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Evolution, Old & New - Or, the Theories of Buffon, Dr. Erasmus Darwin and Lamarck, - as compared with that of Charles Darwin
by Samuel Butler
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"When will the time come when we may see Lamarck's theory discussed—and, I may as well at once say, refuted in some important points—with at any rate the respect due to one of the most illustrious masters of our science? And when will this theory, the hardihood of which has been greatly exaggerated, become freed from the interpretations and commentaries by the false light of which so many naturalists have formed their opinion concerning it? If its author is to be condemned, let it be, at any rate, not before he has been heard."[191]

It is not necessary for me to give the extracts from Lamarck which M. Isidore Geoffroy St. Hilaire quotes in order to show what he really maintained, inasmuch as they will be given at greater length in the following chapter; but I may perhaps say that I have not found M. Geoffroy refuting Lamarck in any essential point.

Professor Haeckel says that to Lamarck "will always belong the immortal glory of having for the first time worked out the theory of descent as an independent scientific theory of the first order, and as the philosophical foundation of the whole science of Biology."

. . . . . .

"The 'Philosophie Zoologique,'" continues Professor Haeckel, "is the first connected exposition of the theory of descent carried out strictly into all its consequences; ... and with the exception of Darwin's work, which appeared exactly half a century later, we know of none which we could in this respect place by the side of the 'Philosophie Zoologique.' How far it was in advance of its time is perhaps best seen from the circumstance that it was not understood by most men, and for fifty years was not spoken of at all."[192]

This is an exaggeration, both as regards the originality of Lamarck's work and the reception it has met with. It is probably more accurate to say with M. Martins that Lamarck's theory has "never yet had the honour of being discussed seriously,"[193] not, at least, in connection with the name of its originators.

So completely has this been so that the author of the 'Vestiges of Creation,' even in the edition of 1860, in which he unreservedly acknowledges the adoption of Lamarck's views, not unfrequently speaks disparagingly of Lamarck himself, and never gives him his due meed of recognition. I am not, therefore, wholly displeased to find this author conceiving himself to have been treated by Mr. Charles Darwin with some of the injustice which he has himself inflicted on Lamarck.

In the 1859 edition of the 'Origin of Species,' and in a very prominent place, Mr. Darwin says:—"The author of the 'Vestiges of Creation' would I presume say, that after a certain number of unknown generations, some bird had given birth to a woodpecker, and some plant to a misseltoe, and that these had been produced perfect as we now see them."[194] This is the only allusion to the 'Vestiges' which I have found in the first edition of the 'Origin of Species.'

Those who have read the 1853 edition of the 'Vestiges' will not be surprised to find the author rejoining, in his edition of 1860, that it was to be regretted Mr. Darwin should have read the 'Vestiges' "nearly as much amiss as though, like its declared opponents, he had an interest in misunderstanding it." And a little lower he adds that Mr. Darwin's book in no essential respect contradicts the 'Vestiges'; "on the contrary, while adding to its explanations of nature, it expresses substantially the same general ideas."[195] It is right to say that the passage thus objected to is not to be found in later editions of the 'Origin of Species,' while in the historical sketch we now read as follows:—"In my opinion it (the 'Vestiges of Creation') has done excellent service in this country by calling attention to the subject, removing prejudice, and in thus preparing the ground for the reception of analogous views."

Mr. Darwin, the main part of whose work on the 'Origin of Species' is taken up with supporting the theory of descent with modification (which frequently in the recapitulation chapter of the 'Origin of Species' he seems to treat as synonymous with natural selection), has fallen into the common error of thinking that Lamarck can be ignored or passed over in a couple of sentences. I only find Lamarck's name twice in the 1859 edition of the 'Origin,' once on p. 242, where Mr. Darwin writes: "I am surprised that no one has advanced this demonstrative case of neuter insects, against the well-known doctrine of Lamarck;" and again, p. 427, where Lamarck is stated to have been the first to call attention to the "very important distinction between real affinities and analogical or adaptive resemblances." How far from demonstrative is the particular case which in 1859 Mr. Darwin considered so fatal to "the well-known doctrine of Lamarck"—which should surely, one would have thought, include the doctrine of descent with modification, which Mr. Darwin is himself supporting—I have attempted to show in 'Life and Habit,' but had perhaps better recapitulate briefly here.

Mr. Darwin writes: "In the simpler case of neuter insects all of one caste, which, as I believe, have been rendered different from the fertile males and females through natural selection...."[196] He thus attributes the sterility and peculiar characteristics, we will say, of the common hive working bees—"neuter insects all of one caste"—to natural selection. Now, nothing is more certain than that these characteristics—sterility, a cavity in the thigh for collecting wax, a proboscis for gathering honey, &c.—are due to the treatment which the eggs laid by the queen bee receive after they have left her body. Take an egg and treat it in a certain way, and it becomes a working bee; treat the same egg in a certain other way, and it becomes a queen. If the bees are in danger of becoming queenless they take eggs which were in the way of being developed into working bees, and change their food and cells, whereon they develop into queens instead. How Mr. Darwin could attribute the neutralization of the working bees—an act which is obviously one of abortion committed by the body politic of the hive on a balance of considerations—to the action of what he calls "natural selection," and how, again, he could suppose that what he was advancing had any but a confirmatory bearing upon Lamarck's position, is incomprehensible, unless the passage in question be taken as a mere slip. That attention has been called to it is plain, for the words "the well-known doctrine of Lamarck" have been changed in later editions into "the well-known doctrine of inherited habit as advanced by Lamarck,"[197] but this correction, though some apparent improvement on the original text, does little indeed in comparison with what is wanted.

Mr. Darwin has since introduced a paragraph concerning Lamarck into the "historical sketch," already more than once referred to in these pages. In this he summarises the theory which I am about to lay before the reader, by saying that Lamarck "upheld the doctrine that all species, including man, are descended from other species." If Lamarck had been alive he would probably have preferred to see Mr. Darwin write that he upheld "the doctrine of descent with modification as the explanation of all differentiations of structure and instinct." Mr. Darwin continues, that Lamarck "seems" to have been chiefly led to his conclusion on the gradual change of species, "by the difficulty of distinguishing species and varieties, by the almost perfect gradation of forms in certain groups, and by the analogy of domestic productions."

Lamarck would probably have said that though he did indeed turn—as Mr. Darwin has done, and as Buffon and Dr. Darwin had done before him—to animals and plants under domestication, in illustration and support of the theory of descent with modification; and that though he did also insist, as so many other writers have done, on the arbitrary and artificial nature of the distinction between species and varieties, he was mainly led to agree with Buffon and Dr. Darwin by a broad survey of the animal kingdom, with the details also of which few naturalists have ever been better acquainted.

"Great," says Mr. Darwin, "is the power of steady misrepresentation,"—and greatly indeed has the just fame of Lamarck been eclipsed in consequence; "but," as Mr. Darwin finely continues, "the history of science shows that fortunately this power does not long endure."[198]

That Lamarck anticipated it, was prepared to face it, and even felt that things were thus, after all, as they should be, will appear from the shrewd and pleasant passage which is to be found near the close of his preface:—

"So great is the power of preconceived opinion, especially when any personal interest is enlisted on the same side as itself, that though it is hard to deduce new truths from the study of nature, it is still harder to get them recognized by other people.

"These difficulties, however, are on the whole more beneficial than hurtful to the cause of science; for it is through them that a number of eccentric, though perhaps plausible speculations, perish in their infancy, and are never again heard of. Sometimes, indeed, valuable ideas are thus lost; but it is better that a truth, when once caught sight of, should have to struggle for a long time without meeting the attention it deserves, than that every outcome of a heated imagination should be readily received.

"The more I reflect upon the numerous causes which affect our judgments, the more convinced I am that, with the exception of such physical and moral facts as no one can now throw doubt upon, all else is matter of opinion and argument; and we know well that there is hardly an argument to be found anywhere, against which another argument cannot plausibly be adduced. Hence, though it is plain that the various opinions of men differ greatly in probability and in the weight which should be attached to them, it seems to me that we are wrong when we blame those who differ from us.

"Are we then to recognize no opinions as well founded but those which are generally received? Nay—experience teaches us plainly that the highest and most cultivated minds must be at all times in an exceedingly small minority. No one can dispute this. Authority should be told by weight and not by number—but in good truth authority is a hard thing to weigh.

"Nor again—in spite of the many and severe conditions which a judgment must fulfil before it can be declared good—is it quite certain that those whom public opinion has declared to be authorities, are always right in the conclusions they arrive at.

"Positive facts are the only solid ground for man; the deductions he draws from them are a very different matter. Outside the facts of nature all is a question of probabilities, and the most that can be said is that some conclusions are more probable than others."

Lamarck's poverty was perhaps one main reason of the ease with which it was found possible to neglect his philosophical opinions. Science is not a kingdom into which a poor man can enter easily, if he happens to differ from a philosopher who gives good dinners, and has "his sisters and his cousins and his aunts" to play the part of chorus to him. Lamarck's two daughters do not appear to have been the kind of persons who could make effective sisters or cousins or aunts. Men of science are of like passions even with the other holy ones who have set themselves up in all ages as the pastors and prophets of mankind. The saint has commonly deemed it to be for the interests of saintliness that he should strain a point or two in his own favour—and the more so according as his reputation for an appearance of candour has been the better earned. If, then, Lamarck's opponents could keep choruses, while Lamarck had nothing to fall back upon but the merits of his case only, it is not surprising that he should have found himself neglected by the scientists of his own time. Moreover he was too old to have undertaken such an unequal contest. If he had been twenty years younger when he began it, he would probably have enjoyed his full measure of success before he died.

Not that Lamarck can claim, as a thinker, to stand on the same level with Dr. Darwin, and still less so with Buffon. He attempted to go too fast and too far. Seeing that if we accept descent with modification, the question arises whether what we call life and consciousness may not themselves be evolved from some thing or things which looked at one time so little living and conscious that we call them inanimate—and being anxious to see his theory reach, and to follow it, as far back as possible, he speculates about the origin of life; having formed a theory thereon, he is more inclined to interpret the phenomena of lower animal life so as to make them fit in with his theory, than as he would have interpreted them if there had been no theory at stake.

Thus his denial that sensation, and much more, intelligence and deliberate action, can exist without a brain and a nervous system, has led him to deny sensation, consciousness, and intelligence to many animals which act in such manner as would certainly have made him say that they feel and know what they are about, if he had formed no theory about brains and nervous systems.

Nothing can be more different than the manners in which Lamarck and Dr. Darwin wrote on this head. Lamarck over and over again maintains that where there is no nervous system there can be no sensation. Combating, for example, the assertion of Cabanis, that to live is to feel, he says that "the greater number of the polypi and all the infusoria, having no nervous system, it must be said of them as also of worms, that to live is still not to feel; and so again of plants."[199]

How different from this is the un-theory-ridden language of Dr. Darwin, quoted on p. 116 of this work.

Lamarck again writes:—

"The very imperfect animals of the lowest classes, having no nervous system, are simply irritable, have nothing but certain habits, experience no sensations, and never conceive ideas."

This, in the face of the performances of the amoeba—a minute jelly speck, without any special organ whatever—in making its tests, cannot be admitted. Is it possible that Lamarck was in some measure misled by believing Buffon to be in earnest when he advanced propositions little less monstrous?

"But," continues Lamarck, "the less imperfect animals which have a nervous system, though they have not the organ of intelligence, have instinct, habits, and proclivities; they feel sensations, and yet form no ideas whatever. I venture to say that where there is no organ for a faculty that faculty cannot exist."[200]

Who can tell what ideas a worm does or does not form? We can watch its actions, and see that they are such as involve what we call design and a perception of its own interest. Under these circumstances it seems better to call the worm a reasonable creature with Dr. Darwin than to say with Lamarck that because worms do not appear to have that organ which he assumes to be the sole means of causing sensation and ideas, therefore they can neither feel nor think. Doubtless they cannot feel and think as many sensations and thoughts as we can, but our ideas of what they can and cannot feel must be formed through consideration of what we see them do, and must be biassed by no theories of what they ought to be able to feel or not feel.

Again Lamarck, shortly after an excellent passage in which he points out that the lower animals gain by experience just as man does (and here probably he had in his mind the passage of Buffon referred to at p. 112 of this work), nevertheless writes:—

"If the facts and considerations put forward in this volume be held worthy of attention, it will follow necessarily that there are some animals which have neither reason nor instinct" (I should be glad to see one of these animals and to watch its movements), "such as those which have no power of feeling; that there are others which have instinct but no degree whatever of reason" (whereas from Dr. Darwin's premises it should follow, and would doubtless be readily admitted by him, that instinct is reason, but reason many times repeated made perfect, and finally repeated by rote; so that far from being prior to reason, as Lamarck here implies, it can only come long afterwards), "such as those which have a system enabling them to feel, but which still lack the organ of intelligence; and finally, that there are those which have not only instinct, but over and above this a certain degree of reasoning power, such as those creatures which have one system for sensations and another for acts involving intelligence. Instinct is with these last animals the motive power of almost all their actions, and they rarely use what little reason they have. Man, who comes next above them, is also possessed of instincts which inspire some of his actions, but he can acquire much reason, and can use it so as to direct the greater part of his actions."[201]

All this will be felt to be less satisfactory than the simple directness of Dr. Darwin. It comes in great measure from following Buffon without being en rapport with him. On the other hand, Lamarck must be admitted to have elaborated the theory of "descent with modification" with no less clearness than Dr. Darwin, and with much greater fulness of detail. There is no substantial difference between the points they wish to establish; Dr. Darwin has the advantage in that not content with maintaining that there will be a power of adaptation to the conditions of an animal's existence which will determine its organism, he goes on to say what the principal conditions are, and shows more lucidly than Lamarck has done (though Lamarck adopts the same three causes in a passage which will follow), that struggle, and consequently modification, will be chiefly conversant about the means of subsistence, of reproduction, and of self-protection. Nevertheless, though Dr. Darwin has said enough to show that he had the whole thing clearly before him, and could have elaborated it as finely as or better than Lamarck himself has done, if he had been so minded, yet the palm must be given to Lamarck on the score of what he actually did, and this I observe to be the verdict of history, for whereas Lamarck's name is still daily quoted, Dr. Darwin's is seldom mentioned, and never with the applause which it deserves.

The resemblance between the two writers—that is to say, the complete coincidence of their views—is so remarkable that the question is forced upon us how far Lamarck knew the substance of Dr. Darwin's theory. Lamarck knew Buffon personally; he had been tutor to Buffon's son, and Buffon had three of Lamarck's volumes on the French Flora printed at the royal printing press;—how can we account for Lamarck's having had Buffon's theory of descent with modification before him for so many years, and yet remaining a partisan of immutability till 1801? Before this year we find no trace of his having accepted evolution; thenceforward he is one of the most ardent and constant exponents which this doctrine has ever had. What was it that repelled him in Buffon's system? How is it that in the 'Philosophie Zoologique' there is not, so far as I can remember, a single reference to Buffon, from whom, however, as we shall see, many paragraphs are taken with but very little alteration?

I am inclined to think that the secret of this sudden conversion must be found in a French translation by M. Deleuze of Dr. Darwin's poem, 'The Loves of the Plants' which appeared in 1800. Lamarck—the most eminent botanist of his time—was sure to have heard of and seen this, and would probably know the translator, who would be able to give him a fair idea of the 'Zoonomia.'

I will give a few of the passages which Lamarck would find in this translation. Speaking of Dr. Darwin, M. Deleuze says:—"Il falloit encore qu'un nouvel observateur, entrant dans la route qui venoit de s'ouvrir, s'y frayat des sentiers ignores; que liant la physique vegetale a la botanique il nous montrat dans les plantes, non seulement des corps organises soumis a des lois constantes, mais des etres doues sinon de sensibilite, au moins d'une irritabilite particuliere, d'un principe de vie qui leur fait executer des mouvements analogues a leurs besoins....[202]

"Il est des animaux et des plantes qui par le laps du tems paroissent avoir eprouve des changemens dans leur organisation, pour s'accommoder a de nouveaux genres de nourriture et aux moyens de se la procurer. Peut-etre les productions de la nature font elles des progres vers la perfection. Cette idee appuyee par les observations modernes sur l'accroissement progressif des parties solides du globe, s'accorde avec la dignite et la providence du createur de l'univers."[203]

"La nature semble s'etre fait un jeu d'etablir entre tous les etres organises une sorte de guerre qui entretient leur activite: si elle a donne aux uns des moyens de defense, elle a donne aux autres des moyens d'attaque."[204]

Turning to the 'Botanic Garden' itself, I find that this admirable sentence belongs to M. Deleuze, and not to Dr. Darwin, who, however, has said what comes to much the same thing,[205] as may be seen p. 227 of this volume. But the authorship is immaterial; whether the passage was by Dr. Darwin or M. Deleuze, it was, in all probability, known to Lamarck before his change of front.

* * * * *

The note on Trapa Natans again[206] suggests itself as the source from which the passage in the 'Philosophie Zoologique' about the Ranunculus aquatilis is taken,[207] while one of the most important passages in the work, a summary, in fact, of the principal means of modification, seems to be taken, the first half of it from Buffon, and the second from Dr. Darwin. I have called attention to it on pp. 300, 301.

We may then suppose that Lamarck failed to understand Buffon, and conceived that he ought either to have gone much farther, or not so far; not being yet prepared to go the whole length himself, he opposed mutability till Dr. Darwin's additions to Buffon's ostensible theory reached him, whereon he at once adopted them, and having received nothing but a few notes and hints, felt himself at liberty to work the theory out independently and claim it. In so original a work as the 'Philosophie Zoologique' must always be considered, this may be legitimate, but I find in it, as Isidore Geoffroy seems also to have found, a little more claim to complete independence than is acceptable to one who is fresh from Buffon and Dr. Darwin.

FOOTNOTES:

[186] 'Hist. Nat. Gen.,' tom. ii. p. 404, 1859.

[187] 'Systeme des Animaux sans Vertebres,' Paris, in-8, an. ix. (1801); 'Discours d'Ouverture,' p. 12, &c.; 'Recherches sur l'Organisation des Corps Vivants,' Paris, in-8, 1802, p. 50, &c.; 'Discours d'Ouverture d'un Cours de Zoologie pour l'an ix.,' Paris, in-8, 1803. This discourse is entirely devoted to the consideration of the question, "What is Species?"

[188] 'Discours d'Ouverture d'un Cours de Zoologie,' 1806, Paris, in-8, p. 8, &c.

[189] See following chapter.

[190] 'Hist, des Anim. sans Verteb.,' tom, i., Introduction, 1^re ed., 1815; 'Syst. des Conn. Positives,' Paris, in-8, 1820, 1^re part, 2^me sect. ch. ii. p. 114, &c.

[191] 'Hist. Nat. Gen.,' tom. ii. p. 407.

[192] 'History of Creation,' English translation, vol. i. pp. 111, 112.

[193] M. Martins' edition of the 'Philosophie Zoologique,' Paris, 1873. Introd., p. vi.

[194] 'Origin of Species,' p. 3, 1859.

[195] 'Vestiges of Creation,' ed. 1860, Proofs, Illustrations, &c., p. lxiv.

[196] 'Origin of Species,' ed. 1, p. 239; ed. 6, p. 231.

[197] 'Origin of Species,' ed. 1, p. 242; ed. 6, 1876, p. 233.

[198] 'Origin of Species,' p. 421, ed. 1876.

[199] 'Phil. Zool.,' vol. i. p. 404.

[200] Ibid. vol. ii. p. 324.

[201] 'Phil. Zool.,' vol. ii. p. 410.

[202] 'Les Amours des Plantes,' Discours Prelim., p. 7. Paris, 1800.

[203] Ibid., Notes du chant i., p. 202.

[204] Ibid. p. 238.

[205] 'Zoonomia,' vol. i. p. 507.

[206] 'Les Amours des Plantes,' p. 360.

[207] Vol. i. p. 231, ed. M. Martins, 1873.



CHAPTER XVII.

SUMMARY OF THE 'PHILOSOPHIE ZOOLOGIQUE.'

The first part of the 'Philosophie Zoologique' is the one which deals with the doctrine of evolution or descent with modification. It is to this, therefore, that our attention will be confined. Yet only a comparatively small part of the three hundred and fifty pages which constitute Lamarck's first part are devoted to setting forth the reasons which led him to arrive at his conclusions—the greater part of the volume being occupied with the classification of animals, which we may again omit, as foreign to our purpose.

I shall condense whenever I can, but I do not think the reader will find that I have left out much that bears upon the argument. I shall also use inverted commas while translating with such freedom as to omit several lines together, where I can do so without suppressing anything essential to the elucidation of Lamarck's meaning. I shall, however, throughout refer the reader to the page of the original work from which I am translating.

"The common origin of bodily and mental phenomena," says Lamarck in his preliminary chapter, "has been obscured, because we have studied them chiefly in man, who, as the most highly developed of living beings, presents the problem in its most difficult and complicated aspect. If we had begun our study with that of the lowest organisms, and had proceeded from these to the more complex ones, we should have seen the progression which is observable in organization, and the successive acquisition of various special organs, with new faculties for every additional organ. We should thus have seen that sense of needs—originally hardly perceptible, but gradually increasing in intensity and variety—has led to the attempt to gratify them; that the actions thus induced, having become habitual and energetic, have occasioned the development of organs adapted for their performance; that the force which excites organic movements can in the case of the lowest animals exist outside them and yet animate them; that this force was subsequently introduced into the animals themselves, and fixed within them; and, lastly, that it gave rise to sensibility and, in the end, to intelligence."[208] The reader had better be on his guard here, and whenever Lamarck is speculating about the lowest forms of action and sensation. I have thought it well, however, to give enough of these speculations, as occasion arises, to show their tendency.

"Sensation is not the proximate cause of organic movements. It may be so with the higher animals, but it cannot be shown to be so with plants, nor even with all known animals. At the outset of life there was none of that sensation which could only arise where organic beings had already attained a considerable development. Nature has done all by slow gradations, both organs and faculties being the outcome of a progressive development.[209]

"The mere composition of an animal is but a small part of what deserves study in connection with the animal itself. The effects of its surroundings in causing new wants, the effects of its wants in giving rise to actions, those of its actions in developing habits and tendencies, the effects of use and disuse as affecting any organ, the means which nature takes to preserve and make perfect what has been already acquired—these are all matters of the highest importance.[210]

"In their bearing upon these questions the invertebrate animals are more important and interesting than the vertebrate, for they are more in number, and being more in number are more varied; their variations are more marked, and the steps by which they have advanced in complexity are more easily observed.[211]

"I propose, therefore, to divide this work into three parts, of which the first shall deal with the conventions necessary for the treatment of the subject, the importance of analogical structures, and the meaning which should be attached to the word species. I will point out on the one hand the evidence of a graduated descending scale, as existing between the highest and the lowest organisms; and, on the other, the effect of surroundings and habits on the organs of living beings, as the cause of their development or arrest of development. Lastly, I will treat of the natural order of animals, and show what should be their fittest classification and arrangement."[212]

It seems unnecessary to give Lamarck's intentions with regard to his second and third parts, as they do not here concern us; they deal with the origin of life and mind.

The first chapter of the work opens with the importance of bearing in mind the difference between the conventional and the natural, that is to say, between words and things. Here, as indeed largely throughout this part of his work, he follows Buffon, by whom he is evidently influenced.

"The conventional deals with systems of arrangement, classification, orders, families, genera, and the nomenclature, whether of different sections or of individual objects.

"An arrangement should be called systematic, or arbitrary, when it does not conform to the genealogical order taken by nature in the development of the things arranged, and when, by consequence it is not founded upon well-considered analogies. There is such a thing as a natural order in every department of nature; it is the order in which its several component items have been successively developed.[213]

"Some lines certainly seem to have been drawn by Nature herself. It was hard to believe that mammals, for example, and birds, were not well-defined classes. Nevertheless the sharpness of definition was an illusion, and due only to our limited knowledge. The ornithorhynchus and the echidna bridge the gulf.[214]

"Simplicity is the main end of any classification. If all the races, or as they are called, species, of any kingdom were perfectly known, and if the true analogies between each species, and between the groups which species form, were also known, so that their approximations to each other and the position of the several groups were in conformity with the natural analogies between them—then classes, orders, sections, and genera would be families, larger or smaller; for each division would be a greater or smaller section of a natural order or sequence.[215] But in this case it would be very difficult to assign the limits of each division; they would be continually subjected to arbitrary alteration, and agreement would only exist where plain and palpable gaps were manifest in our series. Happily, however, for classifiers there are, and will always probably remain, a number of unknown forms."[216]

That the foregoing is still felt to be true by those who accept evolution, may be seen from the following passage, taken from Mr. Darwin's 'Origin of Species':—

"As all the organic beings which have ever lived can be arranged within a few great classes; and as all within each class have, according to our theory, been connected together by fine gradations, the best, and if our collections were nearly perfect, the only possible arrangement would be genealogical: descent being the hidden bond of connection which naturalists have been seeking under the term of the Natural System. On this view, we can understand how it is that in the eyes of most naturalists, the structure of the embryo is even more important for classifications than that of the adult."[217]

In his second chapter Lamarck deals with the importance of comparative anatomy, and the study of homologous structures. These indicate a sort of blood relationship between the individuals in which they are found, and are our safest guide to any natural system of classification. Their importance is not confined to the study of classes, families, or even species; they must be studied also in the individuals of each species, as it is thus only, that we can recognize either identity or difference of species. The results arrived at, however, are only trustworthy over a limited period, for though the individuals of any species commonly so resemble one another at any given time, as to enable us to generalize from them, at the date of our observing them, yet species are not fixed and immutable through all time: they change, though with such extreme slowness that we do not observe their doing so, and when we come upon a species that has changed, we consider it as a new one, and as having always been such as we now see it.[218]

"It is none the less true that when we compare the same kind of organs in different individuals, we can quickly and easily tell whether they are very like each other or not, and hence, whether the animals or plants in which they are found, should be set down as members of the same or of a different species. It is only therefore the general inference drawn from the apparent immutability of species, that has been too inconsiderately drawn.[219]

"The analogies and points of agreement between living organisms, are always incomplete when based upon the consideration of any single organ only. But though still incomplete, they will be much more important according as the organ on which they are founded is an essential one or otherwise.

"With animals, those analogies are most important which exist between organs most necessary for the conservation of their life. With plants, between their organs of generation. Hence, with animals, it will be the interior structure which will determine the most important analogies: with plants it will be the manner in which they fructify.[220]

"With animals we should look to nerves, organs of respiration, and those of the circulation; with plants, to the embryo and its accessories, the sexual organs of their flowers, &c.[221] To do this, will set us on to the Natural Method, which is as it were a sketch traced by man of the order taken by Nature in her productions.[222] Nevertheless the divisions which we shall be obliged to establish, will still be arbitrary and artificial, though presenting to our view sections arranged in the order which Nature has pursued.[223]

"What, then," he asks,[224] "is species—and can we show that species has changed—however slowly?" He now covers some of the ground since enlarged upon in Mr. Darwin's second chapter, in which the arbitrary nature of the distinction between species and varieties is so well exposed. "I shall show," says Lamarck (in substance, but I am compelled to condense much), "that the habits by which we now recognize any species, are due to the conditions of life [circonstances] under which it has for a long time existed, and that these habits have had such an influence upon the structure of each individual of the species, as to have at length modified this structure, and adapted it to the habits which have been contracted.[225]

"The individuals of any species," he continues, "certainly resemble their parents; it is a universal law of nature that all offspring should differ but little from its immediate progenitors, but this does not justify the ordinary belief that species never vary. Indeed, naturalists themselves are in continual difficulty as regards distinguishing species from varieties; they do not recognize the fact that species are only constant as long as the conditions in which they are placed are constant. Individuals vary and form breeds which blend so insensibly into the neighbouring species, that the distinctions made by naturalists between species and varieties, are for the most part arbitrary, and the confusion upon this head is becoming day by day more serious.[226]

"Not perceiving that species will not vary as long as the conditions in which they are placed remain essentially unchanged, naturalists have supposed that each species was due to a special act of creation on the part of the Supreme Author of all things. Assuredly, nothing can exist but by the will of this Supreme Author, but can we venture to assign rules to him in the execution of his will? May not his infinite power have chosen to create an order of things which should evolve in succession all that we know as well as all that we do not know? Whether we regard species as created or evolved, the boundlessness of his power remains unchanged, and incapable of any diminution whatsoever. Let us then confine ourselves simply to observing the facts around us, and if we find any clue to the path taken by Nature, let us say fearlessly that it has pleased her Almighty Author that she should take this path.[227]

"What applies to species applies also to genera; the further our knowledge extends, the more difficult do we find it to assign its exact limits to any genus. Gaps in our collections are being continually filled up, to the effacement of our dividing lines of demarcation. We are thus compelled to settle the limits of species and variety arbitrarily, and in a manner about which there will be constant disagreement. Naturalists are daily classifying new species which blend into one another so insensibly that there can hardly be found words to express the minute differences between them. The gaps that exist are simply due to our not having yet found the connecting species.

"I do not, however, mean to say that animal life forms a simple and continuously blended series. Life is rather comparable to a ramification. In life we should see, as it were, a ramified continuity, if certain species had not been lost. The species which, according to this illustration, stands at the extremity of each bough, should bear a resemblance, at least upon one side, to the other neighbouring species; and this certainly is what we observe in nature.

"Having arranged living forms in such an order as this, let us take one, and then, passing over several boughs, let us take another at some distance from it; a wide difference will now be seen between the species which the forms selected represent. Our earliest collections supplied us with such distantly allied forms only; now, however, that we have such an infinitely greater number of specimens, we can see that many of them blend one into the other without presenting noteworthy differences at any step."[228]

This has been well extended by Mr. Darwin in a passage which begins:—"The affinities of all beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree. I believe that this simile largely speaks the truth."[229]

"What, then," continues Lamarck, "can be the cause of all this? Surely the following: namely, that when individuals of any species change their situation, climate, mode of existence, or habits [conditions of life], their structure, form, organization, and in fact their whole being becomes little by little modified, till in the course of time it responds to the changes experienced by the creature."[230]

In his preface Lamarck had already declared that "the thread which gives us a clue to the causes of the various phenomena of animal organization, in the manifold diversity of its developments, is to be found in the fact that Nature conserves in offspring all that their life and environments has developed in parents." Heredity—"the hidden bond of common descent"—tempered with the modifications induced by changed habits—which changed habits are due to new conditions and surroundings—this with Lamarck, as with Buffon and Dr. Darwin, is the explanation of the diversity of forms which we observe in nature. He now goes on to support this—briefly, in accordance with his design—but with sufficient detail to prevent all possibility of mistake about his meaning.

"In the same climate differences in situation, and a greater or less degree of exposure, affect simply, in the first instance, the individuals exposed to them; but in the course of time, these repeated differences of surroundings in individuals which reproduce themselves continually under similar circumstances, induce differences which become part of their very nature; so that after many successive generations, these individuals, which were originally, we will say, of any given species, become transformed into a different one."[231]

"Let us suppose that a grass growing in a low-lying meadow gets carried by some accident to the brow of a neighbouring hill, where the soil is still damp enough for the plant to be able to exist. Let it live here for many generations, till it has become thoroughly accustomed to its position, and let it then gradually find its way to the dry and almost arid soil of a mountain side; if the plant is able to stand the change and to perpetuate itself for many generations, it will have become so changed that botanists will class it as a new species."[232]

"The same sort of process goes on in the animal kingdom, but animals are modified more slowly than plants."[233]

The sterility of hybrids, to which Mr. Darwin devotes a great part of the ninth chapter of his 'Origin of Species,'[234] is then touched on—briefly, but sufficiently—as follows:—

"The idea that species were fixed and immutable involved the belief that distinct species could not be fertile inter se. But unfortunately observation has proved, and daily proves, that this supposition is unfounded. Hybrids are very common among plants, and quite sufficiently so among animals to show that the boundaries of these so-called immutable species are not so well defined as has been supposed. Often, indeed, there is no offspring between the individuals of what are called distinct species, especially when they are widely different, and again, the offspring when produced is generally sterile; but when there is less difference between the parents, both the difficulty of breeding the hybrid, and its sterility when produced, are found to disappear. In this very power of crossing we see a source from which breeds, and ultimately species, may arise."[235]

Mr. Darwin arrives at the same conclusion. He writes:—

"We must, therefore, either give up the belief of the universal sterility of species when crossed, or we must look at this sterility in animals, not as an indelible characteristic, but as one capable of being removed by domestication.

"Finally, on considering all the ascertained facts on the intercrossing of plants and animals, it may be concluded that some degree of sterility, both in first crosses and in hybrids, is an exceedingly general result, but that it cannot, under our present state of knowledge, be considered as absolutely universal."[236]

Returning to Lamarck, we find him saying:—

"The limits, therefore, of so-called species are not so constant and unvarying as is commonly supposed. Consider also the following. All living forms upon the face of the globe have been brought forth in the course of infinite time by the process of generation only. Nature has directly created none but the lowest organisms; these she is still producing every day, they being, as it were, the first sketches of life, and produced by what is called spontaneous generation. Organs have been gradually developed in these low forms, and these organs have in the course of time increased in diversity and complexity. The power of growth in each living body has given rise to various modes of reproduction, and thus progress, already acquired, has been preserved and handed down to offspring.[237] With sufficient time, favourable conditions of life [circonstances], successive changes in the surface of the globe, and the power of new surroundings and habits to modify the organs of living bodies, all animal and vegetable forms have been imperceptibly rendered such as we now see them. It follows that species will be constant only in relation to their environments, and cannot be as old as Nature herself.

"But what are we to say of instinct? Can we suppose that all the tricks, cunning, artifices, precautions, patience, and skill of animals are due to evolution only? Must we not see here the design of an all-powerful Creator? No one certainly will assign limits to the Creator's power, but it is a bold thing to say that he did not choose to work in this way or that way, when his own handiwork declares to us that this is the way he chose. I find proof in Nature—meaning by nature the ensemble of all that is,[238] but regarding her as herself the effect of an unknown first cause[239]—that she is the author of organization, life, and even sensation; that she has multiplied and diversified the organs and mental powers of the creatures which she sustains and reproduces; that she has developed in animals, through the sole instrumentality of sense of need as establishing and directing their habits, all actions and all habits, from the simplest up to those which constitute instinct, industry, and finally reason.[240]

"Against this it is alleged that we have no reason to believe species to have changed within any known era. The skeletons of some Egyptian birds, preserved two or three thousand years ago, differ in no particular from the same kind of creatures at the present day. But this is what we should expect, inasmuch as the position and climate of Egypt itself do not appear to have changed. If the conditions of life have not varied, why should the species subjected to those conditions have done so? Moreover, birds can move about freely, and if one place does not suit them they can find another that does. All that these Egyptian mummies really prove is, that there were animals in Egypt two or three thousand years ago which are like the animals of to-day; but how short a space is two or three thousand years, as compared with the time which Nature has had at her disposal! A time infinitely great qua man, is still infinitely short qua Nature.[241]

"If, however, we turn to animals under confinement, we find immediate proof that the most startling changes are capable of being produced after some generations of changed habits. In the sixth chapter we shall have occasion to observe the power of changed conditions [circonstances] to develop new desires in animals, and to induce new courses of action; we shall see the power which these new actions will have, after a certain amount of repetition, to engender new habits and tendencies; and we shall also note the effects of use and disuse in either fortifying and developing an organ, or in diminishing it and causing it to disappear. With plants under domestication, we shall find corresponding phenomena. Species will thus appear to be unchangeable for comparatively short periods only."[242]

It is interesting to see that Mr. Darwin lays no less stress on the study of animals and plants under domestication than Buffon, Dr. Darwin, and Lamarck. Indeed, all four writers appear to have been in great measure led to their conclusions by this very study. "At the commencement of my investigations," writes Mr. Darwin, "it seemed to me probable that a careful study of domesticated animals and of cultivated plants would offer the best chance of making out this obscure problem. Nor have I been disappointed; in this and in all other perplexing cases, I have invariably found that our knowledge, imperfect though it be, of variation under domestication, afforded the best and safest clue. I may venture to express my conviction of the high value of such studies, though they have been very commonly neglected by naturalists."[243]

In justice to the three writers whom I have named, it should be borne in mind that they also ventured to express their conviction of the high value of these studies. Buffon, indeed, as we have seen, gives animals under domestication the foremost place in his work. He does not treat of wild animals till he has said all he has to say upon our most important domesticated breeds,—on whose descent from one or two wild stocks he is never weary of insisting. It was doubtless because of the opportunities they afforded him for demonstrating the plasticity of living organism that the most important position in his work was assigned to them.

Lamarck professes himself unable to make up his mind about extinct species; how far, that is to say, whole breeds must be considered as having died out, or how far the difference between so many now living and fossil forms is due to the fact that our living species are modified descendants of the fossil ones. Such large parts of the globe were still practically unknown in Lamarck's time, and the recent discovery of the ornithorhynchus has raised such hopes as to what might yet be found in Australia, that he was inclined to think that only such creatures as man found hurtful to him, as, for example, the megatherium and the mastodon, had become truly extinct, nor was he, it would seem, without a hope that these would yet one day be discovered. The climatic and geological changes that have occurred in past ages, would, he believed, account for all the difference which we observe between living and fossil forms, inasmuch as they would have changed the conditions under which animals lived, and therefore their habits and organs would have become correspondingly modified. He therefore rather wondered to find so much, than so little, resemblance between existing and fossil forms.

Buffon took a juster view of this matter; it will be remembered that he concluded his remarks upon the mammoth by saying that many species had doubtless disappeared without leaving any living descendants, while others had left descendants which had become modified.

Lamarck anticipated Lyell in supposing geological changes to have been due almost entirely to the continued operation of the causes which we observe daily at work in nature: thus he writes:—

"Every observer knows that the surface of the earth has changed; every valley has been exalted, the crooked has been made straight, and the rough places plain; not even is climate itself stable. Hence changed conditions; and these involve changed needs and habits of life; if such changes can give rise to modifications or developments, it is clear that every living body must vary, especially in its outward character, though the variation can only be perceptible after several generations.

"It is not surprising then that so few living species should be represented in the geologic record. It is surprising rather that we should find any living species represented at all.[244]

"Catastrophes have indeed been supposed, and they are an easy way of getting out of the difficulty; but unfortunately, they are not supported by evidence. Local catastrophes have undoubtedly occurred, as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, of which the effects can be sufficiently seen; but why suppose any universal catastrophe, when the ordinary progress of nature suffices to account for the phenomena? Nature is never brusque. She proceeds slowly step by step, and this with occasional local catastrophes will remove all our difficulties."[245]

In his fourth chapter Lamarck points out that animals move themselves, or parts of themselves, not through impulsion or movement communicated to them as from one billiard ball to another, but by reason of a cause which excites their irritability, which cause is within some animals and forms part of them, while it is wholly outside of others.[246]

I should again warn the reader to be on his guard against the opinion that any animals can be said to live if they have no "inward motion" of their own which prompts them to act. We cannot call anything alive which moves only as wind and water may make it move, but without any impulse from within to execute the smallest action and without any capacity of feeling. Such a creature does not look sufficiently like the other things which we call alive; it should be first shown to us, so that we may make up our minds whether the facts concerning it have been truly stated, and if so, what it most resembles; we may then classify it accordingly.

"Some animals change their place by creeping, some by walking, some by running or leaping; others again fly, while others live in the water and swim.

"The origin of these different kinds of locomotion is to be found in the two great wants of animal life: 1, the means of procuring food; 2, the search after mates with a view to reproduction.

"Since then the power of locomotion was a matter affecting their individual self-preservation, as well as that of their race, the existence of the want led to the means of its being gratified."[247]

Lamarck is practically at one with Dr. Erasmus Darwin, that modification will commonly travel along three main lines which spring from the need of reproduction, of procuring food, and (Dr. Darwin has added) the power of self-protection; but Dr. Darwin's treatment of this part of his subject is more lucid and satisfactory than Lamarck's, inasmuch as he immediately brings forward instances of various modifications which have in each case been due to one of the three main desires above specified, namely, reproduction, subsistence, and self-defence.

Lamarck concludes the chapter with some passages which show that he was alive—as what Frenchman could fail to be after Buffon had written?—to the consequences which must follow from the geometrical ratio of increase, and to the struggle for existence, with consequent survival of the fittest, which must always be one of the conditions of any wild animal's existence. The paragraphs, indeed, on this subject are taken with very little alteration from Buffon's work. As Lamarck's theory is based upon the fact that it is on the nature of these conditions that the habits and consequently the structure of any animal will depend, he must have seen that the shape of many of its organs must vary greatly in correlation to the conditions to which it was subjected in the matter of self-protection. I do not see, then, that there is any substantial difference between the positions taken by Dr. Erasmus Darwin and by Lamarck in this respect.

"Let us conclude," he writes, "by showing the means employed by nature to prevent the number of her creatures from injuring the conservation of what has been produced already, and of the general order which should subsist.[248]

. . . . . .

"In consequence of the extremely rapid rate of increase of the smaller, and especially of the most imperfect, animals, their numbers would become so great as to prove injurious to the conservation of breeds, and to the progress already made towards more perfect organization, unless nature had taken precautions to keep them down within certain fixed limits which she cannot exceed."[249]

This seems to contain, and in a nutshell, as much of the essence of what Mr. Herbert Spencer and Mr. Charles Darwin have termed the survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence, as was necessary for Lamarck's purpose.

To Lamarck, as to Dr. Darwin and Buffon, it was perfectly clear that the facts, that animals have to find their food under varying circumstances, and that they must defend themselves in all manner of varying ways against other creatures which would eat them if they could, were simply some of the conditions of their existence. In saying that the surrounding circumstances—which amount to the conditions of existence—determined the direction in which any plant or animal should be slowly modified, Lamarck includes as a matter of course the fact that the "stronger and better armed should eat the weaker," and thus survive and bear offspring which would inherit the strength and better armour of its parents. Nothing therefore can be more at variance with the truth than to represent Lamarck and the other early evolutionists as ignoring the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest; these are inevitably implied whenever they use the word "circonstances" or environment, as I will more fully show later on, and are also expressly called attention to by the greater number of them.[250]

"Animals, except those which are herbivorous, prey upon one another; and the herbivorous are exposed to the attacks of the flesh-eating races.

"The strongest and best armed for attack eat the weaker, and the greater kinds eat the smaller. Individuals of the same race rarely eat one another; they war only with other races than their own."[251]

Dr. Darwin here again has the advantage over Lamarck; for he has pointed out how the males contend with one another for the possession of the females, which I do not find Lamarck to have done, though he would at once have admitted the fact. Lamarck continues:—

"The smaller kinds of animals breed so numerously and so rapidly that they would people the globe to the exclusion of other forms of life, if nature had not limited their inconceivable multitude. As, however, they are the prey of a number of other creatures, live but a short time, and perish easily with cold, they are kept always within the proportions necessary for the maintenance both of their own and of other races.[252]

"As regards the larger and stronger animals, they would become dominant, and be injurious to the conservation of many other races, if they could multiply in too great numbers. But as it is, they devour one another, and breed but slowly, and few at a birth, so that equilibrium is duly preserved among them. Man alone is the unquestionably dominant animal, but men war among themselves, so that it may be safely said the world will never be peopled to its utmost capacity."[253]

In his fifth chapter Lamarck returns to the then existing arrangement and classification of animals.

"Naturalists having remarked that many species, and some genera and even families present characters which as it were isolate them, it has been imagined that these approached or drew further from each other according as their points of agreement or difference seemed greater or less when set down as it were on a chart or map. They regard the small well-marked series which have been styled natural families, as groups which should be placed between the isolated species and their nearest neighbours so as to form a kind of reticulation. This idea, which some of our modern naturalists have held to be admirable, is evidently mistaken, and will be discarded on a profounder and more extended knowledge of organization, and more especially when the distinction has been duly drawn between what is due to the action of special conditions and to general advance of organization."[254]

I take it that Lamarck is here attempting to express what Mr. Charles Darwin has rendered much more clearly in the following excellent passage:—

"It should always be borne in mind what sort of intermediate forms must, on the theory [what theory?], have formerly existed. I have found it difficult when looking at any two species to avoid picturing to myself forms directly intermediate between them. But this is a wholly false view; we should always look for forms intermediate between each species and a common but unknown progenitor; and the progenitor will generally have differed in some respects from all its modified descendants. To give a simple illustration: the fantail and pouter pigeons are both descended from the rock pigeon. If we possessed all the intermediate varieties which have ever existed, we should have an extremely close series, between both and the rock pigeon; but we should have no varieties directly intermediate between the fantail and the pouter; none, for instance, combining a tail somewhat expanded with a crop somewhat enlarged, the characteristic features of these two breeds. These two breeds, moreover, have become so much modified that, if we had no historical or indirect evidence regarding their origin, it would not have been possible to have determined, from a mere comparison of their structure with that of the rock pigeon C. livia, whether they had descended from this species, or from some other allied form, as C. oenas.

"So with natural species, if we look to forms very distinct—for instance, to the horse and the tapir—we have no reason to suppose that links directly intermediate between them ever existed, but between each and an unknown common parent. The common parent will have had in its whole organization much general resemblance to the tapir and the horse; but in some points of structure it may have differed considerably from both, even perhaps more than they differ from each other. Hence in all such cases we should be unable to recognize the parent form of any two or more species, even if we closely compared the structure of the parent with that of its modified descendants, unless at the same time we had a nearly perfect chain of the intermediate links.

. . . . . .

"By the theory of natural selection [surely this is a slip for "by the theory of descent with modification"] all living species have been connected with the parent species of each genus, by differences not greater than we see between the natural and domestic varieties of the same species at the present day; and their parent species, now generally extinct, have in their turn been similarly connected with more ancient forms, and so on backwards, always converging to the common ancestor of each great class; so that the number of intermediate and transitional links between all living and extinct species must have been inconceivably great. But assuredly if this theory [the theory of descent with modification or that of "natural selection"?] be true, such have lived upon the earth."[255]

To return, however, to Lamarck.

"Though Nature," he continues, "in the course of long time has evolved all animals and plants in a true scale of progression, the steps of this scale can be perceived only in the principal groups of living forms; it cannot be perceived in species nor even in genera. The reason of this lies in the extreme diversity of the surroundings in which each different race of animals and plants has existed. These surroundings have often been out of harmony with the growing organization of the plants and animals themselves; this has led to anomalies, and, as it were, digressions, which the mere development of organization by itself could not have occasioned."[256] Or, in other words, to that divergency of type which is so well insisted on by Mr. Charles Darwin.

"It is only therefore the principal groups of animal and vegetable life which can be arranged in a vertical line of descent; species and even genera cannot always be so—for these contain beings whose organization has been dependent on the possession of such and such a special system of essential organs.

"Each great and separate group has its own system of essential organs, and it is these systems which can be seen to descend, within the limits of the group, from their most complex to their simplest form. But each organ, considered individually, does not descend by equally regular gradation; the gradations are less and less regular according as the organ is of less importance, and is more susceptible of modification by the conditions which surround it. Organs of small importance, and not essential to existence, are not always either perfected or degraded at an equal rate, so that in observing all the species of any class we find an organ in one species in the highest degree of perfection, while another organ, which in this same species is impoverished or very imperfect, is highly developed in another species of the same group."[257]

The facts maintained in the preceding paragraph are in great measure supported by Mr. Charles Darwin, who, however, assigns their cause to natural selection.

Mr. Darwin writes, "Ordinary specific characters are more variable than generic;" and again, a little lower down, "The points in which all the species of a genus resemble each other, and in which they differ from allied genera, are called generic characters; and these characters may be attributed to inheritance from a common progenitor, for it can rarely happen that natural selection will have modified several distinct species fitted to more or less widely different habits, in exactly the same manner; and as these so called generic characters have been inherited from before the period when the several species first branched off from their common progenitor, and subsequently have not varied or come to differ in any degree, or only in a slight degree, it is not probable that they should vary at the present day. On the other hand, the points in which species differ from other species of the same genus are called specific characters; and as these specific characters have varied and come to differ since the period when the species branched off from a common progenitor, it is probable that they should still often be in some degree variable, or at least more variable than those parts of the organization which have for a very long time remained constant."[258]

The fact, then, that it is specific characters which vary most is agreed upon by both Lamarck and Mr. Darwin. Lamarck, however, maintains that it is these specific characters which are most capable of being affected by the habits of the creature, and that it is for this reason they will be most variable, while Mr. Darwin simply says they are most variable, and that, this being so, the favourable variations will be preserved and accumulated—an assertion which Lamarck would certainly not demur to.

"Irregular degrees of perfection," says Lamarck, "and degradation in the less essential organs, are due to the fact that these are more liable than the more essential ones to the influence of external circumstances: these induce corresponding differences in the more outward parts of the animal, and give rise to such considerable and singular difference in species, that instead of being able to arrange them in a direct line of descent, as we can arrange the main groups, these species often form lateral ramifications round about the main groups to which they belong, and in their extreme development are truly isolated."[259]

In his summary of the second chapter of his 'Origin of Species,' Mr. Darwin well confirms this when he says, "In large genera the species are apt to be closely, but unequally, allied together, forming little clusters round other species."

"A longer time," says Lamarck, "and a greater influence of surrounding conditions, is necessary in order to modify interior organs. Nevertheless we see that Nature does pass from one system to another without any sudden leap, when circumstances require it, provided the systems are not too far apart. Her method is to proceed from the more simple to the more complex.[260]

"She does this not only in the race, but in the individual." Here Lamarck, like Dr. Erasmus Darwin, shows his perception of the importance of embryology in throwing light on the affinities of animals—as since more fully insisted on by the author of the 'Vestiges of Creation,' and by Mr. Darwin,[261] as well as by other writers. "Breathing through gills is nearer to breathing through lungs than breathing through trachea is. Not only do we see Nature pass from gills to lungs in families which are not too far apart, as may be seen by considering the case of fishes and reptiles; but she does so during the existence of a single individual, which may successively make use both of the one and of the other system. The frog while yet a tadpole breathes through gills; on becoming a frog it breathes through lungs; but we cannot find that Nature in any case passes from trachea to lungs."[262]

Lamarck now rapidly reviews previous classifications, and propounds his own, which stands thus:—I. Vertebrata, consisting of Mammals, Birds, Fishes, and Reptiles. II. Invertebrata, consisting of Molluscs, Centipedes, Annelids, Crustacea, Arachnids, Insects, Worms, Radiata, Polyps, Infusoria.

"The degradation of organism," he concludes, "in this descending scale is not perfectly even, and cannot be made so by any classification, nevertheless there is such evidence of sustained degradation in the principal groups as must point in the direction of some underlying general principle."[263]

Lamarck's sixth chapter is headed "Degradation and Simplification of the Animal Chain as we proceed downwards from the most complex to the most simple Organisms."

"This is a positive fact, and results from the operation of a constant law of nature; but a disturbing cause, which can be easily recognized, varies the regular operation of the law from one end to the other of the chain of life.[264]

"We can see, nevertheless, that special organs become more and more simple the lower we descend; that they become changed, impoverished, and attenuated little by little; that they lose their local centres, and finally become definitely annihilated before we reach the lowest extremity of the chain.[265]

"As has been said already, the degradation of organism is not always regular; such and such an organ often fails or changes suddenly, and sometimes in its changes assumes forms which are not allied with any others by steps that we can recognize. An organ may disappear and reappear several times before being entirely lost: but this is what we might expect, for the cause which has led to the evolution of living organisms has evolved many varieties, due to external influences. Nevertheless, looking at organization broadly, we observe a descending scale."[266]

"If the tendency to progressive development was the only cause which had influenced the forms and organs of animals, development would have been regular throughout the animal chain; but it has not been so: Nature is compelled to submit her productions to an environment which acts upon them, and variation in environment will induce variation in organism: this is the true cause of the sometimes strange deviations from the direct line of progression which we shall have to observe.[267]

"If Nature had only called aquatic beings into existence, and if these beings had lived always in the same climate, in the same kind of water, and at the same depth, the organization of these animals would doubtless have presented an even and regular scale of development. But there has been fresh water, salt water, running and stagnant water, warm and cold climates, an infinite variety of depth: animals exposed to these and other differences in their surroundings have varied in accordance with them.[268] In like manner those animals which have been gradually fitted for living in air instead of water have been subjected to an endless diversity in their surroundings. The following law, then, may be now propounded, namely:—

"That anomalies in the development of organism are due to the influences of the environment and to the habits of the creature.[269]

"Some have said that the anomalies above mentioned are so great as to disprove the existence of any scale which should indicate descent; but the nearer we approach species, the smaller we see differences become, till with species itself we find them at times almost imperceptible."[270]

Lamarck here devotes about seventy pages to a survey of the animal kingdom in its entirety, beginning with the mammals and ending with the infusoria. He points out the manner in which organ after organ disappears as we descend the scale, till we are left with a form which, though presenting all the characteristics of life, has yet no special organ whatever. I am obliged to pass this classification over, but do so very unwillingly, for it is illustrative of Lamarck, both at his best and at his worst.

The seventh chapter is headed—

"On the influence of their surroundings on the actions and habits of animals, and on the effect of these habits and actions in modifying their organization."

"The effect of different conditions of our organization upon our character, tendencies, actions, and even our ideas, has been often remarked, but no attention has yet been paid to that of our actions and habits upon our organization itself. These actions and habits depend entirely upon our relations to the surroundings in which we habitually exist; we shall have occasion, therefore, to see how great is the effect of environment upon organization.

"But for our having domesticated plants and animals we should never have arrived at the perception of this truth; for though the influence of the environment is at all times and everywhere active upon all living bodies, its effects are so gradual that they can only be perceived over long periods of time.[271]

"Taking the chain of life in the inverse order of nature—that is to say, from man downwards—we certainly perceive a sustained but irregular degradation of organism, with an increasing simplicity both in organism and faculties.

"This fact should throw light upon the order taken by nature, but it does not show us why the gradation is so irregular, nor why throughout its extent we find so many anomalies or digressions which have apparently no order at all in their manifold varieties.[272] The explanation of this must be sought for in the infinite diversity of circumstances under which organisms have been developed. On the one hand, there is a tendency to a regular progressive development; on the other, there is a host of widely different surroundings which tend continually to destroy the regularity of development.

"It is necessary to explain what is meant by such expressions as 'the effect of its environment upon the form and organization of an animal.' It must not be supposed that its surroundings directly effect any modification whatever in the form and organization of an animal.[273] Great changes in surroundings involve great changes in the wants of animals, and these changes in their wants involve corresponding changes in their actions. If these new wants become permanent, or of very long duration, the animals contract new habits, which last as long as the wants which gave rise to them.[274] A great change in surroundings, if it persist for a long time, must plainly, therefore, involve the contraction of new habits. These new habits in their turn involve a preference for the employment of such and such an organ over such and such another organ, and in certain cases the total disuse of an organ which is no longer wanted. This is perfectly self-evident.[275]

"On the one hand, new wants have rendered a part necessary, which part has accordingly been created by a succession of efforts: use has kept it in existence, gradually strengthening and developing it till in the end it attains a considerable degree of perfection. On the other, new circumstances having in some cases rendered such or such a part useless, disuse has led to its gradually ceasing to receive the development which the other parts attain to; on this it becomes reduced, and in time disappears.[276]

"Plants have neither actions nor habits properly so called, nevertheless they change in a changed environment as much as animals do. This is due to changes in nutrition, absorption and transpiration, to degrees of heat, light, and moisture, and to the preponderance over others which certain of the vital functions attain to."

Lamarck is led into the statement that plants have neither actions nor habits, by his theories about the nervous system and the brain. Plain matter-of-fact people will prefer the view taken by Buffon, Dr. Darwin, and, more recently, by Mr. Francis Darwin, that there is no radical difference between plants and animals.

"The differences between well-nourished and ill-nourished plants become little by little very noticeable. If individuals, whether animal or vegetable, are continually ill-fed and exposed to hardships for several generations, their organization becomes eventually modified, and the modification is transmitted until a race is formed which is quite distinct from those descendants of the common parent stock which have been placed in favourable circumstances.[277] In a dry spring the meagre and stunted herbage seeds early. When, on the other hand, the spring is warm but with occasional days of rain, there is an excellent hay-crop. If, however, any cause perpetuates unfavourable circumstances, plants will vary correspondingly, first in appearance and general conditions, and then in several particulars of their actual character, certain organs having received more development than others, these differences will in the course of time become hereditary.[278]

"Nature changes a plant or animal's surroundings gradually—man sometimes does so suddenly. All botanists know that plants vary so greatly under domestication that in time they become hardly recognizable. They undergo so much change that botanists do not at all like describing domesticated varieties. Wheat itself is an example. Where can wheat be found as a wild plant, unless it have escaped from some neighbouring cultivation? Where are our cauliflowers, our lettuces, to be found wild, with the same characters as they possess in our kitchen gardens?

"The same applies to our domesticated breeds of animals. What a variety of breeds has not man produced among fowls and pigeons, of which we can find no undomesticated examples!"[279]

The foregoing remarks on the effects of domestication seem to have been inspired by those given p. 123 and pp. 168, 169 of this volume.[280]

"Some, doubtless, have changed less than others, owing to their having undergone a less protracted domestication, and a less degree of change in climate; nevertheless, though our ducks and geese, for example, are of the same type as their wild progenitors, they have lost the power of long and sustained flight, and have become in other respects considerably modified.[281]

"A bird, after having been kept five or six years in a cage, cannot on being liberated fly like its brethren which have been always free. Such a change in a single lifetime has not effected any transmissible modification of type; but captivity, continued during many successive generations, would undoubtedly do so. If to the effects of captivity there be added also those of changed climate, changed food, and changed actions for the purpose of laying hold of food, these, united together and become constant, would in the course of time develop an entirely new breed."

This, again, is almost identical with the passage from Buffon,[282] p. 148 of this volume. See also pp. 169, 170.

"Where can our many domestic breeds of dogs be found in a wild state? Where are our bulldogs, greyhounds, spaniels, and lapdogs, breeds presenting differences which, in wild animals, would be certainly called specific? These are all descended from an animal nearly allied to the wolf, if not from the wolf itself. Such an animal was domesticated by early man, taken at successive intervals into widely different climates, trained to different habits, carried by man in his migrations as a precious capital into the most distant countries, and crossed from time to time with other breeds which had been developed in similar ways. Hence our present multiform breeds."[283]

Here, also, it is impossible to forget Buffon's passages on the dog, given pp. 121, 122. See also p. 223.

"Observe the gradations which are found between the ranunculus aquatilis and the ranunculus hederaceus: the latter—a land plant—resembles those parts of the former which grow above the surface of the water, but not those that grow beneath it.[284]

"The modifications of animals arise more slowly than those of plants; they are therefore less easily watched, and less easily assignable to their true causes, but they arise none the less surely. As regards these causes, the most potent is diversity of the surroundings in which they exist, but there are also many others.[285]

"The climate of the same place changes, and the place itself changes with changed climate and exposure, but so slowly that we imagine all lands to be stable in their conditions. This, however, is not true; climatic and other changes induce corresponding changes in environment and habit, and these modify the structure of the living forms which are subjected to them. Indeed, we see intermediate forms and species corresponding to intermediate conditions.

"To the above causes must be ascribed the infinite variety of existing forms, independently of any tendency towards progressive development."[286]

The reader has now before him a fair sample of "the well-known doctrine of inherited habit as advanced by Lamarck."[287] In what way, let me ask in passing, does "the case of neuter insects" prove "demonstrative" against it, unless it is held equally demonstrative against Mr. Darwin's own position? Lamarck continues:—

"The character of any habitable quarter of the globe is qua man constant: the constancy of type in species is therefore also qua man persistent. But this is an illusion. We establish, therefore, the three following propositions:—

"1. That every considerable and sustained change in the surroundings of any animal involves a real change in its needs.

"2. That such change of needs involves the necessity of changed action in order to satisfy these needs, and, in consequence, of new habits.[288]

"3. It follows that such and such parts, formerly less used, are now more frequently employed, and in consequence become more highly developed; new parts also become insensibly evolved in the creature by its own efforts from within.

"From the foregoing these two general laws may be deduced:—

"Firstly. That in every animal which has not passed its limit of development, the more frequent and sustained employment of any organ develops and aggrandizes it, giving it a power proportionate to the duration of its employment, while the same organ in default of constant use becomes insensibly weakened and deteriorated, decreasing imperceptibly in power until it finally disappears.[289]

"Secondly. That these gains or losses of organic development, due to use or disuse, are transmitted to offspring, provided they have been common to both sexes, or to the animals from which the offspring have descended."[290]

Lamarck now sets himself to establish the fact that animals have developed modifications which have been transmitted to their offspring.

"Naturalists," he says, "have believed that the possession of certain organs has led to their employment. This is not so: it is need and use which have developed the organs, and even called them into existence." [I have already sufficiently insisted that it is impossible to dispense with either of these two views. Demand and Supply have gone hand in hand, each reacting upon the other.] "Otherwise a special act of creation would be necessary for every different combination of conditions; and it would be also necessary that the conditions should remain always constant.

"If this were really so we should have no racehorses like those of England, nor drayhorses so heavy in build and so unlike the racehorse; for there are no such breeds in a wild state. For the same reason, we should have no turnspit dogs with crooked legs, no greyhounds nor water-spaniels; we should have no tailless breed of fowls nor fantail pigeons, &c. Nor should we be able to cultivate wild plants in our gardens, for any length of time we please, without fear of their changing.

"'Habit,' says the proverb, 'is a second nature'; what possible meaning can this proverb have, if descent with modification is unfounded?[291]

"As regards the circumstances which give rise to variation, the principal are climatic changes, different temperatures of any of a creature's environments, differences of abode, of habit, of the most frequent actions; and lastly, of the means of obtaining food, self-defence, reproduction, &c., &c."[292]

Here we have absolute agreement with Dr. Erasmus Darwin,[293] except that there seems a tendency in this passage to assign more effect to the direct action of conditions than is common with Lamarck. He seems to be mixing Buffon and Dr. Darwin.

"In consequence of change in any of these respects, the faculties of an animal become extended and enlarged by use: they become diversified through the long continuance of the new habits, until little by little their whole structure and nature, as well as the organs originally affected, participate in the effects of all these influences, and are modified to an extent which is capable of transmission to offspring."[294]

This sentence alone would be sufficient to show that Lamarck was as much alive as Buffon and Dr. Darwin were before him, to the fact that one of the most important conditions of an animal's life, is the relation in which it stands to the other inhabitants of the same neighbourhood—from which the survival of the fittest follows as a self-evident proposition. Nothing, therefore, can be more unfounded than the attempt, so frequently made by writers who have not read Lamarck, or who think others may be trusted not to do so, to represent him as maintaining something perfectly different from what is maintained by modern writers on evolution. The difference, in so far as there is any difference, is one of detail only. Lamarck would not have hesitated to admit, that, if animals are modified in a direction which is favourable to them, they will have a better chance of surviving and transmitting their favourable modifications. In like manner, our modern evolutionists should allow that animals are modified not because they subsequently survive, but because they have done this or that which has led to their modification, and hence to their surviving.

Having established that animals and plants are capable of being materially changed in the course of a few generations, Lamarck proceeds to show that their modification is due to changed distribution of the use and disuse of their organs at any given time.

"The disuse of an organ," he writes, "if it becomes constant in consequence of new habits, gradually reduces the organ, and leads finally to its disappearance."[295]

"Thus whales have lost their teeth, though teeth are still found in the embryo. So, again, M. Geoffroy has discovered in birds the groove where teeth were formerly placed. The ant-eater, which belongs to a genus that has long relinquished the habit of masticating its food, is as toothless as the whale."[296]

Then are adduced further examples of rudimentary organs, which will be given in another place, and need not be repeated here. Speaking of the fact, however, that serpents have no legs, though they are higher in the scale of life than the batrachians, Lamarck attributes this "to the continued habit of trying to squeeze through very narrow places, where four feet would be in the way, and would be very little good to them, inasmuch as more than four would be wanted in order to turn bodies that were already so much elongated."[297]

If it be asked why, on Lamarck's theory, if serpents wanted more legs they could not have made them, the answer is that the attempt to do this would be to unsettle a question which had been already so long settled, that it would be impossible to reopen it. The animal must adapt itself to four legs, or must get rid of all or some of them if it does not like them; but it has stood so long committed to the theory that if there are to be legs at all, there are to be not more than four, that it is impossible for it now to see this matter in any other light.

The experiments of M. Brown Sequard on guinea pigs, quoted by Mr. Darwin,[298] suggest that the form of the serpent may be due to its having lost its legs by successive accidents in squeezing through narrow places, and that the wounds having been followed by disease, the creature may have bitten the limbs off, in which case the loss might have been very readily transmitted to offspring; the animal would accordingly take to a sinuous mode of progression that would doubtless in time elongate the body still further. M. Brown Sequard "carefully recorded" thirteen cases, and saw even a greater number, in which the loss of toes by guinea pigs which had gnawed their own toes off, was immediately transmitted to offspring. Accidents followed by disease seem to have been somewhat overlooked as a possible means of modification. The missing forefinger to the hand of the potto[299] would appear at first sight to have been lost by some such mishap. Returning to Lamarck, we find him saying:—

"Even in the lifetime of a single individual we can see organic changes in consequence of changed habits. Thus M. Tenon has constantly found the intestinal canal of drunkards to be greatly shorter than that of people who do not drink. This is due to the fact that habitual drunkards eat but little solid food, so that the stomach and intestines are more rarely distended. The same applies to people who lead studious and sedentary lives. The stomachs of such persons and of drunkards have little power, and a small quantity will fill them, while those of men who take plenty of exercise remain in full vigour and are even increased."[300]

It becomes now necessary to establish the converse proposition, namely that:—

"The frequent use of an organ increases its power; it even develops the organ itself, and makes it acquire dimensions and powers which it is not found to have in animals which make no use of such an organ.

"In support of this we see that the bird whose needs lead it to the water, in which to find its prey, extends the toes of its feet when it wants to strike the water, and move itself upon the surface. The skin at the base of the toes of such a bird contracts the habit of extending itself from continual practice. To this cause, in the course of time, must be attributed the wide membrane which unites the toes of ducks, geese, &c. The same efforts to swim, that is to say, to push the water for the purpose of moving itself forward, has extended the membrane between the toes of frogs, turtles, the otter, and the beaver."[301]

[This is taken, I believe, from Dr. Darwin or Buffon, but I have lost the passage, if, indeed, I ever found it. It had been met by Paley some years earlier (1802) in the following:—

"There is nothing in the action of swimming as carried on by a bird upon the surface of the water that should generate a membrane between the toes. As to that membrane it is an action of constant resistance.... The web feet of amphibious quadrupeds, seals, otters, &c., fall under the same observation."[302]]

"On the other hand those birds whose habits lead them to perch on trees, and which have sprung from parents that have long contracted this habit, have their toes shaped in a perfectly different manner. Their claws become lengthened, sharpened, and curved, so as to enable the creature to lay hold of the boughs on which it so often rests. The shore bird again, which does not like to swim, is nevertheless continually obliged to enter the water when searching after its prey. Not liking to plunge its body in the water, it makes every endeavour to extend and lengthen its lower limbs. In the course of long time these birds have come to be elevated, as it were, on stilts, and have got long legs bare of feathers as far as their thighs, and often still higher. The same bird is continually trying to extend its neck in order to fish without wetting its body, and in the course of time its neck has become modified accordingly.[303]

"Swans, indeed, and geese have short legs and very long necks, but this is because they plunge their heads as low in the water as they can in their search for aquatic larvae and other animalcules, but make no effort to lengthen their legs."[304]

This too is taken from some passage which I have either never seen or have lost sight of. Paley never gives a reference to an opponent, though he frequently does so when quoting an author on his own side, but I can hardly doubt that he had in his mind the passage from which Lamarck in 1809 derived the foregoing, when in 1802 he wrote Sec. 5 of chapter xv. and the latter half of chapter xxiii. of his 'Natural Theology.'

"The tongues of the ant-eater and the woodpecker," continues Lamarck, "have become elongated from similar causes. Humming birds catch hold of things with their tongues; serpents and lizards use their tongues to touch and reconnoitre objects in front of them, hence their tongues have come to be forked.

"Need—always occasioned by the circumstances in which an animal is placed, and followed by sustained efforts at gratification—can not only modify an organ, that is to say, augment or reduce it, but can change its position when the case requires its removal.[305]

"Ocean fishes have occasion to see what is on either side of them, and have their eyes accordingly placed on either side their head. Some fishes, however, have their abode near coasts on submarine banks and inclinations, and are thus forced to flatten themselves as much as possible in order to get as near as they can to the shore. In this situation they receive more light from above than from below, and find it necessary to pay attention to whatever happens to be above them; this need has involved the displacement of their eyes, which now take the remarkable position which we observe in the case of soles, turbots, plaice, &c. The transfer of position is not even yet complete in the case of these fishes, and the eyes are not, therefore, symmetrically placed; but they are so with the skate, whose head and whole body are equally disposed on either side a longitudinal section. Hence the eyes of this fish are placed symmetrically upon the uppermost side.[306]

"The eyes of serpents are placed on the sides and upper portions of the head, so that they can easily see what is on one side of them or above them; but they can only see very little in front of them, and supplement this deficiency of power with their tongue, which is very long and supple, and is in many kinds so divided that it can touch more than one object at a time; the habit of reconnoitring objects in front of them with their tongues has even led to their being able to pass it through the end of their nostrils without being obliged to open their jaws.[307]

"Herbivorous mammals, such as the elephant, rhinoceros, ox, buffalo, horse, &c., owe their great size to their habit of daily distending themselves with food and taking comparatively little exercise. They employ their feet for standing, walking, or running, but not for climbing trees. Hence the thick horn which covers their toes. These toes have become useless to them, and are now in many cases rudimentary only. Some pachyderms have five toes covered with horn; some four, some three. The ruminants, which appear to be the earliest mammals that confined themselves to a life upon the ground, have but two hooves, while the horse has only one.[308]

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