Page images

and the intermediate links' (197). And, again, all the intermediate forms between the earlier and later states, as well as the original parent-species itself, will generally tend to become extinct' (127).

In a few words, then, all this is devised, to answer the question, what has become of all the links of your chain, the progenitor, and all the intermediate forms ?—They have been exterminated. There is a principle in Nature which effects this, and it is called the 'Struggle for Life.'



If the lofty title to Mr Darwin's book, “ The Origin of Species,' could be sustained, we should indeed be favoured with a revelation, which has hitherto been supposed to be beyond the reach of human cognizance. We should be introduced to the beginning of things, and behold all the secrets of the primordial laboratory disclosed to our gaze, beyond the utmost dreams of our curiosity, and the farthest aspirations of our hope.

Mr Darwin does indeed profess to take us very far back into the night of antiquity, before the dawn began, vastly beyond all other exponents of science, even to ages long before the formation of the lowest Silurian rocks, an era of which geology knows nothing. Under his guidance we suppose that we shall in these hitherto undiscovered regions reach the very beginning of life, and see the first organic creature constructed, and assume the properties and actions of life—be made acquainted, in fact, with its 'origin.' But we are disappointed, we advance, as we suppose, to reach the origin, but when we have gone as far as our learned guide can lead us, we only find a blank wall; an insuperable barrier blocks up our path, and we are not permitted to find the origin. In all organic

beings,' says Mr Darwin, “as far as is at present known, the germinal vescicle is the same, so that every individual organic being starts from a common origin. Professor Asa Grey has remarked, the spores and other reproductive bodies of many of the lower algæ may claim to have first a · characteristically animal, and then an unequivocal vegetable,

existence. Therefore, on the principle of Natural Selection with divergence of character, it does not seem incredible, that from some such low and intermediate form both animals and plants may have been developed, AND IF WE ADMIT THIS, we must admit that all the organized beings which have ever lived upon earth, may have descended from some one primordial form ?

Certainly, if we admit that animals and plants may have been developed from a spore of the lowest seaweed, we must admit that all of them may have descended from a similar form; there can be no difficulty in the proposition after the first admission ; but after all, this is not the Origin of Species, for we have to learn the origin and the formation of this primordial spore. It may be first characteristically animal,' and 'then unequivocally vegetable, but whence did it derive these double qualities ? It was the most marvellous of all beings to have within itself the potential existences of all animals and all vegetables that ever were to be; to possess qualities which by development 'were ultimately to expand into an elephant, a whale, a palm-tree, an eagle, a crab, a butterfly, and a man, and therefore we anxiously inquire whence came this spore? Who or what were its parents ? How was it made ? How did it acquire the double quality of animal and vegetable? In all ordinary discussions of such subjects we should say that the spore of the lowest algæ sprung from

er 1

an alga, or from the sea-weed to which it belongs : but whence did that alga come-from another spore, and so on, either ad infinitum, or from some first cause of its existence ?

Obviously, then, this is the origin of nothing, for Mr Darwin's primordial form’ as much needs an origin, . which he has not explained to us, as any of the animals that may have sprung from the primordial form.

Creation he cannot introduce, for it is the object of his book to exclude creation. Neither can he invoke Natural Selection, for there was nothing to select, when there was no life; neither can he, as a last resource, betake himself to Lamarck's convenient cloud of 'Spontaneous generation, for against that Theory Mr Darwin has protested; therefore nothing remains for him but to say that the first primordial form was,--to confess his ignorance of its origin, and to be content to say that it came into existence in a way that he is utterly unable to explain.

In this position we meet him and shake hands. This is exactly what we say: we are convinced that this was the origin of the primordial sea-weed, it came into existence in a way that we cannot explain. We have not the most distant idea of the process, it is utterly inconceivable to us, only we are sure that there is a Power which could and did effect that which we are unable to comprehend.

But all animals and vegetables spring from this one primordial form. In what way did the first springing commence; did the animal quality start first, or the vegetable? How did the movement commence, and in what direction ? The first step in this process, we are told, was

on the principle of Natural Selection, with divergence of character;' easy words these to pronounce, but not so

[ocr errors]

easy to explain. However, there was some' divergence of character' in the first spore: that is, it began to change its character,—some 'modification, some development,' some 'plastic' propensity appeared in our great Ancestor, and he produced—what? an improved spore certainly,—it could not be beyond that. But how could Natural Selection work here? where was the competition, where was the Struggle for Life? The new spore had to struggle with itself, or perhaps we can imagine that the great Ancestor produced (how we will not say) 'several modified,' spores, and thus the struggle began amongst the family, the unimproved ones were exterminated, and an advanced race began. A race of what? what new vegetable or what first animal ? that history does not reveal. Then male and female had to be developed, Natural Selection formed the two sexes, made some male and some female, invented all the mysteries of reproduction, and set the world a-going till the process finished in man.

Now Mr Darwin has told us that all this does not appear incredible,' and nevertheless he soon contradicts himself in these words : 'a difficulty has been advanced, that, looking on the dawn of life, when all organic beings, as we may imagine, presented the simplest structure, how could the first steps in advancement, or in the differentiation and specialization of parts have arisen? I can make no sufficient answer, and can only say that as we have no facts to guide us, all speculation on the subject would be baseless and useless' (137).

If Mr Darwin presents us with a history of the beginning of life which he frankly acknowledges he cannot explain, and for which he has no facts to guide him, how can he tell us that such a history is ‘not incredible?' what

« PreviousContinue »