Графични страници
PDF файл

the use of man, and his mind has been allowed to exercise itself and study certain conditions under which qualities in the animals are better associated with the wants he has. God in his goodness allows thus far, but he will not permit man to manufacture a permanent species, or to sport at will with his works; and this is proved by the fact, that none of those breeds or varieties (Mr Darwin's incipient species) can be maintained, even with the greatest attention and care. Most of our old breeds of domestic cattle do not now exist; some new quality was wanted, the old one was neglected, and the breed died out. The same occurred with our breeds of sheep. And where now among dogs is the Turnspit, the Irish blood-hound, the Spanish pointer? They also were not required, and were supplanted. And were the fox or the hare to be extirpated from Great Britain by any cause, the fox-hound and greyhound would immediately follow them.

We think, therefore, that all the arguments brought forward from plasticity in a domestic condition, just prove that it is unnatural and artificial; that the forms desired cannot be kept up, and that it is only when the whole constitution is artificially worked upon, the natural craving for food kept blinded by constant supply, the natural passion of the sexes curbed by the allowance of some particular improved form only being admitted, with which the beast must either satisfy his natural inclination or


The same principles prevail in plants. It is by the art of the gardener or agriculturist that we have our melting pears and incomparable dahlias, with almost all our useful varieties of garden and field vegetables; but can we carry on or maintain these by a natural process? They stand in a stronger position than even the forced varieties of animals. They cannot be produced by impregnation and seeds; all our finest fruits must be layered, budded, or grafted; and even such plants, according to the theory of Mr Knight, which has not been disproved, die with the parent stocks. Where, now, are many of our old much-prized varieties, such as the golden pippin? &c. Florists' flowers are mostly propagated by cuttings; no seed is certain to produce the "incipient species" it was sown from. Our kitchen vegetables-cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Savoys, curled greens, &c., all, like the pigeons, spring from one stock, and are kept up only by the greatest care of the nurseryman, whose profit it is to do so. And how often have we to complain of " bad seed," that is, seed returning offspring nearer to its normal state. The same is the position of our agricultural grains, turnips, &c.; they are all changed and changing. Skirving cannot keep up his Swedish turnip; he is obliged to bring out new varieties; and the same causes that have changed our breeds of cattle are acting on our breeds of vegetables. And what will become of these manufactured spe

cies; their constitutions placed in circumstances foreign to them, and excited by manures and stimulating mixtures, have been weakened, and from the vine to the potato they have died out, or become so precarious in their produce as in many instances to be given up.

It is argued that such artificial breeds of animals would never go back to their original form; very likely not; they never would have the opportunity. The countries where they roamed are now cultivated and peopled-their ancient food and quiet destroyed; they would have no real species to mate with, and the limited variety would breed in and in as long as it could, and at last dwindle and die. But under favourable circumstances many would go back. In a lately published account of New Zealand, it is mentioned that the pigs introduced there by Captain Cook have been naturalised, and "in the deep recesses of the forests they have lost the appearance of domestic pigs, and have acquired the habits and colour of wild animals." Among plants, the reversion to the original form is common and constant, and takes place within a very short period; witness the camellia, dahlia, rose, daisy, &c. &c., and most of our cultivated garden vegetables.

In a natural condition, variation by crossing is very different. Mr Darwin has drawn most of his arguments from birds. We shall take these also. As a general rule or law, birds do not mingle or interbreed; even allied species frequenting the same localities do not. Mr Darwin has given us no proof that they do, or ever did. Those instances given by authors are all traceable to circumstances occurring at variance with the usual habits-such as that of a winter migratory bird being detained from some cause and mating with an allied species in spring; but even in this case, what would it lead to? The cross would, it is acknowledged, not breed among themselves, and with a true bird of either side it would soon be lost. The pheasant has always been quoted as an instance of two species breeding in a wild state; it is just a proof of the reverse. We have not true pheasant in all Great Britain. The ring-neck species of China, and the dark coloured species of Persia, have been both introduced. They have been crossed and recrossed, are altogether in an artificial state-are fed, bred in confinement, and sheltered, and so they go on under care; but it is well known to every sportsman that they can only be kept up by the introduction of "new blood," as it is called; and without this, "preserves" decrease, birds will not breed, and the stock is, or would be gradually lost. But in other instances of allied species said to interbreed, such as Passer hispanoliensis and cisalpina, Corvus dauricus and monedula, &c, nothing, we maintain, very different would arise. The sparrows might breed together, they and their families for ever, they never

2 M


would produce a bunting or a bullfinch, or the two jackdaws a pigeon, or even the white-necked crow of Africa.

In all those nearly allied species inhabiting different countries, Europe and America for instance, the minute separating characters are always the same. The ducks have a great power of flight and are widely distributed, and have every opportunity of intermingling with birds from a distance or closely allied. No difference or intermediation can be detected between the common wild ducks (Anas boschas) of Europe, North America, or India. They "sport" widely in domesticity, but, when unrestrained, never vary, no matter how different the countries, climates, and food may be. The American teal again, which an ordinary observer would scarcely detect among a series of European birds, has a white band on each side the breast, and other marks. The American goosander varies still less but is also easily distinguished; and so also the velvet scoter, and some others; but the distinguishing marks in these birds are always the same quite constant. We do not yet know the geographical range of these, and other birds, sufficiently to say where allied species meet; and we never see intermediate forms now. If at their meeting they were not prevented by natural instinct from intermating, intermediate forms would be produced, and would be circulated, which, so far as we know from very extensive observation, is not the case. In all animals, however, there is a certain natural range of variation, amounting in some to almost nothing, in others very wide; you may place a hundred goshawks, wild ducks, European teal, and American teal, European goosanders, and American goosanders together, and you will scarcely find a feather different in each species; but you may take the same number of specimens of the common European buzzard, or of the ruff in its breeding plumage, and you will not find two similar. We are not, however, entitled to conclude from this last fact that either the buzzard or the ruff sprung from anything very different from what they now are, or that they would ever be developed into anything very different.

Mr Darwin has insisted largely on the influence that interbreeding has on variation and development, which we have endeavoured to show has been much overrated. But it is by "natural selection" that his development system is to be mainly carried out; and this, he says, is a power "immeasurably superior to man's feeble efforts," and should therefore produce far more remarkable modifications and changes than can ever be accomplished by man's scientific breeding, and turn the incipient variety at last to a permanent species, widely differing in structure and form from its ancient progenitor." The strongest and most im proved will be "rigidly preserved." Now, how does this work among living species, as we term them? The strongest and most powerful buck will drive off the younger and weaker, and remain

master of his herd. The strongest black-cock will drive off all intruders from his particular green hillock. But will either of these in consequence beget the finest progeny? Will it be the strongest and healthiest females only that attend upon their polygamic lords? Weak and even diseased females may fancy a well-formed stately mate. Overwork may weaken the powers of the most powerful male, and the beaten herd would produce the healthier stock. Many of the prize animals at our late agricultural shows have been gotten by young males. But allowing, for the sake of argument, that there may be improvement by natural selection, that is, greater proportional size and strength, and with all the additions that shelter and quiet, and abundance of food and water could give, could the progeny of the fallow or red deer, under any circumstances, ever be developed into a moose, or elk, or wapiti, or the wild-cat of Europe into a tiger or lion. Yet such, according to Mr Darwin, must be the case, "as I believe that all the species of the same genus have descended from a single parent," Can such be possible under the laws which scientific men have been accustomed to think regulated animal life? Have we any like analogy in all the range of animal and vegetable organisation to speculate upon? can we, with all our knowledge, reach the process by which these transformations are to be accomplished? We simply answer, no; but Mr Darwin meets us by saying, that it was not from a fallow-deer, or stag, or wild-cat, that these larger forms were developed, but from some "ancient prototype of which we know nothing," never saw, and till now never heard of-quite unlike anything now in existence-and that the time required to bring about the monstrous change would be "millions of millions of ages." And he adds, in his concluding chapter, That "as all forms of life are the lineal descendants of those which lived long before the Silurian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by generation has never been once broken, and that no cataclysm has desolated the whole world. Hence we may look forward with some confidence to a secure future of equally inappreciable length. And as natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection." These are the deliberate, serious assertions of the author. We can do nothing with them. There never will, nor can be, except in imagination, any means of tracing back millions of millions of ages. All that we now know fixes the immutability of once-created species. In the Tertiary strata many of the mollusca are exactly similar to those now inhabiting our seas and fresh waters; and in our limited historic time, animal forms are depicted on monuments above three thousand years old, just as they now are; and the sacred Ibis embalmed in the ancient catacombs does not vary in a bone or feather from that now feeding

by the Nile. All that we have quoted above are mere assumptions, not the calm reasonings of a man of science. Surely Mr Darwin has also for a time forgotten the igneous rocks of his geology, and overlooked the Bible statement, "the world that then was being overflowed with water perished," and that "the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."

But it is not always to development that Mr Darwin restricts himself. "Disuse" is a great agent in the change of form:—thus the progenitor of a seal "had not a flipper, but a foot with five toes fitted for walking and grasping." The same may have been the case with the walrus, and the curious whale-like pachyderm of the lakes of Central Africa. "I believe," he writes, "that the wingless condition of several birds which now inhabit, or have lately inhabited, several oceanic islands tenanted by no beast of prey, has been caused by disuse," and the eyes of the mole are a "gradual reduction from disuse." All these circumstances, however, if true, would act against Mr Darwin's theory of "improvement," which he states would always be "rigorously preserved." We should call these retrogression from perfection of structure; but it is little matter, as we think them as untenable as improved development.

The theory of some old progenitor of nameless shape, differing from anything now in existence, is to us an unintelligible brainmyth; it is the assumption of a monstrous fact, not a reality—a thing whereon we have no premises to argue upon; and the process of development from that, or, even later, from any form actually before us, trenches so far upon all the attributes of foreknowledge and design which we have of old given to the Creator, that we would ask the beginners, and students of natural science, before many of whom this book will undoubtedly come, to view the theory with the greatest distrust, and to sift every fact and every argument in it to its very bottom. We do not think Mr Darwin intends to lower the power or attributes of Deity-we would gather the reverse from many of his expressions; but when he writes of "mere chance" causing one variety to differ from its parents when he likens the electric organs present in fishes (for which he can find no ancient progenitor)—so rare, and placed in such different forms-just like separate inventions of two men differently hit on; when he calls creation "a Theory," and speaks of working "in a tail for all sorts of purposes,' variety raised by men will be a far more important and interesting object for study than one more species added to the infinitude of already recorded species "-to say the least, it is not the language in which we have been accustomed to see these subjects treated. Wingless birds, remarkable only because we are wont to consider a wing inseparable from a bird, filling

"" "a new

« ПредишнаНапред »