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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/333

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SOME EIGHTEENTH CENTURY EVOLUTIONISTS.

order that higher beings may be nourished thereby. Even if one wholly disregards the final causes of the creation, yet even in the very raw material of Nature there lies the necessity that one being should come out of many, that in the revolving cycle of creation countless multitudes should be destroyed so that through this destruction a nobler but less numerous race might come into being" (Bk. X., ch. 2). "Man, therefore, if he was to possess the earth and be lord of the creation, must find his kingdom and his dwelling-place made ready; necessarily therefore, he must have appeared later and in smaller numbers than those over whom he was to rule" (ibid.). Most of this Herder might have got from Buffon; and there is obviously nothing in these passages which necessarily implies the mutability of species, nothing which is inconsistent with the doctrine of special but gradual creation. Nor is there even in such a passage as this: "From air and water, from heights and depths, I see the animals coming nearer to man, and step by step approximating his form. The bird flies in the air; every deviation of its structure from that of the quadruped is explicable from its element. The fish swims in the water: its feet and hands are transformed into tail and fins," etc. (Bk. II., ch. 3). If Herder had not elsewhere seemed to deny such a theory, we might at first sight be disposed to construe this passage as an assertion of the literal transformation of species—a Lamarckian sort of transformation, due to the adaptation of organs to needs. But when the words are closely scrutinized it is evident that they require no such interpretation. They say no more than that animals came into being in a progressive order in which the human type was steadily approximated, and in which each form was adapted to its environment.

2. In this connection, Herder liked to dwell upon the homologies of form and structure observable in all vertebrates, and indeed, as he thought, in all creatures, even those that are outwardly most dissimilar. There is a certain Hauptform or Hauptplasma in which the whole animal kingdom agrees. "It is undeniable that, amid all the differences of the living beings on the earth, a certain uniformity of structure and, as it were, a standard form, appears to prevail, which yet is transformed into the richest diversity. The similarity of the skeletal structure of land animals is obvious; . . . the inner structure makes the thing especially evident, and many outwardly uncouth forms are in the essentials of their internal anatomy exceedingly like man. The amphibia deviate farther from this standard; birds, fishes, insects, aquatic animals—the last of which merge in the vegetal or inorganic world—deviate still farther. Beyond this our eyes can not penetrate; but these transitions render it not improbable that in marine forms, plants, and even in the so-called inanimate things the same basis of organization may rule, though infinitely more rude and confused. In