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comes toppling over. This toppling over is what we call action; and when it is the result of the disturbance of certain usual arrangements in certain usual ways, we call it the habitual development and instinctive characteristics of the race. In either case, then, whether we consider the continued identity of the individual in what we call his single life, or those features in his offspring which we refer to heredity, the same explanation of the phenomena is applicable. It follows from this as a matter of course, that the continuation of life or personal identity in the individual and the race are fundamentally of the same kind, or, in other words, that there is a veritable prolongation of identity or oneness of personality between parents and offspring. Professor Hering reaches his conclusion by physical methods, while I reached mine, as I am told, by metaphysical. I never yet could understand what“ metaphysics” and
metaphysical ” mean; but I should have said I reached it by the exercise of a little common sense while regarding certain facts which are open to every one." There is, however, so far as I can see, no difference in the conclusion come to.
The view which connects memory with vibrations may tend to throw light upon that difficult question, the manner in which neuter bees acquire structures and instincts, not one of which was possessed by any of their direct ancestors. Those who have read Life and Habit may remember, I suggested that the food prepared in the stomachs of the nurse-bees, with which the neuter working bees are fed, might thus acquire a quasiseminal character, and be made a means of communicating the instincts and structures in question. If assimilation be regarded as the receiving by one subStance of the rhythms or undulations from another, the Life and Habit, p. 237 (Shrewsbury Edition, pp. 192, 193].
explanation just referred to receives an accession of probability
If it is objected that Professor Hering's theory as to continuity of vibrations being the key to memory and heredity involves the action of more wheels within wheels than our imagination can come near to comprehending, and also that it supposes this complexity of action as going on within a compass which no unaided eye can detect by reason of its littleness, so that we are carried into a fairyland with which sober people should have nothing to do, it may be answered that the case of light affords us an example of our being truly aware of a multitude of minute actions, the hundred million millionth part of which we should have declared to be beyond our ken, could we not incontestably prove that we notice and count them all with a very sufficient and creditable accuracy, “Who would not,” i says Sir John Herschel, “ ask
“ for demonstration when told that a gnat's wing, in its ordinary flight, beats many hundred times in a second? or that there exist animated and regularly organized beings many thousands of whose bodies laid close together would not extend to an inch? But what are these to the astonishing truths which modern optical inquiries have disclosed, which teach us that every point of a medium through which a ray of light passes is affected with a succession of periodical movements, recurring regularly at equal intervals, no less than five hundred millions of millions of times in a second; that it is by such movements communicated to the nerves of our eyes that we see; nay, more, that it is the difference in the frequency of their recurrence which affects us with the sense of the diversity of colour;
'On the Study of Natural Philosophy. Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia, vol. xcix, p. 24.
that, for instance, in acquiring the sensation of redness, our eyes are affected four hundred and eighty-two millions of millions of times; of yellowness, five hundred and forty-two millions of millions of times; and of violet, seven hundred and seven millions of millions of times per second? 1 Do not such things sound more like the ravings of madmen than the sober conclusions of people in their waking senses? They are, nevertheless, conclusions to which any one may most certainly arrive who will only be at the pains of examining the chain of reasoning by which they have been obtained.”
A man counting as hard as he can repeat numbers one after another, and never counting more than a hundred, so that he shall have no long words to repeat, may perhaps count ten thousand, or a hundred a hundred times over, in an hour. At this rate, counting night and day, and allowing no time for rest or refreshment, he would count one million in four days and four hours, or say four days only. To count a million a million times over, he would require four million days, or roughly ten thousand years; for five hundred millions of millions, he must have the utterly unrealizable period of five million years. Yet he actually goes through this Stupendous piece of reckoning unconsciously hour after hour, day after day, it may be for eighty years, often in each second of daylight; and how much more by artificial or subdued light I do not know. He knows whether his eye is being struck five hundred millions of millions of times, or only four hundred and eighty-two millions of millions of times. He thus shows that he estimates or counts each set of vibrations, and registers them according to his results. If a man writes upon the
Young's Lectures on Natural Philosophy, vol. ii, p. 627. See also Phil. Trans., 1801-2.
back of a British Museum blotting-pad of the common
If another objector maintains that the vibrations within the germ as above supposed must be continually crossing and interfering with one another in such a manner as to destroy the continuity of any one series, it may be replied that the vibrations of the light proceeding from the objects that surround us traverse one another by the millions of millions every second yet in no way interfere with one another. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the difficulties of the theory
towards which I suppose Professor Hering to incline are like those of all other theories on the same subjectalmost inconceivably great.
In Life and Habit I did not touch upon these vibrations, knowing nothing about them. Here, then, is one important point of difference, not between the conclusions arrived at, but between the aim and scope of the work that Professor Hering and I severally attempted. Another difference consists in the points at which we have left off. Professor Hering, having established his main thesis, is content. I, on the other hand, went on to maintain that if vigour was due to memory, want of vigour was due to want of memory. Thus I was led to connect memory with the phenomena of hybridism and of old age; to show that the sterility of certain animals under domestication is only a phase of, and of a piece with, the very common sterility of hybridsphenomena which at first sight have no connection either with each other or with memory, but the connection between which will never be lost sight of by those who have once laid hold of it. I also pointed out how exactly the phenomena of development agreed with those of the abeyance and recurrence of memory, and the rationale of the fact that puberty in so many animals and plants comes about the end of development. The principle underlying longevity follows as a matter of course. I have no idea how far Professor Hering would agree with me in the position I have taken in respect of these phenomena, but there is nothing in the above at variance with his lecture.
Another matter on which Professor Hering has not touched is the bearing of his theory on that view of evolution which is now commonly accepted. It is plain he accepts evolution, but it does not appear that he sees how fatal his theory is to any view of evolution except