Page images

with short beaks, and 'rigorously selecting' strong beaks or weak egg-shells! We may, however, in passing, observe, that in this very slow' process it is obvious that the whole breed would be dead and gone some ten thonsand years, perhaps, before one beak had been made strong enough. If the greater part perish at present under existing arrangements, Natural Selection must accelerate her movements, or her plan will fail.

Here then is the illusion: Natural Selection is continually, and many times in every chapter, spoken of as if it were something exterior to the organized being, a power inspecting* and watching opportunities, when in reality it is nothing but the organization of the being itself; and it is quite apparent that Mr Darwin by repeatedly using this language has felt the reaction of it upon himself, and has been overpowered by it; we need not therefore wonder if many an incautious Reader should be misled, when the Author misleads himself.

Unless favourable variations be inherited by some at least of the offspring, nothing can be effected by Natural Selection' (107). Now we have seen that the true sense of Natural Selection is Nature in the organized being, or organization. Let us read the above sentence then as thus corrected, and we shall have it : Unless favourable variations be inherited by some at least of the offspring, nothing can be effected by organization,' or, unless organization be varied, organization cannot vary.

To this sapless sentence something however much more significant is added. 'Non-inheritance of any new character is, in fact, the same thing as reversion to the character.

Mr Darwin delines it a power incessantly ready for action' (64).

[ocr errors]

Å dy


2 .
. HAN : -1


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

les nuances plus ou moins tranchées, des variétés d'une même espèce. La mutabilité c'est tout autre chose ; c'est le changement radical d'une espèce en une autre, et ce changement ne s'est jamais vu' (32):

Many passages from Mr Darwin's book might be adduced fully justifying these strictures of M. Flourens ; the following sentence involves this confusion of terms:

If the tendency to reversion has not prevented man írom creating innumerable hereditary races in the animal and vegetable world, why should it have stopped the process of Natural Selection?' (107). Man has cultivated, for instance, the breed of dogs, and has successfully produced hereditary races—the greyhound, the foxhound, &c.; he has also produced varieties of plants, some of which are fertile : but in neither of these cases has he broken through the barrier of species, he has produced varieties only; but Natural Selection radically changes, according to the Theory, the Species-changes a bustard into an ostrich, a horse into a tapir, &c. When, therefore, we 'create innumerable hereditary races,' we do nothing at all like Natural Selection, we keep within the limits of Nature. Natural Selection spurns those barriers, and makes new creations altogether. “The tendency to reversion to ancestors' does not prevent us accomplishing our object of producing varieties, but if we were to attempt to form a new Species (that which Natural Selection makes her principal business), we should be prevented immediately. The alleged attribute of Natural Selection is mutation, transformation, change; we confine ourselves to vary existing forms, but never pretend to change their nature. Our operations therefore cannot in any way be compared to those of Natural Selection. Now this is no trifling matter in an

examination of the Theory, for if it were allowed to pass that our artificial variations are equivalent to the mutations effected by Vatural Selection, then the Theory would be proved at once. This certainly is assumed by Mr Darwin, but the assumption must be utterly repudiated; nothing can be further apart in intrinsic meaning than our artificial variations and the transformations of Natural Selection.

Neither should the wording of the passage before us be allowed to pass unnoticed: 'man creates innumerable hereditary races.' Creation in this discussion is a term that would awaken all the suspicious sensibilities of a Transmutationist. Mr Darwin would not allow us to say that an animal is created, we therefore cannot permit hiin to make us creators in order that he may turn round upon us and claim as much for his Vatural Selection. We are suspicious of metaphorical language in this discussion, and we have good reason to be so, for it is no secret to us that a metaphor is in Vr Darwin's hands a Trojan horse, which, if once admitted, 'monstrum sacratâ sistimus arce.'

But there is a still deeper mistery in Vatural Selection, which, if nothing else, is certainly a mystery of words. * The action of Natural Selection will depend on some of the inhabitants becoming slowly modifield, the mutual re. lations of many of the other inhabitants being thus disturbed. Nothing can be effected unless furourable rariations occur, and variation itself is always a slow process' (114). The real meaning of this is that unless animals or plants begin to change they never will be changed, a proposition not very hazardous. But how do these changes

• Perhaps Mr Darwin has provided for these occurrences of variatious by the following new law of nature :

I am strongly inclined to suspect that both in the vegetable and animal kingdom, an occasional intercross with a distinct indiridual is a law


begin? They are called variations, modifications, sometimes plastic tendencies : they may have many more names which ingenuity might invent, but, let them be called what they may, they are supposed to be accidental occurrences, laid hold of by keen-eyed Natural Selection, who is always on the watch to turn to the best account any 'modifications' that may occur. The pre-elephant, whatever sort of animal that might be, had no proboscis, but some slight modification' in the nasal regions occurred,' and they were worked out slowly, by Natural Selection, till at last the proboscis with its many thousand muscles was duly formed. These accidental occurrences must indeed have been numerous, for they have been the exciting cause of every species of every organized being that exists, or ever has existed : unless some modification had occurred in a fish it never would have had a tail; unless some variation had appeared in the predecessor of a nettle it never could have had a sting; and so on throughout the whole realm of nature. Many myriads of these variations' must have occurred, and must indeed at present be at work, for Mr Darwin assures us that varieties are incipient species, and yet not one single instance of these advancing modifications has ever been detected, whilst on the contrary everything seems to prove the fixedness of the plan of Nature. If ever there was a case in which the rule 'de

of nature. I am well aware that there are, on this view, many cases of difficulty, some of which I am trying to investigate' (106).

Would it not have been better if the learned author had thoroughly investigated, and satisfactorily parried, all these difficulties (not some of them only), before he ventured to publish, on suspicion, a new law of nature ? An occasional intercross with a distinct’individual means an intercross with an individual of another species. What a wonderful law this must be which brings about these exceptional cases only occasionally! It is not difficult to understand the object of this law, it is, in fact, to allow free scope to Natural Selection.

« PreviousContinue »