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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,
there is no way of escaping from it. Each creature will tend to become more and more improved in life, and this improvement will lead to the gradual advancement of the organization of beings throughout the world, and the direction of this improvement will be, ‘by an advancement of the brain for intellectual purposes.
Let not Mr Darwin's disciples then wince at the conclusion of this their system. It may take a long time to effect it, a period perhaps as long or longer than that which has elapsed from the Silurian era to the present day, but in the end all creatures will be rational as men: the volvox globator may, after an incalculable series of changes, finish his career by taking the chair of mental and moral philosophy, a sponge may become a professor of geology, and even a gander, that * animal of whose aptitude to mutability Mr Darwin most despairs, may nib his own quills, and sit down to write a learned volume of a new exposition of nature.
But the Theory has its exigencies, and as is often the case in a deviation from probability, a further advance into the improbable becomes unavoidable. Thus Natural Selection has been compelled to take into association the Struggle for Life, which some might be disposed to think could be dispensed with: for it would be argued, why in the case of the improvement of a plant or animal does it follow as a necessary consequence that all the unimproved beings of the cognate species must perish ? Supposing that Natural Selection were to produce a new species of violet, why must all the old-fashioned violets be forth with exterminated ? would not the world be large enough for the two sorts of flowers ? or granting the formation of a
The goose secins to have a singularly inflexible organization' (43).
new animal, by transmutation, and a great improvement on the species nearest allied to it, why must its unimproved neighbour be swept out of existence?
Now the reason of this apparent non-sequitur is, that in the Theory it is requisite to account for all the intermediate animals which 'we are to believe' have existed between two creatures now apparently unlike, but which, we are told, have sprung from one progenitor. In connecting the tapir with the horse there mas have been thousands (in some cases Mr Darwin sars tens of thousands) of intermediate animals, connecting the two extremes by slov approximations. Now all these have disappeared (that is, they cannot be found), they have been 'exterminated,' and this has been effected by the Struggle for Life, and so of all the missing links between all animals. In such a scheme the Struggle for Life has had enough to do, and as the system of nature continues as it was, and as varieties now existing are commencing species, and as all beings are on the high road of improvement, in which very great changes have yet to be accomplished, and as Natural Selection and the Struggle for Life have worked together inseparably from the beginning of things, they cannot now be separated, and thus it is that the Struggle still continues, and that the battle for life is going on as vigorously as ever, even in cases where not the slightest sign of it can be discovered, and where all seems tranquil, peaceful, and secure.
'If my Theory be true,' says Mr Darwin, ‘numberless intermediate varieties, linking closely all the species of the same group together, must assuredly have existed; but the very process of Natural Selection constantly tends, as has been often remarked, to exterminate the parent formis