« EelmineJätka »
above-named genera–Papilio, Pieris, and Diadema-or in any other butterfly, of a male alone, mimicking one of the Danaidæ or Heliconidæ. Yet the necessary colour is far more abundant in the males, and variations always seem ready for any useful purpose. This seems to depend on the general law, that each species and each sex can only be modified just as far as is absolutely necessary for it to maintain itself in the struggle for existence, not a step further. A male insect by its structure and habits is less exposed to danger, and also requires less protection than the female. It cannot, therefore, alone acquire any further protection through the agency of natural selection. But the female requires some extra protection, to balance the greater danger to which she is exposed, and her greater importance to the existence of the species ;, and this she always acquires, in one way or another, through the action of natural selection.
In his Origin of Species,” fourth edition, p. 241, Mr. Darwin recognises the necessity for protection as sometimes being a cause of the obscure colours of female birds; but he does not seem to consider it so very important an agent in modifying colour as I am disposed to do. In the same paragraph (p. 240), he alludes to the fact of female birds and butterflies being sometimes very plain, sometimes as gay as the males; but, apparently, considers this mainly due to peculiar laws of inheritance, which sometimes continue acquired colour in the line of one sex only, sometimes in both. Without denying the action of such a law (which Mr. Darwin informs me he has facts to support), I impute the difference, in the great majority of cases, to the greater or less need of protection in the female sex in these groups of animals.
Conclusion. To some persons it will perhaps appear, that the causes to which I impute so much of the external aspect of nature are too simple, too insignificant, and too unimportant for such a mighty work. But I would ask them to consider, that the great object of all the peculiarities of animal structure is to preserve the life of the individual, and maintain the existence of the species. Colour has hitherto been too often looked upon as something adventitious and superficial, something given to an animal not to be useful to itself, but solely to gratify man or even superior beings—to add to the beauty and ideal harmony of nature. If this were the case, then, it is evident that the colours of organized beings would be an exception to most other natural phenomena. They would not be the product of general laws, or determined by ever-changing external conditions; and we must give up all inquiry into their origin and causes, since (by the hypothesis) they are dependent on a Will whose motives must ever be unknown to us. But, strange to say, no sooner do we begin to examine and classify the colours of natural objects, than we find that they are intimately related to a variety of other phenomena, and are like them strictly subordinated to general laws. I have here attempted to elucidate some of these laws in the case of birds, and have shown how the mode of nidification has affected the colouring of the female sex in this group. I have before shown to how great an extent, and in how many ways, the need of protection has determined the colours of insects, and of some groups of reptiles and mammalia, and I would now call particular attention to the fact that the gay tints of flowers, so long supposed to be a convincing proof that colour has been bestowed for other purposes than the good of its possessor, have been shown by Mr. Darwin to follow the same great law of utility Flowers do not often need protection, but very often require the aid of insects to fertilize them, and maintain their reproductive powers in the greatest vigour. Their gay colours attract insects, as do also their sweet odours and honeyed secretions; and that this is the main function of colour in flowers is shown by the striking fact, that those flowers which can be perfectly fertilized by the wind, and do not need the aid of insects, rarely or never have gailycoloured flowers.
This wide extension of the general principle of utility to the colours of such varied groups, both in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, compels us to acknowledge that the “ reign of law” has been fairly traced into this stronghold of the advocates of special creation. And to those who oppose the explanation I have given of the facts adduced in this essay, I would again respectfully urge that they must grapple with the whole of the facts, not one or two of them only. It will be admitted
that, on the theory of evolution and natural selection, a wide range of facts with regard to colour in nature have been co-ordinated and explained. Until at least an equally wide range of facts can be shown to be in harmony with any other theory, we can hardly be expected to abandon that which has already done such good service, and which has led us to the discovery of so many interesting and unexpected harmonies among the most common (but hitherto most neglected and least understood), of the phenomena presented by organized beings.
CREATION BY LAW. AMONG the various criticisms that have appeared on Mr. Darwin's celebrated “ Origin of Species,” there is, perhaps, none that will appeal to so large a number of well educated and intelligent persons, as that contained in the Duke of Argyll's “ Reign of Law.” The noble author represents the feelings and expresses the ideas of that large class, who take a keen interest in the progress of Science in general, and especially that of Natural History, but have never themselves studied nature in detail, or acquired that personal knowledge of the structure of closely allied forms,—the wonderful gradations from species to species and from group to group, and the infinite variety of the phenomena of " variation ” in organic beings,—which are absolutely necessary for a full appreciation of the facts and reasonings contained in Mr. Darwin's great work.
Nearly half of the Duke's book is devoted to an exposition of his idea of “ Creation by Law," and he expresses so clearly what are his difficulties and objections as regards the theory of “ Natural Selection," that I think it advisable that they should be fairly answered, and that his own views should be shown to lead to conclusions, as hard to accept as any which he imputes to Mr. Darwin.