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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/334

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the eye of the Eternal Being, who sees all things in one connected whole, it may be that the form of the ice-particle, as it is generated, and that of the snowflake that is formed upon it, may have an analogous resemblance to the formation of the embryo in the womb. We can therefore accept it as a general law that, the nearer they approach man, the more do all creatures resemble him in their essential form; and that Nature, amid the infinite variety which she loves, seems to have fashioned all the living things upon our earth after a single original model (Hauptplasma) of organization" (Bk. II., ch. 4).[1] Herder had also learned from the comparative anatomists that it is a corollary to this similarity of structure that organs which function usefully in certain species appear also in other species where they have little or no apparent use or function; in other words, he knew of the existence of vestigial and rudimentary organs. "What Nature had given to one animal as a merely accessory feature (Nebenwerk) she has developed into an essential feature in another; she brings it intc plain view, enlarges it, and makes the other organs—though still in perfect harmony—subservient to it. Elsewhere again these subordinate parts predominate; and all organized beings appear as so many disjecti membra poetæ. He who would study them must study one in another; where an organ appears neglected or concealed, let him turn to some other creature in which Nature has perfected and plainly displayed it" (loc. cit.).

3. Herder had further learned from Buffon that, within the limits of the specific type, a species may vary widely under differing climatic influences. 'Those species that inhabit nearly all parts of the globe, are differently formed in almost every climate' etc. (Bk. II., ch. 3).

4. The author of the 'Ideen' also recognized, and frequently dilated upon, that fact in nature which later suggested the specifically Darwinian form of the theory of descent—the fact, namely, that nature turns out more aspirants for life than she can provide with the means of living, and that there results from this situation a universal struggle for existence between species and between individuals. Herder had, in fact, been profoundly impressed by the way in which the lifeprocesses of nature seem to be the expression merely of a blind, striving Wille zum Leben (in the language of a later school), careless of the single life, tending only to the production of the greatest possible number of living beings, each of them competing with all the others. The discovery of this impressive and sinister aspect of nature was, certainly, the main source, alike of the most important scientific hypothesis


  1. This passage is given in part in 'From the Greeks to Darwin'—being the only citation from Herder there given; but the translation is singularly inaccurate, and in one place makes Herder appear to say the opposite of his real meaning.