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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 51.djvu/423

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

Editor's Table.

 

THE DUKE OF ARGYLL ON EVOLUTION.

THE Duke of Argyll is a writer who finds it very hard to reconcile himself to the doctrine of evolution in the only form in which it can ever prove satisfactory to the scientific world. He believes in evolution, or, as he prefers to call it. development; but he wants to have it in a shape to suit himself, with little touches of special creation thrown in here and there, to ease off the difficult places and keep in touch with older modes of thought. He has lately returned to the subject in an article in The Nineteenth Century, some of the observations in which seem to us deserving of attention.

In the first place, we have the complaint that "the very word 'development' was captured by the Darwinian school as if it belonged to them alone, and the old familiar idea was identified with theories with which it had no connection whatever." The fact is that, if the Darwinian school captured the word development, it was not so much the result of a freebooting raid on their part as of the complete abandonment and rejection of the idea of development, in all that related to the origin of species, on the part of that orthodox school to which the duke gives so much sympathy. As his Lordship remarks, the facts of development had long been conspicuous in embryonic growth and in the production of plants from seeds; and yet when the idea was broached that one species might have been "developed" out of another, or that the work of creation could have proceeded otherwise than by a succession of special divine fiats, the whole orthodox world was up in arms. The "facts" of development, in spite of the "familiarity" on which the duke lays stress, had really done nothing to modify popular conception on this subject; on the contrary, opinion in the age just preceding Darwin was less enlightened by far than had been the views of many early thinkers, including that rigid doctrinarian St. Augustine. The idea of development, as applied to the origin of species, was, we may therefore say, forced upon an unwilling world by Darwin; and it is no wonder, consequently, if to some extent the idea became identified in the public mind with the Darwinian theory.

We can not agree with the duke in his criticism of the term "natural selection." The question is not how the term has been understood by careless or ignorant people, because such will always make a bungle of things, but whether it has concealed any false implications for those who have made a thoughtful use of it. The duke says that "it resorted to the old, old Lucretian expedient of personifying Nature and lending the glamour of that personification to the agency of bare mechanical necessity and to the coincidences of mere fortuity." We doubt whether, in the minds of serious thinkers, such a "glamour" ever attached to the term. On the contrary, we are persuaded that to such it suggested nothing beyond a kind of automatic movement in Nature by which the adaptation of organisms to their cosmic surroundings became ever closer and closer. His Lordship says that Darwin was led to the phrase "by