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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/527

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we are used to be led from the known to the unknown, from the half-perceived to the proven, the expectation of one year becoming the certainty of the next. It will aid appreciation of the change coming over evolutionary science if it be realized that the new knowledge of heredity and variation rather replaces than extends current ideas on those subjects.

Convention requires that a president should declare all well in his science; but I can not think it a symptom indicative of much health in our body that the task of assimilating the new knowledge has proved so difficult. An eminent foreign professor lately told me that he believed there were not half a dozen in his country conversant with what may be called Mendelism, though he added hopefully, 'I find these things interest my students more than my colleagues.' A professed biologist can not afford to ignore a new life history, the Okapi, or the other last new version of the old story; but phenomena which put new interpretations on the whole, facts witnessed continually by all who are working in these fields, he may conveniently disregard as matters of opinion. Had a discovery comparable in magnitude with that of Mendel been announced in physics or in chemistry, it would at once have been repeated and extended in every great scientific school throughout the world. We could come to a British Association audience to discuss the details of our subject—the polymorphism of extracted types, the physiological meaning of segregation, its applicability to the case of sex, the nature of non-segregable characters, and like problems with which we are now dealing—sure of finding sound and helpful criticism, nor would it be necessary on each occasion to begin with a popular presentation of the rudiments. This state of things in a progressive science has arisen, as I think, from a loss of touch with the main line of inquiry. The successes of descriptive zoology are so palpable and so attractive, that, not unnaturally, these which are the means of progress have been mistaken for the end. But now that the survey of terrestrial types by existing methods is happily approaching completion, we may hope that our science will return to its proper task, the detection of the fundamental nature of living things. I say return, because, in spite of that perfecting of the instruments of research characteristic of our time, and an extension of the area of scrutiny, the last generation was nearer the main quest. No one can study the history of biology without perceiving that in some essential respects the spirit of the naturalists of fifty years ago was truer in aim, and that their methods of inquiry were more direct and more fertile—so far, at least, as the problem of evolution is concerned—than those which have replaced them.

If we study the researches begun by Kölreuter and continued with great vigor till the middle of the sixties, we can not fail to see that, had the experiments he and' his successors undertook been continued