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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/833

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ON THE CAUSES OF VARIATION.

modification affecting the mass of individuals of a species through the environment; because the environment affects function, and function in its turn affects form and structure. The life of every individual furnishes an excellent illustration of new action and new uses for organs not previously used, in the striking and sudden employment of post-natal organs, both of respiration and nourishment, which pre-natally had no corresponding action. Romanes has argued that cessation of selection may reduce an organ where use or disuse can have no play, as in the loss of wings in neuter ants; and that by the law of compensation an organ may even be increased, as in the heads of such neuters. He enforces the idea by exampling the blind crabs of our Kentucky caves, where the complex eyes rapidly disappear under cessation of selection, but where the persistence of the foot-stalks indicates that economy of nutrition could have had little play! It is difficult, however, to draw the line between this cause and Lankester's reversal of natural selection; and still more difficult to say wherein either differs from mere disuse.

Degeneration, which has been urged as the true explanation of many of the existing forms of life, is, it seems to me, but a consequence of disuse, and would, therefore, fall into the present category, among causes of variation.

Emotion as affecting the Individual.—I have here considered the factor of use and disuse as a direct cause of variation, from the psychical rather than the physical standpoint—i.e., individual or conscious effort as furnishing food for natural selection, among more highly endowed animals, rather than as effort by species as a whole necessitated by physical conditions, and inducing modification in masses irrespective of selection. This leads us to the consideration of mind as a factor in evolution, and we shall soon see its importance as a fundamental cause of differentiation, among higher organisms at least. I am not sure, even, that its influence can be excluded from among lower animals, however much we may have to exclude its action in so far as plants are concerned; for any new functional effort inducing new use may be looked upon as conscious and intelligent as compared with use fixed by habit and lapsed into automatic action or instinct. The former typifies variability and progress; the latter constancy and stability.

Mind is a comprehensive cause of variation, and may be considered under several categories. We have, for instance, (1) the action of the mind of the individual in willing, or in selecting between differing alternatives that present themselves, as in the choice of means to ends; (2) the direct influence of the emotions on the individual; and (3) the influence of the emotions of the mother on her unborn offspring.