Page images

question of how the Creator has worked. The Duke (and I quote him as having well expressed the views of the more intelligent of Mr. Darwin's opponents) maintains, that He has personally applied general laws to produce effects, which those laws are not in themselves capable of producing; that the universe alone, with all its laws intact, would be a sort of chaos, without variety, without harmony, without design, without beauty ; that there is not (and therefore we may presume that there could not be) any self-developing power in the universe. I believe, on the contrary, that the universe is so constituted as to be self-regulating; that as long as it contains Life, the forms under which that life is manifested have an inherent power of adjustment to each other and to surrounding nature; and that this adjustment necessarily leads to the greatest amount of variety and beauty and enjoyment, because it does depend on general laws, and not on a continual supervision and re-arrangement of details. As a matter of feeling and religion, I hold this to be a far higher conception of the Creator and of the Universe that that which may be called the continual interference " hypothesis; but it is not a question to be decided by our feelings or convictions, it is a question of facts and of reason. Could the change, which Geology shows us has ever taken place in the forms of life, have been produced by general laws, or does it imperatively require the incessant supervision of a creative mind? This is the question for us to consider, and our opponents have the difficult task of proving a negative, if we show that there are both facts and analogies in our favour.

Mr. Darwin's Metaphors liable to Misconception. Mr. Darwin has laid himself open to much misconception, and has given to his opponents a powerful weapon against himself, by his continual use of metaphor in describing the wonderful co-adaptations of organic beings. .

" It is curious,” says the Duke of Argyll, “ to observe the language which this most advanced disciple of pure naturalism instinctively uses, when he has to describe the complicated structure of this curious order of plants (the Orchids). 'Caution in ascribing intentions to nature,' does not seem to occur to him as possible. Intention is the one thing which he does see, and which, when he does not see, he seeks for diligently until he finds it. He exhausts every form of words and of illustration, by which intention or mental purpose can be described. Contrivance'- curious contrivance,'- beautiful contrivance,'—these are expressions which occur over and over again. Here is one sentence describing the parts of a particular species : "the Labellum is developed into a long nectary, in order to attract Lepidoptera, and we shall presently give reason for suspecting that the nectar is purposely so lodged, that it can be sucked only slowly in order to give time for the curious chemical quality of the viscid matter setting hard and dry.'” Many other examples of similar expressions are quoted by the Duke, who maintains that no explanation of these 6 contrivances ” has been or can be given, except on the supposition of a personal contriver, specially arranging the details of each case, although causing them to be produced by the ordinary processes of growth and reproduction.

Now there is a difficulty in this view of the origin of the structure of Orchids which the Duke does not allude to. The majority of flowering plants are fertilized, either without the agency of insects or, when insects are required, without any very important modification of the structure of the flower. It is evident, therefore, that flowers might have been formed as varied, fantastic, and beautiful as the Orchids, and yet have been fertilized without more complexity of structure than is found in Violets, or Clover, or Primroses, or a thousand other flowers. The strange springs and traps and pitfalls found in the flowers of Orchids cannot be necessary per se, since exactly the same end is gained in ten thousand other flowers which do not possess them. Is it not then an extraordinary idea, to imagine the Creator of the Universe contriving the various complicated parts of these flowers, as a mechanic might contrive an ingenious toy or a difficult puzzle? Is it not a more worthy conception that they are some of the results of those general laws which were so co-ordinated at the first introduction of life upon the earth as to result necessarily in the utmost possible development of varied forms? ..

But let us take one of the simpler cases adduced and see if our general laws are unable to account for it. A Case of Orchis-structure explained by Natural

Selection. There is a Madagascar Orchis—the Angræcum sesquipedale-with an immensely long and deep nectary. How did such an extraordinary organ come to be developed ? Mr. Darwin's explanation is this. The pollen of this flower can only be removed by the base of the proboscis of some very large moths, when trying to get at the nectar at the bottom of the vessel. The moths with the longest probosces would do this most effectually; they would be rewarded for their long tongues by getting the most nectar ; whilst on the other hand, the flowers with the deepest nectaries would be the best fertilized by the largest moths preferring, them. Consequently, the deepest nectaried Orchids and the longest tongued moths would each confer on the other an advantage in the battle of life. This would tend to their respective perpetuation, and to the constant lengthening of nectaries and probosces. Now let it be remembered, that what we have to account for, is only the unusual length of this organ. A nectary is found in many orders of plants and is especially common in the Orchids, but in this one case only is it more than a foot long. How did this arise? We begin with the fact, proved experimentally by Mr. Darwin, that moths do visit Orchids, do thrust their spiral trunks into the nectaries, and do fertilize them by carrying the pollinia of one flower to the stigina of another. He has further explained the exact mechanism

by which this is effected, and the Duke of Argyll admits the accuracy of his observations. In our British species, such as Orchis pyramidalis, it is not necessary that there should be any exact adjustment between the length of the nectary and that of the proboscis of the insect; and thus a number of insects of various sizes are found to carry away the pollinia and aid in the fertilization. In the Angræcum sesquipedale, however, it is necessary that the proboscis should be forced into a particular part of the flower, and this would only be done by a large moth burying its proboscis to the very base, and straining to drain the nectar from the bottom of the long tube, in which it occupies a depth of one or two inches only. Now let us start from the time when the nectary was only half its present length or about six inches, and was chiefly fertilized by a species of moth which appeared at the time of the plant's flowering, and whose proboscis was of the same length. Among the millions of flowers of the Angræcum produced every year, some would always be shorter than the average, some longer. The former, owing to the structure of the flower, would not get fertilized, because the moths could get all the nectar without forcing their trunks down to the very base. The latter would be well fertilized, and the longest would on the average be the best fertilized of all. By this process alone the average length of the nectary would annually increase, because, the short-nectaried flowers being sterile and the long ones having abundant offspring, exactly the same effect would be

« EelmineJätka »