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animals, all of which, according to the theory, have been produced fortuitously by Natural Selection, the chances would be almost infinite against all these creatures having been turned out loose into Nature by mere accident, to live by destruction, and yet at the end of ages appearing to be neither too many nor too few.
Here then again we say, and we shall still have to repeat it, that Mr Darwin proposes an intelligent and sagacious scheme without an intellect that could have devised it; we are told that the balance is well-poised, but there is no mind to inspect or maintain the balance; and a wonderful problem has been solved without calculation.
We are told that “the modified offspring from the more highly improved branches in the line of descent will, it is probable, often take the place of, and so destroy, the earlier and less improved branches' (125); but how can Mr Darwin undertake to say that any animal is less improved' than it ought to be; and what does he mean by improving animals ? Is there any animal not rightly and adequately organized for the position it occupies in Nature ? What animal will Mr Darwin name which needs improvement, in what respect is it deficient, and what improvement would he suggest ? Nay, has he not himself said, when pressed by another argument, 'Who will pretend that he knows the natural history of any organic being sufficiently well to say whether any particular change would be to its advantage?' (139); and in another passage, where he is still harder pressed, he, for the occasion, abandons his Theory, and comes round to our side of the question: What advantage would it be to an intestinal worm, or even to an earth-worm, to be highly organized ?' (135). This is just what we ask, and applying this question to the whole scale of being, we ask what advantage would it be to improve the organization of a tapir, a pig, a camel, a bustard, an ostrich, or any of those animals which we have seen transformed in this theory ?
But mark the inconsistency! Though Mr Darwin can ask these questions of common sense when it suits his purpose, yet he tells us, in plain contradiction to these sentiments, that “the ultimate result will be that each creature will tend to become more and more improved in relation to its condition of life. This improvement will inevitably lead to the gradual advancement of the organization of the greater number of beings throughout the world’ (133).
If this general improvement should ever take place, when all creatures will thus be advanced to the limits of perfectibility, there will be no more Natural Selection, for she will have done her work, and consequently there will be no more Struggle for Life. Creatures will not be waging battle within battle to maintain their position, and in fact all the destroyers will disappear, and they will be transformed into some superior position by an advancement of the brain for intellectual purposes' (134), and even the intestinal worm will perhaps be in a fair way to study logic and propound theories.
Such are the bright prospects which this system holds out to us!
We have then enough before us to understand that the whole system is based on the progressive improvement of organization, and that without this, the ingeniously constructed fabric would fall immediately into ruins. The basis however rests on three assumptions.
1. That the phenomena of life are accidental.
2. That organization has needed improvement. 3. That improvement has really taken place.
Not one of these propositions falls within the compass of scientific physiology; they all belong rather to the speculative theories of ancient philosophy, and to such disquisitions and dogmas as we see in the Timæus of Plato. They are not capable of proof by induction from experience, and are simply dogmas, to be dismissed to that department of literature to which they properly appertain.
In the mean time it is instructive to observe that Mr Darwin not only confesses that there is a great difficulty in determining the direction which future improvement is to take, but that he himself, who so confidently assures us that it is to be, speaks with hesitation of the nature of this improvement, only he inclines to think it will be in the direction of human intellect, by an improvement of the brain. Now, if it is difficult to guess, and impossible to assert, the future destinies of iniprovement, surely it must be not less difficult to point out the line that it has taken. If we could be absolutely certain of the direction it has taken, we might speak with some confidence of the direction it will take; if we knew one we might plausibly speculate on the other, the knowledge of either end of this supposed scale would help us to reason on the other; but in all this great agitation about continually advancing improvement by accidental modifications, Mr Darwin has not given us one single instance of real improvement in any species. He has told us of transformations many, but of improvements nothing. A transformed animal is not an improved one. A tapir changed into a horse (a favourite metamorphose in the Theory), is not an improved animal,
but a new one. If an elephant were changed into an Arabian steed, it would not be an improved elephant, it would have lost a large measure of its intellect and almost all its strength, and would simply be a horse, neither more nor less.
A horse endowed even with the gift of speech and with human reason to direct that speech, would not be improved - it would be an importunate monster; no longer a laborious servant, but an irksome and offensive prodigy. It is impossible to entertain seriously the idea of improving any animal, or adding to the advantages of its existing organization : it is as misplaced and audacious as to undertake the task of its creation. No mental aberration can be greater than to indulge the imagination with an improvement of Nature. We ask then, has the improvement hitherto advanced in the direction of human intellect? and if it really is to advance steadily in that path, what will become of all living creatures when all are as intellectual as man? They either must all become men in form as well as in brain, or with improved brains must continue to be quadrupeds, birds, fishes, and insects. What a preposterous and outrageous dream have we got into! either man the only animal on the face of the earth; or all animals intellectual and rational as man, and endowed also with language, their unquestionable heritage if they are to enjoy human reason. Can nonsense go beyond this ? and yet is not this a legitimate, nay, an inevitable deduction from the antecedent propositions?
It may perhaps be a matter of surprise that the Theory should have tacked to it this strange appendage, which at first sight might seem superfluous, and not demanded by the argument. It might be thought quite enough to insist
on that which has been, to be satisfied with the wonderful transactions of unknown and unwitnessed ages, but why launch out into the depths of futurity, that dark ocean for which there is no card? But in truth the Theory imperatively demands an imagined future, as much as it has insisted on an imagined past. Without this prospect of advancing improvement terminating in perfection, we should have a system teaching us that all beings have for millions of ages been steadily improving, but that now the process has entirely ceased—that the Sabbath has been reached, and now at last 'all is very good. Or, if things are not now perfect, we must be content with Nature as it is, with myriads of species all distinct from one another, innumerable multitudes lingering in the lowest grades, and life rising up by gradations in distinct phases of superior exhibitions. What then has the system done for us, if it has progressed thus far, and now stands still ? What has been gained if tapirs and elephants have been turned into horses, bears into whales, bustards into ostriches, logger-headed ducks into sea-swallows; if still the tapirs, the elephants, the horses, the bears, the whales, and the others exist apart, just as if nothing had been accomplished in the way of metamorphose? If we are now in a state of rest, and there is to be no more change, then all the transmutations hitherto effected have been merely separate feats of magic in individual cases, and, for aught we can see to the contrary, things would have been just as well, if none of these alleged changes had taken place.
The Theory therefore imperatively requires that nature should be on the move, and continually advancing. The Theory must have this corollary tacked to it, and though it may be as incommodious as can well be imagined,