kind to breed with horses. "One was therefore wrong formerly in maintaining that mules are absolutely infertile." Other experiments in the crossing of goats and sheep, dogs and wolves, canaries and goldfinches, are recited; they all go to show that sterility is merely a question of degree.
All hybrids (mulets), says prejudice, are vitiated animals which can not produce offspring. No animal, say reason and experience, is absolutely infertile, even though its parents were of separate species. On the contrary, all are capable of reproduction, and the only difference is a difference of more or less.
That hybrids are relatively infertile, and probably incapable of breeding with one another, Buffon still maintains; "their infecundity, without being absolute, may still be regarded as a positive fact." Something, therefore, is still left of his test of unity of species. But now that it seemed to be reduced to a mere difference in degree, it was no longer the sharp-cut, decisive, impressive thing that it had at first appeared. And, feeling that his criterion of species had a good deal weakened, Buffon was led—not, indeed, even now to an altogether unequivocal affirmation of the descent of real species from one another—but to a confused, half-agnostic utterance, in which he seems to take at least the possibility of such descent for granted:
This passage certainly indicates a strong inclination towards an acceptance of a thorough-going doctrine of descent; yet in Butler's lengthy compilation of the evidences of Buffon's evolutionism it is not cited at all! The volume containing it, says Butler, offers "little which throws additional light upon Buffon's opinion concerning the mutability of species"! In truth, it offers one of the best of the
- Supp., III., p. 20; the italics are Buffon's.
- Supp., III., 1776, pp. 32-33.
- "Evolution Old and New," p. 165.