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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/65

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A GREAT CONFESSION.

A GREAT CONFESSION.
By THE DUKE OF ARGYLL.

AMONG the many distinguished men who have contributed to the world's plebiscite in favor of the Darwinian hypothesis on the origin of species, there is no one name more distinguished than that of Mr. Herbert Spencer. He has pursued the idea of development with wonderful ingenuity through not a few of its thousand ramifications. He has carried it into philosophy and metaphysics. He has clothed it in numerous and subtle forms of speech, appealing to various faculties, and offering to each its appropriate objects of recognition. He is the author of that other phrase, "the survival of the fittest," which has almost superseded Darwin's own original phrase of "natural selection." Nothing could be happier than this invention for the purpose of giving vogue to whatever it might be supposed to mean. There is a roundness, neatness, and compactness about it, which imparts to it all the qualities of a projectile with immense penetrating power. It is a signal illustration of itself. It is the fittest of all phrases to survive. There is a sense of self-evident truth about it which fills us with satisfaction. It may perhaps be suspected sometimes of being a perfect specimen of the knowledge that puffeth up, because there is a suggestion about it—not easily dismissed—that it is tautological. The survival of the fittest may be translated into the survival of that which does actually survive. But the special power of it lies in this, that it sounds as if it expressed a true physical cause. It gets rid of that detestable reference to the analogies of mind which are inseparably associated with the phrase of natural selection. It is the great object of all true science—as some think—to eliminate these, and if possible to abolish them. Survival of the fittest seems to tell us not only of that which is, but of that which must be. It breathes the very air of necessity and of demonstration. Among the influences which have tended to popularize the Darwinian hypothesis, and to give it the imposing air of a complete and satisfactory explanation of all phenomena, it may well be doubted whether anything has been more powerful than the universal currency of this simple formula of expression.

Such is the authority who has lately contributed to this Review two papers upon "The Factors in Organic Evolution." The very title is significant. The survival of the fittest is a cause which after all does not stand alone. It is not so complete as it has been assumed to be. There are in organic evolution