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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/529

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HEREDITY AND EVOLUTION.

From this, at least, the earlier experimenters were free; and the undertakings of Gärtner and his contemporaries were informed by the true conception that the properties and behavior of species were themselves specific. Free from the later fancy that but for selection the forms of animals and plants would be continuous and indeterminate, they recognized the definiteness of species and variety, and boldly set themselves to work out case by case the manifestations and consequences of that definiteness.

Over this work of minute and largely experimental analysis, rapidly growing, the new doctrine that organisms are mere conglomerates of adaptative devices descended like a numbing spell. By an easy confusion of thought, faith in the physiological definiteness of species and variety passed under the common ban which had at last exorcised the demon immutability. Henceforth no naturalist must hold communion with either, on pain of condemnation as an apostate, a danger to the dynasty of selection. From this oppression we in England, at least, are scarcely beginning to emerge. Bentham's 'Flora' teaching very positively that the primrose, the cowslip, and the oxlip are impermanent varieties of one species, is in the hand of every beginner, while the British Museum reading-room finds it unnecessary to procure Gärtner's 'Bastarderzeugung.'

And so this mass of specific learning has passed out of account. The evidence of the collector, the horticulturist, the breeder, the fancier, has been treated with neglect, and sometimes, I fear, with contempt. That' wide field whence Darwin drew his wonderful store of facts has been some forty years untouched. Speak to professional zoologists of any breeder's matter, and how many will not intimate to you politely that fanciers are unscientific persons, and their concerns beneath notice? For the concrete in evolution we are offered the abstract. Our philosophers debate with great fluency whether between imaginary races sterility could grow up by an imaginary selection; whether selection working upon hypothetical materials could produce sexual differentiation; how under a system of natural selection bodily symmetry may have been impressed on formless protoplasm—that monstrous figment of the mind, fit starting-point for such discussions. But by a physiological irony enthusiasm for these topics is sometimes fully correlated with indifference even to the classical illustrations; and for many whose minds are attracted by the abstract problem of interracial sterility there are few who can name for certain ten cases in which it has been already observed.

And yet in the natural world, in the collecting-box, the seed-bed, the poultry-yard, the places where variation, heredity, selection, may be seen in operation and their properties tested, answers to these questions meet us at every turn—fragmentary answers, it is true, but each direct to the point. For if any one will stoop to examine nature in