Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 76.djvu/36

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32
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
DARWIN'S PROBABLE PLACE IN FUTURE BIOLOGY
By Professor WILLIAM E. RITTER
MARINE BIOLOGICAL STATION OF SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

THIS centenary of Darwin's birth and semi-centenary of the publication of "The Origin of Species" will stimulate greater interest than ever in the illustrious naturalist's life and work. It may be hoped that the retrospective mood and generous spirit wont to pervade commemorative periods may contribute to hotter understanding and juster estimate of his achievements.

A strong current in biological thought is now running counter to belief in natural selection as an adequate explanation of evolution. One not at home in the biological literature of the day has but to read such general books as Morgan's "Evolution and Adaptation" and Kellogg's "Darwinism To-day" to feel the force of this current. That it is destined to wax stronger appears certain. Until its meaning is rightly seen it can but work injuriously to Darwin's fame.

Such productions as Dennert's "At the Deathbed of Darwinism" are symptomatic, though peevish, irreverent and false. They indicate disease somewhere in the body of evolutional doctrine. According to my diagnosis, the disease is seated near the vitals of the body and the name by which it is known is neo-Darwinism. It is a morbific growth and only its removal can restore the patient to health.

For a full generation, trade-marked expounders of evolution have insisted that only natural selection is true Darwinism. Powerful voices among these have said that natural selection is the full explanation of evolution, and on this basis are known as neo-Darwinians. By general assent natural selection becomes Darwinism, and by high authority Darwinism becomes neo-Darwinism. Consequently, now that neo-Darwinism has had time to come near its perdition, it not unnaturally seems to the little discerning to be dragging all evolution with it.

What did Darwin really do? Let us ask the question during this first centennial year of his birth, as though expecting the answer from the second centennial of his natal day.

To begin with, he gave us one of the noblest examples of a life devoted to search for truth that the modern world has seen. Splendid as are his works, more splendid still was the man. Every human life—every life—viewed from the standpoint of the larger, truer biology, must be seen to be greater than any of its works, for its works are but parts of the whole, and in biology, as elsewhere, a part is less than the