Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/262

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250
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

their neighbors are of comparatively recent date, and that their adaptation to an aquatic life is a thing but of yesterday when compared with the duration of previous æons in the history of our globe.

Gentleman's Magazine. 

 
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A PROBLEM IN HUMAN EVOLUTION.
By Professor GRANT ALLEN.

"HARDLY any view advanced in this work," says the illustrious author of the "Descent of Man," "has met with so much disfavor as the explanation of the loss of hair in mankind through sexual selection." Indeed, the friends and foes of Mr. Darwin's great theories have been equally ready, the one party to disclaim and the other party to ridicule the account which the founder of modern philosophic biology has given of the process whereby man, as he supposes, gradually lost the common hairy covering of other mammalia. Mr. Wallace, with all his ability and ingenuity, finds it necessary to call in the aid of a deus ex machina to explain the absence of so useful and desirable an adjunct; for he believes that natural selection could never have produced this result, and he therefore feels compelled to put it off upon "some intelligent power," since he denies altogether the existence of sexual selection as a vera causa. Mr. J. J. Murphy, in his recently published revision of "Habit and Intelligence," has taken up the same ground with a more directly hostile intent; and Spengel has also forcibly given expression to his dissent on the plea of inadequate evidence for the supposed preference. It seems highly desirable, therefore, to prop up Mr. Darwin's theory by any external supports which observation or analogy may suggest, and if possible to show some original groundwork in the shape of a natural tendency to hairlessness, upon which sexual selection might afterward exert itself so as to increase and accelerate the depilatory process when once set up.

The curious facts for which we have to account are something more than the mere general hairlessness of the human species. In man alone, as Mr. Wallace clearly puts the case, "the hairy covering of the body has almost totally disappeared; and, what is very remarkable, it has disappeared more completely from the back than from any other part of the body. Bearded and beardless races alike have the back smooth, and even when a considerable quantity of hair appears on the limbs and breast, the back, and especially the spinal region, is absolutely free, thus completely reversing the characteristics of all other mammalia." When we consider the comparatively helpless condition to which man has been thus reduced, as well as the almost universal human practice of substituting artificial clothing,