Page:Evolution and Ethics.djvu/12

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THE PROCESS OF EVOLUTION

put to much strain in the search after analogies with this process of going forth and, as it were, returning to the starting point. It may be likened to the ascent and descent of a slung stone, or to the course of an arrow along its trajectory. Or we may say that the living energy takes first an upward and then a downward road. Or it may seem preferable to compare the expansion of the germ into the full-grown plant, to the unfolding of a fan, or to the rolling forth and widening of a stream; and thus arrive at the conception of 'development,' or 'evolution.' Here as elsewhere, names are 'noise and smoke'; the important point is to have a clear and adequate conception of the fact signified by a name. And, in this case, the fact is the Sisyphsean process, in the course of which, the living and growing plant passes from the relative simplicity and latent potentiality of the seed to the full epiphany of a highly differentiated type, thence to fall back to simplicity and potentiality.

The value of a strong intellectual grasp of the nature of this process lies in the circumstance that what is true of the bean is true of living things in general. From very low forms up to the highest in the animal no less than in the vegetable kingdom the process of life presents the same appearance (1) of cyclical evolution. Nay, we have but to cast our eyes over the rest of the world and cyclical change presents itself on all sides. It meets us in the water that flows to the sea and returns to the springs; in the heavenly bodies that wax and wane, go and return