RECORD: Agassiz, J. L. R. 1860. [Review of] On the Origin of species. American Journal of Science and Arts (Ser. 2) 30 (July): 142-154.
REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed (single key) by AEL Data, corrections by John van Wyhe 8.2009. RN1
V. BOOK NOTICES.
PROF. AGASSIZ ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES.
1. Contributions to the Natural History of the United States; by L. AGASSIZ.—The third volume of this work, now in the press, will appear shortly. We copy from the advance sheets the following paragraphs relating to the origin of species, which has lately attracted much attention, in consequence of the publication of Darwin's book on that subject.
Individuality and Specific Differences among Acalephs.
The morphological phenomena discussed in the preceding section naturally lead to a consideration of individuality and of the extent and importance of specific differences among the Acalephs. A few years ago the prevailing opinion among naturalists was that, while genera, families, orders, classes, and any other more or less comprehensive divisions among animals were artificial devices of science to facilitate our studies, species alone had a real existence in nature. Whether the views I have presented in the first volume of this work (p. 163), where I showed that species do not exist in any different sense from genera, families, etc., have had any thing to do with the change which seems to have been brought about upon this point among scientific men, is not for me to say; but whatever be the cause, it is certainly true that, at the present day, the number of naturalists who deny the real existence of species is greatly increased. Darwin in his recent work on the "Origin of Species," has also done much to shake the belief in the real existence of species, but the views he advocates are entirely at variance with those I have attempted to establish. For many years past I have lost no opportunity of urging the idea that while species have no material existence, they yet exist as categories of thought, in the same way as genera, families, orders, classes, and branches of the animal kingdom. Darwin's fundamental idea, on the contrary, is that species, genera, families, orders, classes, and any other kind of more or less comprehensive divisions among animals do not exist at all, and are altogether artificial, differing from one another only in degree, all having originated from a successive differentiation of a primordial organic form, undergoing successively such changes as would
at first produce a variety of species; then genera, as the difference became more extensive and deeper; then families, as the gap widened still farther between the groups, until in the end all that diversity was produced which has existed or exists now. Far from agreeing with these views, I have, on the contrary, taken the ground that all the natural divisions in the animal kingdom are primarily distinct, founded upon different categories of characters, and that all exist in the same way, that is, as categories of thought, embodied in individual living forms. I have attempted to show that branches in the animal kingdom are founded upon different plans of structure, and for that very reason have embraced from the beginning representatives between which there could be no community of origin; that classes are founded upon different modes of execution of these plans, and therefore they also embrace representatives which could have no community of origin; that orders represent the different degrees of complication in the mode of execution of each class, and therefore embrace representatives which could not have a community of origin any more than the members of different classes or branches; that families are founded upon different patterns of form, and embrace representatives equally independent in their origin; that genera are founded upon ultimate peculiarities of structure, embracing representatives, which, from the very nature of their peculiarities could have no community of origin; and that finally, species are based upon relations and proportions that exclude, as much as all the preceding distinctions, the idea of a common descent.
As the community of characters among the beings belonging to these different categories arises from the intellectual connection which shows them to be categories of thought, they cannot be the result of a gradual material differentiation of the objects themselves. The argument on which these views are founded may be summed up in the following few words: Species, genera, families, &c. exist as thoughts, individuals as facts. It is presented at full length in the first volume of this work, (p. 137-168), where I have shown that individuals alone have a definite material existence, and that they are, for the time being, the bearers not only of specific characteristics, but of all the natural features in which animal life is displayed in all its diversity; individuality being, in fact, the great mystery of organic life.
Since the arguments presented by Darwin in favor of a universal derivation from one primary form, of all the peculiarities existing now among living beings have not made the slightest impression on my mind, nor modified in any way the views I have already propounded, I may fairly refer the reader to the paragraphs alluded to above as containing sufficient evidence of their correctness, and I will here only add a single argument, which seems to leave the question where I have placed it.
It seems to me that there is much confusion of ideas in the general statement of the variability of species so often repeated lately. If species do not exist at all, as the supporters of the transmutation theory maintain, how can they vary? and if individuals alone exist, how can the differences which may be observed among them prove the variability of species? The fact seems to me to be that while species are based upon definite relations among individuals which differ in various ways among themselves,
each individual, as a distinct being, has a definite course to run from the time of its first formation to the end of its existence, during which it never loses its identity nor changes its individuality, nor its relations to other individuals belonging to the same species, but preserves all the categories of relationship which constitute specific or generic or family affinity, or any other kind or degree of affinity. To prove that species vary it should be proved that individuals born from common ancestors change the different 1categories of relationship which they bore primitively to one another. While all that has thus far been shown is, that there exists a considerable difference among individuals of one and the same species. This may be new to those who have looked upon every individual picked up at random, as affording the means of describing satisfactorily any species; but no naturalist who has studied carefully any of the species now best known, can have failed to perceive that1 it requires extensive series of specimens accurately to describe a species, and that the more complete such series are, the more precise appear the limits which separate species. Surely the aim of science cannot be to furnish amateur zoölogists or collectors, a recipe for a ready identification of any chance specimen that may fall into their hands. And the difficulties with which we may meet in attempting to characterize species do not afford the first indication that species do not exist at all, as long as most of them can be distinguished, as such, almost at first sight. I foresee that some convert to the transmutation creed will at once object that the facility with which species may be distinguished is no evidence that they were not derived from other species. It may be so. But as long as no fact is adduced to show that any one well known species among the many thousands that are buried in the whole series of fossiliferous rocks, is actually the parent of any one of the species now living, such arguments can have no weight; and thus far the supporters of the transmutation theory have failed to produce any such facts. Instead of facts we are treated with marvelous bear, cuckoo, and other stories. Credat Judaeus Apella!
Had Mr. Darwin or his followers furnished a single fact to show that individuals change, in the course of time, in such a manner as to produce at last species different from those known before, the state of the case might be different. But it stands recorded now as before, that the animals known to the ancients are still in existence, exhibiting to this day the characters they exhibited of old. The geological record, even with all its imperfections, exaggerated to distortion, tells now, what it has told from the beginning, that the supposed intermediate forms between the species of different geological periods are imaginary beings, called up merely in support of a fanciful theory. The origin of all the diversity among living beings remains a mystery as totally unexplained as if the book of Mr. Darwin had never been written, for no theory unsupported by fact, however plausible it may appear, can be admitted in science.
It seems generally admitted that the work of Darwin is particularly remarkable for the fairness with which he presents the facts adverse to his views. It may be so; but I confess that it has made a very different impression upon me. I have been more forcibly struck by his inability to perceive when the facts are fatal to his argument, than by anything else in the whole work. His chapter on the Geological Record, in par-
ticular, appears to me, from beginning to end, as a series of illogical deductions and misrepresentations of the modern results of Geology and Palæntology. I do not intend to argue here, one by one, the questions he has discussed. Such arguments end too often in special pleading, and any one familiar with the subject may readily perceive where the truth lies by confronting his assertions with the geological record itself. But since the question at issue is chiefly to be settled by palæontological evidence, and I have devoted the greater part of my like to the special study of the fossils, I wish to record my protest against his mode of treating this part of the subject. Not only does Darwin never perceive when the facts are fatal to his views, but when he has succeeded by an ingenious circumlocution in overleaping the facts, he would have us believe that he has lessened their importance or changed their meaning. He would thus have us believe that there have been periods during which all that had taken place during other periods was destroyed, and this solely to explain the absence of intermediate forms between the fossils found in successive deposits, for the origin of which he looks to those missing links; whilst every recent progress in Geology shows more and more fully how gradual and successive all the deposits have been which form the crust of our earth.—He would have us believe that entire faunæ have disappeared before those were preserved, the remains of which are found in the lowest fossiliferous strata; when we find everywhere nonfossiliferous strata below those that contain the oldest fossils now known. It is true, he explains their absence by the supposition that they were too delicate to be preserved; but any animals from which Crinoids, Brachiopods, Cephalopods, and Trilobites could arise, must have been sufficiently similar to them to have left, at least, traces of their presence in the lowest non-fossiliferous rocks, had they ever existed at all.—He would have us believe that the oldest organisms that existed were simple cells, or something like the lowest living beings now in existence; when such highly organized animals as Trilobites and Orthoceratites are among the oldest known.—He would have us believe that these lowest first-born became extinct in consequence of the gradual advantage some of their more favored descendants gained over the majority of their predecessors; when there exist now, and have existed at all periods in past history, as large a proportion of more simply organized beings, as of more favored types, and when such types as Lingula were among the lowest Silurian fossils, and are alive at the present day.—He would have us believe that each new species originated in consequence of some slight change in those that preceded; when every geological formation teems with types that did not exist before.—He would have us believe that animals and plants became gradually more and more numerous; when most species appear in myriads of individuals, in the first bed in which they are found. He would have us believe that animals disappear gradually; when they are as common in the uppermost bed in which they occur as in the lowest, or any intermediate bed. Species appear suddenly and disappear suddenly in successive strata. That is the fact proclaimed by Palæontology; they neither increase successively in number, nor do they gradually dwindle down; none of the fossil remains thus far observed show signs of a gradual improvement or of a slow decay.—He would have us believe that
SECOND SERIES, VOL. XXX, No. 88.—JULY, 1860.
geological deposits took place during the periods of subsidence; when it can be proved that the whole continent of North America is formed of beds which were deposited during a series of successive upheavals. I quote North America in preference to any other part of the world, because the evidence is so complete here that it can only be overlooked by those who may mistake subsidence for the general shrinkage of the earth's surface in consequence of the cooling of its mass. In this part of the globe, fossils are as common along the successive shores of the rising deposits of the Silurian system, as anywhere along our beaches; and and each of these successive shores extends from the Atlantic States to the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The evidence goes even further; each of these successive sets of beds of the Silurian system contains peculiar fossils, neither found in the beds above nor in the beds below, and between them there are no intermediate forms. And yet Darwin affirms that "the litoral and sub-littoral deposits are continually worn away, as soon as they are brought up by the slow and gradual rising of the land within the grinding action of the coast waves." Origin of Species, p. 290.—He would also have us believe that the most perfect organs of the body of animals are the product of gradual improvement, when eyes as perfect as those of the Trilobites are preserved with the remains of these oldest animals.—He would have us believe that it required millions of years to effect any one of these changes; when far more extraordinary transformations are daily going on, under our eyes, in the shortest periods of time, during the growth of animals.—He would have us believe that animals acquire their instincts gradually; when even those that never see their parents, perform at birth the same acts, in the same way, as their progenitors.—He would have us believe that the geographical distribution of animals is the result of accidental transfers; when most species are so narrowly confined within the limits of their natural range, that even slight changes in their external relations may cause their death. And all these, and many other calls upon our credulity, are coolly made in the face of an amount of precise information, readily accessible, which would over whelm any one who does not place his opinions above the records of an age eminently characterized for its industry, and during which, that information was laboriously accumulated by crowds of faithful laborers.
It would be superfluous to discuss in detail the arguments by which Mr. Darwin attempts to explain the diversity among animals. Suffice it to say, that he has lost sight of the most striking of the features, and the one which pervades the whole, namely, that there runs throughout Nature unmistakable evidence of thought, corresponding to the mental operations of our own mind, and therefore intelligible to us as thinking beings, and unaccountable on any other basis than that they owe their existence to the working of intelligence; and no theory that overlooks this element can be true to nature.
There are naturalists who seem to look upon the idea of creation, that is, a manifestation of an intellectual power by material means, as a kind of bigotry; forgetting, no doubt, that whenever they carry out a thought of their own, they do something akin to creating, unless they look upon their own elucubrations as something in which their individuality is not concerned, but arising without an intervention of their mind, in conse-
quence of the working of some "bundles of forces," about which they know nothing themselves. And yet such men are ready to admit that matter is omnipotent, and consider a disbelief in the omnipotence of matter as tantamout to imbecility; for, what is the assumed power of matter to produce all finite beings, but omnipotence? And what is the outery raised against those who cannot admit it, but an insinuation that they are non-compos? The book of Mr. Darwin is free of all such uncharitable sentiments towards his fellow-laborers in the field of science; nevertheless his mistake lies in a similar assumption that the most complicated system of combined thoughts can be the result of accidental causes; for he ought to know, as every physicist will concede, that all the influences to which he would ascribe the origin of species are accidental in their very nature, and he must know, as every naturalist familiar with the modern progress of science does know, that the organized beings which live now, and have lived in former geological periods, constitute an organic whole, intelligibly and methodically combined in all its parts. An a zoõlogist he must know in particular, that the animal kingdom is built upon four different plans of structure, and that the reproduction and growth of animals takes place according to four different modes of development, and that unless it is shown that these four plans of structure, and these four modes of development, are transmutable one into the other, no transmutation theory can account for the origin of species. The fallacy of Mr. Darwin's theory of the origin of species by means of natural selection, may be traced in the first few pages of his book, where he overlooks the difference between the voluntary and deliberate acts of selection applied methodically by man to the breeding of domesticated animals and the growing of cultivated plants, and the chance influence which may effect animals and plants in the state of nature. To call these influences "natural selection," is a misnomer which will not alter the conditions under which they may produce the desired results. Selection implies design; the powers to which Darwin refers the order of species, can design nothing. Selection is no doubt the essential principle on which the raising of breeds is founded, and the subject of breeds is presented in its true light by Mr. Darwin; but this process of raising breeds by the selection of favorable subjects, is in no way similar to that which regulates specific differences. Nothing is more remote from the truth than the attempted parallelism between the breeds of domesticated animals and the species of wild ones. Did there exist such a parallelism, as Darwin maintains, the difference among the domesticated breeds should be skin to the differences among wild species, and afford a clue to determine their relative degree of affinity by a comparison with the pedigrees of well-known domesticated races. Again, if there were any such parallelism, the distinctive characteristics of different breeds should be skin to the differences which exist between fossil species of earlier periods and those of the same genera now living. Now let any one familiar with the fossil species of the genera Bos and Canis, compare them with the races of our cattle and of our dogs, and he will find to correspondence whatever between them; for the simple reason that they do not owe their existence to the same causes. It must therefore be distinctly stated that Mr. Darwin has failed to establish a connection between the mode of raising domesticated
breeds, and the causes or causes to which wild animals owe their specific differences.
It is true, Mr. Darwin states that the close affinity existing among animals can only be explained by a community of descent, and he goes so far as to represent these affinities as evidence of such a genealogical relationship; but I apprehend that the meaning of the words he uses has misled him into the belief that he had found the clue to phenomena which he does not even seem correctly to understand. There is nothing parallel between the relations of animals belonging to the same genus or the same family, and the relations between the progeny of common ancestors. In the one case we have the result of a physiological law regulating reproduction, and in other affinities which no observation has thus far shown to be in any way connected with reproduction. The most closely allied species of the same genus or the different species of closely allied genera, or the different genera of one and the same natural family, embrace representatives which at some period or other of their growth resemble one another more closely than the nearest blood relations; and yet we know that they are only stages of development of different species distinct from one another at every period of their life. The embryo of our common fresh water turtle, Chrysemis picta, and the embryo of our snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina, resemble one another far more than the different species of Chrysemis in their adult state, and yet not a single fact can be adduced to show that any one egg of an animal has ever produced an individual of any species but its own. A young snake resembles a young turtle or a young bird much more than any two species of snakes resemble one another; and yet they go on reproducing their kinds, and nothing but their kinds. So that no degree of affiuity, however close, can, in the present state of our science, be urged as exhibiting any evidence of community of descent, while the power that imparted all their peculiarities to the primitive eggs of all the species now living side by side, could also impart similar peculiarities with similar relations, and all degrees of relationship, to any number of other species that have existed. Until, therefore it can be shown that any one species has the ability to delegate such specified peculiarities and relations to any other species or set of species, it is not logical to assume that such a power is inherent in any animal, or that it constitutes part of its nature.* We must look to the original power that imparted life to the first being for the origin of all other beings, however mysterious and inaccessible
* The difficulty of ascertaining the natural limits of some species, and the mistakes made by naturalists when describing individual peculiarities as specific, has nothing to do with the question of the origin of species, and yet Darwin places great weight, in support of his theory, upon the differences which exist among naturalists in their views of species. Some of the metals are difficult to distinguish, and have frequently been mistaken, and the specific differences of some may be questioned; but what could that have to do with the question of the origin of metals, in the minds of those who may doubt the original difference of metals? Nothing more than the blunders of some naturalists in identifying species with the origin of species of animals and plants. The great mischeif in our sciences now lies in the self-complacent confidence with which certain zo˜logists look upon a few insignificant lines, called diagnoses, which they have the presumption to offer as characteristics of species, or, what is still worse, as checks upon others to secure to themselves a nominal priority. Such a treatment of scientific subjects is unworthy of our age.
the modes by which all this diversity has been produced may remain for us. The production of a plausible explanation is no explanation at all, if it does not cover the whole ground.
All attempts to explain the origin of species may be brought under two categories: viz. 1st, some naturalists admitting that all organized beings are created, that is to say, endowed from the beginning of their existence with all their characteristics, while 2d, others assume that they arise spontaneously. This classification of the different theories of the origin of species, may appear objectionable to the supporters of the transmutation theory; but I can perceive no essential difference between their views and the old idea that animals may have arisen spontaneously. They differ only in the modes by which the spontaneous appearance is assumed to be effected; some believe that physical agents may so influence organized beings as to modify them—this is the view of DeMaillet and the Vestiges of Creation; others believe that the organized beings themselves change in consequence of their own acts, by changing their mode of life, etc., this is the view of Lamarck; others still assume that animals and plants tend necessarily to improve, in consequence of the struggle for life, in which the favored races are supposed to survive; this is the view lately propounded by Darwin. I believe these theories will, in the end, all share the fate of the theory of spontaneous generations so called, as the facts of nature shall be confronted more closely with the theoretical assumptions. The theories of DeMaillet, Oken, and Lamarck are already abandoned by those who have adopted the transmutation theory of Darwin; and unless Darwin and his followers succeed in showing that the struggle for life tends to something beyond favoring the existence of certain individuals over that of other individuals, they will soon find that they are following a shadow. The assertion of Darwin, which has crept into the title of his work, is, that favored races are preserved, while all his facts go only to substantiate the assertion, that favored individuals have a better chance in the struggle for life than others. But who has ever overlooked the fact that myriads of individuals of every species constantly die before coming to maturity? What ought to be shown, if the transmutation theory is to stand, is that these favored individuals diverge from their specific type, and neither Darwin nor any body else has furnished a single fact to show that they go on diverging. The criterion of a true theory consists in the facility with which is accounts for facts accumulated in the course of long-continued investigations and for which the existing theories afforded no explanation. It can certainly not be said that Darwin's theory will stand by that test. It would be easy to invent other theories that might account for the diversity of species quite as well, if not better than Darwin's preservation of favored races. The difficulty would only be to prove that they agree with the facts of Nature. It might be assumed, for instance, that any one primary being contained the possibilities of all those that have followed, in the same manner as the egg of any animal possesses all the elements of the full-grown individual; but this would only remove the difficulty one step further back. It would tell us nothing about the nature of the operation by which the change is introduced. Since the knowledge we now have, that similar
metamorphoses go on in the eggs of all living beings has not yet put us on the track of the forces by which the changes they undergo are brought about, it is not likely that by mere guesses we shall arrive at any satisfactory explanation of the very origin of these beings themselves.
Whatever views are correct concerning the origin of species, one thing is certain, that as long as they exist they continue to produce generation after generation, individuals which differ from one another only in such peculiarities as relate to their individuality. The great defect in Darwin's treatment of the subject of species lies in the total absence of any statement respecting the features that constitute individuality. Surely, if individuals may vary within the limits assumed by Darwin, be was bound first to show that individuality does not consist of a sum of hereditary characteristics, combined with variable elements, not necessarily transmitted in their integrity, but only of variable elements. That the latter is not the case, stands recorded in every accurate monograph of all the types of the animal kingdom upon which minute embryological investigations have been made. It is known, that every individual egg undergoes a series of definite changes before it reaches its mature condition; that every germ formed in the egg passes through a series of metamorphoses before it assumes the structural features of the adult; that in this development the differences of sex may very early become distinct; and that all this is accomplished in a comparatively very short time, extremely short, indeed, in comparison to the immeasurable periods required by Darwin's theory to produce any change among species; and yet all this takes place without any deviation from the original type of the species, though under circumstances which would seem most unfavorable to the maintenance of the type. Whatever minor differences may exist between the products of this succession of generations are all individual peculiarities, in no way connected with the essential features of the species, and therefore as transient as the individuals; while the specific characters are forever fixed. A single example will prove this. All the robins of North America now living have been for a short time in existence; not one of them was alive a century ago, when Linnæus for the first time made known that species under the name of Turdus migratorius, and not one of the specimens observed by Linnæus and his cotemporaries was alive when the Pilgrims of the Mayflower first set foot upon the Rock of Plymouth. Where was the species at these different periods, and where is it now? Certainly nowhere but in the individuals alive for the time being; but not in any single one of them, for that one must be either a male or a female, and not the species; not in a pair of them, for the species exhibits its peculiarities in its mode of breeding, in its nest, in its eggs, in its young, as much as in the appearance of the adult; not in all the individuals of any particular district, for the geographical distribution of a species over its whole area, forms also part of its specific characters.* A species is only known when its whole history
* We are so much accustomed to see animals reproducing themselves, generation after generation, that the fact no longer attracts our attention. and the mystery involved in it no longer excites our admiration. But there is certainly no more marvellous law in all nature than that which regulates this regular succession. And upon this law the maintenance of species depends; for observation teaches us that all that is not individual peculiarity is unceasingly and integrally reproduced while all that constitutes individuality, as such, constantly disappears.
has been ascertained, and that history is recorded in the life of individuals through successive generations. The same kind of argument might be adduced from every existing species, and with still greater force by a reference to those species already known to the ancients.
Let it not be objected that the individuals of successive generations have presented marked differences among themselves; for these differences, with all the monstrosities that may have occurred, during these countless generations, have passed away with the individuals, as individual peculiarities, and the specific characteristics alone have been preserved, together with all that distinguishes the genus, the family, the order, the class, and the branch to which the individual belonged. Moreover all this has been maintained through a succession of repeated changes, amounting in each individual to the whole range of transformations, through which an individual passes, from the time it is individualized as an egg, to the time it is itself capable of reproducing its kind, and, perhaps, with all the intervening phases of an unequal production of males and females, of sterile individuals, of dwarfs, of giants, etc., etc., during which there were millions of chances for a deviation from the type. Does this not prove that while individuals are perishable, they transmit, generation after generation, all that is specific or generic, or, in one word, typical in them, to the exclusion of every individual peculiarity which passes away with them, and that, therefore, while individuals alone have a material existence, species, genera, families, orders, classes, and branches of the animal kingdom exist only as categories of thought in the Supreme Intelligence, but as such have as truly an independent existence and are as unvarying as thought itself after it has once been expressed.
Returning, after this digression, to the question of individuality among Acalephs, we meet here phenomena far more complicated than among higher animals. Individuality, as far as it depends upon material isolation, is complete and absolute in all the higher animals, and there maintained by genetic transmission, generation after generation. Individuality, in that sense, exists only in comparatively few of the Radiates. Among Acalephs it is ascertained only for the Ctenophoræ and some Discophoræ. In others, the individuals born from eggs end by dividing into a number of distinct individuals. In others still, the successive individuals derived from a primary one, remain connected to form compound communities. We must therefore, distinguish different kinds and different degrees of individuality, and may call hereditary individuality that kind of independent existence manifested in the successive evolutions of a single egg, producing a single individual, as is observed in all the higher animals. We may call derivative or consecutive individuality that kind of independence resulting from an individualization of parts of the product of a single egg. We have derivative individuals among the Nudibranchiate Mollusks, whose eggs produce singly, by a process of complete segmentation, several independent individuals. We observe a similar phenomenon among those Acalephs the young of which (Scyphostoma) ends in producing, by transverse division (Strobila), a number of independent free Medusæ (Ephyræ). We have it also among the Ilydroids which produce free Medusæ. Next, we must distinguish secondary individuality, which is inherent to those individuals arising as
buds from other individuals, and remaining connected with them. This condition prevails in all the immovable Polyparia and Ilydraria, and I say intentionally in the immovable ones; for, in the movable communities, such as Renilla, Pennatula, etc., among Polyps, and all the Siphonophoræ among Acalephs, we must still further distinguish another kind of individuality, which I know not how to call properly, unless the name of complex individuality may be applied to it. In complex individuality a new element is introduced, that is not noticeable in the former case. The individuals of the community are not only connected together, but, under given circumstances, they act together as if they were one individual, while at the same time each individual may perform nets of its own.
As to the specific differences observed among Acalephs, there is as great a diversity between them as between their individuals. In some types of this class the species are very uniform; all the individuals belonging to one and the same species resembling one another very closely, and exhibiting hardly any difference among themselves, except such as arises from age. This identity of the individuals of one and the same species is particularly striking among the Ctenophoræ. In this order there are not even sexual differences among the individuals, as they are all hermaphrodites. In the Discophoræ proper a somewhat greater diversity prevails. In the first place we notice male and female individuals, and the difference between the sexes is quite striking in some genera, as, for instance, in Aurelia. Next there occur frequent deviations, among them, in the normal number of their parts; their body consisting frequently of one or two spheromeres more than usual, sometimes, even, of double normal number, or of a few less. And yet, year after year, the same Discophoræ reappear upon our shores, with the same range of differences among their individuals. Among Hydroids polymorphism prevails to a greater or less extent, besides the differences arising from sex. Few species have only one kind of individuals. Mostly the cycle of individual differences embraces two distinct types of individuals, one recalling the peculiarities of common Hydræ, the other those of Medusæ but even the Hydra type of one and the same species may exhibit more or less diversity, there being frequently two kinds of Hydræ united in one and the same community, and sometimes even a larger number of heterogeneous Hydræ. And this is equally true, though to a less extent, of the Medusa type. Yet among Siphonophoræ there are generally at least two kinds of Medusæ in one and the same community. But notwithstanding this polymorphism among the individuals of one and the same community, genetically connected together, each successive generation reproduces the same kinds of heterogeneous individuals, and nothing but individuals linked together in the same way. Surely we have here a much greater diversity of individuals, born one from the other, than is exhibited by the most diversified breeds of our domesticated animals; and yet all these heterogeneous individuals remain true to their species, in once case as in the other, and do not afford the slightest evidence of a transmutation of species.
Would the supporters of the fanciful theories lately propounded, only extend their studies a little beyond the range of domesticated animals, would they investigate the alternate generations of the Acalephs,
the extraordinary modes of development of the Helminth, the reproduction of the Salpæ, etc., etc., they would soon learn that there are, in the world, far more astonishing phenomena, strictly circumscribed between the natural limits of unvarying species, than the slight differences produced by the intervention of men, among domesticated animals, and perhaps, cease to be so confident as they seem to be, that these differences are trustworthy indications of the variability of species. For my own part I must emphatically declare that I do not know a single fact tending to show that species do vary in any way, while it is true that the individuals of one and the same species are more or less polymorphous. The circumstance, that naturalists may find it difficult to trace the natural limits of any one particular species, or the mistakes they may make in their attempts to distinguish them, has nothing whatsoever to do with the question of their origin.
There is another feature of the species of Acalephs which deserves particularly to be noticed. All these animals are periodical in their appearance, and last for a short period, in their perfect state of development. In our latitude most Medusæ make their appearance, as Ephyræ, early in the Spring, and rapidly enlarge to their full size. In September and October they lay their eggs and disappear; the young hatched from the eggs more about, as Planulæ, for a short time, and then become attached, as Scyphostomes, and pass the winter in undergoing their Strobila metamorphosis. The Ctenophoræ appear also very early, and lay their eggs in the autumn, passing the winter as young, and growing to their full size towards the beginning of the summer. Among the Hydroids there is more diversity in their periodicity. Hydraria are found all the year round; but the Medusæ buds, the free Medusæ, and the Medusaria make their appearance in different seasons, in different species. Some bring forth Medusæ buds and free Medusæ or Medusaria during winter; others, and in our latitude this is the case with by far the largest number of the Hydroids, produce their Medusæ brood in the spring; a few breed later, in the summer or in the autumn; so that, notwithstanding the regularity of their periodical return. Acalephs may be studied, in some condition or other, during the whole year.
When considering Individuality and Specific Differences, as manifested in the class of Acalephs, I have taken an opportunity of showing, upon general grounds how futile the arguments are upon which the theory of transmutation of species is founded. Having now shown that that class is circumscribed within definite limits, I may be permitted to add here a few more objections to that theory, based chiefly upon special grounds, connected with the characteristics of classes. If there is any thing striking in the features which distinguish classes, it is the definiteness of their structural peculiarities; and this definiteness goes on increasing, with new and additional qualifications, as we pass from the class characters to those which mark the orders, the families, the genera, and the species. Granting, for the sake of argument, that organized beings living at a later period may have originated by a gradual change of those of earlier periods, one of the most characteristic features of all organized beings remains totally unexplained by the various
SECOND SERIES, VOL. XXX, No. 88.—JULY, 1860.
theories brought forward to explain that change; the definiteness of their respective groups, be they ever so comprehensive, or ever so limited, combined with the greatest inequality in their numeric relations. There exist a few thousand Mammalia and Reptiles, and at least three times their number of Birds and Fishes. There may be twenty thousand Mollusks; but there are over a hundred thousand Insects, and only a few thousand Radiates. And yet the limits of the class of Insects are as well defined as those of any other class, with the only exception of the class of Birds which is unquestionably the most definite in its natural boundaries. Now the supporters of the transmutation theory may shape their views in whatever way they please to suit the requirements of the theory, instead of building the theory upon the facts of Nature, they never can make it appear that the definiteness of the characters of the class of Birds is the result of a common descent of all Birds, for the first Bird must have been brother or cousin to some other animal that was not a Bird, since there are other animals besides Birds in this world, to no one of which any bird bears as close a relation as it bears to its own class. The same argument applies to every other class; and as to the facts, they are fatal to such an assumption, for Geology teaches us that among the oldest inhabitants of our globe known, there are representatives of nine distinct classes of animals, which by no possibility can be descendants of one another, since they are cotemporaries.
The same line of argument and the same class of facts forbid the assumption that either the representatives of one and the same order, or those of one of the same family, or those of one of the same genus should be considered as lineal descendants of a common stock; for orders, families and genera are based upon different categories of characters, and not upon more or less extensive characters of the same kind, as I have shown years ago (Vol. I, p. 150 to 163), and numbers of different kinds of representatives of these various groups, make their appearance simultaneously in all the successive geological periods. There appear together Corals and Echinoderms of different families and of different genera in each successive geological formation, and this is equally true for Bryozoa, Brachiopods and Lamellibranchiata, for Trilobites and the other Crustacea, in fact for the representatives of all the classes of the animal kingdom, making due allowance for the period of the first appearance of each; and at all times and in all classes the representatives of these different kinds of groups are found to present the same definiteness in their characteristics and limitation. Were the transmutation theory true, the geological record should exhibit an uninterrupted succession of types blending gradually into one another. The fact is that throughout all geological times each period is characterized by definite specific types, belonging to definite genera, and these to definite families, referable to definite orders, constituting definite classes and definite branches, built upon definite plans. Until the facts of Nature are shown to have been mistaken by those who have collected them, and that they have a different meaning from that now generally assigned to them, I shall therefore consider the transmutation theory as a scientific mistake, untrue in its facts, unscientific in its method, and mischievous in its tendency.
Cambridge, June 30, 1860.
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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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