RECORD: DuBois H. A. 1865. The origin and antiquity of man: Darwin, Huxley and Lyell [part I]. American Quarterly Church Review, and Ecclesiastical Register 17 (2) (July): 169-197.
REVISION HISTORY: Scanned by Angus Carroll, transcribed (single key) by AEL Data, corrections by John van Wyhe 8.2009. RN1
NOTE: From a copy in the collection of Carroll.
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|ART. I.||The Origin and Antiquity of Man: Darwin, Huxley and Lyell,||169|
|ART. II.||American Poetry, Old and New,||199|
|ART. IV.||The Moravians and the Moravian Episcopate,||231|
|ART. V.||Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Brownell, D. D., LL. D.,||261|
|ART. VI.||The Meeting of the West and the East,||274|
|Notices of Books,||299|
|Summary of Home Intelligence,||319|
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VOL. XVII. JULY, 1865. No. 2.
THE ORIGIN AND ANTIQUITY OF MAN: DARWIN, HUXLEY AND LYELL.
(1) The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, by CHARLES DARWIN, M. A. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1860.
(2) Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature, by THOMAS H. HUXLEY. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1863.
(3) The Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man, with remarks on Origin of Species by Variation, by SIR CHARLES LYELL, F. R. S. Philadelphia: Geo. W. Childs. 1863.
THESE three works are very closely allied, not only by the doctrinal sympathies and intimate relations of their authors, but also by the close relationship of the subjects of which they treat, and the common object proposed.
Mr. Darwin attempts to show, that all animals now in existence have been derived from the lowest and simplest forms of life, by transmutation of species acting through illimitable periods of time.
Mr. Huxley adopts this doctrine of transmutation, and thinks that he has proved that Man is the nearly allied if not immediate descendant of the Gorilla.
Sir Charles Lyell accepts, with approbation, slightly modified, these views of his friends, and undertakes to furnish them, from the records of Geology, all the time demanded by their speculations.
We propose to briefly review each of the above works, with a view to determine how much of scientific truth and philosophy each is entitled to claim. Preparatory to this task, we desire to give expression to some thoughts in regard to the nature and distinction of Species,—as this is the main subject of the first two works we intend to review.
The question of Species—its origin, nature, and limits,—has always been a most vexed subject of dispute, upon which naturalists are now divided, and will probably always differ in their views. We may observe the facts connected with its phenomena, note its distinctions, and speculate on its nature, but the laws which govern its Origin and Extinction are beyond the reach of Philosophy. Its causation, if not revealed, must ever remain hidden in the mind of the Creator—for Science holds no clue to guide her groping steps. Where Science ends, Faith begins.
Prof. J. D. Dana, in an Article as profound as it is original, which appeared in the November No., for 1857, of the "American Journal of Science and Arts," has established, in a conclusive manner, the existence of species as "essentially realities in nature." Reasoning from the general to the special, he shews that the true type idea, or notion of species, is not to be found in any one group, but in the potential element which lies at the basis of the existence of each individual of the group. He demonstrates that, in accordance with the universal law which governs all existence, and which pervades all nature, this potential element must be a fixed and definite unit, capable of multiplication in the inorganic world, by combination of fixed equivalents, and in the organic world, by self-reproduction. Thus he proves that permanency is a necessary attribute of species, demanded by the harmony of the universal
law of existence; and he also shews that variation from the normal type—whatever that may be—is demanded by the universal law of "mutual sympathy," which determines all change of composition or decomposition, growth or decay. Hence he deduces, with great philosophical severity, the essential idea of a species, to be "a specific amount or condition of concentered force, defined in the act or law of creation."
This stringent formula is intended to embrace all the departments of nature; but while it expresses, with severe accuracy, the logical type idea of species, as a real existence, it by no means, as Prof. Dana admits, gives us a conception of the material type form. Though species is a reality, no type idea of it can be represented in any one material existence, nor be designated by any one example. Nor can we ascend, by induction, from a study of the individuals, to a correct conception of the type of the species,—inasmuch as "the variables," as well as "the constants," form an element of the type, and therefore the conception formed from the study of the individuals, is a conception only of its phases or modifications. Nevertheless, we may adopt this stringent formula as a safeguard against specious generalizations.
In applying it to the animal kingdom, we may construe it as meaning,—that specific degree and kind of vital organization necessary for the development of the individual under modifying circumstances, and which is defined by the act or law of its creation.
The above formula defines species in relation to its essence; but it is also desirable to consider it in relation to its manifestations of form, and to accompany the definition with some sure test, whereby to guide and correct our classification of individuals. Considered in this relation, we would define Species to be an original organized form, specific in its kind and immutable in its fundamental characteristics, but capable of developing varieties under modifying circumstances. The individuals of a species constantly reproduce their like with those of the same species; but their offspring, by generation with any other species, is incapable of continuous fertility.
This definition recognizes a special law of being for each in-
dividual of a species, stamping immutability upon its generic seminal characteristics, in harmony with the general law of Nature, which determines, with mathematical precision, the component elements of all bodies and forces. But while it thus imposes constancy of fundamental characteristics on all, it allows to each individual great variety of development in accommodation to surrounding circumstances, and in obedience to that universal law of mutual sympathy and reciprocal action, which diversifies with change every department of Nature.
Could we ascertain with accuracy the fundamental seminal characteristics which distinguish one animal from another, we would be able to make our scientific classification of species accord with that distinction which really exists in nature. Our present classifications are, in no small degree, uncertain and arbitrary, based, frequently, on very slight differences of structure, form or color. Thus, for instance, "a slight peculiarity in the coloring of a minute part of the anterior wing" of a butterfly, (Vanessa atalanta,) is sufficient to create a doubt whether it should not be made the basis of a distinct species. So also the African, Indian and fossil Elephant, (E. primigenius,) are made distinct species in consequence of slight discrepancies of form in the markings on the wearing surfaces of their molars; which, in the first, are lozenge shaped, and in the last two, rather more rhomboidal.
Appealing to our present classifications, it is not strange that the advocates of the so-called development theory should find, in Nature, some few facts which apparently support their visionary hypothesis of transmutation of one species into another. These pretended instances of transmutation may be more correctly attributed to individual peculiarities, perpetuated under favorable circumstances, being simply varieties developed under certain conditions, and which present an apparent constancy, so long as the modifying conditions which developed them remain constant. Look at the vast changes that man has wrought by art in many domestic animals, developing varieties, but never altering species. See the striking differences which separate the races of dogs, many of which occur
naturally, and, under given circumstances, are constant. We class the brown and black bear as different species,—yet what differences do they present at all comparable to those which distinguish the mastiff from the spaniel, or the greyhound from the bull-dog; or these again from the scent-hounds. So also the varieties of domestic fowls present as marked differences as those which distinguish many individuals of the parrot or grouse family, which are classified as distinct species.
Until the time of Lamarck, the scientific world generally accepted the definition of Linnæus, that "a species consisted of individuals, all resembling each other, and re-producing their like by generation." This definition, though vague, had the merit of fixing, by an infallible test, the line of distinction, but it did not recognize the law of change, by which varieties are developed from the influence of external causes. Lamarck, observing that some fossil "shells were so nearly allied to living species that it was difficult not to suspect that they had been connected by a common bond of descent," proposed to add to the above definition of Linnæus the following clause, viz: "so long as the surrrounding conditions do not undergo changes sufficient to cause their habits, characters and forms, to change." This addition was very good, inasmuch as it recognized the universal law of change, by which varieties are developed in every department of Nature, within fixed limits. Had Linnæus inserted it in his definition, it would have constituted the basis of a true development theory, and would have precluded the origin of the present transmutation hypothesis.
Lamarck, ignoring Linnæus' great test of distinction, and not duly appreciating Nature's great law of change, fixed his attention exclusively on the varieties developed under this law; and by an unwarrantable generalization of facts, carefully observed, he broached the startling doctrine of progressive transmutation of species, by which the origin of Man, God's master-piece, has been derived from a monkey, through the successive evolutions of a primary monad. According to him, a short-legged bird, constantly desiring to catch fish to better advantage, gives rise to a race of long-legged waders.
In like manner, the camel-leopard had acquired its present shape, by constantly stretching out its neck to reach the higher branches of trees, as the lower ones became scarce. These fanciful lucubrations of Lamarck clearly indicate the origin of Mr. Darwin's hypothesis.
The anonymous author of the "Vestiges of Creation," which appeared in 1844, following closely in the tracks of Lamarck, introduced, as a principal element of change, the force of maternal volition, acting on the embryo, thereby transmuting it into a higher grade than its parent.
Mr. Darwin has somewhat modified these materialistic hypotheses, but it is doubtful whether he has much improved them. To get rid of the imputation, to which the others are liable, of making the orderly arrangement of nature the result of blind chance, he imagines the existence of some vague controlling power, called "Natural Selection," equally blind and materialistic, operating solely through chance variations. He also attempts to get rid of another objection to Lamarck's theory—which demands a continual creation of monads, by spontaneous generation, to supply the place of those which have been progressively advanced—by arguing that variation is not necessarily progressive, but that, in the struggle for existence, any animal, which has some slight advantage over his fellows, is "naturally selected" for transmutation into some other form, perhaps not superior in organization. This supposition, if true, involves no change of principle, but only a slight difference in the partial working of the machinery of development. The fundamental principle of both hypotheses is the same, viz:—that the Animal Creation has been progressively developed, from the lowest to the highest form, from a Monad to Man.
Mr. Darwin's scheme of creation is based entirely upon the following assumptions:—
1st. That "all the organic beings, extinct and recent, which have ever lived on this earth," are the modified descendants, by natural generation, of one common ancestor, and in this common descent, "all have been connected by the finest gradations." His argument for this assumption is an unwarrant-
able application of the maxim so often quoted by him, "Natura non facit saltum."
2d. As all animals are apt to vary, and have a tendency to increase beyond the means of subsistence, he assumes that some advantageous chance variation in an individual, transmitted to its posterity, has enabled them to root out their fellows, in the struggle for food, and has led, "as a consequence, to Natural Selection," thus giving birth to new species, and causing "the extinction of less improved forms." His argument for this assumption is based on a perverse generalization of the well-known fact, that all animals are capable of developing varieties,—and he supports it mainly by citing the great diversity of form produced in pigeons, and other animals, by a careful and judicious selection.
3d. His greatest assumption—and a monstrous one it is—consists in making this "Natural Selection," which is the consequence of physical causes, the law-giving cause and controlling agent of creation, endowed with an all-wise and all-provident intelligence. He asserts that this "Power" has accumulated the slight accidental variations of individuals, from the beginning of time, preserving the good and rejecting the bad; that it has, with consummate wisdom, directed these chance variations into many distinct lines of development, thereby creating new animals with new organs; that it has adapted them to their proper localities and proper functions; endowed them with their necessary instincts; and distributed them into those distinct classes, orders, genera and species, which we now behold. The monstrous assumption that such an imaginary power exists in nature, being, at the same time, both the creature and the creator of physical law, is the pivot on which Mr. Darwin makes his hypothesis revolve, in order to meet any objection or to solve any difficulty.
On these three assumptions, Mr. Darwin founds what he calls his "theory," and against it we advance three objections.
1st. His "Natural Selection," considered as an intelligent Agent, is not a vera causa.
2d. His natural selection, considered as the consequence of physical law, is incompetent to produce the changes which he attributes to it.
discriminating "Power," which accomplishes all the changes, and explains all the mysteries of Creation. We will proceed to give some quotations, to prove how distinctly our author invests this power with the attributes of a controlling, intelligent Creator, constantly at work.
"It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good."—p. 80.
"If then we have, under nature, variability, and a powerful agent, always ready to act and select, why should we doubt that variations in any way useful to beings under their excessively complex relations of life, would be preserved, accumulated, and inherited?——What limit can we put to this power, acting during long ages, and rigidly scrutinizing the whole constitution, structure, and habits of each creature, favoring the good and rejecting the bad? I can see no limit to this power," &c.—p. 407.
"If it profit a plant to have its seeds more and more widely disseminated by the wind, I can see no greater difficulty in this being effected through natural selection, than in the cotton planter increasing and improving by selection the down in the pods on his cotton trees."—p. 82.
"Natural Selection acts, as we have seen, exclusively by the preservation and accumulation of variations which are beneficial," &c.—p. 117.
"If it were no advantage (to an earth worm to be highly organized) these forms would be left by natural selection unimproved, or but little improved; and might remain for indefinite ages in their little advanced condition."—p. 119.
"If, under changed conditions of life, a structure before useful be comes less useful, any diminution, however slight, will be seized on by natural selection; for it will profit the individual not to have its nutriment wasted in building up an useless structure."—p. 134.
"And as long as the same part has to perform diversified work, we can see why it should remain variable; that is, why natural selection should have preserved or rejected each little deviation or form less carefully, than when the part has to serve for one special purpose alone."—p. 135.
These few quotations aptly illustrate the sophistical as well as illogical reasoning which our author employs throughout his book. He first assumes the existence of a purely imaginary cause, to which he arbitrarily ascribes, as occasion requires, the attributes of omniscience and omnipotence, and then he "can see no great difficulty" in imputing to its sole agency all the diverse phenomena of Nature. This sophistry the more grievously offends, by being constantly palmed off on us as a logical
argument, in proof of his visionary and oft-times absurd speculations.
But we have selected these passages to prove that the author clearly asserts Natural Selection to be, not only an all-powerful, intelligent, and discriminating Agent, but that its power and intelligence is exerted exclusively for the benefit of the individual. In fact, our author says, plainly:—
"Natural Selection will never produce in a being anything injurious to itself, for Natural Selection acts solely by and for the good of each."—p. 179.
Yet, on the same page he says,—"But Natural Selection can and does often produce structures for the direct injury of other species." This last remark is made to explain the existence of poison fangs in the adder and the rattlesnake. But here our author finds himself in a hobble. The sting of the wasp and bee, owing to the backward serratures, cannot be withdrawn, and therefore cannot be used by the insect without causing its inevitable death. He attempts to obviate this objection, by the remark, that "Natural Selection will not produce absolute perfection." But still, aware that the above fact gives the lie to his oft-repeated fundamental principle,—that Natural Selection never produces an organ for the injury of its possessor,—he tries to reconcile it by concluding that this sacrifice of the individual is made pro bono publico! "For," he says, "if, on the whole, the power of stinging be useful to the community, it will fulfil all the requirements of Natural Selection, though it may cause the death of some few members." This easy requirement, however, does not comport with what he says on the next page, in regard to the "inexorable principle of Natural Selection."
We now proceed to give a crowning instance of this imaginative author's fanciful scheme of creation, by the agency of Natural Selection.
On page 169, 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 he can find no such case,—and therefore gives us his
recipe for making an "eye," which we commend to the reader's special attention. It is as follows:—
"It is scarcely possible to avoid comparing the eye to a telescope.——If we must compare the eye to an optical instrument, we ought, in imagination, to take a thick layer of transparent tissue, with a nerve sensitive to light beneath, and then suppose every part of this layer to be continually changing in density, so as to separate into layers of different densities and thicknesses, placed at different distances from each other, and with the surfaces of each layer slowly changing in form. Further, we must suppose that there is a power always intently watching each slight accidental alteration in the transparent layers; and carefully selecting each alteration which, under varied circumstances, may in any way, or in any degree, tend to produce a distincter image. We must suppose each new state of the instrument to be multiplied by the million; and each to be preserved till a better be produced, and then the old ones to be destroyed. In living bodies, variation will cause the slight alterations; generation will multiply them almost infinitely, and natural selection will pick out with unerring skill each improvement."
He remarks, in this connection, on page 168:—
"I can see no very great difficulty, (not more than in the case of other structures) in believing that Natural Selection has converted the simple apparatus of an optic nerve, coated with pigment and invested by transparent membrane, into an optical instrument, as perfect as is possessed by any member of the great Articulate class."
In the next sentence he says:—
"He who will go thus far, ought not to hesitate to go further, and to admit, that a structure even as perfect as the eye of an eagle might be formed by Natural Selection, although in this case he does not know any of the transitional grades."
And then adds, with sublime coolness:—"His reason ought to conquer his imagination."!
Upon the strength of such reasoning, he requires the reader to admit that "there is no logical impossibility in the acquirement of any conceivable degree of perfection, through Natural Selection."
Every reader of Mr. Darwin's book must be struck with one peculiarity, which characterizes his mode of argumentation, or manner of handling his subject,—for it can hardly be called reasoning, even by courtesy. It consists in the use of the term, "Natural Selection," in connection with such expressions as, "I can see no difficulty,"—"It is conceivable,"—"We may
suppose," or "I have no doubt,"—occurring on almost every page, and constantly advanced in explanation of all the mysteries of nature, without the slightest regard to logical sequence.
Thus the difficulties of a question are stated and re-stated with many facts, opinions, and much irrelevant matter, and then the most astounding conclusion is drawn from a very frivolous premiss, or the most sweeping generalization is based on a flimsy foundation, which, coupled with the above stereotyped expression, is offered as a full and logical solution of the whole difficulty. We will give but two instances, out of a host.
The constant re-production, in every community of bees and ants, of working neuters, presenting a fixed structure different from their parents, is a mystery which is fatal to his hypothesis; for this peremptorily demands that the acquisition and perpetuation of any given form, shall be the effect of direct inheritance. His hypothesis, therefore, will not apply to those forms the possessors of which are sterile. "But," says Mr. Darwin, "some insects, in state of nature, occasionally become sterile;" this is his premiss,—and the conclusion which he immediately draws from it is this:—
"And if such insects had been social, and (if) it had been profitable to the community that a number should have been annually born, capable of work, but incapable of procreation, I can see no very great difficulty in this being effected by Natural Selection."—p. 209.
Nor can any one else, if "Natural Selection" have the same power as God Almighty.
Again,—he learns from Mr. Hearne, that a black bear was seen swimming, for hours, with widely open mouth,—probably overheated by running, and cooling himself. His assumption is, that he was "thus catching, like a whale, insects in the water." His generalization of this odd freak of a bear, and its supposed motive, is, that black bears may become the progenitors of a whale-like progeny. He says:—
"Even in so extreme a case as this, if the supply of insects were constant, and if better adapted competitors did not already exist in the country, I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by Natural Selection, more and more aquatic in their structure and
habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale."—p. 165.
Mr. Darwin's own inability to see any difficulty in nature which his Natural Selection cannot remove, is always his strongest argument to induce others to accept his hypothesis.
The examples, as well as the reasoning, by which he seeks to inculcate his doctrine, in the way of illustration, insinuation, or indirect support, are extremely lame and impotent, not to say frivolous. Thus, for instance, from the fact that a wood-pecker has been occasionally seen feeding on fruit, or catching insects in the air or on the ground, he would have us to conclude that this bird was not originally formed to climb trees and bore for insects, but that this faculty was conferred on it by Natural Selection. In proof, he tells us that he had once seen a bird which he considered to be a wood-pecker, [mark the evidence,] inasmuch as it looked and flew very much like a wood-pecker, but "which never climbs a tree," [mark the proof,] for he met with it "on the plains of La Plata, where not a tree grows."—p. 165. Thus he cites the frigate-bird, as being web-footed, yet never alighting on the water, [a mistake,] and also the grebe and coot, which are eminently aquatic, "although their toes are only bordered by membrane,"—as proof that these birds are being transmuted, by Natural Selection, into different species. He says, "In the frigate-bird, the deeply scooped membrane between the toes shows that the structure has begun to change." In like manner, he would have us come to the same logical conclusion of transmutation by Natural Selection, because "there are upland geese, with webbed feet, which rarely or never go near the water,"—and because, petrels, the most aërial of birds, and water-ouzels, which belong to the thrush family, dive and swim, (as he asserts,) like auks or grebes.
So also the existence of rudimentary front teeth in calves is advanced as convincing proof that some ancient cow, who had lost her front teeth, or who had laid them aside by "disuse," finding that she could get along better with tongue and palate, was the progenitrix of all cattle which have no upper front teeth. In like manner, from the rudimentary teeth
of fœtal whales, he insinuates their terrestrial origin—probably from bears, as before stated. So also, as the tail is an organ of motion in fishes, he argues that Natural Selection has modified the shape, but preserved the same use in terrestrial animals of aquatic origin; thus in dogs, (he says,) the tail enables them to turn quicker, though he admits that the hare, with hardly any tail, turns readily enough.
Mr. Darwin's book is not a work of scientifically applied facts in proof of a theory, but is, principally, a diffuse and very illogical argument, based on a misapplication of known facts, by which he seeks, first, to support his gratuitous assumptions, and then, by a fanciful not to say absurd application of his assumptions to more obscure facts, he attempts, at the same time, to establish his hypothesis, and also to claim for it the merit of explaining these obscurities.
Giving free scope to a lively imagination, inherited, doubtless, from his grand-father, the celebrated author of the "Loves of the Plants," Mr. Darwin has generalized from his assumptions, and has thus devised an hypothesis, which makes men and brutes all but self-existent, since they are self-created from simple monads, upwards.
Thoroughly, and we doubt not, honestly convinced of its truth, he asserts its competency to explain all the mysteries of creation more satisfactorily than any other theory, and he can see no difficulty, under its illumination, in accounting for the most obscure phenomena of nature. It is, however, in regard to the origin and extinction of those ancient forms of life which Geology discloses, that Mr. Darwin claims for his hypothesis special merit. He thinks he has at length solved this difficult problem. Let us carefully test this claim.
Geology teaches, with great distinctness, the successive changes which have modified the surface of the earth—from that state in which no trace of organization can be discovered, up to its present condition, teeming with varied forms of life. It also records the successive appearance of different forms of organized beings, advancing in the scale of creation, from the simplest cellular plants and plant-like animals, entombed in the deepest rocks of the earth, to man, whose origin cannot be
traced beyond the dust and "drift" which cover its present surface. Its also reveals the fact that each race, as it came into existence, was admirably adapted to the physical condition of the earth at the time of its appearance, to the place it was designed to fill, and the functions it was called upon to discharge.
This is the catholic creed of Geologists, whether they believe in Revelation or not. Preparation, plan, and nice adaptation, mark every stage of the world's progress. "Nor is it only the PLAN of the great types, (to use the words of Agassiz,) which must have been adopted from the beginning, but also the manner in which these plans were to be executed; the systems of form under which these structures were to be clothed, and even the ultimate details of structure which, in different genera, bear definite relations to those of other genera; the mode of differentiation of species, and the nature of their relations to the surrounding media, must likewise have been determined,—for the character of the classes is as well defined as that of the four great branches of the animal kingdom, or that of the families, the genera, and the species." He also expresses the conviction, "that the whole creation is the expression of a thought, and not the product of physical agents."
The four great types referred to above, present characteristic structural differences, which were as fixed and determinate in the earliest animals which Geology reveals, as they are in those of the present day.
By adding to these great types the lowest form of animal life, we have five great divisions of the Animal Kingdom, under which every animal that has ever lived may be ranked, and which may be specified, beginning at the lowest, as, I. Protozoans; II. Radiates; III. Molluscs; IV. Articulates, and V. Vertebrates.
How many and which genera or species, comprised in each of these great divisions, were original and independent creations, what developments or modifications from external causes these primordial genera or species have undergone, will probably, as we have before said, always be a matter of doubt and dispute.
While Geology discloses in each of these great divisions gradational forms adapted to their surroundings, it also discloses the co-existence of three of these distinct types, in the earliest periods of time, and consequently forbids the idea of their progressive transmutation from one to the other. It establishes the fact of separate and independent creations, each with its distinct gradational forms,—and thus concurs with Divine Revelation, as well as with scientific observation and human experience, in condemning the visionary speculations of Mr. Darwin.
In what way these distinct primordial forms first came into existence, science is absolutely incompetent to determine, for the line of inquiry is beyond her reach. If the great Author of nature has given us no revelation of His creative acts, which faith can receive, we must necessarily be content to remain in humble ignorance.
Mr. Darwin, however, is of an entirely different opinion. He thinks he can explain how physical laws and physical agents have brought into existence all the successive forms of organic life, from its first beginning, and how they have, with discriminating wisdom, adapted them to the progressive modifications of the earth's surface, determined their mutual relations, as parts of a whole system, and decreed the functions which each was to perform in the drama of life.
He is, indeed, forced to admit the necessity of some supernatural agency, (he does not say what it was,) in order to account for the vitality of at least "one primordial form into which life was first breathed." This being done, all necessity ceases for further intervention on the part of the implied Deity, and the whole plan of creation, as subsequently realized, so wise, so beautiful, so wondrously harmonious, is the result of the chance operations of physical agents, under the watchful and beneficent providence of Natural Selection!
In order to test the scientific and philosophic merit of this hypothesis, let us make a rigid application of it to the known facts of the Animal Kingdom.
As the fundamental idea of this hypothesis is the transmutation of animals from simpler to higher forms, by Nat-
ural Selection, "accumulating slight successive favorable variations," it is evident that the primordial forms of Mr. Darwin must have belonged to the lowest great division of the Animal Kingdom, viz., to the Protozoans.
Thanks to the labors of Prof. Ehrenberg, of Berlin, and others, this sub-kingdom, hitherto little known, has been very thoroughly explored. In one class, (infusoria,) which Ehrenberg has named Polygastria, he has described twenty-two families, of which the Monadida is the first and simplest, each containing many species. This class "exists, in countless millions, in water, both salt and fresh;"—"many of these living atoms crowd the water in which they are found to such an extent, that they are not separated from each other by a space greater than the size of their whole bodies; so that, by a very little calculation, it will be seen that one drop of such water contains more of these active existences than there are human beings on the surface of the globe." Their universal distribution, where water is to be met with fit for their reception, is another marvelous fact connected with these animals.
Mr. Darwin could not desire better conditions for the test of his hypothesis. Here we have all his so-called laws, in vigorous operation; "Growth, with Re-production;" "Variability;" and especially his main law, "a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and, as a consequence, to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of character, and the Extinction of less improved forms." We are ready to admit, that in this state of things, at an early day, some one or more monads, pressed by hunger, may by chance have developed "a Variation;" possibly, some superiority in their prehensible proboscis, which is their only external organ, and serves for progression and nutrition. We agree that this would give them a very great advantage over their fellows, and that they would "have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected" to become—better fed monads.
This variation of form, thus acquired, would doubtless be transmitted to their offspring, without the aid of our author's inevitable Natural Selection,—for these animals have no sexual preferences, but perpetuate themselves by self-division.
Nor is there here any chance for "Natural Selection (to act) by accumulating slight successive favorable variations;" for, granting at the start, the greatest possible variation which the simple structure of these animals will admit of, consisting of a stomach and proboscis, the only result that could follow would be, a race of better fed and better developed Monads. The utmost development of any variation in the form of these organs, would not transmute them into new and different organs; and we have demonstration that it has worked no "Divergence" in the essential characteristics, nor produced any "Extinction" of this simplest aboriginal family.
So also one or more of the voracious family of the Amœba, who are ever changing their shapes by the protrusion and retraction of the foot-like processes of their bodies, might, by some accidental variation or increase of this faculty, have been able to feed more abundantly on other animalculæ. Such variations, transmitted to their descendants, may have produced that diversity in size and shape which we now observe; nevertheless, the characteristics of the family remain unaltered.
These are instances of the lowest forms of animal life,—mere animated globules, or living ventricular sacs, corresponding to the cellular amphigams of the Vegetable Kingdom. According to the hypothesis of Mr. Darwin, they, or their vegetable analogues, must have furnished the "one primordial form," from which, he thinks, "all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth, have descended,"—for, there are none lower, to be developed into higher forms of life, by Natural Selection. What "Divergence of character and extinction of less favored forms" has Natural Selection accomplished, during the millions of ages which are claimed for organic life? These first progenitors of animated nature, according to a strictly consistent interpretation of this hypothesis, ought to have gone to their graves long ago,—having been pushed out of existence in the struggle of life, by far higher and more favored forms,—for it is upon this principle that Mr. Darwin accounts for the extinction of those ancient races which Geology reveals. But the fact is, these forefathers still live and flourish; they have undergone no extinction or divergence of
character, for they remain, still, the lowest and simplest possible form of organization, and their prodigious numbers are still as great as they possibly could have been, when a primal sea deposited in the Cambrian strata the first token of organic life.
Such is the starting point to which Mr. Darwin has confined himself, by his own terms; and according to his direct statements, this is the beginning and end of the Divine agency in the work of creation. He tells us, plainly, that every other animal has been manufactured, by Natural Selection, out of the inherited chance variations of probably one primordial form,—the bad ones being rejected, and the good ones accumulated and "worked up" into different types of organization, by this ever-vigilant power. According to him, God created only a monad, but Natural Selection has transmuted it into a reasoning man, and has breathed into him a conscious immortal soul!
Such is the monstrous and absurd conclusion in which his hypothesis ends. In support of it, he appeals in vain to Geology, to prove that the extinct forms of ancient life, were the gradual developments of one parent stock. Geology refuses to reveal that infinite succession of slightly differing gradational forms which his hypothesis demands,—but, on the contrary, denies the assumption, by disclosing Protozoans, Radiates, Molluscs, and Articulates,—all co-existent from the earliest time. Mr. Darwin is conscious of this, and, accordingly, laments the imperfection of the geological record, but hopes that the time will come when it will be more in accordance with his hypothesis. He would have had less cause for grief, if he had framed his hypothesis in accordance with facts, instead of seeking, by gratuitous assumptions, to explain facts, to which he afterwards appeals in vain to prove his hypothesis.
He invokes the aid of time to prove, that these assumed transmutations of structural type, of which no trace can be found in the lowest of the zoic rocks in which fossils occur, were produced imperceptibly, by infinitely small degrees, during the illimitable periods of geological eras, which he claims for the azoic rocks, in which no trace of life has ever been discovered. But time, without specific force, (which he has failed
to demonstrate,) is powerless to effect change. An eternity of time could never quicken into motion the vis inertiæ of unorganized matter, so as to create new organizations,—nor could it change, in the slightest degree, the laws imposed on organized beings, from their first origin.
In framing his fanciful scheme, had he taken for his starting point, the original creation of one or more primordial forms in each of the great and distinct divisions of the Animal Kingdom, from which to develop his variations, he would have met with far less opposition from the geological record.
He might then have argued with far more plausibility from the development of variations, and from the modification of external causes, that the ancient extinct forms of each division had been gradually supplanted by kindred representatives now living. Passing over, in silence, the four lower sub-kingdoms, and confining himself solely to the highest, or Vertebrate, he would have found full necessity for the most extensive periods of time, and full scope for the most unbridled imagination, in applying these causes, simply, to the gradual development of homologous parts, so as to account, by the accumulation of slight beneficial changes, for the transmutation of the gills, scales and fins of a fish, into the lungs, feathers and wings of a bird, equipped with beak and claws.
We say that such a supposition would have been more plausible, though it would still be irreconcilable with geological facts and sound philosophy. But the admission that several or all the great types of organization were distinct creations, would entirely defeat the scope and aim of our author's hypothesis, which is manifestly, framed so as to make the nearest approach to spontaneous generation, and to exclude a Divine Creator, as far as it is possible, from the works of creation.
Having breathed life into a globular monad, there is no farther need for His creative agency, or orderly arrangement. Mr. Darwin's imagination can "dream the rest;" thenceforth Natural Selection takes the place of Divine intelligence.
We think it is evident, that Mr. Darwin has sought, from the very start, to invent and hypothesis which should be in direct opposition to what he calls "the common theory of sep-
arate and independent creations,"—meaning thereby the Mosaic theory. He is constantly challenging this theory, as incompetent to explain those mysteries of life which he thinks are so clearly elucidated by his own fanciful speculations. Aristotle attributes distinct creations to the "mens divina,"—Plato, to the "anima mundi,"—and Harvey, a wiser physicist than either, to "the Creator and Father of all things in heaven and earth;" but Mr. Darwin charges with folly or wilful blindness, all who cannot see that Natural Selection exercises all the attributes of a Divine Creator. Notwithstanding this arrogant assumption of superior wisdom, had he fairly and scientifically generalized from the facts which he has confusedly heaped into a visionary hypothesis, he would have more rationally deduced the theory, that all animals were originally divided into fixed classes, according to great structural types, as Science attests. He would have recognized, that in each of these divisions, life had been breathed into a certain number of primordial forms,—we know not how many,—and that each of these primordial forms, whose "seed was in itself," was endowed with an inherent capability of variation,—to what extent we know not,—but such as would enable the race to conform to surrounding conditions, and to the progressive changes of the earth's surface.
Such a theory would be in accordance with Natural Science, and it would also be in accordance with the Mosaic record of creation, which claims to be a direct Revelation from its Divine Author. Such a claim, however, would not be admitted by the author of the "Origin of Species by Natural Selection." It would require too much Faith on the part of a scientific physicist, who studiously avoids all recognition of the agency of a Divine Creator, but who, nevertheless, with singular inconsistency, invests physical agents with the attributes of a provident Divinity.
To show how much faith our author demands from us,—his own cosmical Genesis, if thrown into an equally compendious form as that of Moses, would necessarily be as follows, according to his own statements. "In the beginning there was, probably, 'some one primordial form, into which life was first
breathed,' for all 'animals have descended from at most only four or five progenitors, and plants from an equal or less number.' These progenitors, who were simple vegetable cells, or animal monads, have produced, by natural generation, each after his kind, whose seed is in itself, all the grass, herbs and trees on the face of the earth; also, all the creatures that move in the waters, or which fly in the air; also all the creeping things, beast and cattle of the field; also all the men that inhabit the earth. All these were generated by, 'probably,' only one monad, who developed 'variations' according to a law styled 'Variability,' and transmitted them to successive generations of lineal descendants, in virtue of a law styled 'Inheritance,' which is implied by the law of 'Growth, with Reproduction.'—Thus were created all the diverse complicated structures of the Radiates, Molluscs, Articulates, and Vertebrates, which now inhabit earth, air and water.—Moreover, as each new animal came, successively, into existence by 'chance' variations, his appropriate place was allotted him, his proper functions assigned, and his due and orderly relations to other animals prescribed by 'Natural Selection,' which is a consequence of the 'frequently recurring struggle for existence' arising from the fact of 'many more individuals being born than can possibly survive.'"
We assert that the above is a truthful expression of Mr. Darwin's hypothesis, given, as nearly as possible, in his own language, but divested of its verbiage and sophistry. The bare statement of its requirements shows, that it is equally opposed to analogy, scientific observation, human experience, and common sense.
He demands from Naturalists FAITH to believe in opposition to Science and sound Philosophy, that the four great types according to which all animals above Protozoans have constantly and uniformly been constructed, from the dawn of creation, are simply inherited variations in the forms of primordial monads. He requires them to believe that the orderly arrangement, by which all animals according to each distinct type, have been distributed into distinct natural classes of genera and species, manifesting the affinities of their peculiar types in an endless
variety of structural resemblances, yet always separated by fixed genetic differences, and that the skillful contrivance by which each of these distinct types has been modified in the construction of each species of animals, fitting them to inhabit land, water and air,—are accidental results. Also, that the consummate wisdom, manifested in the co-adaptation and the co-relation of their diverse functions, establishing the mutual interdependency of all, in connection with individual antagonisms, thus binding all into one harmonious system, evincing the forethought of a plan, is fortuitous. We are modestly asked to believe, that all this order, contrivance and wisdom, is merely the result of slight chance variations of the lowest form of Protozoans, accumulated and systematically arranged by some incomprehensible and undefinable thing—a sort of physico-divinity—a chimera of Mr. Darwin's imagination, which has no place either in Science or Nature—dubbed "Natural Selection."
There is not a single fact to support his foundation principle of transmutation by Natural Selection, nor a particle of evidence to countenance a belief in the intelligent agency, or even in the possible existence of such a Power; and therefore the whole gigantic superstructure, built on this phantasm, stands, like an inverted pyramid, based on an ideal non-entity.
Surely, Mr. Darwin counts too much upon our credulity, as well as upon our ignorance of the secrets of Nature, when he asks us to accept such an hypothesis, as a substitute for the common theory of separate and independent creations,—or else he has sadly blundered in the use of his terms. The effects which he attributes to "variation" are distinct creations—and the agency of an intelligent, Divine Creator, is mystified under the name of "Natural Selection."
The reader will doubtless desire to know upon what facts so astounding an hypothesis is based. We answer, mainly upon some observations of pigeons, made by the author, who is at pains to inform us that he has "associated with several eminent fanciers, and have [has] been permitted to join two London Pigeon Clubs." These observations, and certain facts obtained from gardeners, cattle-breeders, and others, in regard to the great and beneficial changes effected by a judicious selec-
tion of parents for cross-breeding, thereby originating new varieties of the same species, and the facts derived from some naturalists in regard to the blending of species and varieties in our classifications—constitute the only ground for his doctrine of the origin of species by Natural Selection. Numerous other facts cited by our author, sometimes to support his assumptions, and sometimes to be fancifully explained by them, are all susceptible of a much more philosophical application than he makes of them, and are not properly relevant to his hypothesis.
The fact that all his numerous breeds of pigeons, manifesting every variety of form and color, were well ascertained descendants of the blue rock pigeon, gives good ground for the belief, that many plants and animals, presenting less marked physical differences, though classed as distinct species, are also descendants from a common parent. This furnishes a strong argument against the endless multiplication of species, with which our present systems of classification are burthened,—but it is no evidence in favor of transmutation.
So also his facts and reasoning in regard to the numerous races of dogs; the stripes and bars on horses; hybridity of plants and animals; the change of form and habits produced under domestication, by skillful selection, or occurring naturally; the modification of some races and the extinction of others;—and much other matter which he misapplies, might be aptly cited to show that our knowledge of the conditions essential to the perpetuation of varieties, and of the limits to which their development may be carried, is still very imperfect. These facts would go far to prove that many reputed species, living and extinct, are simply varieties of one or more primordial species, but they furnish no proof whatever, that the duration and successive phases of development, of each primordial form were not pre-determined and immutably fixed by the law of its creation.
The analogies drawn from embryology and homology, in support of transmutation, are utterly fallacious. The affinities of structure and development, are no proofs of successive derivation; they only illustrate the infinite contrivance of the Crea-
tor, Who, from a few elements, has constructed an endless variety of forms and functions. A mechanic, in building a boat, a carriage, a balloon, or a house, may and does use the same materials, and constructs each upon the same principles of art, and he may, if he choose, give to them all a similarity of external form; yet each of these structures is a distinct creation, designed for a different element, and a different purpose, which cannot be transmuted by any kind of selection, without doing violence to the design of the builder.
Mr. Darwin devotes a considerable portion of his book to a labored and able attempt to prove, by facts and reasoning, that each species has migrated from a common center or "area," and has thus been distributed over the face of the globe. The establishment of this fact is necessary for those who maintain the common theory of the separate and independent creation of man and animals, which Mr. Darwin is combating. But we confess that we cannot see how it is relevant to an hypothesis which can consistently claim any necessary multiplication of centres or areas. In fact, this claim is an essential feature of his scheme. Why should not his ever vigilant Natural Selection act as efficiently in one part of the world as another? The waters that wash the shores of every island, would furnish an abundance of "primordial forms," out of which Natural Selection could manufacture those species which were the best adapted for the locality, without the necessity of their emigrating from a distant area. Saving of time can be no object, for Mr. Darwin can justly claim that his friend Lyell has furnished him with illimitable periods of duration, for the most recent formation of the earth.
In conclusion, we would remark, that the philosophical aspect of Mr. Darwin's hypothesis, is as objectionable as the scientific. A fallacious kind of argumentation characterizes all his reasoning. He confounds varieties with genetic differences of species, and then, by a false analogy, drawn from the great changes in animals of the same species, resulting from a skillful selection, made by the human reason, he accounts for difference in species, by referring it to a natural selection, dependent on appetite and other causes, external and accidental. Man,
guided by reason,—a gift which allies him to his Creator,—can sub-create, so to speak, and modify, within certain limits, the form and qualities of a dog, an ox, or a pigeon, by a judicious selection of parents, but he cannot make the slightest approach towards transmuting one of these animals into the other,—as is conclusively proved by the sterility of hybrids. They present specific genetic differences, imposed by the Author of creation, which man cannot alter or disturb. Is it not, then, the height of philosophic absurdity to appeal to this selection of the human reason, in proof of the assumption, that an unintelligent natural selection, operating through a blind "chance," can transmute a bear into a whale, even though our author can see no great difficulty, as he says, in such an operation?
Another radical vice in Mr. Darwin's philosophy consists in confounding, or rather confusing, the gradual, constant, and steady progress of life, from the simplest to the highest forms, in each of its fixed great typical divisions,—a gradational progress taught with equal clearness by Geology and Revelation,—with transmutational advances from one type to another, by "intermediate gradational forms," of which there is not a particle of evidence, either in existing nature, or in the records of Geology.
But the ineradicable fallacy which vitiates his whole scheme, and converts it into an incredible philosophical romance, consists in making the order, harmony and unity of design, which is so plainly stamped on the plan of creation, to depend on some blind, accidental concatenation of physical causes, occurring in the struggle for life among animals, and resulting in the consequent production of an intelligent and beneficent power, which creates all the forms of life, scrutinizes and controls all the phenomena of nature, and upon which the discoverer has conferred the name of "Natural Selection." It would be just as philosophical, and also just as intelligible, to say, that the Natural Selection consequent upon the motion of individual comets, has determined the orbits and relations of the heavenly bodies, as to assert, with Mr. Darwin, that the Natural Selection consequent upon the struggle for existence among individual animals, has exercised all the attributes of a provident Deity, in regulating the order of the Animal Kingdom.
We think we have said enough to shew the utter worthlessness of this transmutation doctrine, in a scientific and philosophical point of view. We have refrained from saying anything of its bearing on Revelation. We do not think it wise to attack with the sword of God's Word the honest infidelity of scientific men, who may be earnestly seeking to advance what they consider scientific truth, however much it may militate against our own views of Revelation,—provided always that no intended issue is sought by them.
Secure in the panoply furnished by the Holy Scriptures, we hold ourselves ever ready to give a reason for our faith in them, and to defend them from all attacks. We ask no odds against honest scientific infidelity, but are willing to meet it fairly on its own ground, confident, that although truth may sometimes appear to disagree with itself, yet it can never contradict or destroy itself,—and that it must ultimately triumph over error. We have no fears for the safety of the Bible. It is, saith Sir Thomas Browne, "too hard for the teeth of time; it cannot perish but in the general flames, when all things shall confess their ashes."
The internal evidence of its Divine origin is set forth by Dryden, in a unanswerable argument.
"Whence but from Heaven could men unskilled in arts,
In several ages born, in several parts
Weave such agreeing truths? or how or why
Should all conspire to cheat us with a lie?
Unasked their pains, ungrateful their advice,
Starving, their gain, and martyrdom their price."
Nevertheless, we know that the faith of some unstable souls and weak minds, has been shaken by the incredible assumptions of this visionary hypothesis. Mr. Darwin seems to be aware of this fact, and meets the objection with his usual stereotyped argument of inability to see it. He says, in his Supplement, "I see no good reason why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of any one;" and then adds, with great self-complacency, "It is satisfactory, as showing how transient such impressions are, to remember that the greatest discovery ever made, namely, the law of gravity,
was attacked by Leibnitz, 'as subversive of natural, and inferentially, of revealed religion.'"
It is charitable to suppose, that "an overweening confidence in the principle of Natural Selection," which Mr. Darwin admits he is chargeable with, has so obfuscated his mental vision, that he cannot see the inconsistencies and true drift of his own hypothesis. He cannot see why it should shock the religious feelings of any one! The reason is very obvious to others, if not to him. If this hypothesis be true, then is the Bible "an unbearable fiction," fabricated during successive ages, under an incomprehensible system of preconcerted imposture, yet interwoven with, and supported by, the history of many nations; attested by stupendous frauds, which, nevertheless, defy the severest scrutiny; promulgated with perfect consistency by many generations of disinterested impostors, who manifest, in their lives and writings, the sublimest morality. If this hypothesis be true, then also have Christians, for nearly two thousand years, been duped by a monstrous lie,—which, nevertheless, has consoled them in every exigency of life, and supported them in the hour of death; and which has, by its own intrinsic power, elevated and civilized all mankind.
The issue is a very plain one. The Bible is a self-agreeing system of pretended truth, which deals with every man as a distinct, immortal, spiritual being; while the hypothesis of Mr. Darwin, in shocking opposition, denies or ignores the very existence of the human soul, on which this system is founded.
This feature of it furnishes us with our last and strongest argument against his absurd scheme of creation. We will not, however, attack him with any weapon drawn from the arsenal of God's Word, but will meet him upon his own ground.
We premise,—and this must be well noted,—that Mr. Darwin is restricted, by his own terms, to the simplest form of life, as the starting point of creation. Unless, then, his primordial monad was also endowed with the principle of a human soul, when life was first breathed into it, it is evident that it could not transmit one to its descendants,—for there could not, possibly, be any chance variations of a principle which did not exist,—for Natural Selection to accumulate and develop.
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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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