Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/113

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103
EDITOR'S TABLE.

derstand it might do in using its own pollen, we can see how "natural selection" could use "variation" to advantage. The insect only interferes with the law.

There are some few plants which never seem to fertilize except by insect or other aid. In a large number of these cases their own pollen is just as good as foreign pollen. In a few instances foreign pollen alone seems to be potent. Why must we believe, in this latter case, that it is because their own pollen is designed to be inferior, in order that foreign pollen may be brought to it? There may be many other reasons. At any rate, the creed presented to us is inconsistent with a full idea of natural selection. The survival of the fittest will be most assured by an abundance of resources. The little chickweed which flowers and seeds with the thermometer at 35°, and the common erophila at 40°, are much "fitter" to fight their way through the world in the wonderful way they do than if they waited for the spring insect to bring them foreign pollen. We can readily understand that if a flower is diseased, the pollen of that flower acting on itself would produce diseased off-spring. Foreign pollen would bring back the health. With the millions of healthy flowers reproducing, the one flower diseased seems but trifling; but even so the insects can carry bad pollen to good flowers, as well as bring good pollen to diseased ones. Only that I have heard the argument from the highest in scientific standing, it would seem too puerile to mention here.

Without going further into detail, I may say that, as a matter of opinion, the observations I have placed on record aid evolutionary views in some of their weakest points, while I am really saving the doctrines of the survival of the fittest and of natural selection from injuries dealt out to them in the house of their friends.

Thomas Meehan.
Germantown, Pa., September 28, 1876.
 


EDITOR'S TABLE.

PROFESSOR HUXLEY'S LECTURES.

PROF. HUXLEY arrived in this country tired out from prolonged overwork, and greatly needing rest. He did not wish to speak in public, but could not escape it. He went to Nashville to visit a sister whom he had not seen in thirty years, and, being strongly urged to make a public address there, he reluctantly consented, and spoke to a large concourse on an excessively hot day. The effort prostrated him, and his voice was so strained that he did not recover his usual vocal power while he remained with us. He had not expected to make a formal public discourse at Baltimore, and therefore had to prepare one while here. His vacation thus turned out to be anything but a season of repose and recuperation, and he gave his lectures in New York under the triple disadvantage of not being up to his usual vigor, of a serious impairment of voice, and of having to prepare them as he went along—for the plan of the discussion was new, and American materials had to be worked up for its purpose. These difficulties became serious in dealing with the crowded audiences which attended his lectures, many of whom heard him but imperfectly.

His lectures were, however, well received by those who heard them, and quite as well received by the press as we had any reason to expect. That objections of all sorts should be raised was inevitable; for the doctrine of Evolution, which he advocated, is too recent, too comprehensive, too scientific, and encounters too many prejudices, to be generally or readily accepted merely because it is proved. Only a very small portion of human opinion is the product of reason. Some thought his treatment of the subject too elementary, and some thought it too restricted and inadequate, but nobody denied that it was clear, forcible, and logical. We must add that, in most cases, the pulpit has