Page:Origin of Species 1872.djvu/185

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


acts solely by and for the good of each. No organ will be formed, as Paley has remarked, for the purpose of causing pain or for doing an injury to its possessor. If a fair balance be struck between the good and evil caused by each part, each will be found on the whole advantageous. After the lapse of time, under changing conditions of life, if any part comes to be injurious, it will be modified; or if it be not so, the being will become extinct, as myriads have become extinct.

Natural selection tends only to make each organic being as perfect as, or slightly more perfect than the other inhabitants of the same country with which it comes into competition. And we see that this is the standard of perfection attained under nature. The endemic productions of New Zealand, for instance, are perfect, one compared with another; but they are now rapidly yielding before the advancing legions of plants and animals introduced from Europe. Natural selection will not produce absolute perfection, nor do we always meet, as far as we can judge, with this high standard under nature. The correction for the aberration of light is said by Muller not to be perfect even in that most perfect organ, the human eye. Helmholtz, whose judgment no one will dispute, after describing in the strongest terms the wonderful powers of the human eye, adds these remarkable words: "That which we have discovered in the way of inexactness and imperfection in the optical machine and in the image on the retina, is as nothing in comparison with the incongruities which we have just come across in the domain of the sensations. One might say that nature has taken delight in accumulating contradictions in order to remove all foundation from the theory of a pre-existing harmony between the external and internal worlds." If our reason leads us to admire with enthusiasm a multitude of inimitable contrivances in nature, this same reason tells us, though we may easily err on both sides, that some other contrivances are less perfect. Can we consider the sting of the bee as perfect, which, when used against many kinds of enemies, cannot be withdrawn, owing to the backward serratures, and thus inevitably causes the death of the insect by tearing out its viscera?

If we look at the sting of the bee, as having existed in a remote progenitor, as a boring and serrated instrument, like that in so many members of the same great order, and that it has since been modified but not perfected for its present purpose, with the poison originally adapted for some other object, such as to produce galls, since intensified, we can perhaps understand how it is that the use of the sting should so often cause the insect's own death: for if on the whole the power of stinging be useful to the social community,