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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/502

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

2. It deals only with variations useful to the organism in its struggle for existence, and can exert no power in fixing the endless number of what, from present knowledge, we are obliged to consider fortuitous characters. It can not perpetuate useless organs; nor those of a vestigiary or obsolescent character.[1]

Even with these restrictions, the principle is far-reaching and profoundly important; but it quite fails to account for many of the most interesting manifestations of life that are obviously not necessary or life-preserving, of which many will occur to every one, such as, among lower organisms, many superficial details of structure; or, as among higher organisms, odd habits and customs, playful instincts, ethical traits, etc. Its limitations must be narrowed. in proportion as we come to understand the other laws of modification and the causes of variation in masses. Let us briefly consider some of these causes.

We soon find that they admit of a certain amount of classification, the minor divisions of which, as in all systems of classification, more or less fully interlock or blend. They fall, however, into two chief categories, viz., (1) external conditions or environment, which are, at bottom, physical, and (2) internal tendencies or promptings, which are, at bottom, psychical. We shall also realize more fully that there is good reason for the varying importance which has been placed on natural selection because it represents a broad principle, based on the outcome of both these categories, but particularly of the latter. Its value is not a fixed one, and must needs change with the increase of exact knowledge of the other factors, and did in fact change in the mind of its originator. We shall further find that there are laws of evolution which permit of formulation and expression, and which have influenced or controlled the mode of variation, but which must not be confounded with or included among the causes of the variation proper, though here, again, the line between the two kinds of factors is not always easily defined.

The conditions of organic modification may, therefore, roughly be classed as (A) external and (B) internal, and these may be almost indefinitely subdivided. The former class includes (]) physical and (2) chemical forces, and in a broad way may be said to induce modification independently of natural selection, however much this may act with them as a secondary cause. Certain prominent features of the physical forces are worthy of mention: as light, temperature, water (stagnant, or in motion), climate (under which term may be included meteorologic phenomena, as electricity, atmospheric pressure, etc.), mechanics (gravitation, wind, stress, friction, etc.) and geographies (migration, isolation, etc.).

  1. In the literature of evolution, those are usually termed rudimentary, but, strictly speaking, this term should be applied only to nascent or incipient structures.