some of the places where they might equally well have lived. Probably there is at most but a small percentage either of plants or animals which would not thrive in some place, or places, on the earth's surface other than that in which they occur; and hence we must say that one of the objects of special creation—if this be the true theory—was that of depositing species in only some among the several parts of the earth's surface equally well suited to support them.

Now, I do not contend that this fact in itself raises any difficulty against the theory of special creation. But I do think that a very serious difficulty is raised when to this fact we add another—namely, that on every biological region we encounter species related to other species in genera, and usually also genera related to other genera in families. For if each of all the constituent species of a genus, and even of a family, were separately created, we must hence conclude that in depositing them there was an unaccountable design manifested to make areas of distribution correspond to the natural affinities of their inhabitants. For example, the humming-birds are geographically restricted to America, and number 120 genera, comprising over 400 species. Hence, if this betokens 400 separate acts of creation, it cannot possibly have been due to chance that they were all performed on the same continent: it must have been design which led to every species of this large family of birds having been deposited in one geographical area. Or, to take a case where only the species of a single genus are concerned. The rats and mice proper constitute a genus which comprises altogether more than 100 species, and they are all exclusively restricted to the Old World. In the New World they are represented by another genus comprising about 70 species, which resemble their Old World cousins in form and habits; but differ from them in dentition and other such minor points. Now, the question is,—Why should all the 100 species have been separately created on one side of the Atlantic with one pattern of dentition, and all the 70 species on the other side with another pattern? What has the Atlantic Ocean got to do with any "archetypal plan" of rats' teeth?

Or again, to recur to Australia, why should all the mammalian forms of life be restricted to the one group of Marsupials, when we know that not only the Rodents, such as the rabbit, but all other orders of mammals, would thrive there equally well. And similarly, of course, in countless other instances. Everywhere we meet with this same correlation between areas of distribution and affinities of classification.

Now, it is at once manifest how completely this general fact harmonizes with the theory of evolution. If the 400 species of humming-birds, for instance, are all modified descendants of common ancestors, and if none of their constituent individuals have ever been large enough to make their way across the oceans which practically isolate their territory from all other tropical and sub-tropical regions of the globe, then we can understand why it is that all the 400 species occupy the same continent. But on the special-creation theory we can see no reason why the 400 species should all have been deposited in America. And, as already observed, we must remember that this correlation between a geographically restricted habitat and the zoological or botanical affinities of its inhabitants, is repeated over and over and over again in the faunas and floras of the world, so that merely to enumerate the instances would require a separate chapter.

Furthermore, the general argument thus presented in favour of descent with continuous modification admits of being enormously strengthened by three different classes of additional facts.

The first is, that the correlation in question—namely, that between a geographically restricted habitat and the zoological or botanical affinities of its inhabitants—is not limited to the now existing species, but extends also to the extinct. That is to say, the dead species are allied to the living species, as we should expect that they must be, if the latter are modified descendants of the former. On the alternative theory, however, we have to suppose that the policy of maintaining a correlation between geographical restriction and natural affinity extends very much further back than even the existing species of plants and animals; indeed we must suppose that a practically infinite number of additional acts of separate creation were governed by the same policy, in the case of long lines of species long since extinct.

Thus far, then, the only answer which an advocate of special creation can adduce is, that for some reason unknown to us such a policy may have been more wise than it appears: it may have served some inscrutable purpose that allied products of distinct acts of creation should all be kept together on the same areas. Well, in answer to this unjustifiable appeal to the argument from ignorance, I will adduce the second of the three considerations. This is, that in cases where the geographical areas are not restricted the policy in question fails. In other words, where the inhabitants of an area are free to migrate to other areas, the policy of correlating affinity with distribution is most significantly forgotten. In this case species wander away from their native homes, and the course of their wanderings is marked by the origination of new species springing up en route. Now, is it reasonable to suppose that the mere circumstance of some members of a species being able to leave their native home should furnish any occasion for creating new and allied species upon the tracts over which they travel, or the territories to which they go? When the 400 existing species of humming-birds have all been created on the same continent for some reason supposed to be unknown, why should this reason give way before the accident of any means of migration being furnished to humming-birds, so that they should be able to visit, say the continents of Africa and Asia, there gain a footing beside the sun-birds, and henceforth determine a new centre for the separate creation of additional species of humming-birds peculiar to the Old World—as has happened in the case of the majority of species which, unlike the humming-birds, have been at any time free to migrate from their original homes?

Lastly, my third consideration is, that the supposed policy in question does not extend to affinities which are wider than those between species and genera—more rarely to families, scarcely ever to orders, and never to classes. In other words, nature shows a double correlation in her geographical distribution of organic types:—first, that which we have already considered between geographical restriction and natural affinity among inhabitants of the same areas; second, another of a more detailed character between degrees of geographical restriction and degrees of natural affinity. The more distant the affinity, the more general is the extension. This, of course, is what we should expect on the theory of descent with modification, because the more distant the affinity, and therefore, ex hypothesi, the larger and the older the original group of organisms, the greater must be the chance of dispersal. The 400 species of humming-birds may well be unable to migrate from their native continent; but it would indeed have been an unaccountable fact if no other species of all the class of birds had ever been able to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Thus, on the theory of evolution, we can well understand the second correlation now before us—namely, between remoteness of affinity and generality of dispersal,—so that there is no considerable portion of the habitable globe without representatives of all the classes of animals, few portions without representatives of all the orders, but many portions without many of the families, innumerable portions without innumerable genera, and, of course, all portions without the great majority of species. Now, while this general correlation thus obviously supports the theory of natural descent with progressive modification, it makes directly against the opposite theory of special creation. For we have recently seen that when we restrict our view to the case of species and genera, the theory of special creation is obliged to suppose that for some inscrutable reason the Deity had regard to systematic affinity while determining on what large areas to create his species[20]. But now we see that he must be held to have neglected this inscrutable reason (whatever it was) when he passed beyond the range of genera—and this always in proportion to the remoteness of systematic affinity on the part of the species concerned.

[20] I say "large areas" for the sake of argument; but the same correlation between distribution and affinity extends likewise to small areas where only small differences of affinity are concerned. Thus, for instance, speaking of smaller areas, Moritz Wagner says:—"The broader and more rapid the river, the higher and more regular the mountain-chain, the calmer and more extensive the sea, the more considerable, as a general rule, will be the taxonomic separation between the populations"; and he shows that, in correlation with such differences in the degrees of separation, are the degrees of diversification—i. e., the numbers of species, and even of varieties, which these topographical barriers determine.

I cannot well conceive a reductio ad absurdum more complete than this. But, having now presented these most general facts of geographical distribution in their relation to the issue before us, we may next proceed to consider a few illustrations of them in detail, for in this way I think that their overwhelming weight may become yet more abundantly apparent.

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It will assist us in dealing with these detailed illustrations if we begin by considering the means of dispersal of organisms from one place to another. Of course the most ordinary means is that of continuous wandering, or emigration; but where geographical barriers of any kind have to be surmounted, organisms may only be able to pass them by more exceptional and accidental means. The principal barriers of a geographical kind are oceans, rivers, mountain-chains, and desert-tracts, in the case of terrestrial organisms; and, in the case of aquatic organisms, the presence of land. But it is to be observed that, as regards marine organisms, any considerable difference in the temperature of the water may constitute a barrier as effectual as the presence of land; and also that, in the case of all shallow-water faunas, a tract of deep ocean constitutes almost as complete a barrier as it does to terrestrial faunas.

Now, the means whereby barriers admit of being accidentally or occasionally surmounted are, of course, various; and they differ in the case of different organisms. Birds, bats, and insects, on account of their powers of flight, are particularly apt to be blown out great distances to sea, and hence of all animals are most likely to become the involuntary colonists of distant shores. Floating timber serves to convey seeds and eggs of small animals over great distances; and Darwin has shown that many kinds of seeds are able of themselves to float for more than a month in sea-water without losing their powers of germination. For instance, out of 87 kinds, 64 germinated after an immersion of 28 days, and a few survived an immersion of 137 days. As a result of all his experiments he concludes, that the seeds of at least ten per cent. of the species of plants of any country might be floated by sea-currents during 28 days, without losing their powers of germination; and this, at the average rate of flow of several Atlantic currents, would serve to transport the seeds to a distance of at least 900 miles. Again, he proved that even seeds which are quickly destroyed by contact with sea-water admit of being successfully transported during 30 days, if they be contained within the crop of a dead bird. He also proved that living birds are most active agents in the work of dissemination, and this not only by taking seeds into their crops (where, so long as they remain, the seeds are uninjured), but likewise by carrying seeds (and even young mollusks) attached to their feet and feathers. In the course of these experiments he found that a small cup-full of mud, which he gathered from the edges of three ponds in February, was so charged with seeds that when sown in the ground these few ounces of mud yielded no less than 537 plants, belonging to many different species. It is therefore evident what opportunities are thus afforded for the transportation of seeds on the feet and bills of wading-birds. Lastly, floating ice is well known to act as a carrier of any kind of life which may prove able to survive this mode of transit.

Such being the nature of geographical barriers, and the means that organisms of various kinds may occasionally have of overcoming them, I will now give a few detailed illustrations of the argument from geographical distribution, as previously presented in its general form.

To begin with aquatic animals. As Darwin remarks, "the marine inhabitants of the Eastern and Western shores of South America are very distinct; with extremely few shells, crustacea, or echinodermata in common." Again, westward of the shores of America, a wide space of open ocean extends, which, as we have seen, furnishes as effectual a barrier as does the land to any emigration of shallow-water animals. Now, as soon as this reach of deep water is passed, we meet in the eastern islands of the Pacific with another and totally distinct fauna. "So that three marine faunas range northward and southward in parallel lines not far from each other, under corresponding climates": they are, however, "separated from each other by impassable barriers, either of land or open sea": and it is in exact coincidence with the course of these barriers that we find so remarkable a differentiation of the faunas[21]. Obviously, therefore, it is impossible to suggest that this correlation is accidental. Altogether many thousands of species are involved, and within this comparatively limited area they are sharply marked off into three groups as to their natural affinities, and into three groups as to their several basins. Hence, if all these species were separately created, there is no escape from the conclusion that for some reason or another the act of creation was governed by the presence of these barriers, so that species deposited on the Eastern shores of South America were formed with one set of natural affinities, while species deposited on the Western shore were formed with another set; and similarly with regard to the third set of species in the third basin, which, extending over a whole hemisphere to the coast of Africa without any further barrier, nowhere presents, over this vast area, any other case of a distinct marine fauna. But what conceivable reason can there have been thus to consult these geographical barriers in the original creation of specific types? Even if such a case stood alone, it would be strongly suggestive of error on the part of the special creation theory. But let us take another case, this time from fresh-water faunas.

[21] The only exception is in the case of the fish on each side of the isthmus of panama, where about 30 per cent, of the species are identical. But it is possible enough that at some previous time this narrow isthmus may have been even narrower than at present, if not actually open. At all events, the fact that this partial exception occurs just where the land-barrier is so narrow, is more suggestive of migration than of independent creation.

Although the geographical distribution of fresh-water fish and fresh-water shells is often surprisingly extensive and apparently capricious, this may be explained by the means of dispersal being here so varied—not only aquatic birds, floods, and whirlwinds, but also geographical changes of water-shed having all assisted in the process. Moreover, in some cases it is possible that the habits of more widely distributed fresh-water fish may have originally been wholly or partly marine—which, of course, would explain the existing discontinuity of their existing fresh-water distribution. But, be this as it may (and it is not a question that affects the issue between special creation and gradual evolution, since it is only a question as to how a given species has been dispersed from its original home, whether or not in that home it was specially created), the point I desire to bring forward is, that where we find a barrier to the emigration of fresh-water forms which is more formidable than a thousand miles of ocean—a barrier over which neither water-fowl nor whirlwinds are likely to pass, and which is above the reach of any geological changes of water-shed,—where we find such a barrier, we always find a marked difference in the fresh-water faunas on either side of it. The kind of barrier to which I allude is a high mountain-chain. It may be only a few miles wide; yet it exercises a greater influence on the diversification of specific types, where fresh-water faunas are concerned, than almost any other. But why should this be the case on any intelligible theory of special creation? Why, in the depositing of species of newly created fresh-water fish, should the presence of an impassable mountain-chain have determined so uniformly a difference of specific affinity on either side of it? The question, so far as I can see, does not admit of an answer from any reasonable opponent.

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Turning now from aquatic organisms to terrestrial, the body of facts from which to draw is so large, that I think the space at my disposal may be best utilized by confining attention to a single division of them—that, namely, which is furnished by the zoological study of oceanic islands.

In the comparatively limited—but in itself extensive—class of facts thus presented, we have a particularly fair and cogent test as between the alternative theories of evolution and creation. For where we meet with a volcanic island, hundreds of miles from any other land, and rising abruptly from an ocean of enormous depth, we may be quite sure that such an island can never have formed part of a now submerged continent. In other words, we may be quite sure that it always has been what it now is—an oceanic peak, separated from all other land by hundreds of miles of sea, and therefore an area supplied by nature for the purpose, as it were, of testing the rival theories of creation and evolution. For, let us ask, upon these tiny insular specks of land what kind of life should we expect to find? To this question the theories of special creation and of gradual evolution would agree in giving the same answer up to a certain point. For both theories would agree in supposing that these islands would, at all events in large part, derive their inhabitants from accidental or occasional arrivals of wind-blown or water-floated organisms from other countries—especially, of course, from the countries least remote. But, after agreeing upon this point, the two theories must part company in their anticipations. The special-creation theory can have no reason to suppose that a small volcanic island in the midst of a great ocean should be chosen as the theatre of any extraordinary creative activity, or for any particularly rich manufacture of peculiar species to be found nowhere else in the world. On the other hand, the evolution theory would expect to find that such habitats are stocked with more or less peculiar species. For it would expect that when any organisms chanced to reach a wholly isolated refuge of this kind, their descendants should forthwith have started upon an independent course of evolutionary history. Protected from intercrossing with any members of their parent species elsewhere, and exposed to considerable changes in their conditions of life, it would indeed be fatal to the general theory of evolution if these descendants, during the course of many generations, were not to undergo appreciable change. It has happened on two or three occasions that European rats have been accidentally imported by ships upon some of these islands, and even already it is observed that their descendants have undergone a slight change of appearance, so as to constitute them what naturalists call local varieties. The change, of course, is but slight, because the time allowed for it has been so short. But the longer the time that a colony of a species is thus completely isolated under changed conditions of life the greater, according to the evolution theory, should we expect the change to become. Therefore, in all cases where we happen to know, from independent evidence of a geological kind, that an oceanic island is of very ancient formation, the evolution theory would expect to encounter a great wealth of peculiar species. On the other hand, as I have just observed, the special-creation theory can have no reason to suppose that there should be any correlation between the age of an oceanic island and the number of peculiar species which it may be found to contain.

Therefore, having considered the principles of geographical distribution from the widest or most general point of view, we shall pass to the opposite extreme, and consider exhaustively, or in the utmost possible detail, the facts of such distribution where the conditions are best suited to this purpose—that is, as I have already said, upon oceanic islands, which may be metaphorically regarded as having been formed by nature for the particular purpose of supplying naturalists with a crucial test between the theories of creation and evolution. The material upon which my analysis is to be based will be derived from the most recent works upon geographical distribution—especially from the magnificent contributions to this department of science which we owe to the labours of Mr. Wallace. Indeed, all that follows may be regarded as a condensed filtrate of the facts which he has collected. Even as thus restricted, however, our subject-matter would be too extensive to be dealt with on the present occasion, were we to attempt an exhaustive analysis of the floras and faunas of all oceanic islands upon the face of the globe. Therefore, what I propose to do is to select for such exhaustive analysis a few of what may be termed the most oceanic of oceanic islands—that is to say, those oceanic islands which are most widely separated from mainlands, and which, therefore, furnish the most unquestionable of test cases as between the theories of special creation and genetic descent.

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Azores.—A group of volcanic islands, nine in number, about 900 miles from the coast of Portugal, and surrounded by ocean depths of 1,800 to 2,500 fathoms. There is geological evidence that the origin of the group dates back at least as far as Miocene times. There is a total absence of all terrestrial Vertebrata, other than those which are known to have been introduced by man. Flying animals, on the other hand, are abundant; namely, 53 species of birds, one species of bat, a few species of butterflies, moths, and hymenoptera, with 74 species of indigenous beetles. All these animals are unmodified European species, with the exception of one bird and many of the beetles. Of the 74 indigenous species of the latter, 36 are not found in Europe; but 19 are natives of Madeira or the Canaries, and 3 are American, doubtless transplanted by drift-wood. The remaining 14 species occur nowhere else in the world, though for the most part they are allied to other European species. There are 69 known species of land-shells, of which 37 are European, and 32 peculiar, though all allied to European forms. Lastly, there are 480 known species of plants, of which 40 are peculiar, though allied to European species.

Bermudas.—A small volcanic group of islands, 700 miles from North Carolina. Although there are about 100 islands in the group, their total area does not exceed 50 square miles. The group is surrounded by water varying in depth from 2,500 to 3,800 fathoms. The only terrestrial Vertebrate (unless the rats and mice are indigenous) is a lizard allied to an American form, but specifically distinct from it, and therefore a solitary species which does not occur anywhere else in the world. None of the birds or bats are peculiar, any more than in the case of the Azores; but, as in that case, a large percentage of the land-shells are so—namely, at least one quarter of the whole. Neither the botany nor the entomology of this group has been worked out; but I have said enough to show how remarkably parallel are the cases of these two volcanic groups of islands situated in different hemispheres, but at about the same distance from large continents. In both there is an extraordinary paucity of terrestrial vertebrata, and of any peculiar species of bird or beast. On the other hand, there is in both a marvellous wealth of peculiar species of insects and land-shells. Now these correlations are all abundantly intelligible. It is a difficult matter for any terrestrial animal to cross 900, or even 700, miles of ocean: therefore only one lizard has succeeded in doing so in one of the two parallel cases; and, living cut off from intercrossing with its parent form, the descendants of that lizard have become modified so as to constitute a peculiar species. But it is more easy for large flying animals to cross those distances of ocean: consequently, there is only one instance of a peculiar species of bird or bat—namely, a bull-finch in the Azores, which, being a small land-bird, is not likely ever to have had any other visitors from its original parent species coming over from Europe to keep up the original breed. Lastly, it is very much more easy for insects and land-mollusca to be conveyed to such islands by wind and floating timber than it is for terrestrial mammals, or even than it is for small birds and bats; but yet such means of transit are not sufficiently sure to admit of much recruiting from the mainland for the purpose of keeping up the specific types. Consequently, the insects and the land-shells present a much greater proportion of peculiar species—namely, one half and one fourth of the land-shells in the one case, and one eighth of the beetles in the other. All these correlations, I say, are abundantly intelligible on the theory of evolution; but who shall explain, on the opposite theory, why orders of beetles and land-mollusca should have been chosen from among all other animals for such superabundant creation on oceanic islands, so that in the Azores alone we find no less than 32 of the one and 14 of the other? And, in this connexion, I may again allude to the peculiar species of beetles in the island of Madeira. Here there are an enormous number of peculiar species, though they are nearly all related to, or included under the same genera as, beetles on the neighbouring continent. Now, as we have previously seen, no less than 200 of these species have lost the use of their wings. Evolutionists explain this remarkable fact by their general laws of degeneration under disuse, and the operation of natural selection, as will be shown later on; but it is not so easy for special creationists to explain why this enormous number of peculiar species of beetles should have been deposited on Madeira, all allied to beetles on the nearest continent, and nearly all deprived of the use of their wings. And similarly, of course, with all the peculiar species of the Bermudas and the Azores. For who will explain, on the theory of independent creation, why all the peculiar species, both of animals and plants, which occur on the Bermudas should so unmistakably present American affinities, while those which occur on the Azores no less unmistakably present European affinities? But to proceed to other, and still more remarkable, cases.

The Galapagos Islands.—This archipelago is of volcanic origin, situated under the equator between 500 and 600 miles from the West Coast of South America. The depth of the ocean around them varies from 2,000 to 3,000 fathoms or more. This group is of particular interest, from the fact that it was the study of its fauna which first suggested to Darwin's mind the theory of evolution. I will, therefore, begin by quoting a short passage from his writings upon the zoological relations of this particular fauna.

Here almost every product of the land and of the water bears the unmistakeable stamp of the American continent. There are twenty-six land birds; of these, twenty-one, or perhaps twenty-three, are ranked as distinct species, and would commonly be assumed to have been here created; yet the close affinity of most of these birds to American species is manifest in every character, in their habits, gestures, and tones of voice. So it is with the other animals, and with a large proportion of the plants, as shown by Dr. Hooker in his admirable Flora of this archipelago. The naturalist, looking at the inhabitants of these volcanic islands in the Pacific, distant several hundred miles from the continent, feels that he is standing on American land. Why should this be so? Why should the species which are supposed to have been created in the Galapagos Archipelago, and nowhere else, bear so plainly the stamp of affinity to those created in America? There is nothing in the conditions of life, in the geological nature of the islands, in their height or climate, or in the proportions in which the several classes are associated together, which closely resembles the conditions of the South American coast; in fact, there is a considerable dissimilarity in all these respects. On the other hand, there is a considerable degree of resemblance in the volcanic nature of the soil, in the climate, height, and size of the islands, between the Galapagos and Cape de Verde Archipelagoes; but what an entire and absolute difference in their inhabitants! The inhabitants of the Cape de Verde Islands are related to those of Africa, like those of the Galapagos to America. Facts such as these admit of no sort of explanation on the ordinary view of independent creation; whereas on the view here maintained, it is obvious that the Galapagos Islands would be likely to receive colonists from America, and the Cape de Verde Islands from Africa; such colonists would be liable to modification—the principle of inheritance still betraying their original birthplace[22].

[22] origin of species, pp. 353-4.

The following is a synopsis of the fauna and flora of this archipelago, so far as at present known. The only terrestrial vertebrates are two peculiar species of land-tortoise, and one extinct species; five species of lizards, all peculiar—two of them so much so as to constitute a peculiar genus;—and two species of snakes, both closely allied to South American forms. Of birds there are 57 species, of which no less than 38 are peculiar; and all the non-peculiar species, except one, belong to aquatic tribes. The true land birds are represented by 31 species, of which all, except one, are peculiar; while more than half of them go to constitute peculiar genera. Moreover, while they are all unquestionably allied to South American forms, they present a beautiful series of gradations, "from perfect identity with the continental species, to genera so distinct that it is difficult to determine with what forms they are most nearly allied; and it is interesting to note that this diversity bears a distinct relation to the probabilities of, and facilities for, migration to the islands. The excessively abundant rice-bird, which breeds in Canada, and swarms over the whole United States, migrating to the West Indies and South America, visiting the distant Bermudas almost every year, and extending its range as far as Paraquay, is the only species of land-bird which remains completely unchanged in the Galapagos; and we may therefore conclude that some stragglers of the migrating host reach the islands sufficiently often to keep up the purity of the breed[23]." Again, of the thirty peculiar land-birds, it is observable that the more they differ from any other species or genera on the South American continent, the more certainly are they found to have their nearest relations among those South American forms which have the more restricted range, and are therefore the least likely to have found their way to the islands with any frequency.

[23] Wallace, Island Life, pp. 271-2.

The insect fauna of the Galapagos islands is scanty, and chiefly composed of beetles. These number 35 species, which are nearly all peculiar, and in some cases go to constitute peculiar genera. The same remarks apply to the twenty species of land-shells. Lastly, of the total number of flowering plants (332 species) more than one half (174 species) are peculiar. It is observable in the case of these peculiar species of plants—as also of the peculiar species of birds—that many of them are restricted to single islands. It is also observable that, with regard both to the fauna and flora, the Galapagos Islands as a whole are very much richer in peculiar species than either the Azores or Bermudas, notwithstanding that both the latter are considerably more remote from their nearest continents. This difference, which at first sight appears to make against the evolutionary interpretation, really tends to confirm it. For the Galapagos Islands are situated in a calm region of the globe, unvisited by those periodic storms and hurricanes which sweep over the North Atlantic, and which every year convey some straggling birds, insects, seeds, &c., to the Azores and Bermudas. Notwithstanding their somewhat greater isolation geographically, therefore, the Azores and Bermudas are really less isolated biologically than are the Galapagos Islands; and hence the less degree of peculiarity on the part of their endemic species. But, on the theory of special creation, it is impossible to understand why there should be any such correlation between the prevalence of gales and a comparative inertness of creative activity. And, as we have seen, it is equally impossible on this theory to understand why there should be a further correlation between the degree of peculiarity on the part of the isolated species, and the degree in which their nearest allies on the mainland are there confined to narrow ranges, and therefore less likely to keep up any biological communication with the islands.

St. Helena.—A small volcanic island, ten miles long by eight wide, situated in mid-ocean, 1100 miles from Africa, and 1800 from South America. It is very mountainous and rugged, bounded for the most part by precipices, rising from ocean depths of 17,000 feet, to a height above the sea-level of nearly 3,000. When first discovered it was richly clothed with forests; but these were all destroyed by human agency during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The records of civilization present no more lamentable instance of this kind of destruction. From a merely pecuniary point of view the abolition of these primeval forests has proved an irreparable loss; but from a scientific point of view the loss is incalculable. These forests served to harbour countless forms of life, which extended at least from the Miocene age, and which, having found there an ocean refuge, survived as the last remnants of a remote geological epoch. In those days, as Mr. Wallace observes, St. Helena must have formed a kind of natural museum or vivarium of archaic species of all classes, the interest of which we can now only surmise from the few remnants of those remnants, which are still left among the more inaccessible portions of the mountain peaks and crater edges. These remnants of remnants are as follows.

There is a total absence of all indigenous mammals, reptiles, fresh-water fish, and true land-birds. There is, however, a species of plover, allied to one in South Africa; but it is specifically distinct, and therefore peculiar to the island. The insect life, on the other hand, is abundant. Of beetles no less than 129 species are believed to be aboriginal, and, with one single exception, the whole number are peculiar to the island. "But in addition to this large amount of specific peculiarity (perhaps unequalled anywhere else in the world), the beetles of this island are remarkable for their generic isolation, and for the altogether exceptional proportion in which the great divisions of the order are represented. The species belong to 39 genera, of which no less than 25 are peculiar to the island; and many of these are such isolated forms that it is impossible to find their allies in any particular country[24]." More than two-thirds of all the species belong to the group of weevils—a circumstance which serves to explain the great wealth of beetle-population, the weevils being beetles which live in wood, and St. Helena having been originally a densely wooded island. This circumstance is also in accordance with the view that the peculiar insect fauna has been in large part evolved from ancestors which reached the island by means of floating timber; for, of course, no explanation can be suggested why special creation of this highly peculiar insect fauna should have run so disproportionately into the production of weevils. About two-thirds of the whole number of beetles, or over 80 species, show no close affinity with any existing insects, while the remaining third have some relations, though often very remote, with European and African forms. That this high degree of peculiarity is due to high antiquity is further indicated, according to our theory, by the large number of species which some of the types comprise. Thus, the 54 species of Cossonidae may be referred to three types; the 11 species of Bembidium form a group by themselves; and the Heteromera form two groups. "Now, each of these types may well be descended from a single species, which originally reached the island from some other land; and the great variety of generic and specific forms into which some of them have diverged is an indication, and to some extent a measure, of the remoteness of their origin[25]." But, on the counter-supposition that all these 128 peculiar species were separately created to occupy this particular island, it is surely unaccountable that they should thus present such an arborescence of natural affinities amongst themselves.

[24] Wallace, Island Life, p. 287.

[25] Wallace, Island Life, p. 287.

Passing over the rest of the insect fauna, which has not yet been sufficiently worked out, we next find that there are only 20 species of indigenous land-shells—which is not surprising when we remember by what enormous reaches of ocean the island is surrounded. Of these 20 species no less than 13 have become extinct, three are allied to European species, while the rest are so highly peculiar as to have no near allies in any other part of the globe. So that the land-shells tell exactly the same story as the insects.

Lastly, the plants likewise tell the same story. The truly indigenous flowering plants are about 50 in number, besides 26 ferns. Forty of the former and ten of the latter are peculiar to the island, and, as Sir Joseph Hooker tells us, "cannot be regarded as very close specific allies of any other plants at all" Seventeen of them belong to peculiar genera, and the others all differ so markedly as species from their congeners, that not one comes under the category of being an insular form of a continental species. So that with respect to its plants no less than with respect to its animals, we find that the island of St. Helena constitutes a little world of unique species, allied among themselves, but diverging so much from all other known forms that in many cases they constitute unique genera.

Sandwich Islands.—These are an extensive group of islands, larger than any we have hitherto considered—the largest of the group being about the size of Devonshire. The entire archipelago is volcanic, with mountains rising to a height of nearly 14,000 feet. The group is situated in the middle of the North Pacific, at a distance of considerably over 2,000 miles from any other land, and surrounded by enormous ocean depths. The only terrestrial vertebrata are two lizards, one of which constitutes a peculiar genus. There are 24 aquatic birds, five of which are peculiar; four birds of prey, two of which are peculiar; and 16 land-birds, all of which are peculiar. Moreover, these 16 land-birds constitute no less than 10 peculiar genera, and even one peculiar family of five genera. This is an amount of peculiarity far exceeding that of any other islands, and, of course, corresponds with the great isolation of this archipelago. The only other animals which have here been carefully studied are the land-shells, and these tell the same story as the birds. For there are no less than 400 species which are all, without any exception, peculiar; while about three-quarters of them go to constitute peculiar genera. Again, of the plants, 620 species are believed to be endemic; and of these 377 are peculiar, yielding no less than 39 peculiar genera.

* * * * *

Prejudice apart, I think we must all now agree that it is needless to continue further this line of proof. I have chosen the smallest and most isolated islands for the purposes of our present argument, first because these furnish the most crucial kind of test, and next because they best admit of being dealt with in a short space. But, if necessary, a vast amount of additional material could be furnished, not only from other small oceanic islands, but still more from the largest islands of the world, such as Australia and New Zealand. However, after the detailed inventories which have now been given in the case of some of the smaller islands most remote from mainlands, we may well be prepared to accept it as a general law, that wherever there is evidence of land-areas having been for a long time separated from other land-areas, there we meet with a more or less extraordinary profusion of unique species, often running up into unique genera. And, in point of fact, so far as naturalists have hitherto been able to ascertain, there is no exception to this general law in any region of the globe. Moreover, there is everywhere a constant correlation between the degree of this peculiarity on the part of the fauna and flora, and the time during which they have been isolated. Thus, for instance, among the islands which I have called into evidence, those that are at once the most isolated and give independent proofs of the highest antiquity, are the Galapagos Islands, the Sandwich Islands, and St. Helena. Now, if we apply the method of tabular analysis to these three cases, we obtain the following most astonishing results. For the sake of simplicity I will omit the enumeration of peculiar genera, and confine attention to peculiar species. Moreover, I will consider only terrestrial animals; for, as we have already seen, aquatic animals are so much more likely to reach oceanic islands that they do not furnish nearly so fair a test of the evolutionary hypothesis.


+ + -+ + -+ + + Shells. Insects. Reptiles. Birds. Mammals. + -+ + -+ + + Sandwich. 400 ? 2 16 0 Galapagos 15 35 10 30 0 St. Helena 20 128 0 1 0 + + -+ + -+ + + Totals. 435 163 12 47 0 + + -+ + -+ + +


+ + -+ + -+ + + Shells. Insects. Reptiles. Birds. Mammals. + -+ + -+ + + Sandwich. 0 ? 0 0 0 Galapagos ? ? 0 1 0 St. Helena 0 ? 0 0 0 + + -+ + -+ + + Totals. 0 ? 0 1 0 + + -+ + -+ + +

From this synopsis we perceive that out of a total of 658 species of terrestrial animals known to inhabit these three oceanic territories, all are peculiar, with the exception of a single land-bird which is found in the Galapagos Islands. This is the rice-bird, so very abundant on the American continent that its representatives must not unfrequently become the involuntary colonists of the Archipelago. There are, however, a few species of non-peculiar insects inhabiting the Sandwich and Galapagos Islands, the exact number of which is doubtful, and on this account are not here quoted. But at most they would be represented by units, and therefore do not affect the general result. Lastly, the remarkable fact will be noted, that there is no single representative of the mammalian class in any of these islands.

If we turn next to consider the case of plants, we obtain the following result:—

- - Peculiar Non-peculiar Species. Species. - - Sandwich 377 243 Galapagos 174 158 St. Helena 50 26 Totals 601 427 - -

So that by adding together peculiar species both of land-animals and plants, we find that on these three limited areas alone there are 1258 forms of life which occur nowhere else upon the globe—not to speak of the peculiar aquatic species, nor of the presumably large number of peculiar species of all kinds not hitherto discovered in these imperfectly explored regions.

Now let us compare these facts with those which are presented by the faunas and floras of islands less remote from continents, and known from independent geological evidence to be of comparatively recent origin—that is, to have been separated from their adjacent mainlands in comparatively recent times, and therefore as islands to be comparatively young. The British Isles furnish as good an instance as could be chosen, for they together comprise over 1000 islands of various sizes, which are nowhere separated from one another by deep seas, and in the opinion of geologists were all continuous with the European continent since the glacial period.



+ -+ -+ + -+ -+ -+ Land Reptiles Land Land Plants. Shells. Insects. and Birds. Mammals. Amphibia. + -+ -+ + -+ -+ -+ 1462 83 12,551 13 130 40 + -+ -+ + -+ -+ -+

PECULIAR SPECIES. + -+ -+ + -+ -+ -+ Land Reptiles Land Land Plants. Shells. Insects. and Birds. Mammals. Amphibia. + -+ -+ + -+ -+ -+ 46 4 149 0 1 0 + -+ -+ + -+ -+ -+

Total Peculiar Plants 46 Total Peculiar Animals 154 —— Grand Total 200

I have drawn up this table in the most liberal manner possible, including as peculiar species forms which many naturalists regard as merely local varieties. But, even as thus interpreted, how wonderful is the contrast between the 1000 islands of Great Britain and the single volcanic rock of St. Helena, where almost all the animals and about half the plants are peculiar, instead of about 1/80 of the animals, and 1/30 of the plants. Of course, if no peculiar species of any kind had occurred in the British Isles, advocates of special creation might have argued that it was, so to speak, needless for the Divinity to have added any new species to those European forms which fully populated the islands at the time when they were separated from the continent. But, as the matter stands, advocates of special creation must face the fact that a certain small number of new and peculiar species have been formed on the British Isles; and, therefore, that creative activity has not been wholly suspended in their case. Why, then, has it been so meagre in this case of a thousand islands, when it has proved so profuse in the case of all single islands more remote from mainlands, and presenting a higher antiquity? Or why should the Divinity have thus appeared so uniformly to consult these merely accidental circumstances of space and time in the depositing of his unique specific types? Do not such facts rather speak with irresistible force in favour of the view, that while all ancient and solitary islands have had time enough, and separation enough, to admit of distinct histories of evolution having been written in their living inhabitants, no one of the thousand islands of Great Britain has had either time enough, or separation enough, to have admitted of more than some of the first pages of such a history having been commenced?

But this allusion to Great Britain introduces us to another point. It will have been observed that, unlike oceanic islands remote from mainlands, Great Britain is well furnished both with reptiles (including amphibia) and mammals. For there is no instance of any oceanic island situated at more than 300 miles from a continent where any single species of the whole class of mammals is to be found, excepting species of the only order which is able to fly—namely, the bats. And the same has to be said of frogs, toads, and newts, whose spawn is quickly killed by contact with sea-water, and therefore could never have reached remote islands in a living state. Hence, on evolutionary principles; it is quite intelligible why oceanic islands should not present any species of mammals or batrachians—peculiar or otherwise,—save such species of mammals as are able to fly. But on the theory of special creation we can assign no reason why, notwithstanding the extraordinary profusion of unique types of other kinds which we have seen to occur on oceanic islands, the Deity should have made this curious exception to the detriment of all frogs, toads, newts, and mammals, save only such as are able to fly. Or, if any one should go so far to save a desperate hypothesis as to maintain that there must have been some hidden reason why batrachians and quadrupeds were not specially created on oceanic islands, I may mention another small—but in this relation a most significant—fact. This is that on some of these islands there occur certain peculiar species of plants, the seeds of which are provided with numerous tiny hooks, obviously and beautifully adapted—like those on the seeds of allied plants elsewhere—to catch the wool or hair of moving quadrupeds, and so to further their own dissemination. But, as we have just seen, there are no quadrupeds in the islands to meet these beautiful adaptations on the part of the plants; so that special creationists must resort to the almost impious supposition that in these cases the Deity has only carried out half his plan, in that while he made an elaborate provision for these uniquely created species of plants, which depended for its efficiency on the presence of quadrupeds, he nevertheless neglected to place any quadrupeds on the islands where he had placed the plants. Such one-sided attempts at adaptation surely resolve the thesis of special creation to a reductio ad absurdum; and hence the only reasonable interpretation of them is, that while the seeds of allied or ancestral plants were able to float to the islands, no quadrupeds were ever able over so great a distance to swim.

* * * * *

Although much more evidence might still be given under the head of geographical distribution, I must now close with a brief summary of the main points that have been adduced.

After certain preliminary considerations, I began by noticing that the theory of evolution has a much more intelligible account to give than has its rival of the facts of discontinuous distribution—the Alpine flora, for instance, being allied to the Arctic, not because the same species were separately created in both places, but because during the glacial period these species extended all over Europe, and were left behind on the Alps as the Arctic flora receded northwards—which was sufficiently long ago to explain why some of the Alpine species are unique, though closely allied to Arctic forms.

Next we saw that, although living things are always adapted to the climates under which they live (since otherwise they could not live there at all), it is equally true that, as a rule, besides the area on which they do live, there are many other areas in different parts of the globe where they might have lived equally well. Consequently we must conclude that, if all species were separately created, many species were severally created on only one among a number of areas where they might equally well have thrived. Now, although this conclusion in itself may not seem opposed to the theory of special creation, a most serious difficulty is raised when it is taken in connexion with another fact of an equally general kind. This is, that on every biological region we encounter chains of allied species constituting allied genera, families, and so on; while we scarcely ever meet with allied species in different biological regions, notwithstanding that their climates may be similar, and, consequently, just as well suited to maintain some of the allied species. Hence we must further conclude, if all species were separately created, that in the work of creation some unaccountable regard was paid to making areas of distribution correspond to degrees of structural affinity. A great many species of the rat genus were created in the Old World, and a great many species of another, though allied, genus were created in the New World: yet no reason can be assigned why no one species of the Old World series should not just as well have been deposited in the New World, and vice versa. On the other hand, the theory of evolution may claim as direct evidence in its support all the innumerable cases such as these—cases, indeed, so innumerable that, as Mr. Wallace remarks, it may be taken as a law of nature that "every species has come into existence coincident both in space and time with a pre-existing and closely allied species." A general law which, while in itself most strongly suggestive of evolution, is surely impossible to reconcile with any reasonable theory of special creation. Furthermore, this law extends backwards through all geological time, with the result that the extinct species which now occur only as fossils on any given geological area, resemble the species still living upon that area, as we should expect that they must, if the former were the natural progenitors of the latter. On the other hand, if they were not the natural progenitors, but all the species, both living and extinct, were the supernatural and therefore independent creations which the rival theory would suppose, then no reason can be given why the extinct species should thus resemble the living—any more than why the living species should resemble one another. For, as we have seen, there are almost always many other habitats on other parts of the globe, where any members of any given group of species might equally well have been deposited; and this, of course, applies to geological no less than to historical time. Yet throughout all time we meet with this most suggestive correlation between continuity of a geographical area and structural affinity between the forms of life which have lived, or are still living, upon that area.

Similarly, we find the further, and no less suggestive, correlation between the birth of new species and the immediate pre-existence of closely allied species on the same area—or, at most, on closely contiguous areas.

Where a continuous area has long been circumscribed by barriers of any kind, which prevent the animals from wandering beyond it, then we find that all the species, both extinct and living, constitute more or less a world of their own; while, on the other hand, where the animals are free to migrate from one area to another, the course of their migrations is marked by the origination of new species springing up en route, and serving to connect the older, or metropolitan, forms with the younger, or colonising, forms in the way of a graduated series. This principle, however, admits of being traced only in certain cases of species belonging to the same genus, of genera belonging to the same family, or, at most, of families belonging to the same order. In other words, the more general the structural affinity, the more general is the geographical extension—as we should expect to be the case on the theory of descent with branching modifications, seeing that the larger, the older, and the more diverse the group of organisms compared, the greater must be their chances of dispersal.

These general considerations led us to contemplate more in detail the correlation between structural affinity and barriers to free migration. Such barriers, of course, differ in the cases of different organisms. Marine organisms are stopped by land, unsuitable temperature, or unsuitable depths; fresh-water organisms by sea and by mountain-chains; terrestrial organisms chiefly by water. Now it is a matter of fact which admits of no dispute, that in each of these cases we meet with a direct correlation between the kind of barrier and the kind of organisms whose structural affinities are affected thereby. Where we have to do with marine organisms, barriers such as the Isthmus of Panama and the varying depth of the Western Pacific determine three very distinct faunas, ranging north and south in closely parallel lines, and under corresponding climates. Where we have to do with fresh-water organisms, we find that a mountain-chain only a few miles wide has more influence in determining differences of organic type on either side of it than is exercised by even thousands of miles of a continuous land-area, if this be uninterrupted by any mountains high enough to prevent water-fowl, whirlwinds, &c., from dispersing the ova. Again, where we have to do with terrestrial organisms, the most effectual barriers are wide reaches of ocean; and, accordingly, we find that these exercise an enormous influence on the modification of terrestrial types. Moreover, we find that the more terrestrial an organism, or the greater the difficulty it has in traversing a wide reach of ocean, the greater is the modifying influence of such a barrier upon that type. In oceanic islands, for example, many of the plants and aquatic birds usually belong to the same species as those which occur on the nearest mainlands, and where there are any specific differences, these but rarely run up to generic differences. But the land-birds, insects, and reptiles which are found on such islands are nearly always specifically, and very often generically, distinct from those on the nearest mainland—although invariably allied with sufficient closeness to leave no manner of doubt as to their affinities with the fauna of that mainland. Lastly, no amphibians and no mammals (except bats) are ever found on any oceanic islands. Yet, as we have seen, on the theory of special creation, these islands must all be taken to have been the theatres of the most extraordinary creative activity, so that on only three of them we found no less than 1258 unique species, whereof 657 were unique species of land animals, to be set against one single species known to occur elsewhere. Nevertheless, notwithstanding this prodigious expenditure of creative energy in the case of land-birds, land-shells, insects, and reptiles, no single new amphibian, or no single new mammal, has been created on any single oceanic island, if we except the only kind of mammal that is able to fly, and the ancestors of which, like those of the land-birds and insects, might therefore have reached the islands ages ago. Moreover, with regard to mammals, even in cases where allied forms occur on either side of a sea-channel, it is found to be a general rule that if the channel is shallow, the species on either side of it are much more closely related than if it be deep—and this irrespective of its width. Therefore we can only conclude, in the words of Darwin—"As the amount of modification which animals of all kinds undergo partly depends on lapse of time, and as the islands which are separated from each other or from the mainland by shallow channels are more likely to have been continuously united within a recent period than islands separated by deeper channels, we can understand how it is that a relation exists between the depth of the sea separating two mammalian faunas, and the degree of their affinity—a relation which is quite inexplicable on the theory of independent acts of creation."

* * * * *

Looking to all these general principles of geographical distribution, and remembering the sundry points of smaller detail relating to oceanic islands which I will not wait to recapitulate, to my mind it seems that there is no escape from the following conclusion, with which I will bring my brief epitome of the evidence to a close. The conclusion to which, I submit, all the evidence leads is, that if the doctrine of special creation is taken to be true, then it must be further taken that the one and only principle which has been consistently followed in the geographical deposition of species, is that of so depositing them as to make it everywhere appear that they were not thus deposited at all, but came into existence where they now occur by way of genetic descent with perpetual migration and correlative modification. On no other principle, so far as I can see, would it be possible to account for the fact that "every species has come into existence coincident both in space and time with a pre-existing and closely allied species," together with the carefully graduated regard to physical barriers which the Creator must have displayed while depositing his newly formed species on either sides of them—everywhere making degrees of structural affinity correspond to degrees of geographical continuity, and degrees of structural difference correspond to degrees of geographical separation, whether by mountain-chains in the case of fresh-water faunas, by land and by deep sea in the case of marine faunas, or by reaches of ocean in the case of terrestrial faunas—stocking oceanic islands with an enormous profusion of peculiar species all allied to those on the nearest mainlands, yet everywhere avoiding the creation upon them of any amphibian or mammal, except an occasional bat. We are familiar with the doctrine that God is a God who hideth himself; here, however, it seems to me, we should have but a thinly-veiled insinuation, not merely that in his works he is hidden, but that in these works he is untrue. Than which I cannot conceive a stronger condemnation of the theory which it has been my object fairly to represent and dispassionately to criticise.





Thus far we have been considering the main evidences of organic evolution considered as a fact. We now enter a new field, namely, the evidences which thus far have been brought to light touching the causes of organic evolution considered as a process.

As was pointed out in the opening chapter, this is obviously the methodical course to follow: we must have some reasonable assurance that a fact is a fact before we endeavour to explain it. Nevertheless, it is not necessary that we should actually demonstrate a fact to be a fact before we endeavour to explain it. Even if we have but a reasonable presumption as to its probability, we may find it well worth while to consider its explanation; for by so doing we may obtain additional evidence of the fact itself. And this because, if it really is a fact, and if we hit upon the right explanation of it, by proving the explanation probable, we may thereby greatly increase our evidence of the fact. In the very case before us, for example, the evidence of evolution as a fact has from the first been largely derived from testing Darwin's theory concerning its method. It was this theoretical explanation of its method which first set him seriously to enquire into the evidences of evolution as a fact; and ever since he published his results, the evidences which he adduced in favour of natural selection as a method have constituted some of the strongest reasons which scientific men have felt for accepting evolution as a fact. Of course the evidence in favour of this fact has gone on steadily growing, quite independently of the assistance which was thus so largely lent to it by the distinctively Darwinian theory of its method; and, indeed, so much has this been the case, that in the present treatise we have been able to consider such direct evidence of the fact itself, without any reference at all to the indirect or accessory evidence which is derived from that of natural selection as a method. From which it follows that in most of what I am about to say in subsequent chapters on the evidences of natural selection as a method, there will be furnished a large addition to the evidences which have already been detailed of evolution as a fact. But, as a matter of systematic treatment, I have thought it desirable to keep these two branches of our subject separate. Which means that I have made the evidences of evolution as a fact to stand independently on their own feet—feet which in my opinion are amply strong enough to bear any weight of adverse criticism that can be placed upon them.

Our position, then, is this. On the foundation of the previous chapters, I will henceforth assume that we all accept organic evolution as a fact, without requiring any of the accessory evidence which is gained by independent proof of natural selection as a method. But in making this assumption—namely, that we are all now firmly persuaded of the fact of evolution—I do not imagine that such is really the case. I make the assumption for the purposes of systematic exposition, and in order that different parts of the subject may be kept distinct. I confess it does appear to me remarkable that there should still be a doubt in any educated mind touching the general fact of evolution; while it becomes to me unaccountable that such should be the case with a few still living men of science, who cannot be accused of being ignorant of the evidences which have now been accumulated. But in whatever measure we may severally have been convinced—or remained unconvinced—on this matter, for the purposes of exposition I must hereafter assume that we are all agreed to the extent of regarding the process of evolution as, at least, sufficiently probable to justify enquiry touching its causes on supposition of its truth.

Now, the causes of evolution have been set forth in a variety of different hypotheses, only the chief of which need be mentioned here. Historically speaking the first of these was that which was put forward by Erasmus Darwin, Lamarck, and Herbert Spencer. It consists in putting together the following facts and inferences.

We know that, in the lifetime of the individual, increased use of structures leads to an increase of their functional efficiency; while, on the other hand, disuse leads to atrophy. The arms of a blacksmith, and the legs of a mountaineer, are familiar illustrations of the first principle: our hospital wards are full of illustrations of the second. Again, we know that the characters of parents are transmitted to their progeny by means of heredity. Now the hypothesis in question consists in supposing that if any particular organs in a species are habitually used for performing any particular action, they must undergo a structural improvement which would more and more adapt them to the performance of that action; for in each generation constant use would better and better adapt the structures to the discharge of their functions, and they would then be bequeathed to the next generation in this their improved form by heredity. So that, for instance, if there had been a thousand generations of blacksmiths, we might expect the sons of the last of them to inherit unusually strong arms, even if these young men had themselves taken to some other trade not requiring any special use of their arms. Similarly, if there had been a thousand generations of men who used their arms but slightly, we should expect their descendants to show but a puny development of the upper extremities. Now let us apply all this to the animal kingdom in general. The giraffe, for instance, is a ruminant whose entire frame has been adapted to support an enormously long neck, which is of use to the animal in reaching the foliage of trees. The ancestors of the giraffe, having had ordinary necks, were supposed by Lamarck to have gradually increased the length of them, through many successive generations, by constantly stretching to reach high foliage; and he further supposed that, when the neck became so long as to require for its support special changes in the general form of the animal as a whole, these special changes would have brought about the dwindling of other parts from which so much activity was no longer required—the general result being that the whole organization of the animal became more and more adapted to browsing on high foliage. And so in the cases of other animals, Lamarck believed that the adaptation of their forms to their habits could be explained by this simple hypothesis that the habits created the forms, through the effects of use and disuse, coupled with heredity.

Such is what is ordinarily known as Lamarck's theory of evolution. We may as well remember, however, that it really constitutes only one part of his theory; for besides this hypothesis of the cumulative inheritance of functionally-produced modifications—to which we may add the inherited effects of any direct action exercised by surrounding conditions of life,—Lamarck believed in some transcendental principle tending to produce gradual improvement in pre-determined lines of advance. Therefore it would really be more correct to designate the former hypothesis by the name either of Erasmus Darwin, or, still better, of Herbert Spencer. Nevertheless, in order to avoid confusion, I will follow established custom, and subsequently speak of this hypothesis as the Lamarckian hypothesis—understanding, however, that in employing this designation I am not referring to any part or factor of Lamarck's general theory of evolution other than the one which has just been described—namely, the hypothesis of the cumulative transmission of functionally-produced, or otherwise "acquired," modifications.

This, then, was the earliest hypothesis touching the causes of organic evolution. But we may at once perceive that it is insufficient to explain all that stands to be explained. In the first place, it refers in chief part only to the higher animals, which are actuated to effort by intelligence. Its explanatory power in the case of most invertebrata—as well as in that of all plants—is extremely limited, inasmuch as these organisms can never be moved to a greater or less use of their several parts by any discriminating volition, such as that which leads to the continued straining of a giraffe's neck for the purpose of reaching foliage. In the second place, even among the higher animals there are numberless tissues and organs which unquestionably present a high degree of adaptive evolution, but which nevertheless cannot be supposed to have fallen within the influence of Lamarckian principles. Of such are the shells of crustacea, tortoises, &c., which although undoubtedly of great use to the animals presenting them, cannot ever have been used in the sense required by Lamarck's hypothesis, i. e. actively exercised, so as to increase a flow of nutrition to the part. Lastly, in the third place, the validity of Lamarck's hypothesis in any case whatsoever has of late years become a matter of serious question, as will be fully shown and discussed in the next volume. Meanwhile it is enough to observe that, on account of all these reasons, the theory of Lamarck, even if it be supposed to present any truth at all, is clearly insufficient as a full or complete theory of organic evolution.

* * * * *

In historical order the next theory that was arrived at was the theory of natural selection, simultaneously published by Darwin and Wallace on July 1st, 1858.

If we may estimate the importance of an idea by the change of thought which it effects, this idea of natural selection is unquestionably the most important idea that has ever been conceived by the mind of man. Yet the wonder is that it should not have been hit upon long before. Or rather, I should say, the wonder is that its immense and immeasurable importance should not have been previously recognised. For, since the publication of this idea by Darwin and Wallace, it has been found that its main features had already occurred to at least two other minds—namely, Dr. Wells in 1813, and Mr. Patrick Matthew in 1831. But neither of these writers perceived that in the few scattered sentences which they had written upon the subject they had struck the key-note of organic nature, and resolved one of the principal chords of the universe. Still more remarkable is the fact that Mr. Herbert Spencer—notwithstanding his great powers of abstract thought and his great devotion of those powers to the theory of evolution, when as yet this theory was scorned by science—still more remarkable, I say, is the fact that Mr. Herbert Spencer should have missed what now appears so obvious an idea. But most remarkable of all is the fact that Dr. Whewell, with all his stores of information on the history of the inductive sciences, and with all his acumen on the matter of scientific method, should not only have conceived the idea of natural selection, but expressly stated it as a logically possible explanation of the origin of species, and yet have so stated it merely for the purpose of dismissing it with contempt[26]. This, I think, is most remarkable, because it serves to prove how very far men's minds at that time must have been from entertaining, as in any way antecedently probable, the doctrine of transmutation. In order to show this I will here quote one passage from the writings of Whewell, and another from a distinguished French naturalist referred to by him.

[26] For quotations, see Note A.

In 1846 Whewell wrote:—

Not only is the doctrine of the transmutation of species in itself disproved by the best physiological reasonings, but the additional assumptions which are requisite to enable its advocates to apply it to the explanation of the geological and other phenomena of the earth, are altogether gratuitous and fantastical[27].

[27] whewell, indications of the creator, 2nd ed., 1846.

Then he quotes with approval the following opinion:—

Against this hypothesis, which, up to the present time, I regard as purely gratuitous, and likely to turn geologists out of the sound and excellent road in which they now are, I willingly raise my voice, with the most absolute conviction of being in the right[28].

[28] de blainville, compte rendu, 1837.

And, after displaying the proof rendered by Lyell of uniformitarianism in geology, and cordially subscribing thereto, Whewell adds:—

We are led by our reasonings to this view, that the present order of things was commenced by an act of creative power entirely different to any agency which has been exerted since. None of the influences which have modified the present races of animals and plants since they were placed in their habitations on the earth's surface can have had any efficacy in producing them at first. We are necessarily driven to assume, as the beginning of the present cycle of organic nature, an event not included in the course of nature[29].

[29] Whewell, ibid., p. 162.

So much, then, for the state of the most enlightened and representative opinions on the question of evolution before the publication of Darwin's work; and so much, likewise, for the only reasonable suggestions as to the causes of evolution which up to that time had been put forward, even by those few individuals who entertained any belief in evolution as a fact. It was the theory of natural selection that changed all this, and created a revolution in the thought of our time, the magnitude of which in many of its far-reaching consequences we are not even yet in a position to appreciate; but the action of which has already wrought a transformation in general philosophy, as well as in the more special science of biology, that is without a parallel in the history of mankind.

* * * * *

Although every one is now more or less well acquainted with the theory of natural selection, it is necessary, for the sake of completeness, that I should state the theory; and I will do so in full detail.

It is a matter of observable fact that all plants and animals are perpetually engaged in what Darwin calls a "struggle for existence." That is to say, in every generation of every species a great many more individuals are born than can possibly survive; so that there is in consequence a perpetual battle for life going on among all the constituent individuals of any given generation. Now, in this struggle for existence, which individuals will be victorious and live? Assuredly those which are best fitted to live, in whatever respect, or respects, their superiority of fitness may consist. Hence it follows that Nature, so to speak, selects the best individuals out of each generation to live. And not only so; but as these favoured individuals transmit their favourable qualities to their offspring, according to the fixed laws of heredity, it further follows that the individuals composing each successive generation have a general tendency to be better suited to their surroundings than were their forefathers. And this follows, not merely because in every generation it is only the "flower of the flock" that is allowed to breed, but also because, if in any generation some new and beneficial qualities happen to arise as slight variations from the ancestral type, they will (other things permitting) be seized upon by natural selection, and, being transmitted by heredity to subsequent generations, will be added to the previously existing type. Thus the best idea of the whole process will be gained by comparing it with the closely analogous process whereby gardeners, fanciers, and cattle-breeders create their wonderful productions; for just as these men, by always "selecting" their best individuals to breed from, slowly but continuously improve their stock, so Nature, by a similar process of "selection" slowly but continuously makes the various species of plants and animals better and better suited to the conditions of their life.

Now, if this process of continuously adapting organisms to their environment takes place in nature at all, there is no reason why we should set any limits on the extent to which it is able to go, up to the point at which a complete and perfect adaptation is achieved. Therefore we might suppose that all species would eventually reach this condition of perfect harmony with their environment, and then remain fixed. And so, according to the theory, they would, if the environment were itself unchanging. But forasmuch as the environment (i. e. the sum total of the external conditions of life) of almost every organic type alters more or less from century to century—whether from astronomical, geological, and geographical changes, or from the immigrations and emigrations of other species living on contiguous areas, and so on—it follows that the process of natural selection need never reach a terminal phase. And forasmuch as natural selection may thus continue, ad infinitum, slowly to alter a specific type in adaptation to a gradually changing environment, if in any case the alteration thus effected is sufficient in amount to lead naturalists to name the result as a distinct species, it follows that natural selection has transmuted one specific type into another. Similarly, by a continuation of the process, specific types would become transmuted into generic, generic into family types, and so on. Thus the process is supposed to go on throughout all the countless forms of life continuously and simultaneously—the world of organic types being thus regarded as in a state of perpetual, though gradual, flux.

* * * * *

Now, the first thing we have to notice about this theory is, that in all its main elements it is merely a statement of observable facts. It is an observable fact that in all species of plants and animals a very much larger number of individuals are born than can possibly survive. Thus, for example, it has been calculated that if the progeny of a single pair of elephants—which are the slowest breeding of animals—were all allowed to reach maturity and propagate, in 750 years there would be living 19,000,000 descendants. Again, in the case of vegetables, if a species of annual plant produces only two seeds a year, if these in successive years were all allowed to reproduce their kind, in twenty years there would be 11,000,000 plants from a single ancestor. Yet we know that nearly all animals and plants produce many more young at a time than in either of these two supposed cases. Indeed, as individuals of many kinds of plants, and not a few kinds of animals, produce every year several thousand young, we may make a rough estimate and say, that over organic nature as a whole probably not one in a thousand young are allowed to survive to the age of reproduction. How tremendous, therefore, must be the struggle for existence! It is thought a terrible thing in battle when one half the whole number of combatants perish. But what are we to think of a battle for life where only one in a thousand survives?

This, then, is the first fact. The second is the fact so long ago recognised, that the battle is to the strong, the race to the swift. The thousandth individual which does survive in the battle for existence—which does win the race for life—is, without question, one of the individuals best fitted to do so; that is to say, best fitted to the conditions of its existence considered as a whole. Nature is, therefore, always picking out, or selecting, such individuals to live and to breed.

The third fact is, that the individuals so selected transmit their favourable qualities to their offspring by heredity. There is no doubt about this fact, so far as we are concerned with it. For although, as I have already hinted, considerable doubt has of late years been cast upon Lamarck's doctrine of the hereditary transmission of acquired characters, it remains as impossible as ever it was to question the hereditary transmission of what are called congenital characters. And this is all that Darwin's theory necessarily requires.

The fourth fact is, that although heredity as a whole produces a wonderfully exact copy of the parent in the child, there is never a precise reduplication. Of all the millions of human beings upon the face of the earth, no one is so like another that we cannot see some difference; the resemblance is everywhere specific, nowhere individual. Now this same remark applies to all specific types. The only reason why we notice individual differences in the case of the human type more than we do in the case of any other types, is because our attention is here more incessantly focussed upon these differences. We are compelled to notice them in the case of our own species, however small they may appear to a naturalist, because, unless we do so, we should not recognise the members of our own family, or be able to distinguish between a man whom we know is ready to do us an important service, and another man whom we know is ready to cut our throats. But our common mother Nature is able thus to distinguish between all her children. Her eyes are much more ready to detect small individual peculiarities than are the eyes of any naturalist. No slight variations in the cast of feature or disposition of parts, no minute difference in the arrangement of microscopical cells, can escape her ever vigilant attention. And, consequently, when among all the innumerable multitudes of individual variations any one arises which—no matter in how slight a degree—gives to that individual a better chance of success in the struggle for life, Nature chooses that individual to survive, and so to perpetuate the improvement in his or her progeny.

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