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rudimentary and apparently useless, in species, the close allies of which possess well-developed and functionally important homologous structures, are readily intelligible on the theory of evolution, while it is hard to conceive their raison d'être on any other hypothesis. However, a cautious reasoner will probably rather explain such cases deductively from the doctrine of evolution than endeavour to support the doctrine of evolution by them. For it is almost impossible to prove that any structure, however rudimentary, is useless— that is to say, that it plays no part whatever in the economy; and, if it is in the slightest degree useful, there is no reason why, on the hypothesis of direct creation, it should not have been created. Nevertheless, double-edged as is the argument from rudimentary organs, there is probably none which has produced a greater effect in promoting the general acceptance of the theory of evolution. 6. The older advocates of evolution sought for the causes of the process exclusively in the influence of varying conditions, such as climate and station, or hybridisation, upon living forms. Even Treviranus has got no farther than this point. Lamarck introduced the conception of the action of an animal on itself as a factor in producing modification. Starting from the well-known fact that the habitual use of a limb tends to develop the muscles of the limb, and to produce a greater and greater facility in using it, he made the general assumption that the effort of an animal to exert an organ in a given direction tends to develop the organ in that direction. But a little consideration showed that, though Lamarck had seized what, as far it goes, is a true cause of modification, it is a cause the actual effects of which are wholly inadequate to account for any considerable modification in animals, and which can have no influence at all in the vegetable world; and probably nothing contributed so much to discredit evolution, in the early part of this century, as the floods of easy ridicule which were poured upon this part of Lamarck's speculation. The theory of natural selection, or survival of the fittest, was suggested by Wells in 1813, and further elaborated by Matthew in 1831. But the pregnant suggestions of these writers remained practically unnoticed and forgotten, until the theory was independently devised and promulgated by Darwin and Wallace in 1858, and the effect of its publication was immediate and profound. Those who were unwilling to accept evolution, without better grounds than such as are offered by Lamarck, or the author of that particularly unsatisfactory book, the “Vestiges of the Natural History of the Creation,” and who therefore preferred to suspend their judgment on the question, found, in the principle of selective breeding, pursued in all its applications with marvellous knowledge and skill by Mr. Darwin, a valid explanation of the occurrence of varieties and races; and they saw clearly that, if the explanation would apply to species, it would not only solve the problem of their evolution, but that it would account for the facts of teleology, as well as for those of morphology; and for the persistence of some forms of life unchanged through long epochs of time, while others undergo comparatively rapid metamorphosis.
How far “natural selection” suffices for the production of species remains to be seen. Few can doubt that, if not the whole cause, it is a very important factor in that operation; and that it must play a great part in the sorting out of varieties into those which are transitory and those which are permanent.
But the causes and conditions of variation have yet to be thoroughly explored; and the importance of natural selection will not be impaired, even if further inquiries should prove that variability is definite, and is determined in certain directions rather than in others, by conditions inherent in that which varies. It is quite conceivable that every species tends to produce varieties of a limited number and kind, and that the effect of natural selection is to favour the development of some of these, while it opposes the development of others along their predetermined lines of modification.
7. No truths brought to light by biological investigation were better calculated to inspire distrust of the dogmas intruded upon science in the name of theology, than those which relate to the distribution of animals and plants on the surface of the earth. Very skilful accommodation was needful, if the limitation of sloths to South America, and of the ornithorhynchus to Australia, was to be reconciled with the literal interpretation of the history of the deluge; and with the establishment of the existence of distinct provinces of distribution, any serious belief in the peopling of the world by migration from Mount Ararat came to an end.
Under these circumstances, only one alternative was left for those who denied the occurrence of evolution—namely, the supposition that the characteristic animals and plants of each great province were created as such, within the limits in which we find them. And as the hypothesis of “specific centres,” thus formulated, was heterodox from the theological point of view, and unintelligible under its scientific aspect, it may be passed over without further notice, as a phase of transition from the creational to the evolutional hypothesis.
8. In fact, the strongest and most conclusive arguments in favour of evolution are those which are based upon the facts of geographical, taken in conjunction with those of geological, distribution.
Both Mr. Darwin and Mr. Wallace lay great stress on the close relation which obtains between the existing fauna of any region and that of the immediately antecedent geological epoch in the same region; and rightly, for it is in truth inconceivable that there should be no genetic connection between the two. It is possible to put into words the proposition that all the animals and plants of each geological epoch were annihilated and that a new set of very similar forms was created for the next epoch; but it may be doubted if any one who ever tried to form a distinctmental image of this process of spontaneous generation on the grandest scale, ever really succeeded in realising it.
Within the last twenty years, the attention of the best palaeontologists has been withdrawn from the hodman's work of making “new species” of fossils, to the scientific task of completing our knowledge of individual species, and tracing out the succession of the forms presented by any given type in time.
Those who desire to inform themselves of the nature and extent of the evidence bearing on these questions may consult the works of Rütimeyer, Gaudry, Kowalewsky, Marsh, and the writer of the present article. It must suffice, in this place, to say that the successive forms of the Equine type have been fully worked out; while those of nearly all the other existing types of Ungulate mammals