We are thus, at last, brought to the question; what would happen if the derivation of species were to be substantiated, either as a true physical theory, or as a sufficient hypothesis? What would come of it? The enquiry is a pertinent one, just now. For, of those who agree with us in thinking that Darwin has not established his theory of derivation, many will admit with us that he has rendered a theory of derivation much less improbable than before; that such a theory chimes in with the established doctrines of physical science, and is not unlikely to be largely accepted long before it can be proved. Moreover, the various notions that prevail,—equally among the most and the least religious,—as to the relations between natural agencies or phenomena and Efficient Cause, are seemingly more crude, obscure, and discordant than they need be.
It is not surprising that the doctrine of the book should be denounced as atheistical. What does surprise and concern us is, that it should be so denounced by a scientific man, on the broad assumption that a material connection between the members of a series of organized beings is inconsistent with the idea of their being intellectually connected with one another through the Deity, i. e., as products of one mind, as indicating and realizing a preconceived plan. An assumption the rebound of which is somewhat fearful to contemplate, but fortunately one which every natural birth protests against. * * *
We wished under the light of such views, to examine more critically the doctrine of this book, especially of some questionable parts;—for instance, its explanation of the natural development of organs, and its implication of a "necessary acquirement of mental power" in the ascending scale of gradation. But there is room only for the general declaration that we cannot think the Cosmos a series which began with chaos and ends with mind, or of which mind is a result; that if by the successive origination of species and organs through natural agencies, the author means a series of events which succeed each other irrespective of a continued directing intelligence,—events which mind does not order and shape to destined ends,—then he has not established that doctrine, nor advanced towards its establishment, but has accumulated improbabilities beyond all belief. Take the formation and the origination of the successive degrees of complexity of eyes as a specimen. The treatment of this subject (pp. 188, 189), upon one interpretation is open to all the objections referred to; but if, on the other
- From a review in 'The American Journal of Science and Arts,' March, 1860.