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THE ARGUMENT OF DESIGN.
AFTER these multiplied considerations of the Theory before us, we approach the concluding question which involves the whole argument, is there a design in the existence of plants and animals ? Have they been brought into being for a special purpose according to a preconceived plan? or is their appearance the uninfluenced result of circum. stances, and a natural sequence of events without any speci. fic design or particular object ?
The Theory of course denies any idea of design, and that too in precise words, as well as in the general discussion; and, in this respect, whenever the question seems to incline towards the notion of creation, it is uniform in its statements. Mr Darwin has carefully considered all the vulner, able parts of his Theory in the presence of a creative design, and has guarded them from that quarter where danger is most apparent, to the best of his abilities. Nevertheless, the Theory is not invulnerable, for as the heel of the infant Achilles was covered by his mother's hand when she plunged him in the waters of Lethe, so this Theory has not, in every portion, been thoroughly imbued with Atheism, as its parent has kept one little spot untouched-the breathing of life into the primordial spore—an exception which leaves the whole theory open to a death-wound.
But though Mr Darwin, with this one exception, which he apparently could not avoid, has been so watchful in warding off creation ; he has without scruple admitted a designing and contriving power of his own invention, which he invests with the most marked attributes of the creator, and in such large terms as he would certainly consider superstitious and credulous if applied to the interposition of a Divine Power. We have seen a good deal of this already, we shall see more of it presently.
But truly he must be a courageous man who can contemplate all the forms of life in this our globe, all the structure of animals and plants, all the habits of different animals and the parts they sustain in Nature, and all the vast variety of their tribes constituted to enjoy life in certain special climates, removed from which they* could not live,
• We must suppose that when the author of nature creates an animal or a plant, all the possible circumstances in which its descendants are destined to live are foreseen, and that an organization is conferred upon it which will enable the species to perpetuate itself, and survive under all the varying circumstances to which it inust be inevitably exposed. Now the range of variation of circumstances will differ essentially in almost every case. Let us take, for example, any one of the most influential conditions of existence, such as temperature. In some extensive districts dear the equator, the thermometer might never vary through several thousand centuries, for more than 20° Fahrenheit; so that if a plant or animal be provided with an organization fitting it to endure such a range, it may continue on the globe for that immense period, although every individual might be liable at once to be cut off by the least possible excess of heat or cold beyond the determinate degree. But if a species be placed in one of the temperate zones, and have a constitution conferred on it capable of supporting a similar range of temperature only, it will inevitably perish before a single year has passed away.'—Principles of Geology, ii. p. 351, 3rd edition,
These sentiments it is to be presumed Sir Charles Lyell must now repu. diate, under the influence of the Lamarckian system of which he has be. coine the advocate. If he is faithful to his new creed, the creator and the plan of creation must of necessity be repudiated.
and yet in the face of all this shall deliberately say there has been no design here, and no superior intellect ordaining what we see. He that says this has to believe that when different forms of life answer to one another perfectly, it is a mere accident; and that when certain creatures have special habits and characters with all their organization corresponding with their habits and instincts, that it is a mere accident,—that all the instincts of animals either as private individuals or as members of a society are accidental,—and that whatever has hitherto been noticed as a plain proof of design, is on the contrary nothing but 'the sequence of events as ascertained by us. He has to believe that a spider was not made to catch insects, and that the art of making its web was not imparted to it for that purpose; that no carnivorous animals, on land or in the waters or in the air, were designed to keep down the redundancy of those animals which constitute their prey ; that certain birds and other animals were not made to live in the trees; that fishes were not designed for the water, nor winged creatures to soar in the air ; that the various modes of rearing the young of animals are accidental; that milk was not prepared for the mother's breast ; that insects were not framed for any of the functions they perform, that their extra-fætal transformations are fortuitous and not regulated by any plan ; that the products of the earth were not intended to support animal life. In one word, that all these things, if they be beneficial and answer useful purposes, are the unintentional result of blind matter pushing its way in the world at random, without any definite ob. ject, and after innumerable and incalculable instances of failure, at last hitting on the arrangement which has turned out to be right.
In vain is it that to the advocates of this system you present the most striking instances of adaptation of parts for a function, the most marvellous instances of instinct, the most curious habits and contrivances of certain animals kept up from time immemorial as the sacred traditions of their race, the arts, the architecture, the expedients, the inventions, the economies, the precautions of thousands of creatures in their sphere of life. To all these examples the answer is, 'True, this is a very curious result, and has the appearance of a plan; but it never was intended that by any of these arrangements any particular object should be secured. Natural Selection has indeed at last effected that the most beneficial organization should, after innumerable failures, be the characteristic of the animal that has survived, and has outlived the extermination of its predecessors; and because its organization suits its mode of life, it is now an established member of the animal kingdom; but this is not a design—it is the mere sequence of events : and there is nothing more wonderful in those phenomena which are called the contrivances of Nature than in the fact that water should freeze at a low temperature, or that sugar should melt when thrown into water.'
Neither in this system can beauty either in colour or in form, or in the execution of any intricate contrivance, be admitted as any part of a plan of* Nature. If the landscape is beautiful; if the heavens are glorious to behold ; if all the wealth of Nature's wardrobe shines in gorgeous show; if Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of the lilies of the field ; if the animals are of surpassing beauty in their forms, their colours, their clothing, and the grace of their movements; if the song of birds is sweet, and every country sound charming to the observant mind; none of these varieties of the beautiful were intended to please or to produce admiration; they are an accident. We must take them as we find them, but never confound a rigorous sequence of events with a studied plan. We have seen that the beauty of male birds is attributed to the coquetry of the females, preferring the accidental distinction of a new feather in certain males. These males, more favoured than others of their sex, owing to the new feather in their plumage, were selected partners in the breeding season ; and so by degrees new feathers coming more and more into favour, in thousands of ages, a bird with the splendid plumage of the tropics was finally established.
* It must be remembered that Mr Darwin has said, 'some naturalists believe that very many structures have been created for beauty in the eyes of man, or for mere variety. This doctrine, if true, would be absolutely fatal to my theory' (219).
This is the theory to account for beauty of plumage that a great Physiologist has had* the courage to propound; and this is the theory which other Physiologists have been able to digest! to such miserable puerilities has the severe and cautious study of Nature descended in this School.
It may cheer us for a moment after hearing such sentiments to listen to an opposite expression of thought sug. gested by a contemplation of Nature.
*Flowers may be regarded not only as the last, but the
* 'I see no good reason to doubt that female birds by selecting during thousands of generations the inost melodious or beautiful males, according to their standard of beauty, might produce a marked effect' (91).
It would appear therefore that the beauty of male birds is not according to any real standard of beauty, nor is it the arrangement and painting of that master mind from which all beauty is derived, but is simply an expression of the feeling of the hens! We cannot be too thankful to the hens for the taste they have thus manifested; we may, however, presume that the result may be accepted as completely successful, as it is thus proved that hens and not creation were the inventors. There can be no objection in the Theory to praise the taste of a hen.