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.

We wished, under the light of such views, to examine more critically the doctrine of this book, especially of some questionable parts; for instance, its explanation of the natural development of organs, and its implication of a “necessary acquirement of mental power” in the ascending scale of gradation.  But there is room only for the general declaration that we cannot think the Cosmos a series which began with chaos and ends with mind, or of which mind is a result:  that, if, by the successive origination of species and organs through natural agencies, the author means a series of events which succeed each other irrespective of a continued directing intelligence—­events which mind does not order and shape to destined ends—­then he has not established that doctrine, nor advanced toward its establishment, but has accumulated improbabilities beyond all belief.  Take the formation and the origination of the successive degrees of complexity of eyes as a specimen.  The treatment of this subject (pp. i88, 189), upon one interpretation, is open to all the objections referred to; but, if, on the other hand, we may rightly compare the eye “to a telescope, perfected by the long-continued efforts of the highest human intellects,” we could carry out the analogy, and draw satisfactory illustrations and inferences from it.  The essential, the directly intellectual thing is the making of the improvements in the telescope or the steam-engine.  Whether the successive improvements, being small at each step, and consistent with the general type of the instrument, are applied to some of the individual machines, or entire new machines are constructed for each, is a minor matter.  Though, if machines could engender, the adaptive method would be most economical; and economy is said to be a paramount law in Nature.  The origination of the improvements, and the successive adaptations to meet new conditions or subserve other ends, are what answer to the supernatural, and therefore remain inexplicable.  As to bringing them into use, though wisdom foresees the result, the circumstances and the natural competition will take care of that, in the long-run.  The old ones will go out of use fast enough, except where an old and simple machine remains still best adapted to a particular purpose or condition—­as, for instance, the old Newcomen engine for pumping out coal-pits.  If there’s a Divinity that shapes these ends, the whole is intelligible and reasonable; otherwise, not.

We regret that the necessity of discussing philosophical questions has prevented a fuller examination of the theory itself, and of the interesting scientific points which are brought to bear in its favor.  One of its neatest points, certainly a very strong one for the local origination of species, and their gradual diffusion under natural agencies, we must reserve for some other convenient opportunity.

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