Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/30

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
8
CHAP.
DARWINISM

animals and plants which live together in any one country, and to give some rational account of the phenomena presented by their distribution in different parts of the world. And, lastly, we may expect it to explain many difficulties and to harmonise many incongruities in the excessively complex affinities and relations of living things. All this the Darwinian theory undoubtedly does. It shows us how, by means of some of the most universal and ever-acting laws in nature, new species are necessarily produced, while the old species become extinct; and it enables us to understand how the continuous action of these laws during the long periods with which geology makes us acquainted is calculated to bring about those greater differences presented by the distinct genera, families, and orders into which all living things are classified by naturalists. The differences which these present are all of the same nature as those presented by the species of many large genera, but much greater in amount; and they can all be explained by the action of the same general laws and by the extinction of a larger or smaller number of intermediate species. Whether the distinctions between the higher groups termed Classes and Sub-kingdoms may be accounted for in the same way is a much more difficult question. The differences which separate the mammals, birds, reptiles, and fishes from each other, though vast, yet seem of the same nature as those which distinguish a mouse from an elephant or a swallow from a goose. But the vertebrate animals, the mollusca, and the insects, are so radically distinct in their whole organisation and in the very plan of their structure, that objectors may not unreasonably doubt whether they can all have been derived from a common ancestor by means of the very same laws as have sufficed for the differentiation of the various species of birds or of reptiles.

The Change of Opinion effected by Darwin.

The point I wish especially to urge is this. Before Darwin's work appeared, the great majority of naturalists, and almost without exception the whole literary and scientific world, held firmly to the belief that species were realities, and had not been derived from other species by any process accessible to us; the different species of crow and of violet