Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/375

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371
FOR DARWIN

as we say—but if so, it must have been so attenuated as to be invisible to eyes as sharp as Huxley's and the other famous naturalists of that time. Huxley says that within the ranks of the biologists he met with but one who had a word to say for evolution. Outside these ranks the only person known to him "whose knowledge and capacity compelled respect" and who advocated evolution was Herbert Spencer. "Many and prolonged were the battles they fought" on this topic, but Huxley maintained his agnostic position. He states:

I took my stand upon two grounds; firstly that up to that time the evidence in favor of transmutation was wholly insufficient; and secondly that no suggestion respecting the causes of the transmutation assumed which had been made was in any way adequate to explain the phenomena. Looking back at the state of knowledge at that time I really do not see that any other conclusion was justified.

This frank statement of Huxley not only gives us an insight into the position of one of the most progressive zoologists of that time, but what is of more importance it implies also why the "Origin of Species" convinced him of the doctrine of evolution.

We have now sufficiently traced the possible influences of the times on Darwin. Before we proceed to study the influence of Darwin on his time, let us for a moment pause to consider what influence Darwin's own surroundings had in shaping his views. His voyage in the Beagle had brought him in contact with the question of geographical distribution. He read Malthus in 1838 and this gave him his first idea of the survival of the fittest; and, as his son and biographer states, this date marks "the turning point in the formation of his theory," so that by 1844 he formulated "a surprisingly complete presentation of the argument afterwards familiar to us in the 'Origin of Species.'" His extensive study of variation under domestication furnished him with the experimental evidence that went so far towards making his study of variation of far-reaching and profound importance. Indeed, in this one essential respect, Darwin was far ahead of all of his contemporaries, and, if you will pardon the anachronism, far ahead of his successors. It is only in recent years that zoologists and botanists have begun once more to work the rich mine of materials at their very doors. The paper of Wallace on "Natural Selection" in 1858, the reception to the "Origin of Species" in 1859, the storm of disapproval it met on the one hand, the staunch and able friends it made on the other, need only be recalled in passing.

We come now to the influence that Darwin's work has had on modern zoology. That influence is due not alone to the "Origin of Species" that gave to the world an abstract only of his views, but equally to his other works, especially, I think, the "Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication," and the "Descent of Man." After Darwin and largely as an outgrowth of the wide interest his views aroused in all