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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/832

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

never been quite able to comprehend how this view, even if established, militates against the transmissibility of acquired modification; for, whatever theory of heredity we adopt, it shows us rather the manner of the transmission, and therefore confirms its possibility. But the fact of such transmissibility rests neither on embryological nor theoretical grounds. It is a fact so fully demonstrated in the history of our domestic animals and the history of agriculture, that the skepticism of some of our great naturalists and embryologists must be attributed to that ignorance of the farmers' commonest experiences which is, unfortunately, a too frequent attribute of the city-trained investigator. Darwin in the beginning, and while the importance of natural selection was growing in his mind, allowed little importance to use and disuse, for the same reason that he subordinated external agencies; viz., that, in proportion as it acts on masses simultaneously, it must diminish the importance of natural selection. Yet he allowed more weight to it toward the end, and has furnished some of the best evidence drawn from domestic animals of the transmission of acquired characters affecting the dermal, muscular, osseous, and nervous systems. Spencer has shown that inheritance of functional modification is most easily observed and experimentally proved in those parts which admit of easy observation and comparison, as the dermal covering and the bones; and that they for the most part are beyond these tests in the muscular and nervous systems. Yet he logically concludes:

"Considering that unquestionably the modification of structure by function is a vera causa, in so far as concerns the individual; and considering the number of facts which so competent an observer as Mr. Darwin regarded as evidence that transmission of such modifications takes place in particular cases; the hypothesis that such transmission takes place in conformity with a general law, holding of all active structures, should, I think, be regarded as at least a good working hypothesis."

So far as entomology bears evidence, it confirms the fact that modifications of structure due to use or disuse on the part of the individual may be and are transmitted. These are easily observed in the exo-skeleton, and, while the experimental proof is yet limited, it is not wanting, especially in the history of apiculture. Excessive use of any organ will develop or enlarge it at the expense of other organs, just as disuse will cause a diminution or atrophy thereof. The variation in the individual will be within limits, but, when once the variation has set in, the tendency is always to an increased variation in the same direction in the descendants, especially if they continue the same use or disuse. Here, again, however, it is difficult to separate the modification due to individual effort, or want of effort, and the more general