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known to me whose knowledge and capacity compelled respect, and who was, at the same time, a thorough-going evolutionist, was Mr. Herbert Spencer, whose acquaintance I made, I think, in 1852, and then entered into the bonds of a friendship which, I am happy to think, has known no interruption. Many and prolonged were the battles we fought on this topic. But even my friend's rare dialectic skill and copiousness of apt illustration could not drive me from my agnostic position. I took my stand upon two grounds : firstly, that up to that time, the evidence in favor of transmutation was wholly insufficient; and, secondly, that no suggestion respecting the causes of the transmutation assumed, which had been made, was in any way adequate to explain the phenom
Looking back at the state of knowledge at that time, I really do not see that any other conclusion was justifiable.
In those days I had never even heard of Treviranus' Biologie.' However, I had studied Lamarck attentively and I had read the 'Vestiges’ with due care; but neither of them afforded me any good ground for changing my negative and critical attitude. As for the 'Vestiges,' I confess that the book simply irritated me by the prodigious ignorance and thoroughly unscientific habit of mind manifested by the writer. If it had any influence on me at all, it set me against Evolution; and the only review I ever have qualms of conscience about, on the ground of needless savagery, is one I wrote on the 'Vestiges' while under that influence.
With respect to the Philosophie Zoologique,' it is no reproach to Lamarck to say that the discussion of the Species question in that work, whatever might be said for it in 1809, was miserably below the level of the knowledge of half a century later.
In that interval of time the elucidation of the structure of the lower animals and plants had given rise to wholly new conceptions of their relations; histology and embryology, in the modern sense, had been created; physiology had been reconstituted; the facts of distribution, geological and geographical, had been prodigiously multiplied and reduced to order. To any biologist whose studies had
THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES.'
carried him beyond mere species-mongering in 1850, onehalf of Lamarck's arguments were obsolete and the other half erroneous, or defective, in virtue of omitting to deal with the various classes of evidence which had been brought to light since his time. Moreover his one suggestion as to the cause of the gradual modification of species-effort excited by change of conditions-was, on the face of it, inapplicable to the whole vegetable world. I do not think that any impartial judge who reads the 'Philosophie Zoologique' now, and who afterwards takes up Lyell’s trenchant and effectual criticism (published as far back as 1830), will be disposed to allot to Lamarck a much higher place in the establishment of biological evolution than that which Bacon assigns to himself in relation to physical science generally, — buccinator tantum.*
But, by a curious irony of fate, the same influence which led me to put as little faith in modern speculations on this subject, as in the venerable traditions recorded in the first two chapters of Genesis, was perhaps more potent than any other in keeping alive a sort of pious conviction that Evolution, after all, would turn out true. I have recently read afresh the first edition of the Principles of Geology '; and when I consider that this remarkable book had been nearly thirty years in everybody's hands, and that it brings home to any reader of ordinary intelligence a great principle and a great fact--the principle, that the past must be explained by the present, unless good cause be shown to the contrary ; and the fact, that, so far as our knowledge of the past history of life on our globe goes, no such cause can be shown t-I cannot but believe that Lyell, for others, as for myself, was
* Erasmus Darwin first promulgated Lamarck's fundamental conceptions, and, with greater logical consistency, he had applied them to plants. But the advocates of his claims have failed to show that he, in any respect, anticipated the central idea of the 'Origin of Species.'
+ The same principle and the same fact guide and result from all sound historical investigation. Grote's ‘History of Greece'is a product of the same intellectual movement as 'Lyell's 'Principles.'
the chief agent for smoothing the road for Darwin. For consistent uniformitarianism postulates evolution as much in the organic as in the inorganic world. The origin of a new species by other than ordinary agencies would be a vastly greater“ catastrophe" than any of those which Lyell successfully eliminated from sober geological speculation.
In fact, no one was better aware of this than Lyell himself.* If one reads any of the earlier editions of the 'Principles' carefully (especially by the light of the interesting series of letters recently published by Sir Charles Lyell's biographer), it is easy to see that, with all his energetic opposition to Lamarck, on the one hand, and to the ideal quasiprogressionism of Agassiz, on the other, Lyell, in his own mind, was strongly disposed to account for the origination of all past and present species of living things by natural causes. But he would have liked, at the same time, to keep the name of creation for a natural process which he imagined to be incomprehensible.
In a letter addressed to Mantell (dated March 2, 1827), Lyell speaks of having just read Lamarck; he expresses his delight at Lamarck's theories, and his personal freedom from any objection based on theological grounds. And though he is evidently alarmed at the pithecoid origin of man involved in Lamarck's doctrine, he observes :
Lyell, with perfect right, claims this position for himself. He speaks of having “advocated a law of continuity even in the organic . world, so far as possible without adopting Lamarck's theory of transmuta
“But while I taught that as often as certain forms of animals and plants disappeared, for reasons quite intelligible to us, others took their place by virtue of a causation which was beyond our comprehension ; it remained for Darwin to accumulate proof that there is no break between the incoming and the outgoing species, that they are the work of evolution, and not of special creation. ..
“I had certainly prepared the way in this country, in six editions of my work before the ‘Vestiges of Creation' appeared in 1842 (1844), for the reception of Darwin's gradual and insensible evolution of species." *Lise and Letters,' Letter to Haeckel, vol. ii. p. 436. Nov. 23, 1868.
THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES.'
But, after all, what changes species may really undergo ! How impossible will it be to distinguish and lay down a line, beyond which some of the so-called extinct species have never passed into recent ones.”
Again, the following remarkable passage occurs in the postscript of a letter addressed to Sir John Herschel in 1836:
"In regard to the origination of new species, I am very glad to find that you think it probable that it may be carried on through the intervention of intermediate causes. I left this rather to be inferred, not thinking it worth while to offend a certain class of persons by embodying in words what would only be a speculation.' He goes on to refer to the criticisms which have been directed against him on the ground that, by leaving species to be originated by miracle, he is inconsistent with his own doctrine of uniformitarianism; and he leaves it to be understood that he had not replied, on the ground of his general objection to controversy.
Lyell's contemporaries were not without some inkling of his esoteric doctrine. Whewell's 'History of the Inductive Sciences,' whatever its philosophical value, is always worth reading and always interesting, if under no other aspect than that of an evidence of the speculative limits within which a highly-placed divine might, at that time, safely range at will. In the course of his discussion of uniformitarianism, the encyclopædic Master of Trinity observes :
“Mr. Lyell, indeed, has spoken of an hypothesis that
* In the same sense, see the letter to Whewell, March 7, 1837, vol. ii., p. 5:
In regard to this last subject (the changes from one set of animal and vegetable species to another) . . . you remember what Herschel said in his letter to me. If I had stated as plainly as he has done the possibility of the introduction or origination of fresh species being a natural, in contradistinction to a miraculous process, I should have raised a host of prejudices against me, which are unfortunately opposed at every step to any philosopher who attempts to address the public on these mysterious subjects." Sec also letter to Sedgwick, Jan. 20, 1838, ii. p. 35.
the successive creation of species may constitute a regular part of the economy of nature,' but he has nowhere, I think, so described this process as to make it appear in what department of science we are to place the hypothesis. Are these new species created by the production, at long intervals, of an offspring different in species from the parents? Or are the species so created produced without parents? Are they gradually evolved from some embryo substance ? Or do they suddenly start from the ground, as in the creation of the poet? ... Some selection of one of these forms of the hypothesis
, rather than the others, with evidence for the selection, is requisite to entitle us to place it among the known causes of change, which in this chapter we are considering. The bare conviction that a creation of species has taken place, whether once or many times, so long as it is unconnected with our organical sciences, is a tenet of Natural Theology rather than of Physical Philosophy."
The earlier part of this criticism appears perfectly just and appropriate; but, from the concluding paragraph, Whewell evidently imagines that by “creation " Lyell means a preternatural intervention of the Deity ; whereas the letter to Herschel shows that, in his own mind, Lyell meant natural causation ; and I see no reason to doubt † that, if Sir Charles
* Whewell's · History,' vol. iii. p. 639-640 (Ed. 2, 1847).
+ The following passages in Lyell's letters appear to me decisive on this point :
To Darwin, Oct. 3, 1859 (ii, 325), on first reading the Origin.'
" I have long seen most clearly that if any concession is made, all that you claim in your concluding pages will follow."
“It is this which has made me so long hesitate, always feeling that the case of Man and his Races, and of other animals, and that of plants, is one and the same, and that if a vera causa be admitted for one instant, [instead) of a purely unknown and imaginary one, such as the word 'creation,' all the consequences must follow."
To Darwin, March 15, 1863 (vol. ij. p. 365).
" I remember that it was the conclusion he [Lamarck] came to about man that fortified me thirty years ago against the great impression which