Darwiniana - Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism
by Asa Gray
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A perversion of the first view leads toward atheism, the notion of an eternal sequence of cause and effect, for which there is no first cause—a view which few sane persons can long rest in. The danger which may threaten the second view is pantheism. We feel safe from either error, in our profound conviction that there is order in the universe; that order presupposes mind; design, will; and mind or will, personality. Thus guarded, we much prefer the second of the two conceptions of causation, as the more philosophical as well as Christian view—a view which leaves us with the same difficulties and the same mysteries in Nature as in Providence, and no other. Natural law, upon this view, is the human conception of continued and orderly Divine action.

We do not suppose that less power, or other power, is required to sustain the universe and carry on its operations, than to bring it into being. So, while conceiving no improbability of "interventions of Creative mind in Nature," if by such is meant the bringing to pass of new and fitting events at fitting times, we leave it for profounder minds to establish, if they can, a rational distinction in kind between his working in Nature carrying on operations, and in initiating those operations.

We wished, under the light of such views, to examine more critically the doctrine of this book, especially of some questionable parts; for instance, its explanation of the natural development of organs, and its implication of a "necessary acquirement of mental power" in the ascending scale of gradation. But there is room only for the general declaration that we cannot think the Cosmos a series which began with chaos and ends with mind, or of which mind is a result: that, if, by the successive origination of species and organs through natural agencies, the author means a series of events which succeed each other irrespective of a continued directing intelligence—events which mind does not order and shape to destined ends—then he has not established that doctrine, nor advanced toward its establishment, but has accumulated improbabilities beyond all belief. Take the formation and the origination of the successive degrees of complexity of eyes as a specimen. The treatment of this subject (pp. i88, 189), upon one interpretation, is open to all the objections referred to; but, if, on the other hand, we may rightly compare the eye "to a telescope, perfected by the long-continued efforts of the highest human intellects," we could carry out the analogy, and draw satisfactory illustrations and inferences from it. The essential, the directly intellectual thing is the making of the improvements in the telescope or the steam-engine. Whether the successive improvements, being small at each step, and consistent with the general type of the instrument, are applied to some of the individual machines, or entire new machines are constructed for each, is a minor matter. Though, if machines could engender, the adaptive method would be most economical; and economy is said to be a paramount law in Nature. The origination of the improvements, and the successive adaptations to meet new conditions or subserve other ends, are what answer to the supernatural, and therefore remain inexplicable. As to bringing them into use, though wisdom foresees the result, the circumstances and the natural competition will take care of that, in the long-run. The old ones will go out of use fast enough, except where an old and simple machine remains still best adapted to a particular purpose or condition—as, for instance, the old Newcomen engine for pumping out coal-pits. If there's a Divinity that shapes these ends, the whole is intelligible and reasonable; otherwise, not.

We regret that the necessity of discussing philosophical questions has prevented a fuller examination of the theory itself, and of the interesting scientific points which are brought to bear in its favor. One of its neatest points, certainly a very strong one for the local origination of species, and their gradual diffusion under natural agencies, we must reserve for some other convenient opportunity.

The work is a scientific one, rigidly restricted to its direct object; and by its science it must stand or fall. Its aim is, probably, not to deny creative intervention in Nature—for the admission of the independent origination of certain types does away with all antecedent improbability of as much intervention as may be required—but to maintain that Natural Selection, in explaining the facts, explains also many classes of facts which thousand-fold repeated independent acts of creation do not explain, but leave more mysterious than ever. How far the author has succeeded, the scientific world will in due time be able to pronounce.

As these sheets are passing through the press, a copy of the second edition has reached us. We notice with pleasure the insertion of an additional motto on the reverse of the title page, directly claiming the theistic view which we have vindicated for the doctrine. Indeed, these pertinent words of the eminently wise Bishop Butler comprise, in their simplest expression, the whole substance of our later pages:

"The only distinct meaning of the word 'natural' is stated, fixed, or settled; since what is natural as much requires and presupposes an intelligent mind to render it so, i.e., to effect it continually or at stated times, as what is supernatural or miraculous does to effect it for once."




(American Journal of Science and Arts, September, 1860)

D.T.—Is Darwin's theory atheistic or pantheistic? or, does it tend to atheism or pantheism? Before attempting any solution of this question, permit me to say a few words tending to obtain a definite conception of necessity and design, as the sources from which events may originate, each independent of the other; and we shall, perhaps, best attain a clear understanding of each, by the illustration of an example in which simple human designers act upon the physical powers of common matter.

Suppose, then, a square billiard-table to be placed with its corners directed to the four cardinal points. Suppose a player, standing at the north corner, to strike a red ball directly to the south, his design being to lodge the ball in the south pocket; which design, if not interfered with, must, of course be accomplished. Then suppose another player, standing at the east corner, to direct a white ball to the west corner. This design also, if not interfered with, must be accomplished. Next suppose both players to strike their balls at the same instant, with like forces, in the directions before given. In this case the balls would not pass as before, namely, the red ball to the south, and the white ball to the west, but they must both meet and strike each other in the centre of the table, and, being perfectly elastic, the red ball must pass to the west pocket, and the white ball to the south pocket. We may suppose that the players acted wholly without concert with each other, indeed, they may be ignorant of each other' s design, or even of each other's existence; still we know that the events must happen as herein described. Now, the first half of the course of these two balls is from an impulse, or proceeds from a power, acting from design. Each player has the design of driving his ball across the table in a diagonal line to accomplish its lodgment at the opposite corner of the table. Neither designed that his ball should be deflected from that course and pass to another corner of the table. The direction of this second part of the motion must be referred entirely to necessity, which directly interferes with the purpose of him who designed the rectilinear direction. We are not, in this case, to go back to find design in the creation of the powers or laws of inertia and elasticity, after the order of which the deflection, at the instant of collision, necessarily takes place. We know that these powers were inherent in the balls, and were not created to answer this special deflection. We are required, by the hypothesis, to confine attention in point of time, from the instant preceding the impact of the balls, to the time of their arrival at the opposite corners of the table. The cues aremoved by design. The impacts are acts from design. The first half of the motion of each ball is under the direction of design. We mean by this the particular design of each player. But, at the instant of the collision of the balls upon each other, direction from design ceases, and the balls no longer obey the particular designs of the players, the ends or purposes intended by them are not accomplished, but frustrated, by necessity, or by the necessary action of the powers of inertia and elasticity, which are inherent in matter, and are not made by any design of a Creator for this special action, or to serve this special purpose, but would have existed in the materials of which the balls were made, although the players had never been born.

I have thus stated, by a simple example in physical action, what is meant by design and what by necessity; and that the latter may exist without any dependence upon the former. If I have given the statement with what may be thought, by some, unnecessary prolixity, I have only to say that I have found many minds to have a great difficulty in conceiving of necessity as acting altogether independent of design.

Let me now trace these principles as sources of action in Darwin's work or theory. Let us see how much there is of design acting to produce a foreseen end, and thus proving a reasoning and self-conscious Creator; and how much of mere blind power acting without rational design, or without a specific purpose or conscious foresight. Mr. Darwin has specified in a most clear and unmistakable manner the operation of his three great powers, or rather, the three great laws by which the organic power of life acts in the formation of an eye. (See p. 169.) Following the method he has pointed out, we will take a number of animals of the same species, in which the eye is not developed. They may have all the other senses, with the organs of nutrition, circulation, respiration, and locomotion. They all have a brain and nerves, and some of these nerves may be sensitive to light; but have no combination of retina, membranes, humors, etc., by which the distinct image of an object may be formed and conveyed by the optic nerve to the cognizance of the internal perception, or the mind. The animal in this case would be merely sensible of the difference between light and darkness. He would have no power of discriminating form, size, shape, or color, the difference of objects, and to gain from these a knowledge of their being useful or hurtful, friends or enemies. Up to this point there is no appearance of necessity upon the scene. The billiard-balls have not yet struck together, and we will suppose that none of the arguments that may be used to prove, from this organism, thus existing, that it could not have come into form and being without a creator acting to this end with intelligence and design, are opposed by anything that can be found in Darwin's theory; for, so far, Darwin's laws are supposed not to have come into operation. Give the animals, thus organized, food and room, and they may go on, from generation to generation, upon the same organic level. Those individuals that, from natural variation, are born with light-nerves a little more sensitive to light than their parents, will cross or interbreed with those who have the same organs a little less sensitive, and thus the mean standard will be kept up without any advancement. If our billiard-table were sufficiently extensive, i. e., infinite, the balls rolled from the corners would never meet, and the necessity which we have supposed to deflect them would never act.

The moment, however, that the want of space or food commences natural selection begins. Here the balls meet, and all future action is governed by necessity. The best forms, or those nerves most sensitive to light, connected with incipient membranes and humors for corneas and lenses, are picked out and preserved by natural selection, of necessity. All cannot live and propagate, and it is a necessity, obvious to all, that the weaker must perish, if the theory be true. Working on, in this way, through countless generations, the eye is at last


formed in all its beauty and excellence. It must (always assuming that this theory is true) result from this combined action of natural variation, the struggle for life, and natural selection, with as much certainty as the balls, after collision, must pass to corners of the table different from those to which they were directed, and so far forth as the eye is formed by these laws, acting upward from the nerve merely sensitive to light, we can no more infer design, and from design a designer, than we can infer design in the direction of the billiard-balls after the collision. Both are sufficiently accounted for by blind powers acting under a blind necessity. Take away the struggle for life from the one, and the collision of the balls from the other—and neither of these was designed—and the animal would have gone on without eyes. The balls would have found the corners of the table to which they were first directed.

While, therefore, it seems to me clear that one who can find no proof of the existence of an intelligent Creator except through the evidence of design in the organic world, can find no evidence of such design in the construction of the eye, if it were constructed under the operation of Darwin's laws, I shall not for one moment contend that these laws are incompatible with design and a self-conscious, intelligent Creator. Such design might, indeed, have coexisted with the necessity or natural selection; and so the billiard-players might have designed the collision of their balls; but neither the formation of the eye, nor the path of the balls after collision, furnishes any sufficient proof of such design in either case.

One, indeed, who believes, from revelation or any other cause, in the existence of such a Creator, the fountain and Source of all things in heaven above and in the earth beneath, will see in natural variation, the struggle for life, and natural selection, only the order or mode in which this Creator, in his own perfect wisdom, sees fit to act. Happy is he who can thus see and adore. But how many are there who have no such


belief from intuition, or faith in revelation; but who have by careful and elaborate search in the physical, and more especially in the organic world, inferred, by induction, the existence of God from what has seemed to them the wonderful adaptation of the different organs and parts of the animal body to its, apparently, designed ends! Imagine a mind of this skeptical character, in all honesty and under its best reason, after finding itself obliged to reject the evidence of revelation, to commence a search after the Creator, in the light of natural theology. He goes through the proof for final cause and design, as given in a summary though clear, plain, and convincing form, in the pages of Paley and the "Bridgewater Treatises." The eye and the hand, those perfect instruments of optical and mechanical contrivance and adaptation, without the least waste or surplusage—these, say Paley and Bell, certainly prove a designing maker as much as the palace or the watch proves an architect or a watchmaker. Let this mind, in this state, cross Darwin's work, and find that, after a sensitive nerve or a rudimentary hoof or claw, no design is to be found. From this point upward the development is the mere necessary result of natural selection; and let him receive this law of natural selection as true, and where does he find himself? Before, he could refer the existence of the eye, for example, only to design, or chance. There was no other alternative. He rejected chance, as impossible.

It must then be a design. But Darwin brings up another power, namely, natural selection, in place of this impossible chance. This not only may, but, according to Darwin, must of necessity produce an eye. It may indeed coexist with design, but it must exist and act and produce its results, even without design. Will such a mind, under such circumstances, infer the existence of the designer—God—when he can, at the same time, satisfactorily account for the thing produced, by the operation of this natural selection? It seems to me, therefore, perfectly evident


that the substitution of natural selection, by necessity, for design in the formation of the organic world, is a step decidedly atheistical. It is in vain to say that Darwin takes the creation of organic life, in its simplest forms, to have been the work of the Deity. In giving up design in these highest and most complex forms of organization, which have always been relied upon as the crowning proof of the existence of an intelligent Creator, without whose intellectual power they could not have been brought into being, he takes a most decided step to banish a belief in the intelligent action of God from the organic world. The lower organisms will go next.

The atheist will say, Wait a little. Some future Darwin will show how the simple forms came necessarily from inorganic matter. This is but another step by which, according to Laplace, "the discoveries of science throw final causes further back."

A.G.—It is conceded that, if the two players in the supposed case were ignorant of each other's presence, the designs of both were frustrated, and from necessity. Thus far it is not needful to inquire whether this necessary consequence is an unconditional or a conditioned necessity, nor to require a more definite statement of the meaning attached to the word necessity as a supposed third alternative.

But, if the players knew of each other's presence, we could not infer from the result that the design of both or of either was frustrated. One of them may have intended to frustrate the other's design, and to effect his own. Or both may have been equally conversant with the properties of the matter and the relation of the forces concerned (whatever the cause, origin, or nature, of these forces and properties), and the result may have been according to the designs of both.

As you admit that they might or might not have designed the collision of their balls and its consequences the question arises whether there is any way of ascertaining which of the two conceptions we may form about it is the true one. Now, let it be remarked that design can never be demonstrated. Witnessing the act does not make known the design, as we have seen in the case assumed for the basis of the argument. The word of the actor is not proof; and that source of evidence is excluded from the cases in question. The only way left, and the only possible way in cases where testimony is out of the question, is to infer the design from the result, or from arrangements which strike us as adapted or intended to produce a certain result, which affords a presumption of design. The strength of this presumption may be zero, or an even chance, as perhaps it is in the assumed case; but the probability of design will increase with the particularity of the act, the specialty of the arrangement or machinery, and with the number of identical or yet more of similar and analogous instances, until it rises to a moral certainty—i. e., to a conviction which practically we are as unable to resist as we are to deny the cogency of a mathematical demonstration. A single instance, or set of instances, of a comparatively simple arrangement might suffice. For instance, we should not doubt that a pump was designed to raise water by the moving of the handle. Of course, the conviction is the stronger, or at least the sooner arrived at, where we can imitate the arrangement, and ourselves produce the result at will, as we could with a pump, and also with the billiard-balls.

And here I would suggest that your billiard-table, with the case of collision, answers well to a machine. In both a result is produced by indirection—by applying a force out of line of the ultimate direction. And, as I should feel as confident that a man intended to raise water who was working a pumphandle, as if he were bringing it up in pailfuls from below by means of a ladder, so, after due examination of the billiard-table and its appurtenances, I should probably think it likely that the effect of the rebound was expected and intended no less than that of the immediate impulse. And a similar inspection of arrangements and results in Nature would raise at least an equal presumption of design.

You allow that the rebound might have been intended, but you require proof that it was. We agree that a single such instance affords no evidence either way. But how would it be if you saw the men doing the same thing over and over? and if they varied it by other arrangements of the balls or of the blow, and these were followed by analogous results? How if you at length discovered a profitable end of the operation, say the winning of a wager? So in the counterpart case of natural selection: must we not infer intention from the arrangements and the results? But I will take another case of the very same sort, though simpler, and better adapted to illustrate natural selection; because the change of direction—your necessity—acts gradually or successively, instead of abruptly. Suppose I hit a man standing obliquely in my rear, by throwing forward a crooked stick, called a boomerang. How could he know whether the blow was intentional or not? But suppose I had been known to throw boomerangs before; suppose that, on different occasions, I had before wounded persons by the same, or other indirect and apparently aimless actions; and suppose that an object appeared to be gained in the result—that definite ends were attained—would it not at length be inferred that my assault, though indirect, or apparently indirect, was designed?

To make the case more nearly parallel with those it is brought to illustrate, you have only to suppose that, although the boomerang thrown by me went forward to a definite place, and at least appeared to subserve a purpose, and the bystanders, after a while, could get traces of the mode or the empirical law of its flight, yet they could not themselves do anything with it. It was quite beyond their power to use it. Would they doubt, or deny my intention, on that account? No: they would insist that design on my part must be presumed from the nature of the results; that, though design may have been wanting in any one case, yet the repetition of the result, and from different positions and under varied circumstances, showed that there must have been design.

Moreover, in the way your case is stated, it seems to concede the most important half of the question, and so affords a presumption for the rest, on the side of design. For you seem to assume an actor, a designer, accomplishing his design in the first instance. You—a bystander—infer that the player effected his design in sending the first ball to the pocket before him. You infer this from observation alone. Must you not from a continuance of the same observation equally infer a common design of the two players in the complex result, or a design of one of them to frustrate the design of the other? If you grant a designing actor, the presumption of design is as strong, or upon continued observation of instances soon becomes as strong, in regard to the deflection of the balls, or variation of the species, as it was for the result of the first impulse or for the production of the original animal, etc.

But, in the case to be illustrated, we do not see the player. We see only the movement of the balls. Now, if the contrivances and adaptations referred to really do "prove a designer as much as the palace or the watch proves an architect or a watchmaker"—as Paley and Bell argue, and as your skeptic admits, while the alternative is between design and chance—then they prove it with all the proof the case is susceptible of, and with complete conviction. For we cannot doubt that the watch had a watchmaker. And if they prove it on the supposition that the unseen operator acted immediately—i.e., that the player directly impelled the balls in the directions we see them moving, I insist that this proof is not impaired by our ascertaining that he acted mediately—i.e., that the present state or form of the plants or animals, like the present position of the billiard-balls, resulted from the collision of the individuals with one another, or with the surroundings. The original impulse, which we once supposed was in the line of the observed movement, only proves to have been in a different direction; but the series of movements took place with a series of results, each and all of them none the less determined, none the less designed.

Wherefore, when, at the close, you quote Laplace, that "the discoveries of science throw final causes farther back," the most you can mean is, that they constrain us to look farther back for the impulse. They do not at all throw the argument for design farther back, in the sense of furnishing evidence or presumption that only the primary impulse was designed, and that all the rest followed from chance or necessity.

Evidence of design, I think you will allow, everywhere is drawn from the observation of adaptations and of results, and has really nothing to do with anything else, except where you can take the word for the will. And in that case you have not argument for design, but testimony. In Nature we have no testimony; but the argument is overwhelming.

Now, note that the argument of the olden time—that of Paley, etc., which your skeptic found so convincing—was always the argument for design in the movement of the balls after deflection. For it was drawn from animals produced by generation, not by creation, and through a long succession of generations or deflections. Wherefore, if the argument for design is perfect in the case of an animal derived from a long succession of individuals as nearly alike as offspring is generally like parents and grandparents, and if this argument is not weakened when a variation, or series of variations, has occurred in the course, as great as any variations we know of among domestic cattle, how then is it weakened by the supposition, or by the likelihood, that the variations have been twice or thrice as great as we formerly supposed, or because the variations have been "picked out," and a few of them pre served as breeders of still other variations, by natural selection?

Finally let it be noted that your element of necessity has to do, so far as we know, only with the picking out and preserving of certain changing forms, i. e., with the natural selection. This selection, you may say, must happen under the circumstances. This is a necessary result of the collision of the balls; and these results can be predicted. If the balls strike so and so, they will be deflected so and so. But the variation itself is of the nature of an origination. It answers well to the original impulse of the balls, or to a series of such impulses. We cannot predict what particular new variation will occur from any observation of the past. Just as the first impulse was given to the balls at a point out of sight, so the impulse which resulted in the variety or new form was given at a point beyond observation, and is equally mysterious or unaccountable, except on the supposition of an ordaining will. The parent had not the peculiarity of the variety, the progeny has. Between the two is the dim or obscure region of the formation of a new individual, in some unknown part of which, and in some wholly unknown way, the difference is intercalated. To introduce necessity here is gratuitous and unscientific; but here you must have it to make your argument valid.

I agree that, judging from the past, it is not improbable that variation itself may be hereafter shown to result from physical causes. When it is so shown, you may extend your necessity into this region, but not till then. But the whole course of scientific discovery goes to assure us that the discovery of the cause of variation will be only a resolution of variation into two factors: one, the immediate secondary cause of the changes, which so far explains them; the other an unresolved or unexplained phenomenon, which will then stand just where the product, variation, stands now, only that it will be one step nearer to the efficient cause. This line of argument appears to me so convincing, that I am bound to suppose that it does not meet your case. Although you introduced players to illustrate what design is, it is probable that you did not intend, and would not accept, the parallel which your supposed case suggested. When you declare that the proof of design in the eye and the hand, as given by Paley and Bell, was convincing, you mean, of course, that it was convincing, so long as the question was between design and chance, but that now another alternative is offered, one which obviates the force of those arguments, and may account for the actual results without design. I do not clearly apprehend this third alternative.

Will you be so good, then, as to state the grounds upon which you conclude that the supposed proof of design from the eye, or the hand, as it stood before Darwin's theory was promulgated, would be invalidated by the admission of this new theory?

D.T.—As I have ever found you, in controversy, meeting the array of your opponent fairly and directly, without any attempt to strike the body of his argument through an unguarded joint in the phraseology, I was somewhat surprised at the course taken in your answer to my statement on Darwin's theory. You there seem to suppose that I instanced the action of the billiard balls and players as a parallel, throughout, to the formation of the organic world. Had it occurred to me that such an application might be supposed to follow legitimately from my introduction of this action, I should certainly have stated that I did not intend, and should by no means accede to, that construction. My purpose in bringing the billiard-table upon the scene was to illustrate, by example, design and necessity, as different and independent sources from which results, it might indeed be identical results, may be derived All the conclusions, therefore, that you have arrived at through this misconception or misapplication of my illustration, I cannot take as an answer to the matter stated or intended to be stated by me. Again, following this misconception, you suppose the skeptic (instanced by me as revealing through the evidence of design, exhibited in the structure of the eye, for its designer, God) as bringing to the examination a belief in the existence of design in the construction of the animals as they existed up to the moment when the eye was, according to my supposition, added to the heart, stomach, brain, etc. By skeptic I, of course, intended one who doubted the existence of design in every organic structure, or at least required proof of such design. Now, as the watch may be instanced as a more complete exhibition of design than a flint knife or an hour-glass, I selected, after the example of Paley, the eye, as exhibiting by its complex but harmonious arrangements a higher evidence of design and a designer than is to be found in a nerve sensitive to light, or any mere rudimentary part or organ. I could not mean by skeptic one who believed in design so far as a claw, or a nerve sensitive to light, was concerned, but doubted all above. For one who believes in design at all will not fail to recognize it in a hand or an eye. But I need not extend these remarks, as you acknowledge in the sequel to your argument that you may not have suited it to the case as I have stated it.

You now request me to "state the grounds upon which I conclude that the supposed proof of design from the eye and the hand, as it stood before Darwin's theory was promulgated, is invalidated by the admission of that theory." It seems to me that a sufficient answer to this question has already been made in the last part of my former paper; but, as you request it, I will go over the leading points as there given, with more minuteness of detail.

Let us, then, suppose a skeptic, one who is yet considering and doubting of the existence of God, having already concluded that the testimony from any and all revelation is insufficient, and having rejected what is called the a priori arguments brought forward in natural theology, and pertinaciously insisted upon by Dr. Clark and others, turning as a last resource to the argument from design in the organic world. Voltaire tells him that a palace could not exist without an architect to design it. Dr. Paley tells him that a watch proves the design of a watchmaker. He thinks this very reasonable, and, although he sees a difference between the works of Nature and those of mere human art, yet if he can find in any organic body, or part of a body, the same adaptation to its use that he finds in a watch, this truth will go very far toward proving, if it is not entirely conclusive, that, in making it, the powers of life by which it grew were directed by an intelligent, reasoning master. Under the guidance of Paley he takes an eye, which, although an optical, and not a mechanical instrument like the watch, is as well adapted to testify to design. He sees, first, that the eye is transparent when every other part of the body is opaque. Was this the result of a mere Epicurean or Lucretian "fortuitous concourse" of living "atoms"? He is not yet certain it might not be so. Next he sees that it is spherical, and that this convex form alone is capable of changing the direction of the light which proceeds from a distant body, and of collecting it so as to form a distinct image within its globe. Next he sees at the exact place where this image must be formed a curtain of nerve-work, ready to receive and convey it, or excite from it, in its own mysterious way, an idea of it in the mind. Last of all, he comes to the crystalline lens. Now, he has before learned that without this lens an eye would by the aqueous and Vitreous humors alone form an image upon the retina, but this image would be indistinct from the light not being sufficiently refracted, and likewise from having a colored fringe round its edges. This last effect is attributable to the refrangibility of light, that is, to some of the colors being more refracted than others. He likewise knows that more than a hundred years ago Mr. Dollond having found out, after many experiments, that some kinds of glass have the power of dispersing light, for each degree of its refraction, much more than other kinds, and that on the discovery of this fact he contrived to make telescopes in which he passed the light through two object-glasses successively, one of which he made of crown and one of flint glass, so ground and adapted to each other that the greater dispersion produced by the substance of one should be corrected by the smaller dispersion of the other. This contrivance corrected entirely the colored images which had rendered all previous telescopes very imperfect. He finds in this invention all the elements of design, as it appeared in the thought and action of a human designer. First, conjecture of certain laws or facts in optics. Then, experiment proving these laws or facts. Then, the contrivance and formation of an instrument by which those laws or facts must produce a certain sought result.

Thus enlightened, our skeptic turns to his crystalline lens to see if he can discover the work of a Dollond in this. Here he finds that an eye, having a crystalline lens placed between the humors, not only refracts the light more than it would be refracted by the humors alone, but that, in this combination of humors and lens, the colors are as completely corrected as in the combination of Dollond's telescope. Can it be that there was no design, no designer, directing the powers of life in the formation of this wonderful organ? Our skeptic is aware that, in the arts of man, great aid has been, sometimes, given by chance, that is, by the artist or workman observing some fortuitous combination, form, or action, around him. He has heard it said that the chance arrangement of two pairs of spectacles, in the shop of a Dutch optician, gave the direction


for constructing the first telescope. Possibly, in time, say a few geological ages, it might in some optician's shop have brought about a combination of flint and crown glass which, together, should have been achromatic. But the space between the humors of the eye is not an optician' s shop where object-glasses of all kinds, shapes, and sizes, are placed by chance, in all manner of relations and positions. On the hypothesis under which our skeptic is making his examination—the eye having been completed in all but the formation of the lens—the place which the lens occupies when completed was filled with parts of the humors and plane membrane, homogeneous in texture and surface, presenting, therefore, neither the variety of the materials nor forms which are contained in the optician's shop for chance to make its combinations with. How, then, could it be cast of a combination not before used, and fashioned to a shape different from that before known, and placed in exact combination with all the parts before enumerated, with many others not even mentioned? He sees no parallelism of condition, then, by which chance could act in forming a crystalline lens, which answers to the condition of an optician's shop, where it might be possible in many ages for chance to combine existing forms into an achromatic object-glass.

Considering, therefore, the eye thus completed and placed in its bony case and provided with its muscles, its lids, its tear-ducts, and all its other elaborate and curious appendages, and, a thousand times more wonderful still, without being encumbered with a single superfluous or useless part, can he say that this could be the work of chance? The improbability of this is so great, and consequently the evidence of design is so strong, that he is about to seal his verdict in favor of design, when he opens Mr. Darwin's book. There he finds that an eye is no more than a vital aggregation or growth, directed, not by design nor chance, but moulded by natural variation and natural selection, through which it must, necessarily, have been developed and formed. Particles or atoms being aggregated by the blind powers of life, must become under the given conditions, by natural variation and natural selection, eyes, without design, as certainly as the red billiard-ball went to the west pocket, by the powers of inertia and elasticity, without the design of the hand that put it in motion. (See Darwin, p. 169.)

Let us lay before our skeptic the way in which we may suppose that Darwin would trace the operation of life, or the vital force conforming to these laws. In doing this we need not go through with the formation of the several membranes, humors, etc., but take the crystalline lens as the most curious and nicely arranged and adapted of all the parts, and as giving, moreover, a close parallel, in the end produced, to that produced by design, by a human designer, Dollond, in forming his achromatic object-glass. If it can be shown that natural variation and natural selection were capable of forming the crystalline lens, it will not be denied that they were capable of forming the iris, the sclerotica, the aqueous humors, or any and all the other parts. Suppose, then, that we have a number of animals, with eyes yet wanting the crystalline. In this state the animals can see, but dimly and imperfectly, as a man sees after having been couched. Some of the offspring of these animals have, by natural variation, merely a portion of the membrane which separates the aqueous from the vitreous humor a little thickened in its middle part, a little swelled out. This refracts the light a little more than it would be refracted by a membrane in which no such swelling existed, and not only so, but, in combination with the humors, it corrects the errors of dispersion and makes the image somewhat more colorless. All the young animals that have this swelled membrane see more distinctly than their parents or brethren. They, therefore, have an advantage over them in the struggle for life. They can obtain food more easily; can find their prey, and escape from their enemies with greater facility than their kindred. This thickening and rounding of the membrane goes on from generation to generation by natural variation; natural selection all the while "picking out with unerring skill all the improvements, through countless generations," until at length it is found that the membrane has become a perfect crystalline lens. Now, where is the design in all this? The membrane was not thickened and rounded to the end that the image should be more distinct and colorless; but, being thickened and rounded by the operation of natural variation, inherent in generation, natural selection of necessity produced the result that we have seen. The same result was thus produced of necessity, in the eye, that Dollond came at, in the telescope, with design, through painful guessing, reasoning, experimenting, and forming.

Suppose our skeptic to believe in all this power of natural selection; will he now seal up his verdict for design, with the same confidence that he would before he heard of Darwin? If not, then "the supposed proof from design is invalidated by Darwin's theory."

A.G.—Waiving incidental points and looking only to the gist of the question, I remark that the argument for design as against chance, in the formation of the eye, is most convincingly stated in your argument. Upon this and upon numerous similar arguments the whole question we are discussing turns. So, if the skeptic was about to seal his verdict in favor of design, and a designer, when Darwin's book appeared, why should his verdict now be changed or withheld? All the facts about the eye, which convinced him that the organ was designed, remain just as they were. His conviction was not produced through testimony or eyewitness, but design was irresistibly inferred from the evidence of contrivance in the eye itself.

Now, if the eye as it is, or has become, so convincingly argued design why not each particular step or part of this result? If the production of a perfect crystalline lens in the eye—you know not how—as much indicated design as did the production of a Dollond achromatic lens—you understand how—then why does not "the swelling out" of a particular portion of the membrane behind the iris—caused you know not how—which, by "correcting the errors of dispersion and making the image somewhat more colorless," enabled the "young animals to see more distinctly than their parents or brethren," equally indicate design—if not as much as a perfect crystalline, or a Dollond compound lens, yet as much as a common spectacle-glass? Darwin only assures you that what you may have thought was done directly and at once was done indirectly and successively. But you freely admit that indirection and succession do not invalidate design, and also that Paley and all the natural theologians drew the arguments which convinced your skeptic wholly from eyes indirectly or naturally produced.

Recall a woman of a past generation and show her a web of cloth; ask her how it was made, and she will say that the wool or cotton was carded, spun, and woven by hand. When you tell her it was not made by manual labor, that probably no hand has touched the materials throughout the process, it is possible that she might at first regard your statement as tantamount to the assertion that the cloth was made without design. If she did, she would not credit your statement. If you patiently explained to her the theory of carding-machines, spinning-jennies, and power-looms, would her reception of your explanation weaken her conviction that the cloth was the result of design? It is certain that she would believe in design as firmly as before, and that this belief would be attended by a higher conception and reverent admiration of a wisdom, skill, and power greatly beyond anything she had previously conceived possible.

Wherefore, we may insist that, for all that yet appears, the argument for design, as presented by the natural theologians, is just as good now, if we accept Darwin's theory, as it was before that theory was promulgated; and that the skeptical juryman, who was about to join the other eleven in a unanimous verdict in favor of design, finds no good excuse for keeping the court longer waiting.[II-1]





(Atlantic Monthly for July, August, and October, 1860, reprinted in 1861)


Novelties are enticing to most people; to us they are simply annoying. We cling to a long-accepted theory, just as we cling to an old suit of clothes. A new theory, like a new pair of breeches (the Atlantic still affects the older type of nether garment), is sure to have hard-fitting places; or, even when no particular fault can be found with the article, it oppresses with a sense of general discomfort. New notions and new styles worry us, till we get well used to them, which is only by slow degrees.

Wherefore, in Galileo's time, we might have helped to proscribe, or to burn—had he been stubborn enough to warrant cremation—even the great pioneer of inductive research; although, when we had fairly recovered our composure, and bad leisurely excogitated the matter, we might have come to conclude that the new doctrine was better than the old one, after all, at least for those who had nothing to unlearn.

Such being our habitual state of mind, it may well be believed that the perusal of the new book "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" left an uncomfortable impression, in spite of its plausible and winning ways. We were not wholly unprepared for it, as many of our contemporaries seem to have been. The scientific reading in which we indulge as a relaxation from severer studies had raised dim forebodings. Investigations about the succession of species in time, and their actual geographical distribution over the earth's surface, were leading up from all sides and in various ways to the question of their origin. Now and then we encountered a sentence, like Prof. Owen's "axiom of the continuous operation of the ordained becoming of living things," which haunted us like an apparition. For, dim as our conception must needs be as to what such oracular and grandiloquent phrases might really mean, we felt confident that they presaged no good to old beliefs. Foreseeing, yet deprecating, the coming time of trouble, we still hoped that, with some repairs and makeshifts, the old views might last out our days. Apres nous le deluge. Still, not to lag behind the rest of the world, we read the book in which the new theory is promulgated. We took it up, like our neighbors, and, as was natural, in a somewhat captious frame of mind.

Well, we found no cause of quarrel with the first chapter. Here the author takes us directly to the barn-yard and the kitchen-garden. Like an honorable rural member of our General Court, who sat silent until, near the close of a long session, a bill requiring all swine at large to wear pokes was introduced, when he claimed the privilege of addressing the house, on the proper ground that he had been "brought up among the pigs, and knew all about them"—so we were brought up among cows and cabbages; and the lowing of cattle, the cackle of hens, and the cooing of pigeons, were sounds native and pleasant to our ears. So "Variation under Domestication" dealt with familiar subjects in a natural way, and gently introduced "Variation under Nature," which seemed likely enough. Then follows "Struggle for Existence"—a principle which we experimentally know to be true and cogent—bringing the comfortable assurance, that man, even upon Leviathan Hobbes's theory of society, is no worse than the rest of creation, since all Nature is at war, one species with another, and the nearer kindred the more internecine—bringing in thousandfold confirmation and extension of the Malthusian doctrine that population tends far to outrun means of subsistence throughout the animal and vegetable world, and has to be kept down by sharp preventive checks; so that not more than one of a hundred or a thousand of the individuals whose existence is so wonderfully and so sedulously provided for ever comes to anything, under ordinary circumstances; so the lucky and the strong must prevail, and the weaker and ill-favored must perish; and then follows, as naturally as one sheep follows another, the chapter on "Natural Selection," Darwin's cheval de bataille, which is very much the Napoleonic doctrine that Providence favors the strongest battalions—that, since many more individuals are born than can possibly survive, those individuals and those variations which possess any advantage, however slight, over the rest, are in the long-run sure to survive, to propagate, and to occupy the limited field, to the exclusion or destruction of the weaker brethren. All this we pondered, and could not much object to. In fact, we began to contract a liking for a system which at the outset illustrates the advantages of good breeding, and which makes the most "of every creature's best."

Could we "let by-gones be by-gones," and, beginning now, go on improving and diversifying for the future by natural selection, could we even take up the theory at the introduction of the actually existing species, we should be well content; and so, perhaps, would most naturalists be. It is by no means difficult to believe that varieties are incipient or possible species, when we see what trouble naturalists, especially botanists, have to distinguish between them—one regarding as a true species what another regards as a variety; when the progress of knowledge continually increases, rather than diminishes, the number of doubtful instances; and when there is less agreement than ever among naturalists as to what is the basis in Nature upon which our idea of species reposes, or how the word is to be defined. Indeed, when we consider the endless disputes of naturalists and ethnologists over the human races, as to whether they belong to one species or to more, and, if to more, whether to three, or five, or fifty, we can hardly help fancying that both may be right—or rather, that the uni-humanitarians would have been right many thousand years ago, and the multi-humanitarians will be several thousand years later; while at present the safe thing to say is, that probably there is some truth on both sides.

"Natural selection," Darwin remarks, "leads to divergence of character; for the more living beings can be supported on the same area, the more they diverge in structure, habits, and constitution" (a principle which, by-the-way, is paralleled and illustrated by the diversification of human labor); and also leads to much extinction of intermediate or unimproved forms. Now, though this divergence may "steadily tend to increase," yet this is evidently a slow process in Nature, and liable to much counteraction wherever man does not interpose, and so not likely to work much harm for the future. And if natural selection, with artificial to help it, will produce better animals and better men than the present, and fit them better to the conditions of existence, why, let it work, say we, to the top of its bent There is still room enough for improvement. Only let us hope that it always works for good: if not, the divergent lines on Darwin's lithographic diagram of "Transmutation made Easy," ominously show what small deviations from the straight path may come to in the end.

The prospect of the future, accordingly, is on the whole pleasant and encouraging. It is only the backward glance, the gaze up the long vista of the past, that reveals anything alarming. Here the lines converge as they recede into the geological ages, and point to conclusions which, upon the theory, are inevitable, but hardly welcome. The very first step backward makes the negro and the Hottentot our blood-relations—not that reason or Scripture objects to that, though pride may. The next suggests a closer association of our ancestors of the olden time with "our poor relations" of the quadrumanous family than we like to acknowledge. Fortunately, however—even if we must account for him scientifically —man with his two feet stands upon a foundation of his own. Intermediate links between the Bimana and the Quadrumana are lacking altogether; so that, put the genealogy of the brutes upon what footing you will, the four-handed races will not serve for our forerunners—at least, not until some monkey, live or fossil, is producible with great-toes, instead of thumbs, upon his nether extremities; or until some lucky geologist turns up the bones of his ancestor and prototype in France or England, who was so busy "napping the chuckie-stanes" and chipping out flint knives and arrow-heads in the time of the drift, very many ages ago—before the British Channel existed, says Lyell [III-1]—and until these men of the olden time are shown to have worn their great-toes in the divergent and thumblike fashion. That would be evidence indeed: but, until some testimony of the sort is produced, we must needs believe in the separate and special creation of man, however it may have been with the lower animals and with plants.

No doubt, the full development and symmetry of Darwin's hypothesis strongly suggest the evolution of the human no less than the lower animal races out of some simple primordial animal—that all are equally "lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited." But, as the author speaks disrespectfully of spontaneous generation, and accepts a supernatural beginning of life on earth, in some form or forms of being which included potentially all that have since existed and are yet to be, he is thereby not warranted to extend his inferences beyond the evidence or the fair probability. There seems as great likelihood that one special origination should be followed by another upon fitting occasion (such as the introduction of man), as that one form should be transmuted into another upon fitting occasion, as, for instance, in the succession of species which differ from each other only in some details. To compare small things with great in a homely illustration: man alters from time to time his instruments or machines, as new circumstances or conditions may require and his wit suggest. Minor alterations and improvements he adds to the machine he possesses; he adapts a new rig or a new rudder to an old boat: this answers to Variation. "Like begets like," being the great rule in Nature, if boats could engender, the variations would doubtless be propagated, like those of domestic cattle. In course of time the old ones would be worn out or wrecked; the best sorts would be chosen for each particular use, and further improved upon; and so the primordial boat be developed into the scow, the skiff, the sloop, and other species of water-craft—the very diversification, as well as the successive improvements, entailing the disappearance of intermediate forms, less adapted to any one particular purpose; wherefore these go slowly out of use, and become extinct species: this is Natural Selection. Now, let a great and important advance be made, like that of steam navigation: here, though the engine might be added to the old vessel, yet the wiser and therefore the actual way is to make a new vessel on a modified plan: this may answer to Specific Creation. Anyhow, the one does not necessarily exclude the other. Variation and natural selection may play their part, and so may specific creation also. Why not?

This leads us to ask for the reasons which call for this new theory of transmutation. The beginning of things must needs lie in obscurity, beyond the bounds of proof, though within those of conjecture or of analogical inference. Why not hold fast to the customary view, that all species were directly, instead of indirectly, created after their respective kinds, as we now behold them—and that in a manner which, passing our comprehension, we intuitively refer to the supernatural? Why this continual striving after "the unattained and dim?" why these anxious endeavors, especially of late years, by naturalists and philosophers of various schools and different tendencies, to penetrate what one of them calls "that mystery of mysteries," the origin of species?

To this, in general, sufficient answer may be found in the activity of the human intellect, "the delirious yet divine desire to know," stimulated as it has been by its own success in unveiling the laws and processes of inorganic Nature; in the fact that the principal triumphs of our age in physical science have consisted in tracing connections where none were known before, in reducing heterogeneous phenomena to a common cause or origin, in a manner quite analogous to that of the reduction of supposed independently originated species to a common ultimate origin—thus, and in various other ways, largely and legitimately extending the domain of secondary causes. Surely the scientific mind of an age which contemplates the solar system as evolved from a common revolving fluid mass—which, through experimental research, has come to regard light, heat, electricity, magnetism, chemical affinity, and mechanical power as varieties or derivative and convertible forms of one force, instead of independent species—which has brought the so-called elementary kinds of matter, such as the metals, into kindred groups, and pertinently raised the question, whether the members of each group may not be mere varieties of one species—and which speculates steadily in the direction of the ultimate unity of matter, of a sort of prototype or simple element which may be to the ordinary species of matter what the Protozoa or what the component cells of an organism are to the higher sorts of animals and plants—the mind of such an age cannot be expected to let the old belief about species pass unquestioned. It will raise the question, how the diverse sorts of plants and animals came to be as they are and where they are and will allow that the whole inquiry transcends its powers only when all endeavors have failed Granting the origin to be super natural or miraculous even, will not arrest the inquiry All real origination the philosophers will say, is supernatural, their very question is, whether we have yet gone back to the origin and can affirm that the present forms of plants and animals are the primordial, the miraculously created ones. And, even if they admit that, they will still inquire into the order of the phenomena, into the form of the miracle You might as well expect the child to grow up content with what it is told about the advent of its infant brother Indeed, to learn that the new comer is the gift of God, far from lulling inquiry, only stimulates speculation as to how the precious gift was bestowed That questioning child is father to the man—is philosopher in short-clothes.

Since, then questions about the origin of species will be raised, and have been raised—and since the theorizings, however different in particulars, all proceed upon the notion that one species of plant or animal is somehow derived from another, that the different sorts which now flourish are lineal (or unlineal) descendants of other and earlier sorts—it now concerns us to ask, What are the grounds in Nature, the admitted facts, which suggest hypotheses of derivation in some :shape or other? Reasons there must be, and plausible ones, for the persistent recurrence of theories upon this genetic basis. A study of Darwin's book, and a general glance at the present state of the natural sciences, enable us to gather the following as among the most suggestive and influential. We can only enumerate them here, without much indication of their particular bearing. There is—

1. The general fact of variability, and the general tendency of the variety to propagate its like—the patent facts that all species vary more or less; that domesticated plants and animals, being in conditions favorable to the production and preservation of varieties, are apt to vary widely; and that, by interbreeding, any variety may be fixed into a race, that is, into a variety which comes true from seed. Many such races, it is allowed, differ from each other in structure and appearance as widely as do many admitted species; and it is practically very difficult, even impossible, to draw a clear line between races and species. Witness the human races, for instance. Wild species also vary, perhaps about as widely as those of domestication, though in different ways. Some of them apparently vary little, others moderately, others immoderately, to the great bewilderment of systematic botanists and zoologists, and increasing disagreement as to whether various forms shall be held to be original species or strong varieties. Moreover, the degree to which the descendants of the same stock, varying in different directions, may at length diverge, is unknown. All we know is, that varieties are themselves variable, and that very diverse forms have been educed from one stock.

2. Species of the same genus are not distinguished from each other by equal amounts of difference. There is diversity in this respect analogous to that of the varieties of a polymorphous species, some of them slight, others extreme. And in large genera the unequal resemblance shows itself in the clustering of the species around several types or central species, like satellites around their respective planets. Obviously suggestive this of the hypothesis that they were satellites, not thrown off by revolution, like the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and our own solitary moon, but gradually and peacefully detached by divergent variation. That such closely-related species may be only varieties of higher grade, earlier origin, or more favored evolution, is not a very violent supposition. Anyhow, it was a supposition sure to be made.

3. The actual geographical distribution of species upon the earth's surface tends to suggest the same notion. For, as a general thing, all or most of the species of a peculiar genus or other type are grouped in the same country, or occupy continuous, proximate, or accessible areas. So well does this rule hold, so general is the implication that kindred species are or were associated geographically, that most trustworthy naturalists, quite free from hypotheses of transmutation, are constantly inferring former geographical continuity between parts of the world now widely disjoined, in order to account thereby for certain generic similarities among their inhabitants; just as philologists infer former connection of races, and a parent language, to account for generic similarities among existing languages. Yet no scientific explanation has been offered to account for the geographical association of kindred species, except the hypothesis of a common origin.

4. Here the fact of the antiquity of creation, and in particular of the present kinds of the earth's inhabitants, or of a large part of them, comes in to rebut the objection that there has not been time enough for any marked diversification of living things through divergent variation—not time enough for varieties to have diverged into what we call species.

So long as the existing species of plants and animals were thought to have originated a few thousand years ago, and without predecessors, there was no room for a theory of derivation of one sort from another, nor time enough even to account for the establishment of the races which are generally believed to have diverged from a common stock. Not so much that five or six thousand years was a short allowance for this; but because some of our familiar domesticated varieties of grain, of fowls, and of other animals, were pictured and mummified by the old Egyptians more than half that number of years ago, if not earlier. Indeed, perhaps the strongest argument for the original plurality of human species was drawn from the identification of some of the present races of men upon these early historical monuments and records.

But this very extension of the current chronology, if we may rely upon the archaeologists, removes the difficulty by opening up a longer vista. So does the discovery in Europe of remains and implements of prehistoric races of men, to whom the use of metals was unknown—men of the stone age, as the Scandinavian archaeologists designate them. And now, "axes and knives of flint, evidently wrought by human skill, are found in beds of the drift at Amiens (also in other places, both in France and England), associated with the bones of extinct species of animals." These implements, indeed, were noticed twenty years ago; at a place in Suffolk they have been exhumed from time to time for more than a century; but the full confirmation, the recognition of the age of the deposit in which the implements occur, their abundance, and the appreciation of their bearings upon most interesting questions, belong to the present time. To complete the connection of these primitive people with the fossil ages, the French geologists, we are told, have now "found these axes in Picardy associated with remains of Elephas primigenius, Rhinoceros tichorhinus, Equus fossilis, and an extinct species of Bos."[III-2] In plain language, these workers in flint lived in the time of the mammoth, of a rhinoceros now extinct, and along with horses and cattle unlike any now existing—specifically different, as naturalists say, from those with which man is now associated. Their connection with existing human races may perhaps be traced through the intervening people of the stone age, who were succeeded by the people of the bronze age, and these by workers in iron.[III-3] Now, various evidence carries back the existence of many of the present lower species of animals, and probably of a larger number of plants, to the same drift period. All agree that this was very many thousand years ago. Agassiz tells us that the same species of polyps which are now building coral walls around the present peninsula of Florida actually made that peninsula, and have been building there for many thousand centuries.

5. The overlapping of existing and extinct species, and the seemingly gradual transition of the life of the drift period into that of the present, may be turned to the same account. Mammoths, mastodons, and Irish elks, now extinct, must have lived down to human, if not almost to historic times. Perhaps the last dodo did not long outlive his huge New Zealand kindred. The aurochs, once the companion of mammoths, still survives, but owes his present and precarious existence to man's care. Now, nothing that we know of forbids the hypothesis that some new species have been independently and supernaturally created within the period which other species have survived. Some may even believe that man was created in the days of the mammoth, became extinct, and was recreated at a later date. But why not say the same of the aurochs, contemporary both of the old man and of the new? Still it is more natural, if not inevitable, to infer that, if the aurochs of that olden time were the ancestors of the aurochs of the Lithuanian forests, so likewise were the men of that age the ancestors of the present human races. Then, whoever concludes that these primitive makers of rude flint axes and knives were the ancestors of the better workmen of the succeeding stone age, and these again of the succeeding artificers in brass and iron, will also be likely to suppose that the Equus and Bos of that time, different though they be, were the remote progenitors of our own horses and cattle. In all candor we must at least concede that such considerations suggest a genetic descent from the drift period down to the present, and allow time enough—if time is of any account— for variation and natural selection to work out some appreciable results in the way of divergence into races, or even into so-called species. Whatever might have been thought, when geological time was supposed to be separated from the present era by a clear line, it is now certain that a gradual replacement of old forms by new ones is strongly suggestive of some mode of origination which may still be operative. When species, like individuals, were found to die out one by one, and apparently to come in one by one, a theory for what Owen sonorously calls "the continuous operation of the ordained becoming of living things" could not be far off.

That all such theories should take the form of a derivation of the new from the old seems to be inevitable, perhaps from our inability to conceive of any other line of secondary causes in this connection. Owen himself is apparently in travail with some transmutation theory of his own conceiving, which may yet see the light, although Darwin's came first to the birth. Different as the two theories will probably be, they cannot fail to exhibit that fundamental resemblance in this respect which betokens a community of origin, a common foundation on the general facts and the obvious suggestions of modern science. Indeed—to turn the point of a pungent simile directed against Darwin—the difference between the Darwinian and the Owenian hypotheses may, after all, be only that between homoeopathic and heroic doses of the same drug.

If theories of derivation could only stop here, content with explaining the diversification and succession of species between the teritiary period and the present time, through natural agencies or secondary causes still in operation, we fancy they would not be generally or violently objected to by the savants of the present day. But it is hard, if not impossible, to find a stopping-place. Some of the facts or accepted conclusions already referred to, and several others, of a more general character, which must be taken into the account, impel the theory onward with accumulated force. Vires (not to say virus) acquirit eundo. The theory hitches on wonderfully well to Lyell's uniformitarian theory in geology—that the thing that has been is the thing that is and shall be—that the natural operations now going on will account for all geological changes in a quiet and easy way, only give them time enough, so connecting the present and the proximate with the farthest past by almost imperceptible gradations—a view which finds large and increasing, if not general, acceptance in physical geology, and of which Darwin's theory is the natural complement.

So the Darwinian theory, once getting a foothold, marches; boldly on, follows the supposed near ancestors of our present species farther and yet farther back into the dim past, and ends with an analogical inference which "makes the whole world kin." As we said at the beginning, this upshot discomposes us. Several features of the theory have an uncanny look. They may prove to be innocent: but their first aspect is suspicious, and high authorities pronounce the whole thing to be positively mischievous. In this dilemma we are going to take advice. Following the bent of our prejudices, and hoping to fortify these by new and strong arguments, we are going now to read the principal reviews which undertake to demolish the theory—with what result our readers shall be duly informed.


"I can entertain no doubt, after the most deliberate study and dispassionate judgment of which I am capable, that the view which most naturalists entertain, and which I formerly entertained, namely, that each species has been independently created, is erroneous. I am fully convinced that species are not immutable; but that those belonging to what are called the same genera are lineal descendants of some other and generally extinct species, in the same manner as the acknowledged varieties of any one species are the descendants of that species. Furthermore, I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the main, but not exclusive, means of modification."

This is the kernel of the new theory, the Darwinian creed, as recited at the close of the introduction to the remarkable book under consideration. The questions, "What will he do with it?" and "How far will he carry it?" the author answers at the close of the volume:

"I cannot doubt that the theory of descent with modification embraces all the members of the same class." Furthermore, "I believe that all animals have descended from at most only four or five progenitors, and plants from an equal or lesser number."

Seeing that analogy as strongly suggests a further step in the same direction, while he protests that "analogy may be a deceitful guide," yet he follows its inexorable leading to the inference that—

"Probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this ear have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed."[III-4]

In the first extract we have the thin end of the wedge driven a little way; in the last, the wedge driven home.

We have already sketched some of the reasons suggestive of such a theory of derivation of species, reasons which gave it plausibility, and even no small probability, as applied to our actual world and to changes occurring since the latest tertiary period. We are well pleased at this moment to find that the conclusions we were arriving at in this respect are sustained by the very high authority and impartial judgment of Pictet, the Swiss paleontologist. In his review of Darwin's book[III-5] — the fairest and most admirable opposing one that has appeared—he freely accepts that ensemble of natural operations which Darwin impersonates under the now familiar name of Natural Selection, allows that the exposition throughout the first chapters seems "a la fois prudent et fort," and is disposed to accept the whole argument in its foundations, that is, so far as it relates to what is now going on, or has taken place in the present geological period—which period he carries back through the diluvial epoch to the borders of the tertiary.[III-6] Pictet accordingly admits that the theory will very well account for the origination by divergence of nearly-related species, whether within the present period or in remoter geological times; a very natural view for him to take, since he appears to have reached and published, several years ago, the pregnant conclusion that there most probably was some material connection between the closely-related species of two successive faunas, and that the numerous close species, whose limits are so difficult to determine, were not all created distinct and independent. But while thus accepting, or ready to accept, the basis of Darwin's theory, and all its legitimate direct inferences, he rejects the ultimate conclusions, brings some weighty arguments to bear against them, and is evidently convinced that he can draw a clear line between the sound inferences, which he favors, and the unsound or unwarranted theoretical deductions, which he rejects. We hope he can.

This raises the question, Why does Darwin press his theory to these extreme conclusions? Why do all hypotheses of derivation converge so inevitably to one ultimate point? Having already considered some of the reasons which suggest or support the theory at its outset—which may carry it as far as such sound and experienced naturalists as Pictet allow that it may be true—perhaps as far as Darwin himself unfolds it in the introductory proposition cited at the beginning of this article—we may now inquire after the motives which impel the theorist so much farther. Here proofs, in the proper sense of the word, are not to be had. We are beyond the region of demonstration, and have only probabilities to consider. What are these probabilities? What work will this hypothesis do to establish a claim to be adopted in its completeness? Why should a theory which may plausibly enough account for the diversification of the species of each special type or genus be expanded into a general system for the origination or successive diversification of all species, and all special types or forms, from four or five remote primordial forms, or perhaps from one? We accept the theory of gravitation because it explains all the facts we know, and bears all the tests that we can put it to. We incline to accept the nebular hypothesis, for similar reasons; not because it is proved—thus far it is incapable of proof—but because it is a natural theoretical deduction from accepted physical laws, is thoroughly congruous with the facts, and because its assumption serves to connect and harmonize these into one probable and consistent whole. Can the derivative hypothesis be maintained and carried out into a system on similar grounds? If so, however unproved, it would appear to be a tenable hypothesis, which is all that its author ought now to claim. Such hypotheses as, from the conditions of the case, can neither be proved nor disproved by direct evidence or experiment, are to be tested only indirectly, and therefore imperfectly, by trying their power to harmonize the known facts, and to account for what is otherwise unaccountable. So the question comes to this: What will an hypothesis of the derivation of species explain which the opposing view leaves unexplained?

Questions these which ought to be entertained before we take up the arguments which have been advanced against this theory. We can barely glance at some of the considerations which Darwin adduces, or will be sure to adduce in the future and fuller exposition which is promised. To display them in such wise as to indoctrinate the unscientific reader would require a volume. Merely to refer to them in the most general terms would suffice for those familiar with scientific matters, but would scarcely enlighten those who are not. Wherefore let these trust the impartial Pictet, who freely admits that, "in the absence of sufficient direct proofs to justify the possibility of his hypothesis, Mr. Darwin relies upon indirect proofs, the bearing of which is real and incontestable;" who concedes that "his theory accords very well with the great facts of comparative anatomy and zoology—comes in admirably to explain unity of composition of organisms, also to explain rudimentary and representative organs, and the natural series of genera and species—equally corresponds with many paleontological data—agrees well with the specific resemblances which exist between two successive faunas, with the parallelism which is sometimes observed between the series of paleontological succession and of embryonal development," etc.; and finally, although he does not accept the theory in these results, he allows that "it appears to offer the best means of explaining the manner in which organized beings were produced in epochs anterior to our own."

What more than this could be said for such an hypothesis? Here, probably, is its charm, and its strong hold upon the speculative mind. Unproven though it be, and cumbered prima facie with cumulative improbabilities as it proceeds, yet it singularly accords with great classes of facts otherwise insulated and enigmatic, and explains many things which are thus far utterly inexplicable upon any other scientific assumption.

We have said that Darwin's hypothesis is the natural complement to Lyell's uniformitarian theory in physical geology. It is for the organic world what that is for the inorganic; and the accepters of the latter stand in a position from which to regard the former in the most favorable light. Wherefore the rumor that the cautious Lyell himself has adopted the Darwinian hypothesis need not surprise us. The two views are made for each other, and, like the two counterpart pictures for the stereoscope, when brought together, combine into one apparently solid whole.

If we allow, with Pictet, that Darwin's theory will very well serve for all that concerns the present epoch of the world's history—an epoch in which this renowned paleontologist includes the diluvial or quaternary period—then Darwin's first and foremost need in his onward course is a practicable road from this into and through the tertiary period, the intervening region between the comparatively near and the far remote past. Here Lyell's doctrine paves the way, by showing that in the physical geology there is no general or absolute break between the two, probably no greater between the latest tertiary and the quaternary period than between the latter and the present time. So far, the Lyellian view is, we suppose, generally concurred in. It is largely admitted that numerous tertiary species have continued down into the quaternary, and many of them to the present time. A goodly percentage of the earlier and nearly half of the later tertiary mollusca, according to Des Hayes, Lye!!, and, if we mistake not, Bronn, still live. This identification, however, is now questioned by a naturalist of the very highest authority. But, in its bearings on the new theory, the point here turns not upon absolute identity so much as upon close resemblance. For those who, with Agassiz, doubt the specific identity in any of these cases, and those who say, with Pictet, that "the later tertiary deposits contain in general the debris of species very nearly related to those which still exist, belonging to the same genera, but specifically different," may also agree with Pictet, that the nearly-related species of successive faunas must or may have had "a material connection." But the only material connection that we have an idea of in such a case is a genealogical one. And the supposition of a genealogical connection is surely not unnatural in such cases—is demonstrably the natural one as respects all those tertiary species which experienced naturalists have pronounced to be identical with existing ones, but which others now deem distinct For to identify the two is the same thing as to conclude the one to be the ancestor of the other No doubt there are differences between the tertiary and the present individuals, differences equally noticed by both classes of naturalists, but differently estimated By the one these are deemed quite compatible, by the other incompatible, with community of origin But who can tell us what amount of difference is compatible with community of origin? This is the very question at issue, and one to be settled by observation alone Who would have thought that the peach and the nectarine came from one stock? But, this being proved is it now very improbable that both were derived from the almond, or from some common amygdaline progenitor? Who would have thought that the cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli kale, and kohlrabi are derivatives of one species, and rape or colza, turnip, and probably ruta-baga, of another species? And who that is convinced of this can long undoubtingly hold the original distinctness of turnips from cabbages as an article of faith? On scientific grounds may not a primordial cabbage or rape be assumed as the ancestor of all the cabbage races, on much the same ground that we assume a common ancestry for the diversified human races? If all Our breeds of cattle came from one stock why not this stock from the auroch, which has had all the time between the diluvial and the historic periods in which to set off a variation perhaps no greater than the difference between some sorts of domestic cattle?

That considerable differences are often discernible between tertiary individuals and their supposed descendants of the present day affords no argument against Darwin's theory, as has been rashly thought, but is decidedly in its favor. If the identification were so perfect that no more differences were observable between the tertiary and the recent shells than between various individuals of either, then Darwin's opponents, who argue the immutability of species from the ibises and cats preserved by the ancient Egyptians being just like those of the present day, could triumphantly add a few hundred thousand years more to the length of the experiment and to the force of their argument.

As the facts stand, it appears that, while some tertiary forms are essentially undistinguishable from existing ones, others are the same with a difference, which is judged not to be specific or aboriginal; and yet others show somewhat greater differences, such as are scientifically expressed by calling them marked varieties, or else doubtful species; while others, differing a little more, are confidently termed distinct, but nearly-related species. Now, is not all this a question of degree, of mere gradation of difference? And is it at all likely that these several gradations came to be established in two totally different ways—some of them (though naturalists can't agree which) through natural variation, or other secondary cause, and some by original creation, without secondary cause? We have seen that the judicious Pictet answers such questions as Darwin would have him do, in affirming that, in all probability, the nearly-related species of two successive faunas were materially connected, and that contemporaneous species, similarly resembling each other, were not all created so, but have become so. This is equivalent to saying that species (using the term as all naturalists do, and must continue to employ the word) have only a relative, not an absolute fixity; that differences fully equivalent to what are held to be specific may arise in the course of time, so that one species may at length be naturally replaced by another species a good deal like it, or may be diversified into two, three, or more species, or forms as different as species. This concedes all that Darwin has a right to ask, all that he can directly infer from evidence. We must add that it affords a locus standi, more or less tenable, for inferring more.

Here another geological consideration comes in to help on this inference. The species of the later tertiary period for the most part not only resembled those of our days—many of them so closely as to suggest an absolute continuity—but also occupied in general the same regions that their relatives occupy now. The same may be said, though less specially, of the earlier tertiary and of the later secondary; but there is less and less localization of forms as we recede, yet some localization even in palaeozoic times. While in the secondary period one is struck with the similarity of forms and the identity of many of the species which flourished apparently at the same time in all or in the most widely-separated parts of the world, in the tertiary epoch, on the contrary, along with the increasing specialization of climates and their approximation to the present state, we find abundant evidence of increasing localization of orders, genera and species, and this localization strikingly accords with the present geographical distribution of the same groups of species Where the imputed forefathers lived their relatives and supposed descendants now flourish All the actual classes of the animal and vegetable kingdoms were represented in the tertiary faunas and floras and in nearly the same proportions and the same diversities as at present The faunas of what is now Europe, Asia America and Australia, differed from each other much as they now differ: in fact—according to Adolphe Brongniart, whose statements we here condense[III-7]—the inhabitants of these different regions appear for the most part to have acquired, before the close of the tertiary period, the characters which essentially distinguish their existing faunas. The Eastern Continent had then, as now, its great pachyderms, elephants, rhinoceros, hippopotamus; South America, its armadillos, sloths, and anteaters; Australia, a crowd of marsupials; and the very strange birds of New Zealand had predecessors of similar strangeness.

Everywhere the same geographical distribution as now, with a difference in the particular area, as respects the northern portion of the continents, answering to a warmer climate then than ours, such as allowed species of hippopotamus, rhinoceros, and elephant, to range even to the regions now inhabited by the reindeer and the musk-ox, and with the serious disturbing intervention of the glacial period within a comparatively recent time. Let it be noted also that those tertiary species which have continued with little change down to our days are the marine animals of the lower grades, especially mollusca. Their low organization, moderate sensibility, and the simple conditions of an existence in a medium like the ocean, not subject to great variation and incapable of sudden change, may well account for their continuance; while, on the other hand, the more intense, however gradual, climatic vicissitudes on land, which have driven all tropical and subtropical forms out of the higher latitudes and assigned to them their actual limits, would be almost sure to extinguish such huge and unwieldy animals as mastodons, mammoths, and the like, whose power of enduring altered circumstances must have been small.

This general replacement of the tertiary species of a country by others so much like them is a noteworthy fact. The hypothesis of the independent creation of all species, irrespective of their antecedents, leaves this fact just as mysterious as is creation itself; that of derivation undertakes to account for it. Whether it satisfactorily does so or not, it must be allowed that the facts well accord with that hypothesis. The same may be said of another conclusion, namely, that the geological succession of animals and plants appears to correspond in a general way with their relative standing or rank in a natural system of classification. It seems clear that, though no one of the grand types of the animal kingdom can be traced back farther than the rest, yet the lower classes long preceded the higher; that there has been on the whole a steady progression within each class and order; and that the highest plants and animals have appeared only in relatively modern times. It is only, however, in a broad sense that this generalization is now thought to hold good. It encounters many apparent exceptions, and sundry real ones. So far as the rule holds, all is as it should be upon an hypothesis of derivation.

The rule has its exceptions. But, curiously enough, the most striking class of exceptions, if such they be, seems to us even more favorable to the doctrine of derivation than is the general rule of a pure and simple ascending gradation. We refer to what Agassiz calls prophetic and synthetic types; for which the former name may suffice, as the difference between the two is evanescent.

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