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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/528

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

on the same lines, we should.by now have advanced far into the unknown. More than this: if a knowledge of what those men actually accomplished had not passed away from the memory of our generation, we should now be able to appeal to an informed public mind, having some practical acquaintance with the phenomena, and possessing sufficient experience of these matters to recognize absurdity in statement and deduction, ready to provide that healthy atmosphere of instructed criticism most friendly to the growth of truth.

Elsewhere I have noted the paradox that the appearance of the work of Darwin, which crowns the great period in the study of the phenomena of species, was the signal for a general halt. The 'Origin, of Species,' the treatise which for the first time brought the problem of species fairly within the range of human intelligence, so influenced the course of scientific thought that the study of this particular phenomenon—specific difference—almost entirely ceased. That this was largely due to the simultaneous opening up of lines of research in many other directions may be granted; but in greater measure, I believe, it is to be ascribed to the substitution of a conception of species which, with all the elements of truth it contains, is yet barren and unnatural. It is not wonderful that those who held that specific difference must be a phenomenon of slowest accumulation, proceeding by steps needing generations for their perception, should turn their attention to subjects deemed more amenable to human enterprise.

The indiscriminate confounding of all divergences from type into one heterogeneous heap under the name 'Variation' effectually concealed those features of order which the phenomena severally present, creating an enduring obstacle to the progress of evolutionary science. Specific normality and distinctness being regarded as an accidental product of exigency, it was thought safe to treat departures from such normality as comparable differences: all were 'variations' alike. Let us illustrate the consequences. Princess of Wales is a large modern violet, single, with stalks a foot long or more. Marie Louise is another, with large double flowers, pale color, short stalks, peculiar scent, leaf, etc. We call these 'varieties,' and we speak of the various fixed differences between these two, and between them and wild odorata, as due to variation; and, again, the transient differences between the same odorata in poor, dry soil, or in a rich hedge-bank, we call variation, using but the one term for differences, quantitative or qualitative, permanent or transitory, in size, number of parts, chemistry, and the rest. We might as well use one term to denote the differences between a bar of silver, a stick of lunar caustic, a shilling or a teaspoon. No wonder that the ignorant tell us they can find no order in variation.

This prodigious confusion, which has spread obscurity over every part of these inquiries, is traceable to the original misconception of the nature of specific difference, as a thing imposed and not inherent.