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were likely that a character so long persistent in the entire order of mammalia, could have so completely disappeared, under the influence of so weak a selective power as a diminished usefulness.
Man's Naked Skin could not have been produced by
It seems to me, then, to be absolutely certain, that “Natural Selection ” could not have produced man’s hairless body by the accumulation of variations from a hairy ancestor. The evidence all goes to show that such variations could not have been useful, but must, on the contrary, have been to some extent hurtful. If even, owing to an unknown correlation with other hurtful qualities, it had been abolished in the ancestral tropical man, we cannot conceive that, as man spread into colder climates, it should not have returned under the powerful influence of reversion to such a long persistent ancestral type. But the very foundation of such a supposition as this is untenable; for we cannot suppose that a character which, like hairiness, exists throughout the whole of the mammalia, can have become, in one form only, so constantly correlated with an injurious character, as to lead to its permanent suppression—a suppression so complete and effectual that it never, or scarcely ever, reappears in mongrels of the most widely different races of man.
Two characters could hardly be wider apart, than the size and development of man's brain, and the distribution of hair upon the surface of his body; yet they both lead us to the same conclusion—that some
other power than Natural Selection has been engaged in his production.
Feet and Hands of Man, considered as Difficulties on the Theory of Natural Selection.
There are a few other physical characteristics of man, that may just be mentioned as offering similar difficulties, though I do not attach the same importance to them as to those I have already dwelt on. The specialization and perfection of the hands and feet of man seems difficult to account for. Throughout the whole of the quadrumana the foot is prehensile; and a very rigid selection must therefore have been needed to bring about that arrangement of the bones and muscles, which has converted the thumb into a great toe, so completely, that the power of opposability is totally lost in every race, whatever some travellers may vaguely assert to the contrary. It is difficult to see why the prehensile power should have been taken away. It must certainly have been useful in climbing, and the case of the baboons shows that it is quite compatible with terrestrial locomotion. It may not be compatible with perfectly easy erect locomotion; but, then, how can we conceive that early man, as an animal, gained anything by purely erect locomotion ? Again, the hand of man contains latent capacities and powers which are unused by savages, and must have been even less used by palaeolithic man and his still ruder predecessors. It has all the appearance of an organ prepared for the use of civilized man, and one which was required to render civilization possible. Apes make little use of their separate fingers and opposable thumbs. They grasp objects rudely and clumsily, and look as if a much less specialized extremity would have served their purpose as well. I do not lay much stress on this, but, if it be proved that some intelligent power has guided or determined the development of man, then we may see indications of that power, in facts which, by themselves, would not serve to prove its existence.
The voice of man.—The same remark will apply to another peculiarly human character, the wonderful power, range, flexibility, and sweetness, of the musical sounds producible by the human larynx, especially in the female sex. The habits of savages give no indication of how this faculty could have been developed by natural selection; because it is: never required or used by them. The singing of savages is a more or less monotonous howling, and the females seldom sing at all. Savages certainly never choose their wives for fine voices, but for rude health, and strength, and physical beauty. Sexual selection could not therefore have developed this wonderful power, which only comes into play among civilized people. It seems as if the organ had been prepared in anticipation of the future progress of man, since it contains latent capacities which are useless to him in his earlier condition. The delicate correlations of structure that give it such marvellous powers, could not therefore have been acquired by means of natural selection.
The Origin of some of Man’s Mental Faculties, by the
preservation of Useful Variations, not possible.
Turning to the mind of man, we meet with many difficulties in attempting to understand, how those mental faculties, which are especially human, could have been acquired by the preservation of useful variations. At first sight, it would seem that such feelings as those of abstract justice and benevolence could never have been so acquired, because they are incompatible with the law of the strongest, which is the essence of natural selection. But this is, I think, an erroneous view, because we must look, not to individuals but to societies; and justice and benevolence, exercised towards members of the same tribe, would certainly tend to strengthen that tribe, and give it a superiority over another in which the right of the strongest prevailed, and where consequently the weak and the sickly were left to perish, and the few strong ruthlessly destroyed the many who were weaker.
But there is another class of human faculties that do not regard our fellow men, and which cannot, therefore, be thus accounted for. Such are the capacity to form ideal conceptions of space and time, of eternity and infinity—the capacity for intense artistic feelings of pleasure, in form, colour, and composition— and for those abstract notions of form and number which render geometry and arithmetic possible. How were all or any of these faculties first developed, when they could have been of no possible use to man in his early stages of barbarism How could “natural
selection,” or survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence, at all favour the development of mental powers so entirely removed from the material necessities of savage men, and which even now, with our comparatively high civilization, are, in their farthest developments, in advance of the age, and appear to have relation rather to the future of the race than to its actual status?
Difficulty as to the Origin of the Moral Sense.
Exactly the same difficulty arises, when we endeavour to account for the development of the moral sense or conscience in savage man ; for although the practice of benevolence, honesty, or truth, may have been useful to the tribe possessing these virtues, that does not at all account for the peculiar sanctity, attached to actions which each tribe considers right and moral, as contrasted with the very different feelings with which they regard what is merely useful. The utilitarian hypothesis (which is the theory of natural selection applied to the mind) seems inadequate to account for the development of the moral sense. This subject has been recently much discussed, and I will here only give one example to illustrate my argument. The utilitarian sanction for truthfulness is by no means very powerful or universal. Few laws enforce it. No very severe reprobation follows untruthfulness. In all