RECORD: Lewins, R. 1882. Mr. Darwin and Professor Haeckel. Journal of Science, and Annals of Astronomy, Biology, Geology, Industrial Arts, Manufactures, and Technology (Ser. 3) 4: 751-752.
REVISION HISTORY: Scanned by John van Wyhe, transcribed (single key) by AEL Data. RN1
The subjoined letter originally sent to a contemporary having been ignored, it has been forwarded to us by the writer:—
MR. DARWIN AND PROFESSOR HAECKEL.
To the Editor of ——
SIR,—May I hope that you will not object to insert in an early No. of —— the following respectful remonstrance and explanation with reference to your remarks of November 10th, on the letter of June 5th, 1879, written by the late Mr. Charles Darwin, in answer to Baron Mengden, as recently published by Professor Haeckel, of Jena?
Your remarks, to which I beg to direct your attention and that of your readers, are the following:— "One scarcely knows which most to wonder at, the impertinent curiosity which elicited the letter or the bad taste which led to its publication. If we were not assured that every reader of —— has already seen the letter, we should not now publish the correct form; for a man's views on such matters are no concern of others unless he himself chooses to publish them."
Surely, Sir, on mature reflection you will be inclined to modify this harsh judgment, and to ascribe the letter of the Baron to far other motives than those of impertinent curiosity. The feelings which dictated his appeal to Mr. Darwin were self-evidently those of an "anxious inquirer" seeking an authoritative solution of perplexity and doubt. Natural Science—in its very inception sceptical—has necessarily the most unsettling effect on minds educated in the vulgar "Creed of Christendom" and in belief of Supernatural Revelation. And in this Age of Unfaith or Scepticism it seems as natural and becoming to consult scientific hierophants like Mr. Darwin on matters which now constitute the burning problem, both in speculation and politics, of our epoch, as it was in the prescientific "Ages of Faith" to sit at the feet of approved Confessors of Theology. "Nullius in verba," &c., is no doubt the perfect canon in scientific research, but this perfection cannot with justice be expected from an immature scientific tyro in his Lehrjahre, being a hard-won privilege of the matured Meisterwürde.
I feel quite satisfied that neither Baron Mengden nor Professor Haeckel were at all actuated by the unworthy motives with which you credit them, and such I feel convinced will he the all but general verdict of impartial public opinion in their favour.
Before concluding I may, without violation of any confidence, rnention that, both viva voce and in writing, Mr. Darwin was
much less reticent to myself than in this letter to Jena. For, in an answer to the direct question I felt myself justified, some years since, in addressing to that immortal expert in Biology, as to the bearing of his researches on the existence of an "Anima" or "Soul" in Man, he distinctly stated that, in his opinion, a vital or "spiritual" principle, apart from inherent somatic energy, had no rnore locus standi in the human than in the other races of the Animal Kingdom—a conclusion that seems a mere corollary of, or indeed a position tantamount with, his essential doctrine of human and bestial identityof Nature and genesis.—I am, &c.,
ROBERT LEWINS, M.D.
(MONTHLY, FORMERLY "THE QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF SCIENCE.")
VOL. IV. (THIRD SERIES.)
VOL. XIX. (O.S.)
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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
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