Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/165

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
vi
143
DIFFICULTIES AND OBJECTIONS

it as one of the difficulties which can alone be overcome by his theory of physiological selection. He urges, that the same variation does not occur simultaneously in a number of individuals inhabiting the same area, and that it is mere assumption to say it does; while he admits that "if the assumption were granted there would be an end of the present difficulty; for if a sufficient number of individuals were thus simultaneously and similarly modified, there need be no longer any danger of the variety becoming swamped by intercrossing." I must again refer my readers to my third chapter for the proof that such simultaneous variability is not an assumption but a fact; but, even admitting this to be proved, the problem is not altogether solved, and there is so much misconception regarding variation, and the actual process of the origin of new species is so obscure, that some further discussion and elucidation of the subject are desirable.

In one of the preliminary chapters of Mr. Seebohm's recent work on the Charadriidae, he discusses the differentiation of species; and he expresses a rather widespread view among naturalists when, speaking of the swamping effects of intercrossing, he adds: "This is unquestionably a very grave difficulty, to my mind an absolutely fatal one, to the theory of accidental variation." And in another passage he says: "The simultaneous appearance, and its repetition in successive generations, of a beneficial variation, in a large number of individuals in the same locality, cannot possibly be ascribed to chance." These remarks appear to me to exhibit an entire misconception of the facts of variation as they actually occur, and as they have been utilised by natural selection in the modification of species. I have already shown that every part of the organism, in common species, does vary to a very considerable amount, in a large number of individuals, and in the same locality; the only point that remains to be discussed is, whether any or most of these variations are "beneficial." But every one of these variations consists either in increase or diminution of size or power of the organ or faculty that varies; they can all be divided into a more effective and a less effective group—that is, into one that is more beneficial or less beneficial. If less size of body would be beneficial, then, as half the variations in size are above and half below the mean or existing standard of the species, there