Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/189

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RECEPTION OF THE 'ORIGIN OF SPECIES'.

PROFESSOR AGASSIZ ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES.[1]

Since the arguments presented by Darwin in favor of a universal derivation from one primary form, of all the peculiarities existing now among living beings have not made the slightest impression on my mind, nor modified in any way the views I have already propounded, I may fairly refer the reader to the paragraphs alluded to above as containing sufficient evidence of their correctness, and I will here only add a single argument, which seems to leave the question where I have placed it.

It seems to me that there is much confusion of ideas in the general statement of the variability of species so often repeated lately. If species do not exist at all, as the supporters of the transmutation theory maintain, how can they vary? and if individuals alone exist, how can the differences which may be observed among them prove the variability of species? The fact seems to me to be that while species are based upon definite relations among individuals which differ in various ways among themselves, each individual, as a distinct being, has a definite course to run from the time of its first formation to the end of its existence, during which it never loses its identity nor changes its individuality, nor its relations to other individuals belonging to the same species, but preserves all the categories of relationship which constitute specific or generic or family affinity, or any other kind or degree of affinity. To prove that species vary it should be proved that individuals born from common ancestors change the different categories of relationship which they bore primitively to one another. While all that has thus far been shown is, that there exists a considerable difference among individuals of one and the same species. This may be new to those who have looked upon every individual picked up at random, as affording the means of describing satisfactorily any species; but no naturalist who has studied carefully any of the species now best known, can have failed to perceive that it requires extensive series of specimens accurately to describe a species, and that the more complete such series are, the more precise appear the limits which separate species. Surely the aim of science cannot be to furnish amateur zoölogists or collectors a recipe for a ready identification of any chance specimen that may fall into their hands. And the difficulties with which we may meet in attempting to characterize species do not afford the first indication that species do not exist at all, as long as most of them can be distinguished, as such, almost at first sight. I foresee that some convert to the transmutation creed will at once object that the facility with which species may be distinguished is no evidence that they were not derived from other species. It may be so.


  1. From a review in 'The American Journal of Science and Arts,' July, 1860.