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THE DEVELOPMENT OF HUMAN RACES UNDER THE LAW OF
AMONG the most advanced students of man there exists a wide difference of opinion on some of the most vital questions respecting his nature and origin. Anthropologists are now, indeed, pretty well agreed that man is not a recent introduction into the earth. All who have studied the question now admit that his antiquity is very great; and that, though we have to some extent ascertained the minimum of time during which he must have existed, we have made no approximation towards determining that far greater period during which he may have, and probably has existed. We can with tolerable certainty affirm that man must have inhabited the earth a thousand centuries ago, but we cannot assert that he positively did not exist, or that there is any good evidence against his having existed, for a period of ten thousand centuries. We know positively that he was contemporaneous with many now extinct animals, and has survived changes of the earth's surface fifty or a hundred times greater than any that have occurred during the historical period; but we cannot place any definite limit to the number of species he may have outlived, or to the amount of terrestrial change he may have witnessed.
Wide differences of opinion as to Man's Origin But while on this question of man's antiquity there is a very general agreement,—and all are waiting eagerly for
1 First published in the Anthropological Review, May 1864 ; reprinted in Contributions, etc., with some alterations and additions.
that both pinion is than we
fresh evidence to clear up those points which all admit to be full of doubt,—on other and not less obscure and difficult questions a considerable amount of dogmatism is exhibited; doctrines are put forward as established truths, no doubt or hesitation is admitted, and it seems to be supposed that no further evidence is required, or that any new facts can modify our convictions. This is especially the case when we inquire, — Are the various forms under which man now exists primitive, or derived from pre-existing forms; in other words, is man of one or many species? To this question we immediately obtain distinct answers diametrically opposed to each other : the one party positively maintaining that man is a species and is essentially one—that all differences are but local and temporary variations, produced by the different physical and moral conditions by which he is surrounded ; the other party maintaining with equal confidence that man is a genus of many species, each of which is practically unchangeable, and has ever been as distinct, or even more distinct, than we now behold them. This difference of opinion is somewhat remarkable, when we consider that both parties are well acquainted with the subject ; both use the same vast accumulation of facts ; both reject those early traditions of mankind which profess to give an account of his origin; and both declare that they are seeking fearlessly after truth alone; yet each will persist in looking only at the portion of truth on his own side of the question, and at the error which is mingled with his opponent's doctrine. It is my wish to show how the two opposing views can be combined, so as to eliminate the error and retain the truth in cach, and it is by means of Mr. Darwin's celebrated theory of Natural Selection that I hope to do this, and thus to harmonise the conflicting theories of modern anthropologists.
Let us first see what each party has to say for itself. In favour of the unity of mankind it is argued that there are no races without transitions to others; that every race exhibits within itself variations of colour, of hair, of feature, and of form, to such a degree as to bridge over, to a large extent, the gap that separates it from other races. It is asserted that no race is homogeneous; that there is a tendency to vary; that climate, food, and habits produce, and
render permanent, physical peculiarities, which, though slight in the limited periods allowed to our observation, would, in the long ages during which the human race has existed, have sufficed to produce all the differences that now appear. It is further asserted that the advocates of the opposite theory do not agree among themselves; that some would make three, some five, some fifty or a hundred and fifty species of man; some would have had each species created in pairs, while others require nations to have at once sprung into existence, and that there is no stability or consistency in any doctrine but that of one primitive stock.
The advocates of the original diversity of man, on the other hand, have much to say for themselves. They argue that proofs of change in man have never been brought forward except to the most trifling amount, while evidence of his permanence meets us everywhere. The Portuguese and Spaniards, settled for two or three centuries in South America, retain their chief physical, mental, and moral characteristics ; the Dutch boers at the Cape, and the descendants of the early Dutch settlers in the Moluccas, have not lost the features or the colour of the Germanic races ; the Jews, scattered over the world in the most diverse climates, retain the same characteristic lineaments everywhere; the Egyptian sculptures and paintings show us that, for at least 4000 or 5000 years, the strongly contrasted features of the Negro and the Semitic races have remained altogether unchanged; while more recent discoveries prove that the mound-builders of the Mississippi valley, and the dwellers on Brazilian mountains, had, even in the very infancy of the human race, some traces of the same peculiar and characteristic type of cranial formation that now distinguishes them.
If we endeavour to decide impartially on the merits of this difficult controversy, judging solely by the evidence that each party has brought forward, it certainly seems that the best of the argument is on the side of those who maintain the primitive diversity of man. Their opponents have not been able to refute the permanence of existing races as far back as we can trace them, and have failed to show, in a single case, that at any former epoch the well marked varieties of mankind approximated more closely than they do at the present day. At the same time this is but negative evidence. A condition of immobility for four or five thousand years does not preclude an advance at an earlier epoch, and—if we can show that there are causes in nature which would check any further physical change when certain conditions were fulfilled—does not even render such an advance improbable, if there are any general arguments to be adduced in its favour. Such a cause, I believe, does exist; and I shall now endeavour to point out its nature and its mode of operation.
Outline of the Theory of Natural Selection In order to make my argument intelligible, it is necessary for me to explain very briefly the theory of natural selection promulgated by Mr. Darwin, and the power which it: possesses of modifying the forms of animals and plants. The grand feature in the multiplication of organic life is, that close general resemblance is combined with more or less individual variation. The child resembles its parents or ancestors more or less closely in all its peculiarities, deformities, or beauties; it resembles them in general more than it does any other individuals; yet children of the same parents are not all alike, and it often happens that they differ very considerably from their parents and from each other. This is equally true of man, of all animals, and of all plants. Moreover, it is found that individuals do not differ from their parents in certain particulars only, while in all others they are exact duplicates of them. They differ from them and from each other in every particular : in form, in size, in colour ; in the structure of internal as well as of external organs ; in those subtle peculiarities which produce differences of constitution, as well as in those still more subtle ones which lead to modifications of mind and character. In other words, in every possible way, in every organ, and in every function, individuals of the same stock vary.
Now, health, strength, and long life are the results of a harmony between the individual and the universe that surrounds it. Let us suppose that at any given moment this harmony is perfect. A certain animal is exactly fitted to
this natura not to act. It is som of
secure its prey, to escape from its enemies, to resist the inclemencies of the seasons, and to rear a numerous and healthy offspring. But a change now takes place. A series of cold winters, for instance, come on, making food scarce, and bringing an immigration of some other animals to compete with the former inhabitants of the district. The new immigrant is swift of foot, and surpasses its rivals in the pursuit of game; the winter nights are colder, and require a thicker fur as a protection, and more nourishing food to keep up the heat of the system. Our supposed perfect animal is no longer in harmony with its universe ; it is in danger of dying of cold or of starvation. But the animal varies in its offspring. Some of these are swifter than others—they still manage to catch food enough ; some are hardier and more thickly furred—they manage in the cold nights to keep warm enough; the slow, the weak, and the thinly clad soon die off. Again and again, in each succeeding generation, the same thing takes place. By this natural process, which is so inevitable that it cannot be conceived not to act, those best adapted to live, live; those least adapted, die. It is sometimes said that we have no direct evidence of the action of this selecting power in nature. But it seems to me we have better evidence than even direct observation would be, because it is more universal, viz., the evidence of necessity. It must be so ; for, as all wild animals increase in a geometrical ratio, while their actual numbers remain on the average stationary, it follows that as many die annually as are born. If, therefore, we deny natural selection, it can only be by asserting that, in such a case as I have supposed, the strong, the healthy, the swift, the well clad, the well organised animals in every respect, have no advantage over
-do not on the average live longer than—the weak, the unhealthy, the slow, the ill-clad, and the imperfectly organised individuals ; and this no sane man has yet been found hardy enough to assert. But this is not all; for the offspring on the average resemble their parents, and the selected portion of each succeeding generation will therefore be stronger, swifter, and more thickly furred than the last; and if this process goes on for thousands of generations, our animal will have again become thoroughly in harmony with the new con
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