Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/147

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NATURAL SELECTION

new conditions. And if we remember that all such physical changes are slow and gradual in their operation, we shall see that the amount of variation which we know occurs in every new generation will be quite sufficient to enable modification and adaptation to go on at the same rate. Mr. Darwin was rather inclined to exaggerate the necessary slowness of the action of natural selection; but with the knowledge we now possess of the great amount and range of individual variation, there seems no difficulty in an amount of change, quite equivalent to that which usually distinguishes allied species, sometimes taking place in less than a century, should any rapid change of conditions necessitate an equally rapid adaptation. This may often have occurred, either to immigrants into a new land, or to residents whose country has been cut off by subsidence from a larger and more varied area over which they had formerly roamed. When no change of conditions occurs, species may remain unchanged for very long periods, and thus produce that appearance of stability of species which is even now often adduced as an argument against evolution by natural selection, but which is really quite in harmony with it.

On the principles, and by the light of the facts, now briefly summarised, we have been able, in the present chapter, to indicate how natural selection acts, how divergence of character is set up, how adaptation to conditions at various periods of life has been effected, how it is that low forms of life continue to exist, what kind of circumstances are most favourable to the formation of new species, and, lastly, to what extent the advance of organisation to higher types is produced by natural selection. We will now pass on to consider some of the more important objections and difficulties which have been advanced by eminent naturalists.