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Explanatory Notes

Part 1

Note i.—The experiments which have led Professor J. J. Thomson to propound the hypothesis of ‘bodies smaller than atoms’ give additional credibility to this supposition of Clifford's.

Note ii.—Professor Poynting reminds me that Professor Larmor's hypothesis concerning the nature of material elements, the immutable individuality discussed in this paragraph, is not due to substance—as with Maxwell—but to form. It consists of a ‘strain centre’ that flits from point to point of the ether, different parts of the ether coming into the strain, as that moves about.

Note iii.—Since Huxley wrote this passage, Sir Norman Lockyer has published an interesting little book entitled Inorganic Evolution as studied by Spectrum Analysis, 1900.

Note iv.—This statement, Professor Poynting tells me, must be modified in so far as Laplace was associated with that masterly experimenter, Lavoisier, in investigating specific heat and the dilatation of solids with rise of temperature. But the following sentence confirms the estimate given of him above:—“It was perhaps as much because it threatened an inroad on a cherished generalisation as because it seemed to him little capable of mathematical treatment that the undulatory theory of light was distasteful to him” (Encyclopædia Britannica, article Laplace, p. 303).

Note v.—This entirely ad hominem argument addressed exclusively “to those who are fond of the ‘high priori road’” has been mistaken by some of my reviewers and correspondents as intended indirectly to prove that the energy of the universe is necessarily infinite. The position I had in view is comparable to that of a man who should say: Here is an infinity of balls and only one is white. He is invited to draw, and draws white. That fact, I think, should lead him to reconsider his statement, but it would not justify me in assuming that all the balls are white. It would, however, justify me in supposing the number of white balls to be at least indefinitely great. But I have thought it wiser to disavow such a priori arguments altogether. Of (relative) beginnings and endings, within the universe we have experience enough, but of the (absolute) beginning or ending of the universe we have no experience and no conception. Having experienced filled time, we can form the conception of empty time extending indefinitely into the past and into the future, but we have no warrant for treating this as a reality independent of all reality beside.

Note vi.—On the subject of the Conservation of Energy the reader may with advantage consult a recent work of Professor Poincaré, La Science et l'Hypothèse, 1902. In fact the whole book is to be strongly recommended to all who are interested in the scope and validity of the mechanical theory.

Part 2

Note i.—In an article on this book (Fortnightly Review, Dec. 1899) Mr. Spencer states his essential purpose to be that of ‘exemplifying my controversial method,’ and concludes by warning his readers that before accepting my version of his views “it will be prudent to verify them.” But, strange to say, in a revised edition of his First Principles, published in 1900, a large number of the passages on which I have animadverted— passages that had remained unchanged for thirty years—are now silently either suppressed or altered. Only in a brief appendix of some five pages is there any direct reference to this work. There Mr. Spencer begins by saying: “It is half instructive, half amusing to observe what trivial difficulties, and even what imaginary difficulties, are urged by those who seek reasons for rejecting doctrines they dislike.” He then dismisses my criticisms with the remark: “Were I to notice all of them at length, half a volume would be required.… So far as I have observed, he has throughout followed the course which generally characterises controversy—that of setting up men of straw and knocking them down.” His readers are thus left to infer that in general Mr. Spencer has found it unnecessary to pay any attention to my objections, and the numerous alterations or suppressions of passages, to which I have alluded, will therefore strike them as interesting coincidences. I have indicated some of these in the footnotes given in the text—stereo. ed. referring to the stereotyped editions, and rev. ed. to the revised edition.

In the stereotyped editions Mr. Spencer treated the universe as a single object which is alternately evolved and dissolved, and my first criticism was that the universe cannot be so regarded. Instead of the words “Be it a single object or the whole universe any account which begins with it in a concrete form…is incomplete” (see above), we now find merely “Any account of an object which begins,” etc.—no reference to the universe at all; and in like passages elsewhere all reference to the universe is suppressed. Again, in the earlier editions we find Mr. Spencer saying: “It is obvious that we have not acquired all the information within the grasp of our intelligence until we can, in some way or other, express the whole past and the whole future of each object and the aggregate of objects”; and then concluding: “May it not be inferred that Philosophy has to formulate this passage from the imperceptible into the perceptible, and again from the perceptible into the imperceptible?” (stereo. ed., p. 280). He declares “that a Philosophy stands self-convicted of inadequacy” if it fails of such formulation: for “if it begins its explanations with existences that already have concrete forms, or leaves off while they still retain concrete forms; then, manifestly, they had preceding histories, or will have succeeding histories, or both, of which no account is given. And as such preceding and succeeding histories are subjects of possible knowledge, a Philosophy which says nothing about them falls short of the required unification” (stereo. ed., p. 541 fin.). In the revised edition all these passages are omitted, and Mr. Spencer, with commendable candour, confesses that they imply an unattainable ideal. “Complete accounts of the beginnings and ends [even] of individual objects,” he now allows, “cannot in most cases be reached.… Still more, then, with the totality of things must we conclude that the initial and terminal stages are beyond the reach of our intelligence” (rev. ed., p. 256).

But now Philosophy, according to Mr. Spencer's definition, is completely-unified knowledge; knowledge partially unified is only Science (§ 37 fin.); his theory of evolution, then, on his own showing can be no more. Further admissions, pointing in the same direction, will appear presently (see below).

My second criticism was that even regarding the universe as a single object, we are not warranted in saying that “there is an alternation of Evolution and Dissolution in the totality of things.” Prior to the publication of his revised edition, in the article above mentioned Mr. Spencer complained that in so objecting I had treated a tentative opinion as a positive assertion. “He does not,” says Mr. Spencer, “quote the whole clause, which runs thus:—‘For if, as we saw reason to think, there is an alternation of evolution and dissolution in the totality of things, etc.’ Here there are two qualifying expressions which he suppresses” (Fortnightly, p. 902). But the odd thing is (as I pointed out in “A Reply to Mr. Herbert Spencer,” Fortnightly, March 1900, p. 469) that even Mr. Spencer himself does not quote his own words without suppression. Here is the passage in full;— “For if, as we saw reason to think, there is an alternation of Evolution and Dissolution in the totality of things—if, as we are obliged to infer from the Persistence of Force, the arrival of either limit of this vast rhythm brings about the conditions under which a counter-movement commences—if we are hence compelled to entertain the conception of Evolutions that have filled an immeasurable past, and Evolutions that will fill an immeasurable future; we can no longer contemplate the visible creation as having a definite beginning or end” (stereo. ed., p. 551—italics mine). As one out of many possible passages in which Mr. Spencer seemed to have committed himself to a positive assertion, I also quoted this one: “Thus we are led to the conclusion that the entire process of things, as displayed in the aggregate of the visible universe, is analogous to the entire process of things as displayed in the smallest aggregates…now an immeasurable period during which the attractive forces predominating, cause universal concentration, and then an immeasurable period during which the repulsive forces predominating, cause universal diffusion—alternate eras of Evolution and Dissolution (stereo. ed., pp. 536 f.). Of course Mr. Spencer knows best what he meant to say: his readers must judge how far he succeeded in saying it. At any rate in the revised edition he is clearer, for not only are these and other seemingly positive assertions withdrawn, but it is expressly admitted that “the question whether there is an alternation of evolution and dissolution in the totality of things is one which must be left unanswered as beyond the reach of human intelligence,” and even “as passing the bounds of rational speculation (rev. ed., pp. 506, 492). Once again, then, Mr. Spencer's theory of evolution drops from the level of philosophical synthesis based on “the ultimate datum of consciousness” to the level of science, “unable to trace the entire history even of a small aggregate!” (rev. ed., p. 493).

But, in truth, if the appeal is not to that hopelessly vague conception, Mr. Spencer's Persistence of Force as an ultimate datum of consciousness, but to the conservation of energy as commonly understood—and this is what Mr. Spencer usually has in mind—then the question whether there are alternations of evolution and dissolution in the totality of things is not ‘transcendental’ at all. It is neither to be positively asserted nor to be left in doubt. The energy of the universe is either finite or infinite. In both cases there may be alternations of evolution within the universe, but in the one they will come to an end, in the other they will not: in neither will there be such alternations of the universe as a whole. See next note.

Note ii.—In his article in the Fortnightly Review, mentioned in the previous note (p. 901 fin.), Mr. Spencer contends that he had himself anticipated this criticism before I was out of my teens, and then proceeds to quote a paragraph of his First Principles (stereo. ed., pp. 535, 536), in proof. “Unhappily,” as I have already said in reply (Fortnightly, March 1900, p. 470), “the facts are quite otherwise. Not only are Mr. Spencer's reasons not the same as mine, but they are not reasons against the doctrine of the dissipation of energy at all; though they refer to something that sounds rather like it, viz. to what Mr. Spencer is fond of calling ‘the dissipation of motion:’ That dissipated or degraded energy means not energy that is ‘diffused’ or ‘radiated’ but energy that is no longer available for work, is a point that Mr. Spencer has entirely overlooked. In the revised edition (p. 492) he has amended this paragraph: there is now some mention of energy and of heat, but the result only shows still more conclusively Mr. Spencer's ignorance of thermodynamics. In fact his second version is, if anything, more inaccurate than his first, for he seems to think that the dissipation of energy may be counteracted by maintaining the thermal equilibrium of space.

Of course it is conceivable that the energy dissipated at any time is always a constant fraction of the energy remaining available, so that the process would never end. If we then suppose farther, as Professor Poynting has suggested, that “living beings became capable of using more and more minute differences, life might persist as well.” This very theoretical possibility the authors of the Unseen Universe did not take into account.

Note iii.—Mr. Spencer replies that he has nowhere asserted moving equilibrium of the universe, but that on the contrary he has expressly negatived a moving equilibrium of our sidereal system, thereby implying that he would still more definitely negative such an equilibrium of the universe (Fortnightly, p. 904).

It is true that the spinning-top is only mentioned to exemplify the nature of mobile stability; but not only is the principle itself an integral part of the Laplacean hypothesis upon which Mr. Spencer's theory of evolution really rests, but his own statements of the principle in the chapter on Equilibration as manifest deductions from the Persistence of Force are made without any reservation whatever. In the following chapter dealing with Dissolution, in order to show “that the structure of our galaxy is undergoing change and must continue to undergo changes;” he refers to its irregular distribution as “being such as to render even a temporary moving equilibrium impossible.” But this, even if true, does not affect the existence within our sidereal system of stellar systems, and some of these systems far more complex than our solar system, which are stable in Laplace's sense: indeed the little we know all points this way. To meet Mr. Spencer's criticism it would be enough to say that on his theory the universe consists of an indefinite number of spinning-tops, and that as time goes on the tops collide, tops ever larger in size and fewer in number being the result.

His admirers will be depressed to find that in the revised edition Mr. Spencer has withdrawn the “warrant for the belief that evolution can end only in the establishment of the greatest perfection and the most complete happiness,” which he had previously deduced from his equilibrium mobile.

Note iv.—Mr. Spencer (Fortnightly, p. 899) sees nothing but a comment on his mode of writing in this reference to the distinction between Force and force. “Supposing even,” he says, “that capitals were in such cases inappropriate … only one with a strong animus would have gone out of his way to notice it.” But obviously my point is that Mr. Spencer's usually correct mode of writing serves to indicate the essential difference between Force as Absolute, which does not, and force as phenomenal, which does, admit of measurement.

The confusions and the inconsistencies of Mr. Spencer's exposition of his fundamental principle are incredible. I have dealt with them at some length in my Reply to him (Fortnightly, 465-467); I will quote here only the last paragraph:—

“Now I have contended that it is meaningless to apply quantitative notions to an Absolute Force, alias Ultimate Cause, alias Unconditional Reality, especially meaningless when it is only an Unknowable that ‘we are irresistibly compelled by the relativity of our thought to vaguely conceive,’ etc. (F. P. p. 170). Moreover, returning to the chapter on Relativity, to which chapter Mr. Spencer himself seems to direct us (cf. F. P. p. 91), we find that he, too, allows that it is ‘impossible to give to this consciousness [of the Non-Relative or Absolute] any qualitative or quantitative expression whatever.’ If now we agree with Mr. Spencer that ‘definite conclusions can be reached only by the use of well-defined terms,’ may we not reasonably ask how ‘the phenomena of evolution’ can be as he says they ‘have to be, deduced from the Persistence of Force,’ when this Force turns out to be the Non-Relative or Absolute? (cf. F. P. p. 398). For ‘this non-relative spoken of as a necessary complement to the Relative is not spoken of,’ Mr. Spencer reminds us, ‘as a conception but as a consciousness; and I have,’ he continues, “in sundry passages distinguished between those modes of consciousness which, having limits, and constituting thought proper, are subject to the laws of thought, and the mode of consciousness which persists when the removal of limits is carried to the uttermost, and when distinct thought consequently ceases’ (Replies to Criticisms, p. 252). What have we got here more than the bare notion of pure being? How are we going to deduce the ‘Instability of the Homogeneous,” or ‘Equilibration’ from this ‘indefinite consciousness of the unformed and unlimited’? How, indeed, save as everything that is, let it be what it may, is implied in an Ultimate Cause and included under the category of Existence? The force of a blow and the force of an argument, nay, any two things whatever, will have their equivalents in this ‘pure Force.’ But what ‘transcends experience’ can never be ‘the basis of any scientific organisation of experience’ (cf. F. P. p. 192). Between Force = Ultimate Cause and force = energy Mr. Spencer's cosmic philosophy is, I have contended, bound to fall. But he has not deigned to notice my argument, yet in replying to Mr. Moulton he advances one of these meanings, and in replying to me he advances the other.”

Note v.—In the earlier editions of his First Principles Mr. Spencer's philosophy, as a complete unification of the knowable, professes to set before us the evolution of the universe from beginning to end, i.e. from the imperceptible to the imperceptible. “ Philosophy has to formulate this passage,” for “wherever we now find Being so conditioned as to act on our senses, there arise the questions—how came it to be thus conditioned? and how will it cease to be thus conditioned?… Hence our Theory of Things, considered individually and in their totality, is confessedly incomplete, so long as any past or future portions of their sensible existences are unaccounted for.”1 The start accordingly is made with the absolutely homogeneous, since no other state would necessarily be imperceptible, and any heterogeneity would have to ‘be accounted for.’ But “some rearrangement [of the absolutely homogeneous] must result,” Mr. Spencer has said. Certainly there would be no evolution otherwise: so we reach the proposition that “the absolutely homogeneous must lose its equilibrium.”

But in the revised edition Mr. Spencer, as we have already seen, drops the universe and omits alike the beginning and the end of the evolutionary process. And now we find that he also parts with the absolutely homogeneous. He makes all these renunciations, however, in a very vacillating fashion, like one unwilling to abandon an ancient domain. Thus “only at the last moment, when…all the rest of the volume is standing in type,” he perceives that his, “definition of Evolution needs qualifying by the introduction of the word ‘relatively’ before, each of its antithetical clauses,” and in an appendix he gives his reasons for the change (see the Note, rev. ed. p. 367). In the said appendix (App. A) he tells us that “the transformation we call Evolution must be regarded as falling between two ideal limits, neither of which is reached”! (rev. ed. p. 514). Nevertheless he still maintains that “the absolutely homogeneous (supposing it to exist) must lose its equilibrium” (rev. ed. p. 397˜italics mine). ‘Now, since even Mr. Spencer's revised theory of evolution begins with relative homogeneity—and instability, and ends with relative heterogeneity—and equilibration, one might suppose that the instability of the absolutely homogeneous—or the ideal initial limit—was still inferred from his empirical formula. If, proceeding forwards, “the relatively homogeneous must lapse into the relatively less homogeneous”—and this is still maintained—then surely, regressing backwards, the relatively less homogeneous must arise from the relatively more homogeneous, and so the absolutely homogeneous, absolutely unstable, might still be regarded at least ideally as the beginning of evolution. How else are we to interpret the two extremes between which all evolution lies—indefinite, incoherent homogeneity, with potential energy a maximum, and definite, coherent heterogeneity with all the energy dissipated? But such an interpretation Mr. Spencer, it seems, never intended, and now emphatically disavows. “No special instability,” he now maintains, “characterizes the homogeneous.” By way of emphasising this still further he has even amended the title of the chapter in which he expounds this principle; it is now headed, The Instability of the Homogeneous, exemplifying Instability at large, and the principle itself is reduced to “a corollary from the truth that change is universal and unceasing”(App. A, p. 515). But we are now at a loss to know why “the more homogeneous must tend ever to become less homogeneous,” and the ‘lapse’ in the opposite direction be an impossibility. We are well aware, of course, that there are instances in plenty of changes in both directions, when only parts of the universe are regarded—even what to us are very large parts; but Mr. Spencer's philosophy still implies that for the universe as a whole in its evolutionary phase the change is only in one direction. He still speaks of the instability of the homogeneous as “one end of the series of metamorphoses,” and because of “the universality of this perpetual increase of structure” finds it “requisite to begin with the structureless ” (App. A, p. 516). On the whole Mr. Spencer now leaves us more puzzled than ever to find any necessary connexion between “those traits which celestial bodies, organisms, societies, alike display” and “instability at large.” It is a long step from such instability, or “the truth that change is universal and unceasing,” to “the one increasing purpose” which evolution implies. The most effectual refutation of Mr. Spencer is surely here supplied by himself!

Note vi.—Mr. Spencer, of course, cannot accept what he is pleased to call my “dictum respecting the utterly unscientific and unphilosophical phrase ‘indefinite incoherent homogeneity.’” But the only reply he makes to my reasons for this ‘dictum’ is to ask whether it is not proper to describe an egg as more homogeneous than the chicken which evolves from it. The egg is a great stand-by of Mr. Spencer's: he has hurled it against opponents more than once before. But here it altogether misses the mark: so far as his attack is relevant, I will try to rebut it presently. The immediate question, however, is the meaning of indefinite, incoherent homogeneity. I maintain it to be meaningless, and it is for Mr. Spencer, if he can, to point out a case in which it is not. An egg, even if regarded as homogeneous, is not, from the standpoint of the synthetic philosophy, such a case; and what is more important, a nebula also is not. In terms of matter and motion, both are perfectly definite in configuration and dynamically coherent—no part can move independently of the rest. And coming now to Mr. Spencer's question, I reply that from the standpoint of his theory it is not proper to describe an egg as more homogeneous than the chicken which is hatched from it. Both are but different arrangements of the same elements as truly as Bceeeehnprrrst and Herbert Spencer are but different arrangements of the same letters. It may be easier to halve the egg than to halve the chicken, but to dissipate the egg into the imperceptibility of matter primeval would be as hard as dissipating the chicken: both in that respect are equally far removed from the structureless.

Note vii.—Dr. Venn (Empirical Logic, p. 109) had, I find, already called attention to the weakness of Mr. Spencer's argument here.

Note viii.—In his revised edition Mr. Spencer devotes two closely printed pages to this paragraph. Some of his points in this defence have been already incidentally dealt with in the preceding notes. But there are one or two that perhaps call for some reply. “I might urge,” he begins, “that since the law of evolution, as everywhere represented by me, is a law of the re-distribution of matter and motion within sensible aggregates, and not as a law of re-distribution within their insensible molecules, it might suffice for its establishment were it proved applicable to the first without taking any note of the last” (rev. ed., App. C, p. 535). He then objects that I have “ignored entirely the distinction between simple and compound evolution,”2 and explains that the latter is only possible when the process of evolution is slow, and when “there continues a partial mobility among the concentrating units.” “Ignoring this fundamental distinction, Professor Ward,” he says, “has assumed that chemical units are aggregates, which can present this secondary re-distribution; whereas, as he knows, they are aggregates suddenly formed, and, if considered as evolved, can exhibit only that simple evolution seen in the integration of matter and dissipation of motion: the contrast between homogeneity and heterogeneity cannot arise” (rev. ed., p. 535—italics mine). For my part, I must disclaim this ‘knowledge’ with which Mr. Spencer credits me: I fancy every school-boy knows better. Has Mr. Spencer, we wonder, forgotten the difference between old wine and new, or Nature's slow elaboration of the juices of fruits and the scents of flowers? Have starch, sugar, albumen, no history? In particular, if molecules never retain ‘a partial mobility among their concentrating units’ what becomes of Mrs. Spencer's ingenious theory concerning ‘certain specific molecules’ which he has called ‘physiological units’: and if they exemplify simple evolution merely, what was to fill the two missing volumes devoted to pre-organic evolution? Nay, if it be a question whether chemical units are to be ‘considered as evolved,’ and if evolution, as everywhere expounded by Mr. Spencer, is a law applicable only to sensible aggregates and not to their insensible molecules, is there anything missing in the Synthetic Philosophy after all? But then how came Mr. Spencer to say: “The evolution of the elements, if not systematically dealt with within the limits of the Synthetic Philosophy, has not been ignored. In an essay on ‘The Nebular Hypothesis’ five groups of traits are enumerated which support the belief that they originated by a process of evolution like that everywhere going on” (Fortnightly Review, l.c. p. 900)?

Note ix.—In this criticism, again, it has been pointed out to me, that I have been anticipated. Cf. Mr. F. H. Bradley's Principles of Logic, p. 496.

Note x.—My attention has been called to an emendation of the passage here quoted, which Mr. Spencer has introduced into the third edition of his Principles of Psychology. In place of the last clause: “there must result an unbroken series of these changes—there must arise a consciousness ”; we now have: “there must result an unbroken series of these changes, the subjective face of which is what we call a coherent consciousness.” And whereas in the earlier edition the passage quoted was continued thus: “Hence the progress of the correspondence between the organism and its environment necessitates a gradual reduction of the sensorial changes to a succession; and by so doing evolves a distinct consciousness—a consciousness that becomes higher as the succession becomes more rapid and the correspondence more complete”; in the new edition we have instead the following: “Of course I do not mean that material actions thus become mental actions…I am merely showing a parallelism between a certain physical evolution and the correlative psychical evolution.” But such patchwork corrections are surely futile. As Professor James incisively remarks, the passage withdrawn “resembles too many others in his Psychology not to be taken as a serious attempt to explain how consciousness must at a certain point be ‘evolved.’ That when a critic calls his attention to the inanity of his words, Mr. Spencer should say he never meant anything particular by them, is simply an example of the scandalous vagueness with which this sort of ‘chromo-philosophy ’ is carried on” (W. James, Principles of Psychology, i. p. 149).

Note xi.—In spite of this reference to an ‘imposing array of facts’ in support of the Lamarckian theory, I have not, it is urged, “mentioned any fact which indisputably proves the theory.” Obviously, if any such crucial instance had been forthcoming there would have been an end of the controversy between Neo-Lamarckians and Neo-Darwinians, which still continues. And so there would equally have been an end of it had the Neo-Darwinians been able to prove indisputably that the inheritance of acquired character is an, impossibility. Moreover, it would be fair to retort that they, on their side, are unable “to mention any fact which indisputably proves the theory” of Natural Selection, although there is an array of facts still more imposing which support it. Both theories are in this respect on a par; their evidence is cumulative, not demonstrative, and, as said in the text, they are not incompatible, but complementary. In fact, the strain thrown on Natural Selection reaches the breaking-point when it is left to work exclusively on fortuitous variations. Hence both principles were maintained not only by Darwin himself, but by all evolutionists, with the single exception of Wallace, till Weismann appeared upon the scene. But Darwin and the earlier naturalists had assumed that the germ is the direct product of the parent organisms and elaborated de novo in each generation. The inheritance of acquired characters seemed to be the natural inference from such an assumption. But when about 1874 the hypothesis of germinal continuity began to find favour with biologists, the difficulties in the way of the older conception of heredity were materially increased.3 And when in 1885 Weismann maintained the absolute continuity of germ plasm, the transmission of somatic modifications became impossible, supposing the new hypothesis to be sound. Meanwhile, ‘the imposing array of facts’ on which the Neo-Lamarckians lay stress still remains. It is still true, as one of them has said, “that transformation, whether in the way of the addition of new parts or the reduction of those already present, acts just as if the direct action of the environment and the habits of the animal were the efficient cause of the change, and any explanation which excludes the direct action of such agencies is confronted by the difficulty of an immense number of the most striking coincidences.” Quite apart from this truly formidable difficulty that the Neo-Darwinians have taken upon themselves, very weighty objections have in recent years been accumulated from many sides against the theory of Natural Selection even as restricted by Darwin himself; and while there are not a few naturalists who have gone the length of rejecting it altogether, the majority, though they avoid this unwarrantable extreme, seem to allow that its range, so far from covering the facts to which the Neo-Lamarckians appeal, must be further restricted still. Thus, if it be true that on the one hand the further study of heredity has tended to invalidate the Lamarckian theory, it is equally true on the other that palæontology and the general progress of biology have equally tended to discredit Natural Selection as the sole and sufficient theory of biological evolution.4 The present situation is admirably summed up in the following ‘perfectly correct conclusion,’ as Weismann terms it, of Professor H. F. Osborn:— “If acquired variations are transmitted, there must be some unknown principle in heredity; if they are not transmitted, there must be some unknown factor in evolution.”5

Note xii.—For illustrative instances see the Evening Lecture on “The Movements of Plants,” delivered at the Glasgow meeting of the British Association, 1901, by Francis Darwin, F.R.S., reported in Nature, vol. lxv. p. 40; also (by the same author) “The Statolith Theory of Geotropism,” Nature, vol. lxvii. p. 571; also Sinnesorgane in Pflanzenreich zur Perception mechanische Reize, by Professor Habelandt, 1901.

Note xiii. Modern theories of biological evolution bristle with ‘selections’ of divers sorts. But in every case there must be what we may call an agent or activity selecting as well as material from which the selection is made; and no doubt should be left which is meant. In the so-called ‘organic’ selection of Professor Baldwin and others, organs are neither what selects nor yet what is selected; and inasmuch as the latter alternative holds good in the famous theory of W. Roux, to which the term ‘organic selection’ had accordingly been already applied,6 the use of the same term in a widely different sense is unjustifiable, even were it otherwise fitting. But in this miscalled organic selection it is the whole organism or living individual that selects, and so far the new principle is entirely in line with what I have called subjective selection. But organic selection includes not only those modifications which are due to ‘conscious selection,’7 but also those due to changes of food and climate, already described by Darwin in his chapter on the Laws of Variation, and referred by him to the plasticity of the organism. Subjective or conscious selection would have some share in producing even these modifications, and would have more the more highly organised the individuals concerned.

But though organic selection and subjective selection so far coincide at the outset, they differ in the end. According to the latter, what is selected is a specific environment. And here I must digress for a moment to acknowledge, as Mr. Francis Darwin has pointed out to me, that my views were largely anticipated in what his father has described as “divergences of character” and speaks of as “a principle of high importance” (Origin of Species, 6th ed., pp. 86-90). The chief difference, and not, I think, a slight one, is that Darwin seems to have regarded divergence of character as a result of natural selection, whereas I have regarded it as independent of, co-ordinate with, and in a sense antithetic to, natural selection. The motto of the one seems to be, “The devil take the hindmost”; that of the other, “Peace and good-will.” But if on my view the organism selects its environment, what does it select on the view of Professor Baldwin and his friends? Directly nothing at all: hence a sub-title, “Organic (or Indirect) Selection.”8 No doubt here, too, a specific environment is selected. This fact is not denied; on the contrary, under the name of “accommodation ” it is described at length—especially by Professor Baldwin—down to the minutest details, in entire accordance with the psycho-genetic analysis long beforehand put forward by me.9 But the stress of the new theory is not here. What it specially emphasises is the selection of congenital variations, coincident with or correlated to the modifications acquired during individual accommodation. It is argued, soundly enough, that in the course of generations of individuals surviving through the superior fitness that such accommodations secure, congenital variations—and such are constantly arising—which concur with the acquired modifications will increase, while those that conflict with them will diminish, the chances of survival. In the one case the ‘selective values’ concerned may be represented by m + v, in the other by m - v. Thus for the race the acquired characters have a directive tendency on the course of evolution both positively and negatively. But even so it is not the series of organisms but Nature that directly selects; and the inappropriateness of the term ‘organic selection’ is thus again apparent. This “unfortunate title,” as Professor J. Arthur Thomson has called it, really hides what is so far the main point of its authors, viz. ‘determinate evolution,’ or ‘orthoplasy,’ as they also term it—evolution, in other words, not by means of fortuitous variations, but by means of variations definitely singled out for natural selection by the character of the specific environment to which the individual accommodates. This is an obvious but important corollary from the principle of subjective selection, to which I had myself referred, though briefly and, I must own, obscurely enough (cf. above init.). All the credit on this point I yield entirely, so far as I am concerned, to the writers in question.

So far the advocates of organic selection are thoroughly at one with the Neo-Lamarckians in recognising the necessity of teleological factors, and are opposed to the Neo-Darwinians, if there still are any, who contend for the sufficiency of natural selection of fortuitous variations. And this necessity will remain whether acquired characters are or are not regarded as directly transmitted. But these writers believe that organic selection enables them to dispense with the Lamarckian law of use-inheritance accepted by the older Darwinians.10 And this, they consider, constitutes the great merit of their principle. “This hypothesis, if it has no limitations,” says Professor Osborn, “brings about a very unexpected harmony between the Lamarckian and Darwinian aspects of evolution. … While it abandons the transmission of acquired characters, it places individual adaptation first, and fortuitous variation second, as Lamarckians have always contended, instead of placing survival, conditioned by fortuitous variations, first and foremost, as selectionists have contended.”11 As I have said, this is in any case an important result. But has the hypothesis “no limitations”? Is it an adequate substitute for the Lamarckian principle of use-inheritance? That it would be effective in promoting determinate evolution up to a certain point will, I think, be generally allowed. Congenital, i.e. germinal, variations, it must be remembered, are still supposed to arise fortuitously and independently. Suppose a single variation, say in the plus direction, to be advantageous, its occurrence in this direction in many individuals and in the minus direction in about as many others might be expected before long, and both events would tell on the evolution of the race. But whenever a complex of many simultaneous variations was requisite, the chances would he greatly against the right combination occurring in any individual—to say nothing of many; usually one variation in the right direction would be neutralised in the same individual by another in the wrong: in a word, the old difficulty of co-adaptations would, to a large extent, still remain. Possibly the screening effect of the acquired modifications might do something to sustain even a single variation of such a complex till a second arose, and so on. But surely this is very problematic. Of course, the final appeal is to facts; and no doubt those biologists are right who, weary of speculation, insist on confining their attention to them.

Note xiv.—Within the last six or seven years—and particularly in his latest book on “Germinal Selection as a source of determinate variation12—Weismann has amply redeemed his promise to deal with the questions of co-adaptation and the transmission of functionally-produced modifications. To the surprise of everybody he begins by admitting that after all “the Lamarckians were right in maintaining that what has so far alone borne the denomination of Natural Selection is inadequate to explain the phenomena.” “Something is still wanting to the Selection of Darwin and Wallace. … There is still a hidden secret to be discovered.” The selection of accidental variations will not suffice: a “profounder connection must exist between the utility of a variation and its appearance, or in other words, the direction of the variation of a part must be determined by utility.” To Darwin's ‘personal selection’ as Weismann calls it—or the selection of individuals brought about by their struggle for existence—to Roux's “histonal selection,” due to the struggle for food and room of parts within the organism, there must be added ‘germinal selection,’ the result of the struggle for food among the biophores, determinants, etc., which on his theory constitute the germ. So confident is Weismann of the sufficiency of natural selection, when thus extended, that he indulges the hope of a speedy reconciliation and amalgamation of the hitherto conflicting views; accordingly he holds out the olive branch to his quondam opponents and invites them to join-with him in building further on the newly-laid foundation. So far the invitation has met with no response. The general attitude of biologists towards Weismann's work is fairly represented in the following conclusion of one of his ablest and most impartial critics:— “Nous crayons avoir montré qu'il est bâti d'hypothèses fragiles, invraisemblables, et, tout en rendant justice au talent do son architecte, noun conseillons de l'admirer de loin et de construire ailleurs” (Delage, Structure du Protoplasma, etc., 1895, p. 837).

  • 1.

    Stereo. ed. pp. 278-280.

  • 2.

    But cf. above.

  • 3.

    For a brief account of this movement see Professor J. Arthur Thomson's excellent little book, The Science of Life, pp. 146 f.

  • 4.

    I mean by Natural Selection here what Darwin meant: the wider range given to it by Roux, Weismann, and others is referred to in Note xiv, below.

  • 5.

    Weismann, Germinal-Selektion, 1896, p. 26.

  • 6.

    By Delage, Structure du Protoplasma et les Théories sur l'Hérédité, 1895, p. 732. Weismann uses for it the almost equivalent term, ‘histonal selection,’ Germinal-Selektion, 1896, p. 60.

  • 7.

    Professor Lloyd Morgan's term.

  • 8.

    Baldwin, Development and Evolution, p. 173, note.

  • 9.

    Save that, as already said, besides such psychical accommodation, physical accommodations are also included.

  • 10.

    In this Professor Lloyd Morgan, whose exposition is decidedly the best, admits that the idea was first suggested to him by Weismann's Romanes Lecture. See Baldwin, Development and Evolution, App. A, pp. 342, 348.

  • 11.

    Baldwin, App. A, p. 339. Italics mine.

  • 12.

    Ueber Germinal-Selektion, eine Quelle bestimmt gerichteter Variation, 1896. There is an American translation by T. J. M'Cormack.