Even so, one cannot see that the habit of laying this particular kind of egg might not be due to use and memory in previous generations on the part of the fertile parents, "for the numerous slight spontaneous variations," on which "natural selection" is to work, must have had some cause than which none more reasonable than sense of need and experience presents itself; and there seems hardly any limit to what long-continued faith and desire, aided by intelligence, may be able to effect. But if sense of need and experience are denied, I see no escape from the view that machines are new species of life.
Mr. Darwin concludes: "I am surprised that no one has hitherto advanced this demonstrative case of neuter insects against the well- known doctrine of inherited habit as advanced by Lamarck" ("Natural Selection," p. 233, ed. 1876).
After reading this, one feels as though there was no more to be said. The well-known doctrine of inherited habit, as advanced by Lamarck, has indeed been long since so thoroughly exploded, that it is not worth while to go into an explanation of what it was, or to refute it in detail. Here, however, is an argument against it, which is so much better than anything advanced yet, that one is surprised it has never been made use of; so we will just advance it, as it were, to slay the slain, and pass on. Such, at least, is the effect which the paragraph above quoted produced upon myself, and would, I think, produce on the great majority of readers. When driven by the exigencies of my own position to examine the value of the demonstration more closely, I conclude, either that I have utterly failed to grasp Mr. Darwin's meaning, or that I have no less completely mistaken the value and bearing of the facts I have myself advanced in these few last pages. Failing this, my surprise is, not that "no one has hitherto advanced" the instincts of neuter insects as a demonstrative case against the doctrine of inherited habit, but rather that Mr. Darwin should have thought the case demonstrative; or again, when I remember that the neuter working bee is only an aborted queen, and may be turned back again into a queen, by giving it such treatment as it can alone be expected to remember—then I am surprised that the structure and instincts of neuter bees has never (if never) been brought forward in support of the doctrine of inherited habit as advanced by Lamarck, and against any theory which would rob such instincts of their foundation in intelligence, and of their connection with experience and memory.
As for the instinct to mutilate, that is as easily accounted for as any other inherited habit, whether of man to mutilate cattle, or of ants to make slaves, or of birds to make their nests. I can see no way of accounting for the existence of any one of these instincts, except on the supposition that they have arisen gradually, through perceptions of power and need on the part of the animal which exhibits them—these two perceptions advancing hand in hand from generation to generation, and being accumulated in time and in the common course of nature.
I have already sufficiently guarded against being supposed to maintain that very long before an instinct or structure was developed, the creature descried it in the far future, and made towards it. We do not observe this to be the manner of human progress. Our mechanical inventions, which, as I ventured to say in "Erewhon," through the mouth of the second professor, are really nothing but extra-corporaneous limbs—a wooden leg being nothing but a bad kind of flesh leg, and a flesh leg being only a much better kind of wooden leg than any creature could be expected to manufacture introspectively and consciously—our mechanical inventions have almost invariably grown up from small beginnings, and without any very distant foresight on the part of the inventors. When Watt perfected the steam engine, he did not, it seems, foresee the locomotive, much less would any one expect a savage to invent a steam engine. A child breathes automatically, because it has learnt to breathe little by little, and has now breathed for an incalculable length of time; but it cannot open oysters at all, nor even conceive the idea of opening oysters for two or three years after it is born, for the simple reason that this lesson is one which it is only beginning to learn. All I maintain is, that, give a child as many generations of practice in opening oysters as it has had in breathing or sucking, and it would on being born, turn to the oyster-knife no less naturally than to the breast. We observe that among certain families of men there has been a tendency to vary in the direction of the use and development of machinery; and that in a certain still smaller number of families, there seems to be an almost infinitely great capacity for varying and inventing still further, whether socially or mechanically; while other families, and perhaps the greater number, reach a certain point and stop; but we also observe that not even the most inventive races ever see very far ahead. I suppose the progress of plants and animals to be exactly analogous to this.
Mr. Darwin has always maintained that the effects of use and disuse are highly important in the development of structure, and if, as he has said, habits are sometimes inherited—then they should sometimes be important also in the development of instinct, or habit. But what does the development of an instinct or structure, or, indeed, any effect upon the organism produced by "use and disuse," imply? It implies an effect produced by a desire to do something for which the organism was not originally well adapted or sufficient, but for which it has come to be sufficient in consequence of the desire. The wish has been father to the power; but this again opens up the whole theory of Lamarck, that the development of organs has been due to the wants or desires of the animal in which the organ appears. So far as I can see, I am insisting on little more than this.
Once grant that a blacksmith's arm grows thicker through hammering iron, and you have an organ modified in accordance with a need or wish. Let the desire and the practice be remembered, and go on for long enough, and the slight alterations of the organ will be accumulated, until they are checked either by the creature's having got all that he cares about making serious further effort to obtain, or until his wants prove inconvenient to other creatures that are stronger than he, and he is hence brought to a standstill. Use and disuse, then, with me, and, as I gather also, with Lamarck, are the keys to the position, coupled, of course, with continued personality and memory. No sudden and striking changes would be effected, except that occasionally a blunder might prove a happy accident, as happens not unfrequently with painters, musicians, chemists, and inventors at the present day; or sometimes a creature, with exceptional powers of memory or reflection, would make his appearance in this race or in that. We all profit by our accidents as well as by our more cunning contrivances, so that analogy would point in the direction of thinking that many of the most happy thoughts in the animal and vegetable kingdom were originated much as certain discoveries that have been made by accident among ourselves. These would be originally blind variations, though even so, probably less blind than we think, if we could know the whole truth. When originated, they would be eagerly taken advantage of and improved upon by the animal in whom they appeared; but it cannot be supposed that they would be very far in advance of the last step gained, more than are those "flukes" which sometimes enable us to go so far beyond our own ordinary powers. For if they were, the animal would despair of repeating them. No creature hopes, or even wishes, for very much more than he has been accustomed to all his life, he and his family, and the others whom he can understand, around him. It has been well said that "enough" is always "a little more than one has." We do not try for things which we believe to be beyond our reach, hence one would expect that the fortunes, as it were, of animals should have been built up gradually. Our own riches grow with our desires and the pains we take in pursuit of them, and our desires vary and increase with our means of gratifying them; but unless with men of exceptional business aptitude, wealth grows gradually by the adding field to field and farm to farm; so with the limbs and instincts of animals; these are but the things they have made or bought with their money, or with money that has been left them by their forefathers, which, though it is neither silver nor gold, but faith and protoplasm only, is good money and capital notwithstanding.
I have already admitted that instinct may be modified by food or drugs, which may affect a structure or habit as powerfully as we see certain poisons affect the structure of plants by producing, as Mr. Darwin tells us, very complex galls upon their leaves. I do not, therefore, for a moment insist on habit as the sole cause of instinct. Every habit must have had its originating cause, and the causes which have started one habit will from time to time start or modify others; nor can I explain why some individuals of a race should be cleverer than others, any more than I can explain why they should exist at all; nevertheless, I observe it to be a fact that differences in intelligence and power of growth are universal in the individuals of all those races which we can best watch. I also most readily admit that the common course of nature would both cause many variations to arise independently of any desire on the part of the animal (much as we have lately seen that the moons of Mars were on the point of being discovered three hundred years ago, merely through Galileo sending to Kepler a Latin anagram which Kepler could not understand, and arranged into the line—"Salve umbistineum geminatum Martia prolem," and interpreted to mean that Mars had two moons, whereas Galileo had meant to say "Altissimum planetam tergeminum observavi," meaning that he had seen Saturn's ring), and would also preserve and accumulate such variations when they had arisen; but I can no more believe that the wonderful adaptation of structures to needs, which we see around us in such an infinite number of plants and animals, can have arisen without a perception of those needs on the part of the creature in whom the structure appears, than I can believe that the form of the dray-horse or greyhound—so well adapted both to the needs of the animal in his daily service to man, and to the desires of man, that the creature should do him this daily service—can have arisen without any desire on man's part to produce this particular structure, or without the inherited habit of performing the corresponding actions for man, on the part of the greyhound and dray-horse.
And I believe that this will be felt as reasonable by the great majority of my readers. I believe that nine fairly intelligent and observant men out of ten, if they were asked which they thought most likely to have been the main cause of the development of the various phases either of structure or instinct which we see around us, namely—sense of need, or even whim, and hence occasional discovery, helped by an occasional piece of good luck, communicated, it may be, and generally adopted, long practised, remembered by offspring, modified by changed surroundings, and accumulated in the course of time—or, the accumulation of small divergent, indefinite, and perfectly unintelligent variations, preserved through the survival of their possessor in the struggle for existence, and hence in time leading to wide differences from the original type—would answer in favour of the former alternative; and if for no other cause yet for this—that in the human race, which we are best able to watch, and between which and the lower animals no difference in kind will, I think, be supposed, but only in degree, we observe that progress must have an internal current setting in a definite direction, but whither we know not for very long beforehand; and that without such internal current there is stagnation. Our own progress—or variation—is due not to small, fortuitous inventions or modifications which have enabled their fortunate possessors to survive in times of difficulty, not, in fact, to strokes of luck (though these, of course, have had some effect—but not more, probably, than strokes of ill luck have counteracted) but to strokes of cunning—to a sense of need, and to study of the past and present which have given shrewd people a key with which to unlock the chambers of the future.
Further, Mr. Darwin himself says ("Plants and Animals under Domestication," ii. p. 237, ed. 1875):-
"But I think we must take a broader view and conclude that organic beings when subjected during several generations to any change whatever in their conditions tend to vary: THE KIND OF VARIATION WHICH ENSUES DEPENDING IN MOST CASES IN A FAR HIGHER DEGREE ON THE NATURE OR CONSTITUTION OF THE BEING, THAN ON THE NATURE OF THE CHANGED CONDITIONS." And this we observe in man. The history of a man prior to his birth is more important as far as his success or failure goes than his surroundings after birth, important though these may indeed be. The able man rises in spite of a thousand hindrances, the fool fails in spite of every advantage. "Natural selection," however, does not make either the able man or the fool. It only deals with him after other causes have made him, and would seem in the end to amount to little more than to a statement of the fact that when variations have arisen they will accumulate. One cannot look, as has already been said, for the origin of species in that part of the course of nature which settles the preservation or extinction of variations which have already arisen from some unknown cause, but one must look for it in the causes that have led to variation at all. These causes must get, as it were, behind the back of "natural selection," which is rather a shield and hindrance to our perception of our own ignorance than an explanation of what these causes are.
The remarks made above will apply equally to plants such as the misletoe and red clover. For the sake of brevity I will deal only with the misletoe, which seems to be the more striking case. Mr. Darwin writes:-
"Naturalists continually refer to external conditions, such as climate, food, &c., as the only possible cause of variation. In one limited sense, as we shall hereafter see, this may be true; but it is preposterous to attribute to mere external conditions, the structure, for instance, of the woodpecker, with its feet, tail, beak, and tongue, so admirably adapted to catch insects under the bark of trees. In the case of the misletoe, which draws its nourishment from certain trees, which has seeds that must be transported by certain birds, and which has flowers with separate sexes absolutely requiring the agency of certain insects to bring pollen from one flower to another, it is equally preposterous to account for the structure of this parasite with its relations to several distinct organic beings, by the effect of external conditions, or of habit, or of the volition of the plant itself" ("Natural Selection," p. 3, ed. 1876).
I cannot see this. To me it seems still more preposterous to account for it by the action of "natural selection" operating upon indefinite variations. It would be preposterous to suppose that a bird very different from a woodpecker should have had a conception of a woodpecker, and so by volition gradually grown towards it. So in like manner with the misletoe. Neither plant nor bird knew how far they were going, or saw more than a very little ahead as to the means of remedying this or that with which they were dissatisfied, or of getting this or that which they desired; but given perceptions at all, and thus a sense of needs and of the gratification of those needs, and thus hope and fear, and a sense of content and discontent- -given also the lowest power of gratifying those needs—given also that some individuals have these powers in a higher degree than others—given also continued personality and memory over a vast extent of time—and the whole phenomena of species and genera resolve themselves into an illustration of the old proverb, that what is one man's meat is another man's poison. Life in its lowest form under the above conditions—and we cannot conceive of life at all without them—would be bound to vary, and to result after not so very many millions of years in the infinite forms and instincts which we see around us.
CHAPTER XIII—LAMARCK AND MR. DARWIN
It will have been seen that in the preceding pages the theory of evolution, as originally propounded by Lamarck, has been more than once supported, as against the later theory concerning it put forward by Mr. Darwin, and now generally accepted.
It is not possible for me, within the limits at my command, to do anything like justice to the arguments that may be brought forward in favour of either of these two theories. Mr. Darwin's books are at the command of every one; and so much has been discovered since Lamarck's day, that if he were living now, he would probably state his case very differently; I shall therefore content myself with a few brief remarks, which will hardly, however, aspire to the dignity of argument.
According to Mr. Darwin, differentiations of structure and instinct have mainly come about through the accumulation of small, fortuitous variations without intelligence or desire upon the part of the creature varying; modification, however, through desire and sense of need, is not denied entirely, inasmuch as considerable effect is ascribed by Mr. Darwin to use and disuse, which involves, as has been already said, the modification of a structure in accordance with the wishes of its possessor.
According to Lamarck, genera and species have been evolved, in the main, by exactly the same process as that by which human inventions and civilisations are now progressing; and this involves that intelligence, ingenuity, heroism, and all the elements of romance, should have had the main share in the development of every herb and living creature around us.
I take the following brief outline of the most important part of Lamarck's theory from vol. xxxvi. of the Naturalist's Library (Edinburgh, 1843):-
"The more simple bodies," says the editor, giving Lamarck's opinion without endorsing it, "are easily formed, and this being the case, it is easy to conceive how in the lapse of time animals of a more complex structure should be produced, FOR IT MUST BE ADMITTED AS A FUNDAMENTAL LAW, THAT THE PRODUCTION OF A NEW ORGAN IN AN ANIMAL BODY RESULTS FROM ANY NEW WANT OR DESIRE IT MAY EXPERIENCE. The first effort of a being just beginning to develop itself must be to procure subsistence, and hence in time there comes to be produced a stomach or alimentary cavity." (Thus we saw that the amoeba is in the habit of "extemporising" a stomach when it wants one.) "Other wants occasioned by circumstances will lead to other efforts, which in their turn will generate new organs."
Lamarck's wonderful conception was hampered by an unnecessary adjunct, namely, a belief in an inherent tendency towards progressive development in every low organism. He was thus driven to account for the presence of many very low and very ancient organisms at the present day, and fell back upon the theory, which is not yet supported by evidence, that such low forms are still continually coming into existence from inorganic matter. But there seems no necessity to suppose that all low forms should possess an inherent tendency towards progression. It would be enough that there should occasionally arise somewhat more gifted specimens of one or more original forms. These would vary, and the ball would be thus set rolling, while the less gifted would remain in statu quo, provided they were sufficiently gifted to escape extinction.
Nor do I gather that Lamarck insisted on continued personality and memory so as to account for heredity at all, and so as to see life as a single, or as at any rate, only a few, vast compound animals, but without the connecting organism between each component item in the whole creature, which is found in animals that are strictly called compound. Until continued personality and memory are connected with the idea of heredity, heredity of any kind is little more than a term for something which one does not understand. But there seems little a priori difficulty as regards Lamarck's main idea, now that Mr. Darwin has familiarised us with evolution, and made us feel what a vast array of facts can be brought forward in support of it.
Mr. Darwin tells us, in the preface to his last edition of the "Origin of Species," that Lamarck was partly led to his conclusions by the analogy of domestic productions. It is rather hard to say what these words imply; they may mean anything from a baby to an apple dumpling, but if they imply that Lamarck drew inspirations from the gradual development of the mechanical inventions of man, and from the progress of man's ideas, I would say that of all sources this would seem to be the safest and most fertile from which to draw.
Plants and animals under domestication are indeed a suggestive field for study, but machines are the manner in which man is varying at this moment. We know how our own minds work, and how our mechanical organisations—for, in all sober seriousness, this is what it comes to—have progressed hand in hand with our desires; sometimes the power a little ahead, and sometimes the desire; sometimes both combining to form an organ with almost infinite capacity for variation, and sometimes comparatively early reaching the limit of utmost development in respect of any new conception, and accordingly coming to a full stop; sometimes making leaps and bounds, and sometimes advancing sluggishly. Here we are behind the scenes, and can see how the whole thing works. We have man, the very animal which we can best understand, caught in the very act of variation, through his own needs, and not through the needs of others; the whole process is a natural one; the varying of a creature as much in a wild state as the ants and butterflies are wild. There is less occasion here for the continual "might be" and "may be," which we are compelled to put up with when dealing with plants and animals, of the workings of whose minds we can only obscurely judge. Also, there is more prospect of pecuniary profit attaching to the careful study of machinery than can be generally hoped for from the study of the lower animals; and though I admit that this consideration should not be carried too far, a great deal of very unnecessary suffering will be spared to the lower animals; for much that passes for natural history is little better than prying into other people's business, from no other motive than curiosity. I would, therefore, strongly advise the reader to use man, and the present races of man, and the growing inventions and conceptions of man, as his guide, if he would seek to form an independent judgement on the development of organic life. For all growth is only somebody making something.
Lamarck's theories fell into disrepute, partly because they were too startling to be capable of ready fusion with existing ideas; they were, in fact, too wide a cross for fertility; partly because they fell upon evil times, during the reaction that followed the French Revolution; partly because, unless I am mistaken, he did not sufficiently link on the experience of the race to that of the individual, nor perceive the importance of the principle that consciousness, memory, volition, intelligence, &c., vanish, or become latent, on becoming intense. He also appears to have mixed up matter with his system, which was either plainly wrong, or so incapable of proof as to enable people to laugh at him, and pooh-pooh him; but I believe it will come to be perceived, that he has received somewhat scant justice at the hands of his successors, and that his "crude theories," as they have been somewhat cheaply called, are far from having had their last say.
Returning to Mr. Darwin, we find, as we have already seen, that it is hard to say exactly how much Mr. Darwin differs from Lamarck, and how much he agrees with him. Mr. Darwin has always maintained that use and disuse are highly important, and this implies that the effect produced on the parent should be remembered by the offspring, in the same way as the memory of a wound is transmitted by one set of cells to succeeding ones, who long repeat the scar, though it may fade finally away. Also, after dealing with the manner in which one eye of a young flat-fish travels round the head till both eyes are on the same side of the fish, he gives ("Natural Selection," p. 188, ed. 1875) an instance of a structure "which apparently owes its origin exclusively to use or habit." He refers to the tail of some American monkeys "which has been converted into a wonderfully perfect prehensile organ, and serves as a fifth hand. A reviewer," he continues, . . . "remarks on this structure—'It is impossible to believe that in any number of ages the first slight incipient tendency to grasp, could preserve the lives of the individuals possessing it, or favour their chance of having and of rearing offspring.' But there is no necessity for any such belief. Habit, and this almost implies that some benefit, great or small, is thus derived, would in all probability suffice for the work." If, then, habit can do this—and it is no small thing to develop a wonderfully perfect prehensile organ which can serve as a fifth hand—how much more may not habit do, even though unaided, as Mr. Darwin supposes to have been the case in this instance, by "natural selection"? After attributing many of the structural and instinctive differences of plants and animals to the effects of use—as we may plainly do with Mr. Darwin's own consent—after attributing a good deal more to unknown causes, and a good deal to changed conditions, which are bound, if at all important, to result either in sterility or variation—how much of the work of originating species is left for natural selection?—which, as Mr. Darwin admits ("Natural Selection," p. 63, ed. 1876), does not INDUCE VARIABILITY, but "implies only the preservation of SUCH VARIATIONS AS ARISE, and are beneficial to the being under its conditions of life?" An important part assuredly, and one which we can never sufficiently thank Mr. Darwin for having put so forcibly before us, but an indirect part only, like the part played by time and space, and not, I think, the one which Mr. Darwin would assign to it.
Mr. Darwin himself has admitted that in the earlier editions of his "Origin of Species" he "underrated, as it now seems probable, the frequency and importance of modifications due to spontaneous variability." And this involves the having over-rated the action of "natural selection" as an agent in the evolution of species. But one gathers that he still believes the accumulation of small and fortuitous variations through the agency of "natural selection" to be the main cause of the present divergencies of structure and instinct. I do not, however, think that Mr. Darwin is clear about his own meaning. I think the prominence given to "natural selection" in connection with the "origin of species" has led him, in spite of himself, and in spite of his being on his guard (as is clearly shown by the paragraph on page 63 "Natural Selection," above referred to), to regard "natural selection" as in some way accounting for variation, just as the use of the dangerous word "spontaneous,"— though he is so often on his guard against it, and so frequently prefaces it with the words "so-called,"—would seem to have led him into very serious confusion of thought in the passage quoted at the beginning of this paragraph.
For after saying that he had underrated "the frequency and importance of modifications due to spontaneous variability," he continues, "but it is impossible to attribute to this cause the innumerable structures which are so well adapted to the habits of life of each species." That is to say, it is impossible to attribute these innumerable structures to spontaneous variability.
What IS spontaneous variability?
Clearly, from his preceding paragraph, Mr. Darwin means only "so- called spontaneous variations," such as "the appearance of a moss- rose on a common rose, or of a nectarine on a peach-tree," which he gives as good examples of so-called spontaneous variation.
And these variations are, after all, due to causes, but to unknown causes; spontaneous variation being, in fact, but another name for variation due to causes which we know nothing about, but in no possible sense a CAUSE OF VARIATION. So that when we come to put clearly before our minds exactly what the sentence we are considering amounts to, it comes to this: that it is impossible to attribute the innumerable structures which are so well adapted to the habits of life of each species to UNKNOWN CAUSES.
"I can no more believe in THIS," continues Mr. Darwin, "than that the well-adapted form of a race-horse or greyhound, which, before the principle of selection by man was well understood, excited so much surprise in the minds of the older naturalists, can THUS be explained" ("Natural Selection," p. 171, ed. 1876).
Or, in other words, "I can no more believe that the well-adapted structures of species are due to unknown causes, than I can believe that the well-adapted form of a race-horse can be explained by being attributed to unknown causes.
I have puzzled over this paragraph for several hours with the sincerest desire to get at the precise idea which underlies it, but the more I have studied it the more convinced I am that it does not contain, or at any rate convey, any clear or definite idea at all. If I thought it was a mere slip, I should not call attention to it; this book will probably have slips enough of its own without introducing those of a great man unnecessarily; but I submit that it is necessary to call attention to it here, inasmuch as it is impossible to believe that after years of reflection upon his subject, Mr. Darwin should have written as above, especially in such a place, if his mind was really clear about his own position. Immediately after the admission of a certain amount of miscalculation, there comes a more or less exculpatory sentence which sounds so right that ninety-nine people out of a hundred would walk through it, unless led by some exigency of their own position to examine it closely but which yet upon examination proves to be as nearly meaningless as a sentence can be.
The weak point in Mr. Darwin's theory would seem to be a deficiency, so to speak, of motive power to originate and direct the variations which time is to accumulate. It deals admirably with the accumulation of variations in creatures already varying, but it does not provide a sufficient number of sufficiently important variations to be accumulated. Given the motive power which Lamarck suggested, and Mr. Darwin's mechanism would appear (with the help of memory, as bearing upon reproduction, of continued personality, and hence of inherited habit, and of the vanishing tendency of consciousness) to work with perfect ease. Mr. Darwin has made us all feel that in some way or other variations ARE ACCUMULATED, and that evolution is the true solution of the present widely different structures around us, whereas, before he wrote, hardly any one believed this. However we may differ from him in detail, the present general acceptance of evolution must remain as his work, and a more valuable work can hardly be imagined. Nevertheless, I cannot think that "natural selection," working upon small, fortuitous, indefinite, unintelligent variations, would produce the results we see around us. One wants something that will give a more definite aim to variations, and hence, at times, cause bolder leaps in advance. One cannot but doubt whether so many plants and animals would be being so continually saved "by the skin of their teeth," as must be so saved if the variations from which genera ultimately arise are as small in their commencement and at each successive stage as Mr. Darwin seems to believe. God—to use the language of the Bible—is not extreme to mark what is done amiss, whether with plant or beast or man; on the other hand, when towers of Siloam fall, they fall on the just as well as the unjust.
One feels, on considering Mr. Darwin's position, that if it be admitted that there is in the lowest creature a power to vary, no matter how small, one has got in this power as near the "origin of species" as one can ever hope to get. For no one professes to account for the origin of life; but if a creature with a power to vary reproduces itself at all, it must reproduce another creature WHICH SHALL ALSO HAVE THE POWER TO VARY; so that, given time and space enough, there is no knowing where such a creature could or would stop.
If the primordial cell had been only capable of reproducing itself once, there would have followed a single line of descendants, the chain of which might at any moment have been broken by casualty. Doubtless the millionth repetition would have differed very materially from the original—as widely, perhaps, as we differ from the primordial cell; but it would only have differed by addition, and could no more in any generation resume its latest development without having passed through the initial stage of being what its first forefather was, and doing what its first forefather did, and without going through all or a sufficient number of the steps whereby it had reached its latest differentiation, than water can rise above its own level.
The very idea, then, of reproduction involves, unless I am mistaken, that, no matter how much the creature reproducing itself may gain in power and versatility, it must still always begin WITH ITSELF AGAIN in each generation. The primordial cell being capable of reproducing itself not only once, but many times over, each of the creatures which it produces must be similarly gifted; hence the geometrical ratio of increase and the existing divergence of type. In each generation it will pass rapidly and unconsciously through all the earlier stages of which there has been infinite experience, and for which the conditions are reproduced with sufficient similarity to cause no failure of memory or hesitation; but in each generation, when it comes to the part in which the course is not so clear, it will become conscious; still, however, where the course is plain, as in breathing, digesting, &c., retaining unconsciousness. Thus organs which present all the appearance of being designed—as, for example, the tip for its beak prepared by the embryo chicken—would be prepared in the end, as it were, by rote, and without sense of design, though none the less owing their origin to design.
The question is not concerning evolution, but as to the main cause which has led to evolution in such and such shapes. To me it seems that the "Origin of Variation," whatever it is, is the only true "Origin of Species," and that this must, as Lamarck insisted, be looked for in the needs and experiences of the creatures varying. Unless we can explain the origin of variations, we are met by the unexplained AT EVERY STEP in the progress of a creature from its original homogeneous condition to its differentiation, we will say, as an elephant; so that to say that an elephant has become an elephant through the accumulation of a vast number of small, fortuitous, but unexplained, variations in some lower creatures, is really to say that it has become an elephant owing to a series of causes about which we know nothing whatever, or, in other words, that one does not know how it came to be an elephant. But to say that an elephant has become an elephant owing to a series of variations, nine-tenths of which were caused by the wishes of the creature or creatures from which the elephant is descended—this is to offer a reason, and definitely put the insoluble one step further back. The question will then turn upon the sufficiency of the reason—that is to say, whether the hypothesis is borne out by facts.
The effects of competition would, of course, have an extremely important effect upon any creature, in the same way as any other condition of nature under which it lived, must affect its sense of need and its opinions generally. The results of competition would be, as it were, the decisions of an arbiter settling the question whether such and such variation was really to the animal's advantage or not—a matter on which the animal will, on the whole, have formed a pretty fair judgement for itself. UNDOUBTEDLY THE PAST DECISIONS OF SUCH AN ARBITER WOULD AFFECT THE CONDUCT OF THE CREATURE, which would have doubtless had its shortcomings and blunders, and would amend them. The creature would shape its course according to its experience of the common course of events, but it would be continually trying and often successfully, to evade the law by all manner of sharp practice. New precedents would thus arise, so that the law would shift with time and circumstances; but the law would not otherwise direct the channels into which life would flow, than as laws, whether natural or artificial, have affected the development of the widely differing trades and professions among mankind. These have had their origin rather in the needs and experiences of mankind than in any laws.
To put much the same as the above in different words. Assume that small favourable variations are preserved more commonly, in proportion to their numbers, than is perhaps the case, and assume that considerable variations occur more rarely than they probably do occur, how account for any variation at all? "Natural selection" cannot CREATE the smallest variation unless it acts through perception of its mode of operation, recognised inarticulately, but none the less clearly, by the creature varying. "Natural selection" operates on what it finds, and not on what it has made. Animals that have been wise and lucky live longer and breed more than others less wise and lucky. Assuredly. The wise and lucky animals transmit their wisdom and luck. Assuredly. They add to their powers, and diverge into widely different directions. Assuredly. What is the cause of this? Surely the fact that they were capable of feeling needs, and that they differed in their needs and manner of gratifying them, and that they continued to live in successive generations, rather than the fact that when lucky and wise they thrived and bred more descendants. This last is an accessory hardly less important for the DEVELOPMENT of species than the fact of the continuation of life at all; but it is an accessory of much the same kind as this, for if animals continue to live at all, they must live IN SOME WAY, and will find that there are good ways and bad ways of living. An animal which discovers the good way will gradually develop further powers, and so species will get further and further apart; but the origin of this is to be looked for, not in the power which decides whether this or that way was good, but in the cause which determines the creature, consciously or unconsciously, to try this or that way.
But Mr. Darwin might say that this is not a fair way of stating the issue. He might say, "You beg the question; you assume that there is an inherent tendency in animals towards progressive development, whereas I say that there is no good evidence of any such tendency. I maintain that the differences that have from time to time arisen have come about mainly from causes so far beyond our ken, that we can only call them spontaneous; and if so, natural selection which you must allow to have at any rate played an important part in the ACCUMULATION of variations, must also be allowed to be the nearest thing to the cause of Specific differences, which we are able to arrive at."
Thus he writes ("Natural Selection," p. 176, ed. 1876): "Although we have no good evidence of the existence in organic beings of a tendency towards progressive development, yet this necessarily follows, as I have attempted to show in the fourth chapter, through the continued action of natural selection." Mr. Darwin does not say that organic beings have no tendency to vary at all, but only that there is no good evidence that they have a tendency to progressive development, which, I take it, means, to see an ideal a long way off, and very different to their present selves, which ideal they think will suit them, and towards which they accordingly make. I would admit this as contrary to all experience. I doubt whether plants and animals have any INNATE TENDENCY TO VARY at all, being led to question this by gathering from "Plants and Animals under Domestication" that this is Mr. Darwin's own opinion. I am inclined rather to think that they have only an innate POWER TO VARY slightly, in accordance with changed conditions, and an innate capability of being affected both in structure and instinct, by causes similar to those which we observe to affect ourselves. But however this may be, they do vary somewhat, and unless they did, they would not in time have come to be so widely different from each other as they now are. The question is as to the origin and character of these variations.
We say they mainly originate in a creature through a sense of its needs, and vary through the varying surroundings which will cause those needs to vary, and through the opening up of new desires in many creatures, as the consequence of the gratification of old ones; they depend greatly on differences of individual capacity and temperament; they are communicated, and in the course of time transmitted, as what we call hereditary habits or structures, though these are only, in truth, intense and epitomised memories of how certain creatures liked to deal with protoplasm. The question whether this or that is really good or ill, is settled, as the proof of the pudding by the eating thereof, i.e., by the rigorous competitive examinations through which most living organisms must pass. Mr. Darwin says that there is no good evidence in support of any great principle, or tendency on the part of the creature itself, which would steer variation, as it were, and keep its head straight, but that the most marvellous adaptations of structures to needs are simply the result of small and blind variations, accumulated by the operation of "natural selection," which is thus the main cause of the origin of species.
Enough has perhaps already been said to make the reader feel that the question wants reopening; I shall, therefore, here only remark that we may assume no fundamental difference as regards intelligence, memory, and sense of needs to exist between man and the lowest animals, and that in man we do distinctly see a tendency towards progressive development, operating through his power of profiting by and transmitting his experience, but operating in directions which man cannot foresee for any long distance. We also see this in many of the higher animals under domestication, as with horses which have learnt to canter and dogs which point; more especially we observe it along the line of latest development, where equilibrium of settled convictions has not yet been fully attained. One neither finds nor expects much a priori knowledge, whether in man or beast; but one does find some little in the beginnings of, and throughout the development of, every habit, at the commencement of which, and on every successive improvement in which, deductive and inductive methods are, as it were, fused. Thus the effect, where we can best watch its causes, seems mainly produced by a desire for a definite object—in some cases a serious and sensible desire, in others an idle one, in others, again, a mistaken one; and sometimes by a blunder which, in the hands of an otherwise able creature, has turned up trumps. In wild animals and plants the divergences have been accumulated, if they answered to the prolonged desires of the creature itself, and if these desires were to its true ultimate good; with plants or animals under domestication they have been accumulated if they answered a little to the original wishes of the creature, and much, to the wishes of man. As long as man continued to like them, they would be advantageous to the creature; when he tired of them, they would be disadvantageous to it, and would accumulate no longer. Surely the results produced in the adaptation of structure to need among many plants and insects are better accounted for on this, which I suppose to be Lamarck's view, namely, by supposing that what goes on amongst ourselves has gone on amongst all creatures, than by supposing that these adaptations are the results of perfectly blind and unintelligent variations.
Let me give two examples of such adaptations, taken from Mr. St. George Mivart's "Genesis of Species," to which work I would wish particularly to call the reader's attention. He should also read Mr. Darwin's answers to Mr. Mivart (p. 176, "Natural Selection," ed. 1876, and onwards).
Mr. Mivart writes:-
"Some insects which imitate leaves extend the imitation even to the very injuries on those leaves made by the attacks of insects or fungi. Thus speaking of the walking-stick insects, Mr. Wallace says, 'One of these creatures obtained by myself in Borneo (ceroxylus laceratus) was covered over with foliaceous excrescences of a clear olive green colour, so as exactly to resemble a stick grown over by a creeping moss or jungermannia. The Dyak who brought it me assured me it was grown over with moss, though alive, and it was only after a most minute examination that I could convince myself it was not so.' Again, as to the leaf butterfly, he says, 'We come to a still more extraordinary part of the imitation, for we find representations of leaves in every stage of decay, variously blotched, and mildewed, and pierced with holes, and in many cases irregularly covered with powdery black dots, gathered into patches and spots so closely resembling the various kinds of minute fungi that grow on dead leaves, that it is impossible to avoid thinking at first sight that the butterflies themselves have been attacked by real fungi.'"
I can no more believe that these artificial fungi in which the moth arrays itself are due to the accumulation of minute, perfectly blind, and unintelligent variations, than I can believe that the artificial flowers which a woman wears in her hat can have got there without design; or that a detective puts on plain clothes without the slightest intention of making his victim think that he is not a policeman.
Again Mr. Mivart writes:-
"In the work just referred to ('The Fertilisation of Orchids'), Mr. Darwin gives a series of the most wonderful and minute contrivances, by which the visits of insects are utilised for the fertilisation of orchids—structures so wonderful that nothing could well be more so, except the attribution of their origin to minute, fortuitous, and indefinite variations.
"The instances are too numerous and too long to quote, but in his 'Origin of Species' he describes two which must not be passed over. In one (coryanthes) the orchid has its lower lip enlarged into a bucket, above which stand two water-secreting horns. These latter replenish the bucket, from which, when half-filled, the water overflows by a spout on one side. Bees visiting the flower fall into the bucket and crawl out at the spout. By the peculiar arrangement of the parts of the flower, the first bee which does so, carries away the pollen mass glued to his back, and then when he has his next involuntary bath in another flower, as he crawls out, the pollen attached to him comes in contact with the stigma of that second flower and fertilises it. In the other example (catasetum), when a bee gnaws a certain part of the flower, he inevitably touches a long delicate projection which Mr. Darwin calls the 'antenna.' 'This antenna transmits a vibration to a membrane which is instantly ruptured; this sets free a spring by which the pollen mass is shot forth like an arrow in the right direction, and adheres by its viscid extremity to the back of the bee'" ("Genesis of Species," p. 63).
No one can tell a story so charmingly as Mr. Darwin, but I can no more believe that all this has come about without design on the part of the orchid, and a gradual perception of the advantages it is able to take over the bee, and a righteous determination to enjoy them, than I can believe that a mousetrap or a steam-engine is the result of the accumulation of blind minute fortuitous variations in a creature called man, which creature has never wanted either mousetraps or steam-engines, but has had a sort of promiscuous tendency to make them, and was benefited by making them, so that those of the race who had a tendency to make them survived and left issue, which issue would thus naturally tend to make more mousetraps and more steam-engines.
Pursuing this idea still further, can we for a moment believe that these additions to our limbs—for this is what they are—have mainly come about through the occasional birth of individuals, who, without design on their own parts, nevertheless made them better or worse, and who, accordingly, either survived and transmitted their improvement, or perished, they and their incapacity together?
When I can believe in this, then—and not till then—can I believe in an origin of species which does not resolve itself mainly into sense of need, faith, intelligence, and memory. Then, and not till then, can I believe that such organs as the eye and ear can have arisen in any other way than as the result of that kind of mental ingenuity, and of moral as well as physical capacity, without which, till then, I should have considered such an invention as the steam-engine to be impossible.
CHAPTER XIV—MR. MIVART AND MR. DARWIN
"A distinguished zoologist, Mr. St. George Mivart," writes Mr. Darwin, "has recently collected all the objections which have ever been advanced by myself and others against the theory of natural selection, as propounded by Mr. Wallace and myself, and has illustrated them with admirable art and force ("Natural Selection," p. 176, ed. 1876). I have already referred the reader to Mr. Mivart's work, but quote the above passage as showing that Mr. Mivart will not, probably, be found to have left much unsaid that would appear to make against Mr. Darwin's theory. It is incumbent upon me both to see how far Mr. Mivart's objections are weighty as against Mr. Darwin, and also whether or not they tell with equal force against the view which I am myself advocating. I will therefore touch briefly upon the most important of them, with the purpose of showing that they are serious as against the doctrine that small fortuitous variations are the origin of species, but that they have no force against evolution as guided by intelligence and memory.
But before doing this, I would demur to the words used by Mr. Darwin, and just quoted above, namely, "the theory of natural selection." I imagine that I see in them the fallacy which I believe to run through almost all Mr. Darwin's work, namely, that "natural selection" is a theory (if, indeed, it can be a theory at all), in some way accounting for the origin of variation, and so of species—"natural selection," as we have already seen, being unable to "induce variability," and being only able to accumulate what—on the occasion of each successive variation, and so during the whole process—must have been originated by something else.
Again, Mr. Darwin writes—"In considering the origin of species it is quite conceivable that a naturalist, reflecting on the mutual affinities of organic beings, or their embryological relations, their geographical distribution, geological succession, and other such facts, might come to the conclusion that species had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties from other species. Nevertheless, such a conclusion, even if well founded, would be unsatisfactory, until it could be shown how the innumerable species inhabiting this world had been modified, so as to acquire that perfection of structure and co-adaptation which justly excites our admiration" ("Origin of Species," p. 2, ed. 1876).
After reading the above we feel that nothing more satisfactory could be desired. We are sure that we are in the hands of one who can indeed tell us "how the innumerable species inhabiting this world have been modified," and we are no less sure that though others may have written upon the subject before, there has been, as yet, no satisfactory explanation put forward of the grand principle upon which modification has proceeded. Then follows a delightful volume, with facts upon facts concerning animals, all showing that species is due to successive small modifications accumulated in the course of nature. But one cannot suppose that Lamarck ever doubted this; for he can never have meant to say, that a low form of life made itself into an elephant at one or two great bounds; and if he did not mean this, he must have meant that it made itself into an elephant through the accumulation of small successive modifications; these, he must have seen, were capable of accumulation in the scheme of nature, though he may not have dwelt on the manner in which this is accomplished, inasmuch as it is obviously a matter of secondary importance in comparison with the origin of the variations themselves. We believe, however, throughout Mr. Darwin's book, that we are being told what we expected to be told; and so convinced are we, by the facts adduced, that in some way or other evolution must be true, and so grateful are we for being allowed to think this, that we put down the volume without perceiving that, whereas Lamarck DID adduce a great and general cause of variation, the insufficiency of which, in spite of errors of detail, has yet to be shown, Mr. Darwin's main cause of variation resolves itself into a confession of ignorance.
This, however, should detract but little from our admiration for Mr. Darwin's achievement. Any one can make people see a thing if he puts it in the right way, but Mr. Darwin made us see evolution, in spite of his having put it, in what seems to not a few, an exceedingly mistaken way. Yet his triumph is complete, for no matter how much any one now moves the foundation, he cannot shake the superstructure, which has become so currently accepted as to be above the need of any support from reason, and to be as difficult to destroy as it was originally difficult of construction. Less than twenty years ago, we never met with, or heard of, any one who accepted evolution; we did not even know that such a doctrine had been ever broached; unless it was that some one now and again said that there was a very dreadful book going about like a rampant lion, called "Vestiges of Creation," whereon we said that we would on no account read it, lest it should shake our faith; then we would shake our heads and talk of the preposterous folly and wickedness of such shallow speculations. Had not the book of Genesis been written for our learning? Yet, now, who seriously disputes the main principles of evolution? I cannot believe that there is a bishop on the bench at this moment who does not accept them; even the "holy priests" themselves bless evolution as their predecessors blessed Cleopatra—when they ought not. It is not he who first conceives an idea, nor he who sets it on its legs and makes it go on all fours, but he who makes other people accept the main conclusion, whether on right grounds or on wrong ones, who has done the greatest work as regards the promulgation of an opinion. And this is what Mr. Darwin has done for evolution. He has made us think that we know the origin of species, and so of genera, in spite of his utmost efforts to assure us that we know nothing of the causes from which the vast majority of modifications have arisen—that is to say, he has made us think we know the whole road, though he has almost ostentatiously blindfolded us at every step of the journey. But to the end of time, if the question be asked, "Who taught people to believe in evolution?" there can only be one answer—that it was Mr. Darwin.
Mr. Mivart urges with much force the difficulty of STARTING any modification on which "natural selection" is to work, and of getting a creature to vary in any definite direction. Thus, after quoting from Mr. Wallace some of the wonderful cases of "mimicry" which are to be found among insects, he writes:-
"Now, let us suppose that the ancestors of these various animals were all destitute of the very special protection they at present possess, as on the Darwinian hypothesis we must do. Let it be also conceded that small deviations from the antecedent colouring or form would tend to make some of their ancestors escape destruction, by causing them more or less frequently to be passed over or mistaken by their persecutors. Yet the deviation must, as the event has shown, in each case, be in some definite direction, whether it be towards some other animal or plant, or towards some dead or inorganic matter. But as, according to Mr. Darwin's theory, there is a constant tendency to indefinite variation, and as the minute incipient variations will be IN ALL DIRECTIONS, they must tend to neutralise each other, and at first to form such unstable modifications, that it is difficult, if not impossible, to see how such indefinite modifications of insignificant beginnings can ever build up a sufficiently appreciable resemblance to a leaf, bamboo, or other object for "natural selection," to seize upon and perpetuate. This difficulty is augmented when we consider—a point to be dwelt upon hereafter—how necessary it is that many individuals should be similarly modified simultaneously. This has been insisted on in an able article in the 'North British Review' for June 1867, p. 286, and the consideration of the article has occasioned Mr. Darwin" ("Origin of Species," 5th ed., p. 104) "to make an important modification in his views ("Genesis of Species," p. 38).
To this Mr. Darwin rejoins:-
"But in all the foregoing cases the insects in their original state, no doubt, presented some rude and accidental resemblance to an object commonly found in the stations frequented by them. Nor is this improbable, considering the almost infinite number of surrounding objects, and the diversity of form and colour of the host of insects that exist" ("Natural Selection," p. 182, ed. 1876).
Mr. Mivart has just said: "It is difficult to see how such indefinite modifications of insignificant beginnings CAN EVER BUILD UP A SUFFICIENTLY APPRECIABLE RESEMBLANCE TO A LEAF, BAMBOO, OR OTHER OBJECT, FOR 'NATURAL SELECTION' TO WORK UPON."
The answer is, that "natural selection" did not begin to work UNTIL, FROM UNKNOWN CAUSES, AN APPRECIABLE RESEMBLANCE HAD NEVERTHELESS BEEN PRESENTED. I think the reader will agree with me that the development of the lowest life into a creature which bears even "a rude resemblance" to the objects commonly found in the station in which it is moving in its present differentiation, requires more explanation than is given by the word "accidental."
Mr. Darwin continues: "As some rude resemblance is necessary for the first start," &c.; and a little lower he writes: "Assuming that an insect originally happened to resemble in some degree a dead twig or a decayed leaf, and that it varied slightly in many ways, then all the variations which rendered the insect at all more like any such object, and thus favoured its escape, would be preserved, while other variations would be neglected, and ultimately lost, or if they rendered the insect at all less like the imitated object, they would be eliminated."
But here, again, we are required to begin with Natural Selection when the work is already in great part done, owing to causes about which we are left completely in the dark; we may, I think, fairly demur to the insects ORIGINALLY happening to resemble in some degree a dead twig or a decayed leaf. And when we bear in mind that the variations, being supposed by Mr. Darwin to be indefinite, or devoid of aim, will appear in every direction, we cannot forget what Mr. Mivart insists upon, namely, that the chances of many favourable variations being counteracted by other unfavourable ones in the same creature are not inconsiderable. Nor, again, is it likely that the favourable variation would make its mark upon the race, and escape being absorbed in the course of a few generations, unless—as Mr. Mivart elsewhere points out, in a passage to which I shall call the reader's attention presently—a larger number of similarly varying creatures made their appearance at the same time than there seems sufficient reason to anticipate, if the variations can be called fortuitous.
"There would," continues Mr. Darwin, "indeed be force in Mr. Mivart's objection if we were to attempt to account for the above resemblances, independently of 'natural selection,' through mere fluctuating variability; but as the case stands, there is none."
This comes to saying that, if there was no power in nature which operates so that of all the many fluctuating variations, those only are preserved which tend to the resemblance which is beneficial to the creature, then indeed there would be difficulty in understanding how the resemblance could have come about; but that as there is a beneficial resemblance to start with, and as there is a power in nature which would preserve and accumulate further beneficial resemblance, should it arise from this cause or that, the difficulty is removed. But Mr. Mivart does not, I take it, deny the existence of such a power in nature, as Mr. Darwin supposes, though, if I understand him rightly, he does not see that its operation UPON SMALL FORTUITOUS VARIATIONS is at all the simple and obvious process, which on a superficial view of the case it would appear to be. He thinks— and I believe the reader will agree with him—that this process is too slow and too risky. What he wants to know is, how the insect came even rudely to resemble the object, and how, if its variations are indefinite, we are ever to get into such a condition as to be able to report progress, owing to the constant liability of the creature which has varied favourably, to play the part of Penelope and undo its work, by varying in some one of the infinite number of other directions which are open to it—all of which, except this one, tend to destroy the resemblance, and yet may be in some other respect even more advantageous to the creature, and so tend to its preservation. Moreover, here, too, I think (though I cannot be sure), we have a recurrence of the original fallacy in the words—"If we were to account for the above resemblances, independently of 'natural selection,' through mere fluctuating variability." Surely Mr. Darwin does, after all, "account for the resemblances through mere fluctuating variability," for "natural selection" does not account for one single variation in the whole list of them from first to last, other than indirectly, as shewn in the preceding chapter.
It is impossible for me to continue this subject further; but I would beg the reader to refer to other paragraphs in the neighbourhood of the one just quoted, in which he may—though I do not think he will— see reason to think that I should have given Mr. Darwin's answer more fully. I do not quote Mr. Darwin's next paragraph, inasmuch as I see no great difficulty about "the last touches of perfection in mimicry," provided Mr. Darwin's theory will account for any mimicry at all. If it could do this, it might as well do more; but a strong impression is left on my mind, that without the help of something over and above the power to vary, which should give a definite aim to variations, all the "natural selection" in the world would not have prevented stagnation and self-stultification, owing to the indefinite tendency of the variations, which thus could not have developed either a preyer or a preyee, but would have gone round and round and round the primordial cell till they were weary of it.
As against Mr. Darwin, therefore, I think that the objection just given from Mr. Mivart is fatal. I believe, also, that the reader will feel the force of it much more strongly if he will turn to Mr. Mivart's own pages. Against the view which I am myself supporting, the objection breaks down entirely, for grant "a little dose of judgement and reason" on the part of the creature itself—grant also continued personality and memory—and a definite tendency is at once given to the variations. The process is thus started, and is kept straight, and helped forward through every stage by "the little dose of reason," &c., which enabled it to take its first step. We are, in fact, no longer without a helm, but can steer each creature that is so discontented with its condition, as to make a serious effort to better itself, into SOME—and into a very distant—harbour.
It has been objected against Mr. Darwin's theory that if all species and genera have come to differ through the accumulation of minute but—as a general rule—fortuitous variations, there has not been time enough, so far as we are able to gather, for the evolution of all existing forms by so slow a process. On this subject I would again refer the reader to Mr. Mivart's book, from which I take the following:-
"Sir William Thompson has lately advanced arguments from three distinct lines of inquiry agreeing in one approximate result. The three lines of inquiry are—(1) the action of the tides upon the earth's rotation; (2) the probable length of time during which the sun has illuminated this planet; and (3) the temperature of the interior of the earth. The result arrived at by these investigations is a conclusion that the existing state of things on the earth, life on the earth, all geological history showing continuity of life, must be limited within some such period of past time as one hundred million years. The first question which suggests itself, supposing Sir W. Thompson's views to be correct, is: Has this period been anything like enough for the evolution of all organic forms by 'natural selection'? The second is: Has the period been anything like enough for the deposition of the strata which must have been deposited if all organic forms have been evolved by minute steps, according to the Darwinian theory?" ("Genesis of Species," p. 154).
Mr. Mivart then quotes from Mr. Murphy—whose work I have not seen— the following passage:-
"Darwin justly mentions the greyhound as being equal to any natural species in the perfect co-ordination of its parts, 'all adapted for extreme fleetness and for running down weak prey.' Yet it is an artificial species (and not physiologically a species at all) formed by a long-continued selection under domestication; and there is no reason to suppose that any of the variations which have been selected to form it have been other than gradual and almost imperceptible. Suppose that it has taken five hundred years to form the greyhound out of his wolf-like ancestor. This is a mere guess, but it gives the order of magnitude. Now, if so, how long would it take to obtain an elephant from a protozoon or even from a tadpole-like fish? Ought it not to take much more than a million times as long?" ("Genesis of Species," p. 155).
I should be very sorry to pronounce any opinion upon the foregoing data; but a general impression is left upon my mind, that if the differences between an elephant and a tadpole-like fish have arisen from the accumulation of small variations that have had no direction given them by intelligence and sense of needs, then no time conceivable by man would suffice for their development. But grant "a little dose of reason and judgement," even to animals low down in the scale of nature, and grant this, not only during their later life, but during their embryological existence, and see with what infinitely greater precision of aim and with what increased speed the variations would arise. Evolution entirely unaided by inherent intelligence must be a very slow, if not quite inconceivable, process. Evolution helped by intelligence would still be slow, but not so desperately slow. One can conceive that there has been sufficient time for the second, but one cannot conceive it for the first.
I find from Mr. Mivart that objection has been taken to Mr. Darwin's views, on account of the great odds that exist against the appearance of any given variation at one and the same time, in a sufficient number of individuals, to prevent its being obliterated almost as soon as produced by the admixture of unvaried blood which would so greatly preponderate around it; and indeed the necessity for a nearly simultaneous and similar variation, or readiness so to vary on the part of many individuals, seems almost a postulate for evolution at all. On this subject Mr. Mivart writes:-
"The 'North British Review' (speaking of the supposition that species is changed by the survival of a few individuals in a century through a similar and favourable variation) says -
"'It is very difficult to see how this can be accomplished, even when the variation is eminently favourable indeed; and still more, when the advantage gained is very slight, as must generally be the case. The advantage, whatever it may be, is utterly outbalanced by numerical inferiority. A million creatures are born; ten thousand survive to produce offspring. One of the million has twice as good a chance as any other of surviving, but the chances are fifty to one against the gifted individuals being one of the hundred survivors. No doubt the chances are twice as great against any other individual, but this does not prevent their being enormously in favour of SOME average individual. However slight the advantage may be, if it is shared by half the individuals produced, it will probably be present in at least fifty-one of the survivors, and in a larger proportion of their offspring; but the chances are against the preservation of any one "sport" (i.e., sudden marked variation) in a numerous tribe. The vague use of an imperfectly-understood doctrine of chance, has led Darwinian supporters, first, to confuse the two cases above distinguished, and secondly, to imagine that a very slight balance in favour of some individual sport must lead to its perpetuation. All that can be said is that in the above example the favoured sport would be preserved once in fifty times. Let us consider what will be its influence on the main stock when preserved. It will breed and have a progeny of say 100; now this progeny will, on the whole, be intermediate between the average individual and the sport. The odds in favour of one of this generation of the new breed will be, say one and a half to one, as compared with the average individual; the odds in their favour will, therefore, be less than that of their parents; but owing to their greater number the chances are that about one and a half of them would survive. Unless these breed together—a most improbable event—their progeny would again approach the average individual; there would be 150 of them, and their superiority would be, say in the ratio of one and a quarter to one; the probability would now be that nearly two of them would survive, and have 200 children with an eighth superiority. Rather more than two of these would survive; but the superiority would again dwindle; until after a few generations it would no longer be observed, and would count for no more in the struggle for life than any of the hundred trifling advantages which occur in the ordinary organs.
"'An illustration will bring this conception home. Suppose a white man to have been wrecked on an island inhabited by negroes, and to have established himself in friendly relations with a powerful tribe, whose customs he has learnt. Suppose him to possess the physical strength, energy, and ability of a dominant white race, and let the food of the island suit his constitution; grant him every advantage which we can conceive a white to possess over the native; concede that in the struggle for existence, his chance of a long life will be much superior to that of the native chiefs; yet from all these admissions there does not follow the conclusion, that after a limited or unlimited number of generations, the inhabitants of the island will be white. Our shipwrecked hero would probably become king; he would kill a great many blacks in the struggle for existence; he would have a great many wives and children . . . In the first generation there will be some dozens of intelligent young mulattoes, much superior in average intelligence to the negroes. We might expect the throne for some generations to be occupied by a more or less yellow king; but can any one believe that the whole island will gradually acquire a white, or even a yellow population? . . . Darwin says, that in the struggle for life a grain may turn the balance in favour of a given structure, which will then be preserved. But one of the weights in the scale of nature is due to the number of a given tribe. Let there be 7000 A's and 7000 B's representing two varieties of a given animal, and let all the B's, in virtue of a slight difference of structure, have the better chance by one-thousandth part. We must allow that there is a slight probability that the descendants of B will supplant the descendants of A; but let there be 7001 A's against 7000 B's at first, and the chances are once more equal, while if there be 7002 A's to start, the odds would be laid on the A's. Thus they stand a greater chance of being killed; but, then, they can better afford to be killed. The grain will only turn the scales when these are very nicely balanced, and an advantage in numbers counts for weight, even as an advantage in structure. As the numbers of the favoured variety diminish, so must its relative advantages increase, if the chance of its existence is to surpass the chance of its extinction, until hardly any conceivable advantage would enable the descendants of a single pair to exterminate the descendants of many thousands, if they and their descendants are supposed to breed freely with the inferior variety, and so gradually lose their ascendancy,'" ("North British Review," June 1867, p. 286 "Genesis of Species," p. 64, and onwards).
Against this it should be remembered that there is always an antecedent probability that several specimens of a given variation would appear at one time and place. This would probably be the case even on Mr. Darwin's hypothesis, that the variations are fortuitous; if they are mainly guided by sense of need and intelligence, it would almost certainly be so, for all would have much the same idea as to their well-being, and the same cause which would lead one to vary in this direction would lead not a few others to do so at the same time, or to follow suit. Thus we see that many human ideas and inventions have been conceived independently but simultaneously. The chances, moreover, of specimens that have varied successfully, intermarrying, are, I think, greater than the reviewer above quoted from would admit. I believe that on the hypothesis that the variations are fortuitous, and certainly on the supposition that they are intelligent, they might be looked for in members of the same family, who would hence have a better chance of finding each other out. Serious as is the difficulty advanced by the reviewer as against Mr. Darwin's theory, it may be in great measure parried without departing from Mr. Darwin's own position, but the "little dose of judgement and reason" removes it, absolutely and entirely. As for the reviewer's shipwrecked hero, surely the reviewer must know that Mr. Darwin would no more expect an island of black men to be turned white, or even perceptibly whitened after a few generations, than the reviewer himself would do so. But if we turn from what "might" or what "would" happen to what "does" happen, we find that a few white families have nearly driven the Indian from the United States, the Australian natives from Australia, and the Maories from New Zealand. True, these few families have been helped by immigration; but it will be admitted that this has only accelerated a result which would otherwise, none the less surely, have been effected.
There is all the difference between a sudden sport, or even a variety introduced from a foreign source, and the gradual, intelligent, and, in the main, steady, growth of a race towards ends always a little, but not much, in advance of what it can at present compass, until it has reached equilibrium with its surroundings. So far as Mr. Darwin's variations are of the nature of "sport," i.e., rare, and owing to nothing that we can in the least assign to any known cause, the reviewer's objections carry much weight. Against the view here advocated, they are powerless.
I cannot here go into the difficulties of the geologic record, but they too will, I believe, be felt to be almost infinitely simplified by supposing the development of structure and instinct to be guided by intelligence and memory, which, even under unstable conditions, would be able to meet in some measure the demands made upon them.
When Mr. Mivart deals with evolution and ethics, I am afraid that I differ from him even more widely than I have done from Mr. Darwin. He writes ("Genesis of Species," p. 234): "That 'natural selection' could not have produced from the sensations of pleasure and pain experienced by brutes a higher degree of morality than was useful; therefore it could have produced any amount of 'beneficial habits,' but not abhorrence of certain acts as impure and sinful."
Possibly "natural selection" may not be able to do much in the way of accumulating variations that do not arise; but that, according to the views supported in this volume, all that is highest and most beautiful in the soul, as well as in the body, could be, and has been, developed from beings lower than man, I do not greatly doubt. Mr. Mivart and myself should probably differ as to what is and what is not beautiful. Thus he writes of "the noble virtue of a Marcus Aurelius" (p. 235), than whom, for my own part, I know few respectable figures in history to whom I am less attracted. I cannot but think that Mr. Mivart has taken his estimate of this emperor at second-hand, and without reference to the writings which happily enable us to form a fair estimate of his real character.
Take the opening paragraphs of the "Thoughts" of Marcus Aurelius, as translated by Mr. Long:-
"From the reputation and remembrance of my father [I learned] modesty and a manly character; from my mother, piety and beneficence, abstinence not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts. . . . From my great-grandfather, not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home, and to know that on such things a man should spend liberally . . . From Diognetus . . . [I learned] to have become intimate with philosophy, . . . and to have written dialogues in my youth, and to have desired a plank bed and skin, and whatever else of the kind belongs to the Greek discipline. . . . From Rusticus I received the impression that my character required improvement and discipline;" and so on to the end of the chapter, near which, however, it is right to say that there appears a redeeming touch, in so far as that he thanks the gods that he could not write poetry, and that he had never occupied himself about the appearance of things in the heavens.
Or, again, opening Mr. Long's translation at random I find (p. 37):-
"As physicians have always their instruments and knives ready for cases which suddenly require their skill, so do thou have principles ready for the understanding of things divine and human, and for doing everything, even the smallest, with a recollection of the bond that unites the divine and human to one another. For neither wilt thou do anything well which pertains to man without at the same time having a reference to things divine; nor the contrary."
Unhappy one! No wonder the Roman empire went to pieces soon after him. If I remember rightly, he established and subsidised professorships in all parts of his dominions. Whereon the same befell the arts and literature of Rome as befell Italian painting after the Academic system had taken root at Bologna under the Caracci. Mr. Martin Tupper, again, is an amiable and well-meaning man, but we should hardly like to see him in Lord Beaconsfield's place. The Athenians poisoned Socrates; and Aristophanes—than whom few more profoundly religious men have ever been born—did not, so far as we can gather, think the worse of his countrymen on that account. It is not improbable that if they had poisoned Plato too, Aristophanes would have been well enough pleased; but I think he would have preferred either of these two men to Marcus Aurelius.
I know nothing about the loving but manly devotion of a St. Lewis, but I strongly suspect that Mr. Mivart has taken him, too, upon hearsay.
On the other hand, among dogs we find examples of every heroic quality, and of all that is most perfectly charming to us in man.
As for the possible development of the more brutal human natures from the more brutal instincts of the lower animals, those who read a horrible story told in a note, pp. 233, 234 of Mr. Mivart's "Genesis of Species," will feel no difficulty on that score. I must admit, however, that the telling of that story seems to me to be a mistake in a philosophical work, which should not, I think, unless under compulsion, deal either with the horrors of the French Revolution—or of the Spanish or Italian Inquisition.
For the rest of Mr. Mivart's objections, I must refer the reader to his own work. I have been unable to find a single one, which I do not believe to be easily met by the Lamarckian view, with the additions (if indeed they are additions, for I must own to no very profound knowledge of what Lamarck did or did not say), which I have in this volume proposed to make to it. At the same time I admit, that as against the Darwinian view, many of them seem quite unanswerable.
CHAPTER XV—CONCLUDING REMARKS
Here, then, I leave my case, though well aware that I have crossed the threshold only of my subject. My work is of a tentative character, put before the public as a sketch or design for a, possibly, further endeavour, in which I hope to derive assistance from the criticisms which this present volume may elicit. Such as it is, however, for the present I must leave it.
We have seen that we cannot do anything thoroughly till we can do it unconsciously, and that we cannot do anything unconsciously till we can do it thoroughly; this at first seems illogical; but logic and consistency are luxuries for the gods, and the lower animals, only. Thus a boy cannot really know how to swim till he can swim, but he cannot swim till he knows how to swim. Conscious effort is but the process of rubbing off the rough corners from these two contradictory statements, till they eventually fit into one another so closely that it is impossible to disjoin them.
Whenever, therefore, we see any creature able to go through any complicated and difficult process with little or no effort—whether it be a bird building her nest, or a hen's egg making itself into a chicken, or an ovum turning itself into a baby—we may conclude that the creature has done the same thing on a very great number of past occasions.
We found the phenomena exhibited by heredity to be so like those of memory, and to be so utterly inexplicable on any other supposition, that it was easier to suppose them due to memory in spite of the fact that we cannot remember having recollected, than to believe that because we cannot so remember, therefore the phenomena cannot be due to memory.
We were thus led to consider "personal identity," in order to see whether there was sufficient reason for denying that the experience, which we must have clearly gained somewhere, was gained by us when we were in the persons of our forefathers; we found, not without surprise, that unless we admitted that it might be so gained, in so far as that we once ACTUALLY WERE our remotest ancestor, we must change our ideas concerning personality altogether.
We therefore assumed that the phenomena of heredity, whether as regards instinct or structure were mainly due to memory of past experiences, accumulated and fused till they had become automatic, or quasi automatic, much in the same way as after a long life -
. . "Old experience do attain To something like prophetic strain."
After dealing with certain phenomena of memory, but more especially with its abeyance and revival, we inquired what the principal corresponding phenomena of life and species should be, on the hypothesis that they were mainly due to memory.
I think I may say that we found the hypothesis fit in with actual facts in a sufficiently satisfactory manner. We found not a few matters, as, for example, the sterility of hybrids, the phenomena of old age, and puberty as generally near the end of development, explain themselves with more completeness than I have yet heard of their being explained on any other hypothesis.
We considered the most important difficulty in the way of instinct as hereditary habit, namely, the structure and instincts of neuter insects; these are very unlike those of their parents, and cannot apparently be transmitted to offspring by individuals of the previous generation, in whom such structure and instincts appeared, inasmuch as these creatures are sterile. I do not say that the difficulty is wholly removed, inasmuch as some obscurity must be admitted to remain as to the manner in which the structure of the larva is aborted; this obscurity is likely to remain till we know more of the early history of civilisation among bees than I can find that we know at present; but I believe the difficulty was reduced to such proportions as to make it little likely to be felt in comparison with that of attributing instinct to any other cause than inherited habit, or inherited habit modified by changed conditions.
We then inquired what was the great principle underlying variation, and answered, with Lamarck, that it must be "sense of need;" and though not without being haunted by suspicion of a vicious circle, and also well aware that we were not much nearer the origin of life than when we started, we still concluded that here was the truest origin of species, and hence of genera; and that the accumulation of variations, which in time amounted to specific and generic differences, was due to intelligence and memory on the part of the creature varying, rather than to the operation of what Mr. Darwin has called "natural selection." At the same time we admitted that the course of nature is very much as Mr. Darwin has represented it, in this respect, in so far as that there is a struggle for existence, and that the weaker must go to the wall. But we denied that this part of the course of nature would lead to much, if any, accumulation of variation, unless the variation was directed mainly by intelligent sense of need, with continued personality and memory.