Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/502

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"afford a glaring example of taking the unessential in place of the essential, and drawing conclusions from a partial and altogether insufficient survey of the phenomena. For this 'tactual discriminativeness,' which is alone dealt with by Mr. Spencer, forms the least important, and probably only an incidental portion of the great vital phenomenon of skin-sensitiveness, which is at once the watchman and the shield of the organism against imminent external dangers" (Fortnightly Review, April, 1893, p. 497).

Here Mr. Wallace assumes it to be self-evident that skin-sensitiveness is due to natural selection, and assumes that this must be admitted by me. He supposes it is only the unequal distribution of skin-discriminativeness which I contend is not thus accounted for. But I deny that either the general sensitiveness or the special sensitiveness results from natural selection; and I have years ago justified the first disbelief, as I have recently the second. In The Factors of Organic Evolution, pp. 66-70, I have given various reasons for inferring that the genesis of the nervous system can not be due to survival of the fittest; but that it is due to the direct effects of converse between the surface and the environment; and that thus only is to be explained the strange fact that the nervous centers are originally superficial, and migrate inward during development. These conclusions I have, in the essay Mr. Wallace criticises, upheld by the evidence which blind boys and skilled compositors furnish; proving, as this does, that increased nervous development is peripherally initiated. Mr. Wallace's belief that skin-sensitiveness arose by natural selection is unsupported by a single fact. He assumes that it must have been so produced because it is all-important to self-preservation. My belief that it is directly initiated by converse with the environment is supported by facts; and I have given proof that the assigned cause is now in operation. Am I called upon to abandon my own supported belief and accept Mr. Wallace's unsupported belief? I think not. Referring to my argument concerning blind cave animals, Prof. Lankester, in Nature of February 3, 1893, writes:

"Mr. Spencer shows that the saving of ponderable material in the suppression of an eye is but a small economy: he loses sight of the fact, however, that possibly, or even probably, the saving of the organism in the reduction of an eye to a rudimentary state is not to be measured by mere bulk, but by the non-expenditure of special materials and special activities which are concerned in the production of an organ so peculiar and elaborate as is the vertebrate eye."

It seems to me that a supposition is here made to do duty as a fact; and that I might with equal propriety say that "possibly, or even probably," the vertebrate eye is physiologically cheap: its optical part, constituting nearly its whole bulk, consisting of a low order of tissue. There is, indeed, strong reason for considering it physiologically cheap. If any one remembers how relatively enormous are the eyes of a fish just out of the egg—a pair of eyes