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- Darwiniana - 1/54 -


Branko Collin, Carlo Traverso, Charles Franks and the Distributed Proofreading Team.

This file was produced from images generously made available by the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF/Gallica) at http://gallica.bnf.fr.

Thomas Henry Huxley

Collected Essays

(1893-1894)

Vol. II

Darwiniana

(Edition: published in 1893)

PREFACE

I have entitled this volume "Darwiniana" because the pieces republished in it either treat of the ancient doctrine of Evolution, rehabilitated and placed upon a sound scientific foundation, since and in consequence of, the publication of the "Origin of Species;" or they attempt to meet the more weighty of the unsparing criticisms with which that great work was visited for several years after its appearance; or they record the impression left by the personality of Mr. Darwin on one who had the privilege and the happiness of enjoying his friendship for some thirty years; or they endeavour to sum up his work and indicate its enduring influence on the course of scientific thought.

Those who take the trouble to read the first two essays, published in 1859 and 1860, will, I think, do me the justice to admit that my zeal to secure fair play for Mr. Darwin, did not drive me into the position of a mere advocate; and that, while doing justice to the greatness of the argument I did not fail to indicate its weak points. I have never seen any reason for departing from the position which I took up in these two essays; and the assertion which I sometimes meet with nowadays, that I have "recanted" or changed my opinions about Mr. Darwin's views, is quite unintelligible to me.

As I have said in the seventh essay, the fact of evolution is to my mind sufficiently evidenced by palaeontology; and I remain of the opinion expressed in the second, that until selective breeding is definitely proved to give rise to varieties infertile with one another, the logical foundation of the theory of natural selection is incomplete. We still remain very much in the dark about the causes of variation; the apparent inheritance of acquired characters in some cases; and the struggle for existence within the organism, which probably lies at the bottom of both of these phenomena.

Some apology is due to the reader for the reproduction of the "Lectures to Working Men" in their original state. They were taken down in shorthand by Mr. J. Aldous Mays, who requested me to allow him to print them. I was very much pressed with work at the time; and, as I could not revise the reports, which I imagined, moreover, would be of little or no interest to any but my auditors, I stipulated that a notice should be prefixed to that effect. This was done; but it did not prevent a considerable diffusion of the little book in this country and in the United States, nor its translation into more than one foreign language. Moreover Mr. Darwin often urged me to revise and expand the lectures into a systematic popular exposition of the topics of which they treat. I have more than once set about the task: but the proverb about spoiling a horn and not making a spoon, is particularly applicable to attempts to remodel a piece of work which may have served its immediate purpose well enough.

So I have reprinted the lectures as they stand, with all their imperfections on their heads. It would seem that many people must have found them useful thirty years ago; and, though the sixties appear now to be reckoned by many of the rising generation as a part of the dark ages, I am not without some grounds for suspecting that there yet remains a fair sprinkling even of "philosophic thinkers" to whom it may be a profitable, perhaps even a novel, task to descend from the heights of speculation and go over the A B C of the great biological problem as it was set before a body of shrewd artisans at that remote epoch.

T. H. H.

Hodeslea, Eastbourne, _April 7th_, 1893.

CONTENTS

I THE DARWINIAN HYPOTHESIS [1859]

II THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES [1860]

III CRITICISM ON "THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES" [1864]

IV THE GENEALOGY OF ANIMALS [1869]

V MR. DARWIN'S CRITICS [1871]

VI EVOLUTION IN BIOLOGY [1878]

VII THE COMING OF AGE OF "THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES" [1880]

VIII CHARLES DARWIN [1882]

IX THE DARWIN MEMORIAL [1885]

X OBITUARY [1888]

XI SIX LECTURES TO WORKING MEN "ON OUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE CAUSES OF THE PHENOMENA OF ORGANIC NATURE" [1863]

I

THE DARWINIAN HYPOTHESIS

[1859]

The hypothesis of which the present work of Mr. Darwin is but the preliminary outline, may be stated in his own language as follows:-- "Species originated by means of natural selection, or through the preservation of the favoured races in the struggle for life." To render this thesis intelligible, it is necessary to interpret its terms. In the first place, what is a species? The question is a simple one, but the right answer to it is hard to find, even if we appeal to those who should know most about it. It is all those animals or plants which have descended from a single pair of parents; it is the smallest distinctly definable group of living organisms; it is an eternal and immutable entity; it is a mere abstraction of the human intellect having no existence in nature. Such are a few of the significations attached to this simple word which may be culled from authoritative sources; and if, leaving terms and theoretical subtleties aside, we turn to facts and endeavour to gather a meaning for ourselves, by studying the things to which, in practice, the name of species is applied, it profits us little. For practice varies as much as theory. Let two botanists or two zoologists examine and describe the productions of a country, and one will pretty certainly disagree with the other as to the number, limits, and definitions of the species into which he groups the very same things. In these islands, we are in the habit of regarding mankind as of one species, but a fortnight's steam will land us in a country where divines and savants, for once in agreement, vie with one another in loudness of assertion, if not in cogency of proof, that men are of different species; and, more particularly, that the species negro is so distinct from our own that the Ten Commandments have actually no reference to him. Even in the calm region of entomology, where, if anywhere in this sinful world, passion and prejudice should fail to stir the mind, one learned coleopterist will fill ten attractive volumes with descriptions of species of beetles, nine-tenths of which are immediately declared by his brother beetle-mongers to be no species at all.

The truth is that the number of distinguishable living creatures almost surpasses imagination. At least 100,000 such kinds of insects alone have been described and may be identified in collections, and the number of separable kinds of living things is under-estimated at half a million. Seeing that most of these obvious kinds have their accidental varieties, and that they often shade into others by imperceptible degrees, it may well be imagined that the task of distinguishing between what is permanent and what fleeting, what is a species and what a mere variety, is sufficiently formidable.

But is it not possible to apply a test whereby a true species may be known from a mere variety? Is there no criterion of species? Great authorities affirm that there is--that the unions of members of the same species are always fertile, while those of distinct species are either sterile, or their offspring, called hybrids, are so. It is affirmed not only that this is an experimental fact, but that it is a provision for the preservation of the purity of species. Such a criterion as this would be invaluable; but, unfortunately, not only is it not obvious how to apply it in the great majority of cases in which its aid is needed, but its general validity is stoutly denied. The Hon. and Rev. Mr. Herbert, a most trustworthy authority, not only asserts as the result of his own observations and experiments that many hybrids are quite as fertile as the parent species, but he goes so far as to assert that the particular plant _Crinum capense_ is much more fertile when crossed by a distinct species than when fertilised by its proper pollen! On the other hand, the famous Gaertner, though he took the greatest pains to cross the Primrose and the Cowslip, succeeded only once or twice in several years; and yet it is a well-established fact that the Primrose and the Cowslip are only varieties of the same kind of plant. Again, such cases as the following are well established. The female of species A, if crossed with the male of species B, is fertile; but, if the female of B is crossed with the male of A, she remains barren. Facts of this kind destroy the value of the supposed criterion.

If, weary of the endless difficulties involved in the determination of species, the investigator, contenting himself with the rough practical distinction of separable kinds, endeavours to study them as they occur in


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