Page images
PDF
EPUB

by cultivating the soil to obtain a constant supply of congenial food. This renders it unnecessary for his body, like those of the lower animals, to be modified in accordance with changing conditions—to gain a warmer natural covering, to acquire more powerful teeth or claws, or to become adapted to obtain and digest new kinds of food, as circumstances may require. 2. By his superior sympathetic and moral feelings, he becomes fitted for the social state; he ceases to plunder the weak and helpless of his tribe; he shares the game which he has caught with less active or less fortunate hunters, or exchanges it for weapons which even the weak or the deformed can fashion; he saves the sick and wounded from death; and thus the power which leads to the rigid destruction of all animals who cannot in every respect help themselves, is prevented from acting on him.

This power is "natural selection;" and, as by no other means can it be shown, that individual variations can ever become accumulated and rendered permanent so as to form well-marked races, it follows that the differences which now separate mankind from other animals, must have been produced before he became possessed of a human intellect or human sympathies. This view also renders possible, or even requires, the existence of man at a comparatively remote geological epoch. For, during the long periods in which other animals have been undergoing modification in their whole structure, to such an amount as to constitute distinct genera and families, man's body will have remained generically, or even specifically, the same, while his head and brain alone will have undergone modification equal to theirs. We can thus understand how it is that, judging from the head and brain, Professor Owen places man in a distinct sub-class of mammalia, while as regards the bony structure of his body, there is the closest anatomical resemblance to the anthropoid apes, a every tooth, every bone, strictly homologous—which makes the determination of the difference between Homo and Pithecus the anatomist's difficulty." The present theory fully recognises and accounts for these facts; and we may perhaps claim as corroborative of its truth, that it neither requires us to depreciate the intellectual chasm which separates man from the apes, nor refuses full recognition of the striking resemblances to them) which exist in other parts of his structure.

Conclusion.

In concluding this brief sketch of a great subject, I would point out its bearing upon the future of the human race. If my conclusions are just, it must inevitably follow that the higher—the more intellectual and moral—must displace the lower and more degraded races; and the power of "natural selection," still acting on his mental organization, must ever lead to the more perfect adaptation of man's higher faculties to the conditions of surrounding nature, and to the exigencies of the social state. While his external form will probably ever remain unchanged, except in 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 "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*

[ocr errors]

X.

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

« EelmineJätka »