Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/183

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171
THE INADEQUACY OF "NATURAL SELECTION."

which he increasingly perceived as he grew older, is more important than he admitted even at the last. The neo-Darwinists, however, do not admit this cause at all.

Let it not be supposed that this explanation implies any disapproval of the dissentients, considered as such. Seeing how little regard for authority I have myself usually shown, it would be absurd in me to reflect in any degree upon those who have rejected certain of Mr. Darwin's teachings, for reasons which they have thought sufficient. But while their independence of thought is to be applauded rather than blamed, it is, I think, to be regretted that they have not guarded themselves against a long-standing bias. It is a common trait of human nature to seek some excuse when found in the wrong. Invaded self-esteem sets up a defense, and anything is made to serve. Thus it happened that when geologists and biologists, previously holding that all kinds of organisms arose by special creations, surrendered to the battery opened upon them by The Origin of Species, they sought to minimize their irrationality by pointing to irrationality on the other side. "Well, at any rate, Lamarck was in the wrong." "It is clear that we were right in rejecting his doctrine." And so, by duly emphasizing the fact that he overlooked "Natural Selection" as the chief cause, and by showing how erroneous were some of his interpretations, they succeeded in mitigating the sense of their own error. It is true their creed was that at successive periods in the Earth's history, old Floras and Faunas had been abolished and others introduced; just as though, to use Prof. Huxley's figure, the table had been now and again kicked over and a new pack of cards brought out. And it is true that Lamarck, while he rejected this absurd creed, assigned for the facts reasons some of which are absurd. But in consequence of the feeling described, his defensible belief was forgotten and only his indefensible ones remembered. This one-sided estimate has become traditional; so that there is now often shown a subdued contempt for those who suppose that there can be any truth in the conclusions of a man whose general conception was partly sense, at a time when the general conceptions of his contemporaries were wholly nonsense. Hence results unfair treatment—hence result the different dealings with the views of Lamarck and of Weismann.

"Where are the facts proving the inheritance of acquired characters"? ask those who deny it. Well, in the first place, there might be asked the counter-question—Where are the facts which disprove it? Surely if not only the general structures of organisms, but also many of the modifications arising in them, are inheritable, the natural implication is that all modifications are inheritable; and if any say that the inheritableness is limited