Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/490

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466
CHAP.
DARWINISM

to them we are limited to two possible theories. Either prehistoric and savage man did not possess this faculty at all (or only in its merest rudiments); or they did possess it, but had neither the means nor the incitements for its exercise. In the former case we have to ask by what means has this faculty been so rapidly developed in all civilised races, many of which a few centuries back were, in this respect, almost savages themselves; while in the latter case the difficulty is still greater, for we have to assume the existence of a faculty which had never been used either by the supposed possessors of it or by their ancestors.

Let us take, then, the least difficult supposition—that savages possessed only the mere rudiments of the faculty, such as their ability to count, sometimes up to ten, but with an utter inability to perform the very simplest processes of arithmetic or of geometry—and inquire how this rudimentary faculty became rapidly developed into that of a Newton, a La Place, a Gauss, or a Cayley. We will admit that there is every possible gradation between these extremes, and that there has been perfect continuity in the development of the faculty; but we ask, What motive power caused its development?

It must be remembered we are here dealing solely with the capability of the Darwinian theory to account for the origin of the mind, as well as it accounts for the origin of the body of man, and we must, therefore, recall the essential features of that theory. These are, the preservation of useful variations in the struggle for life; that no creature can be improved beyond its necessities for the time being; that the law acts by life and death, and by the survival of the fittest. We have to ask, therefore, what relation the successive stages of improvement of the mathematical faculty had to the life or death of its possessors; to the struggles of tribe with tribe, or nation with nation; or to the ultimate survival of one race and the extinction of another. If it cannot possibly have had any such effects, then it cannot have been produced by natural selection.

It is evident that in the struggles of savage man with the elements and with wild beasts, or of tribe with tribe, this faculty can have had no influence. It had nothing to do with