Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/25

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WHAT ARE SPECIES

species of the genus Viola. But, as these also each produce their like and do not intermingle, it was believed that every one of them had always been as distinct from all the others as it is now, that all the individuals of each kind had descended from one ancestor, but that the "origin" of these hundred slightly differing ancestors was unknown. In the words of Sir John Herschel, quoted by Mr. Darwin, the origin of such species was "the mystery of mysteries."

The Early Transmutationists.

A few great naturalists, struck by the very slight difference between many of these species, and the numerous links that exist between the most different forms of animals and plants, and also observing that a great many species do vary considerably in their forms, colours, and habits, conceived the idea that they might be all produced one from the other. The most eminent of these writers was a great French naturalist, Lamarck, who published an elaborate work, the Philosophie Zoologique, in which he endeavoured to prove that all animals whatever are descended from other species of animals. He attributed the change of species chiefly to the effect of changes in the conditions of life—such as climate, food, etc.—and especially to the desires and efforts of the animals themselves to improve their condition, leading to a modification of form or size in certain parts, owing to the well-known physiological law that all organs are strengthened by constant use, while they are weakened or even completely lost by disuse. The arguments of Lamarck did not, however, satisfy naturalists, and though a few adopted the view that closely allied species had descended from each other, the general belief of the educated public was, that each species was a "special creation" quite independent of all others; while the great body of naturalists equally held, that the change from one species to another by any known law or cause was impossible, and that the "origin of species" was an unsolved and probably insoluble problem. The only other important work dealing with the question was the celebrated Vestiges of Creation, published anonymously, but now acknowledged to have been written by the late Robert Chambers. In this work the action of general laws was traced throughout the