Page images

that all the varieties of the dog can permanently fluctuate, inter se, making fertile crosses without limit, but that the species dog and the species fox can not.

Thus in fact Mr Darwin here confirms, as in other passages, the point he denies. · Take again this statement. 'I look at varieties which are in any degree more distinct and permanent as steps leading to more strongly marked and more permanent varieties, and these latter leading to a sub-species, and so to species' (54). “Hence I believe a well-marked variety may be considered an incipient species.

The argument is curious, Species does not essentially differ from Variety, and yet there are varieties of a marked character differing from their congeners, in having the quality of greater permanency—they are more permanent

—these more permanent varieties are gradually advancing to the higher dignity of sub-species, and so ultimately to species where their permanent character is fully established. Well, then, permanency is, by Mr Darwin's own showing, the attribute of Species, and it is not that of Variety. Variety changes by slow but steady gradations till it becomes Species, and then its mutation is arrested for a long period of time, and all this is stated to make us understand that Species and Variety do not essentially differ!

But surely varieties might save themselves all this trouble, for if they do not essentially differ from that towards which they are progressing, why make a stir for the change? and why persuade nature to make alterations for no conceivable object ?

Again. “It may be asked, how is it that varieties, which I have called incipient species, become ultimately CONVERTED

INTO GOOD AND DISTINCT SPECIES, which in most cases obviously differ from each other far more than do the varieties of the same species? (64).

Here then, after all, there is such a thing as a good and distinct species, and varieties differ so from them that a conversion, a change of character and quality, is to take place, and the fluctuating Variety is to become “a good and distinct Species. If this does not show an essential difference, how is it to be shown ? and what more could we contend for who are fully convinced of the permanent and irrevocable laws of creation ?

Again, in speaking of the difference between the primrose and the cowslip, Mr Darwin says: “ We could hardly wish for better evidence of the two forms being specifically distinct. On the other hand, they are united by many intermediate links, and it is very doubtful whether these links are hybrids ; and there is a large amount of experimental evidence, showing that they descend from common parents, and consequently must be ranked as varieties' (52).

Here, in fact, is a tacit acknowledgment of all that naturalists have usually advanced on the subject of species. Creatures that descend from common parents are varieties of a species. If experiments of a large amount prove this, it is proved that they are varieties. If the links that unite them are not hybrids, this is also a proof. Hybridity is the result of an artificial violation of species, non-hybridity means fecundity and fertility. The cross between the Newfoundland and the Greyhound is not hybrid, though the difference of form is great between them. The cross between the jackal and the dog is hybrid. All this, we shall find, has often been asserted, and has been held suf

[ocr errors]

we can

win mean

ficient to establish the definite distinctions of nature. The vast majority of naturalists have agreed with Mr Darwin that there is such a thing as good and distinct species.

The real difference between Mr Darwin and other writers is, that he puts the cart before the horse ; and that when others say that Species has produced multiplied Variety, Mr Darwin affirms that Variety is on the way to produce Species. He takes a prophetical view of the subject, deny. ing that Species differs from Variety at present, though believing that it will differ in ages to come;' nevertheless, he also states that good and distinct species do already exist, and with this confusion and these contradictions we have to make out as well as we can what Mr Darwin means by Species.

After all this, it is curious to hear Mr Darwin make this remark: "To discuss whether such forms are rightly called species or varieties before any definition of these terms has been accepted, is vainly to beat the air' (51). There are more ways of beating the air than one, and this we think Mr Darwin has taught us; but why then has not Mr Darwin himself given us a definition of the thing he is attacking ? He is writing down Species as an “arbitrarily invented term,' and yet he never explains to us what he understands himself by the term. It is with him a phantom indeed now here, now there—in no tangible form, for he neither describes to us what it is that he is attacking, nor does he give the definition of it by any other writer. He may be contradicting Buffon, Cuvier, De Candolle, Von Baer, St Hilaire, Herder, or others; we cannot pretend to say what particular statement he may object to; only this we very clearly perceive, that he means by Species an established barrier of nature, ordained to prevent confusion, and this is the point

on which we meet him. It is this point which will be discussed in the next chapter.

Mr Darwin, however, finishes his book with a full confidence that he has got rid of Species. 'Hereafter,' says he, 'we shall have to treat Species in the same manner as those naturalists treat Genera, who admit that genera are merely artificial combinations made for convenience. This may not be a cheering prospect, but we shall at least be freed from the vain search for the undiscovered and undiscoverable essence of the term Species’ (520).

And yet Mr Darwin has himself discovered that 'good and distinct Species' unquestionably exist! and more than this, he prophesies that Varieties are advancing in progress to be converted into Species ; so that if the prospect is not cheering, it must be least of all so to the author of these predictions; we may have to lament the loss of that which is, and which Mr Darwin also slily admits, but in addition to this he will have to mourn over the loss of that which is to be. He that seeks to bereave himself of the present, and anticipates a privation of the future also, is certainly in a 'cheerless' plight.

We owe to the Duke of Argyll, in his.valuable publication, The Reign of Law,' some deeply interesting remarks on Humming-birds, as illustrating the law of Species. For our present purpose it will be sufficient to state the facts as the noble author has given them from ‘Gould's Trochilidae.'

Of the family of Humming Birds four hundred and thirty species are known, and all these belong to the great continent of America and its adjacent islands. Within these limits there is every range of climate, and there are particular species of Humming Birds adapted to every region where a flowering vegetation can exist. Mr Gould observes, on their beautiful appearance : "That the members of most of the genera have certain parts of their plumage fantastically decorated, and in many instances most resplendent in colour. My own opinion,' says he, ‘is that this gorgeous colouring of the Humming Birds has been given for the mere purpose of ornament, and for no other purpose of their special adaptation in their mode of life; in other words, that ornament and beauty, merely as such, was the end proposed.'

This of course, if it be a right deduction, is 'absolutely fatal' to Mr Darwin's theory; for he has told us this in so many words.

Mr Gould proceeds: 'It might be thought by some persons that four hundred species of birds so diminutive in size, and of one family, could scarcely be distinguished from each other, but any one who studies the subject will soon perceive that such is not the case. Even the females, which assimilate more closely to each other than the males, can be separated with perfect certainty; nay, even a tailfeather will be sufficient for a person well versed in the subject, to say to what genus and species the bird from which it has been taken belongs. I mention this fact to show that what we designate a species has really dis. tinctive and constant characters, and in the whole of my experience, with many thousands of Humming Birds passing through my hands, I have never observed an instance of any variation which would lead me to suppose that it was the result of a union of two species. I write this without bias, one way or the other, as to the question of species. I am desirous of representing nature in wonder. ful ways, as she presents herself to my attention, at the close of my work, after a period of twelve years of inces


« PreviousContinue »