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John Lord
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 311 pages of information about Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14.

In regard to the use, however, to which the fragments may be put, their shape may be strictly said to be accidental.  Here Darwin acknowledged that we are brought face to face with a great difficulty in alluding to which he felt that he was travelling beyond his proper province.  “An omniscient Creator must have foreseen every consequence which results from the laws imposed by Him.  But can it be reasonably maintained that the Creator intentionally ordered, if we use the words in any ordinary sense, that certain fragments of rock should assume certain shapes, so that the builder might erect his edifice?  If the various laws which have determined the shape of each fragment were not predetermined for the builder’s sake, can it be maintained with any greater probability that He specially ordained for the sake of the breeder each of the innumerable variations in our domestic animals and plants,—­many of these variations being of no service to man, and not beneficial, far more often injurious, to the creatures themselves?  Did He ordain that the crop and tail-feathers of the pigeon should vary in order that the fancier might make his grotesque pouter and fan-tail breeds?  Did He cause the frame and mental qualities of the dog to vary in order that a breed might be formed of indomitable ferocity with jaws fitted to pin down the bull for man’s brutal sport?”

It is obvious, however, that if we give up the principle in one case,—­if we do not admit that the variations of the primeval dog were intentionally guided in order that the greyhound, for instance, that perfect image of symmetry and vigor, might be formed,—­no shadow of reason can be assigned for the belief that variations similar in nature and the result of the same general laws which have been the groundwork through natural selection of the formation of the most perfectly adapted animals in the world, man included, were intentionally and specially guided.  Darwin, therefore, was unable to follow the distinguished botanist, Prof.  Asa Gray, in his belief that “variation has been led along certain beneficial lines,” like a stream “along definite and useful lines of irrigation.”  Darwin’s conclusion was that, if we assume that each particular variation was from the beginning of all time preordained, then that plasticity of organization which leads to many injurious deviations of structure, as well as the redundant power of reproduction which inevitably leads to a struggle for existence, and, as a consequence, to a natural selection or survival of the fittest, must appear to us superfluous laws of nature.

V.

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