Darwiniana; Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 317 pages of information about Darwiniana; Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism.
If the fact that species in general have not been interminable, but that one after another in long succession has become extinct, would seem to warrant this conclusion, the persistence through immense periods of no inconsiderable number of the lower forms of vegetable and animal life, and of a few of the higher plants from the Tertiary period to the present, tells even more directly for the limitless existence of species.  The disappearance is quite compatible with the latter view; while the persistence of any species is hardly explicable upon any other.  So that, even under the common belief of the entire stability and essential inflexibility of species, extinction is more likely to have been accidental than predetermined, and the doctrine of inherent limitation is unsupported by positive evidence.

On the other hand, it is an implication of the Darwinian doctrine that species are essentially unlimited in existence.  When they die out—­as sooner or later any species may—­the verdict must be accidental death, under stress of adverse circumstances, not exhaustion of vitality; and, commonly, when the species seems to die out, it will rather have suffered change.  For the stock of vitality which enables it to vary and. survive in changed forms under changed circumstances must be deemed sufficient for a continued unchanged existence under unaltered conditions.  And, indeed, the advancement from simpler to more complex, which upon the theory must have attended the diversification, would warrant or require the supposition of increase instead of diminution of power from age to age.

The only case we call to mind which, under the Darwinian view, might be interpreted as a dying out from inherent causes, is that of a species which refuses to vary, and thus lacks the capacity of adaptation to altering conditions.  Under altering conditions, this lack would be fatal.  But this would be the fatality of some species or form in particular, not of species or forms generally, which, for the most part, may and do vary sufficiently, and in varying survive, seemingly none the worse, but rather the better, for their long tenure of life.

The opposite idea, however, is maintained by M. Naudin,[XII-1] in a detailed exposition of his own views of evolution, which differ widely from those of Darwin in most respects, and notably in excluding that which, in our day, gives to the subject its first claim to scientific (as distinguished from purely speculative) attention; namely, natural selection.  Instead of the causes or operations collectively personified under this term, and which are capable of exact or probable appreciation, M. Naudin invokes “the two principles of rhythm and of the decrease of forces in Nature.”  He is a thorough evolutionist, starting from essentially the same point with Darwin; for he conceives of all the forms or species of animals and plants “comme tire tout entier d’un protoplasma primordial, uniform, instable, eminemment plastique.” 

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Darwiniana; Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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