« EelmineJätka »
the development of that perfect beauty which results from a healthy and well organized body, refined and ennobled by the highest intellectual faculties and sympathetic emotions, his mental constitution may continue to advance and improve, till the world is again inhabited by a single nearly homogeneous race, no individual of which will be inferior to the noblest specimens of existing humanity.
Our progress towards such a result is very slow, but it still seems to be a progress. We are just now living at an abnormal period of the world's history, owing to the marvellous developments and vast practical results of science, having been given to societies too low morally and intellectually, to know how to make the best use of them, and to whom they have consequently been curses as well as blessings. Among civilized nations at the present day, it does not seem possible for natural selection to act in any way, so as to secure the permanent advancement of morality and intelligence ; for it is indisputably the mediocre, if not the low, both as regards morality and intelligence, who succeed best in life and multiply fastest. Yet there is undoubtedly an advance—on the whole a steady and a permanent one—both in the influence on public opinion of a high morality, and in the general desire for intellectual elevation ; and as I cannot impute this in any way to s survival of the fittest,” I am forced to conclude that it is due, to the inherent progressive power of those glorious qualities which raise us so immeasurably above our fellow animals, and at the same time afford us the surest proof that there are other and higher existences than ourselves, from whom these qualities may have been derived, and towards whom we may be ever tending.
THE LIMITS OF NATURAL SELECTION AS
APPLIED TO MAN.
THROUGHOUT this volume I have endeavoured to show, that the known laws of variation, multiplication, and heredity, resulting in a “struggle for existence" and the survival of the fittest,” have probably sufficed to produce all the varieties of structure, all the wonderful adaptations, all the beauty of form and of colour, that we see in the animal and vegetable kingdoms. To the best of my ability I have answered the most obvious and the most often repeated objections to this theory, and have, I hope, added to its general strength, by showing how colour-one of the strongholds of the
advocates of special creation-may be, in almost all its | modifications, accounted for by the combined influence
of sexual selection and the need of protection. I have also endeavoured to show, how the same power which has modified animals has acted on man; and have, I believe, proved that, as soon as the human intellect became developed above a certain low stage, man's body would cease to be materially affected by natural selection, because the development of his mental faculties would render important modifications of its form and structure unnecessary. It will, therefore, probably excite some surprise among my readers, to find that I do not consider that all nature can be explained on the principles of which I am so ardent an advocate ; and that I am now myself going to state objections, and to place limits, to the power of “natural selection.” I believe, however, that there are such limits; and that just as surely as we can trace the action of natural laws in the development of organic forms, and can clearly conceive that fuller knowledge would enable us to follow step by step the whole process of that development, so surely can we trace the action of some unknown higher law, beyond and independent of all those laws of which we have any knowledge. We can trace this action more or less distinctly in many phenomena, the two most important of which are—the origin of sensation or consciousness, and the development of man from the lower animals. I shall first consider the latter difficulty as more immediately connected with the subjects discussed in this volume.
What Natural Selection can Not do. In considering the question of the development of man by known natural laws, we must ever bear in mind the first principle of natural selection,” no less than of the general theory of evolution, that all changes of form or structure, all increase in the size of an organ or in its complexity, all greater specialization or physiological division of labour, can only be brought about, in as much as it is for the good of the being so modified. Mr. Darwin himself has taken care to
impress upon us, that “natural selection” has no power to produce absolute perfection but only relative perfection, no power to advance any being much beyond his fellow beings, but only just so much beyond them as to enable it to survive them in the struggle for existence. Still less has it any power to produce modifications which are in any degree injurious to its possessor, and Mr. Darwin frequently uses the strong expression, that a single case of this kind would be fatal to his theory. If, therefore, we find in man any characters, which all the evidence we can obtain goes to show would have been actually injurious to him on their first appearance, they could not possibly have been produced by natural selection. Neither could any specially developed organ have been so produced if it had been merely useless to him, or if its use were not proportionate to its degree of development. Such cases as these would prove, that some other law, or some other power, than “natural selection ” had been at work. But if, further, we could see that these very modifications, though hurtful or useless at the time when they first appeared, became in the highest degree useful at a much later period, and are now essential to the full moral and intellectual development of human nature, we should then infer the action of mind, foreseeing the future and preparing for it, just as surely as we do, when we see the breeder set himself to work with the determination to produce a definite improvement in some cultivated plant or domestic animal. I would further remark that this enquiry is