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DARWIN'S DESCENT OF MAN. In Mr. Darwin's last work we possess “Origin of Species” is here fully and at length a complete and thorough exposi- fairly stated in all its bearings and without tion of his matured views. He gives us disguise. Mr. Darwin has, in fact, “ crownthe results of the patient labor of many ed the edifice," and the long looked for years unremitting investigation and of the and anxiously awaited detailed statement application of a powerful and acute intel- of his views as to the human race is now lect, combined with an extraordinarily unreservedly put before us. active imagination, to an unequalled col. We rise from the careful perusal of this lection of most varied, interesting and book with mingled feelings of admiration important biological data. In his earlier and disappointment. The author's style writings a certain reticence veiled, though is clear and attractive-clearer than in his it did not hide, his ultimate conclusions earlier works—and his desire to avoid every as to the origin of our own species; but kind of conscious misrepresentation is as now all possibility of misunderstanding or conspicuous as ever. The number of inof a repetition of former disclaimers on teresting facts brought forward is as surthe part of any disciple is at an end, and prising as is the ingenuity often displayed the entire and naked truth as to the logi. in his manipulation of them. Under these cal consequences of Darwinism is display- circumstances it is a most painful task to ed with a frankness which we had a right have to point out grave defects and serious to expect from the distinguished author. short-comings. Mr. Darwin, however, What was but obscurely hinted in the seems in his recent work even more than in
his earlier productions to challenge critiThe Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation
cism and to have thrown out ideas and sugto Sex. By CHARLES DARWIN, M.A., F.R.S., gestions with a distinct view to their subse&c. 2 vols. London and New York : 1871. quent modification by others. It is but
New SERIES.–Vol. XIV., No. 4.
an act of fairness to call attention to ting and completing, as it does, his earlier this:
publications, offers a good opportunity “False facts," says Mr. Darwin, “are high
for reviewing his whole position. We ly injurious to the progress of science, for
shall thus be better able to estimate the they often long endure; but false views, if
value of his convictions regarding the supported by some evidence, do little harm, special subject of his present inquiry. as every one takes a salutary pleasure in We shall first call attention to his earlier proving their falseness; and when this is statements, in order that we may see done, one path towards error is closed and whether he has modified his views, and, if the road to truth is often at the same so, how far and with what results. If he time opened.”—Descent of Man, vol. i1. . has, even by his own showing and admis
sion, been overhasty and seriously misAlthough we are unable to agree entire taken previously, we must be the more ly with Mr. Darwin in this remark, it none careful how we commit ourselves to his the less contains an undoubted truth. We guidance now. We shall endeavor to cannot agree, because we feel that a false show that Mr. Darwin's convictions have theory which keenly solicits the imagina undergone grave modifications, and that tion, put forward by a writer widely and the opinions adopted by him now are deservedly esteemed, and which reposes quite distinct from, and even subversive on a multitude of facts difficult to verify, of, the views he originally put forth. The skilfully interwoven, and exceedingly hard assignment of the law of “natural selecto unravel, is likely to be very prejudicial tion ”to a subordinate position is virtually to science. Nevertheless, science cannot an abandonment of the Darwinian theory; make progress without the action of two for the one distinguishing feature of that distinct classes of thinkers : the first con- theory was the all-sufficiency of “natural sisting of men of creative genius, who selection.” Not the less, however, ought strike out brilliant hypotheses, and who may we to feel grateful to Mr. Darwin for be spoken of as “theorizers” in the good bringing forward that theory, and for forsense of the word ; the second, of men cing on men's minds, by his learning, possessed of the critical faculty, and who acuteness, zeal, perseverance, firmness. test, mould into shape, perfect or destroy, and candor, a recognition of the probathe hypotheses thrown out by the former bility, if not more, of evolution and of the class.
certainty of the action of “natural selecObviously important as it is that there tion.” For though the “survival of the should be such theorizers, it is also most im- fittest" is a truth which readily presents portant that criticism should clearly point itself to any one who considers the subout when a theory is really proved, when ject, and though its converse, the destrucit is but probable, and when it is a mere tion of the least fit, was recognized thouarbitrary hypothesis. This is all the more sands of years ago, yet to Mr. Darwin, necessary if, as may often and very easily and (through Mr. Wallace's reticence) to happen, from being repeatedly spoken Mr. Darwin alone, is due the credit of har. of, and being connected with celebrated ing first brought it proininently forward and influential names, it is likely to be and demonstrated its truth in a volume taken for very much more than it is which will doubtless form a landmark in really worth.
the domain of zoological science. The necessity of caution in respect to We find even in the third edition of his this is clearly shown by Mr. Darwin's pres- “ Origin of Species" the following passaent work, in which sexual selection," ges:-“ Natural selection can act only by from being again and again referred to as taking advantage of slight successive vari if it had proved to be a vera causa, may ations; she can never take a leap, but readily be accepted as such by the unin- must advance by short and slow steps." structed or careless reader. For' many (p. 214.) Again he says :-“If it could persons, at first violently opposed through be demonstrated that any complex organ ignorance or prejudice to Mr. Darwin's existed, which could not possibly have views, are now, with scarcely less ignor- been formed by numerous, successive, ance and prejudice, as strongly inclined in slight modifications, my theory would abtheir favor.
solutely break down. But I can find out Mr. Darwin's recent work, supplemen. no such case.” (p. 208.) He adds :
"Every detail of structure in every living haps a large one, must be left to the assumed creature (making some little allowance for action of those unknown agencies, which octhe direct action of physical conditions) may casionally induce strongly marked and abbe viewed, either as having been of special rupt deviations of structure in our domestic use to some ancestral form, or as being now productions."-vol. i. p. 154. of special use to the descendants of this form -either directly, or indirectly through the
But perhaps the most glaring contracomplex laws of growth ;” and “if it could diction is presented by the following pasbe proved that any part of the structure of sage : any one species had been formed for the ex
“No doubt man, as well as every other
"No doubt m clusive good of another species, it would an
animal, presents structures, which, as far as nihilate my theory, for such could not have
we can judge with our little knowledge, are been produced through natural selection."
not now of any service to him, nor have been -P. 220
so during any former period of his existence, It is almost impossible for Mr. Darwin either in relation to his general conditions of to have used words by which more
lite, or of one sex to the other. Such structhoroughly to stake the whole of his theo
tures cannot be accounted for by any form
of selection, or by the inherited effects of the ry on the non-existence or non-action of
use and disuse of parts. We know, however, causes of any moment other than natural that many strange and strongly marked peselection. For why should such a phe- culiarities of structure occasionally appear nomenon “annihilate his theory" ? Be- in our domesticated productions; and if the cause the very essence of his theory, as unknown causes which produce them were originally stated, is to recognize only the to act more uniformly, they would probably conservation of minute variations directly
become common to all the individuals of the beneficial to the creature presenting them,
species."'-vol. ii. p. 387. by enabling it to obtain food, escape ene
Mr. Darwin, indeed, seems now to admies, and propagate its kind. But once mit the existence of internal, innate powmore he says :
ers, for he goes on to say :“We have seen that species at any one
“We may hope hereafter to understand period are not indefinitely variable, and are
something about the causes of such occanot linked together by a multitude of inter sional modifications, especially through the mediate gradations, partly because the pro
study of monstrosities." . ... “In the cess of natural selection will always be very greater number of cases we can only say slow, and will act, at any one time, only on a that the cause of each slight variation and of very few forms ; and partly because the very each monstrosity lies much more in the naprocess of natural selection almost implies ture or constitution of the organism* than the continual supplanting and extinction of in the nature of the surrounding conditions ; preceding and intermediate gradations.”— though new and changed conditions certainly p. 223.
play an important part in exciting organic
changes of all kinds." Such are Mr. . Darwin's earlier state. ments. At present we read as follows:
Also, in a note (vol i. p. 223), he speaks.
of “incidental results of certain unknown “I now admit, after reading the essay by differences in the constitution of the reNägeli on plants, and the rem irks by various authors with respect to animals, more espe
productive system.” cially those recently made by Professor Bro
Thus, then, it is admitted by our author ca, that in the earlier editions of my • Origin that we may have “abrupt, strongly · of Species ' I probably attributed too much marked ” changes, “neither beneficial nor to the action of natural selection or the sur- injurious” to the creatures possessing vival of the fittest.” .... "I had not for- them, produced by unknown agencies” merly sufficiently considered the existence lving deep in “ the nature or constitution of many structures which appear to be, as
of the organism," and which, if acting. far as we can judge, neither beneficial nor injurious; and this I believe to be one of the
uniformly, would probably” modify greatest oversights as yet detected in my
sinilarly “all the in lividuals of a species.” work."— Descent of Man, vol. i. p. 152.
If this is not an abandonment of “natural A still more remarkable admission is
selection,” it would be difficult to select that in which he says, after referring to the
terms more calculated to express it. But action of both natural and sexual selection :
* The italics in the quotations from Mr. Dar.
win's book in this article are, in almost all cases, " An unexplained residuum of change, per- ours and not the author's.
Mr. Darwin's admissions of error do not ous calculations inspire us. When their stop here. In the fifth edition of his author comes before us anew, as he now “ Origin of Species” (p. 104) he says, does, with opinions and conclusions still “Until reading an able and valuable arti- more startling, and calculated in a yet cle in the North British Review' (1867), greater degree to disturb convictions reI did not appreciate how rarely single va- posing upon the general consent of the riations, whether slight or strongly marked, majority of cultivated minds, we may well could be perpetuated.” Again: he was pause before we trust ourselves unreservformerly “inclined to lay much stress on edly to a guidance which thus again and the principle of protection, as accounting again declares its own reiterated fallibility. for the less bright colors of female birds ” Mr. Darwin's conclusions may be correct, (Descent of Man, vol. š. p. 198); but but we feel we have now indeed a right to now he speaks as if the correctness of his demand that they shall be proved before old conception of such colors being due to we assent to them; and that since what protection was unlikely. “Is it probable,” Mr. Darwin before declared " must be," he asks, “that the head of the female he now admits not only to be unnecessary chaffinch, the crimson on the breast of the but untrue, we may justly regard with ex. feniale bullfinch, the green of the female treme distrust the numerous statements chaffinch, the crest of the female golden- and calculations which, in the “Descent crested wren, have all been rendered less of Man,” are avowedly recommended by bright by the slow process of selection for a mere “may be.” This is the more de the sake of protection ? I cannot think cessary, as the author, starting at first with so." (vol. ii. p. 176.)
an avowed hypothesis, constantly asserts Once more Mr. Darwin shows us (vol. it as an undoubted fact, and claims for it, i. p. 125) how he has been over-hasty in somewhat in the spirit of a theologian, attributing the development of certain that it should be received as an article of structures to reversion. He remarks, faith. Thus the formidable objection to “In my Variations of Animals under Mr. Darwin's theory, that the great break Domestication' (vol. ii. p. 57) I attributed in the organic chain between man and his the not very rare cases of supernumerary nearest allies, which cannot be bridged mammæ in women to reversion.” “ But over by any extinct or living species, is Professor Preyer states that mammæ er- answered simply by an appeal “ to a belief ratica have been known to occur in other in the general principle of evolution" situations, even on the back; so that the (vol. i. p. 200), or by a confident stateforce of my argument is greatly weakened ment that “we have every reason to beor perhaps quite destroyed.”
lieve that breaks in the series are simply Finally, we have a postscript at the the result of many forms having become beginning of the second volume of the extinct.” (vol. i. p. 187.) So, in like “Descent of Man” which contains an manner, we are assured that “the early avowal more remarkable than even the progenitors of man were, no doubt, once passages already cited. He therein de covered with hair, both sexes having clares :
beards; their ears were pointed and capa
ble of movement; and their bodies were “I have fallen into a serious and unfortu
provided with a tail, having the proper nate error, in relation to the sexual differences of animals, in attempting to explain
muscles.” (vol. i. p. 206.) And, finally, what seemed to me a singular coincidence
we are told, with a dogmatism little worin the late period of life at which the neces- thy of a philosopher, that, “unless we selsary variations have arisen in many cases, fully close our eyes," we must recognize and the late period at which the sexual selec- our parentage. — vol. i. p. 213. tion acts. The explanation given is wholly These are hard words; and, even at the erroneous, as I have discovered by working risk of being accused of wilful blindness. out an illustration in figures.'
we shall now proceed, with an unbiassed While willingly paying a just tribute of and unprejudiced mind, to examine careesteem to the candor which dictated these fully the arguments upon which Mr. Darseveral admissions, it would be idle to dis- win's theory rests. Must we acknowledge semble, and disingenuous not to declare, that “man with all his noble qualities, the amount of distrust with which such re- with sympathy which feels for the mos peated over-hasty conclusions and errone- debased, with benevolence which extends