Page images

others have made theirs, there was some further information on this subject which has been since withdrawn. In the edition of 1859 we read it thus : ‘All living things have much in common in their chemical composition, &c. ; therefore I should infer from analogy that the organic being3 which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form into which life was first breathed.' All the words from therefore 'to the end of the sentence, have been suppressed in the subsequent editions; and in addition to this a long paragraph ending with this sentence, there is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers having been originally breathed into a few forms or one ; and that whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms, most beautiful and most wonderful, have been, and are being evolved.

With this statement we should inquire, of course, how was life breathed into the first forms : surely, in a point of the system of such transcendent importance, Mr Darwin cannot here also be talking allegorically—he must have meant what he says, that life was breathed from a source that had power to give it. Whether there was an allusion here to the language of the Scripture, must be left to surmise, but certain it is that the whole paragraph is cancelled, and that we now read the important sentence thus : “Therefore on the principle of Natural Selection with divergence of character, it does not seem incredible, that from some such low and intermediate form, as the lower algæ, both animals and plants may have been developed - and if we admit this, we must admit that all organic beings which have ever lived on this earth may have descended from some one primordial form' (519).

Now all this is very curious as showing how the author of this Theory is unsettled on the main point, the Origin of Species. At first, as he saw the necessity of an original mover and a real commencement of life, we were informed that life was · breathed' into the first forms; but subse. quently, and in consequence perhaps of perceiving that this statement was a virtual contradiction of the Theory, we are told that all life descended from one form-leaving that one form to acquire life as best it might.

The Theory, therefore, is in a more consistent dress at present, and does not contradict itself at starting ; but it is far more absurd, for we now see the origin of all things traced to a sea-weed, which of course sprung from another sea-weed, and so on backwards for millions of millions of ages, for sea-weeds either sprung from some other form, and therefore they cannot be the first themselves, or they existed for ever without beginning, or they were created.

There is, however, another alternative-and it is that of spontaneous generation. M. Pouchet—who is a Transmutationist of the School of Lamarck—pure, and without admixture, openly defies* the scientific world to find any other alternative ; either creation, says he, which is a mira. cle, or 'successive evolution of Lamarck.' Now this succes. sive evolution is from spontaneous generation, and of this doctrine M. Pouchet is a conspicuous advocate. Nevertheless, he is quite right in his logic, that there is no other alternative. Mr Darwin,t however, does not accept spon. taneous generation, and therefore has no origin for his system. His elephant stands upon a tortoise, and the tortoise upon nothing.

* Nous defions qu'on sorte de cette alternative, ou la création instantanée et miraculeuse d'un certain nombre d'animaux parfaits, ou l'évolution successive, c'est à dire l'idée de Lamarck, modifiée dans le sens des connaissances nouvelles que resument à notre époque, d'un coté la geologie, et de l'autre l'anatomie philosophique.'— Pouchet, La pluralité des races bumaines, 182.'

* Lamarck was led to suppose that new and simple forins were con

tinually being produced by spontaneous generation! I need hardly say that science in her present state does not countenance the belief that liv. ing creatures are now ever produced from inorganic matter' (135).



We have thus touched on the most important points of Mr Darwin's Theory, though it would have required a largely extended work to meet the numerous secondary arguments and collateral disquisitions in the Origin of Species. The reader will remember that the main propositions of this Theory are :

1. That no organic being has been created.

2. That every plant and animal has been made by accidental minute changes taking place in the organization of antecedent forms.

3. That these changes, beneficial in result, but not in intention, have given the possessor an advantage in the struggle for life. The organized being with the advantageous accidental change has been enabled to live; the plant or animal not so favoured has been exterminated.

4. No plant or animal has been designed for any particular object or place in nature, but all have taken such a place as was open to them, and have maintained themselves as well as they can in their position.

5. Every existing plant or animal is struggling to maintain its place in nature. If others, near them in habits,

in an

should arise, better organized, they would have to succumb and yield to the law of extermination. .

6. This operation is called Natural Selection : it does not really construct or design anything; it only, by exterminating unimproved animals, preserves new improve. ments in organized beings.

7. Natural Selection, when correctly stated, is 'the Sequence of Events as ascertained by us.'

8. Facts or events having followed one another in an ascertained sequence explain the existence of things. Organized beings have become what they are, because they are so. Existence is an absolute fact without a cause.

9. There is no such thing as Species : there is no fixed and permanent division amongst plants and animals.

10. All varieties are in the act of becoming* species. New forms of plants and animals are now in the progress of evolving out of existing forms, by accidental beneficial changes, and the process of extermination.

11. Beauty in the works of Nature has not been produced by an intentional arrangement. If any plant or animal is beautiful it is an accident.

12. All organized beings are slowly advancing towards perfection. There will be a period when there will be no more change ; that is, when all plants and animals will have obtained absolute perfection.

This creed, of which perhaps the last article is the most surprising, is nevertheless well-considered as a whole. The first point of advantage to gain was, of course, by an attack on the fixedness of Nature's works, without which

* Here, then, is a contradiction between the 9th and 10th proposition, for if there be no species in nature, varieties cannot of course be advancing towards species. This contradiction has been seen more at large in the third chapter.

« PreviousContinue »