Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/47

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43
KANT AND EVOLUTION
kinds of future conditions by means of hidden inner predispositions, by the help of which they may maintain themselves and be adapted to diversities of climate or soil, is truly marvelous. It gives rise, in the course of the migration and change of environment of animals and plants, to what seem to be new species; but these are nothing more than races of the same species, the germs and natural predispositions for which (deren Keime und natürliche Anlagen) have developed themselves in different ways as occasion arose in the course of long ages.[1]

Kant's conception of the "grounds" for the existence of these Anlagen is manifestly teleological in the most naïve way; the species was fitted out beforehand with distinct elements in its germ-plasm in order to furnish its later representatives against specific contingencies that had not yet arisen, and in some cases never would arise. This idea Kant elaborates in detail in the case of the skin-color of the negro; the passage is so delightful a combination of teleological "explanation" and phlogistic chemistry[2] that it deserves to be quoted:

The presence of purposiveness in an organism is the general ground from which we infer an original preparation in the nature of a living being, having this [purpose] in view, and—if the purpose is only later fulfilled—infer the existence of duly furnished germs. Now, this purposiveness can be in no race so clearly shown as in the negro. . . . It is already known that human blood turns black simply through becoming overcharged with phlogiston (as may be seen from the under side of a cake of blood). Now the strong odor of the negro, which can not be removed by any degree of cleanliness, already leads us to surmise that his skin eliminates a great deal of phlogiston from the blood, and that Nature must have so organized his skin that it is capable, in much greater degree than is ours, of dephlogisticating the blood—this being, with us, accomplished chiefly by the lungs. But the true negroes live in lands where the air, because of the thickness of the trees and the marshiness of the surroundings, is so heavily phlogisticated that, according to Lind's account, English sailors run the risk of death from this cause when they ascend the river Gambia even for a single day, for the purpose of procuring meat. It was, therefore, a very wise arrangement of Nature so to organize the skin of the negroes that their blood, even if the lungs do not sufficiently eliminate phlogiston, is yet far more thoroughly dephlogisticated than ours. Their blood must therefore deposit a great deal of phlogiston in the ends of the arteries, so that at this place—that is to say, just under the skin—it shows through as black, though in the interior of the body it is red enough.

Such, then, are reasons why our African brother is black and has a distinctive odor.

Kant's principles of the fixity of the specific type and the essential unmodifiability of the "reproductive faculty" imply that the diverse heritable and adaptive characters of what he calls "varieties," no less than those of races, preexist in the species ready-made from the outset, in the form of special "germs" or Anlagen. In writing the "Physical Geography" and the "Conception of Race" Kant does not seem to have

  1. Cited from the "Physical Geography."
  2. Kant was, of course, by no means abreast of the best chemistry of his time. The passage cited was published two years after Lavoisier's direct and decisive refutation of the phlogiston theory.