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C. Watson and Babington have bewildered themselves in endeavouring to make proper distinctions ? and in an ab. struse subject, because there are many opinions and considerable disagreement, shall we get rid of the difficulty by boldly affirming that the subject itself is altogether ideal; and therefore may be dismissed as imaginary ?
By this mode of argument we might clear the stage of many hard questions in physics, and many disputes in chemistry and geology might thus be very conveniently settled. Great is the difference of opinion that still exists in assigning the proper office to the pancreas in the internal structure of animals, and various have been the conjectures on the object of this organ and of the qualities of its secretion. It is a controversy not yet settled ; and so much has been said on the subject by many English and conti. nental anatomists, that the history of this discussion would fill a large volume. We might, however, compose all this learned agitation by denying that the pancreas had any functions to perform, and might even assign it a place in the animal economy amongst unoccupied appendages; and putting it on the shelf as ' an idle member,' might decree that it did once belong to some parent-form, from which other animals derived their origin, useful, and indeed necessary, to that parent-form, but no longer needed by its descendants. This would answer two purposes—it would furnish an analogy for the discarding of species, and serve as an auxiliary to the theory of transmutation.
Mr Darwin does not however fail to make the most of the ignorance of the naturalists, by again and again reminding us of it. “It cannot be disputed that many forms, considered by highly competent judges as varieties, have so perfectly the character of species that they are ranked by other highly competent judges as good and true species (51). No clear line of demarcation has as yet been drawn between species and sub-species (53). The amount of difference considered necessary to give to two forms the rank of species is quite indefinite (61), &c., &c., &c. But all such passages as these only prove that the naturalists have much to learn, that the art of accurate division is a very subtile and elaborate one, and that in the extremely delicate texture of plants (for it is to them that Mr Darwin refers) it requires an experienced eye, a long acquaintance with the subject, and much sagacity of observation, to come to a right decision—that these decisions in many cases are only designed to be temporary ; and as the field of botanical discovery enlarges, hy a more perfect acquaintance with all regions of the earth, much yet will have to be re-cast and re-arranged, when the importation of additional knowledge into the hive of science shall call for the renewed labours of the workmen. Let, then, Mr Darwin manipulate the word ' species' as he likes, let him sometimes discard it and sometimes make use of it, and let him make the most he can of the perplexities of the physiologists,—we appeal from terms and words to nature itself, and there we say the great barrier to his system, insurmountable as the 'flammantia mænia mundi,' is full before our eyes, and cannot be removed.
The substance of these remarks has been much better expressed by Lyell, who, in censuring Lamarck, has at the same time censured, by anticipation, Mr Darwin himself. * Lanarck,' says he, ‘has indeed attempted to raise an argument in favour of his system, out of the very confusion which has arisen in the study of some orders of animals and plants, in consequence of the slight shades of difference which
separate the new species discovered within the last halfcentury.
That the embarrassment of those who attempt to classify and distinguish the new acquisitions, poured in such multitudes into our museums, should increase, with the augmentation of their number, is quite natural; since to obviate this it is not enough that our powers of discrimination should keep pace with the increase of the objects, but we ought to possess greater opportunities of studying each animal and plant in all stages of its growth, and to know perfectly their history, their habits, and physiological characters, throughout several generations. For, in proportion as the series of known animals grows more complete, none can doubt that there is a nearer approximation to a graduated scale of being, and thus the most closely allied species will be found to possess a greater number of characters in common ' (ii. 348).
If, however, a longer time and further information should be required for a more correct classification, and if some licence for conjecture should be demanded, Mr Darwin has his objections: 'In very many cases one form is ranked as a variety of another, not because the intermediate links have actually been found, but because analogy leads the observer to suppose either that they do now somewhere exist, or may formerly have existed : and here a wide door for the entry of doubt and conjecture is opened' (49). Such an objection from this quarter is truly surprising, from one who for himself has opened so much wider a door for whole hosts of doubt and conjecture to pass through into the realms of chaos and primeval night. 'If my theory be true,' says Mr Darwin, “it is indisputable that before the lowest Silurian stratum was deposited, long periods clapsed, as long as, or probably far longer than, the whole interval from the Silurian age to the present day; and that during these vast, yet quite unknown, periods of time, the world swarmed with living creatures' (333).
This is `indisputable,' that is, it cannot be disputed : though the learned author himself says that those periods of time are quite unknown,' swarms of living creatures of forms unknown, and beyond our imagination, for thousands of millions of ages have existed, though not a shred or a vestige of one of them is anywhere to be found—and yet, if a brother naturalist ventures to conjecture that there may have existed some missing links in a species of a flower, he is rebuked for opening a door to conjecture! Mr Darwin had better measure the width of his own door before he complains of the doors of his neighbours.
In the eighth chapter we have the question of sterility discussed, and, as it will be seen, with ingenious management. First, however, it will be important to notice the concessions made to the question of sterility of hybrid animals :
I doubt whether any case of a perfectly fertile hybrid animal can be considered as thoroughly well authenticated' (274). It is difficult, “perhaps impossible, to bring forward one case of the hybrid offspring of two animals, clearly distinct, being itself perfectly fertile' (27). I do not know of any thoroughly well-authenticated case of a perfectly fertile hybrid animal’ (275). “Mr Hewitt, who has had great experience in hybridizing gallinaceous birds, informs me that the early death of the embryo is a very frequent cause of sterility in first crosses' (286).
Here then a limit exists, and its existence is frankly acknowledged, beyond which the commixture of animals is
found to be impossible. To many it would appear that these concessions render all further dispute unnecessary. By Mr Darwin's theory, all animals have sprung from one parent, they are all descended from one origin : how comes it then that the progeny of this one stock divided itself into thousands of different families, and with such rigorous excommunication of their brothers and cousins, that at last a union between their descendants, marked by constant sterility, rendered any confusion of the families impossible? We see an ordained law, and leave the matter there with the wisdom of the lawgiver; we, basing a deduction of common sense on a palpable fact, affirm that sterility is a visible proof of a foreordained separation,-a very manifest design, if ever there was one. Mr Darwin denies the design or the intention, but acknow. ledges the fact, without the least attempting to account for it, thereby fabricating for himself inexplicable difficulties; but till he can give us a satisfactory explanation of these difficulties, created by his own theory, we must decline to accept his exegesis of the mysteries of nature.
That he himself has but a faint confidence in his own exegesis, we may gather from the following words: 'It must be confessed that we cannot understand, except by vague hypothesis, several facts with respect to the sterility of hybrids. Nor do I pretend that the foregoing remarks go to the root of the matter : no explanation is offered why an organism, when placed under unnatural conditions, is rendered sterile (288).
If this explanation could have been given, Mr Darwin would indeed have achieved mighty things, for what would this be but to explain the profoundest of nature's mysteries, that secret, the key of which is with its Author, never to