Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/162

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


WHILE I do not concur in sundry of the statements and conclusions contained in the article entitled "A Great Confession," contributed by the Duke of Argyll to the last number of this Review,[1] yet I am obliged to him for having raised afresh the question discussed in it. Though the injunction "Rest and be thankful," is one for which in many spheres much may be said—especially in the political, where undue restlessness is proving very mischievous—yet rest and be thankful is an injunction out of place in science. Unhappily, while politicians have not duly regarded it, it appears to have been taken to heart too much by naturalists; in so far, at least, as concerns the question of the origin of species.

The new biological othodoxy behaves just as the old biological orthodoxy did. In the days before Darwin, those who occupied themselves with the phenomena of life passed by with unobservant eyes the multitudinous facts which point to an evolutionary origin for plants and animals; and they turned deaf ears to those who insisted upon the significance of these facts. Now that they have come to believe in this evolutionary origin, and have at the same time accepted the hypothesis that natural selection has been the sole cause of the evolution, they are similarly unobservant of the multitudinous facts which can not rationally be ascribed to that cause; and turn deaf ears to those who would draw their attention to them. The attitude is the same; it is only the creed which has changed.

But, as above implied, though the protest of the Duke of Argyll against this attitude is quite justifiable, it seems to me that many of his statements cannot be sustained. Some of these concern me personally, and others are of impersonal concern. I propose to deal with them in the order in which they occur.

On page 144[2] the Duke of Argyll quotes me as omitting "for the present any consideration of a factor which may be distinguished as primordial"; and he represents me as implying by this "that Darwin's ultimate conception of some primordial ’breathing of the breath of life" is a conception which can only be omitted 'for the present.' Even had there been no other obvious interpretation, it would have been a somewhat rash assumption that this was my meaning when referring to an omit-

  1. See "Popular Science Monthly" for May, 1888,
  2. "Popular Science Monthly," vol. xxxiii, p. 67.