Page images


From The Contemporary Review. which turns the origin of Species, and the ON VARIETY AS AN AIM IN NATURE. whole system on which Organic Life has

been developed from the lowest to the

highest forms. It is – according to him IN No. 2, Vol. I. of the Journal of Travel - out of the accidental variations which there was an article by Mr. Wallace, ap- have been perpetually arising that certain plying the Darwinian theory of Natural varieties have been ""selected,” because Selection to the architecture of Birds, and of these being the fittest to survive. But professing to explain thereby the varieties these variations must happen before they and peculiarities in the structures of can be "selected.” And so, Mr. Darwin nests.

has been led to accumulate a mass of eriAs that explanation appeared to me al- dence to show that an inherent tendency together fanciful and erroneous, I con- to variation is a great general law of funtributed to the same Journal* a paper, in damental importance in the history of Life, which the argument of Mr. Wallace was and furnishes the only and the sufficient contested. In that paper, the following key to the rise and progress of all its passage occurs :-“ I am more and more complicated structures. convinced that variety, mere variety, must If this be so if the Law of Variation be admitted to be an object and an aim be indeed of such primary importance in in Nature; and that neither any reason the work of creation - how can it be wir. of utility nor any physical cause can al- reverent” to hold that the establishment ways be assigned for the variations of of this law has been an object and an instinct.”

aim of the Creator in the work which has Mr. Darwin, in the work just published been accomplished by it? The further upon the Descent of Man, quotes this pas-back we push the idea of a Creator, anil sage, and makes upon it the following the more we conceive his “interference coinment:-"I wish the Duke had ex- to be limited to the ordaining of “laws," plained what he here means by Nature. the more certain it becomes that in these Is it meant .that the Creator of the uni- laws at least, if anywhere, we have the verse ordained diversified results for his expression of His mind and Will. own satisfaction, or for that of man? Înto what, then, does the objection of The former notion seems to me as much Mr. Darwin really resolve itself? wanting in due reverence as the latter in There seems to me to be but one answer probability. Capriciousness of taste in to this question. The objection of Mr. Darthe birds themselves appears a more fit- win is founded on that disposition – so oli ting explanation." +

in the history of Philosophy, and now so I respond the more readily to the chal- much revived — to dismiss as “ Anthrolenge of Mr. Darwin, because the question pomorphic,” every conception of the Diwhich he puts to me, and the objection vine character and attributes which brings which he makes, involve points of the them into conceivable relation with eren highest interest in philosophy and in the the highest character and attributes of ology.

Man. This is part of the philosophy of Let me say, then, at once, that I meant Nescience, and this is the point to which precisely that which appears to him irrev- I wish to direct myself in the present erent; I meant that variety for its own

paper. sake — variety of form, of beauty, and of I am under no necessity of arguing enjoyment --- has been a purpose of the with Mr. Darwin on the existence of a Creator in His creative work. The dislike Creator. I have never thought that his which Mr. Darwin expresses to this belief special theories on the methods of creation is the more remarkable considering his are inconsistent with Theism. He himself own idea of the rank which the Law of repudiates such antagonism. “ The birth Variation takes in the methods and in the both of species and of the individual are history of creation. The inexhaustible va- equally parts of that grand sequence of riety of Nature has been indeed long ob- events which our minds refuse to accept served. As a fact it stares us in the face as the result of blind chance. The underin all the phenomena of the world. But standing revolts at such a conclusion.”. it was reserved for Mr. Darwin to fix In the passage also on which I am now upon an innate, universal tendency in all commenting, Mr. Darwin assumes the exspecies to vary, as the cardinal fact upon istence of a Creator, and assumes, more

over, that there is some standard by which * No.5, VOL. I. Part II., 230.

* " Descent of Man," Part II, p. 396.

[ocr errors]

we may judge what it is reverent and ir-, by the very nature of our own mind, it is reverent to think concerning Him. a conclusion abundantly confirmed by the

What is this standard ? Mr. Darwin relation in which our mind stands to the has asked me one question which I have an- rest of Nature - that is, to the other swered plainly. May I ask him to be good works of creation. Every hope we cherish, enough to answer that other question and every success which we attain in physiwhich I have now put and to follow me for cal investigation, depends upon the fact that a short time in certain considerations we can succeed, within certain limits, in diswhich bear upon the reply?

covering and in understanding the order of If there be a Creator, there seem to be Nature – which fact has no other meaning only two possible sources of information than this, that the laws of Nature are so from which we can derive any knowledge related to our faculties as to be recognizable of His character – one source is to be and intelligible in the light which they found in the nature and character of His supply. And the highest light which these works; the other source is to be found in faculties do supply is that by which the direct revelations from Himself, if such mind recognizes in Nature the working of exist.

a spirit like its own. Hence it is that the Looking then to the creation as the question “ what?” is ever instinctively Creator's work, the first thing to be ob- followed up by the question “how?” and served is that the highest thing in it is the this again by the final question “why ?” mind of Man. If therefore there be any In whatever degree and measure this last work in Nature which reflects any image question can be answered, in that degree of the Creator, the human mind is that only do we reach an explanation. Ilence work. Nor is there any difficulty in con- the perpetual recurrence in the descripceiving how such an image may be true tions of naturalists of those forms of exand yet be faint — how it may be real and pression which bring the phenomena they yet be distant. For nothing in the hu- describe within the conception of Purpose, man mind is more wonderful than this, and translate the facts of fitness and that it is conscious of its own liinitations. adaptation into the familiar language of The bars which we feel so much, and Design. I have already pointed out * against which we so often beat in vain, how largely Mr. Darwin has drawn on this are bars which would not be felt at all language as the fittest, if not the only unless there were something in us against language, by which the facts can be dewhich they press. It is as if these bars scribed. were a limit of Opportunity rather than a Mr. Mivart has, indeed, lately remarked, boundary of Power. It is as if we might in a very able work,s that this teleological understand immensely more than we can language is, when used by Mr. Darwin, discover - if only some one would explain purely metaphorical. But for what purit to us! There is hardly one of the pose are metaphors used? Is it not as a higher powers or faculties of our mind in means of making plain to our own underrespect of which we do not feel daily that standings the principle of things, and of we are tied and bound by the weight of tracing, amid the varieties of phenomena, our infirmities. Therefore we can have the essential unities of Nature? In this no difficulty in conceiving all our own sense, all language is full of metaphor, powers exalted to an indefinite degree. that is to say, of words which transfer and And thus it is that although all goodness, apply ideas gained in one sphere of invesand power, and knowledge, must be con- tigation to another, because there also the ceived of as we know them in ourselves, it same ideas are seen to be expressed in does not follow that they must be con- some other form. When Mr. Darwin uses ceived of according to the measure which metaphorically the language of contrivwe ourselves supply.

ance and design, he must use it as a help These considerations show, first, that as to the understanding of the facts. When, the human mind is the highest created for example, he tells us of the traps and thing of which we have any knowledge, triggers which are set in Orchids; that its conceptions of what is greatest in the they are constructed and set “in order highest degree must be founded on what that” they may catch the probosces of it knows to be greatest and highest in of Moths or the backs of Bees, he does not itself. And, secondly, that we have no mean that the plan and scheme of vegedifficulty in understanding how this Image table physiology have been explained to of the Highest may and must be faint, without being at all unreal or untrue.

Reign of Law," fifth ed., p. 39. And if this conclusion is forced upon us ' pp. 14, 15.

† " Genesis of Species," by St. George Mivart, 981



him by the Creator. He means only that things as they appear, not with things as the traps and triggers are, as a matter of they are “in themselves.” What proof fact, so set that they do catch the probosces have we that these phenomena give us any of Moths, that these do again convey real knowledge of the truth? How inthe pollen to other flowers, by which they deed is it possible that knowledge so "relare fertilized; that all this elaborate mech- ative" and so “ conditioned,” relative to a anisin is “ as if” it had been arranged “in inind so limited, and “conditioned " by order that ” these things might happen. senses which tell of nothing but sensations Exactly so; that is to say, the facts of - how can such knowledge be accepted as Nature are best brought home to, and ex- substantial ? Is is not plain that our conplaind to, the understanding by stating ceptions of creation and of the Creator are them in terms of the relation which they all mere “ Anthropomorphism ”? Is it not obviously bear to the familiar operation our own shadow that we always chasing? of the mind and spirit.

Is it not a mere bigger image of ourselves And this is the invariable result of all to which we are always bowing down? I physical inquiry. In this sense Nature is know of nothing in philosophy better calessentially Anthropomorphic. Man sees culated to disperse these morbid dreams, his own mind reflected in it — his own than to breathe the healthy air of physical not in quantity but in quality — his own investigation and discovery. Although fundamental attributes of intellect — and, here, also, the limitations of our knowl. to a wonderful degree, even his own edge continually haunt us, we gain nevermethods of operation. In particular, me- theless a triumphant sense of its certainty chanical contrivance, which he knows so and its truthfulness. Corroboration folwell, and in which he takes so much de- lows on corroboration, to assure us that we light, is one universal character of crea- have a hold on truth. tion. It is as if the Creator had first laid It is impossible to place too high a value down a few simple laws, that is to say, on the work which science is doing in this had evolved a few simple elementary direction. It is a service which has not forces, and had then worked from these yet, I think, been sufficiently noticed or with boundless resources of constructive appreciated. Let us take an example. Up skill.

to a very recent period, Light and Sound I do not know that the discoveries of were known as sensations only. That is modern science, great as they have been, to say, they were known in terms of the and much as they are vaunted, have con- mental impression they produce, and in no tributed anything towards the solution of other terms whatever. They were not the final problems of all human specula- known “in themselves.” There was no tion. These, in so far as mere speculation proof that in the sensations we had any is capable of dealing with them, seem to knowledge of the unknown reality which remain very much where the great intel- produced them. But now all this is lects of the ancient world found them changed. Science has not, indeed, bridged and left them. But, short of these final the gulf which separates Mind and Matproblems, there are two impressions which ter; it has not explained to us, and it the progress of discovery has largely never will, what is the method of contact tended to teach and to confirm. One is between the Mind and the Organism the universal prevalence of mechanism in through which the Mind is informed; but Nature: and the other is the substantial it has discovered what these two agencies truthfulness of the knowledge we derive of Light and Sound are “ in themselves ;" from that most wondrous of all mechar- that is to say, it has defined them under isms — the mechanism of the senses. And | aspects which are totally distinct from seethis last is a matter of immense import-ing or hearing, and is able to describe

For all that we know of Matter is them in terms addressed to wholly differso different from all that we are conscious ent faculties of conception. That which of in Mind, that the whole relations be- we call Light is a series of undulations in tween the two are really inconceivable to some ethereal elastic medium, to which

Hence they constitute a region of undulations, or rather to a certain portion darkness in which we may easily be lost in of them, the retina is “attuned,” ani an abyss of utter scepticism. What proof which, when they reach that organ, are have we - it has been often asked - that translated” into the sensation which the mental impressions we derive from we know. These are the words used by objects are in any way like the truth ? Professor Tyndall to describe the facts. We know only the phenomena, not the They are “metaphors” only in the sense reality, of things we are conversant with lin which the highest expressions of



Truth are always metaphorical. We If we cannot believe in the relations which know that Light is, as it were, a trans- He has established between the mind of lation from one language to another. Man and the rest of His creation, we can And now it appears that the facts, as believe in nothing. We are ourselves described to us in this language of sensa- magnetic mockeries " in a world of lies. tion, are the true equivalent of the facts And well may we reject this fear of as described in the very different language Anthropomorphism when we recollect the of intellectual analysis. The eye is an ap- result of all past endeavours to construct paratus for enabling the mind instanta- an idea of God which should be, as far as neously to appreciate differences of mo- possible, removed from the image of Man. tion which are of almost inconceivable mi- The pale, impassive Deities of the Lucrenuteness. The pleasure we derive from tian Olympus are I suppose the only alterthe harmonies of colour and of sound, al- native conception we can form. They are though mere sensations, do correctly rep- far enough removed assuredly from the resent the movement of undulations in a Creation, as we see and know it - a Creadefinite order; whilst those other sensa- tion so full of movement and of effort, of tions which we know as discords repre- designs conceived, and of difficulties oversent the actual clashing and disorder of come. interfering waves. Thus the mental im

“ The Gods, who haunt pressions which our organs have been con- The lucid interspace of world and world, structed to convey, are a true interpreta- Where never creeps a cloud, or moves a wind, tion of external facts. The mirror into Nor ever falls the least white star of snow, which we look is a true mirror, reflecting Nor ever lowest roll of thunder moans, accurately, and with infinite fineness, the Nor sound of human sorrow mounts to mar realities of Nature.

Their sucred everlasting calm!” * And this great lesson is being repeated I need not say that such conceptions as in every new discovery, and in every new these of the Divine Nature do not escape application of an old one. Every triumph from Anthropomorphism. The only difof modern science is a refutation of the ference is that they take as their pattern bad metaphysics out of which the sickly fancies of Nescience have arisen. Every of the humanity which Nature actually

a maimed and morbid humanity instead! reduction of phenomena to ascertained measures of force, - every application of presents. mathematical proof to theoretical concep- I address in this paper will admit that

I have no right to assume that all whom tions,-- every detection of identical opera- there is any appeal from the evidence of tions in diverse departments of Nature, Nature on these subjects — to the evievery subjection of material agencies to the service of mankind, - every confirma- character of the Creator.

dence of any special revelation on the

But at least I tion of knowledge acquired through one sense by the evidence of another, - every tion, it is to be found in the Hebrew and

may assume that if there be such a revelaone of these operations adds to the verifi- in the Christian Scriptures. No higher cations of science, confirms our reasonable

conception of the Divine Nature than the. trust in the faculties we possess, and assures us that the knowledge we acquire conception which they present has been, by the careful use of these, is a substantial or can be, formed. At least, if there be

such a conception I do not know where to knowledge of the truth.

find it. We must be satisfied with what Such considerations may well inspire us with some confidence that the impressions the Psalms concerning Him. I cannot find

has been written in the Prophets and in which we derive from Nature of the Cre-i ator's character are not untrue because any standard of reverence, whether new they are necessarily conceived in the terms or old, better than the standard which of human thought. Doubtless, they are

they supply. They reflect both those usimperfect and incomplete ; for this, indeed, I pects of the truth which are so striking in our own faculties tell us they are and nature. On the one hand they assert the

unsearchableness of God.' On the other must be. But all reason and analogy as, hand they assert, as strongly, the intellisure us that they contain some real and

gible relation which He bears to the husolid representation of the truth. Let us not be scared, then, by this terror of An- whether in the Old or in the New Testa

man spirit. And in their language, thropomorphism, which, under the aspect ment, I find no fear of such representaof humility in respect to ourselves, is, when tions of the Creator in reference to His we come to analyze it, really based on utter distrust of the truthfulness of God.

* "Lucretius,” by Tennyson.

works as I ventured to use in the passage | all the facts and arguments which appear which has been condemned by Mr. Dar- to me to disprove this theory. Many of win. There, at least, it is not considered them are stated with admirable force in irreverent to speak of God as taking Mr. Mivart's work. But I may simply obpleasure in the works of His own hands. serve that, as Mr. Darwin himself con

For Thy pleasure they are and were fesses,* the propagation of organic forms created.” Variety is one of the most no- takes place throughout extensive provtable facts in Nature. I repeat, therefore, inces of Nature under conditions which exonce more my belief that this variety – clude altogether the element of choice on variety of form, of beauty, and of enjoy the part of either male or female. When ment -appears to have been an object we consider that these conditions apply to and an aim in the creative Mind.

the whole vegetable Kingdom, and to erI cannot conclude this paper without an tensive subdivisions of the Animal King. expression of respect for the rare candour dom also, and when we consider how with which Mr. Darwin confesses that in enormous in these is the development of his work on the Origin of Species he forms which are splendidly ornamented, under-estimated the number and variety we have some measure of the utter inadeof organic structures which have no posi- quacy (to say the least) of the explanation tive utility, and cannot, therefore, have which Mr. Darwin has suggested. It been either originated preserved would seem to be an elementary principle through the influences of “natural selec- in reasoning on such subjects that phetion.” For these structures — subserving nomena cannot be ascribed to a particular mainly the purposes of ornament - he cause which is not co-extensive with its asnow accounts by what he calls “sexual sumed effects. selection.” I have no leisure now to state

“Descent of Man," Part II., p. 396.



teen men.

Slaughter of Penguins and Seals.- The slaughter, the “copotar" and his men generally “ Journal of Applied Science” (Nov.) gives have got enough of birds for one night's boiling. an account of this, as conducted in the Falkland Each man immediately picks up a certain nunIslands. During the whole of August and be-ber of the dead birds, and begins to skin them. ginning of September large and countless flocks This operation is done by making a cut in the of penguins come from all directions to the belly, and, with a peculiar knack, the whole Falkland Islands, and where they alight the skin, with feathers and all, comes off at one pull. ground is literally covered with them. This pe- The account goes on further, but space will not riodical inigration is for purposes of reproduc- permit us a longer abstract. tion. The people who make a business of killing

Popular Science Review. these birds for their oil, proceed about this time iu schooners capable of weathering the storms that are so common at this season. Besides a small crew, these schooners have on board a copotar,” with a gang of from twelve to fif- GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION

THE Os Their only arm is a short stick. On TRICH.— The ostrich has usually been considered the island to which they repair they find a rough as peculiar to the continent of Africa, where kind of furnace that has been used the previous two species have been recognized, one belonging year, and which seems to heat one or more iron to the northern portions, the other to the regions boilers, each of which is capable of holding as nearer the Cape of Good Hope. These species much as 250 gallons of oil. These islands are were long considered identical, and their dislensed from the Colonial Government for five tinctness was first suggested by the difference years at a small rent, and every exporting in the texture of the egg. In a recent work by house has several rookeries, which are respected Hartlaub and Finsch on the Birds of Eastern by the rest. The penguin-hunters are gener- Africa, it is shown that either the ostrich of ally at their post before the arrival of their Northern Africa or a third species was known at intended victims, and when these arrive and a very remote period in Central Asia, and perdrop on the ground by millions, the men go haps even in India; and that at the present among them and commit great havoc upon the time it occurs wild in Syria, Arabia, and Mes tired birds, heaped together, whose wings are opotamia, where in fact, it was mentioned by intended more as helps to swim than to fly. Af- the earliest writers, including Herodotus, Aris. ter the lapse of five or six hours of incessant totle, and Diodorus.


[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »