Back to Methuselah eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 408 pages of information about Back to Methuselah.
counter-assurance that you are the product of Lamarckian evolution, formerly called Functional Adaptation and now Creative Evolution, and challenge him to disprove that, which he can no more do than you can disprove Circumstantial Selection, both forces being conceivably able to produce anything if you only give them rope enough.  You may also defy him to act for a single hour on the assumption that he may safely cross Oxford Street in a state of unconsciousness, trusting to his dodging reflexes to react automatically and promptly enough to the visual impression produced by a motor bus, and the audible impression produced by its hooter.  But if you allow yourself to defy him to explain any particular action of yours by Circumstantial Selection, he should always be able to find some explanation that will fit the case if only he is ingenious enough and goes far enough to find it.  Darwin found several such explanations in his controversies.  Anybody who really wants to believe that the universe has been produced by Circumstantial Selection co-operating with a force as inhuman as we conceive magnetism to be can find a logical excuse for his belief if he tries hard enough.


The stultification and damnation which ensued are illustrated by a comparison of the ease and certainty with which Butler’s mind moved to humane and inspiring conclusions with the grotesque stupidities and cruelties of the idle and silly controversy which arose among the Darwinians as to whether acquired habits can be transmitted from parents to offspring.  Consider, for example, how Weismann set to work on that subject.  An Evolutionist with a live mind would first have dropped the popular expression ‘acquired habits,’ because to an Evolutionist there are no other habits and can be no others, a man being only an amoeba with acquirements.  He would then have considered carefully the process by which he himself had acquired his habits.  He would have assumed that the habits with which he was born must have been acquired by a similar process.  He would have known what a habit is:  that is, an Action voluntarily attempted until it has become more or less automatic and involuntary; and it would never have occurred to him that injuries or accidents coming from external sources against the will of the victim could possibly establish a habit; that, for instance, a family could acquire a habit of being killed in railway accidents.

And yet Weismann began to investigate the point by behaving like the butcher’s wife in the old catch.  He got a colony of mice, and cut off their tails.  Then he waited to see whether their children would be born without tails.  They were not, as Butler could have told him beforehand.  He then cut off the children’s tails, and waited to see whether the grandchildren would be born with at least rather short tails.  They were not, as I could have told him beforehand.  So with the patience

Project Gutenberg
Back to Methuselah from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook