Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/505

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
489
PROFESSOR WEISMANN'S THEORIES.

competition among the parts for nutriment. This has the effect that active parts are well supplied and grow, while inactive parts are ill supplied and dwindle.[1] This competition is the cause of "economy of growth"; this is the cause of decrease from disuse; and this is the only conceivable cause of that decrease which Dr. Romanes contends follows the cessation of selection. The three things are aspects of the same thing. And now, before leaving this question, let me remark on the strange proposition which has to be defended by those who deny the dwindling of organs from disuse. Their proposition amounts to this:—that for a hundred generations an inactive organ may be partially denuded of blood all through life, and yet in the hundredth generation will be produced of just the same size as in the first I

There is one other passage in Dr. Romanes' criticism—that concerning the influence of a previous sire on progeny—which calls for comment. He sets down what he supposes Weismann will say in response to my argument. "First, he may question the fact." Well, after the additional evidence given above, I think he is not likely to do that; unless, indeed, it be that along with readiness to base conclusions on things "it is easy to imagine" there goes reluctance to accept testimony which it is difficult to doubt. Second, he is supposed to reply that "the germplasm of the first sire has in some way or another become partly commingled with that of the immature ova"; and Dr. Romanes goes on to describe how there may be millions of spermatozoa and "thousands of millions" "of their contained" ids "around the ovaries, to which these secondary effects are due. But, on the one hand, he does not explain why in such case each subsequent ovum, as it becomes matured, is not fertilized by the sperm-cells present, or their contained germ-plasm, rendering all subsequent fecundations needless; and, on the other hand, he does not explain why, if this does not happen, the potency of this remaining germ-plasm is nevertheless such as to affect not only the next succeeding offspring, but all subsequent offspring. The irreconcilability of these two implications would, I think, sufficiently dispose of the supposition, even had we not daily multitudinous proofs that the surface of a mammalian ovarium is not a spermatheca. The third difficulty Dr. Romanes urges is the inconceivability of the process by which the germ-plasm of a preceding male parent affects the constitution of the female and her subsequent offspring. In response, I have to ask why he piles up a mountain of difficulties based on the assumption that Mr. Darwin's explanation of heredity by "Pangenesis" is the only available explana-


  1. See Social Organism in Westminster Review for January, 1860; also Principles of Socilology § 247.