Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/841

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819
ON THE CAUSES OF VARIATION.

To the imperfection of the geologic record is to be attributed, no doubt, a large number of these gaps yet existing between types, and many important links or branches are yet to be discovered. Yet the views we have been considering should absolve evolutionists from all necessity of demonstrating the more minute gradations; because, in deposits like the Tertiary, during which we may assume life-conditions to have remained comparatively uniform, these saltations take place. Saltation, or, what is probably a truer expression, wave-movement, would indeed seem to be a prerequisite of progress, and will account for much that is going on even at the present day. In artificial selection by man we find that it is at first comparatively easy to accumulate minute peculiarities and variations by rigid breeding and exclusion of all deviation; but that we soon arrive at a fixed point which is maintained at first with difficulty but with increasing ease with each generation. During these more fixed periods the potentiality for change is doubtless increasing, until at last it is suddenly manifested in renewed variation. Rest is followed by activity just as surely as activity induces and requires rest.

There is a limit to development in organs, just as there is a limit to individual mental growth. Weariness of previous effort comes upon us when the limit of result is attained, accompanied by great longing for change, and not infrequently with revulsion from previous effort. The naturalist who has devoted a part of his life to the persistent accumulation of facts and specimens, has held the imaginative and generalizing powers in abeyance during that period. The reserve brain-force in this direction may be suddenly called into activity by exhaustion in the other, and the process may perhaps be comparable to the exhaustion of the soil for one particular crop, without lessening its fertility for some other, the recognition of which fact is the foundation of all successful agriculture. Excess of development, whether in body or mind, inevitably brings about either wholesome reaction or utter collapse.

How far the rhythmic tendency in the development of animal life may be explained by the rapid change of climate, by migration and the loss of record, or upon the general law that while there has been progress of the whole, there has not necessarily been progress of every part, it would take us too far to discuss in this connection. I think we are safe in saying, however, that the facts justify the belief that, in the evolution of animal life, as in the evolution of everything else, progress has often been made by waves.

Fiske's Law.—With regard to what may be called Fiske's law of correlation between brain development and infantile dependency, Fiske has so admirably elaborated the subject that it