Darwin consolidated a lifetime of work in On the Origin of Species, compiling his discoveries from the voyage of the Beagle, his experiments, research and correspondence. He argues for the transmutation of species over time by the process of natural selection. His work laid the foundation of evolutionary biology, though when it was published it caused tremendous religious and philosophical debates. Darwin's work is still seen by many people to oppose Christian beliefs.
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AN HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE PROGRESS OF OPINION ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES, PREVIOUSLY TO THE PUBLICATION OF THE FIRST EDITION OF THIS WORK.
I will here give a brief sketch of the progress of opinion on the Origin of Species. Until recently the great majority of naturalists believed that species were immutable productions, and had been separately created. This view has been ably maintained by many authors. Some few naturalists, on the other hand, have believed that species undergo modification, and that the existing forms of life are the descendants by true generation of pre existing forms. Passing over allusions to the subject in the classical writers (Aristotle, in his "Physicae Auscultationes" (lib.2, cap.8, s.2), after remarking that rain does not fall in order to make the corn grow, any more than it falls to spoil the farmer's corn when threshed out of doors, applies the same argument to organisation; and adds (as translated by Mr. Clair Grece, who first pointed out the passage to me), "So what hinders the different parts (of the body) from having this merely accidental relation in nature? as the teeth, for example, grow by necessity, the front ones sharp, adapted for dividing, and the grinders flat, and serviceable for masticating the food; since they were not made for the sake of this, but it was the result of accident. And in like manner as to other parts in which there appears to exist an adaptation to an end. Wheresoever, therefore, all things together (that is all the parts of one whole) happened like as if they were made for the sake of something, these were preserved, having been appropriately constituted by an internal spontaneity; and whatsoever things were not thus constituted, perished and still perish." We here see the principle of natural selection shadowed forth, but how little Aristotle fully comprehended the principle, is shown by his remarks on the formation of the teeth.), the first author who in modern times has treated it in a scientific spirit was Buffon. But as his opinions fluctuated greatly at different periods, and as he does not enter on the causes or means of the transformation of species, I need not here enter on details.
Lamarck was the first man whose conclusions on the subject excited much attention. This justly celebrated naturalist first published his views in 1801; he much enlarged them in 1809 in his "Philosophie Zoologique", and subsequently, 1815, in the Introduction to his "Hist. Nat. des Animaux sans Vertebres". In these works he up holds the doctrine that all species, including man, are descended from other species. He first did the eminent service of arousing attention to the probability of all change in the organic, as well as in the inorganic world, being the result of law, and not of miraculous interposition. Lamarck seems to have been chiefly led to his conclusion on the gradual change of species, by the difficulty of distinguishing species and varieties, by the almost perfect gradation of forms in certain groups, and by the analogy of domestic productions. With respect to the means of modification, he attributed something to the direct action of the physical conditions of life, something to the crossing of already existing forms, and much to use and disuse, that is, to the effects of habit. To this latter agency he seems to attribute all the beautiful adaptations in nature; such as the long neck of the giraffe for browsing on the branches of trees. But he likewise believed in a law of progressive development, and as all the forms of life thus tend to progress, in order to account for the existence at the present day of simple productions, he maintains that such forms are now spontaneously generated. (I have taken the date of the first publication of Lamarck from Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire's ("Hist. Nat. Generale", tom. ii. page 405, 1859) excellent history of opinion on this subject. In this work a full account is given of Buffon's conclusions on the same subject. It is curious how largely my grandfather, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, anticipated the views and erroneous grounds of opinion of Lamarck in his "Zoonomia" (vol. i. pages 500-510), published in 1794. According to Isid. Geoffroy there is no doubt that Goethe was an extreme partisan of similar views, as shown in the introduction to a work written in 1794 and 1795, but not published till long afterward; he has pointedly remarked ("Goethe als Naturforscher", von Dr. Karl Meding, s. 34) that the future question for naturalists will be how, for instance, cattle got their horns and not for what they are used. It is rather a singular instance of the manner in which similar views arise at about the same time, that Goethe in Germany, Dr. Darwin in England, and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (as we shall immediately see) in France, came to the same conclusion on the origin of species, in the years 1794-5.)
Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, as is stated in his "Life", written by his son, suspected, as early as 1795, that what we call species are various degenerations of the same type. It was not until 1828 that he published his conviction that the same forms have not been perpetuated since the origin of all things. Geoffroy seems to have relied chiefly on the conditions of life, or the "monde ambiant" as the cause of change. He was cautious in drawing conclusions, and did not believe that existing species are now undergoing modification; and, as his son adds, "C'est donc un probleme a reserver entierement a l'avenir, suppose meme que l'avenir doive avoir prise sur lui."
In 1813 Dr. W.C. Wells read before the Royal Society "An Account of a White Female, part of whose skin resembles that of a Negro"; but his paper was not published until his famous "Two Essays upon Dew and Single Vision" appeared in 1818. In this paper he distinctly recognises the principle of natural selection, and this is the first recognition which has been indicated; but he applies it only to the races of man, and to certain characters alone. After remarking that negroes and mulattoes enjoy an immunity from certain tropical diseases, he observes, firstly, that all animals tend to vary in some degree, and, secondly, that agriculturists improve their domesticated animals by selection; and then, he adds, but what is done in this latter case "by art, seems to be done with equal efficacy, though more slowly, by nature, in the formation of varieties of mankind, fitted for the country which they inhabit. Of the accidental varieties of man, which would occur among the first few and scattered inhabitants of the middle regions of Africa, some one would be better fitted than others to bear the diseases of the country. This race would consequently multiply, while the others would decrease; not only from their in ability to sustain the attacks of disease, but from their incapacity of contending with their more vigorous neighbours. The colour of this vigorous race I take for granted, from what has been already said, would be dark. But the same disposition to form varieties still existing, a darker and a darker race would in the course of time occur: and as the darkest would be the best fitted for the climate, this would at length become the most prevalent, if not the only race, in the particular country in which it had originated." He then extends these same views to the white inhabitants of colder climates. I am indebted to Mr. Rowley, of the United States, for having called my attention, through Mr. Brace, to the above passage of Dr. Wells' work.
The Hon. and Rev. W. Herbert, afterward Dean of Manchester, in the fourth volume of the "Horticultural Transactions", 1822, and in his work on the "Amaryllidaceae" (1837, pages 19, 339), declares that "horticultural experiments have established, beyond the possibility of refutation, that botanical species are only a higher and more permanent class of varieties." He extends the same view to animals. The dean believes that single species of each genus were created in an originally highly plastic condition, and that these have produced, chiefly by inter-crossing, but likewise by variation, all our existing species.
In 1826 Professor Grant, in the concluding paragraph in his well-known paper ("Edinburgh Philosophical Journal", vol. XIV, page 283) on the Spongilla, clearly declares his belief that species are descended from other species, and that they become improved in the course of modification. This same view was given in his Fifty-fifth Lecture, published in the "Lancet" in 1834.
In 1831 Mr. Patrick Matthew published his work on "Naval Timber and Arboriculture", in which he gives precisely the same view on the origin of species as that (presently to be alluded to) propounded by Mr. Wallace and myself in the "Linnean Journal", and as that enlarged in the present volume. Unfortunately the view was given by Mr. Matthew very briefly in scattered passages in an appendix to a work on a different subject, so that it remained unnoticed until Mr. Matthew himself drew attention to it in the "Gardeners' Chronicle", on April 7, 1860. The differences of Mr. Matthew's views from mine are not of much importance: he seems to consider that the world was nearly depopulated at successive periods, and then restocked; and he gives as an alternative, that new forms may be generated "without the presence of any mold or germ of former aggregates." I am not sure that I understand some passages; but it seems that he attributes much influence to the direct action of the conditions of life. He clearly saw, however, the full force of the principle of natural selection.
The celebrated geologist and naturalist, Von Buch, in his excellent "Description Physique des Isles Canaries" (1836, page 147), clearly expresses his belief that varieties slowly become changed into permanent species, which are no longer capable of intercrossing.
Rafinesque, in his "New Flora of North America", published in 1836, wrote (page 6) as follows: "All species might have been varieties once, and many varieties are gradually becoming species by assuming constant and peculiar characters;" but further on (page 18) he adds, "except the original types or ancestors of the genus."
In 1843-44 Professor Haldeman ("Boston Journal of Nat. Hist. U. States", vol. iv, page 468) has ably given the arguments for and against the hypothesis of the development and modification of species: he seems to lean toward the side of change.
The "Vestiges of Creation" appeared in 1844. In the tenth and much improved edition (1853) the anonymous author says (page 155): "The proposition determined on after much consideration is, that the several series of animated beings, from the simplest and oldest up to the highest and most recent, are, under the providence of God, the results, FIRST, of an impulse which has been imparted to the forms of life, advancing them, in definite times, by generation, through grades of organisation terminating in the highest dicotyledons and vertebrata, these grades being few in number, and generally marked by intervals of organic character, which we find to be a practical difficulty in ascertaining affinities; SECOND, of another impulse connected with the vital forces, tending, in the course of generations, to modify organic structures in accordance with external circumstances, as food, the nature of the habitat, and the meteoric agencies, these being the 'adaptations' of the natural theologian." The author apparently believes that organisation progresses by sudden leaps, but that the effects produced by the conditions of life are gradual. He argues with much force on general grounds that species are not immutable productions. But I cannot see how the two supposed "impulses" account in a scientific sense for the numerous and beautiful coadaptations which we see throughout nature; I cannot see that we thus gain any insight how, for instance, a woodpecker has become adapted to its peculiar habits of life. The work, from its powerful and brilliant style, though displaying in the early editions little accurate knowledge and a great want of scientific caution, immediately had a very wide circulation. In my opinion it has done excellent service in this country in calling attention to the subject, in removing prejudice, and in thus preparing the ground for the reception of analogous views.
In 1846 the veteran geologist M.J. d'Omalius d'Halloy published in an excellent though short paper ("Bulletins de l'Acad. Roy. Bruxelles", tom. xiii, page 581) his opinion that it is more probable that new species have been produced by descent with modification than that they have been separately created: the author first promulgated this opinion in 1831.
Professor Owen, in 1849 ("Nature of Limbs", page 86), wrote as follows: "The archetypal idea was manifested in the flesh under diverse such modifications, upon this planet, long prior to the existence of those animal species that actually exemplify it. To what natural laws or secondary causes the orderly succession and progression of such organic phenomena may have been committed, we, as yet, are ignorant." In his address to the British Association, in 1858, he speaks (page li) of "the axiom of the continuous operation of creative power, or of the ordained becoming of living things." Further on (page xc), after referring to geographical distribution, he adds, "These phenomena shake our confidence in the conclusion that the Apteryx of New Zealand and the Red Grouse of England were distinct creations in and for those islands respectively. Always, also, it may be well to bear in mind that by the word 'creation' the zoologist means 'a process he knows not what.'" He amplifies this idea by adding that when such cases as that of the Red Grouse are "enumerated by the zoologist as evidence of distinct creation of the bird in and for such islands, he chiefly expresses that he knows not how the Red Grouse came to be there, and there exclusively; signifying also, by this mode of expressing such ignorance, his belief that both the bird and the islands owed their origin to a great first Creative Cause." If we interpret these sentences given in the same address, one by the other, it appears that this eminent philosopher felt in 1858 his confidence shaken that the Apteryx and the Red Grouse first appeared in their respective homes "he knew not how," or by some process "he knew not what."
This address was delivered after the papers by Mr. Wallace and myself on the Origin of Species, presently to be referred to, had been read before the Linnean Society. When the first edition of this work was published, I was so completely deceived, as were many others, by such expressions as "the continuous operation of creative power," that I included Professor Owen with other palaeontologists as being firmly convinced of the immutability of species; but it appears ("Anat. of Vertebrates", vol. iii, page 796) that this was on my part a preposterous error. In the last edition of this work I inferred, and the inference still seems to me perfectly just, from a passage beginning with the words "no doubt the type-form," etc.(Ibid., vol. i, page xxxv), that Professor Owen admitted that natural selection may have done something in the formation of a new species; but this it appears (Ibid., vol. iii. page 798) is inaccurate and without evidence. I also gave some extracts from a correspondence between Professor Owen and the editor of the "London Review", from which it appeared manifest to the editor as well as to myself, that Professor Owen claimed to have promulgated the theory of natural selection before I had done so; and I expressed my surprise and satisfaction at this announcement; but as far as it is possible to understand certain recently published passages (Ibid., vol. iii. page 798) I have either partially or wholly again fallen into error. It is consolatory to me that others find Professor Owen's controversial writings as difficult to understand and to reconcile with each other, as I do. As far as the mere enunciation of the principle of natural selection is concerned, it is quite immaterial whether or not Professor Owen preceded me, for both of us, as shown in this historical sketch, were long ago preceded by Dr. Wells and Mr. Matthews.
M. Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, in his lectures delivered in 1850 (of which a Resume appeared in the "Revue et Mag. de Zoolog.", Jan., 1851), briefly gives his reason for believing that specific characters "sont fixes, pour chaque espece, tant qu'elle se perpetue au milieu des memes circonstances: ils se modifient, si les circonstances ambiantes viennent a changer. En resume, L'OBSERVATION des animaux sauvages demontre deja la variabilite LIMITEE des especes. Les EXPERIENCES sur les animaux sauvages devenus domestiques, et sur les animaux domestiques redevenus sauvages, la demontrent plus clairment encore. Ces memes experiences prouvent, de plus, que les differences produites peuvent etre de VALEUR GENERIQUE." In his "Hist. Nat. Generale" (tom. ii, page 430, 1859) he amplifies analogous conclusions.
From a circular lately issued it appears that Dr. Freke, in 1851 ("Dublin Medical Press", page 322), propounded the doctrine that all organic beings have descended from one primordial form. His grounds of belief and treatment of the subject are wholly different from mine; but as Dr. Freke has now (1861) published his Essay on the "Origin of Species by means of Organic Affinity", the difficult attempt to give any idea of his views would be superfluous on my part.
Mr. Herbert Spencer, in an Essay (originally published in the "Leader", March, 1852, and republished in his "Essays", in 1858), has contrasted the theories of the Creation and the Development of organic beings with remarkable skill and force. He argues from the analogy of domestic productions, from the changes which the embryos of many species undergo, from the difficulty of distinguishing species and varieties, and from the principle of general gradation, that species have been modified; and he attributes the modification to the change of circumstances. The author (1855) has also treated Psychology on the principle of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation.
In 1852 M. Naudin, a distinguished botanist, expressly stated, in an admirable paper on the Origin of Species ("Revue Horticole", page 102; since partly republished in the "Nouvelles Archives du Museum", tom. i, page 171), his belief that species are formed in an analogous manner as varieties are under cultivation; and the latter process he attributes to man's power of selection. But he does not show how selection acts under nature. He believes, like Dean Herbert, that species, when nascent, were more plastic than at present. He lays weight on what he calls the principle of finality, "puissance mysterieuse, indeterminee; fatalite pour les uns; pour les autres volonte providentielle, dont l'action incessante sur les etres vivantes determine, a toutes les epoques de l'existence du monde, la forme, le volume, et la duree de chacun d'eux, en raison de sa destinee dans l'ordre de choses dont il fait partie. C'est cette puissance qui harmonise chaque membre a l'ensemble, en l'appropriant a la fonction qu'il doit remplir dans l'organisme general de la nature, fonction qui est pour lui sa raison d'etre." (From references in Bronn's "Untersuchungen uber die Entwickelungs-Gesetze", it appears that the celebrated botanist and palaeontologist Unger published, in 1852, his belief that species undergo development and modification. Dalton, likewise, in Pander and Dalton's work on Fossil Sloths, expressed, in 1821, a similar belief. Similar views have, as is well known, been maintained by Oken in his mystical "Natur-Philosophie". From other references in Godron's work "Sur l'Espece", it seems that Bory St. Vincent, Burdach, Poiret and Fries, have all admitted that new species are continually being produced. I may add, that of the thirty-four authors named in this Historical Sketch, who believe in the modification of species, or at least disbelieve in separate acts of creation, twenty-seven have written on special branches of natural history or geology.)
In 1853 a celebrated geologist, Count Keyserling ("Bulletin de la Soc. Geolog.", 2nd Ser., tom. x, page 357), suggested that as new diseases, supposed to have been caused by some miasma have arisen and spread over the world, so at certain periods the germs of existing species may have been chemically affected by circumambient molecules of a particular nature, and thus have given rise to new forms.
In this same year, 1853, Dr. Schaaffhausen published an excellent pamphlet ("Verhand. des Naturhist. Vereins der Preuss. Rheinlands", etc.), in which he maintains the development of organic forms on the earth. He infers that many species have kept true for long periods, whereas a few have become modified. The distinction of species he explains by the destruction of intermediate graduated forms. "Thus living plants and animals are not separated from the extinct by new creations, but are to be regarded as their descendants through continued reproduction."
A well-known French botanist, M. Lecoq, writes in 1854 ("Etudes sur Geograph." Bot. tom. i, page 250), "On voit que nos recherches sur la fixite ou la variation de l'espece, nous conduisent directement aux idees emises par deux hommes justement celebres, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire et Goethe." Some other passages scattered through M. Lecoq's large work make it a little doubtful how far he extends his views on the modification of species.
The "Philosophy of Creation" has been treated in a masterly manner by the Rev. Baden Powell, in his "Essays on the Unity of Worlds", 1855. Nothing can be more striking than the manner in which he shows that the introduction of new species is "a regular, not a casual phenomenon," or, as Sir John Herschel expresses it, "a natural in contradistinction to a miraculous process."
The third volume of the "Journal of the Linnean Society" contains papers, read July 1, 1858, by Mr. Wallace and myself, in which, as stated in the introductory remarks to this volume, the theory of Natural Selection is promulgated by Mr. Wallace with admirable force and clearness.
Von Baer, toward whom all zoologists feel so profound a respect, expressed about the year 1859 (see Prof. Rudolph Wagner, "Zoologisch-Anthropologische Untersuchungen", 1861, s. 51) his conviction, chiefly grounded on the laws of geographical distribution, that forms now perfectly distinct have descended from a single parent-form.
In June, 1859, Professor Huxley gave a lecture before the Royal Institution on the "Persistent Types of Animal Life". Referring to such cases, he remarks, "It is difficult to comprehend the meaning of such facts as these, if we suppose that each species of animal and plant, or each great type of organisation, was formed and placed upon the surface of the globe at long intervals by a distinct act of creative power; and it is well to recollect that such an assumption is as unsupported by tradition or revelation as it is opposed to the general analogy of nature. If, on the other hand, we view "Persistent Types" in relation to that hypothesis which supposes the species living at any time to be the result of the gradual modification of pre-existing species, a hypothesis which, though unproven, and sadly damaged by some of its supporters, is yet the only one to which physiology lends any countenance; their existence would seem to show that the amount of modification which living beings have undergone during geological time is but very small in relation to the whole series of changes which they have suffered."
In December, 1859, Dr. Hooker published his "Introduction to the Australian Flora". In the first part of this great work he admits the truth of the descent and modification of species, and supports this doctrine by many original observations.
The first edition of this work was published on November 24, 1859, and the second edition on January 7, 1860.
AN HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE PROGRESS OF OPINION ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
ORIGIN OF SPECIES.
CHAPTER I. VARIATION UNDER DOMESTICATION
CHAPTER II. VARIATION UNDER NATURE
CHAPTER III. STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE
CHAPTER IV. NATURAL SELECTION; OR THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
CHAPTER V. LAWS OF VARIATION
CHAPTER VI. DIFFICULTIES OF THE THEORY
CHAPTER VII. MISCELLANEOUS OBJECTIONS TO THE THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION
CHAPTER VIII. INSTINCT
CHAPTER IX. HYBRIDISM
CHAPTER X. ON THE IMPERFECTION OF THE GEOLOGICAL RECORD
CHAPTER XI. ON THE GEOLOGICAL SUCCESSION OF ORGANIC BEINGS
CHAPTER XII. GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION
CHAPTER XIII. GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION—continued
CHAPTER XIV. MUTUAL AFFINITIES OF ORGANIC BEINGS
CHAPTER XV. RECAPITULATION AND CONCLUSION
GLOSSARY OF THE PRINCIPAL SCIENTIFIC TERMS USED IN THE PRESENT VOLUME.
VARIATION UNDER DOMESTICATION.
Causes of Variability—Effects of Habit and the use or disuse of
Parts—Correlated Variation—Inheritance—Character of Domestic
Varieties—Difficulty of distinguishing between Varieties and
Species—Origin of Domestic Varieties from one or more Species—Domestic
Pigeons, their Differences and Origin—Principles of Selection,
anciently followed, their Effects—Methodical and Unconscious
Selection—Unknown Origin of our Domestic Productions—Circumstances
favourable to Man's power of Selection.
VARIATION UNDER NATURE.
Variability—Individual Differences—Doubtful species—Wide ranging,
much diffused, and common species, vary most—Species of the larger
genera in each country vary more frequently than the species of the
smaller genera—Many of the species of the larger genera resemble
varieties in being very closely, but unequally, related to each other,
and in having restricted ranges.
STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE.
Its bearing on natural selection—The term used in a wide
sense—Geometrical ratio of increase—Rapid increase of naturalised
animals and plants—Nature of the checks to increase—Competition
universal—Effects of climate—Protection from the number of
individuals—Complex relations of all animals and plants throughout
nature—Struggle for life most severe between individuals and varieties
of the same species; often severe between species of the same genus—The
relation of organism to organism the most important of all relations.
NATURAL SELECTION; OR THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.
Natural Selection—its power compared with man's selection—its power
on characters of trifling importance—its power at all ages and on
both sexes—Sexual Selection—On the generality of intercrosses
between individuals of the same species—Circumstances favourable and
unfavourable to the results of Natural Selection, namely, intercrossing,
isolation, number of individuals—Slow action—Extinction caused by
Natural Selection—Divergence of Character, related to the diversity of
inhabitants of any small area and to naturalisation—Action of Natural
Selection, through Divergence of Character and Extinction, on the
descendants from a common parent—Explains the Grouping of all organic
beings—Advance in organisation—Low forms preserved—Convergence of
character—Indefinite multiplication of species—Summary.
LAWS OF VARIATION.
Effects of changed conditions—Use and disuse, combined with natural
selection; organs of flight and of vision—Acclimatisation—Correlated
variation—Compensation and economy of growth—False
correlations—Multiple, rudimentary, and lowly organised structures
variable—Parts developed in an unusual manner are highly variable;
specific characters more variable than generic; secondary sexual
characters variable—Species of the same genus vary in an analogous
manner—Reversions to long-lost characters—Summary.
DIFFICULTIES OF THE THEORY.
Difficulties of the theory of descent with modification—Absence
or rarity of transitional varieties—Transitions in habits of
life—Diversified habits in the same species—Species with habits
widely different from those of their allies—Organs of extreme
perfection—Modes of transition—Cases of difficulty—Natura non facit
saltum—Organs of small importance—Organs not in all cases absolutely
perfect—The law of Unity of Type and of the Conditions of Existence
embraced by the theory of Natural Selection.
MISCELLANEOUS OBJECTIONS TO THE THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION.
Longevity—Modifications not necessarily simultaneous—Modifications
apparently of no direct service—Progressive development—Characters of
small functional importance, the most constant—Supposed incompetence
of natural selection to account for the incipient stages of useful
structures—Causes which interfere with the acquisition through natural
selection of useful structures—Gradations of structure with changed
functions—Widely different organs in members of the same class,
developed from one and the same source—Reasons for disbelieving in
great and abrupt modifications.
Instincts comparable with habits, but different in their
origin—Instincts graduated—Aphides and ants—Instincts
variable—Domestic instincts, their origin—Natural instincts of
the cuckoo, molothrus, ostrich, and parasitic bees—Slave-making
ants—Hive-bee, its cell-making instinct—Changes of instinct and
structure not necessarily simultaneous—Difficulties on the theory of
the Natural Selection of instincts—Neuter or sterile insects—Summary.
Distinction between the sterility of first crosses and of
hybrids—Sterility various in degree, not universal, affected by close
interbreeding, removed by domestication—Laws governing the sterility
of hybrids—Sterility not a special endowment, but incidental on
other differences, not accumulated by natural selection—Causes of
the sterility of first crosses and of hybrids—Parallelism between the
effects of changed conditions of life and of crossing—Dimorphism and
Trimorphism—Fertility of varieties when crossed and of their mongrel
offspring not universal—Hybrids and mongrels compared independently of
ON THE IMPERFECTION OF THE GEOLOGICAL RECORD.
On the absence of intermediate varieties at the present day—On the
nature of extinct intermediate varieties; on their number—On the lapse
of time, as inferred from the rate of denudation and of deposition—On
the lapse of time as estimated in years—On the poorness of our
palaeontological collections—On the intermittence of geological
formations—On the denudation of granitic areas—On the absence of
intermediate varieties in any one formation—On the sudden appearance
of groups of species—On their sudden appearance in the lowest known
fossiliferous strata—Antiquity of the habitable earth.
ON THE GEOLOGICAL SUCCESSION OF ORGANIC BEINGS.
On the slow and successive appearance of new species—On their different
rates of change—Species once lost do not reappear—Groups of species
follow the same general rules in their appearance and disappearance as
do single species—On extinction—On simultaneous changes in the forms
of life throughout the world—On the affinities of extinct species to
each other and to living species—On the state of development of
ancient forms—On the succession of the same types within the same
areas—Summary of preceding and present chapter.
Present distribution cannot be accounted for by differences in physical
conditions—Importance of barriers—Affinity of the productions of the
same continent—Centres of creation—Means of dispersal by changes of
climate and of the level of the land, and by occasional means—Dispersal
during the Glacial period—Alternate Glacial periods in the north and
Distribution of fresh-water productions—On the inhabitants of oceanic
islands—Absence of Batrachians and of terrestrial Mammals—On
the relation of the inhabitants of islands to those of the nearest
mainland—On colonisation from the nearest source with subsequent
modification—Summary of the last and present chapter.
MUTUAL AFFINITIES OF ORGANIC BEINGS: MORPHOLOGY—EMBRYOLOGY—RUDIMENTARY
Classification, groups subordinate to groups—Natural system—Rules and
difficulties in classification, explained on the theory of descent
with modification—Classification of varieties—Descent always used in
classification—Analogical or adaptive characters—Affinities,
general, complex and radiating—Extinction separates and defines
groups—Morphology, between members of the same class, between parts of
the same individual—Embryology, laws of, explained by variations not
supervening at an early age, and being inherited at a corresponding
age—Rudimentary Organs; their origin explained—Summary.
RECAPITULATION AND CONCLUSION.
Recapitulation of the objections to the theory of Natural
Selection—Recapitulation of the general and special circumstances
in its favour—Causes of the general belief in the immutability
of species—How far the theory of Natural Selection may be
extended—Effects of its adoption on the study of Natural
GLOSSARY OF SCIENTIFIC TERMS.
ORIGIN OF SPECIES.
When on board H.M.S. Beagle, as naturalist, I was much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the organic beings inhabiting South America, and in the geological relations of the present to the past inhabitants of that continent. These facts, as will be seen in the latter chapters of this volume, seemed to throw some light on the origin of species—that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers. On my return home, it occurred to me, in 1837, that something might perhaps be made out on this question by patiently accumulating and reflecting on all sorts of facts which could possibly have any bearing on it. After five years' work I allowed myself to speculate on the subject, and drew up some short notes; these I enlarged in 1844 into a sketch of the conclusions, which then seemed to me probable: from that period to the present day I have steadily pursued the same object. I hope that I may be excused for entering on these personal details, as I give them to show that I have not been hasty in coming to a decision.
My work is now (1859) nearly finished; but as it will take me many more years to complete it, and as my health is far from strong, I have been urged to publish this abstract. I have more especially been induced to do this, as Mr. Wallace, who is now studying the natural history of the Malay Archipelago, has arrived at almost exactly the same general conclusions that I have on the origin of species. In 1858 he sent me a memoir on this subject, with a request that I would forward it to Sir Charles Lyell, who sent it to the Linnean Society, and it is published in the third volume of the Journal of that Society. Sir C. Lyell and Dr. Hooker, who both knew of my work—the latter having read my sketch of 1844—honoured me by thinking it advisable to publish, with Mr. Wallace's excellent memoir, some brief extracts from my manuscripts.
This abstract, which I now publish, must necessarily be imperfect. I cannot here give references and authorities for my several statements; and I must trust to the reader reposing some confidence in my accuracy. No doubt errors may have crept in, though I hope I have always been cautious in trusting to good authorities alone. I can here give only the general conclusions at which I have arrived, with a few facts in illustration, but which, I hope, in most cases will suffice. No one can feel more sensible than I do of the necessity of hereafter publishing in detail all the facts, with references, on which my conclusions have been grounded; and I hope in a future work to do this. For I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question; and this is here impossible.
I much regret that want of space prevents my having the satisfaction of acknowledging the generous assistance which I have received from very many naturalists, some of them personally unknown to me. I cannot, however, let this opportunity pass without expressing my deep obligations to Dr. Hooker, who, for the last fifteen years, has aided me in every possible way by his large stores of knowledge and his excellent judgment.
In considering the origin of species, it is quite conceivable that a naturalist, reflecting on the mutual affinities of organic beings, on their embryological relations, their geographical distribution, geological succession, and other such facts, might come to the conclusion that species had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties, from other species. Nevertheless, such a conclusion, even if well founded, would be unsatisfactory, until it could be shown how the innumerable species, inhabiting this world have been modified, so as to acquire that perfection of structure and coadaptation which justly excites our admiration. Naturalists continually refer to external conditions, such as climate, food, etc., as the only possible cause of variation. In one limited sense, as we shall hereafter see, this may be true; but it is preposterous to attribute to mere external conditions, the structure, for instance, of the woodpecker, with its feet, tail, beak, and tongue, so admirably adapted to catch insects under the bark of trees. In the case of the mistletoe, which draws its nourishment from certain trees, which has seeds that must be transported by certain birds, and which has flowers with separate sexes absolutely requiring the agency of certain insects to bring pollen from one flower to the other, it is equally preposterous to account for the structure of this parasite, with its relations to several distinct organic beings, by the effects of external conditions, or of habit, or of the volition of the plant itself.
It is, therefore, of the highest importance to gain a clear insight into the means of modification and coadaptation. At the commencement of my observations it seemed to me probable that a careful study of domesticated animals and of cultivated plants would offer the best chance of making out this obscure problem. Nor have I been disappointed; in this and in all other perplexing cases I have invariably found that our knowledge, imperfect though it be, of variation under domestication, afforded the best and safest clue. I may venture to express my conviction of the high value of such studies, although they have been very commonly neglected by naturalists.
From these considerations, I shall devote the first chapter of this abstract to variation under domestication. We shall thus see that a large amount of hereditary modification is at least possible; and, what is equally or more important, we shall see how great is the power of man in accumulating by his selection successive slight variations. I will then pass on to the variability of species in a state of nature; but I shall, unfortunately, be compelled to treat this subject far too briefly, as it can be treated properly only by giving long catalogues of facts. We shall, however, be enabled to discuss what circumstances are most favourable to variation. In the next chapter the struggle for existence among all organic beings throughout the world, which inevitably follows from the high geometrical ratio of their increase, will be considered. This is the doctrine of Malthus, applied to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms. As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be NATURALLY SELECTED. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form.
This fundamental subject of natural selection will be treated at some length in the fourth chapter; and we shall then see how natural selection almost inevitably causes much extinction of the less improved forms of life, and leads to what I have called divergence of character. In the next chapter I shall discuss the complex and little known laws of variation. In the five succeeding chapters, the most apparent and gravest difficulties in accepting the theory will be given: namely, first, the difficulties of transitions, or how a simple being or a simple organ can be changed and perfected into a highly developed being or into an elaborately constructed organ; secondly the subject of instinct, or the mental powers of animals; thirdly, hybridism, or the infertility of species and the fertility of varieties when intercrossed; and fourthly, the imperfection of the geological record. In the next chapter I shall consider the geological succession of organic beings throughout time; in the twelfth and thirteenth, their geographical distribution throughout space; in the fourteenth, their classification or mutual affinities, both when mature and in an embryonic condition. In the last chapter I shall give a brief recapitulation of the whole work, and a few concluding remarks.
No one ought to feel surprise at much remaining as yet unexplained in regard to the origin of species and varieties, if he make due allowance for our profound ignorance in regard to the mutual relations of the many beings which live around us. Who can explain why one species ranges widely and is very numerous, and why another allied species has a narrow range and is rare? Yet these relations are of the highest importance, for they determine the present welfare and, as I believe, the future success and modification of every inhabitant of this world. Still less do we know of the mutual relations of the innumerable inhabitants of the world during the many past geological epochs in its history. Although much remains obscure, and will long remain obscure, I can entertain no doubt, after the most deliberate study and dispassionate judgment of which I am capable, that the view which most naturalists until recently entertained, and which I formerly entertained—namely, that each species has been independently created—is erroneous. I am fully convinced that species are not immutable; but that those belonging to what are called the same genera are lineal descendants of some other and generally extinct species, in the same manner as the acknowledged varieties of any one species are the descendants of that species. Furthermore, I am convinced that natural selection has been the most important, but not the exclusive, means of modification.
CHAPTER I. VARIATION UNDER DOMESTICATION.
Causes of Variability—Effects of Habit and the use and disuse of
Parts—Correlated Variation—Inheritance—Character of Domestic
Varieties—Difficulty of distinguishing between Varieties and
Species—Origin of Domestic Varieties from one or more Species—Domestic
Pigeons, their Differences and Origin—Principles of Selection,
anciently followed, their Effects—Methodical and Unconscious
Selection—Unknown Origin of our Domestic Productions—Circumstances
favourable to Man's power of Selection.
CAUSES OF VARIABILITY.
When we compare the individuals of the same variety or sub-variety of our older cultivated plants and animals, one of the first points which strikes us is, that they generally differ more from each other than do the individuals of any one species or variety in a state of nature. And if we reflect on the vast diversity of the plants and animals which have been cultivated, and which have varied during all ages under the most different climates and treatment, we are driven to conclude that this great variability is due to our domestic productions having been raised under conditions of life not so uniform as, and somewhat different from, those to which the parent species had been exposed under nature. There is, also, some probability in the view propounded by Andrew Knight, that this variability may be partly connected with excess of food. It seems clear that organic beings must be exposed during several generations to new conditions to cause any great amount of variation; and that, when the organisation has once begun to vary, it generally continues varying for many generations. No case is on record of a variable organism ceasing to vary under cultivation. Our oldest cultivated plants, such as wheat, still yield new varieties: our oldest domesticated animals are still capable of rapid improvement or modification.
As far as I am able to judge, after long attending to the subject, the conditions of life appear to act in two ways—directly on the whole organisation or on certain parts alone and in directly by affecting the reproductive system. With respect to the direct action, we must bear in mind that in every case, as Professor Weismann has lately insisted, and as I have incidently shown in my work on "Variation under Domestication," there are two factors: namely, the nature of the organism and the nature of the conditions. The former seems to be much the more important; for nearly similar variations sometimes arise under, as far as we can judge, dissimilar conditions; and, on the other hand, dissimilar variations arise under conditions which appear to be nearly uniform. The effects on the offspring are either definite or in definite. They may be considered as definite when all or nearly all the offspring of individuals exposed to certain conditions during several generations are modified in the same manner. It is extremely difficult to come to any conclusion in regard to the extent of the changes which have been thus definitely induced. There can, however, be little doubt about many slight changes, such as size from the amount of food, colour from the nature of the food, thickness of the skin and hair from climate, etc. Each of the endless variations which we see in the plumage of our fowls must have had some efficient cause; and if the same cause were to act uniformly during a long series of generations on many individuals, all probably would be modified in the same manner. Such facts as the complex and extraordinary out growths which variably follow from the insertion of a minute drop of poison by a gall-producing insect, shows us what singular modifications might result in the case of plants from a chemical change in the nature of the sap.
In definite variability is a much more common result of changed conditions than definite variability, and has probably played a more important part in the formation of our domestic races. We see in definite variability in the endless slight peculiarities which distinguish the individuals of the same species, and which cannot be accounted for by inheritance from either parent or from some more remote ancestor. Even strongly-marked differences occasionally appear in the young of the same litter, and in seedlings from the same seed-capsule. At long intervals of time, out of millions of individuals reared in the same country and fed on nearly the same food, deviations of structure so strongly pronounced as to deserve to be called monstrosities arise; but monstrosities cannot be separated by any distinct line from slighter variations. All such changes of structure, whether extremely slight or strongly marked, which appear among many individuals living together, may be considered as the in definite effects of the conditions of life on each individual organism, in nearly the same manner as the chill effects different men in an in definite manner, according to their state of body or constitution, causing coughs or colds, rheumatism, or inflammation of various organs.
With respect to what I have called the in direct action of changed conditions, namely, through the reproductive system of being affected, we may infer that variability is thus induced, partly from the fact of this system being extremely sensitive to any change in the conditions, and partly from the similarity, as Kolreuter and others have remarked, between the variability which follows from the crossing of distinct species, and that which may be observed with plants and animals when reared under new or unnatural conditions. Many facts clearly show how eminently susceptible the reproductive system is to very slight changes in the surrounding conditions. Nothing is more easy than to tame an animal, and few things more difficult than to get it to breed freely under confinement, even when the male and female unite. How many animals there are which will not breed, though kept in an almost free state in their native country! This is generally, but erroneously attributed to vitiated instincts. Many cultivated plants display the utmost vigour, and yet rarely or never seed! In some few cases it has been discovered that a very trifling change, such as a little more or less water at some particular period of growth, will determine whether or not a plant will produce seeds. I cannot here give the details which I have collected and elsewhere published on this curious subject; but to show how singular the laws are which determine the reproduction of animals under confinement, I may mention that carnivorous animals, even from the tropics, breed in this country pretty freely under confinement, with the exception of the plantigrades or bear family, which seldom produce young; whereas, carnivorous birds, with the rarest exception, hardly ever lay fertile eggs. Many exotic plants have pollen utterly worthless, in the same condition as in the most sterile hybrids. When, on the one hand, we see domesticated animals and plants, though often weak and sickly, breeding freely under confinement; and when, on the other hand, we see individuals, though taken young from a state of nature perfectly tamed, long-lived, and healthy (of which I could give numerous instances), yet having their reproductive system so seriously affected by unperceived causes as to fail to act, we need not be surprised at this system, when it does act under confinement, acting irregularly, and producing offspring somewhat unlike their parents. I may add that as some organisms breed freely under the most unnatural conditions—for instance, rabbits and ferrets kept in hutches—showing that their reproductive organs are not easily affected; so will some animals and plants withstand domestication or cultivation, and vary very slightly—perhaps hardly more than in a state of nature.
Some naturalists have maintained that all variations are connected with the act of sexual reproduction; but this is certainly an error; for I have given in another work a long list of "sporting plants;" as they are called by gardeners; that is, of plants which have suddenly produced a single bud with a new and sometimes widely different character from that of the other buds on the same plant. These bud variations, as they may be named, can be propagated by grafts, offsets, etc., and sometimes by seed. They occur rarely under nature, but are far from rare under culture. As a single bud out of many thousands produced year after year on the same tree under uniform conditions, has been known suddenly to assume a new character; and as buds on distinct trees, growing under different conditions, have sometimes yielded nearly the same variety—for instance, buds on peach-trees producing nectarines, and buds on common roses producing moss-roses—we clearly see that the nature of the conditions is of subordinate importance in comparison with the nature of the organism in determining each particular form of variation; perhaps of not more importance than the nature of the spark, by which a mass of combustible matter is ignited, has in determining the nature of the flames.
EFFECTS OF HABIT AND OF THE USE OR DISUSE OF PARTS; CORRELATED VARIATION; INHERITANCE.
Changed habits produce an inherited effect as in the period of the flowering of plants when transported from one climate to another. With animals the increased use or disuse of parts has had a more marked influence; thus I find in the domestic duck that the bones of the wing weigh less and the bones of the leg more, in proportion to the whole skeleton, than do the same bones in the wild duck; and this change may be safely attributed to the domestic duck flying much less, and walking more, than its wild parents. The great and inherited development of the udders in cows and goats in countries where they are habitually milked, in comparison with these organs in other countries, is probably another instance of the effects of use. Not one of our domestic animals can be named which has not in some country drooping ears; and the view which has been suggested that the drooping is due to disuse of the muscles of the ear, from the animals being seldom much alarmed, seems probable.
Many laws regulate variation, some few of which can be dimly seen, and will hereafter be briefly discussed. I will here only allude to what may be called correlated variation. Important changes in the embryo or larva will probably entail changes in the mature animal. In monstrosities, the correlations between quite distinct parts are very curious; and many instances are given in Isidore Geoffroy St. Hilaire's great work on this subject. Breeders believe that long limbs are almost always accompanied by an elongated head. Some instances of correlation are quite whimsical; thus cats which are entirely white and have blue eyes are generally deaf; but it has been lately stated by Mr. Tait that this is confined to the males. Colour and constitutional peculiarities go together, of which many remarkable cases could be given among animals and plants. From facts collected by Heusinger, it appears that white sheep and pigs are injured by certain plants, while dark-coloured individuals escape: Professor Wyman has recently communicated to me a good illustration of this fact; on asking some farmers in Virginia how it was that all their pigs were black, they informed him that the pigs ate the paint-root (Lachnanthes), which coloured their bones pink, and which caused the hoofs of all but the black varieties to drop off; and one of the "crackers" (i.e. Virginia squatters) added, "we select the black members of a litter for raising, as they alone have a good chance of living." Hairless dogs have imperfect teeth; long-haired and coarse-haired animals are apt to have, as is asserted, long or many horns; pigeons with feathered feet have skin between their outer toes; pigeons with short beaks have small feet, and those with long beaks large feet. Hence if man goes on selecting, and thus augmenting, any peculiarity, he will almost certainly modify unintentionally other parts of the structure, owing to the mysterious laws of correlation.
The results of the various, unknown, or but dimly understood laws of variation are infinitely complex and diversified. It is well worth while carefully to study the several treatises on some of our old cultivated plants, as on the hyacinth, potato, even the dahlia, etc.; and it is really surprising to note the endless points of structure and constitution in which the varieties and sub-varieties differ slightly from each other. The whole organisation seems to have become plastic, and departs in a slight degree from that of the parental type.
Any variation which is not inherited is unimportant for us. But the number and diversity of inheritable deviations of structure, both those of slight and those of considerable physiological importance, are endless. Dr. Prosper Lucas' treatise, in two large volumes, is the fullest and the best on this subject. No breeder doubts how strong is the tendency to inheritance; that like produces like is his fundamental belief: doubts have been thrown on this principle only by theoretical writers. When any deviation of structure often appears, and we see it in the father and child, we cannot tell whether it may not be due to the same cause having acted on both; but when among individuals, apparently exposed to the same conditions, any very rare deviation, due to some extraordinary combination of circumstances, appears in the parent—say, once among several million individuals—and it reappears in the child, the mere doctrine of chances almost compels us to attribute its reappearance to inheritance. Every one must have heard of cases of albinism, prickly skin, hairy bodies, etc., appearing in several members of the same family. If strange and rare deviations of structure are truly inherited, less strange and commoner deviations may be freely admitted to be inheritable. Perhaps the correct way of viewing the whole subject would be, to look at the inheritance of every character whatever as the rule, and non-inheritance as the anomaly.
The laws governing inheritance are for the most part unknown; no one can say why the same peculiarity in different individuals of the same species, or in different species, is sometimes inherited and sometimes not so; why the child often reverts in certain characteristics to its grandfather or grandmother or more remote ancestor; why a peculiarity is often transmitted from one sex to both sexes, or to one sex alone, more commonly but not exclusively to the like sex. It is a fact of some importance to us, that peculiarities appearing in the males of our domestic breeds are often transmitted, either exclusively or in a much greater degree, to the males alone. A much more important rule, which I think may be trusted, is that, at whatever period of life a peculiarity first appears, it tends to reappear in the offspring at a corresponding age, though sometimes earlier. In many cases this could not be otherwise; thus the inherited peculiarities in the horns of cattle could appear only in the offspring when nearly mature; peculiarities in the silk-worm are known to appear at the corresponding caterpillar or cocoon stage. But hereditary diseases and some other facts make me believe that the rule has a wider extension, and that, when there is no apparent reason why a peculiarity should appear at any particular age, yet that it does tend to appear in the offspring at the same period at which it first appeared in the parent. I believe this rule to be of the highest importance in explaining the laws of embryology. These remarks are of course confined to the first APPEARANCE of the peculiarity, and not to the primary cause which may have acted on the ovules or on the male element; in nearly the same manner as the increased length of the horns in the offspring from a short-horned cow by a long-horned bull, though appearing late in life, is clearly due to the male element.
Having alluded to the subject of reversion, I may here refer to a statement often made by naturalists—namely, that our domestic varieties, when run wild, gradually but invariably revert in character to their aboriginal stocks. Hence it has been argued that no deductions can be drawn from domestic races to species in a state of nature. I have in vain endeavoured to discover on what decisive facts the above statement has so often and so boldly been made. There would be great difficulty in proving its truth: we may safely conclude that very many of the most strongly marked domestic varieties could not possibly live in a wild state. In many cases we do not know what the aboriginal stock was, and so could not tell whether or not nearly perfect reversion had ensued. It would be necessary, in order to prevent the effects of intercrossing, that only a single variety should be turned loose in its new home. Nevertheless, as our varieties certainly do occasionally revert in some of their characters to ancestral forms, it seems to me not improbable that if we could succeed in naturalising, or were to cultivate, during many generations, the several races, for instance, of the cabbage, in very poor soil—in which case, however, some effect would have to be attributed to the DEFINITE action of the poor soil—that they would, to a large extent, or even wholly, revert to the wild aboriginal stock. Whether or not the experiment would succeed is not of great importance for our line of argument; for by the experiment itself the conditions of life are changed. If it could be shown that our domestic varieties manifested a strong tendency to reversion—that is, to lose their acquired characters, while kept under the same conditions and while kept in a considerable body, so that free intercrossing might check, by blending together, any slight deviations in their structure, in such case, I grant that we could deduce nothing from domestic varieties in regard to species. But there is not a shadow of evidence in favour of this view: to assert that we could not breed our cart and race-horses, long and short-horned cattle, and poultry of various breeds, and esculent vegetables, for an unlimited number of generations, would be opposed to all experience.
CHARACTER OF DOMESTIC VARIETIES; DIFFICULTY OF DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN VARIETIES AND SPECIES; ORIGIN OF DOMESTIC VARIETIES FROM ONE OR MORE SPECIES.
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