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Darwin and Modern Science (1909)

Edited by A.C. Seward


II. DARWIN'S PREDECESSORS.

By J. ARTHUR THOMSON
Professor of Natural History in the University of Aberdeen.

A
n seeking to discover Darwin's relation to his predecessors it is useful to distinguish the various services which he rendered to the theory of organic evolution.

(I) As everyone knows, the general idea of the Doctrine of Descent is that the plants and animals of the present-day are the lineal descendants of ancestors on the whole somewhat simpler, that these again are descended from yet simpler forms, and so on backwards towards the literal "Protozoa" and "Protophyta" about which we unfortunately know nothing. Now no one supposes that Darwin originated this idea, which in rudiment at least is as old as Aristotle. What Darwin did was to make it current intellectual coin. He gave it a form that commended itself to the scientific and public intelligence of the day, and he won wide-spread conviction by showing with consummate skill that it was an effective formula to work with, a key which no lock refused. In a scholarly, critical, and pre-eminently fair-minded way, admitting difficulties and removing them, foreseeing objections and forestalling them, he showed that the doctrine of descent supplied a modal interpretation of how our present-day fauna and flora have come to be.

(II) In the second place, Darwin applied the evolution-idea to particular problems, such as the descent of man, and showed what a powerful organon it is, introducing order into masses of uncorrelated facts, interpreting enigmas both of structure and function, both bodily and mental, and, best of all, stimulating and guiding further investigation. But here again it cannot be claimed that Darwin was original. The problem of the descent or ascent of man, and other particular cases of evolution, had attracted not a few naturalists before Darwin's day, though no one (except Herbert Spencer in the psychological domain (1855)) had come near him in precision and thoroughness of inquiry.

(III) In the third place, Darwin contributed largely to a knowledge of the factors in the evolution-process, especially by his analysis of what occurs in the case of domestic animals and cultivated plants, and by his elaboration of the theory of Natural Selection, which Alfred Russel Wallace independently stated at the same time, and of which there had been a few previous suggestions of a more or less vague description. It was here that Darwin's originality was greatest, for he revealed to naturalists the many different forms—often very subtle—which natural selection takes, and with the insight of a disciplined scientific imagination he realised what a mighty engine of progress it has been and is.

(IV) As an epoch-marking contribution, not only to Aetiology but to Natural History in the widest sense, we rank the picture which Darwin gave to the world of the web of life, that is to say, of the inter-relations and linkages in Nature. For the Biology of the individual—if that be not a contradiction in terms—no idea is more fundamental than that of the correlation of organs, but Darwin's most characteristic contribution was not less fundamental,—it was the idea of the correlation of organisms. This, again, was not novel; we find it in the works of naturalist like Christian Conrad Sprengel, Gilbert White, and Alexander von Humboldt, but the realisation of its full import was distinctively Darwinian.

AS REGARDS THE GENERAL IDEA OF ORGANIC EVOLUTION.

While it is true, as Prof. H.F. Osborn puts it, that "'Before and after Darwin' will always be the ante et post urbem conditam of biological history," it is also true that the general idea of organic evolution is very ancient. In his admirable sketch "From the Greeks to Darwin" ("Columbia University Biological Series", Vol. I. New York and London, 1894. We must acknowledge our great indebtness to this fine piece of work.), Prof. Osborn has shown that several of the ancient philosophers looked upon Nature as a gradual development and as still in process of change. In the suggestions of Empedocles, to take the best instance, there were "four sparks of truth,—first, that the development of life was a gradual process; second, that plants were evolved before animals; third, that imperfect forms were gradually replaced (not succeeded) by perfect forms; fourth, that the natural cause of the production of perfect forms was the extinction of the imperfect." (Op. cit. page 41.) But the fundamental idea of one stage giving origin to another was absent. As the blue Aegean teemed with treasures of beauty and threw many upon its shores, so did Nature produce like a fertile artist what had to be rejected as well as what was able to survive, but the idea of one species emerging out of another was not yet conceived.

Aristotle's views of Nature (See G.J. Romanes, "Aristotle as a Naturalist", "Contemporary Review", Vol. LIX. page 275, 1891; G. Pouchet "La Biologie Aristotelique", Paris, 1885; E. Zeller, "A History of Greek Philosophy", London, 1881, and "Ueber die griechischen Vorganger Darwin's", "Abhandl. Berlin Akad." 1878, pages 111-124.) seem to have been more definitely evolutionist than those of his predecessors, in this sense, at least, that he recognised not only an ascending scale, but a genetic series from polyp to man and an age-long movement towards perfection. "It is due to the resistance of matter to form that Nature can only rise by degrees from lower to higher types." "Nature produces those things which, being continually moved by a certain principle contained in themselves, arrive at a certain end."

To discern the outcrop of evolution-doctrine in the long interval between Aristotle and Bacon seems to be very difficult, and some of the instances that have been cited strike one as forced. Epicurus and Lucretius, often called poets of evolution, both pictured animals as arising directly out of the earth, very much as Milton's lion long afterwards pawed its way out. Even when we come to Bruno who wrote that "to the sound of the harp of the Universal Apollo (the World Spirit), the lower organisms are called by stages to higher, and the lower stages are connected by intermediate forms with the higher," there is great room, as Prof. Osborn points out (op. cit. page 81.), for difference of opinion as to how far he was an evolutionist in our sense of the term.

The awakening of natural science in the sixteenth century brought the possibility of a concrete evolution theory nearer, and in the early seventeenth century we find evidences of a new spirit—in the embryology of Harvey and the classifications of Ray. Besides sober naturalists there were speculative dreamers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who had at least got beyond static formulae, but, as Professor Osborn points out (op. cit. page 87.), "it is a very striking fact, that the basis of our modern methods of studying the Evolution problem was established not by the early naturalists nor by the speculative writers, but by the Philosophers." He refers to Bacon, Descartes, Leibnitz, Hume, Kant, Lessing, Herder, and Schelling. "They alone were upon the main track of modern thought. It is evident that they were groping in the dark for a working theory of the Evolution of life, and it is remarkable that they clearly perceived from the outset that the point to which observation should be directed was not the past but the present mutability of species, and further, that this mutability was simply the variation of individuals on an extended scale."

Bacon seems to have been one of the first to think definitely about the mutability of species, and he was far ahead of his age in his suggestion of what we now call a Station of Experimental Evolution. Leibnitz discusses in so many words how the species of animals may be changed and how intermediate species may once have linked those that now seem discontinuous. "All natural orders of beings present but a single chain"..."All advances by degrees in Nature, and nothing by leaps." Similar evolutionist statements are to be found in the works of the other "philosophers," to whom Prof. Osborn refers, who were, indeed, more scientific than the naturalists of their day. It must be borne in mind that the general idea of organic evolution—that the present is the child of the past—is in great part just the idea of human history projected upon the natural world, differentiated by the qualification that the continuous "Becoming" has been wrought out by forces inherent in the organisms themselves and in their environment.

A reference to Kant (See Brock, "Die Stellung Kant's zur Deszendenztheorie," "Biol. Centralbl." VIII. 1889, pages 641-648. Fritz Schultze, "Kant und Darwin", Jena, 1875.) should come in historical order after Buffon, with whose writings he was acquainted, but he seems, along with Herder and Schelling, to be best regarded as the culmination of the evolutionist philosophers—of those at least who interested themselves in scientific problems. In a famous passage he speaks of "the agreement of so many kinds of animals in a certain common plan of structure"...an "analogy of forms" which "strengthens the supposition that they have an actual blood-relationship, due to derivation from a common parent." He speaks of "the great Family of creatures, for as a Family we must conceive it, if the above-mentioned continuous and connected relationship has a real foundation." Prof. Osborn alludes to the scientific caution which led Kant, biology being what it was, to refuse to entertain the hope "that a Newton may one day arise even to make the production of a blade of grass comprehensible, according to natural laws ordained by no intention." As Prof. Haeckel finely observes, Darwin rose up as Kant's Newton. (Mr Alfred Russel Wallace writes: "We claim for Darwin that he is the Newton of natural history, and that, just so surely as that the discovery and demonstration by Newton of the law of gravitation established order in place of chaos and laid a sure foundation for all future study of the starry heavens, so surely has Darwin, by his discovery of the law of natural selection and his demonstration of the great principle of the preservation of useful variations in the struggle for life, not only thrown a flood of light on the process of development of the whole organic world, but also established a firm foundation for all future study of nature" ("Darwinism", London, 1889, page 9). See also Prof. Karl Pearson's "Grammar of Science" (2nd edition), London, 1900, page 32. See Osborn, op. cit. Page 100.))

The scientific renaissance brought a wealth of fresh impressions and some freedom from the tyranny of tradition, and the twofold stimulus stirred the speculative activity of a great variety of men from old Claude Duret of Moulins, of whose weird transformism (1609) Dr Henry de Varigny ("Experimental Evolution". London, 1892. Chap. 1. page 14.) gives us a glimpse, to Lorenz Oken (1799-1851) whose writings are such mixtures of sense and nonsense that some regard him as a far-seeing prophet and others as a fatuous follower of intellectual will-o'-the-wisps. Similarly, for De Maillet, Maupertuis, Diderot, Bonnet, and others, we must agree with Professor Osborn that they were not actually in the main Evolution movement. Some have been included in the roll of honour on very slender evidence, Robinet for instance, whose evolutionism seems to us extremely dubious. (See J. Arthur Thomson, "The Science of Life". London, 1899. Chap. XVI. "Evolution of Evolution Theory".)

The first naturalist to give a broad and concrete expression to the evolutionist doctrine of descent was Buffon (1707-1788), but it is interesting to recall the fact that his contemporary Linnaeus (1707-1778), protagonist of the counter-doctrine of the fixity of species (See Carus Sterne (Ernest Krause), "Die allgemeine Weltanschauung in ihrer historischen Entwickelung". Stuttgart, 1889. Chapter entitled "Bestandigkeit oder Veranderlichkeit der Naturwesen".), went the length of admitting (in 1762) that new species might arise by intercrossing. Buffon's position among the pioneers of the evolution-doctrine is weakened by his habit of vacillating between his own conclusions and the orthodoxy of the Sorbonne, but there is no doubt that he had a firm grasp of the general idea of "l'enchainement des etres."

Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), probably influenced by Buffon, was another firm evolutionist, and the outline of his argument in the "Zoonomia" ("Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life", 2 vols. London, 1794; Osborn op. cit. page 145.) might serve in part at least to-day. "When we revolve in our minds the metamorphoses of animals, as from the tadpole to the frog; secondly, the changes produced by artificial cultivation, as in the breeds of horses, dogs, and sheep; thirdly, the changes produced by conditions of climate and of season, as in the sheep of warm climates being covered with hair instead of wool, and the hares and partridges of northern climates becoming white in winter: when, further, we observe the changes of structure produced by habit, as seen especially in men of different occupations; or the changes produced by artificial mutilation and prenatal influences, as in the crossing of species and production of monsters; fourth, when we observe the essential unity of plan in all warm-blooded animals,—we are led to conclude that they have been alike produced from a similar living filament"..."From thus meditating upon the minute portion of time in which many of the above changes have been produced, would it be too bold to imagine, in the great length of time since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of years before the commencement of the history of mankind, that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament?"..."This idea of the gradual generation of all things seems to have been as familiar to the ancient philosophers as to the modern ones, and to have given rise to the beautiful hieroglyphic figure of the proton oon, or first great egg, produced by night, that is, whose origin is involved in obscurity, and animated by Eros, that is, by Divine Love; from whence proceeded all things which exist."

Lamarck (1744-1829) seems to have become an evolutionist independently of Erasmus Darwin's influence, though the parallelism between them is striking. He probably owed something to Buffon, but he developed his theory along a different line. Whatever view be held in regard to that theory there is no doubt that Lamarck was a thorough-going evolutionist. Professor Haeckel speaks of the "Philosophie Zoologique" as "the first connected and thoroughly logical exposition of the theory of descent." (See Alpheus S. Packard, "Lamarck, the Founder of Evolution, His Life and Work, with Translations of his writings on Organic Evolution". London, 1901.)

Besides the three old masters, as we may call them, Buffon, Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck, there were other quite convinced pre-Darwinian evolutionists. The historian of the theory of descent must take account of Treviranus whose "Biology or Philosophy of Animate Nature" is full of evolutionary suggestions; of Etienne Geoffroy St Hilaire, who in 1830, before the French Academy of Sciences, fought with Cuvier, the fellow-worker of his youth, an intellectual duel on the question of descent; of Goethe, one of the founders of morphology and the greatest poet of Evolution—who, in his eighty-first year, heard the tidings of Geoffroy St Hilaire's defeat with an interest which transcended the political anxieties of the time; and of many others who had gained with more or less confidence and clearness a new outlook on Nature. It will be remembered that Darwin refers to thirty-four more or less evolutionist authors in his Historical Sketch, and the list might be added to. Especially when we come near to 1858 do the numbers increase, and one of the most remarkable, as also most independent champions of the evolution-idea before that date was Herbert Spencer, who not only marshalled the arguments in a very forcible way in 1852, but applied the formula in detail in his "Principles of Psychology" in 1855. (See Edward Clodd, "Pioneers of Evolution", London, page 161, 1897.)

It is right and proper that we should shake ourselves free from all creationist appreciations of Darwin, and that we should recognise the services of pre-Darwinian evolutionists who helped to make the time ripe, yet one cannot help feeling that the citation of them is apt to suggest two fallacies. It may suggest that Darwin simply entered into the labours of his predecessors, whereas, as a matter of fact, he knew very little about them till after he had been for years at work. To write, as Samuel Butler did, "Buffon planted, Erasmus Darwin and Lamarck watered, but it was Mr Darwin who said 'That fruit is ripe,' and shook it into his lap"...seems to us a quite misleading version of the facts of the case. The second fallacy which the historical citation is a little apt to suggest is that the filiation of ideas is a simple problem. On the contrary, the history of an idea, like the pedigree of an organism, is often very intricate, and the evolution of the evolution-idea is bound up with the whole progress of the world. Thus in order to interpret Darwin's clear formulation of the idea of organic evolution and his convincing presentation of it, we have to do more than go back to his immediate predecessors, such as Buffon, Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck; we have to inquire into the acceptance of evolutionary conceptions in regard to other orders of facts, such as the earth and the solar system (See Chapter IX. "The Genetic View of Nature" in J.T. Merz's "History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century", Vol. 2, Edinburgh and London, 1903.); we have to realise how the growing success of scientific interpretation along other lines gave confidence to those who refused to admit that there was any domain from which science could be excluded as a trespasser; we have to take account of the development of philosophical thought, and even of theological and religious movements; we should also, if we are wise enough, consider social changes. In short, we must abandon the idea that we can understand the history of any science as such, without reference to contemporary evolution in other departments of activity.

While there were many evolutionists before Darwin, few of them were expert naturalists and few were known outside a small circle; what was of much more importance was that the genetic view of nature was insinuating itself in regard to other than biological orders of facts, here a little and there a little, and that the scientific spirit had ripened since the days when Cuvier laughed Lamarck out of court. How was it that Darwin succeeded where others had failed? Because, in the first place, he had clear visions—"pensees de la jeunesse, executees par l'age mur"—which a University curriculum had not made impossible, which the "Beagle" voyage made vivid, which an unrivalled British doggedness made real—visions of the web of life, of the fountain of change within the organism, of the struggle for existence and its winnowing, and of the spreading genealogical tree. Because, in the second place, he put so much grit into the verification of his visions, putting them to the proof in an argument which is of its kind—direct demonstration being out of the question—quite unequalled. Because, in the third place, he broke down the opposition which the most scientific had felt to the seductive modal formula of evolution by bringing forward a more plausible theory of the process than had been previously suggested. Nor can one forget, since questions of this magnitude are human and not merely academic, that he wrote so that all men could understand.

AS REGARDS THE FACTORS OF EVOLUTION.

It is admitted by all who are acquainted with the history of biology that the general idea of organic evolution as expressed in the Doctrine of Descent was quite familiar to Darwin's grandfather, and to others before and after him, as we have briefly indicated. It must also be admitted that some of these pioneers of evolutionism did more than apply the evolution- idea as a modal formula of becoming, they began to inquire into the factors in the process. Thus there were pre-Darwinian theories of evolution, and to these we must now briefly refer. (See Prof. W.A. Locy's "Biology and its Makers". New York, 1908. Part II. "The Doctrine of Organic Evolution".

In all biological thinking we have to work with the categories Organism—Function—Environment, and theories of evolution may be classified in relation to these. To some it has always seemed that the fundamental fact is the living organism,—a creative agent, a striving will, a changeful Proteus, selecting its environment, adjusting itself to it, self-differentiating and self-adaptive. The necessity of recognising the importance of the organism is admitted by all Darwinians who start with inborn variations, but it is open to question whether the whole truth of what we might call the Goethian position is exhausted in the postulate of inherent variability.

To others it has always seemed that the emphasis should be laid on Function,—on use and disuse, on doing and not doing. Practice makes perfect; c'est a force de forger qu'on devient forgeron. This is one of the fundamental ideas of Lamarckism; to some extent it met with Darwin's approval; and it finds many supporters to-day. One of the ablest of these—Mr Francis Darwin—has recently given strong reasons for combining a modernised Lamarckism with what we usually regard as sound Darwinism. (Presidential Address to the British Association meeting at Dublin in 1908.)

To others it has always seemed that the emphasis should be laid on the Environment, which wakes the organism to action, prompts it to change, makes dints upon it, moulds it, prunes it, and finally, perhaps, kills it. It is again impossible to doubt that there is truth in this view, for even if environmentally induced "modifications" be not transmissible, environmentally induced "variations" are; and even if the direct influence of the environment be less important than many enthusiastic supporters of this view—may we call them Buffonians—think, there remains the indirect influence which Darwinians in part rely on,—the eliminative process. Even if the extreme view be held that the only form of discriminate elimination that counts is inter-organismal competition, this might be included under the rubric of the animate environment.

In many passages Buffon (See in particular Samuel Butler, "Evolution Old and New", London, 1879; J.L. de Lanessan, "Buffon et Darwin", "Revue Scientifique", XLIII. pages 385-391, 425-432, 1889.) definitely suggested that environmental influences—especially of climate and food—were directly productive of changes in organisms, but he did not discuss the question of the transmissibility of the modifications so induced, and it is difficult to gather from his inconsistent writings what extent of transformation he really believed in. Prof. Osborn says of Buffon: "The struggle for existence, the elimination of the least-perfected species, the contest between the fecundity of certain species and their constant destruction, are all clearly expressed in various passages." He quotes two of these (op. cit. page 136.):

"Le cours ordinaire de la nature vivante, est en general toujours constant, toujours le meme; son mouvement, toujours regulier, roule sur deux points inebranlables: l'un, la fecondite sans bornes donnee a toutes les especes; l'autre, les obstacles sans nombre qui reduisent cette fecondite a une mesure determinee et ne laissent en tout temps qu'a peu pres la meme quantite d'individus de chaque espece"..."Les especes les moins parfaites, les plus delicates, les plus pesantes, les moins agissantes, les moins armees, etc., ont deja disparu ou disparaitront."

Erasmus Darwin (See Ernst Krause and Charles Darwin, "Erasmus Darwin", London, 1879.) had a firm grip of the "idea of the gradual formation and improvement of the Animal world," and he had his theory of the process. No sentence is more characteristic than this: "All animals undergo transformations which are in part produced by their own exertions, in response to pleasures and pains, and many of these acquired forms or propensities are transmitted to their posterity." This is Lamarckism before Lamarck, as his grandson pointed out. His central idea is that wants stimulate efforts and that these result in improvements, which subsequent generations make better still. He realised something of the struggle for existence and even pointed out that this advantageously checks the rapid multiplication. "As Dr Krause points out, Darwin just misses the connection between this struggle and the Survival of the Fittest." (Osborn op. cit. page 142.)

Lamarck (1744-1829) (See E. Perrier "La Philosophie Zoologique avant Darwin", Paris, 1884; A. de Quatrefages, "Darwin et ses Precurseurs Francais", Paris, 1870; Packard op. cit.; also Claus, "Lamarck als Begrunder der Descendenzlehre", Wien, 1888; Haeckel, "Natural History of Creation", English translation London, 1879; Lang "Zur Charakteristik der Forschungswege von Lamarck und Darwin", Jena, 1889.) seems to have thought out his theory of evolution without any knowledge of Erasmus Darwin's which it closely resembled. The central idea of his theory was the cumulative inheritance of functional modifications. "Changes in environment bring about changes in the habits of animals. Changes in their wants necessarily bring about parallel changes in their habits. If new wants become constant or very lasting, they form new habits, the new habits involve the use of new parts, or a different use of old parts, which results finally in the production of new organs and the modification of old ones." He differed from Buffon in not attaching importance, as far as animals are concerned, to the direct influence of the environment, "for environment can effect no direct change whatever upon the organisation of animals," but in regard to plants he agreed with Buffon that external conditions directly moulded them.

Treviranus (1776-1837) (See Huxley's article "Evolution in Biology", "Encyclopaedia Britannica" (9th edit.), 1878, pages 744-751, and Sully's article, "Evolution in Philosophy", ibid. pages 751-772.), whom Huxley ranked beside Lamarck, was on the whole Buffonian, attaching chief importance to the influence of a changeful environment both in modifying and in eliminating, but he was also Goethian, for instance in his idea that species like individuals pass through periods of growth, full bloom, and decline. "Thus, it is not only the great catastrophes of Nature which have caused extinction, but the completion of cycles of existence, out of which new cycles have begun." A characteristic sentence is quoted by Prof. Osborn: "In every living being there exists a capability of an endless variety of form-assumption; each possesses the power to adapt its organisation to the changes of the outer world, and it is this power, put into action by the change of the universe, that has raised the simple zoophytes of the primitive world to continually higher stages of organisation, and has introduced a countless variety of species into animate Nature."

Goethe (1749-1832) (See Haeckel, "Die Naturanschauung von Darwin, Goethe und Lamarck", Jena, 1882.), who knew Buffon's work but not Lamarck's, is peculiarly interesting as one of the first to use the evolution-idea as a guiding hypothesis, e.g. in the interpretation of vestigial structures in man, and to realise that organisms express an attempt to make a compromise between specific inertia and individual change. He gave the finest expression that science has yet known—if it has known it—of the kernel-idea of what is called "bathmism," the idea of an "inherent growth-force"—and at the same time he held that "the way of life powerfully reacts upon all form" and that the orderly growth of form "yields to change from externally acting causes."

Besides Buffon, Erasmus Darwin, Lamarck, Treviranus, and Goethe, there were other "pioneers of evolution," whose views have been often discussed and appraised. Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772-1844), whose work Goethe so much admired, was on the whole Buffonian, emphasising the direct action of the changeful milieu. "Species vary with their environment, and existing species have descended by modification from earlier and somewhat simpler species." He had a glimpse of the selection idea, and believed in mutations or sudden leaps—induced in the embryonic condition by external influences. The complete history of evolution-theories will include many instances of guesses at truth which were afterwards substantiated, thus the geographer von Buch (1773-1853) detected the importance of the Isolation factor on which Wagner, Romanes, Gulick and others have laid great stress, but we must content ourselves with recalling one other pioneer, the author of the "Vestiges of Creation" (1844), a work which passed through ten editions in nine years and certainly helped to harrow the soil for Darwin's sowing. As Darwin said, "it did excellent service in this country in calling attention to the subject, in removing prejudice, and in thus preparing the ground for the reception of analogous views." ("Origin of Species" (6th edition), page xvii.) Its author, Robert Chambers (1802- 1871) was in part a Buffonian—maintaining that environment moulded organisms adaptively, and in part a Goethian—believing in an inherent progressive impulse which lifted organisms from one grade of organisation to another.

AS REGARDS NATURAL SELECTION.

The only thinker to whom Darwin was directly indebted, so far as the theory of Natural Selection is concerned, was Malthus, and we may once more quote the well-known passage in the Autobiography: "In October, 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic enquiry, I happened to read for amusement 'Malthus on Population', and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long- continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species." ("The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin", Vol. 1. page 83. London, 1887.)

Although Malthus gives no adumbration of the idea of Natural Selection in his exposition of the eliminative processes which go on in mankind, the suggestive value of his essay is undeniable, as is strikingly borne out by the fact that it gave to Alfred Russel Wallace also "the long-sought clue to the effective agent in the evolution of organic species." (A.R. Wallace, "My Life, A Record of Events and Opinions", London, 1905, Vol. 1. page 232.) One day in Ternate when he was resting between fits of fever, something brought to his recollection the work of Malthus which he had read twelve years before. "I thought of his clear exposition of 'the positive checks to increase'—disease, accidents, war, and famine—which keep down the population of savage races to so much lower an average than that of more civilized peoples. It then occurred to me that these causes or their equivalents are continually acting in the case of animals also; and as animals usually breed much more rapidly than does mankind, the destruction every year from these causes must be enormous in order to keep down the numbers of each species, since they evidently do not increase regularly from year to year, as otherwise the world would long ago have been densely crowded with those that breed most quickly. Vaguely thinking over the enormous and constant destruction which this implied, it occurred to me to ask the question, Why do some die and some live? And the answer was clearly, that on the whole the best fitted live. From the effects of disease the most healthy escaped; from enemies the strongest, the swiftest, or the most cunning; from famine the best hunters or those with the best digestion; and so on. Then it suddenly flashed upon me that this self- acting process would necessarily improve the race, because in every generation the inferior would inevitably be killed off and the superior would remain—that is, the fittest would survive." (Ibid. Vol. 1. page 361.) We need not apologise for this long quotation, it is a tribute to Darwin's magnanimous colleague, the Nestor of the evolutionist camp,—and it probably indicates the line of thought which Darwin himself followed. It is interesting also to recall the fact that in 1852, when Herbert Spencer wrote his famous "Leader" article on "The Development Hypothesis" in which he argued powerfully for the thesis that the whole animate world is the result of an age-long process of natural transformation, he wrote for "The Westminster Review" another important essay, "A Theory of Population deduced from the General Law of Animal Fertility", towards the close of which he came within an ace of recognising that the struggle for existence was a factor in organic evolution. At a time when pressure of population was practically interesting men's minds, Darwin, Wallace, and Spencer were being independently led from a social problem to a biological theory. There could be no better illustration, as Prof. Patrick Geddes has pointed out, of the Comtian thesis that science is a "social phenomenon."

Therefore, as far more important than any further ferreting out of vague hints of Natural Selection in books which Darwin never read, we would indicate by a quotation the view that the central idea in Darwinism is correlated with contemporary social evolution. "The substitution of Darwin for Paley as the chief interpreter of the order of nature is currently regarded as the displacement of an anthropomorphic view by a purely scientific one: a little reflection, however, will show that what has actually happened has been merely the replacement of the anthropomorphism of the eighteenth century by that of the nineteenth. For the place vacated by Paley's theological and metaphysical explanation has simply been occupied by that suggested to Darwin and Wallace by Malthus in terms of the prevalent severity of industrial competition, and those phenomena of the struggle for existence which the light of contemporary economic theory has enabled us to discern, have thus come to be temporarily exalted into a complete explanation of organic progress." (P. Geddes, article "Biology", "Chambers's Encyclopaedia".) It goes without saying that the idea suggested by Malthus was developed by Darwin into a biological theory which was then painstakingly verified by being used as an interpretative formula, and that the validity of a theory so established is not affected by what suggested it, but the practical question which this line of thought raises in the mind is this: if Biology did thus borrow with such splendid results from social theory, why should we not more deliberately repeat the experiment?

Darwin was characteristically frank and generous in admitting that the principle of Natural Selection had been independently recognised by Dr W.C. Wells in 1813 and by Mr Patrick Matthew in 1831, but he had no knowledge of these anticipations when he published the first edition of "The Origin of Species". Wells, whose "Essay on Dew" is still remembered, read in 1813 before the Royal Society a short paper entitled "An account of a White Female, part of whose skin resembles that of a Negro" (published in 1818). In this communication, as Darwin said, "he observes, firstly, that all animals tend to vary in some degree, and, secondly, that agriculturists improve their domesticated animals by selection; and then, he adds, but what is done in this latter case 'by art, seems to be done with equal efficacy, though more slowly, by nature, in the formation of varieties of mankind, fitted for the country which they inhabit.'" ("Origin of Species" (6th edition) page xv.) Thus Wells had the clear idea of survival dependent upon a favourable variation, but he makes no more use of the idea and applies it only to man. There is not in the paper the least hint that the author ever thought of generalising the remarkable sentence quoted above.

Of Mr Patrick Matthew, who buried his treasure in an appendix to a work on "Naval Timber and Arboriculture", Darwin said that "he clearly saw the full force of the principle of natural selection." In 1860 Darwin wrote—very characteristically—about this to Lyell: "Mr Patrick Matthew publishes a long extract from his work on "Naval Timber and Arboriculture", published in 1831, in which he briefly but completely anticipates the theory of Natural Selection. I have ordered the book, as some passages are rather obscure, but it is certainly, I think, a complete but not developed anticipation. Erasmus always said that surely this would be shown to be the case some day. Anyhow, one may be excused in not having discovered the fact in a work on Naval Timber." ("Life and Letters" II. page 301.)

De Quatrefages and De Varigny have maintained that the botanist Naudin stated the theory of evolution by natural selection in 1852. He explains very clearly the process of artificial selection, and says that in the garden we are following Nature's method. "We do not think that Nature has made her species in a different fashion from that in which we proceed ourselves in order to make our variations." But, as Darwin said, "he does not show how selection acts under nature." Similarly it must be noted in regard to several pre-Darwinian pictures of the struggle for existence (such as Herder's, who wrote in 1790 "All is in struggle...each one for himself" and so on), that a recognition of this is only the first step in Darwinism.

Profs. E. Perrier and H.F. Osborn have called attention to a remarkable anticipation of the selection-idea which is to be found in the speculations of Etienne Geoffroy St Hilaire (1825-1828) on the evolution of modern Crocodilians from the ancient Teleosaurs. Changing environment induced changes in the respiratory system and far-reaching consequences followed. The atmosphere, acting upon the pulmonary cells, brings about "modifications which are favourable or destructive ('funestes'); these are inherited, and they influence all the rest of the organisation of the animal because if these modifications lead to injurious effects, the animals which exhibit them perish and are replaced by others of a somewhat different form, a form changed so as to be adapted to (a la convenance) the new environment."

Prof. E.B. Poulton ("Science Progress", New Series, Vol. I. 1897. "A Remarkable Anticipation of Modern Views on Evolution". See also Chap. VI. in "Essays on Evolution", Oxford, 1908.) has shown that the anthropologist James Cowles Prichard (1786-1848) must be included, even in spite of himself, among the precursors of Darwin. In some passages of the second edition of his "Researches into the Physical History of Mankind" (1826), he certainly talks evolution and anticipates Prof. Weismann in denying the transmission of acquired characters. He is, however, sadly self- contradictory and his evolutionism weakens in subsequent editions—the only ones that Darwin saw. Prof. Poulton finds in Prichard's work a recognition of the operation of Natural Selection. "After enquiring how it is that 'these varieties are developed and preserved in connection with particular climates and differences of local situation,' he gives the following very significant answer: 'One cause which tends to maintain this relation is obvious. Individuals and families, and even whole colonies, perish and disappear in climates for which they are, by peculiarity of constitution, not adapted. Of this fact proofs have been already mentioned.'" Mr Francis Darwin and Prof. A.C. Seward discuss Prichard's "anticipations" in "More Letters of Charles Darwin", Vol. I. page 43, and come to the conclusion that the evolutionary passages are entirely neutralised by others of an opposite trend. There is the same difficulty with Buffon.

Hints of the idea of Natural Selection have been detected elsewhere. James Watt (See Prof. Patrick Geddes's article "Variation and Selection", "Encyclopaedia Britannica (9th edition) 1888.), for instance, has been reported as one of the anticipators (1851). But we need not prolong the inquiry further, since Darwin did not know of any anticipations until after he had published the immortal work of 1859, and since none of those who got hold of the idea made any use of it. What Darwin did was to follow the clue which Malthus gave him, to realise, first by genius and afterwards by patience, how the complex and subtle struggle for existence works out a natural selection of those organisms which vary in the direction of fitter adaptation to the conditions of their life. So much success attended his application of the Selection-formula that for a time he regarded Natural Selection as almost the sole factor in evolution, variations being pre- supposed; gradually, however, he came to recognise that there was some validity in the factors which had been emphasized by Lamarck and by Buffon, and in his well-known summing up in the sixth edition of the "Origin" he says of the transformation of species: "This has been effected chiefly through the natural selection of numerous successive, slight, favourable variations; aided in an important manner by the inherited effects of the use and disuse of parts; and in an unimportant manner, that is, in relation to adaptive structures, whether past or present, by the direct action of external conditions, and by variations which seem to us in our ignorance to arise spontaneously."

To sum up: the idea of organic evolution, older than Aristotle, slowly developed from the stage of suggestion to the stage of verification, and the first convincing verification was Darwin's; from being an a priori anticipation it has become an interpretation of nature, and Darwin is still the chief interpreter; from being a modal interpretation it has advanced to the rank of a causal theory, the most convincing part of which men will never cease to call Darwinism.



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