Popular Science Monthly/Volume 16/November 1879/A Reply to Fallacies of Evolution
|←Respecting Rubbish|| Popular Science Monthly Volume 16 November 1879 (1879)
A Reply to Fallacies of Evolution
By George John Romanes
|The Inauguration of Arago's Statue→|
I PROPOSE to write a short reply to an essay entitled "The Fallacies of Evolution," which was published in the July number of the "Edinburgh Review." This essay aims at nothing less than stemming of the whole tide of modern philosophy by the material supplied in some thirty diffusely written pages. It aspires to show that the whole theory of evolution is a monster-birth of irrational minds, and, as may be anticipated from such an estimate of this theory, the essay is written by a man comically ignorant of the subject which he presumes to expound.
Lest it should be thought that I am overstating the aim and intended scope of the essay in question, I shall begin by presenting them in the writer's own words: "We must refer our readers, if they desire to master the anatomical details of the problem, to these works themselves. It is not our intention critically to review them. We desire rather to point out, on broader philosophical grounds, how very slight and insufficient the basis is on which so vast a superstructure has been reared, and by what a strange perversion and misuse of the reasoning faculties man is called upon to abdicate whatever most distinguishes him from the brutes."
Such is the essayist's introduction; and that he deems his ambitious project to have been triumphantly accomplished is evident from the words of his conclusion: "But it is unnecessary to pursue this point any further. We have already said enough to satisfy our present object, which is simply to expose the weakness of the reasoning (if reasoning it could be called) by which the theory before us is assumed to be maintained. The question is essentially one to be decided by the exercise of the judicial faculties,. . . and if so dealt with, apart from all fanciful speculation, we feel no hesitation in asserting that the conclusion will be that at which we ourselves have long since arrived, viz., that development by evolution is merely a rhetorical expression, a form of words, and nothing more,"
It will thus be seen that the reviewer's purpose is sufficiently sweeping; and, considering he is not blind to the fact that the weight of competent authority is against him (p. 225), we must at least be startled by the boldness of the man who, without any armor of fact either on the right hand or on the left, rushes like David full of self-confidence against the Goliath of modern thought. The stone which is hurled is indeed in one respect a stone of tremendous weight, the style of the article being ponderous to a degree that borders on pomposity. But, unfortunately, if there is a hole in the armor of the giant, the stone has certainly failed to hit it; and, as the modern champion of Israel has evidently found the armor of fact too heavy to put on, he must not now object to receiving some rough treatment at the hands of the foe which he had the courage to attack.
The allusion to the writer's evident ignorance of science leads me to say at the outset that it is not my intention to waste time by troubling him upon this subject. He expressly says in the passage already quoted that he does not intend to contemplate matters of scientific fact, but to discuss the whole question of evolution "on broader philosophical grounds." It is impossible not to recognize the wisdom of this resolve. When a man supposes that elemental matter is now affirmed to be only one substantial form, at present subsisting in the condition of a gas (the hydrogen—p. 221), or that it is the rule "in the case of ophidian reptiles, serpents, etc.," that "the places assignable to the arms and legs in other animals are occupied by rudimental representatives of those organs imbedded in the surrounding tissues" (p. 228); that paleontology reveals only "a solitary case of approximation to the equine species"; that the sum total of animal species amounts to only one hundred and twenty thousand; and so on—a man, I say, who supposes such things, is no doubt wise to abstain from "critically reviewing" scientific facts. I shall proceed to show that he would have been still wiser had he also abstained from trespassing "on the broader philosophical grounds" of scientific theory.
Taking the features of his article seriatim, we may first observe that in his opening paragraphs he displays an altogether erroneous estimate of what is meant by the faculty of scientific observation. He makes a broad distinction between the "faculties of observation and of ratiocination or reasoning," and states that "they are, in fact, the distinctive characteristics of two different classes of men, regarded with reference to their intellectual endowments. The man of observation, prone to notice and apt to discern the peculiarities of form and substance—all, in short, that comes within the cognizance of the senses—is by no means equally apt to discern, or competent to appreciate, the conclusions to which they are calculated to conduce; while, on the other hand, the man of reasoning, accustomed to deal with the suggestions of the mind rather than of the senses, prone to speculation rather than to experiment, is comparatively unfitted for the more matter-of-fact employment of investigation and research. Both classes of minds and of men are equally essential to the progress of scientific discovery, though it can not be said that both stand on the same level in the estimation of their respective faculties. The faculty of observation, important as it is, is a faculty common, not merely to all men, but more or less to all animated beings^ whereas the faculty of reasoning, at least in its higher grades, is peculiar to man alone."
Now, that there is a distinction to be drawn between an observant and a contemplative mind—between a man who sees and a man who thinks—there can be no question. But, that the distinction is of the kind here drawn, no one in the least degree acquainted with experimental research could for a moment suppose. The idea of the writer seems to be that all scientific observation consists merely in a refined use of the senses, the things to be observed lying in Nature already formed, like shells upon the beach. Such an idea is applicable only to the pursuits of a species-hunter, or "systematist"—a man who holds merely the rank of a private in the scientific army. For the discovery of all that deserves the name of scientific truth, for the classifying of hidden analogies and the unveiling of general principles, the highest faculties of the human mind, in the highest degree of their development, must be taxed to the highest degree of their power. With a clear perception of the problem to be solved, a man of science must either think out the particular conjunction of conditions occurring in Nature, which, if found to occur, would give an unequivocal solution, or he must devise such an artificial conjunction of conditions as may lead to the same result. And whether, as in astronomy and geology, the former method be employed, or the latter method be employed, as in all the experimental sciences it must be, I fearlessly affirm that in no department of intellectual activity is there a greater demand made upon that particular faculty of mind which our author terms the faculty of ratiocination. If we follow the intellectual operations by which any of the greater results in science have been achieved, their most conspicuous feature will always be found to consist in the number, the length, and the intricacy of the chains of reasoning converging now upon this point and now upon that, as each is made the securely-fastened point of attachment for the next. The great distinction between the reasonings, say of the metaphysician and the man of science, consists, not in any difference of degree, but in a difference of subject matter. For, while the man whom our author calls the "man of reasoning" has no other test by which to estimate the accuracy of his conclusions than the subjective processes of reason itself, "the man of observation" has the uncompromising court of objective fact whither to bring his conclusions for a trial that is sure to be remorseless, and for a judgment from which there can be no appeal. And because the court of Nature is alone infallible, the man of science shows his wisdom as a seeker of truth by directing his best faculties of thought toward the arguing of his case in such a way that the judgment of this court upon the issue presented shall be final. The issue is that concerning the truth of a laboriously reasoned hypothesis; the argument is a perhaps no less laboriously reasoned experiment; and the judgment is either a triumphant verification or a crushing non-suit with costs—the latter being now happily to some extent defrayed by government. In a word, to disparage those faculties of mind which elaborate scientific generalization, as contrasted with those which elaborate philosophic speculation, is surely too preposterously absurd to be entertained even by the most benighted reader of the "Edinburgh" or any other Review.
The author of this attempt appears, from the authoritative style in which he writes, to regard himself as among the favored "men of reasoning, prone to speculation rather than to experiment." That he would be "comparatively unfitted for the more matter-of-fact employment of investigation and research," we can not entertain the shadow of a doubt, and therefore I see no reason why we should hesitate to place him in the category of those who are "accustomed to deal with the suggestions of the mind," without condescending to bring these suggestions to the test of fact. If so, I grieve to observe that in this case the suggestions of the mind have certainly been of a most unfortunate character.
He first briefly considers the present balance of authority regarding the question of spontaneous generation, or the development of living from non-living matter. On this subject I have no remark to make, except that, so far as the doctrine of evolution is concerned, there is no a priori reason to anticipate the occurrence of spontaneous generation within the limits of time that are possible to human observation. Miserably small as is our knowledge of protoplasm, we at least know enough to be astounded at its enormously complex chemical constitution, and the no less enormously complex physical properties with which it is endowed. The numerous species of elaborately sculptured shells which owe their varied and intricate forms to the vital activities of protoplasm; the fact that all cells, and therefore all organizations, ultimately owe their forms and their functions to the apparently same material; and, lastly, the fact that all specific organisms spring from minute specks of this substance, which specks therefore contain and transmit the vital record of billions on billions of hereditary qualities, specific and individual—these things show that the term protoplasm must be considered as merely a general term for all living matter, the constitution of which may perhaps in some cases be comparatively simple, while in others it must be immensely complex, the only common feature of protoplasmic material being that its constitution is too minute for the microscope to analyze. But even if we suppose that the constitution of the simplest form of existing protoplasm—whatever that may be—is as simple as we choose to suppose, it must at least be enormously complex as compared with any known form of non-living matter. Therefore an evolutionist, or a man who believes in the doctrine of gradual development in nature, is certainly not the man who would be prepared a priori to expect the spontaneous production of protoplasm within any period that it is competent for experiment to span. If experiment should ever succeed in unequivocally producing protoplasm by artificial means, the fact would, of course, be an immense gain to science, and by bridging the chasm between the physical and the vital would be also a gain to the doctrine of development. But the absence of any such experimental proof of continuity is no presumption against that doctrine, so long as the presumption remains that if the passage from the non-living to the living ever took place it must have taken place by slow degrees.
Passing over the reviewer's comments on the theories of Lamarck and the author of the "Vestiges," I shall at once proceed to examine the main portion of his review, which is simply an attempt at a criticism of Mr. Darwin's work. Here he says: "With the facts, our only concern is to understand them, that we may be able to reason from them. Our business is with the conclusions, to test their correctness in accordance with the recognized principles of right reasoning, that error may be eliminated and truth secured." We shall see that it can not well be said whether it is in understanding the facts, or in testing the conclusions, that this writer has shown himself the more deplorably incompetent.
First, he undertakes to expound and to criticise what he properly terms the distinctive "peculiarity" of Darwinism—the doctrine of natural selection. It may well be thought incredible that at the present day an educated man, writing in a respectable review on the subject of Darwinism, and introducing his criticism with all the solemn flourishes of pedantry that I have quoted, should at once proceed to show that he is entirely ignorant of what the doctrine of natural selection is. Yet such is the fact, and the heavy charge of uninstructed arrogance which I thus level at the writer in question is but too easily maintained by the following quotations (pp. 225-227):
This instrumentality was at first supplied in the theory of Dr. Darwin by the "struggle for life," occasioning the disappearance from the scene of the feeblest and the "survival of the fittest" to carry on the race. The notion is a striking one; and with the advocacy of its able author, his charming style, and the interesting illustrations by which it was supported, naturally produced a powerful impression upon the public mind. A little consideration, however, gradually weakened the first effect. It was presently observed that such a description was only properly applicable to a certain class of animals—the polygamous, in which one male in the herd or flock assumes possession of all the females; and to that class but imperfectly, making no account of the females, whose influence in determining the condition of the offspring is at least equal to that of the males. . . .
With regard to the two propositions upon which the Darwinian theory essentially depends, we have already alluded to an apparent objection to the first mentioned, the "struggle for life," and which is indeed equally predicable of the other, the principle of "selection in relation to sex"—namely, that it is limited in its application to certain classes of animals, and those neither the most numerous nor the most important. For we confess we can not understand how either of them could be supposed to prevail at all in at least one whole department of animal life—the aquatic. Surely there is but scant room for the hypothesis of a "struggle for life," and still less for that of "selection in relation to sex" among fishes! And these, with the other denizens of the deep, constitute more than one half of the animal kingdom. But there is yet another point of view in regard of which both the conditions in question are obviously inadequate to the conclusion that is built upon them—namely, that it is only in the already advanced stages of animal subsistence that they come into operation at all. The "struggle for life" and "selection in relation to sex" could have no scope for exercise among the lower forms of life; many of them without the power of locomotion, incapable of either seeking their food or choosing their mates. And yet these are, in the theory before us, the foundation of the animal superstructure, comprising the earlier stages of that progressive development which by those means is supposed to be accomplished.
From these passages we can only suppose that their writer believes what he states, viz., that Mr. Darwin's theory of natural selection in the struggle for life is limited to natural selection in what Mr. Darwin has called "the law of battle." In all animals that fight among themselves Mr. Darwin supposes that strength, courage, and all other qualities conducive to success in battle, are some of the qualities which in such animals constitute that "fitness" to survive which is laid hold upon by natural selection in the struggle for existence, and perpetuated in advancing degrees by heredity. But to suppose that the struggle for existence is limited to a literal fighting among animals is a misconception so extraordinary that it could scarcely be suspected, were it not so carefully enforced by the writer himself. Why else should he mention only the "feeblest" as those individuals which must disappear in the struggle for life? or why else should the process of natural selection be restricted in its operation to such animals as are "polygamous"? And how else can there be any meaning in the statement that "we confess we can not understand how either of them could be supposed to prevail at all in at least one whole department of animal life—the aquatic," or "that the struggle for life could have no scope for exercise among the lower forms of life," etc., etc.? The truth can only be that this writer has either never read Darwin at all, or that he has forgotten the most distinctive principles of which Darwinism consists. For, it would be needless to tell nine persons out of ten who may read this reply, that Darwin is most explicit in assigning a very subordinate place to the function of actual contest in the struggle for existence; he supposes a host of other agencies to be of far more importance in determining the fitness of the survivors—a ho^, indeed, which it is literally true that no man can number. Doubtless the poetic force of Mr. Darwin's metaphor has ludicrously misled his critic; and, if the latter were to substitute for it some such term as Competition for Life, it is impossible that we could hear anything more even from the "feeblest" unfortunate among the strugglers against evolution, about being unable to understand how the principle could apply to the lower forms of life.
The remarks, then, which I have qu-^ted concerning natural selection clearly prove that that writer has either never read, or has entirely forgotten, the "Origin of Species." His remarks simultaneously quoted concerning sexual selection further prove that he has either never read, or has entirely forgotten, the "Descent of Man." Otherwise it would have been impossible for him to write, with all the added emphasis supplied by a mark of admiration, "Surely there is but scant room for the hypothesis of a * struggle for life,' and still less for that of ' selection in relation to sex,' among fishes!" A reviewer has a perfect right to differ to any extent he pleases with the writer whom he reviews, provided that he gives some evidence of having read the works of that writer; but a man who, "listening to the suggestions of his own mind," thinks that he is making a strong point by propounding, as a reductio ad absurdum, a belief which the author he reviews has brought a large quantity of evidence to support—such a man can only be deemed a foolish adventurer in the province of criticism. Whether or not sexual selection obtains among fish may properly be regarded as an open question, and the supposition that it does may, perhaps, seem to some persons unlikely, even after they have read all that Darwin has to say upon the subject. But any dubiousness of the doctrine itself does not affect the evidence, which is supplied by the reductio ad absurdum form, that the reviewer is ignorant that Darwin has seriously advocated the possibility of sexual selection occurring among certain aquatic animals.Having spoken of the reviewer's ignorance of the "Origin of Species" and the "Descent of Man," I may next allude to his ignorance of the "Variation of Plants and Animals under Domestication." Here, at least, total ignorance of the work he names is the most charitable construction that we can put upon the following passage:
Whether or not this passage has been written after a perusal of the "Variation," it displays an inability to appreciate the function of experiment that to most persons will appear, and rightly appear, lamentable. Comment on so astonishing a passage would be useless, for nothing that I could say could throw its condensed absurdity into any stronger relief. As well might it be said that all our study of electricity is useless for the purpose of furthering our knowledge of natural forces, except so far as observations on the subject are confined to the phenomena of lightning.
Next in order we come upon the writer's estimate of the argument from classification:
Disregarding the error that it is not only in such animals that rudimentary organs are present—seeing that, on the contrary, their occurrence is so general that almost every species presents one or more of them—the idea which is conveyed by this passage is one of the wildest attempts at criticism that I have ever encountered. The instances of affinities in the animal and vegetable kingdoms would, if they could be enumerated, run up into the thousand millions, and extend to the most complex and delicate traits of structure that it is possible to imagine. That such a state of things may be due to intelligent design is a sufficiently reasonable hypothesis, and as such may be properly opposed to the hypothesis of hereditary descent. But the supposition that such a state of things can be due to any "necessity" arising out of "the mass of animal life to be dealt with," is a supposition that could only occur to a mind altogether unacquainted with anatomical science. The marvel always is, not the accidental similarity of organs, due to the exigencies of their performing similar functions, but the adaptation of anatomically homologous organs to the performance of widely different functions. To take only one instance by way of illustration. Where is the "necessity" that no one among the many species of bats should not have the wing formed in any other way than by the highly peculiar and distinctive modification of the hand? Or where is the "necessity" that all the still greater number of species of birds should have their wings formed by another highly peculiar and equally distinctive modification of the arm? Both structures serve equally well for flight; as, indeed, do the wings of insects and did the wings of the pterodactyl. So far, then, as the exigencies arising out of "the mass of animal life to be dealt with" are concerned, there is no reason why these four types of wings should not occur indiscriminately among the four classes of animals in question—and this even if we follow our author in confining the possibilities of creative invention to the anatomical structures of which we are cognizant. This, of course, is but a general refutation. The absurdity of the argument from "necessity" becomes the more apparent the more numerous and more minute the homologies of structure are found to be within the limits of the same type, without ever transgressing on the equally numerous and minute homologies of any other type. But the fact that homologies never thus commingle—that no one of a vast congeries of organs characteristic of one group of organisms ever appears in any other group of organisms—this fact is of such overwhelming force as evidence of genetic descent, that its supposed failure of application in one solitary instance was, as Sir Charles Lyell wisely observed, to his mind the strongest argument against evolution with which he had met. This solitary case of failure had reference to the eye of a mollusk (the cuttle-fish), which was alleged to be anatomically similar to the eye of a true fish. The allegation proved to be wholly false; but, so far as any "necessity" arising from the difficulty of inventing new forms is concerned, there is no reason why the allegation should not have been true.
Our reviewer next treats of the argument from embryology, and in doing so his ideas present that same crudity of cast which gives to his whole essay its grotesque character. He says: "Certainly these remarks are exceedingly curious, and even in a sense imposing. . . . But these resemblances, be they never so close, infer no real connection between the objects thus heterogeneously associated. It is not pretended that the objects compared together are ever entirely alike—that the unborn young of the higher animal is, at any stage of its development, identical with any of the lower animals, but only that some of the features of the one are like the analogous features of the other. . . . That some such resemblance should, in fact, be found to prevail is only what might naturally be expected, considering that each full-grown individual is itself the result of a process of gradual development from a sizeless and shapeless germ, in which development all its organs equally participate," etc. Here, again, we encounter the same argument from "necessity" that has just been considered; and here, again, it is no less preposterous than it was in its previous connection. For to an embryologist nothing could appear more ridiculous than the statement that "in such a case of gradual development it follows, almost as a matter of course, that both the entire animal and all its component members should, in their advance to maturity from a mere punctum saliens, exhibit some faint resemblance" to other and allied animals. As a matter of fact, the resemblance is never "faint" but profound, affecting all the structures which constitute the essential framework of the organism. The kind of resemblance on which the reviewer would appear inclined to place most reliance would be a superficial resemblance of specific details. But although even this is supplied by many facts—such as the hair on the unborn child, clothing the body except on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, which are also denuded in apes—it is not of so deep a significance to a philosophical mind as are the deeper resemblances of anatomical structure. Hence, even if the unborn young of a higher animal were, "at any stage of its development, identical with any of the lower animals," the fact would not speak so strongly in favor of its derivation from a lower form as does the fact of its passing through a whole series of changes, each stage of which refers, in some point of anatomical significance, to some stage in the existing grade of animal organizations. Actual identity is not what the theory of descent with modification would lead us to expect, seeing that, according to this theory, the comparable features usually refer to features that are derived from a common ancestor lower down in a branching stem of descent. In a family tree we may expect the constituent members to inherit in common some peculiarities possessed by their common ancestors, but we do not expect the personal appearance of all the individuals to be identical. Lastly, when we consider the enormous complexity of organisms, the marvel is how the more complicated, in attaining their higher complexity, mimic so closely the anatomical structures of the organisms lower in the scale of complexity. Far from its being "almost a matter of course," it is in the last degree astounding that a vertebrated animal, for instance, should begin its course of development by the same process of yolk-cleavage that occurs in the rest of the animal kingdom, that its first differentiation of body-layers should present the essential anatomical features of the body-layers that characterize the jelly-fish, and so on. In short, when any one at all acquainted with the facts of embryology regards them en masse, the last of all notions to enter his mind will be that they must be as they are "almost as a matter of course." Rather will he be constrained to ask, "How can these things be?" and it is fortunate that there is now a voice of authoritative teaching to answer, "Art thou a master in Israel and knowest not?"
Next we come to the argument from geographical distribution. Here the alleged fallacy of evolution is as follows: "If the environment be taken to be the cause of the specific characters of the animals, similar environments ought to be productive of similar species. But this is very far from being the case." This is, perhaps, as good an instance as we have met of our author's inability to view all the area of an extensive problem. His idea of what constitutes an "environment" is about as adequate as the idea of space that a baby shows when it tries to grasp the moon. The following expresses his idea: "If the environment be taken to be the cause of the diversification of the species, how is it that, where the scope for diversity of environment is apparently the least, the greater is the variety of species? We have before observed that there are about 120,000 species of animals; of these more than one half are aquatic, the inhabitants of seas, lakes, and rivers; to which distinction, combined with temperature, the grounds of diversification seem almost exclusively confined." This is really exquisite—so exquisite that it seems a pity to mar its comicality by a prosaic answer. But, even though I may spoil the joke by explaining it, I must at least explain to the author himself how good a joke he has made.
First, then, besides varying in temperature, the ocean, in its different parts, varies somewhat in depth, in the nature of its bottom, the strength of its currents, the degree of its saltness, and its relations to the land. Next, as contrasted with the land, the water on the globe presents an immensely greater—not only area—but cubical capacity for sustaining life. Again, and of still greater importance, it is a matter of fact, whether or not the doctrine of evolution is true, that geology reveals the existence of multitudinous forms of aquatic life as preceding in time the advent of terrestrial life. And, as the theory of evolution supposes that all the latter forms of life are the lineal descendants of the former, it is clear that by the terras of this theory, no less than by those of geological fact, far more time has been allowed for the differentiation of aquatic than for that of terrestrial species. Indeed, looking to the degree in which water, as contrasted with land, has thus been favorably handicapped in the time allowed for the production of species, the only wonder is, that the water does not show a greater comparative wealth of specific forms than it does. But, lastly, and most important of all, it is a huge blunder to imagine that an "environment" consists merely in the physical conditions as to medium, climate, etc., to which an organism is exposed. Of far more importance are the innumerably complex relations of the organism to its neighboring organisms, whether of its own or other species, to which must be added the effects of hereditary endowment from a long line of ancestors occupying other and changing environments, to all of which these ancestors must have been structurally adapted. The word "environment" is a term of the most comprehensive kind, embodying, in every case that it is used, an assemblage of conditions presenting an amount of complexity that is not only inconceivable but wholly unnamable. It is nothing less than amazing to find a man at this time of day seeking to argue that environments can not "be the cause of the diversifications of species," on such grounds as that different species flourish in "parts of South Africa and Australia which are wonderfully similar in their soil and climate." Indeed, not to prolong the discussion of nonsense, I will conclude this part of my reply by quoting the sentence with which he concludes his statement of this particular "fallacy of evolution." I do so because, while he appears to think that the question is of so unanswerable a character as to deserve the place of anti-climax in his argument, it really presents as good an example as could anywhere be found of misconception blatant. Here it is: "And then, what is to be said for the multitude of species to be found in the same localities, the same forests, the same jungles, the same lakes, the same streamlets, where there is literally no room for any difference in the environments at all?"
After an exposé, of ignorance so crass I do not think that I should be performing any useful function by following the writer any further in his luckless flounderings. The rest of his article consists in a trite statement of the facts that species are not producible by artificial selection, and that some specific forms have remained unchanged through long geological epochs—neither of which facts has the smallest tendency to negative the doctrine of descent.
He also devotes a page or two to sustain the theory that the lake dwellers and other prehistoric men were the "degraded descendants of a civilized ancestry." Of course, in so doing he has no facts to adduce—merely maintaining that "it is just as possible, just as likely, that the artificers in stone, and the dwellers in the caves of the earth, were the degraded descendants of a civilized ancestry, as the barbarous ancestors of a civilized posterity"—forgetting, on the one hand, that, if the general theory of evolution be true, this is not so possible or not so likely; and, on the other hand, that it is a very unfortunate fact for the possibility and the likelihood in question that the "civilized ancestry" should have been so much less fortunate in leaving behind them relics of then-existence than have been their "barbarous posterity." Next, he treats of "the distinction and equable distribution of the sexes." This is, indeed, a subject which the theory of evolution has not yet been successful in completely explaining; but our author, by again displaying his ignorance of Mr. Darwin's writings, has not made so strong a case as he might have made. He appears to think it self-evident that over such things "the struggle for life and natural selection must be equally powerless"—a statement which is self-evidently absurd; for, although a man may doubt whether the alleged cause (natural selection) is competent to effect all that Darwinians here suppose, this writer only weakens his own case by showing that he is ignorant of such a cause having been alleged. And no less unfortunate is he when "attending to the suggestions of the mind" in the matter of protective coloring. For, after stating one or two cases of protective coloring, he makes the startling announcement: "Here, then, are examples of the adaptation of the species to the conditions of their existence which can not. . . . be by virtue of any law of nature; for we neither know of any such law, nor can we conceive of any that could produce the effects in question exclusively in the case of the few species alluded to without regard to the multitudes inhabiting the same localities." Here, again, the most charitable supposition we can make is, that the writer has never read the doctrines which he undertakes to criticise. For, if,. after having read all the evidence in favor of protective coloring, he could think to dispose of it by so absurd a criticism as this, we must refuse to consign him a place even among those whom he calls "men of reasoning." If three animals—A, B, and C—inhabit the same locality, and if A is protectively colored, while B and C are not, what must we think of the reasoning which from these premises alone definitely concludes that the imitative coloring of A can not conceivably be due to the operation of a natural law? There may be a thousand and one reasons why B and C should not be affected by the law of protective coloring; yet, merely on the ground that all animals in the same locality are not so affected, we are told to conclude that all the thousands of cases in which animals are thus affected constitute no evidence of the operation of a natural law! Did ever our "man of reasoning" hear of a method of reasoning called the method of concomitant variations?
Lastly, the reviewer enlarges upon the absence of paleontological evidence of connecting specific forms; but, as we have already sufficiently gauged his competence to deal with such subjects as the imperfection of the geological record, I will not occupy further space by considering what he says, further than to show by one concluding quotation the truly appalling state of things, which "it can require but little reflection to perceive" would have been the result of organic evolution, had the world been so unfortunate as to have been subject to such a process. "It requires but a very small stretch of thought further to perceive that, so far from such a principle of creation affording reasonable grounds for the inference of the development of the species, according to the present intent of the term, the result must have been the absolute exclusion of all species whatever—the production of an indiscriminate mass, or rather mob of animals, extending in indistinguishable series from one end of the creation to the other."
Here I gladly stop. It is not to be expected that the majority of those who read the criticism can themselves be in a position to estimate the full extent of its impudence; and for this reason I have taken the trouble to show how, as a criticism, it is beneath contempt—useful only as a warning to those whom it concerns to abstain from meddling with any subject which, neither by mental constitution, thought, nor training, are they in the lowest degree competent to treat.—Fortnightly Review.