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Observer, Aug, 1, 71
bill of the snipe is long, and narrow, and sensitive, to pierce the marshy ground, and feel after its food. We might go on for hours multiplying such instances, and from every part of the field of creation.
Now, any mind in its natural state knows that in human works such adaptations could only proceed from contrivance, and is willing to regard these in the same way as proofs of design in creation. The physicist has to tutor himself to a different view. All these things are evolutions, under pressure of circumstances, of the original forces of creation. For example, out of certain birds tenanting marshy places, one has a somewhat larger beak, and this gives him an advantage in piercing the ground for food; and so his share of food is larger, and his strength and courage greater, and he has a freer choice of a mate; and so the long beak grows longer in the next generation, and the grandson's beak is longer than the son's, from the same causes; and thus the law works, until in course of time there stands confessed a new species-a perfect snipe. Is the scientific theory better in this case than the popular? It is not. It does not account for the facts so well. But is not our belief that God made the fowl of the air with fitting instruments for a peculiar life because He saw that it was good, and wished all portions of His varied earth to be the scene of the joy and energy of appropriate tenants, a mere hypothesis? The worship of God is universal, and exists without any explicit opinion that He is the Creator, the first Cause. Because you are able to conceive of Him, and are willing to accept Him as the Ruler of your will and conscience, He must exist. Does this seem too rapid an assumption? Consider the alternative. If He exists not, the sound of worship has gone up from all lands in vain, and in vain have all good men consecrated their lives to an obedience to the law of duty. Were such deceit felt to be possible, a darkness that might be felt would settle upon our spirits, and the hands would indeed hang down, and the feeble knees be paralyzed, and a strict silence on all moral subjects become us best. But we must see with such eyes as God has given us; and scepticism about faith and conscience is perhaps as unprofitable as scepticism about touch and sight. God exists then, it is assured to us by the common faith of mankind, by the highest law within ourselves. And as He exists, to Him, and to no other, must we assign the place of Creator. There cannot be two Gods. I cannot give my conscience to one as its guide, and adore another for the wisdom of the universe. God exists then, His existence is not merely assumed in order to account for marks of design in nature. And we maintain that the easier supposition is also the truer. These marks of purpose are what they appear to be, tokens of the wisdom of God. • Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all things that are therein, the sea and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all.' Neh. ix. 6.
If I were to venture to express in a few sentences the belief of a man of ordinary education upon this subject, I should say that God alone is and can be the first cause of this universe, the mover of its motion, the giver of its life. The wise purposes which shine forth for us in nature, were in the mind of God from the first act of creation. In saying that He has wrought by laws, we do not detract from His power; we seem rather to enhance it to our minds in attributing to Him constancy as well as wisdom. A law is not a restraint; it is a fixed manner of working. To say of a painter that he never produces any but fine works, does not affirm that he is less free than an inferior artist; just because producing bad work is no power or privilege but a defect. And so, when we admit that God works by
Observer, Aug. 1, '71.
law, and expect to find the same spectrum from the sun's rays, which we have once made with our own prism, at every time and in every place where the sun's light shines, and so on, we do not narrow the power of the Great Artificer, unless it can be shown that caprice is a privilege and a good. The subject of miracles is not here to be discussed; I will only observe that they are presented to us as parts of a great purpose for the good of man; and that our Lord refused, when He was tempted, to work wonders out of wilfulness, or only to astonish. The extreme jealousy of scientific men, of admitting any allusion to theology, in connection with the course of nature, proceeds from erroneous conceptions of God. Mr. Wallace whom I have already quoted with respect, is ready to admit that the Creator works in the beginning as the founder of the laws on which the world is to proceed; but he is afraid of admitting that there has been continual interference and re-arrangement of details. But this eminent naturalist attributes to us a conception of the Most High which we do not hold, nay, which we energetically reject. If the laws were wise and good, whence would come the need of interference or re-arrangement? Who are we that we should bid God speak once, and forbid Him twice to speak? The laws of nature are God's laws, and God's laws are His utterance of Himself through the speech of nature. God is the same yesterday, to-day and for ever; and so His laws remain the same. They are, if I may say so without irreverence, the veil and vesture over the form of God, too bright in itself for us to look on; they take their outline from Him who is beneath them. You may continue your researches in full confidence that the laws will stand sure, not because you have the slightest guarantee as a man of science that these laws will never be interfered with; such a guarantee you have on your own principles no right to ask. You are to observe that the facts are so; that they shall eternally be so is not for you, for that is all beyond experience. But the wisdom that made the laws needs not to revise its work, and erase and insert and amend its code. In the days of creation God saw that it was good; the eye that so approved it changes not. Until the purpose that runs. through the ages is completed the laws will stand sure. But each new kingdom of nature has introduced a change amounting to a revolution, which neither the theologian nor the naturalist regards as an interference or a caprice. When the principle of plant-life was introduced, the mineral world became the material on which the plant-life worked; it gathered into itself the lower elements, carbon, silica, nitrogen, and used them as means of its own organic life. The plant partook of the nature of the class below it, whilst it dominated and used that class. This same took place when animal life was introduced. The beautiful plants became the material whereon the animal life worked, the food whereby it sustained itself. It was the same when man was added, in whom instinct is replaced by reason, and ethical action supervenes over action by impulse and appetite. Each of these kingdoms has much in common with that which is below it. The animal is in many respects a plant; for the diatomaceous creatures one hardly knows in which kingdom to find their place. The man is an animal in much, and perhaps his animal instincts play a larger part in the world's history and in his own development than we are wont to allow. But each higher step brings in something wholly new. 'An animal,' says Hegel, is a miracle for the vegetable world." Each step is a revolution in one point of view; but then the lower state prepared itself for the higher, prophesied, so to speak, of its coming, and the higher seated itself so easily on the throne prepared for it, that we do not wonder
Observer, Aug. 1, '71
to find it there. You call it evolution; we call it a creative act. We think that God exists, and if He acts anywhere it must be in this, the universe of things. Εξ ἑνὸς τὰ πάντα γίγνεσθαι is an old saying long before Christianity. But you and we may work by the same calculus and rules of observation. The facts are the same, the interpretation of what is behind them is different. Nor need we deny that the principle of which Mr. Wallace spoke as supreme in the world,' has its truth and its use in explaining the facts of creation. It never raised an inert mineral mass into a vegetable organism; it never raised a plant into an animal. It never raised an ape into a man. No facts have yet been produced that go to prove any such leaps, and if our logic is to be improved in anything by the light of experience, it is in this, that facts should be recorded and generalised, but not assumed. But that climatic conditions, and the struggles for life, have modified species, and worked out new varieties, or new species, we may fearlessly admit; it is one more proof, perhaps, that the world is a meet school and training ground for the creatures placed in it for discipline. But a law is not a god; it never ruled supreme; never was other than one precept out of many in the Divine code of the world."
THE DESCENT OF MAN.*
Or the large ability of Mr. Darwin there can be no doubt; nor do we call in question his honesty. Still he is not trustworthy, and those who follow him without considerable caution will often find themselves in error. His last book serves to reveal his former mistakes and reverses his judgement to an extent which justifies withdrawal of confidence in his conclusions. Then, too, he admits to having no very great dread of "false views." His words are: "False views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, because every one takes pleasure in proving their falseness." Now, to this we take considerable exception. Certainly, false views supported by some evidence are more dangerous than false views altogether unsupported by evidence. It is the show of evidence, or the supposed evidence that supplies the element of danger. Nor is it true that " every one takes pleasure in proving their falsehood." There are many persons, who want to throw off the claims of Christianity, because they incon veniently restrain those who would gladly welcome the "some evidence," which consists of Mr. Darwin's surmises, and hold it with the firmest grasp, because it serves as an excuse for disregarding the Bible requirements. Of course, this admission on the part of Mr. Darwin must prepare us to expect that he is not over particular as to holding back crude and erroneous views, and what we are thus led to expect we certainly find.
These remarks are given for the purpose of calling attention to a discriminating notice of Mr. Darwin's work, just published in the last issue of the Quarterly Review, from which we give the following:
"Mr. Darwin's, supplementing and completing, as it does, his earlier publications, offers a good opportunity for reviewing his whole position. We shall thus be better able to estimate the value of his convictions regarding the special subject of his present inquiry. We shall first call attention to his earlier statements, in order that we may see whether he has modified his views, and if so, how far and with what results. If he has, even by his own showing and admission, been over-hasty and seriously mistaken previously, we must be the more careful how we commit ourselves to his guidance now.
"The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex;" by C. Darwin, London, 1871.
Observer, Aug. 1, '71.
We shall endeavour to show that Mr. Darwin's convictions have undergone grave modifications, and that the opinions adopted by him now are quite distinct from, and even subversive of, the views he originally put forth. The assignment of the law of 'natural selection' to a subordinate position is virtually an abandonment of the Darwinian theory; for the one distinguishing feature of that theory was the all-sufficiency of 'natural selection.' We find even in the third edition of his
'Origin of Species' the following passages:- Natural selection can act only by taking advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a leap, but must advance by short and slow steps.'-(p. 214.) Again, he says-'If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case.'-(p. 208.) He adds-Every detail of structure in every living creature (making some little allowance for the direct action of physical conditions) may be viewed, either as having been of special use to some ancestral form, directly, or indirectly through the complex laws of growth;' and 'If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection.'-(p. 220). It is almost impossible for Mr. Darwin to have used words by which more thoroughly to stake the whole of his theory on the non-existence or non-action of causes of any moment other than natural selection. For why should such a phenomenon annihilate his theory?' Because the very essence of his theory, as originally stated, is to recognise only the conservation of minute variations directly beneficial to the creature presenting them, by enabling it to obtain food, escape enemies, and propagate its kind. But once more, he says-' We have seen that species at any one period are not definitely linked together by a multitude of intermediate gradations, partly because the process of natural selection will always be very slow, and will act, at any one time, only on a few forms, and partly because the very process of natural selection almost implies the continual supplanting and extinction of preceding and intermediate gradations.'-(p. 223.)
Such are Mr. Darwin's earlier statements. At present we read as follows:-'I now admit, after reading the essay by Nägeli on plants, and the remarks by various authors with respect to animals, more especially those recently made by professor Broca, that in the earlier editions of my "Origin of Species " I probably attributed too much to the action of natural selection or the survival of the fittest. I had
not, formerly, sufficiently considered the existence of many structures which appear to be, as far as we can judge, neither beneficial nor injurious; and this I believe to be one of the greatest oversights as yet detected in my work.'-('Descent of Man,' vol. i., p. 152.) A still more remarkable admission is that in which he says, after referring to the action of both natural and sexual selection- An unexplained residuum of change, perhaps a large one, must be left to the assumed action of those unknown agencies which occasionally induce strongly marked and abrupt deviations of structure in our domestic productions.' -(vol i., p. 154.) But perhaps the most glaring contradiction is presented by the following passage:-No doubt man, as well as every other animal, presents structures which, as far as we can judge with our little knowledge, are not now of any service to him, nor have been so during any former period of his existence, either in relation to his general conditions of life or of one sex to the other. Such structures cannot be accounted for by any form of selection, or by the inherited effects of the use and disuse of parts. We know, however, that many strange and strongly marked peculiarities of structure occasionally appear in our domesticated productions, and if the unknown causes which produce them were to act more uniformly they would probably become common to all the individuals of the species.'-(vol. ii., p. 387.)
Mr. Darwin, indeed, seems now to admit the existence of internal innate powers, for he goes on to say-'We may hope hereafter to understand something about the causes of such occasional modifications, especially through the study of monstrosities.
In the greater number of cases we can only say that the cause of each slight variation and of each monstrosity lies much more in the nature or constitution of the organism than in the nature of the surrounding conditions; though new and changed conditions certainly play an important part in exciting organic changes of all kinds.' Also, in a note (vol. i., p. 223) he speaks of incidental results of certain unknown differences in the constitution of the reproductive system.' Thus, then, it is admitted by our author that we may have' abrupt strongly marked changes, neither beneficial nor injurious' to the creatures possessing them, produced by 'unknown agencies' lying deep in the 'nature or constitution of the organism,' and which if acting uniformly would 'probably' modify similarly all the individuals of a species.' If this is not an abandon. ment of natural selection "it would be difficult to select terms more calculated to express
Observer, Aug. 1, '71
it. But Mr. Darwin's admissions of error do not stop here. In the fifth edition of his Origin of Species' (p. 104) he says- Until reading an able and valuable article in the North British Review (1867), I did not appreciate how rarely single variations, whether slight or strongly marked, could be perpetuated.' Again, he was formerly 'inclined to lay much stress on the principle of protection, as accounting for the less bright colours of female birds '-(Descent of Man,' vol. ii., p. 198); but now he speaks as if the correctness of his old conception of such colours being due to protection was unlikely. Is it probable,' he asks, ‘that the head of the female chaffinch, the crimson on the breast of the female bullfinch, the green of the female chaffinch, the crest of the female golden-crested wren, have been all rendered less bright by the slow process of selection for the sake of protection? I cannot think so.'-(vol. ii., p. 176.) Once more, Mr. Darwin shows us (vol. i., p. 125) how he has been over-hasty in attributing the development of certain structures to reversion. He remarks—‘In my "Variations of Animals under Domestication" (vol. ii., p. 57), I attributed the not very rare cases of supernumerary mamma in women to reversion. But Professor Preyer states that mamma erratica have been known to occur in other situations, even in the back; so that the force of my argument is greatly weakened, or perhaps quite destroyed.' Finally, we have a postscript at the beginning of the second volume of the 'Descent of Man,' which contains an avowal more remarkable than even the passages already cited. He therein declares-'I have fallen into a serious and unfortunate error, in relation to the sexual differences of animals, in attempting to explain what seemed to me a singular coincidence in the late period of life at which the necessary variatians have arisen in many cases, and the late period at which sexual selection acts. The explanation given is wholly erroneous, as I have discovered by working out an illustration in figures.'
While willingly paying a just tribute of esteem to the candour which dictated these several admissions, it would be idle to dissemble, and disingenuous not to declare, the amount of distrust with which such repeated over-hasty conclusions and erroneous calculations inspire us. When their author comes before us anew, as he now does, with opinions and conclusions still more startling, and calculated in a yet greater degree to disturb convictions reposing upon the general consent of the majority of cultivated minds, we may well pause before we trust ourselves unreservedly to a guidance which thus again and again declares its own reiterated fallibility. Mr. Darwin's conclusions may be correct, but we feel we have now indeed a right to demand that they shall be proved before we assent to them; und that since what Mr. Darwin before declared 'must be,' he now admits not only to be unnecessary but untrue, we may justly regard with extreme distrust the numerous statements and calculations which, in the 'Descent of Man,' are avowedly recommended by a mere 'may be.' This is the more necessary, as the author, starting at first with an avowed hypothesis, constantly asserts it as an undoubted fact, and claims for it, somewhat in the spirit of a theologian, that it should be received as an article of faith. Thus the formidable objection to Mr. Darwin's theory, that the great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, is answered simply by an appeal to 'a belief in the general principles of evolution' (vol. i., p. 200), or by a confident statement that 'we have every reason to believe that breaks in the series are simply the result of many forms having become extinct.'—(vol. i., p. 187.) So, in like manner, we are assured that 'the early progenitors of man were, no doubt, once covered with hair, both sexes having beards; their ears were pointed and capable of movement; and their bodies were provided with a tail, having the proper muscles.'-(vol. i., p. 206.) And, finally, we are told, with a dogmatism little worthy of a philosopher, that unless we wilfully close our eyes, we must recognise our parentage.'-(vol. i., p. 213.)
We may now sum up our judgment of Mr. Darwin's work on the 'Descent of Man' -of its execution and tendency, of what it fails to accomplish, and of what it has successfully attained.
Although the style of the work is, as we have already said, fascinating, nevertheless, we think that the author is somewhat encumbered with the multitude of his facts, which, at times, he seems hardly able to group and handle so effectively as might be expected from his special talent. Nor does he appear to have maturely reflected over the data he has so industriously collected. Moreover, we are surprised to find so accurate an observer receiving as facts so many statements of a very questionable nature as we have already pointed out, and frequently on second-hand authority. The reasoning, also, is inconclusive, the author having allowed himself constantly to be carried away by the warmth and fertility of his imagination. In fact, Mr. Darwin's power of reasoning seems to be in an inverse ratio to his powers of observation. He now strangely exaggerates the action of 'sexual selection,' as previously he exaggerated the effects of the survival of the fittest.' On the whole, we are convinced that by the present work the cause of