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STRICTURES ON MR DARWIN'S THEORY.
We have now to return to Mr Darwin's Theory, and still further to examine its claims to our acknowledgment of its authority as an interpreter of Nature.
M. Flourens has well said, * Natural Selection is only Nature under another name' (31); and again, “Either Natural Selection is nothing, or it is Nature, but Nature endowed with the attribute of Selection—NATURE PERSONIFIED, which is the last error of the last century; the nineteenth century has done with personifications' (53).
This is indeed an exact analysis of Mr Darwin's metaphor. Natural Selection is organization, and selects itself.
Now that Natural Selection is indeed Nature, in this Theory, and nothing more, is evident not only from the general course of the argument, and the statements with which it is supported, but from some passages of the author which leave no doubt on the subject. Having spoken of Nature in the previous sentence, he goes on to say, 'she can act on every internal organ, on every shade of constitutional difference, on the whole machinery of life. Man selects only for his own good, Nature only for that of the being which she tends. Every selected character is fully examined by her, and the being is placed under well-suited conditions of life.'
* L'élection naturelle n'est sous un autre nom que la nature. Pour un être organisé, la nature n'est que l'organisation, ni plus, ni moins. Il faudra donc aussi personnifier l'organisation, et dire que l'organisation choisit l'organisation. L'élection naturelle est cette forme substantielle dont ou jouait autrefois avec tant de facilité. Aristote disait que “si l'art de batir était dans le bois, cet art agirait comme la nature." A la place de l'art de batir M. Darwin met l'élection naturelle, et c'est tout un : l'un n'est pas plus chimérique que l'autre' (p. 31).
Could studied language, seeking to express the personality of Nature, and to endow her with discrimination and accurate judgment, go further than this ? Take again this statement :
*Slow though the process of selection may be, if feeble man can do much by his powers of artificial selection, I can see no limit to the amount of change, to the beauty and infinite complexity of the co-adaptations between all organic beings, one with another, and with their physical conditions of life, which may be effected in the long course of time by Nature's power of Selection’ (115).
Ilere the personification rises in intensity: if 'feeble man’ can do much in improving domestic animals and plants, how much more can powerful Nature do in the way of mutation, having so great a measure of time for her operations. Observe, that powerful' is implied in the contrast to feeble man ;' and observe, also, that the argument also urges that if man selects, and by selection produces improved and beautiful varieties, much more can Nature do in this way; implying that she is much more intelligent, and wise, and has a more refined eye for beauty, than the artificer man. But whence conies this 'beauty?' We have already seen that Natural Selection spurns beauty, that beauty is no part of the design of Nature, and that if it were so, it would be fatal to the Author's Thcory, by his own confession. Ilow then
comes it that there would be 'no limit to the beauty of organized beings ? On such a system we should rather have expected that there would be ‘no limit to the ugliness.' And how comes it that we, the most exalted and improved of apes, have come to appreciate beauty and to admire it, and to be fascinated with it in form, colour, harınony, contrivance, and adaptation ? who gave us this faculty to admire beauty ? Natural Selection was our maker, and yet Natural Selection takes no account of beauty; how can we have got any faculty but as we derived it by improvement from our forefathers, the anthropoidal patriarchs of the tropical forests ? Is it an improvement to comprehend and admire beauty ? It either is or is not an improvement; if it is, then Natural Selection, which disregards beauty, improved us by enabling us to value it! Our creatrix, therefore, improved us by making us esteem that which she disapproves ! Surely this must be regarded as a mistake. Or if it be not a mistake, then it is no improvement to have an eye and a taste for beauty; and the blue-tailed baboons, and the howling monkeys, and the hideous gorillas are superior to us in the satisfaction they feel in their fiendlike females.
But this is not all: 'if feeble man can do much by his powers of selection,'-—what does man do? He makes varieties, and cannot make anything more, and if he withholds his hand the varieties disappear; but Nature, according to the Theory, makes new species. Here then is implied, that which is implied throughout the whole Theory, that variety and mutation are the same. When we produce by cultivation a new variety of a rose, we know how far we have gone, and we know that we have not made a new species, and cannot do so; but if a rose
this result, being artificial, disappears with the attention which has produced it.
When a horticulturist chooses his best specimens for reproduction, or simply suppresses the worst, it is evident that the descendants obtained by this process will present, on an average, a higher degree of improvement. But if this process of careful selection is relaxed, the new race falls back into its state of anterior equilibrium.
Mr Darwin, it is true, imagines an effect of a struggle for life, which would fulfil, in an unconscious and permanent manner, this function of Observer, adequate to destroy the inferior creatures. In this view of the question, Mr Darwin seems to us to be greatly in error, for a struggle for life is injurious to all that are subject to it, good as well as bad.
When two plants or two animals press upon one an. other and dispute for existence, they injure one another mutually much more than they make a difference between two subjects of the same Species; if one triumphs over the other, it is simply that the one which has been less injured gains the victory.
Supposing ten trees should fix their roots where one only could have successfully grown without this struggle or competition, the ten, in spite of this competition, or rather on account of it, will grow miserably stunted. Neverthe. less competition has played its part in hindering the development of many seeds and off-sets.
'If ill-fed animals fall upon a meagre pasture, the more insufficient it is, the more do they devour it with an eager competition. Nevertheless the most favoured is far from being satisfied, as he might have been if he had been alone, that is to say, without this struggle for food.
'If a tribe of people is expelled from a good soil to a miserable one, as the Irish of Armagh and Down, who were driven into the barony of Flews, the struggle for life becomes indeed serious, but they nevertheless all degenerate. It does not terminate in some of them improving, and becoming greatly superior to the others.
'In one word, the struggle for life only keeps the productive power of beings, the germs of which are always superabundant, in an equilibrium with the resources of the soil; and nothing authorizes Mr Darwin to suppose that the very feeble difference of action with which it bears on individuals of the same species, is superior to the injurious competition with which it acts on all of them.
Mr Darwin, like many others, wanted an explanation for the phenomena which surround us, and he has not perceived that everywhere and in all times beings were developed in proportion to the qualities of the soil to which they belong. The augmentation of these qualities must therefore determine the qualities of the beings themselves ’ (228).
......... According to Mr Darwin, this law of progress by Selection only takes account of cases of perfection ; and cannot, as he himself acknowledges, account for cases of degeneracy, which are nevertheless so very numerous. Thus is he driven by his system to deny every instance of the sort. Nevertheless no one will admit that the white man has made progress in assuming the negro .type, although Mr Darwin can say with reason that the constitution of the negro agrees better than ours with the contions of life in Central Africa—in the same way that the constitution of the earth-worm agrees better with its condition than ours. Moreover, in explaining how it is that the island and the little continents have fewer species than