Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/746

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

cipated Lamarck in enunciating the general conception of the genesis of organic forms by adaptive modifications, but had not worked out the conception as Lamarck did, Mr. Darwin, perceiving that both of them were mistaken in attributing the modifications to causes which, though some of them true, were inadequate to account for all the effects, succeeded, by recognizing the further cause he called Natural Selection, in raising the hypothesis from a form but partially tenable to a quite tenable form. This view of his, so admirably worked out, has been adopted by the great majority of naturalists; and, by making the process of organic evolution more comprehensible, it is revolutionizing biological conceptions throughout the world. In the words of Prof. Cohn, "no book of recent times has influenced the conceptions of modern science like the first edition of Charles Darwin's 'Origin of Species.'"[1] Nor should we overlook the various kindred minor discoveries, partly dependent, partly independent: Mr. Darwin's own respecting the dimorphism of flowers; Mr. Bates's beautiful interpretation of mimicry in insects, which led the way to many allied interpretations; Mr. Wallace's explanations of dimorphism and polymorphism in Lepidoptera. Finally, Prof. Huxley, besides dissipating some serious biological errors of Continental origin, has made important contributions to morphology and classification.

Nor does the balance turn against us on passing to the next-highest concrete science. After those earlier inquiries by which Englishmen so largely advanced the Science of Mind, and set up much of the speculation subsequently active in France and Germany, there came a lull in English thinking; and during this arose the absurd notion that the English are not a philosophical people. But the lull, ending some forty years ago, gave place to an activity which has quickly made up for lost time. On this point I need not rest in assertion, but will quote foreign testimony. The first chapter of Prof. Ribot's work, "La Psychologie Anglaise Contemporaine" begins thus:

"'The sceptre of Psychology,' says Mr. Stuart Mill, 'has been decidedly restored to England.' It might be held that it had never passed out of her hand. Certainly, psychological studies are now pursued in that country by men of the first mark, who, by the solidity of their method, and, what is rarer still, by the precision of their results, have brought about a new era for science; but we might call this a reduplication rather than a renewal of former glory.'"

Similarly, on turning to Ethics considered under its psychological aspect, we find foreign testimony that English thinkers have done most toward the elaboration of a scientific system. In the preface to his late work, "La Morale nella Fllosofia Positiva" (meaning, by "Positiva" simply scientific), Prof. Barzellotti, of Florence, states

  1. "Die Entwicklung der Naturwissenschaft in den letzten fünfundzwanzig Jahren." By Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Cohn. Breslau, 1872.