Darwiniana; Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 379 pages of information about Darwiniana; Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism.

Perhaps, however, M. Naudin does not mean that “evolutive force,” or the force of vitality, is really homologous with common physical force, but only something which may be likened to it.  In that case the parallel has only a metaphorical value, and the reason why variation must cease and species die out is still to seek.  In short, if that which continues the series of individuals in propagation, whether like or unlike the parents, be a force in the physical sense of the term, then there is abundant provision in Nature for its indefinite replenishment.  If, rather, it be a part or phase of that something which directs and determines the expenditure of force, then it is not subject to the laws of the latter, and there is no ground for inferring its exhaustibility.  The limited vitality is an unproved and unprovable conjecture.  The evolutive force, dying out in the using, is either the same conjecture repeated, or a misapplied analogy.

After all—­apart from speculative analogies—­the only evidences we possess which indicate a tendency in species to die out, are those to which Mr. Darwin has called attention.  These are, first, the observed deterioration which results, at least in animals, from continued breeding in and in, which may possibly be resolvable into cumulative heritable disease; and, secondly, as already stated (p. 285), what may be termed the sedulous and elaborate pains everywhere taken in Nature to prevent close breeding—­arrangements which are particularly prominent in plants, the greater number of which bear hermaphrodite blossoms.  The importance of this may be inferred from the universality, variety, and practical perfection of the arrangements which secure the end; and the inference may fairly be drawn that this is the physiological import of sexes.  It follows from this that there is a tendency, seemingly inherent, in species as in individuals, to die out; but that this tendency is counteracted or checked by sexual wider breeding, which is, on the whole, amply secured in Nature, and which in some way or other reenforces vitality to such an extent as to warrant Darwin’s inference that “some unknown great good is derived from the union of individuals which have been kept distinct for many generations.”  Whether this reenforcement is a complete preventive of decrepitude in species, or only a palliative, is more than we can determine.  If the latter, then existing species and their derivatives must perish in time, and the earth may be growing poorer in species, as M. Naudin supposes, through mere senility.  If the former, then the earth, if not even growing richer, may be expected to hold its own, and extant species or their derivatives should last as long as the physical world lasts and affords favorable conditions.  General analogies seem to favor the former view.  Such facts as we possess, and the Darwinian hypothesis, favor the latter.



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