Art. LXXII.—On a Common Vital Force.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 20th September and 1st November, 1893.]
Section I.—Similarity of Construction.
I should like to refer to some of the facts I have been collecting for years past to illustrate the perfect equality of construction amongst all living things in the common vital force, and I would ask members to treat this section as following my last paper upon “Spiders as Engineers.”
The first idea of a suspension bridge was suggested, I believe, by the creepers in the tropical Mexican forests, not from spiders' bridges. Brunel designed his famous boring-shield, with which the Thames Tunnel was excavated, solely by watching through a microscope the movements of the Teredo navalis (ship-worm), which used to be so destructive to our ships. The Eddystone Lighthouse is built on the plan of a tree-trunk, and is fastened to the rock in a manner similar to the way a tree clings to the soil. Our chief harbour engineers, supplied with the force of a hundred thousand men, cannot surpass the labour of the coral polypi in great protectective works. * The spiral stairways of some of our highest towers do not surpass in strength and design the whorls of the little sea-shell Turritella. What works have we to exceed in strength and lightness, combined with storage-capacity, the cells of the common honeycomb? How many things are there which we construct more accurate in measurement than the web of any ordinary geometric spider? Very few: the graded circle for an equatorial telescope perhaps is equal to the web in accuracy. Sir Joseph Paxton designed the Crystal Palace from the floral structure of the gigantic leaves of a water-lily (Victoria regia): thus, by solely patterning after nature, an obscure gardener became a great architect. Do any of our aërial machines compare for one moment with the mode in which nature carries, say, a thistle-seed fifty or one hundred miles through the air, although I must say that aëronauts try to copy the structure and movements of birds? But there are many inanimate microscopic things always floating in the atmosphere the form of which they had far better study. (The word “inanimate” may be wrong, as anything
[Footnote] * In Napier, Hawke's Bay, a breakwater is being constructed at a cost of £500,000. I do not think it possible to construct a harbour of any great utility there under a cost of £5,000,000.
that moves may be said to have life.) In laying its eggs on the water the gnat fastens them into the shape of a lifeboat, which it is impossible to sink without tearing it to pieces. The cocoanut in its husk is an admirable life-buoy, prepared to float for months from island to island; and similarly with other hard seeds I have met with in the Pacific. Salt water is usually death to the vitality of most land-seeds, but here we find seeds of trees and plants protected by their hard cases from any such harm. The strength of arch-construction in nut-fruits generally is wonderful, but the triangle of the Brazil nut, with its inner strengthening-braces, is not yet quite understood. Each of the teeth of the two little ovipositor saws of the saw-fly (Tenthredo) is furnished with smaller notches, so that the teeth are again toothed. None of the carpenters saws that I know of go so far as this. The burhstones of mills are much like our molar teeth, which grind and grind away. The hoofs of horses are made of parallel plates like carriage-springs, or, rather, vice vers â, carriage-springs blindly follow nature's pattern. The finest file of human manufacture is a rough affair compared with the Dutch rush, used by cabinetmakers (horsetail = Equisetum). Our carpenters' plane is found in the mouth of the bee. The woodpecker is furnished with a powerful little trip-hammer. The squirrel carries chisels in its mouth, the hippopotamus adzes, and the jaws of the turtle and tortoise are natural scissors.
The diving-bell, after all, only imitates Argyroneta aquatica, a water-spider which carries globules of air down to its cell below the water-line, until it has there an excellent and secure air-chamber. I am indeed told of a spider which almost spins an actual diving-bell, and takes the air down in it. The iron mast of a modern ship is strengthened by deep ribs running along its interior. A porcupine's quill is strengthened by similar ribs. I do not say that the designers of the mast copied directly from the quill—they only blindly followed the principle, the similarity in construction being all through nature, and forming part of the common vital force, as I tried to point out in the paper upon that subject I had the honour of reading before this Institute in 1886.* All I am trying to show in the present paper is that discoverers in future, where they can, had better study carefully the simple designs and constructions in the natural world, such as the spiders' bridges I refer to, these being the best exemplifications of construction in vital force we possess—a construction, too, common to all living things. I do not say, however, that man cannot himself discover (he does discover, but he does not invent). The word “inventor” in
[Footnote] * See vol. xix., pp. 592, 593.
its ordinary accepted meaning is really a misnomer, as man invents nothing. He only discovers the telescope, microscope, telephone, railroad, steamship, or electric marvels; he does not invent them, because they are in the magic womb of nature all the time; and scores of other marvels too, about which he at present knows nothing. A friend of mine holds that man invents when he adapts certain simple natural laws in a peculiar way, such as the compound microscope. I fancy the adaptation is in nature all the time, and man only discovers it. In my opinion, man only taps the box, and the marvels appear. The true rendering of the word, however, is correct, seeing that it is derived from invenire, “to come upon,” and the peculiarity is that the marvels only come upon us as they are required for our benefit. Thus the man who discovered the steam-engine is said to be one Solomon Caus, of Normandy, in 1576. He was promptly put in a mad-house (Bicêtre), was there seen by the Marquis of Worcester, who revealed the matter to the public, and was considered to be as mad as Caus. The world was not exactly ready then, I suppose, for the discovery. Neither did electric communication “come in” until it was apparently necessary for European man to communicate quickly with the newly-discovered Continents of America and Australia. The same with the steamship. Before the time of Columbus the steamship would not have been of much service. Sailors hugged the land, and knew scarcely anything of the mariner's compass. Before the discovery of the compass and the revelations of Bruno, Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton, of what use would steamships have been? Man had no guide to cross the ocean save the stars. True, the compass was discovered by the Chinese three thousand six hundred years ago. But I do not wish it to be understood that the compass was absolutely necessary to navigation, as we managed without it by hugging the shore; but for much ocean traffic the compass and the other revelations, I hold, were absolutely necessary. (It is pleasant to find that astronomical discoveries are always named as such, and not by the word “inventions.”) The electric light would not be of much service to the pigmies of Central Africa.
But let me proceed with the other examples I have been collecting. A fish constructs and weaves its nest much like a bird. Maoris and Fijians weave reeds most beautifully in their houses. Weaving was, and is still, a most useful art among savages, birds, fishes, &c. The shadow-bird of South Africa builds its nest with about a cart-load of sticks, in three compartments, divided by partitions—the outer one a guardroom for the male bird, the centre one a nursery for the young, and the inner one a living-room for the female. Like
us, too, this bird is fond of decorating the walls of its living-rooms with any brightly-painted or shining thing. It will weave in a piece of sardine-tin, or a metal fork, or any bright thing for a picture. If the Dutch farmers miss anything of value, and there are shadow-birds' nests near, they always search the nests for the lost articles. A Kaffir's hut is much like that of an enlarged shadow-bird's dwelling, save that it has only one compartment, not three. From the round dome the improvement has gone on to the hip-roof, and from the hip-roof house right through the gamut of construction to the marvellous Taj Mahal. There is, however, little or no evolution in this, as beauty of design in construction or sculpture is all the time in the womb of nature, so that an African pigmy queen, once entering upon the gamut, might run through the scale to the Taj Mahal. We can see that in the wondrous beauty of form in flowers and plants, the construction of which should guide us in many of our buildings. No sculpture of the present day can equal the work, say, of Phidias, the Greek. By the principle of evolution we ought to be better now than Phidias.
In dam-building we do not much excel the beaver. The great dam-builders of India and Ceylon knew little or nothing, I should suppose, of the beaver's plans, but, as there was only one way in nature of doing the work, both the beaver and man simply followed the natural law, which clearly is a rule quite apart from natural selection. (I shall show later on, in subsequent sections of this paper, wherein I think Darwin's great theory of natural selection fails. In accounting for this law of similarity of construction it also totally fails.) I think the beavers' dams, however, are stronger than man's (in proportion, of course, to size), seeing that the beaver makes his a living dam, whilst ours is usually a dead structure. I think, too, the beaver makes his dam slightly convex, so that the down-pressure of the water always consolidates his structure. We build our dams straight across, the consequence being that they often belly out and carry away. Most of the great dams in Ceylon, and, in fact, nearly all our dams, are liable to be cut through by the wearing-action of flood-water. I have noticed that water falls over the peat of a New Zealand swamp, and does not wear that away. Living peat, I suppose, is equal in its way to a living dam constructed by beavers. I should recommend the trial of covering a great earth-dam with peat, and keeping it wet on the lower side of the dam by little trickling streams all along the face.
When our engineers found that hollow beams or shafts were as strong as, if not stronger than, solid ones they only discovered a principle very commonly seen in nature. A wheat-straw, if solid, could not support its head of grain. The bones
of the higher animals are porous; and those of birds, where lightness and strength are most beautifully combined, are hollow. The framework of a ship resembles the bones of a herring. The tools in our engineers' shops follow nature's designs closely, especially in the adaptation of mouth, jaws, and teeth. Designers of such tools might study more carefully than they do the wonderful strength exhibited, say, by the jaws of a greyhound, or a crab, or by the beaks of many birds. As to the marvels of the microscopic world, I hardly dare in this short paper touch upon them. The whole subject forms a chapter of the paper I am preparing, which I trust soon to be able to submit to the consideration of members. I shall be glad to receive from members any further similarities in natural construction which have struck them, or which they have met with in the course of their reading.
[Note.—Mr. H. B. Kirk has kindly supplied me with some of the similarities I ask for—one, that of the pedicillaria of the large blue star-fish (undescribed, he believes), which he found in Lyall's Bay, in June, 1889. In this it will be seen that the shears are crossed at the base, so that tension on the base insures closing of the blades, as in scissors or pincers. The grippers with which great blocks of stone are raised are very often on this plan, and so are the grippers used in dredging. The twisted muscles are interesting, seeing that a turn on the untwisted part at the base would tighten or loosen the plait, and so close or unclose the pincers. The total length, including muscular band, is probably a little less than 1mm. He also sends me a sketch of a piece of apparatus very like sheep-shears, belonging to the same star-fish. Also a sketch of the three-bladed pedicillarium of the common sea-urchin. We appear to find little or no use for any three-bladed instrument acting upon a common centre. The same remark applies to the fine teeth of the sea-urchin, meeting at a common centre instead of along a line. Mr. Kirk also directs my attention to the fact that the photographic camera follows the same plan as the eye; that a telephone ear- and mouth-piece is that of the ear (here even the auditory nerve is functionally reproduced). The radula of Molluscs is on the same plan as the compound chain or band-saw. The suckers of a cuttle-fish and a fly's foot are the same. Spiral springs are found in the spermatophore of cuttle-fish.* The spiral elaters, or spore-dispersers, of some Cryptogams are on a similar plan. The valves of the heart and the blood-vessels correspond in function with the valves of a force-pump, hydraulic ram, &c. Our flexible gas-tubing
[Footnote] * See Pl. vi., Trans. N.Z. Inst., 1883: Anatomy of Sepioteuthis bilineata.
strengthened by spiral wire follows the same plan as the spiral vessels of plants. I must thank Mr. H. B. Kirk for these additions to my list of analogies.]
Section II.—Discovery v. Invention.
At the last meeting of the Society one of the members considered that I was not justified in saying the telescope was a discovery. He considered it an invention. I wish now to give instances of accidental discovery. I have been collecting for some years to prove that the common vital force directly guides man by constantly imparting to him, as if accidentally, secrets of great utility for his welfare; that these secrets are constantly being imparted, but fall upon barren ground if man is not ready to receive them. They occupy, as it were, a similar position to those microscopic germs of plants or insects, suitable to particular climates and conditions of life, constantly floating through space, and ready to blossom or spring into actual visible life and existence directly they find a suitable habitat upon any planet. So that when man's mental condition and surrounding acquirements are ready to receive any secret the secret comes out, and its beauty is at once admitted. I would ask pardon for thus boldly stating the thoughts of many years, as I am not a scientific man in the true sense of the word, but only an observer of natural phenomena. Now as to these accidental discoveries of great importance.
Edison, experimenting upon the telephone, to his complete surprise and amazement accidentally discovered the phonograph. Electrical discoveries are always named as such, and not by the word “inventions.” We invent, perhaps, the apparatus for taking advantage of the discoveries.
Mrs. Nasmyth suggested to her husband one night in bed to place a wooden shoe, like the one she wore in wet weather, between the iron head and the piston-rod of his new hammer. Thus was the steam-hammer perfected. Before that accidental suggestion Nasmyth could not get his hammer to stand the shock of impact.
A little boy, wishing to play, attached a piece of string to the shaft of one of our first steam-engines, at the pit's mouth, so as to save himself the trouble of opening and closing the steam-valve. This was our first eccentric rod.
One of our first steam-engineers, desirous of preventing the escape of steam from frightening horses along the roads, turned the escape up the chimney, thus accidentally producing draught, and so giving us high speed.
It is said that the art of printing took its origin from some rude impressions taken for the amusement of children from letters carved on the bark of a tree.
Gunpowder was discovered from the falling of a spark on some materials mixed in a mortar.
Electricity was discovered by a person observing that a piece of rubbed glass attracted small bits of paper. Thales, of Miletus (600 B.C.), noted this with amber.
Musical notation was discovered by an Egyptian observer noticing the different ring of blacksmiths' hammers.
The beautiful capitol of a Corinthian column was discovered by an Athenian in his garden noticing a slab of stone placed accidentally upon a basket.
I think we owe the telescope to the children of a spectacle-maker in Germany, who, for amusement, looked through two or more pairs of spectacles to the distant sky. The microscope was naturally the reverse of the telescope, and followed down step by step to its present state of improvement;—for when man once perceives any secret in nature he is endowed with the power, for his own good, of following it out to the uttermost. Nothing is therefore too little for man's attention. A 6,000-ton steamer, or a great war-ship, are instances of man practically applying his discoveries. Would it not be absurd to say that man invented a great steamship, with all its steam and electric marvels? I should say that a steamship, or a railroad, or the electric telegraph, or telephone are fully as much guided by great natural laws as the formation of the hexagon cells of the honeycomb. I shall show later on how ridiculous and absurd Darwin's account of this cell-formation by natural selection really is.
Vaccination for smallpox was discovered by one of our medical men observing that milkmaids in the country districts were free from the disease.
A few drops of aquafortis fell accidentally on the spectacles of a Nuremberg cutler, and the process of etching upon glass was revealed.
The dew one night rusted the gun-barrrel of a sentry, and since then mezzotints have delighted the eyes of men.
The process of lithographing was perfected by purely accidental circumstances. A poor musician was anxious to know whether music could not be etched upon stone as well as upon copper. He had just prepared a slab when his mother, who evidently did not profit by his art, asked him to make a memorandum of some clothes to be washed. Neither pen nor paper being at hand, he wrote the list on the stone with an etching preparation, intending to make a copy at a more convenient time. When about to clean off the stone he wondered what effect aquafortis would have upon it. The application of the acid made the writing stand out in relief. He found he could make a perfect impression by inking the stone.
The perfecting of the Argand lamp was another discovery. Argand was once busy in his work-room before the burning lamp, whilst his little brother was amusing himself by placing a bottomless oil-flask over different articles. In his play he placed the flask over the flame of the lamp, and the flame suddenly shot up the long circular neck of the flask with great brilliancy. The hint was not lost, and the modern lamp-chimney was the result.
A hen one day walked through a clay-puddle, and immediately afterwards left her tracks on a pile of sugar lying near by. At each of her footprints the sugar had whitened. From this circumstance wet clay came to be used in refining sugar.
Many wonderful discoveries in chemistry have been the results of pure chance; and experiments have often revealed quite unexpected effects.
In medicine the discoveries are numerous and constant, and they are always named as such, and never by the word “invention.” Thus Dr. Koch's discovery of the bacillus of tuberculosis. The bacilli of many diseases are found now to be destroyed neither by ice nor by sea-water.
It is said that Pythagoras discovered the 47th problem of Euclid. But this partakes rather of an abstract mathematical proposition. We know very little of these propositions, or the power of numerals. It cannot be said we invented these things. They were revealed to us like many other discoveries, and are no doubt fundamental principles of land-survey and astronomy in every planet.
I only give these few instances out of many discoveries in order to prove the direct action of what I consider to be the common vital force, and I shall be glad to hear or receive from members further accidental discoveries they know of as opposed to inventions. My wish, of course, is to prove that natural selection, or the doctrine of evolution, does not account for these remarkable phenomena.
Section III.—Potentiality of Divergence.
Whilst very many persons accept Darwin's theory of selection (natural or artificial) as the cause of the difference in species, many others disagree with it. Mr. Mivart holds, and others with him, that species change through an internal force or tendency. Darwin takes exceeding trouble to answer Mivart. I shall collect the objections to Darwin's theory later on. When first preparing this paper, many years ago, I knew nothing of Darwin's arguments, or even of Mr. Mivart's name. I have all along tried to think out my own theory for myself, and, so far, have not met with much encouragement from those to whom I have spoken about it. My arguments, however, will doubtless be weighed upon their merits.
I have not yet finished reading Darwin's “Origin of Species” (October, 1893); but what I have read has filled me with pain that so able a writer should have allowed himself to be so led astray. The apologies Darwin constantly makes for the inapplicability of his own arguments are very painful reading. Truth is always simple. Almost on every third page of his work Darwin admits that his theory fails. I grant that there is a certain amount of truth and reason in the theory, but it is mere side-play when we have to consider the real cause of the origin and divergence of species. Darwin's theory, to my mind, is like comparing the light of a candle with the sun. He only shows the procedure from cause to effect, his theory of natural selection not being the origin of species at all, but the play of progressive adaptation in the original plan.
I will instance, as well as I am able, the cases of divergence in fowls, sheep, cattle, horses, and plants, asking to be excused for many shortcomings. The first fowl we know of is the jungle-fowl of India and Sumatra, with the hackle feathers of the neck terminating in scales, partly showing its fish ancestry. From this fowl come the Malay, the Brahmapootra, the Chinese, the Leghorn (as Europe came to be more fully acquainted with Asia), the Spanish, then the French, and then the English breeds, all springing from and diverging from the one original stock, and all surging westward as civilisation advanced. Then, as America was opened up and settled, we got the Plymouth Rock and other North American varieties; and I suppose by-and-by we shall have South American and Australian varieties.
How comes it that we have the power to produce these varieties, either by selection or breeding? For it is quite possible to take a pair of fowls of two distinct and pure breeds, and produce a third variety, which can very quickly be made pure also.
In explaining this I shall explain the rule of law underlying the great principle of natural selection—viz., this power of divergence. The following appears to me to be the law: That no two things are exactly alike in nature—no two animals, birds, fishes, plants, blades of grass, flies, insects, bacilli. Each and all follow the types of their species; but no two are exactly alike in their construction—let us say, cellular or nervous construction. For if they were, then the danger would be that like would produce like, and some one disease specially severe upon that particular construction would sweep the whole order away. Thus if it were possible for two of the Chinese race to be exactly alike, and these two by their physique superior to the rest of the nation, and more suitable to the terrestrial conditions of things in China,
then their progeny would increase and multiply until the whole nation might become like them, when suddenly a disease specially fatal to that one organization would appear and extirpate it completely. But, as the rule of the vital force is that no two things can be alike, it is at once seen that no destruction of any one species can take place by any one disease or ailment.
This being granted, it follows that the power of divergence of all living things is without limit. In China, with 400,000,000 of inhabitants, we have consequently the power to diverge or naturally select 400,000,000 times. Similarly, in fowls, we have as yet but entered upon their variations. There may be, and doubtless are, thousands of other varieties yet to be selected, which can each be made pure. And these varieties fit themselves to climatic conditions as the conditions arise. We have seen fowls upon this planet produced step by step, variety after variety. But, nevertheless, no one can say that there may not be a thousand varieties yet to be produced by careful and judicious breeding or selection, suitable to a much larger planet and somewhat different climatic conditions. For the differences in fauna upon this planet, even during geological records, have been very remarkable. The vast difference between the moa and our domestic fowl opens up so wide a field of divergence that the mind is lost in conjecturing what the varieties may be of this one species alone of living things. There may, indeed, be millions of types of fowls to fill the gap between the moa and our common domestic hen.
In sheep the power of divergence is very remarkable also. A fellow-settler and I have been breeding Romney Marsh sheep for many years past. We both started with a certain strain of blood which we called the “Colonel” blood, from the name of the particular sheep imported. Our ewes also came from the late Mr. Ludlam's breeding, of the Hutt. Our residences are only thirty miles apart; but in fifteen years our sheep are totally different in type. Now, what had we done? We had each followed out in our mind's-eye, and kept to besides, the one particular variety or style of animal. The same with the differences in black-faced sheep, which no doubt came from the original black sheep. The same with the Lincolns, or Leicesters, or any of the English breeds. So limitless is the power of divergence that not only may each county in England have its particular breed of sheep, but each parish, each farm—that is, of course, so long as each variety can be kept apart from the other, and distinct. Fix upon the type of sheep you want, then breed in and select, is the plan. Yet, with this vast field of difference before us, Darwin tries to show that Mivart is wrong when he says that species change through an internal force or tendency. The term “progressive
adaptation” appears to me to describe the process of development better than Mivart's terms, but that need not be discussed now. In cattle the same reasoning applies. We all know the differences between the Shorthorns, Ayrshire, Devon, Black Angus, Dutch, Guernsey, Alderney, &c.; but who can say how many other varieties exist in any one of these breeds, which, by careful breeding and selection, can be produced? To my mind, the varieties are limitless, owing to the law that no two things in nature are exactly alike. Moreover, the differences in varieties of cattle often depend upon differences in food-supply. Thus Black Angus is better suited than other breeds for poor pasture and bleak rough hills. In men the same reasoning applies. We have the Malay, the Negro, the Caucasian, the Chinese, the Australian, each with their well-known and distinct varieties. And these varieties (fixed and distinct ages before this planet was born) occupy climates suitable to them, or adapt themselves readily to any fairly habitable climate. But the power of divergence in each variety is so remarkable that we quite wonder when we say that any two English persons out of thirty-five millions are alike. Therefore it is quite possible to produce thirty-five million different and distinct types of English men and women, which reasoning applies to all the other races of men, even to the Negro. We can therefore see how admirably fitted humanity is to adapt itself by change to the requirements and conditions of a million planets. I think I am entitled to consider that there are other planets exactly the same as this earth, not only from astronomical research (the continents and seas of Mars, ex. gra.) and spectrum analysis, but also from meteoric iron being found exactly similar to native iron in Greenland and North America. As many millions of meteorites doubtless fall within this earth's atmosphere every week, if not every day, from the size of a grain of sand upwards, and as they contain nickel, phosphides, and other silicates exactly like we have here, I think it is beyond an assumption for me to say that there are other planets existing under exactly similar conditions to this earth. But, in order to arrive at truth, and to explain my theory, I ask to be allowed to assume that there are other habitable planets, so that from this wider field of analogy we may gain an insight into the true origin of and reason for the different species we have here. In a late lecture, Sir Robert Ball, F.R.S., stated that “he was of the firm belief that life existed upon the planet Mars because of the fact that under almost any conditions of existence on this earth—in the burning deserts, amidst the polar ice, deep down in the sunless depths of the ocean—life was found accommodated to what surrounded it.” In saying this Sir R. Ball only exemplifies what I mean by
the doctrine of progressive adaptation. For twenty years past my friends have been bored, perhaps, by my insistence upon this doctrine, as opposed to Darwin's theory. But, once admit the possibility of the existence of life upon any of the planets attending the millions of star-suns we see around us, then Herbert Spencer's theory of the survival of the fittest and Darwin's theory of natural selection fall to the ground as the primal causes of the origin of species. The doctrine of progressive adaptation, founded upon a vital force common to all the planets, is the only simple and reasonable one we have to fall back upon.
In horses the power of divergence is just as remarkable when we think of the Arab, English roadster, carriage-horse, racer, Clydesdale, Suffolk Punch, Shetland or Timor pony, mustang, piebalds, creams, &c. Herein we might go on ad infinitum, save that we confine ourselves as much as possible to the one variety which gives us speed as racers.
In dogs the play of divergence appears also to be limitless. What possible agreement is there between a toy-terrier and a giant St. Bernard? And yet the two belong to the one species. We have between these extremes all the different varieties in terriers, collies, poodles, harriers, foxhounds, greyhounds, dachshunds, spaniels, bulldogs, mastiffs, and all the genus mongrel. No order in nature proves the truth of this rule of the common vital force better than the divergence in dogs. We see before us almost thousands of varieties, from which we can take any one and produce others. I do not say that all these different varieties of dogs are not evolved or selected from the one original type. I further do not say that this original type may not have been the wolf. I will also admit, for the sake of argument, that the wolf may have been, and still is, but a variety of the first original wild animal which came, let us say, from the fish, which was produced from protoplasm, which came from microscopic bacteria in our atmosphere, or from space. But what I wish to prove is that through the whole gamut the power of divergence was laid strictly down in accordance with rigid lines of progressive adaptation, and, whilst we are given the power to select different varieties, the varieties themselves are fixed and certain. They cannot depart one iota from the lines laid down for them millions of ages since, and in millions of other places. We can see that in fowls, in dogs, in sheep, even in men. The wonder to me is that the varieties are so numerous that, as I have before said, we think it strange when two Englishmen are said to be “like each other.” But the wonder is fully accounted for when we also see that the rule of the vital force appears to be that no two things are exactly alike in nature.
In plants the varieties and mutations are marvellous. Who
can limit the changes of form and colour in, say, roses, chrysanthemums, ixias, sparaxias, eucalypti, or any order we care to comment upon? A short time since the chrysanthemum was only a button in size in our gardens. Now it is cultivated into huge blooms of all manner of shape and colour—incurved, outcurved, deep-red, golden, &c. We make shows now of the variation of this one flower. Lately, too, we are producing green and black roses. Will any person venture to say that these variations are not laid down upon strictly rigid lines of outcome—that it is, in fact, possible for us here to create one single variation by the most careful selection new to the universe—that we can, in fact, produce any one new variety? I scarcely think so. I feel convinced that the lines of development have long since been settled, and man but opens the lid of the magic box which contains them. By selection he produces flower-models new to him, perhaps, but so old that the age of this very earth is but a moment in the time of their life.
I wish to point out now that there appears to me to be a certain order in this power of divergence. Thus in each species there are subtypes of a fixed type. For example, let any person take a thousand photographs of English faces. He will find to his surprise that it is quite easy to arrange these pictures according to their subtypes; but, nevertheless, no two are exactly alike. The same with sheep, dogs, horses, chrysanthemums. A beautiful pair of well-matched carriage-horses is another instance. We admire them very much, and say they are well matched; but the driver or groom knows what a vast difference there is between the two animals when he attends to them in their stable. As to a perfectly-matched four-in-hand team, we scarcely ever expect to see that, even out of the millions of horses there are in Europe. But, still, horses follow their subtypes sufficiently for us to say they are fairly matched.
For brevity's sake, I need not follow the rule of this law into the insect world. The microscope will no doubt reveal its ruling there just as fully as our eyes tell us it rules in the species and orders I have already named. I might refer in this section to the fact that I have made a small collection of different forms of coral from the South Sea coral-reefs (Pacific Ocean), and the variation of form in this collection is very surprising. Nearly all the forms follow the mode of structure of plants. But why plant-life should thus be copied by the coral polypi beneath the sea is strange. Doubtless the branching method of growth is the best and only form of rapid building-up. But nothing shows to my mind the wonderful guiding-power of the force I speak of more than the coral polyp building out its branches beneath the sea—branches similar to the
cellular construction in trees, lime branches following designs of which the polyp itself is supremely ignorant. It is the same with the frost upon our window-panes, which is often fernleaved in shape, so that it appears as if the vital force itself is bound to follow certain fixed lines of construction, no matter what the subsequent variations or divergences may be. This implies that the force itself is subject to a higher law still. With that implication I fully agree, for in many things, especially in construction, the force appears to act blindly. But all I am at present called upon to do is to show the exemplifications of the force in different living things. I might perhaps be allowed here to refer to the varieties of pigeons, if only to show the maze Darwin found himself in when considering their wonderful divergences. The rule of the law I am now pointing out I think explains many of that great thinker's doubts and hesitations.* By admitting that no two things in nature are exactly alike the potentiality of divergence is practically limitless. The peculiarity with pigeons, however, is the wonderful and remarkable manner in which they differ and diverge from the parent stock: as if in sport or play, nature produces the carrier, the tumbler, the fantail, the pouter, the Jacobin, &c., all from the rock-pigeon—a lavish wealth of wondrous change giving us in this one species a perfect mine of observation and experiment. Who can define the limit of these divergences, or even their uses? For of what use is it to us here that some types of the tumbler-pigeon cannot fly a yard without tumbling head over heels? Therefore it follows that the theory of natural selection, failing in explaining these pigeon divergences we already see, cannot account for the potentiality of divergence yet to take place. In the few years we have been experimenting we have surely not exhausted all the mutations of pigeon form of life. It is therefore our duty to search for the rule of life which governs future changes. Darwin certainly lamentably failed to explain what he saw in pigeon variation.
The reason, I suppose, for these various divergences is, of course, to enable species, order, or genera to adapt themselves to the changing conditions of climate and surroundings in the different planets, geology showing us in this planet that many varieties of one species are born, live for a time, and die out, the species itself still going on, and existing in a slightly different form. And this divergence is not only necessary on account of the birth, growth, and death of the planet itself, during which the various climatic changes occur, but also on account of the alteration in other orders of living things upon which the particular species depends. But this
[Footnote] * See “Origin of Species,” cap. ii.
subject of dependence of one species or order upon another will be treated in a separate section later on. All I am showing in this section is the potentiality of divergence and the reason of the law. For the more one studies the vagaries of animal life the more one is convinced that it is necessary to look quite apart from this earth to understand nature's designs; and until we do this—until we thoroughly grasp the immense field of divergence—a field that means all the millions of stars we see, their different wants, and the application of nature's law of divergence to those wants—we shall never understand why matters have been so mixed that deer weep, hyenas laugh, or elephants have the sagacity of men. These things, however, again go to prove the common nature of the vital force. I may perhaps be allowed here to give a few other instances of divergence to illustrate my meaning.
There are many varieties of antelope—some forty to fifty—and many of the rhinoceros. In South Africa there are four distinct species of rhinoceros; in North Africa, one, differing from all these; whilst the large Indian rhinoceros bears but slight resemblance to any of the former. A distinct species from any is the rhinoceros of Sumatra, and another is the Java rhinoceros. So we have eight kinds, all specifically differing from one another.
Now, what use have we upon this small planet for the different varieties of this particular animal? Scarcely any. Nor do I believe they have ever been of much use in nature's workings here. But in larger planets these different varieties may be of immense service, being partly amphibious. Only, as all creatures are bound to diverge, each particular animal having in itself the power of change and adaptability to circumstances, upon the slightest change of circumstances the animal adapts itself to its new environment. This law of divergence and progressive adaptation is like the most delicately-set hair-spring, ready to expand upon the slightest change of condition; in fact, it cannot help changing. It acts upon this small planet the same as it acts upon a much larger planet. So that no type can possibly be constant for ever. It must change directly the climatic condition of the particular zone alters, or any species happens to be transplanted to a different zone. Darwin mistook the exemplification of this law as to origin of species by natural selection. The same reasoning applies to the elephant. There is the Asiatic elephant and the Indian elephant. Great differences exist between the two species. And of the Asiatic elephant there are many varieties, some with tusks pointing downwards, some curving upwards, some with short legs and large trunks, others with small trunks and long legs, for swiftness. Then there is the white elephant, but he is an albino.
Albinoes, however, show up in every class of human being, birds, and animals, and, no doubt, insects, proving another unity of birth and the common nature of the vital force.) There is little or no use here for these different varieties of elephant, as one type would have been sufficient for us.
Then, there is the hyena, which laughs like a demented human being, with powerful neck and jaws for bone-crushing, and no back or hindquarters to speak of. ‘This animal is sent by nature, apparently, to crunch up the huge bones of larger animals, for it usually resides in big-game countries, and shows that nature never even wastes bone-marrow. The hyena bristles its back hair when excited, just like a dog. Dogs, wolves, and hyenas have many points of resemblance, proving the minor doctrine of evolution, a doctrine I readily admit, seeing that it is by this path progressive adaptation plays its part in the production of new species—that is, new only to us, but actually far older than our hills. There are many varieties of hyena—the striped hyena, or Hyæna vulgaris; the Abyssinian hyena, the spotted, hyena (H. crocuta), the brown or hairy hyena (H. villosa). These animals burrow just like dogs, having burrowing-claws for the purpose. (The power to burrow is possessed by many orders of living things, and shows another unity of design, deserving explanation in a separate section of this paper.)