Samuel Butler Edit

Evolution, Old & New Or, the Theories of Buffon, Dr. Erasmus Darwin and Lamarck, as compared with that of Charles Darwin "In 1831 Mr. Patrick Matthew published his work on 'Naval Timber and Arboriculture,' in which he gives precisely the same view on the origin of species as that (presently to be alluded to) propounded by Mr. Wallace and myself in the 'Linnean Journal,' and as that enlarged in the present volume. Unfortunately the view was given by Mr. Matthew very briefly, in scattered passages in an appendix to a work on a different subject, so that it remained unnoticed until Mr. Matthew himself drew attention to it in the 'Gardener's Chronicle' for April 7, 1860. The differences of Mr. Matthew's[Pg 316] view from mine are not of much importance; he seems to consider that the world was nearly depopulated at successive periods, and then re-stocked, and he gives as an alternative, that new forms may be generated 'without the presence of any mould or germ of former aggregates.' I am not sure that I understand some passages; but it seems that he attributes much influence to the direct action of the conditions of life. He clearly saw, however, the full force of the principle of natural selection."[321]

Nothing could well be more misleading. If Mr. Matthew's view of the origin of species is "precisely the same as that" propounded by Mr. Darwin, it is hard to see how Mr. Darwin can call those of Lamarck and Dr. Erasmus Darwin "erroneous"; for Mr. Matthew's is nothing but an excellent and well-digested summary of the conclusions arrived at by these two writers and by Buffon

Descent with modification Edit'Omalius_d'Halloy

In the third edition of On the Origin of Species published in 1861, Charles Darwin added a Historical Sketch giving due credit to naturalists who had preceded him in publishing the opinion that species undergo modification, and that the existing forms of life have descended by true generation from pre-existing forms. This included d'Halloy – In 1846 the veteran geologist M. J. d'Omalius d'Halloy published in an excellent, though short paper ('Bulletins de l'Acad. Roy. Bruxelles,' tom. xiii. p. 581), his opinion that it is more probable that new species have been produced by descent with modification, than that they have been separately created: the author first promulgated this opinion in 1831.[1]

notes 2 Edit Being on my way to New Zealand when the “Origin of Species” appeared, I did not get it till 1860 or 1861. When I read it, I found “the theory of natural selection” repeatedly spoken of as though it were a synonym for “the theory of descent with modification”; this is especially the case in the recapitulation chapter of the work. I failed to see how important it was that these two theories - if indeed “natural selection” can be called a theory - should not be confounded together, and that a “theory of descent with modification” might be true, while a “theory of descent with modification through natural selection” {4} might not stand being looked into. If any one had asked me to state in brief what Mr. Darwin’s theory was, I am afraid I might have answered “natural selection,” or “descent with modification,” whichever came first, as though the one meant much the same as the other. I observe that most of the leading writers on the subject are still unable to catch sight of the distinction here alluded to, and console myself for my want of acumen by reflecting that, if I was misled, I was misled in good company

notes 3 Edit

Artificial Cultivation <=> artificial selection Artificial cultivation Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), probably influenced by Buffon, was another firm evolutionist, and the outline of his argument in the "Zoonomia" ("Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life", 2 vols. London, 1794; Osborn op. cit. page 145.) might serve in part at least to-day. "When we revolve in our minds the metamorphoses of animals, as from the tadpole to the frog; secondly, the changes produced by artificial cultivation, as in the breeds of horses, dogs, and sheep; thirdly, the changes produced by conditions of climate and of season, as in the sheep of warm climates being covered with hair instead of wool, and the hares and partridges of northern climates becoming white in winter: when, further, we observe the changes of structure produced by habit, as seen especially in men of different occupations; or the changes produced by artificial mutilation and prenatal influences, as in the crossing of species and production of monsters; fourth, when we observe the essential unity of plan in all warm-blooded animals,—we are led to conclude that they have been alike produced from a similar living filament"... "From thus meditating upon the minute portion of time in which many of the above changes have been produced, would it be too bold to imagine, in the great length of time since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of years before the commencement of the history of mankind, that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament?"... "This idea of the gradual generation of all things seems to have been as familiar to the ancient philosophers as to the modern ones, and to have given rise to the beautiful hieroglyphic figure of the proton oon, or first great egg, produced by night, that is, whose origin is involved in obscurity, and animated by Eros, that is, by Divine Love; from whence proceeded all things which exist."

folder: Darwin's predecessors

metaphore Edit

When Mr. Darwin says that natural selection is the most important "means" of modification, I am not sure that I understand what he wishes to imply by the word "means." I do not see how the fact that those animals which are best fitted for the conditions of their existence commonly survive in the struggle for life, can be called in any special sense a "means" of modification.

"Means" is a dangerous word; it slips too easily into "cause." We have seen Mr. Darwin himself say that Buffon did not enter on "the _causes or means_"[347] of modification, as though these two words were synonymous, or nearly so. Nevertheless, the use of the word "means" here enables Mr. Darwin to speak of Natural Selection as if it were an active cause (which he constantly does), and yet to avoid expressly maintaining that it is a cause of modification. This, indeed, he has not done in express terms, but he does it by implication when he writes, "Natural Selection _might be most effective in giving_ the proper colour to each kind of grouse, and in _keeping_ that colour when once acquired." Such language, says the late Mr. G. H. Lewes, "is misleading;" it makes "selection an agent."[348]

Book review Edit

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