Meet us on:
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "All I can say about life is, Oh God, enjoy it!"
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 22

    • Rate it:
    • 1 Favorite on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 23
    Previous Chapter
    THE CASE OF THE MADEIRA BEETLES AS ILLUSTRATING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE EVOLUTION OF LAMARCK AND OF MR. CHARLES DARWIN--CONCLUSION.

    An island of no very great extent is surrounded by a sea which cuts it off for many miles from the nearest land. It lies a good deal exposed to winds, so that the beetles which live upon it are in continual danger of being blown out to sea if they fly during the hours and seasons when the wind is blowing. It is found that an unusually large proportion of the beetles inhabiting this island are either without wings or have their wings in a useless and merely rudimentary state; and that a large number of kinds which are very common on the nearest mainland, but which are compelled to use their wings in seeking their food, are here entirely wanting. It is also observed that the beetles on this island generally lie much concealed until the wind lulls and the sun shines. These are the facts; let us now see how Lamarck would treat them.

    Lamarck would say that the beetles once being on this island it became one of the conditions of their existence that they should not get blown out to sea. For once blown out to sea, they would be quite certain to be drowned. Beetles, when they fly, generally fly for some purpose, and do not like having that purpose interfered with by something which can carry them all-whithers, whether they like it or no. If they are flying and find the wind taking them in a wrong direction, or seaward--which they know will be fatal to them--they stop flying as soon as may be, and alight on terra firma. But if the wind is very prevalent the beetles can find but little opportunity for flying at all: they will therefore lie quiet all day and do as best they can to get their living on foot instead of on the wing. There will thus be a long-continued disuse of wings, and this will gradually diminish the development of the wings themselves, till after a sufficient number of generations these will either disappear altogether, or be seen in a rudimentary condition only. For each beetle which has made but little use of its wings will be liable to leave offspring with a slightly diminished wing, some other organ which has been used instead of the wing becoming proportionately developed. It is thus seen that the conditions of existence are the indirect cause of the wings becoming rudimentary, inasmuch as they preclude the beetles from using them; the disuse however on the part of the beetles themselves is the direct cause.

    Now let us see how Mr. Darwin deals with the same case. He writes:--

    "In some cases we might easily set down to disuse, modifications of structure which are wholly or mainly due to natural selection." Then follow the facts about the beetles of Madeira, as I have given them above. While we are reading them we naturally make up our minds that the winglessness of the beetles will prove due either wholly, or at any rate mainly, to natural selection, and that though it would be easy to set it down to disuse, yet we must on no account do so. The facts having been stated, Mr. Darwin continues:--"These several considerations make me believe that the wingless condition of so many Madeira beetles is mainly due to the action of natural selection," and when we go on to the words that immediately follow, "combined probably with disuse," we are almost surprised at finding that disuse has had anything to do with the matter. We feel a languid wish to know exactly how much and in what way it has entered into the combination; but we find it difficult to think the matter out, and are glad to take it for granted that the part played by disuse must be so unimportant that we need not consider it. Mr. Darwin continues:--

    "For during many successive generations each individual beetle which flew least, either from its wings having been ever so little less perfectly developed, or from indolent habit, will have had the best chance of surviving from not having been blown out to sea; and on the other hand those beetles which most readily took to flight would oftenest be blown out to sea and perish."[371]

    So apt are we to believe what we are told, when it is told us gravely and with authority, and when there is no statement at hand to contradict it, that we fail to see that Mr. Darwin is all the time really attributing the winglessness of the Madeira beetles either to the quâ him unknown causes which have led to the "ever so little less perfect development of wing" on the part of the beetles that leave offspring--that is to say, is admitting that he can give no account of the matter--or else to the "indolent habit" of the parent beetles which has led them to disuse their wings, and hence gradually to lose them--which is neither more nor less than the "erroneous grounds of opinion," and "well-known doctrine" of Lamarck.

    For Mr. Darwin cannot mean that the fact of some beetles being blown out to sea is the most important means whereby certain other beetles come to have smaller wings--that the Madeira beetles in fact come to have smaller wings mainly because their large winged uncles and aunts--go away.

    But if he does not mean this, what becomes of natural selection?

    For in this case we are left exactly where Lamarck left us, and must hold that such beetles as have smaller wings have them because the conditions of life or "circumstances" in which their parents were placed, rendered it inconvenient to them to fly, and thus led them to leave off using their wings.

    Granted, that if there had been nothing to take unmodified beetles away, there would have been less room and scope for the modified beetles; also that unmodified beetles would have intermixed with the modified, and impeded the prevalence of the modification. But anything else than such removal of unmodified individuals would be contrary to our hypothesis. The very essence of conditions of existence is that there shall be something to take away those which do not comply with the conditions; if there is nothing to render such and such a course a sine quâ non for life, there is no condition of existence in respect of this course, and no modification according to Lamarck could follow, as there would be no changed distribution of use.

    I think that if I were to leave this matter here I should have said enough to make the reader feel that Lamarck's system is direct, intelligible and sufficient--while Mr. Darwin's is confused and confusing. I may however quote Mr. Darwin himself as throwing his theory about the Madeira beetles on one side in a later passage, for he writes:--

    "It is probable that disuse has been the main agent in rendering organs rudimentary," or in other words that Lamarck was quite right--nor does one see why if disuse is after all the main agent in rendering an organ rudimentary, use should not have been the main agent in developing it--but let that pass. "It (disuse) would at first lead," continues Mr. Darwin, "by slow steps to the more and more complete reduction of a part, until at last it became rudimentary--as in the case of the eyes of animals inhabiting dark caverns, and of the wings of birds inhabiting oceanic islands, which have seldom been forced by beasts of prey to take flight, and have ultimately lost the power of flying. Again, an organ useful under certain conditions, might become injurious under others, as with the wings of beetles living on small and exposed islands;"[372] so that the rudimentary condition of the Madeira beetles' wings is here set down as mainly due to disuse--while above we find it mainly due to natural selection--I should say that immediately after the word "islands" just quoted, Mr. Darwin adds "and in this case natural selection will have aided in reducing the organ, until it was rendered harmless and rudimentary," but this is Mr. Darwin's manner, and must go for what it is worth.

    How refreshing to turn to the simple straightforward language of Lamarck.

    "Long continued disuse," he writes, "in consequence of the habits which an animal has contracted, gradually reduces an organ, and leads to its final disappearance....

    "Eyes placed in the head form an essential part of that plan on which we observe all vertebrate organisms to be constructed. Nevertheless the mole which uses its vision very little, has eyes which are only very small and hardly apparent.

    "The aspalax of Olivier, which lives underground like the mole, and exposes itself even less than the mole to the light of day, has wholly lost the use of its sight, nor does it retain more than mere traces of visual organs, these traces again being hidden under the skin and under certain other parts which cover them up and leave not even the smallest access to the light. The Proteus, an aquatic reptile akin to the Salamander and living in deep and obscure cavities under water, has, like the aspalax, no longer anything but traces of eyes remaining--traces which are again entirely hidden and covered up.[373]

    "The following consideration should be decisive.

    "Light cannot penetrate everywhere, and as a consequence, animals which live habitually in places which it cannot reach, do not have an opportunity of using eyes, even though they have got them; but animals which form part of a system of organization which comprises eyes as an invariable rule among its organs, must have had eyes originally. Since then we find among these animals some which have lost their eyes, and which have only concealed traces of these organs, it is evident that the impoverishment, and even disappearance of the organs in question, must be the effect of long-continued disuse.

    "A proof of this is to be found in the fact that the organ of hearing is never in like case with that of sight; we always find it in animals of whose system of organization hearing is a component part; and for the following reason, namely, that sound, which is the effect of vibration upon the ear, can penetrate everywhere, and pass even through massive intermediate bodies. Any animal, therefore, with an organic system of which the ear is an essential part, can always find a use for its ears, no matter where it inhabits. We never, therefore, come upon rudimentary ears among the vertebrata, and when, going down the scale of life lower than the vertebrata, we come to a point at which the ear is no longer to be found; we never come upon ears again in any lower class.

    "Not so with the organ of sight: we see this organ disappear, reappear, and disappear again with the possibility or impossibility of using eyes on the part of the creature itself.[374]

    "The great development of mantle in the acephalous molluscs has rendered eyes, and even a head, entirely useless to them. These organs, though belonging to the type of the organism, and by rights included in it, have had to disappear and become annihilated owing to continued default of use.

    "Many insects which, by the analogy of their order and even genus, should have wings, have nevertheless lost them more or less completely through disuse. A number of coleoptera, orthoptera, hymenoptera, and hemiptera give us examples, the habits of these animals never leading them to use their wings."[375]

    * * * * * * *

    I will here bring this present volume to a conclusion, hoping, however, to return to the same subject shortly, but to that part of it which bears upon longevity and the phenomena of old age. In 'Life and Habit' I pointed out that if differentiations of structure and instinct are considered as due to the different desires under different circumstances of an organism, which must be regarded as a single creature, though its development has extended over millions of years, and which is guided mainly by habit and memory until some disturbing cause compels invention--then the longevity of each generation or stage of this organism should depend upon the lateness of the average age of reproduction in each generation; so that an organism (using the word in its usual signification) which did not upon the average begin to reproduce itself till it was twenty, should be longer lived than one that on the average begins to reproduce itself at a year old. I also maintained that the phenomena of old age should be referred to failure of memory on the part of the organism, which in the embryonic stages, infancy, youth, and early manhood, leans upon the memory of what it did when it was in the persons of its ancestors; in middle life, carries its action onward by means of the impetus, already received, and by the force of habit; and in old age becomes puzzled, having no experience of any past existence at seventy-five, we will say, to guide it, and therefore forgetting itself more and more completely till it dies. I hope to extend this, and to bring forward arguments in support of it in a future work.

    Of the importance of the theory put forward in 'Life and Habit'--I am daily more and more convinced. Unless we admit oneness of personality between parents and offspring, memory of the often repeated facts of past existences, the latency of that memory until it is rekindled by the presence of the associated ideas, or of a sufficient number of them, and the far-reaching consequences of the unconsciousness which results from habitual action, evolution does not greatly add to our knowledge as to how we shall live here to the best advantage. Add these considerations, and its value as a guide becomes immediately apparent; a new light is poured upon a hundred problems of the greatest delicacy and difficulty. Not the least interesting of these is the gradual extension of human longevity--an extension, however, which cannot be effected till many many generations as yet unborn have come and gone. There is nothing, however, to prevent man's becoming as long lived as the oak if he will persevere for many generations in the steps which can alone lead to this result. Another interesting achievement which should be more quickly attainable, though still not in our own time, is the earlier maturity of those animals whose rapid maturity is an advantage to us, but whose longevity is not to our purpose.

    * * * * * * *

    The question--Evolution or Direct Creation of all species?--has been settled in favour of Evolution. A hardly less interesting and important battle has now to be fought over the question whether we are to accept the evolution of the founders of the theory--with the adjuncts hinted at by Dr. Darwin and Mr. Matthew, and insisted on, so far as I can gather, by Professor Hering and myself--or the evolution of Mr. Darwin, which denies the purposiveness or teleology inherent in evolution as first propounded. I am assured that such of my readers as I can persuade to prefer the old evolution to the new will have but little reason to regret their preference.

    * * * * * * *

    P.S.--As these sheets leave my hands, my attention is called to a review of Professor Haeckel's 'Evolution of Man,' by Mr. A. E. Wallace, in the 'Academy' for April 12, 1879. "Professor Haeckel maintains," says Mr. Wallace, "that the struggle for existence in nature evolves new forms without design, just as the will of man produces new varieties in cultivation with design." I maintain in preference with the older evolutionists, that in consequence of change in the conditions of their existence, organisms design new forms for themselves, and carry those designs out in additions to, and modifications of, their own bodies.

    "The science of rudimentary organs," continues Mr. Wallace, "which Haeckel terms 'dysteleology, or the doctrine of purposelessness,' is here discussed, and a number of interesting examples are given, the conclusion being that they prove the mechanical or monistic conception of the origin of organisms to be correct, and the idea of any 'all-wise creative plan an ancient fable.'" I see no reason to suppose, or again not to suppose, an all-wise creative plan. I decline to go into this question, believing it to be not yet ripe, nor nearly ripe, for consideration. I see purpose, however, in rudimentary organs as much as in useful ones, but a spent or extinct purpose--a purpose which has been fulfilled, and is now forgotten--the rudimentary organ being repeated from force of habit, indolence, and dislike of change, so long as it does not, to use the words of Buffon, "stand in the way of the fair development" of other parts which are found useful and necessary. I demur, therefore, to the inference of "purposelessness" which I gather that Professor Haeckel draws from these organs.

    In the 'Academy' for April 19, 1879, Mr. Wallace quotes Professor Haeckel as saying that our "highly purposive and admirably-constituted sense-organs have developed without premeditated aim; that they have originated by the same mechanical process of Natural Selection, by the same constant interaction of Adaptation and Heredity [what is Heredity but another word for unknown causes, unless it is explained in some such manner as in 'Life and Habit'?] by which all the other purposive contrivances of the animal organization have been slowly and gradually evolved during the struggle for existence."

    I see no evidence for "premeditated aim" at any modification very far in advance of an existing organ, any more than I do for "premeditated aim" on man's part at any as yet inconceivable mechanical invention; but as in the case of man's inventions, so also in that of the organs of animals and plants, modification is due to the accumulation of small, well-considered improvements, as found necessary in practice, and the conduct of their affairs. Each step having been purposive, the whole road has been travelled purposively; nor is the purposiveness of such an organ, we will say, as the eye, barred by the fact that invention has doubtless been aided by some of those happy accidents which from time to time happen to all who keep their wits about them, and know how to turn the gifts of Fortune to account.

    FOOTNOTES:

    [371] 'Origin of Species,' p. 109.

    [372] 'Origin of Species, p. 401.

    [373] 'Phil. Zool.,' tom. i. p. 242.

    [374] 'Phil. Zool.,' tom. i. p. 244.

    [375] 'Phil. Zool.,' tom. i. p. 245.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 23
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Samuel Butler essay and need some advice, post your Samuel Butler essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?