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Evolution and Ethics and Other Essays by Thomas H. Huxley

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practical life the pleasant fictions of optimism vanished. If this
were the best of all possible worlds, it nevertheless proved itself a
very inconvenient habitation for the ideal sage.

The stoical summary of the whole duty of man, "Live according to
nature," would seem to imply that the cosmic process is an exemplar
for human [74] conduct. Ethics would thus become applied Natural
History. In fact, a confused employment of the maxim, in this sense,
has done immeasurable mischief in later times. It has furnished an
axiomatic foundation for the philosophy of philosophasters and for the
moralizing of sentimentalists. But the Stoics were, at bottom, not
merely noble, but sane, men; and if we look closely into what they
really meant by this ill-used phrase, it will be found to present no
justification for the mischievous conclusions that have been deduced
from it.

In the language of the Stoa, "Nature" was a word of many meanings.
There was the "Nature" of the cosmos and the "Nature" of man. In the
latter, the animal "nature," which man shares with a moiety of the
living part of the cosmos, was distinguished from a higher "nature."
Even in this higher nature there were grades of rank. The logical
faculty is an instrument which may be turned to account for any
purpose. The passions and the emotions are so closely tied to the
lower nature that they may be considered to be pathological, rather
than normal, phenomena. The one supreme, hegemonic, faculty, which
constitutes the essential "nature" of man, is most nearly represented
by that which, in the language of a later philosophy, has been called
the pure reason. It is this "nature" which holds up the ideal of the
supreme good and demands absolute submission of the will to its
behests. It is [75] which commands all men to love one another, to
return good for evil, to regard one another as fellow-citizens of one
great state. Indeed, seeing that the progress towards perfection of a
civilized state, or polity, depends on the obedience of its members to
these commands, the Stoics sometimes termed the pure reason the
"political" nature. Unfortunately, the sense of the adjective has
undergone so much modification, that the application of it to that
which commands the sacrifice of self to the common good would now
sound almost grotesque. [Note 15]

But what part is played by the theory of evolution in this view of
ethics? So far as I can discern, the ethical system of the Stoics,
which is essentially intuitive, and reverences the categorical
imperative as strongly as that of any later moralists, might have been
just what it was if they had held any other theory; whether that of
special creation, on the one side, or that of the eternal existence of
the present order, on the other.[Note 16] To the Stoic, the cosmos had
no importance for the conscience, except in so far as he chose to
think it a pedagogue to virtue. The pertinacious optimism of our
philosophers hid from them the actual state of the case. It prevented
them from seeing that cosmic nature is no school of virtue, but the
headquarters of the enemy of ethical nature. The logic of facts was
necessary to convince them [76] that the cosmos works through the
lower nature of man, not for righteousness, but against it. And it
finally drove them to confess that the existence of their ideal "wise
man" was incompatible with the nature of things; that even a passable
approximation to that ideal was to be attained only at the cost of
renunciation of the world and mortification, not merely of the flesh,
but of all human affections. The state of perfection was that
"apatheia"[Note 17] in which desire, though it may still be felt, is
powerless to move the will, reduced to the sole function of executing
the commands of pure reason. Even this residuum of activity was to be
regarded as a temporary loan, as an efflux of the divine
world-pervading spirit, chafing at its imprisonment in the
flesh,-until such time as death enabled it to return to its source in
the all-pervading logos.

I find it difficult to discover any very great difference between
Apatheia and Nirvana, except that stoical speculation agrees with
pre-Buddhistic philosophy, rather than with the teachings of Gautama,
in so far as it postulates a permanent substance equivalent to
"Brahma" and "Atman;" and that, in stoical practice, the adoption of
the life of the mendicant cynic was held to be more a counsel of
perfection than an indispensable condition of the higher life.

Thus the extremes touch. Greek thought and [77] Indian thought set out
from ground common to both, diverge widely, develop under very
different physical and moral conditions, and finally converge to
practically the same end.

The Vedas and the Homeric epos set before us a world of rich and
vigorous life, full of joyous fighting men

That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine ....

and who were ready to brave the very Gods themselves when their blood
was up. A few centuries pass away, and under the influence of
civilization the descendants of these men are "sicklied o'er with the
pale cast of thought"--frank pessimists, or, at best, make-believe
optimists. The courage of the warlike stock may be as hardly tried as
before, perhaps more hardly, but the enemy is self. The hero has
become a monk. The man of action is replaced by the quietist, whose
highest aspiration is to be the passive instrument of the divine
Reason. By the Tiber, as by the Ganges, ethical man admits that the
cosmos is too strong for him; and, destroying every bond which ties
him to it by ascetic discipline, he seeks salvation in absolute
renunciation.[Note 18]

Modern thought is making a fresh start from the base whence Indian and
Greek philosophy set out; and, the human mind being very much what
[78] it was six-and-twenty centuries ago, there is no ground for
wonder if it presents indications of a tendency to move along the old
lines to the same results.

We are more than sufficiently familiar with modern pessimism, at least
as a speculation; for I cannot call to mind that any of its present
votaries have sealed their faith by assuming the rags and the bowl of
the mendicant Bhikku, or the cloak and the wallet of the Cynic. The
obstacles placed in the way of sturdy vagrancy by an unphilosophical
police have, perhaps, proved too formidable for philosophical
consistency. We also know modern speculative optimism, with its
perfectibility of the species, reign of peace, and lion and lamb
transformation scenes; but one does not hear so much of it as one did
forty years ago; indeed, I imagine it is to be met with more commonly
at the tables of the healthy and wealthy, than in the congregations of
the wise. The majority of us, I apprehend, profess neither pessimism
nor optimism. We hold that the world is neither so good, nor so bad,
as it conceivably might be; and, as most of us have reason, now and
again, to discover that it can be. Those who have failed to experience
the joys that make life worth living are, probably, in as small a
minority as those who have never known the griefs that rob existence
of its savour and turn its richest fruits into mere dust and ashes.

[79] Further, I think I do not err in assuming that, however diverse
their views on philosophical and religious matters, most men are
agreed that the proportion of good and evil in life may be very
sensibly affected by human action. I never heard anybody doubt that
the evil may be thus increased, or diminished; and it would seem to
follow that good must be similarly susceptible of addition or
subtraction. Finally, to my knowledge, nobody professes to doubt that,
so far forth as we possess a power of bettering things, it is our
paramount duty to use it and to train all our intellect and energy to
this supreme service of our kind.

Hence the pressing interest of the question, to what extent modern
progress in natural knowledge, and, more especially, the general
outcome of that progress in the doctrine of evolution, is competent to
help us in the great work of helping one another?

The propounders of what are called the "ethics of evolution," when the
"evolution of ethics" would usually better express the object of their
speculations, adduce a number of more or less interesting facts and
more or less sound arguments in favour of the origin of the moral
sentiments, in the same way as other natural phenomena, by a process
of evolution. I have little doubt, for my own part, that they are on
the right track; but as the immoral sentiments have no less been
evolved, there is, so far, as much natural sanction for the [80] one
as the other. The thief and the murderer follow nature just as much as
the philanthropist. Cosmic evolution may teach us how the good and the
evil tendencies of man may have come about; but, in itself, it is
incompetent to furnish any better reason why what we call good is
preferable to what we call evil than we had before. Some day, I doubt
not, we shall arrive at an understanding of the evolution of the
Aesthetic faculty; but all the understanding in the world will neither
increase nor diminish the force of the intuition that this is
beautiful and that is ugly.

There is another fallacy which appears to me to pervade the so-called
"ethics of evolution." It is the notion that because, on the whole,
animals and plants have advanced in perfection of organization by
means of the struggle for existence and the consequent "survival of
the fittest;" therefore men in society, men as ethical beings, must
look to the same process to help them towards perfection. I suspect
that this fallacy has arisen out of the unfortunate ambiguity of the
phrase "survival of the fittest." "Fittest" has a connotation of
"best;" and about "best" there hangs a moral flavour. In cosmic
nature, however, what is "fittest" depends upon the conditions. Long
since [Note 19], I ventured to point out that if our hemisphere were
to cool again, the survival of the fittest might bring about, in the
vegetable kingdom, a population of more and more stunted and humbler
[81] and humbler organisms, until the "fittest" that survived might be
nothing but lichens, diatoms, and such microscopic organisms as those
which give red snow its colour; while, if it became hotter, the
pleasant valleys of the Thames and Isis might, be uninhabitable by any
animated beings save those that flourish in a tropical jungle. They,
as the fittest, the best adapted to the changed conditions, would

Men in society are undoubtedly subject to the cosmic process. As among
other animals, multiplication goes on without cessation, and involves
severe competition for the means of support. The struggle for
existence tends to eliminate those less fitted to adapt themselves to
the circumstances of their existence. The strongest, the most
self-assertive, tend to tread down the weaker. But the influence of
the cosmic process on the evolution of society is the greater the more
rudimentary its civilization. Social progress means a checking of the
cosmic, process at every step and the substitution for it of another,
which may be called the ethical process; the end of which is not the
survival of those who may happen to be the fittest, in respect of the
whole of the conditions which obtain, but of those who are ethically
the best.[Note 20]

As I have already urged, the practice of that which is ethically
best--what we call goodness or virtue--involves a course of conduct
which, in all [82] respects, is opposed to that which leads to success
in the cosmic struggle for existence. In place of ruthless
self-assertion it demands self-restraint; in place of thrusting aside,
or treading down, all competitors, it requires that the individual
shall not merely respect, but shall help his fellows; its influence is
directed, not so much to the survival of the fittest, as to the
fitting of as many as possible to survive. It repudiates the
gladiatorial theory of existence. It demands that each man who enters
into the enjoyment of the advantages of a polity shall be mindful of
his debt to those who have laboriously constructed it; and shall take
heed that no act of his weakens the fabric in which he has been
permitted to live. Laws and moral precepts are directed to the end of
curbing the cosmic process and reminding the individual of his duty to
the community, to the protection and influence of which he owes, if
not existence itself, at least the life of something better than a
brutal savage.

It is from neglect of these plain considerations that the fanatical
individualism [Note 21] of our time attempts to apply the analogy of
cosmic nature to society. Once more we have a misapplication of the
stoical injunction to follow nature; the duties of the individual to
the state are forgotten, and his tendencies to self-assertion are
dignified by the name of rights. It is seriously debated whether the
members of a community are justified in using [83] their combined
strength to constrain one of their number to contribute his share to
the maintenance of it; or even to prevent him from doing his best to
destroy it. The struggle for existence which has done such admirable
work in cosmic nature, must, it appears, be equally beneficent in the
ethical sphere. Yet if that which I have insisted upon is true; if the
cosmic process has no sort of relation to moral ends; if the imitation
of it by man is inconsistent with the first principles of ethics; what
becomes of this surprising theory?

Let us understand, once for all, that the ethical progress of society
depends, not on imitating the cosmic process, still less in running
away from it, but in combating it. It may seem an audacious proposal
thus to pit the microcosm against the macrocosm and to set man to
subdue nature to his higher ends; but I venture to think that the
great intellectual difference between the ancient times with which we
have been occupied and our day, lies in the solid foundation we have
acquired for the hope that such an enterprise may meet with a certain
measure of success.

The history of civilization details the steps by which men have
succeeded in building up an artificial world within the cosmos.
Fragile reed as he may be, man, as Pascal says, is a thinking reed:
[Note 22] there lies within him a fund of energy operating
intelligently and so far akin to that which pervades the universe,
that it is competent [84] to influence and modify the cosmic process.
In virtue of his intelligence, the dwarf bends the Titan to his will.
In every family, in every polity that has been established, the cosmic
process in man has been restrained and otherwise modified by law and
custom; in surrounding nature, it has been similarly influenced by the
art of the shepherd, the agriculturist, the artisan. As civilization
has advanced, so has the extent of this interference increased; until
the organized and highly developed sciences and arts of the present
day have endowed man with a command over the course of non-human
nature greater than that once attributed to the magicians. The most
impressive, I might say startling, of these changes have been brought
about in the course of the last two centuries; while a right
comprehension of the process of life and of the means of influencing
its manifestations is only just dawning upon us. We do not yet see
our way beyond generalities; and we are befogged by the obtrusion of
false analogies and crude anticipations. But Astronomy, Physics,
Chemistry, have all had to pass through similar phases, before they
reached the stage at which their influence became an important factor
in human affairs. Physiology, Psychology, Ethics, Political Science,
must submit to the same ordeal. Yet it seems to me irrational to doubt
that, at no distant period, they will work as great a revolution in
the sphere of practice.

[85] The theory of evolution encourages no millennial anticipations.
If, for millions of years, our globe has taken the upward road, yet,
some time, the summit will be reached and the downward route will be
commenced. The most daring imagination will hardly venture upon the
suggestion that the power and the intelligence of man can ever arrest
the procession of the great year.

Moreover, the cosmic nature born with us and, to a large extent,
necessary for our maintenance, is the outcome of millions of years of
severe training, and it would be folly to imagine that a few centuries
will suffice to subdue its masterfulness to purely ethical ends.
Ethical nature may count upon having to reckon with a tenacious and
powerful enemy as long as the world lasts. But, on the other hand, I
see no limit to the extent to which intelligence and will, guided by
sound principles of investigation, and organized in common effort, may
modify the conditions of existence, for a period longer than that now
covered by history. And much may be done to change the nature of man
himself. [Note 23] The intelligence which has converted the brother of
the wolf into the faithful guardian of the flock ought to be able to
do something towards curbing the instincts of savagery in civilized

But if we may permit ourselves at larger hope of abatement of the
essential evil of the world than was possible to those who, in the
infancy of [86] exact knowledge, faced the problem of existence more
than a score of centuries ago, I deem it an essential condition of the
realization of that hope that we should cast aside the notion that the
escape from pain and sorrow is the proper object of life.

We have long since emerged from the heroic childhood of our race, when
good and evil could be met with the same "frolic welcome;" the
attempts to escape from evil, whether Indian or Greek, have ended in
flight from the battle-field; it remains to us to throw aside the
youthful overconfidence and the no less youthful discouragement of
nonage. We are grown men, and must play the man

"...strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,"

cherishing the good that falls in our way, and bearing the evil, in
and around us, with stout hearts set on diminishing it. So far, we all
may strive in one faith towards one hope:

"... It may be that the gulfs will wash us down,
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

... but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note may yet be done." [Note 24]



Note 1 (p. 49).

I have been careful to speak of the "appearance" of cyclical evolution
presented by living things; for, on critical examination, it will be
found that the course of vegetable and of animal life is not exactly
represented by, the figure of a cycle which returns into itself. What
actually happens, in all but the lowest organisms, is that one part of
the growing germ (A) gives rise to tissues and organs; while another
part (B) remains in its primitive condition, or is but slightly
modified. The moiety A becomes the body of the adult and, sooner or
later, perishes, while portions of the moiety B are detached and, as
offspring, continue the life of the species. Thus, if we trace back
an organism along the direct line of descent from its remotest
ancestor, B, as a whole, has never suffered death; portions of it,
only, have been cast off and died in each individual offspring.

Everybody is familiar with the way in which the "suckers" of a
strawberry plant behave. A thin cylinder of living tissue keeps on
growing at its free end, until it attains a considerable length. At
[88] successive intervals, it develops buds which grow into strawberry
plants; and these become independent by the death of the parts of the
sucker which connect them. The rest of the sucker, however, may go on
living and growing indefinitely, and, circumstances remaining
favourable, there is no obvious reason why it should ever die. The
living substance B, in a manner, answers to the sucker. If we could
restore the continuity which was once possessed by the portions of B,
contained in all the individuals of a direct line of descent, they
would form a sucker, or stolon, on which these individuals would be
strung, and which would never have wholly died.

A species remains unchanged so long as the potentiality of development
resident in B remains unaltered; so long, e.g., as the buds of the
strawberry sucker tend to become typical strawberry plants. In the case
of the progressive evolution of a species, the developmental
potentiality of B becomes of a higher and higher order. In
retrogressive evolution, the contrary would be the case. The phenomena
of atavism seem to show that retrogressive evolution that is, the
return of a species to one or other of its earlier forms, is a
possibility to be reckoned with. The simplification of structure,
which is so common in the parasitic members of a group, however, does
not properly come under this head. The worm-like, limbless Lernoea has
no resemblance to any of the stages of development of the many-limbed
active animals of the group to which it belongs. [89] Note 2 (p. 49).

Heracleitus says,[Greek phrase Potamo gar ouk esti dis embenai to suto]
but, to be strictly accurate, the river remains, though the water of
which it is composed changes--just as a man retains his identity
though the whole substance of his body is constantly shifting.

This is put very well by Seneca (Ep. lvii. i. 20, Ed. Ruhkopf):
"Corpora nostra rapiuntur fluminum more, quidquid vides currit cum
tempore; nihil ex his quae videmus manet. Ego ipse dum loquor mutari
ista, mutatus sum. Hoc est quod ait Heraclitus 'In idem flumen bis non
descendimus.' Manet idem fluminis nomen, aqua transmissa est. Hoc in
amne manifestius est quam in homine, sed nos quoque non minus velox
cursus praetervehit."

Note 3 (p. 55).

"Multa bona nostra nobis nocent, timoris enim tormentum memorin
reducit, providentia anticipat. Nemo tantum praesentibus miser est."
(Seneca, Ed. v. 7.)

Among the many wise and weighty aphorisms of the Roman Bacon, few sound
the realities of life more deeply than "Multa bona nostra nobis
nocent." If there is a soul of good in things evil, it is at least
equally true that there is a soul of evil in things good: for things,
like men, have "les defauts de leurs qualites." It is one of the last
lessons one learns from experience, but not the least important, that
a [90] heavy tax is levied upon all forms of success, and that failure
is one of the commonest disguises assumed by blessings.

Note 4 (p. 60).

"There is within the body of every man a soul which, at the death of
the body, flies away from it like a bird out of a cage, and enters
upon a new life ... either in one of the heavens or one of the hells
or on this earth. The only exception is the rare case of a man having
in this life acquired a true knowledge of God. According to the
pre-Buddhistic theory, the soul of such a man goes along the path of
the Gods to God, and, being united with Him, enters upon an immortal
life in which his individuality is not extinguished. In the latter
theory his soul is directly absorbed into the Great Soul, is lost in
it, and has no longer any independent existence. The souls of all
other men enter, after the death of the body, upon a new existence in
one or other of the many different modes of being. If in heaven or
hell, the soul itself becomes a god or demon without entering a body;
all superhuman beings, save the great gods, being looked upon as not
eternal, but merely temporary creatures. If the soul returns to earth
it may or may not enter a new body; and this either of a human being,
an animal, a plant, or even a material object. For all these are
possessed of souls, and there is no essential difference between these
souls and the souls of men--all being alike mere sparks of the Great
Spirit, who is [91] the only real existence." (Rhys Davids, Hibbert
Lectures, 1881, p. 83.)

For what I have said about Indian Philosophy, I am particularly
indebted to the luminous exposition of primitive Buddhism and its
relations to earlier Hindu thought, which is given by Prof. Rhys
Davids in his remarkable Hibbert Lectures for 1881, and Buddhism
(1890). The only apology I can offer for the freedom with which I have
borrowed from him in these notes, is my desire to leave no doubt as to
my indebtedness. I have also found Dr. Oldenberg's Buddha (Ed. 2,
1890) very helpful. The origin of the theory of transmigration stated
in the above extract is an unsolved problem. That it differs widely
from the Egyptian metempsychosis is clear. In fact, since men usually
people the other world with phantoms of this, the Egyptian doctrine
would seem to presuppose the Indian as a more archaic belief.

Prof. Rhys Davids has fully insisted upon the ethical importance of
the transmigration theory. "One of the latest speculations now being
put forward among ourselves would seek to explain each man's
character, and even his outward condition in life, by the character he
inherited from his ancestors, a character gradually formed during a
practically endless series of past existences, modified only by the
conditions into which he was born, those very conditions being also,
in like manner, the last result of a practically endless series of
past causes. Gotama's; speculation might be stated in the same words.
But it attempted also to explain, in a way different from [92] that
which would be adopted by the exponents of the modern theory, that
strange problem which it is also the motive of the wonderful drama of
the book of Job to explain--the fact that the actual distribution here
of good fortune, or misery, is entirely independent of the moral
qualities which men call good or bad. We cannot wonder that a teacher,
whose whole system was so essentially an ethical reformation, should
have felt it incumbent upon him to seek an explanation of this
apparent injustice. And all the more so, since the belief he had
inherited, the theory of the transmigration of souls, had provided a
solution perfectly sufficient to any one who could accept that
belief." (Hibbert Lectures, p. 93.) I should venture to suggest the
substitution of "largely" for "entirely" in the foregoing passage.
Whether a ship makes a good or a bad voyage is largely independent of
the conduct of the captain, but it is largely affected by that
conduct. Though powerless before a hurricane he may weather a bad

Note 5 (P. 61).

The outward condition of the soul is, in each new birth, determined by
its actions in a previous birth; but by each action in succession, and
not by the balance struck after the evil has been reckoned off against
the good. A good man who has once uttered a slander may spend a
hundred thousand years as a god, in consequence of his goodness, and
when the power of his good actions is exhausted, may be born [93] as a
dumb man on account of his transgression; and a robber who has once
done an act of mercy, may come to life in a king's body as the result
of his virtue, and then suffer torments for ages in hell or as a ghost
without a body, or be re-born many times as a slave or an outcast, in
consequence of his evil life.

"There is no escape, according to this theory, from the result of any
act; though it is only the consequences of its own acts that each soul
has to endure. The force has been set in motion by itself and can
never stop; and its effect can never be foretold. If evil, it can
never be modified or prevented, for it depends on a cause already
completed, that is now for ever beyond the soul's control. There is
even no continuing consciousness, no memory of the past that could
guide the soul to any knowledge of its fate. The only advantage open
to it is to add in this life to the sum of its good actions, that it
may bear fruit with the rest. And even this can only happen in some
future life under essentially them same conditions as the present one:
subject, like the present one, to old age, decay, and death; and
affording opportunity, like the present one, for the commission of
errors, ignorances, or sins, which in their turn must inevitably
produce their due effect of sickness, disability, or woe. Thus is the
soul tossed about from life to life, from billow to billow in the
great ocean of transmigration. And there is no escape save for the
very few, who, during their birth as men, attain to a right knowledge
of the Great Spirit: and thus enter into immortality, or, as the later
[94] philosophers taught, are absorbed into the Divine Essence." (Rhys
Davids, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 85, 86.)

The state after death thus imagined by the Hindu philosophers has a
certain analogy to the purgatory of the Roman Church; except that
escape from it is dependent, not on a divine decree modified, it may
be, by sacerdotal or saintly intercession, but by the acts of the
individual himself; and that while ultimate emergence into heavenly
bliss of the good, or well-prayed for, Catholic is professedly
assured, the chances in favour of the attainment of absorption, or of
Nirvana, by any individual Hindu are extremely small.

Note 6 (P. 62).

"That part of the then prevalent transmigration theory which could not
be proved false seemed to meet a deeply felt necessity, seemed to
supply a moral cause which would explain the unequal distribution here
of happiness or woe, so utterly inconsistent with the present
characters of men." Gautama "still therefore talked of men's previous
existence, but by no means in the way that he is generally represented
to have done." What he taught was "the transmigration of character."
He held that after the death of any being, whether human or not, there
survived nothing at all but that being's "Karma," the result, that is,
of its mental and bodily actions. Every individual, whether human or
divine, was the last inheritor and the last result of the Karma of a
long series of past individuals--"a series [95] so long that its
beginning is beyond the reach of calculation, and its end will be
coincident with the destruction of the world." (Rhys Davids, Hibbert
Lectures, p. 92.)

In the theory of evolution, the tendency of a germ to develop according
to a certain specific type, e.g. of the kidney bean seed to grow into
a plant having all the characters of Phaseolus vulgaris, is its
"Karma." It is the "last inheritor and the last result" of all the
conditions that have affected a line of ancestry which goes back for
many millions of years to the time when life first appeared on the
earth. The moiety B of the substance of the bean plant (see Note 1) is
the last link in a once continuous chain extending from the primitive
living substance: and the characters of the successive species to
which it has given rise are the manifestations of its gradually
modified Karma. As Prof. Rhys Davids aptly says, the snowdrop "is a
snowdrop and not an oak, and just that kind of snowdrop, because it is
the outcome of the Karma of an endless series of past existences."
(Hibbert Lectures, p. 114.)

Note 7 (p. 64).

"It is interesting to notice that the very point which is the weakness
of the theory--the supposed concentration of the effect of the Karma
in one new being--presented itself to the early Buddhists themselves
as a difficulty. They avoided it, partly by explaining that it was a
particular thirst in the creature dying (a craving, Tanha, which plays
other [96] wise a great part in the Buddhist theory) which actually
caused the birth of the new individual who was to inherit the Karma of
the former one. But, how this too place, how the craving desire
produced this effect, was acknowledged to be a mystery patent only to
a Buddha." (Rhys Davids, Hibbert Lectures, P. 95.)

Among the many parallelisms of Stoicism and Buddhism, it is curious to
find one for this Tanha, "thirst," or "craving desire" for life.
Seneca writes (Epist. lxxvi. 18): "Si enim ullum aliud est bonum quam
honestum, sequetur nos aviditas vitae aviditas rerum vitam
instruentium: quod est intolerabile infinitum, vagum."

Note 8 (P. 66).

"The distinguishing characteristic of Buddhism was that it started a
new line, that it looked upon the deepest questions men have to solve
from an entirely different standpoint. It swept away from the field of
its vision the whole of the great soul theory which had hitherto so
completely filled and dominated the minds of the superstitious and the
thoughtful alike. For the first time in the history of the world, it
proclaimed a salvation which each man could gain for himself and by
himself, in this world, during this life, without any the least
reference to God, or to Gods, either great or small. Like the
Upanishads, it placed the first importance on knowledge; but it was no
longer a knowledge of God, it was a clear perception of the real
nature, as [97] they supposed it to be, of men and things. And it added
to the necessity of knowledge, the necessity of purity, of courtesy,
of uprightness, of peace and of a universal love far reaching, grown
great and beyond measure." (Rhys Davids, Hibbert Lectures, p. 29.)

The contemporary Greek philosophy takes an analogous direction.
According to Heracleitus, the universe was made neither by Gods nor
men; but, from all eternity, has been, and to all eternity, will be,
immortal fire, glowing and fading in due measure. (Mullach, Heracliti
Fragmenta, 27.) And the part assigned by his successors, the Stoics,
to the knowledge and the volition of the "wise man" made their
Divinity (for logical thinkers) a subject for compliments, rather than
a power to be reckoned with. In Hindu speculation the "Arahat," still
more the "Buddha," becomes the superior of Brahma; the stoical "wise
man" is, at least, the equal of Zeus.

Berkeley affirms over and over again that no idea can be formed of a
soul or spirit--"If any man shall doubt of the truth of what is here
delivered, let him but reflect and try if he can form any idea of
power or active being; and whether he hath ideas of two principal
powers marked by the names of will and understanding distinct from
each other, as well as from a third idea of substance or being in
general, with a relative notion of its supporting or being the subject
of the aforesaid power, which is signified by the name soul or spirit.
This is what some hold but, so far as I can see, the words will, soul,
spirit, do not stand for different ideas or, in truth, for any idea at
all, but for something which is very different from ideas, and which,
being an agent, cannot be like unto or represented by Any idea
whatever [though it must be owned at the same time, that we have some
notion of soul, spirit, and the operations of the mind, such as
willing, loving, hating, inasmuch as we know or understand the meaning
of these words". (The Principles of Human Knowledge, lxxvi. See also
sections lxxxix., cxxxv., cxlv.)

It is open to discussion, I think, whether it is possible to have
"some notion" of that of which we can form no "idea."

Berkeley attaches several predicates to the "perceiving active being
mind, spirit, soul or myself" (Parts I. II.) It is said, for example,
to be "indivisible, incorporeal, unextended, and incorruptible." The
predicate indivisible, though negative in form, has highly positive
consequences. For, if "perceiving active being" is strictly
indivisible, man's soul must be one with the Divine spirit: which is
good Hindu or Stoical doctrine, but hardly orthodox Christian
philosophy. If, on the other hand, the "substance" of active
perceiving "being" is actually divided into the one Divine and
innumerable human entities, how can the predicate "indivisible" be
rigorously applicable to it?

Taking the words cited, as they stand, the amount to the denial of the
possibility of any knowledge of substance. "Matter" having been
resolved into mere affections of "spirit", "spirit" melts away into an
admittedly inconceivable and unknowable [99] hypostasis of thought and
power--consequently the existence of anything in the universe beyond a
flow of phenomena is a purely hypothetical assumption. Indeed a
pyrrhonist might raise the objection that if "esse" is "percipi"
spirit itself can have no existence except as a perception,
hypostatized into a "self," or as a perception of some other spirit.
In the former case, objective reality vanishes; in the latter, there
would seem to be the need of an infinite series of spirits each
perceiving the others.

It is curious to observe how very closely the phraseology of Berkeley
sometimes approaches that of the Stoics: thus (cxlviii.) "It seems to
be a general pretence of the unthinking herd that they cannot see God.
. . But, alas, we need only open our eyes to see the Sovereign Lord of
all things with a more full and clear view, than we do any of our
fellow-creatures . . . we do at all times and in all places perceive
manifest tokens of the Divinity: everything we see, hear, feel, or any
wise perceive by sense, being a sign or effect of the power of God" .
. . cxlix. "It is therefore plain, that nothing can be more evident to
any one that is capable of the least reflection, than the existence of
God, or a spirit who is intimately present to our minds, producing in
them all that variety of ideas or sensations which continually affect
us, on whom we have an absolute and entire dependence, in short, in
whom we live and move and have our being." cl. "[But you will say hath
Nature no share in the production of natural things, and must they all
be ascribed to the immediate and sole operation of God? ... if by
Nature is [100] meant some being distinct from God, as well as from
the laws of nature and things perceived by sense, I must confess that
word is to me an empty sound, without any intelligible meaning annexed
to it.] Nature in this acceptation is a vain Chimaera introduced by
those heathens, who had not just notions of the omnipresence and
infinite perfection of God."

Compare Seneca (De Beneficiis, iv. 7):

"Natura, inquit, haec mihi praestat. Non intelligis te, quum hoc
dicis, mutare Nomen Deo? Quid enim est aliud Natura quam Deus, et
divina ratio, toti mundo et partibus ejus inserta? Quoties voles tibi
licet aliter hunc auctorem rerum nostrarum compellare, et Jovem illum
optimum et maximum rite dices, et tonantem, et statorem: qui non, ut
historici tradiderunt, ex eo quod post votum susceptum acies Romanorum
fugientum stetit, sed quod stant beneficio ejus omnina, stator,
stabilitorque est: hunc eundem et fatum si dixeris, non mentieris, nam
quum fatum nihil aliud est, quam series implexa causarum, ille est
prima omnium causa, ea qua caeterae pendent." It would appear,
therefore, that the good Bishop is somewhat hard upon the "heathen,"
of whose words his own might be a paraphrase.

There is yet another direction in which Berkeley's philosophy, I will
not say agrees with Gautama's, but at any rate helps to make a
fundamental dogma of Buddhism intelligible.

"I find I can excite ideas in my mind at pleasure, and vary and shift
the scene as often as I think fit. It is no more than willing, and
straightway this or that idea arises in my fancy: and by the same
power [101] it is obliterated, and makes way for another. This making
and unmaking of ideas doth very properly denominate the mind active.
This much is certain and grounded on experience. . ." (Principles,

A good many of us, I fancy, have reason to think that experience tells
them very much the contrary; and are painfully familiar with the
obsession of the mind by ideas which cannot be obliterated by any
effort of the will and steadily refuse to make way for others. But
what I desire to point out is that if Gautama was equally confident
that he could "make and unmake" ideas--then, since he had resolved
self into a group of ideal phantoms--the possibility of abolishing
self by volition naturally followed.

Note 9 (P. 68).

According to Buddhism, the relation of one life to the next is merely
that borne by the flame of one lamp to the flame of another lamp which
is set alight by it. To the "Arahat" or adept "no outward form, no
compound thing, no creature, no creator, no existence of any kind,
must appear to be other than a temporary collocation of its component
parts, fated inevitably to be dissolved."--(Rhys Davids, Hibbert
Lectures, p. 211.)

The self is nothing but a group of phenomena held together by the
desire of life; when that desire shall have ceased, "the Karma of that
particular chain of lives will cease to influence any longer any
distinct individual, and there will be no more birth; [102] for birth,
decay, and death, grief, lamentation, and despair will have come, so
far as regards that chain of lives, for ever to an end."

The state of mind of the Arahat in which the desire of life has ceased
is Nirvana. Dr. Oldenberg has very acutely and patiently considered
the various interpretations which have been attached to "Nirvana" in
the work to which I have referred (pp. 285 et seq.). The result of his
and other discussions of the question may I think be briefly stated

1. Logical deduction from the predicates attached to the term
"Nirvana" strips it of all reality, conceivability, or perceivability,
whether by Gods or men. For all practical purposes, therefore, it
comes to exactly the same thing as annihilation.

2. But it is not annihilation in the ordinary sense, inasmuch as it
could take place in the living Arahat or Buddha.

3. And, since, for the faithful Buddhist, that which was abolished in
the Arahat was the possibility of further pain, sorrow, or sin; and
that which was attained was perfect peace; his mind directed itself
exclusively to this joyful consummation, and personified the negation
of all conceivable existence and of all pain into a positive bliss.
This was all the more easy, as Gautama refused to give any dogmatic
definition of Nirvana. There is something analogous in the way in
which people commonly talk of the "happy release" of a man who has
been long suffering from mortal disease. According to their own views,
it must always be extremely doubtful whether the man will be any
happier after the "release" [103] than before. But they do not choose
to look at the matter in this light.

The popular notion that, with practical, if not metaphysical,
annihilation in view, Buddhism must needs be a sad and gloomy faith
seems to be inconsistent with fact; on the contrary, the prospect of
Nirvana fills the true believer, not merely with cheerfulness, but
with an ecstatic desire to reach it.

Note 10 (P. 68.)

The influence of the picture of the personal qualities of Gautama,
afforded by the legendary anecdotes which rapidly grew into a
biography of the Buddha; and by the birth stories, which coalesced
with the current folk-lore, and were intelligible to all the world,
doubtless played a great part. Further, although Gautama appears not
to have meddled with the caste system, he refused to recognize any
distinction, save that of perfection in the way of salvation, among
his followers; and by such teaching, no less than by the inculcation
of love and benevolence to all sentient beings, he practically
levelled every social, political, and racial barrier. A third
important condition was the organization of the Buddhists into
monastic communities for the stricter professors, while the laity were
permitted a wide indulgence in practice and were allowed to hope for
accommodation in some of the temporary abodes of bliss. With a few
hundred thousand years of immediate paradise in sight, the average man
could be content to shut his eyes to what might follow.


Note 11 (P. 69).

In ancient times it was the fashion, even among the Greeks themselves,
to derive all Greek wisdom from Eastern sources; not long ago it was
as generally denied that Greek philosophy had any connection, with
Oriental speculation; it seems probable, however, that the truth lies
between these extremes.

The Ionian intellectual movement does not stand alone. It is only one
of several sporadic indications of the working of some powerful mental
ferment over the whole of the area comprised between the Aegean and
Northern Hindostan during the eighth, seventh, and sixth centuries
before our era. In these three hundred years, prophetism attained its
apogee among the Semites of Palestine; Zoroasterism grew and became
the creed of a conquering race, the Iranic Aryans; Buddhism rose and
spread with marvellous rapidity among the Aryans of Hindostan; while
scientific naturalism took its rise among the Aryans of Ionia. It
would be difficult to find another three centuries which have given
birth to four events of equal importance. All the principal existing
religions of mankind have grown out of the first three: while the
fourth is the little spring, now swollen into the great stream of
positive science. So far as physical possibilities go, the prophet
Jeremiah and the oldest Ionian philosopher might have met and
conversed. If they had done so, they would probably have disagreed a
good deal; and it is interesting to reflect that their discussions
might have [105] embraced Questions which, at the present day, are
still hotly controverted.

The old Ionian philosophy, then, seems to be only one of many results
of a stirring of the moral and intellectual life of the Aryan and the
Semitic populations of Western Asia. The conditions of this general
awakening were doubtless manifold; but there is one which modern
research has brought into great prominence. This is the existence of
extremely ancient and highly advanced societies in the valleys of the
Euphrates and of the Nile.

It is now known that, more than a thousand--perhaps more than two
thousand--years before the sixth century B.C., civilization had
attained a relatively high pitch among the Babylonians and the
Egyptians. Not only had painting, sculpture, architecture, and the
industrial arts reached a remarkable development; but in Chaldaea, at
any rate, a vast amount of knowledge had been accumulated and
methodized, in the departments of grammar, mathematics, astronomy, and
natural history. Where such traces of the scientific spirit are
visible, naturalistic speculation is rarely far off, though, so far as
I know, no remains of an Accacian, or Egyptian, philosophy, properly
so called, have yet been recovered.

Geographically, Chaldaea occupied a central position among the oldest
seats of civilization. Commerce, largely aided by the intervention of
those colossal pedlars, the Phoenicians, had brought Chaldaea into
connection with all of them, for a thousand years before the epoch at
present under consideration. And in the ninth, eighth and seventh
[106] centuries, the Assyrian, the depositary of Chaldaean
civilization, as the Macedonian and the Roman, at a later date, were
the depositories of Greek culture, had added irresistible force to the
other agencies for the wide distribution of Chaldaean literature, art,
and science.

I confess that I find it difficult to imagine that the Greek
immigrant--who stood in somewhat the same relation to the Babylonians
and the Egyptians as the later Germanic barbarians to the Romans of
the Empire--should not have been immensely influenced by the new life
with which they became acquainted. But there is abundant direct
evidence of the magnitude of this influence in certain spheres. I
suppose it is not doubted that the Greek went to school with the
Oriental for his primary instruction in reading, writing, and
arithmetic; and that Semitic theology supplied him with some of his
mythological lore. Nor does there now seem to be any question about
the large indebtedness of Greek art to that of Chaldaea and that of

But the manner of that indebtedness is very instructive. The obligation
is clear, but its limits are no less definite. Nothing better
exemplifies the indomitable originality of the Greeks than the
relations of their art to that of the Orientals. Far from being
subdued into mere imitators by the technical excellence of their
teachers, they lost no time in bettering the instruction they
received, using their models as mere stepping stones on the way to
those unsurpassed and unsurpassable achievements which are all their
own. The shibboleth of Art is [107] the human figure. The ancient
Chaldaeans and Egyptians, like the modern Japanese, did wonders in the
representation of birds and quadrupeds; they even attained to
something more than respectability in human portraiture. But their
utmost efforts never brought them within range of the best Greek
embodiments of the grace of womanhood, or of the severer beauty of

It is worth while to consider the probable effect upon the acute and
critical Greek mind of the conflict of ideas, social, political, and
theological, which arose out of the conditions of life in the Asiatic
colonies. The Ionian polities had passed through the whole gamut of
social and political changes, from patriarchal and occasionally
oppressive kingship to rowdy and still more burdensome mobship--no
doubt with infinitely eloquent and copious argumentation, on both
sides, at every stage of their progress towards that arbitrament of
force which settles most political questions. The marvellous
speculative faculty, latent in the Ionian, had come in contact with
Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Phoenician theologies and cosmogonies; with
the illuminati of Orphism and the fanatics and dreamers of the
Mysteries; possibly with Buddhism and Zoroasterism; possibly even with
Judaism. And it has been observed that the mutual contradictions of
antagonistic supernaturalisms are apt to play a large part among the
generative agencies of naturalism.

Thus, various external influences may have contributed to the rise of
philosophy among the Ionian Greeks of the sixth century. But the
assimilative [108] capacity of the Greek mind--its power of
Hellenizing whatever it touched--has here worked so effectually, that,
so far as I can learn, no indubitable traces of such extraneous
contributions are now allowed to exist by the most authoritative
historians of Philosophy. Nevertheless, I think it must be admitted
that the coincidences between the Heracleito-stoical doctrines and
those of the older Hindu philosophy are extremely remarkable. In both,
the cosmos pursues an eternal succession of cyclical changes. The
great year, answering to the Kalpa, covers an entire cycle from the
origin of the universe as a fluid to its dissolution in fire--"Humor
initium, ignis exitus mundi," as Seneca has it. In both systems, there
is immanent in the cosmos a source of energy, Brahma, or the Logos,
which works according to fixed laws. The individual soul is an efflux
of this world-spirit, and returns to it. Perfection is attainable only
by individual effort, through ascetic discipline, and is rather a
state of painlessness than of happiness; if indeed it can be said to
be a state of anything, save the negation of perturbing emotion. The
hatchment motto "In Coelo Quies" would serve both Hindu and Stoic; and
absolute quiet is not easily distinguishable from annihilation.

Zoroasterism, which, geographically, occupies a position intermediate
between Hellenism and Hinduism, agrees with the latter in recognizing
the essential evil of the cosmos; but differs from both in its
intensely anthropomorphic personification of the two antagonistic
principles, to the one of which it ascribes all the good; and, to the
other, all the evil.

[109] In fact, it assumes the existence of two worlds, one good and one
bad; the latter created by the evil power for the purpose of damaging
the former. The existing cosmos is a mere mixture of the two, and the
"last judgment" is a root-and-branch extirpation of the work of

Note 12 (p. 69).

There is no snare in which the feet of a modern student of ancient lore
are more easily entangled, than that which is spread by the similarity
of the language of antiquity to modern modes of expression. I do not
presume to interpret the obscurest of Greek philosophers; all I wish
is to point out, that his words, in the sense accepted by competent
interpreters, fit modern ideas singularly well.

So far as the general theory of evolution goes there is no difficulty.
The aphorism about the river; the figure of the child playing on the
shore; the kingship and fatherhood of strife, seem decisive. The
[Greek phrase osod ano kato mie] expresses, with singular aptness, the
cyclical aspect of the one process of organic evolution in individual
plants and animals: yet it may be a question whether the Heracleitean
strife included any distinct conception of the struggle for existence.
Again, it is tempting to compare the part played by the Heracleitean
"fire" with that ascribed by the moderns to heat, or rather to that
cause of motion of which heat is one expression; and a little
ingenuity might find a foreshadowing of the doctrine of the
conservation of energy, in the saying [110] that all the things are
changed into fire and fire into all things, as gold into goods and
goods into gold.

Note 13 (p. 71).

Pope's lines in the Essay on Man(Ep. i. 267-8),

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul,"

simply paraphrase Seneca's "quem in hoc mundo locum deus obtinet, hunc
in homine animus: quod est illic materia, id nobis corpus est."--(Ep.
lxv. 24); which again is a Latin version of the old Stoical doctrine,
[Greek phrase eis apan tou kosou meros diekei o nous, kataper aph emon
e psuche].

So far as the testimony for the universality of what ordinary people
call "evil" goes, there is nothing better than the writings of the
Stoics themselves. They might serve, as a storehouse for the epigrams
of the ultra-pessimists. Heracleitus (circa 500 B.C.) says just as
hard things about ordinary humanity as his disciples centuries later;
and there really seems no need to seek for the causes of this dark
view of life in the circumstances of the time of Alexander's
successors or of the early Emperors of Rome. To the man with an
ethical ideal, the world, including himself, will always seem full of

Note 14 (P. 73).

I use the well-known phrase, but decline responsibility for the libel
upon Epicurus, whose doctrines [111] were far less compatible with
existence in a style than those of the Cynics. If it were steadily
borne in mind that the conception of the "flesh" as the source of
evil, and the great saying "Initium est salutis notitia peccati," are
the property of Epicurus, fewer illusions about Epicureanism would
pass muster for accepted truth.

Note 15 (P. 75).

The Stoics said that man was a [Greek phrase zoon logikon politikon
philallelon], or a rational, a political, and an altruistic or
philanthropic animal. In their view, his higher nature tended to
develop in these three directions, as a plant tends to grow up into
its typical form. Since, without the introduction of any consideration
of pleasure or pain, whatever thwarted the realization of its type by
the plant might be said to be bad, and whatever helped it good; so
virtue, in the Stoical sense, as the conduct which tended to the
attainment of the rational, political, and philanthropic ideal, was
good in itself, and irrespectively of its emotional concomitants.

Man is an "animal sociale communi bono genitum." The safety of society
depends upon practical recognition of the fact. "Salva autem esse
societas nisi custodia et amore partium non possit," says Seneca. (De.
Ira, ii. 31.)

Note 16 (P. 75).

The importance of the physical doctrine of the Stoics lies in its
clear recognition of the universality [112] of the law of causation,
with its corollary, the order of nature: the exact form of that order
is an altogether secondary consideration.

Many ingenious persons now appear to consider that the incompatibility
of pantheism, of materialism, and of any doubt about the immortality
oxf the soul, with religion and morality, is to be held as an
axiomatic truth. I confess that I have a certain difficulty in
accepting this dogma. For the Stoics were notoriously materialists and
pantheists of the most extreme character; and while no strict Stoic
believed in the eternal duration of the individual soul, some even
denied its persistence after death. Yet it is equally certain that of
all gentile philosophies, Stoicism exhibits the highest ethical
development, is animated by the most religious spirit, and has exerted
the profoundest influence upon the moral and religious development not
merely of the best men among the Romans, but among the moderns down to
our own day.

Seneca was claimed as a Christian and placed among the saints by the
fathers of the early Christian Church; and the genuineness of a
correspondence between him and the apostle Paul has been hotly
maintained in our own time, by orthodox writers. That the letters, as
we possess them, are worthless forgeries is obvious; and writers as
wide apart as Baur and Lightfoot agree that the whole story is devoid
of foundation.

The dissertation of the late Bishop of Durham (Epistle to the
Philippians) is particularly worthy of study, apart from this
question, on account of [113] evidence which it supplies of the
numerous similarities of thought between Seneca and the writer of the
Pauline epistles. When it is remembered that the writer of the Acts
puts a quotation from Aratus, or Cleanthes, into the mouth of the
apostle; and that Tarsus was a great seat of philosophical and
especially stoical learning (Chrysippus himself was a native of the
adjacent town of Soli), there is no difficulty in understanding the
origin of these resemblances. See, on this subject, Sir Alexander
Grant's dissertation in his edition of The Ethics of Aristotle (where
there is an interesting reference to the stoical character of Bishop
Butler's ethics), the concluding pages of Dr. Weygoldt's instructive
little work Die Philosophie der Stoa, and Aubertin's Seneque et Saint

It is surprising that a writer of Dr. Lightfoot's stamp should speak
of Stoicism as a philosophy of "despair." Surely, rather, it was a
philosophy of men who, having cast off all illusions, and the
childishness of despair among them, were minded to endure in patience
whatever conditions the cosmic process might create, so long as those
conditions were compatible with the progress towards virtue, which
alone, for them, conferred a worthy object on existence. There is no
note of despair in the stoical declaration that the perfected "wise
man" is the equal of Zeus in everything but the duration of his
existence. And, in my judgment, there is as little pride about it,
often as it serves for the text of discourses on stoical arrogance.
Grant the stoical postulate that there is no good except virtue; grant
that [114] the perfected wise man is altogether virtuous, in
consequence of being guided in all things by the reason, which is an
effluence of Zeus, and there seems no escape from the stoical

Note 17 (p. 76).

Our "Apathy" carries such a different set of connotations from its
Greek original that I have ventured on using the latter as a technical

Note 18 (P. 77).

Many of the stoical philosophers recommended their disciples to take
an active share in public affairs; and in the Roman world, for several
centuries, the best public men were strongly inclined to Stoicism.
Nevertheless, the logical tendency of Stoicism seems to me to be
fulfilled only in such men as Diogenes and Epictetus.

Note 19 (P. 80).

"Criticisms on the Origin of Species," 1864. Collected Essays, vol. ii.
p. 91.[1894.]

Note 20 (P. 81).

Of course, strictly speaking, social life, and the ethical process in
virtue of which it advances towards perfection, Are part and parcel of
the general process of evolution, just as the gregarious habit of in
[115] numerable plants and animals, which has been of immense
advantage to them, is so. A hive of bees is an organic polity, a
society in which the part played by each member is determined by
organic necessities. Queens, workers, and drones are, so to speak,
castes, divided from one another by marked physical barriers. Among
birds and mammals, societies are formed, of which the bond in many
cases seems to be purely psychological; that is to say, it appears to
depend upon the liking of the individuals for one another's company.
The tendency of individuals to over self-assertion is kept down by
fighting. Even in these rudimentary forms of society, love and fear
come into play, and enforce a greater or less renunciation of
self-will. To this extent the general cosmic process begins to be
checked by a rudimentary ethical process, which is, strictly speaking,
part of the former, just as the "governor" in a steam-engine is part
of the mechanism of the engine.

Note 21 (p. 82).

See "Government: Anarchy or Regimentation," Collected Essays, vol. i.
pp. 413-418. It is this form of political philosophy to which I
conceive the epithet of "reasoned savagery" to be strictly

Note 22 (p. 83).

"L'homme n'est qu'un roseau, le plus faible de la nature, mais c'est
un roseau pensant. Il ne faut [116] pas que l'univers entier s'arme
pour l'ecraser. Une vapour, une goutte d'eau, suffit pour le tuer.
Mais quand l'univers l'ecraserait, l'homme serait encore plus noble
que ce qui le tue, parce qu'il sait qu'il muert; et l'avantage que
l'univers a sur lui, l'univers n'en sait rien."--Pensees de Pascal.

Note 23 (p. 85).

The use of the word "Nature" here may be criticised. Yet the
manifestation of the natural tendencies of men is so profoundly
modified by training that it is hardly too strong. Consider the
suppression of the sexual instinct between near relations.

Note 24 (p. 86).

A great proportion of poetry is addressed by the young to the young;
only the great masters of the art are capable of divining, or think it
worth while to enter into, the feelings of retrospective age. The two
great poets whom we have so lately lost, Tennyson and Browning, have
done this, each in his own inimitable way; the one in the Ulysses,
from which I have borrowed; the other in that wonderful fragment
"Childe Roland to the dark Tower came."


(Note: Section III came from a different source than the
other sections and thus does not have page numbers.)







(Atlantic Monthly for July, August, and October, 1860, reprinted in


Novelties are enticing to most people; to us they are simply annoying.
We cling to a long-accepted theory, just as we cling to an old suit of
clothes. A new theory, like a new pair of breeches (the Atlantic still
affects the older type of nether garment), is sure to have hard-fitting
places; or, even when no particular fault can be found with the
article, it oppresses with a sense of general discomfort. New notions
and new styles worry us, till we get well used to them, which is only
by slow degrees.

Wherefore, in Galileos time, we might have helped to proscribe, or to
burn--had he been stubborn enough to warrant cremation--even the great
pioneer of inductive research; although, when we had fairly recovered
our composure, and bad leisurely excogitated the matter, we might have
come to conclude that the new doctrine was better than the old one,
after all, at least for those who had nothing to unlearn.

Such being our habitual state of mind, it may well be believed that the
perusal of the new book "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural
Selection" left an uncomfortable impression, in spite of its plausible
and winning ways. We were not wholly unprepared for it, as many of our
contemporaries seem to have been. The scientific reading in which we
indulge as a relaxation from severer studies had raised dim
forebodings. Investigations about the succession of species in time,
and their actual geographical distribution over the earths surface,
were leading up from all sides and in various ways to the question of
their origin. Now and then we encountered a sentence, like Prof. Owens
"axiom of the continuous operation of the ordained becoming of living
things," which haunted us like an apparition. For, dim as our
conception must needs be as to what such oracular and grandiloquent
phrases might really mean, we felt confident that they presaged no good
to old beliefs. Foreseeing, yet deprecating, the coming time of
trouble, we still hoped that, with some repairs and makeshifts, the old
views might last out our days. Apres nous le deluge. Still, not to lag
behind the rest of the world, we read the book in which the new theory
is promulgated. We took it up, like our neighbors, and, as was natural,
in a somewhat captious frame of mind.

Well, we found no cause of quarrel with the first chapter. Here the
author takes us directly to the barn-yard and the kitchen-garden. Like
an honorable rural member of our General Court, who sat silent until,
near the close of a long session, a bill requiring all swine at large
to wear pokes was introduced, when he claimed the privilege of
addressing the house, on the proper ground that he had been "brought up
among the pigs, and knew all about them"--so we were brought up among
cows and cabbages; and the lowing of cattle, the cackle of hens, and
the cooing of pigeons, were sounds native and pleasant to our ears. So
"Variation under Domestication" dealt with familiar subjects in a
natural way, and gently introduced "Variation under Nature," which
seemed likely enough. Then follows "Struggle for Existence"--a
principle which we experimentally know to be true and cogent--bringing
the comfortable assurance, that man, even upon Leviathan Hobbess theory
of society, is no worse than the rest of creation, since all Nature is
at war, one species with another, and the nearer kindred the more
internecine--bringing in thousandfold confirmation and extension of the
Malthusian doctrine that population tends far to outrun means of
subsistence throughout the animal and vegetable world, and has to be
kept down by sharp preventive checks; so that not more than one of a
hundred or a thousand of the individuals whose existence is so
wonderfully and so sedulously provided for ever comes to anything,
under ordinary circumstances; so the lucky and the strong must prevail,
and the weaker and ill-favored must perish; and then follows, as
naturally as one sheep follows another, the chapter on "Natural
Selection," Darwins cheval de bataille, which is very much the
Napoleonic doctrine that Providence favors the strongest
battalions--that, since many more individuals are born than can
possibly survive, those individuals and those variations which possess
any advantage, however slight, over the rest, are in the long-run sure
to survive, to propagate, and to occupy the limited field, to the
exclusion or destruction of the weaker brethren. All this we pondered,
and could not much object to. In fact, we began to contract a liking
for a system which at the outset illustrates the advantages of good
breeding, and which makes the most "of every creatures best."

Could we "let by-gones be by-gones," and, beginning now, go on
improving and diversifying for the future by natural selection, could
we even take up the theory at the introduction of the actually
existing species, we should be well content; and so, perhaps, would
most naturalists be. It is by no means difficult to believe that
varieties are incipient or possible species, when we see what trouble
naturalists, especially botanists, have to distinguish between
them--one regarding as a true species what another regards as a
variety; when the progress of knowledge continually increases, rather
than diminishes, the number of doubtful instances; and when there is
less agreement than ever among naturalists as to what is the basis in
Nature upon which our idea of species reposes, or how the word is to be
defined. Indeed, when we consider the endless disputes of naturalists
and ethnologists over the human races, as to whether they belong to one
species or to more, and, if to more, whether to three, or five, or
fifty, we can hardly help fancying that both may be right--or rather,
that the uni-humanitarians would have been right many thousand years
ago, and the multi-humanitarians will be several thousand years later;
while at present the safe thing to say is, that probably there is some
truth on both sides.

"Natural selection," Darwin remarks, "leads to divergence of character;
for the more living beings can be supported on the same area, the more
they diverge in structure, habits, and constitution" (a principle
which, by-the-way, is paralleled and illustrated by the diversification
of human labor); and also leads to much extinction of intermediate or
unimproved forms. Now, though this divergence may "steadily tend to
increase," yet this is evidently a slow process in Nature, and liable
to much counteraction wherever man does not interpose, and so not
likely to work much harm for the future. And if natural selection, with
artificial to help it, will produce better animals and better men than
the present, and fit them better to the conditions of existence, why,
let it work, say we, to the top of its bent There is still room enough
for improvement. Only let us hope that it always works for good: if
not, the divergent lines on Darwin's lithographic diagram of
"Transmutation made Easy," ominously show what small deviations from
the straight path may come to in the end.

The prospect of the future, accordingly, is on the whole pleasant and
encouraging. It is only the backward glance, the gaze up the long vista
of the past, that reveals anything alarming. Here the lines converge as
they recede into the geological ages, and point to conclusions which,
upon the theory, are inevitable, but hardly welcome. The very first
step backward makes the negro and the Hottentot our
blood-relations--not that reason or Scripture objects to that, though
pride may. The next suggests a closer association of our ancestors of
the olden time with "our poor relations" of the quadrumanous family
than we like to acknowledge. Fortunately, however--even if we must
account for him scientifically --man with his two feet stands upon a
foundation of his own. Intermediate links between the Bimana and the
Quadrumana are lacking altogether; so that, put the genealogy of the
brutes upon what footing you will, the four-handed races will not serve
for our forerunners--at least, not until some monkey, live or fossil,
is producible with great-toes, instead of thumbs, upon his nether
extremities; or until some lucky geologist turns up the bones of his
ancestor and prototype in France or England, who was so busy "napping
the chuckie-stanes" and chipping out flint knives and arrow-heads in
the time of the drift, very many ages ago--before the British Channel
existed, says Lyell [III-1]--and until these men of the olden time are
shown to have worn their great-toes in the divergent and thumblike
fashion. That would be evidence indeed: but, until some testimony of
the sort is produced, we must needs believe in the separate and special
creation of man, however it may have been with the lower animals and
with plants.

No doubt, the full development and symmetry of Darwin's hypothesis
strongly suggest the evolution of the human no less than the lower
animal races out of some simple primordial animal--that all are equally
"lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the
first bed of the Silurian system was deposited." But, as the author
speaks disrespectfully of spontaneous generation, and accepts a
supernatural beginning of life on earth, in some form or forms of being
which included potentially all that have since existed and are yet to
be, he is thereby not warranted to extend his inferences beyond the
evidence or the fair probability. There seems as great likelihood that
one special origination should be followed by another upon fitting
occasion (such as the introduction of man), as that one form should be
transmuted into another upon fitting occasion, as, for instance, in the
succession of species which differ from each other only in some
details. To compare small things with great in a homely illustration:
man alters from time to time his instruments or machines, as new
circumstances or conditions may require and his wit suggest. Minor
alterations and improvements he adds to the machine he possesses; he
adapts a new rig or a new rudder to an old boat: this answers to
Variation. "Like begets like," being the great rule in Nature, if boats
could engender, the variations would doubtless be propagated, like
those of domestic cattle. In course of time the old ones would be worn
out or wrecked; the best sorts would be chosen for each particular use,
and further improved upon; and so the primordial boat be developed into
the scow, the skiff, the sloop, and other species of water-craft--the
very diversification, as well as the successive improvements, entailing
the disappearance of intermediate forms, less adapted to any one
particular purpose; wherefore these go slowly out of use, and become
extinct species: this is Natural Selection. Now, let a great and
important advance be made, like that of steam navigation: here, though
the engine might be added to the old vessel, yet the wiser and
therefore the actual way is to make a new vessel on a modified plan:
this may answer to Specific Creation. Anyhow, the one does not
necessarily exclude the other. Variation and natural selection may
play their part, and so may specific creation also. Why not?

This leads us to ask for the reasons which call for this new theory of
transmutation. The beginning of things must needs lie in obscurity,
beyond the bounds of proof, though within those of conjecture or of
analogical inference. Why not hold fast to the customary view, that all
species were directly, instead of indirectly, created after their
respective kinds, as we now behold them--and that in a manner which,
passing our comprehension, we intuitively refer to the supernatural?
Why this continual striving after "the unattained and dim?" why these
anxious endeavors, especially of late years, by naturalists and
philosophers of various schools and different tendencies, to penetrate
what one of them calls "that mystery of mysteries," the origin of

To this, in general, sufficient answer may be found in the activity of
the human intellect, "the delirious yet divine desire to know,"
stimulated as it has been by its own success in unveiling the laws and
processes of inorganic Nature; in the fact that the principal triumphs
of our age in physical science have consisted in tracing connections
where none were known before, in reducing heterogeneous phenomena to a
common cause or origin, in a manner quite analogous to that of the
reduction of supposed independently originated species to a common
ultimate origin--thus, and in various other ways, largely and
legitimately extending the domain of secondary causes. Surely the
scientific mind of an age which contemplates the solar system as
evolved from a common revolving fluid mass--which, through experimental
research, has come to regard light, heat, electricity, magnetism,
chemical affinity, and mechanical power as varieties or derivative and
convertible forms of one force, instead of independent species--which
has brought the so-called elementary kinds of matter, such as the
metals, into kindred groups, and pertinently raised the question,
whether the members of each group may not be mere varieties of one
species--and which speculates steadily in the direction of the ultimate
unity of matter, of a sort of prototype or simple element which may be
to the ordinary species of matter what the Protozoa or what the
component cells of an organism are to the higher sorts of animals and
plants--the mind of such an age cannot be expected to let the old
belief about species pass unquestioned. It will raise the question, how
the diverse sorts of plants and animals came to be as they are and
where they are and will allow that the whole inquiry transcends its
powers only when all endeavors have failed Granting the origin to be
super natural or miraculous even, will not arrest the inquiry All real
origination the philosophers will say, is supernatural, their very
question is, whether we have yet gone back to the origin and can affirm
that the present forms of plants and animals are the primordial, the
miraculously created ones. And, even if they admit that, they will
still inquire into the order of the phenomena, into the form of the
miracle You might as well expect the child to grow up content with what
it is told about the advent of its infant brother Indeed, to learn that
the new comer is the gift of God, far from lulling inquiry, only
stimulates speculation as to how the precious gift was bestowed That
questioning child is father to the man--is philosopher in

Since, then questions about the origin of species will be raised, and
have been raised--and since the theorizings, however different in
particulars, all proceed upon the notion that one species of plant or
animal is somehow derived from another, that the different sorts which
now flourish are lineal (or unlineal) descendants of other and earlier
sorts--it now concerns us to ask, What are the grounds in Nature, the
admitted facts, which suggest hypotheses of derivation in some :shape
or other? Reasons there must be, and plausible ones, for the persistent
recurrence of theories upon this genetic basis. A study of Darwins
book, and a general glance at the present state of the natural
sciences, enable us to gather the following as among the most
suggestive and influential. We can only enumerate them here, without
much indication of their particular bearing. There is--

1. The general fact of variability, and the general tendency of the
variety to propagate its like--the patent facts that all species vary
more or less; that domesticated plants and animals, being in conditions
favorable to the production and preservation of varieties, are apt to
vary widely; and that, by interbreeding, any variety may be fixed into
a race, that is, into a variety which comes true from seed. Many such
races, it is allowed, differ from each other in structure and
appearance as widely as do many admitted species; and it is practically
very difficult, even impossible, to draw a clear line between races and
species. Witness the human races, for instance. Wild species also
vary, perhaps about as widely as those of domestication, though in
different ways. Some of them apparently vary little, others moderately,
others immoderately, to the great bewilderment of systematic botanists
and zoologists, and increasing disagreement as to whether various forms
shall be held to be original species or strong varieties. Moreover, the
degree to which the descendants of the same stock, varying in different
directions, may at length diverge, is unknown. All we know is, that
varieties are themselves variable, and that very diverse forms have
been educed from one stock.

2. Species of the same genus are not distinguished from each other by
equal amounts of difference. There is diversity in this respect
analogous to that of the varieties of a polymorphous species, some of
them slight, others extreme. And in large genera the unequal
resemblance shows itself in the clustering of the species around
several types or central species, like satellites around their
respective planets. Obviously suggestive this of the hypothesis that
they were satellites, not thrown off by revolution, like the moons of
Jupiter, Saturn, and our own solitary moon, but gradually and
peacefully detached by divergent variation. That such closely-related
species may be only varieties of higher grade, earlier origin, or more
favored evolution, is not a very violent supposition. Anyhow, it was a
supposition sure to be made.

3. The actual geographical distribution of species upon the earths
surface tends to suggest the same notion. For, as a general thing, all
or most of the species of a peculiar genus or other type are grouped in
the same country, or occupy continuous, proximate, or accessible areas.
So well does this rule hold, so general is the implication that kindred
species are or were associated geographically, that most trustworthy
naturalists, quite free from hypotheses of transmutation, are
constantly inferring former geographical continuity between parts of
the world now widely disjoined, in order to account thereby for certain
generic similarities among their inhabitants; just as philologists
infer former connection of races, and a parent language, to account for
generic similarities among existing languages. Yet no scientific
explanation has been offered to account for the geographical
association of kindred species, except the hypothesis of a common

4. Here the fact of the antiquity of creation, and in particular of the
present kinds of the earths inhabitants, or of a large part of them,
comes in to rebut the objection that there has not been time enough for
any marked diversification of living things through divergent
variation--not time enough for varieties to have diverged into what we
call species.

So long as the existing species of plants and animals were thought to
have originated a few thousand years ago, and without predecessors,
there was no room for a theory of derivation of one sort from another,
nor time enough even to account for the establishment of the races
which are generally believed to have diverged from a common stock. Not
so much that five or six thousand years was a short allowance for this;
but because some of our familiar domesticated varieties of grain, of
fowls, and of other animals, were pictured and mummified by the old
Egyptians more than half that number of years ago, if not earlier.
Indeed, perhaps the strongest argument for the original plurality of
human species was drawn from the identification of some of the present
races of men upon these early historical monuments and records.

But this very extension of the current chronology, if we may rely upon
the archaeologists, removes the difficulty by opening up a longer
vista. So does the discovery in Europe of remains and implements of
prehistoric races of men, to whom the use of metals was unknown--men of
the stone age, as the Scandinavian archaeologists designate them. And
now, "axes and knives of flint, evidently wrought by human skill, are
found in beds of the drift at Amiens (also in other places, both in
France and England), associated with the bones of extinct species of
animals." These implements, indeed, were noticed twenty years ago; at a
place in Suffolk they have been exhumed from time to time for more than
a century; but the full confirmation, the recognition of the age of the
deposit in which the implements occur, their abundance, and the
appreciation of their bearings upon most interesting questions, belong
to the present time. To complete the connection of these primitive
people with the fossil ages, the French geologists, we are told, have
now "found these axes in Picardy associated with remains of Elephas
primigenius, Rhinoceros tichorhinus, Equus fossilis, and an extinct
species of Bos."[III-2] In plain language, these workers in flint lived
in the time of the mammoth, of a rhinoceros now extinct, and along with
horses and cattle unlike any now existing--specifically different, as
naturalists say, from those with which man is now associated. Their
connection with existing human races may perhaps be traced through the
intervening people of the stone age, who were succeeded by the people
of the bronze age, and these by workers in iron.[III-3] Now, various
evidence carries back the existence of many of the present lower
species of animals, and probably of a larger number of plants, to the
same drift period. All agree that this was very many thousand years
ago. Agassiz tells us that the same species of polyps which are now
building coral walls around the present peninsula of Florida actually
made that peninsula, and have been building there for many thousand

5. The overlapping of existing and extinct species, and the seemingly
gradual transition of the life of the drift period into that of the
present, may be turned to the same account. Mammoths, mastodons, and
Irish elks, now extinct, must have lived down to human, if not almost
to historic times. Perhaps the last dodo did not long outlive his huge
New Zealand kindred. The aurochs, once the companion of mammoths, still
survives, but owes his present and precarious existence to mans care.
Now, nothing that we know of forbids the hypothesis that some new
species have been independently and supernaturally created within the
period which other species have survived. Some may even believe that
man was created in the days of the mammoth, became extinct, and was
recreated at a later date. But why not say the same of the aurochs,
contemporary both of the old man and of the new? Still it is more
natural, if not inevitable, to infer that, if the aurochs of that olden
time were the ancestors of the aurochs of the Lithuanian forests, so
likewise were the men of that age the ancestors of the present human
races. Then, whoever concludes that these primitive makers of rude
flint axes and knives were the ancestors of the better workmen of the
succeeding stone age, and these again of the succeeding artificers in
brass and iron, will also be likely to suppose that the Equus and Bos
of that time, different though they be, were the remote progenitors of
our own horses and cattle. In all candor we must at least concede that
such considerations suggest a genetic descent from the drift period
down to the present, and allow time enough--if time is of any account--
for variation and natural selection to work out some appreciable
results in the way of divergence into races, or even into so-called
species. Whatever might have been thought, when geological time was
supposed to be separated from the present era by a clear line, it is
now certain that a gradual replacement of old forms by new ones is
strongly suggestive of some mode of origination which may still be
operative. When species, like individuals, were found to die out one by
one, and apparently to come in one by one, a theory for what Owen
sonorously calls "the continuous operation of the ordained becoming of
living things" could not be far off.

That all such theories should take the form of a derivation of the new
from the old seems to be inevitable, perhaps from our inability to
conceive of any other line of secondary causes in this connection. Owen
himself is apparently in travail with some transmutation theory of his
own conceiving, which may yet see the light, although Darwins came
first to the birth. Different as the two theories will probably be,
they cannot fail to exhibit that fundamental resemblance in this
respect which betokens a community of origin, a common foundation on
the general facts and the obvious suggestions of modern science.
Indeed--to turn the point of a pungent simile directed against
Darwin--the difference between the Darwinian and the Owenian hypotheses
may, after all, be only that between homoeopathic and heroic doses of
the same drug.

If theories of derivation could only stop here, content with explaining
the diversification and succession of species between the teritiary
period and the present time, through natural agencies or secondary
causes still in operation, we fancy they would not be generally or
violently objected to by the savants of the present day. But it is
hard, if not impossible, to find a stopping-place. Some of the facts or
accepted conclusions already referred to, and several others, of a more
general character, which must be taken into the account, impel the
theory onward with accumulated force. Vires (not to say virus) acquirit
eundo. The theory hitches on wonderfully well to Lyells uniformitarian
theory in geology--that the thing that has been is the thing that is
and shall be--that the natural operations now going on will account for
all geological changes in a quiet and easy way, only give them time
enough, so connecting the present and the proximate with the farthest
past by almost imperceptible gradations--a view which finds large and
increasing, if not general, acceptance in physical geology, and of
which Darwins theory is the natural complement.

So the Darwinian theory, once getting a foothold, marches; boldly on,
follows the supposed near ancestors of our present species farther and
yet farther back into the dim past, and ends with an analogical
inference which "makes the whole world kin." As we said at the
beginning, this upshot discomposes us. Several features of the theory
have an uncanny look. They may prove to be innocent: but their first
aspect is suspicious, and high authorities pronounce the whole thing to
be positively mischievous. In this dilemma we are going to take advice.
Following the bent of our prejudices, and hoping to fortify these by
new and strong arguments, we are going now to read the principal
reviews which undertake to demolish the theory--with what result our
readers shall be duly informed.


"I can entertain no doubt, after the most deliberate study and
dispassionate judgment of which I am capable, that the view which most
naturalists entertain, and which I formerly entertained, namely, that
each species has been independently created, is erroneous. I am fully
convinced that species are not immutable; but that those belonging to
what are called the same genera are lineal descendants of some other
and generally extinct species, in the same manner as the acknowledged
varieties of any one species are the descendants of that species.
Furthermore, I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the main,
but not exclusive, means of modification."

This is the kernel of the new theory, the Darwinian creed, as recited
at the close of the introduction to the remarkable book under
consideration. The questions, "What will he do with it?" and "How far
will he carry it?" the author answers at the close of the volume:

"I cannot doubt that the theory of descent with modification embraces
all the members of the same class." Furthermore, "I believe that all
animals have descended from at most only four or five progenitors, and
plants from an equal or lesser number."

Seeing that analogy as strongly suggests a further step in the same
direction, while he protests that "analogy may be a deceitful guide,"
yet he follows its inexorable leading to the inference that--

"Probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this ear have
descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first

In the first extract we have the thin end of the wedge driven a little
way; in the last, the wedge driven home.

We have already sketched some of the reasons suggestive of such a
theory of derivation of species, reasons which gave it plausibility,
and even no small probability, as applied to our actual world and to
changes occurring since the latest tertiary period. We are well pleased
at this moment to find that the conclusions we were arriving at in this
respect are sustained by the very high authority and impartial judgment
of Pictet, the Swiss paleontologist. In his review of Darwins
book[III-5] -- the fairest and most admirable opposing one that has
appeared--he freely accepts that ensemble of natural operations which
Darwin impersonates under the now familiar name of Natural Selection,
allows that the exposition throughout the first chapters seems "a la
fois prudent et fort," and is disposed to accept the whole argument in
its foundations, that is, so far as it relates to what is now going on,
or has taken place in the present geological period--which period he
carries back through the diluvial epoch to the borders of the
tertiary.[III-6] Pictet accordingly admits that the theory will very
well account for the origination by divergence of nearly-related
species, whether within the present period or in remoter geological
times; a very natural view for him to take, since he appears to have
reached and published, several years ago, the pregnant conclusion that
there most probably was some material connection between the
closely-related species of two successive faunas, and that the numerous
close species, whose limits are so difficult to determine, were not all
created distinct and independent. But while thus accepting, or ready
to accept, the basis of Darwins theory, and all its legitimate direct
inferences, he rejects the ultimate conclusions, brings some weighty
arguments to bear against them, and is evidently convinced that he can
draw a clear line between the sound inferences, which he favors, and
the unsound or unwarranted theoretical deductions, which he rejects. We
hope he can.

This raises the question, Why does Darwin press his theory to these
extreme conclusions? Why do all hypotheses of derivation converge so
inevitably to one ultimate point? Having already considered some of the
reasons which suggest or support the theory at its outset--which may
carry it as far as such sound and experienced naturalists as Pictet
allow that it may be true--perhaps as far as Darwin himself unfolds it
in the introductory proposition cited at the beginning of this
article--we may now inquire after the motives which impel the theorist
so much farther. Here proofs, in the proper sense of the word, are not
to be had. We are beyond the region of demonstration, and have only
probabilities to consider. What are these probabilities? What work will
this hypothesis do to establish a claim to be adopted in its
completeness? Why should a theory which may plausibly enough account
for the diversification of the species of each special type or genus be
expanded into a general system for the origination or successive
diversification of all species, and all special types or forms, from
four or five remote primordial forms, or perhaps from one? We accept
the theory of gravitation because it explains all the facts we know,
and bears all the tests that we can put it to. We incline to accept the
nebular hypothesis, for similar reasons; not because it is proved--thus
far it is incapable of proof--but because it is a natural theoretical
deduction from accepted physical laws, is thoroughly congruous with the
facts, and because its assumption serves to connect and harmonize these
into one probable and consistent whole. Can the derivative hypothesis
be maintained and carried out into a system on similar grounds? If so,
however unproved, it would appear to be a tenable hypothesis, which is
all that its author ought now to claim. Such hypotheses as, from the
conditions of the case, can neither be proved nor disproved by direct
evidence or experiment, are to be tested only indirectly, and therefore
imperfectly, by trying their power to harmonize the known facts, and to
account for what is otherwise unaccountable. So the question comes to
this: What will an hypothesis of the derivation of species explain
which the opposing view leaves unexplained?

Questions these which ought to be entertained before we take up the
arguments which have been advanced against this theory. We can barely
glance at some of the considerations which Darwin adduces, or will be
sure to adduce in the future and fuller exposition which is promised.
To display them in such wise as to indoctrinate the unscientific reader
would require a volume. Merely to refer to them in the most general
terms would suffice for those familiar with scientific matters, but
would scarcely enlighten those who are not. Wherefore let these trust
the impartial Pictet, who freely admits that, "in the absence of
sufficient direct proofs to justify the possibility of his hypothesis,
Mr. Darwin relies upon indirect proofs, the bearing of which is real
and incontestable;" who concedes that "his theory accords very well
with the great facts of comparative anatomy and zoology--comes in
admirably to explain unity of composition of organisms, also to explain
rudimentary and representative organs, and the natural series of genera
and species--equally corresponds with many paleontological data--agrees
well with the specific resemblances which exist between two successive
faunas, with the parallelism which is sometimes observed between the
series of paleontological succession and of embryonal development,"
etc.; and finally, although he does not accept the theory in these
results, he allows that "it appears to offer the best means of
explaining the manner in which organized beings were produced in epochs
anterior to our own."

What more than this could be said for such an hypothesis? Here,
probably, is its charm, and its strong hold upon the speculative mind.
Unproven though it be, and cumbered prima facie with cumulative
improbabilities as it proceeds, yet it singularly accords with great
classes of facts otherwise insulated and enigmatic, and explains many
things which are thus far utterly inexplicable upon any other
scientific assumption.

We have said that Darwins hypothesis is the natural complement to
Lyells uniformitarian theory in physical geology. It is for the organic
world what that is for the inorganic; and the accepters of the latter
stand in a position from which to regard the former in the most
favorable light. Wherefore the rumor that the cautious Lyell himself
has adopted the Darwinian hypothesis need not surprise us. The two
views are made for each other, and, like the two counterpart pictures
for the stereoscope, when brought together, combine into one apparently
solid whole.

If we allow, with Pictet, that Darwins theory will very well serve for
all that concerns the present epoch of the worlds history--an epoch in
which this renowned paleontologist includes the diluvial or quaternary
period--then Darwins first and foremost need in his onward course is a
practicable road from this into and through the tertiary period, the
intervening region between the comparatively near and the far remote
past. Here Lyells doctrine paves the way, by showing that in the
physical geology there is no general or absolute break between the two,
probably no greater between the latest tertiary and the quaternary
period than between the latter and the present time. So far, the
Lyellian view is, we suppose, generally concurred in. It is largely
admitted that numerous tertiary species have continued down into the
quaternary, and many of them to the present time. A goodly percentage
of the earlier and nearly half of the later tertiary mollusca,
according to Des Hayes, Lye!!, and, if we mistake not, Bronn, still
live. This identification, however, is now questioned by a naturalist
of the very highest authority. But, in its bearings on the new theory,
the point here turns not upon absolute identity so much as upon close
resemblance. For those who, with Agassiz, doubt the specific identity
in any of these cases, and those who say, with Pictet, that "the later
tertiary deposits contain in general the debris of species very nearly
related to those which still exist, belonging to the same genera, but
specifically different," may also agree with Pictet, that the
nearly-related species of successive faunas must or may have had "a
material connection." But the only material connection that we have an
idea of in such a case is a genealogical one. And the supposition of a
genealogical connection is surely not unnatural in such cases--is
demonstrably the natural one as respects all those tertiary species
which experienced naturalists have pronounced to be identical with
existing ones, but which others now deem distinct For to identify the
two is the same thing as to conclude the one to be the ancestor of the
other No doubt there are differences between the tertiary and the
present individuals, differences equally noticed by both classes of
naturalists, but differently estimated By the one these are deemed
quite compatible, by the other incompatible, with community of origin
But who can tell us what amount of difference is compatible with
community of origin? This is the very question at issue, and one to be
settled by observation alone Who would have thought that the peach and
the nectarine came from one stock? But, this being proved is it now
very improbable that both were derived from the almond, or from some
common amygdaline progenitor? Who would have thought that the cabbage,
cauliflower, broccoli kale, and kohlrabi are derivatives of one
species, and rape or colza, turnip, and probably ruta-baga, of another
species? And who that is convinced of this can long undoubtingly hold
the original distinctness of turnips from cabbages as an article of
faith? On scientific grounds may not a primordial cabbage or rape be
assumed as the ancestor of all the cabbage races, on much the same
ground that we assume a common ancestry for the diversified human
races? If all Our breeds of cattle came from one stock why not this
stock from the auroch, which has had all the time between the diluvial
and the historic periods in which to set off a variation perhaps no
greater than the difference between some sorts of domestic cattle?

That considerable differences are often discernible between tertiary
individuals and their supposed descendants of the present day affords
no argument against Darwins theory, as has been rashly thought, but is
decidedly in its favor. If the identification were so perfect that no
more differences were observable between the tertiary and the recent
shells than between various individuals of either, then Darwins
opponents, who argue the immutability of species from the ibises and
cats preserved by the ancient Egyptians being just like those of the
present day, could triumphantly add a few hundred thousand years more
to the length of the experiment and to the force of their argument.

As the facts stand, it appears that, while some tertiary forms are
essentially undistinguishable from existing ones, others are the same
with a difference, which is judged not to be specific or aboriginal;
and yet others show somewhat greater differences, such as are
scientifically expressed by calling them marked varieties, or else
doubtful species; while others, differing a little more, are
confidently termed distinct, but nearly-related species. Now, is not
all this a question of degree, of mere gradation of difference? And is
it at all likely that these several gradations came to be established
in two totally different ways--some of them (though naturalists cant
agree which) through natural variation, or other secondary cause, and
some by original creation, without secondary cause? We have seen that
the judicious Pictet answers such questions as Darwin would have him
do, in affirming that, in all probability, the nearly-related species
of two successive faunas were materially connected, and that
contemporaneous species, similarly resembling each other, were not all
created so, but have become so. This is equivalent to saying that
species (using the term as all naturalists do, and must continue to
employ the word) have only a relative, not an absolute fixity; that
differences fully equivalent to what are held to be specific may arise
in the course of time, so that one species may at length be naturally
replaced by another species a good deal like it, or may be diversified
into two, three, or more species, or forms as different as species.
This concedes all that Darwin has a right to ask, all that he can
directly infer from evidence. We must add that it affords a locus
standi, more or less tenable, for inferring more.

Here another geological consideration comes in to help on this
inference. The species of the later tertiary period for the most part
not only resembled those of our days--many of them so closely as to
suggest an absolute continuity--but also occupied in general the same
regions that their relatives occupy now. The same may be said, though
less specially, of the earlier tertiary and of the later secondary; but
there is less and less localization of forms as we recede, yet some
localization even in palaeozoic times. While in the secondary period
one is struck with the similarity of forms and the identity of many of
the species which flourished apparently at the same time in all or in
the most widely-separated parts of the world, in the tertiary epoch, on
the contrary, along with the increasing specialization of climates and
their approximation to the present state, we find abundant evidence of
increasing localization of orders, genera and species, and this
localization strikingly accords with the present geographical
distribution of the same groups of species Where the imputed
forefathers lived their relatives and supposed descendants now flourish
All the actual classes of the animal and vegetable kingdoms were
represented in the tertiary faunas and floras and in nearly the same
proportions and the same diversities as at present The faunas of what
is now Europe, Asia America and Australia, differed from each other
much as they now differ: in fact--according to Adolphe Brongniart,
whose statements we here condense[III-7]--the inhabitants of these
different regions appear for the most part to have acquired, before the
close of the tertiary period, the characters which essentially
distinguish their existing faunas. The Eastern Continent had then, as
now, its great pachyderms, elephants, rhinoceros, hippopotamus; South
America, its armadillos, sloths, and anteaters; Australia, a crowd of
marsupials; and the very strange birds of New Zealand had predecessors
of similar strangeness.

Everywhere the same geographical distribution as now, with a difference
in the particular area, as respects the northern portion of the
continents, answering to a warmer climate then than ours, such as
allowed species of hippopotamus, rhinoceros, and elephant, to range
even to the regions now inhabited by the reindeer and the musk-ox, and
with the serious disturbing intervention of the glacial period within a
comparatively recent time. Let it be noted also that those tertiary
species which have continued with little change down to our days are
the marine animals of the lower grades, especially mollusca. Their low
organization, moderate sensibility, and the simple conditions of an
existence in a medium like the ocean, not subject to great variation
and incapable of sudden change, may well account for their continuance;
while, on the other hand, the more intense, however gradual, climatic
vicissitudes on land, which have driven all tropical and subtropical
forms out of the higher latitudes and assigned to them their actual
limits, would be almost sure to extinguish such huge and unwieldy
animals as mastodons, mammoths, and the like, whose power of enduring
altered circumstances must have been small.

This general replacement of the tertiary species of a country by others
so much like them is a noteworthy fact. The hypothesis of the
independent creation of all species, irrespective of their antecedents,
leaves this fact just as mysterious as is creation itself; that of
derivation undertakes to account for it. Whether it satisfactorily does
so or not, it must be allowed that the facts well accord with that
hypothesis. The same may be said of another conclusion, namely, that
the geological succession of animals and plants appears to correspond
in a general way with their relative standing or rank in a natural
system of classification. It seems clear that, though no one of the
grand types of the animal kingdom can be traced back farther than the
rest, yet the lower classes long preceded the higher; that there has
been on the whole a steady progression within each class and order; and
that the highest plants and animals have appeared only in relatively
modern times. It is only, however, in a broad sense that this
generalization is now thought to hold good. It encounters many apparent
exceptions, and sundry real ones. So far as the rule holds, all is as
it should be upon an hypothesis of derivation.

The rule has its exceptions. But, curiously enough, the most striking
class of exceptions, if such they be, seems to us even more favorable
to the doctrine of derivation than is the general rule of a pure and
simple ascending gradation. We refer to what Agassiz calls prophetic
and synthetic types; for which the former name may suffice, as the
difference between the two is evanescent.

"It has been noticed," writes our great zoologist, "that certain types,
which are frequently prominent among the representatives of past ages,
combine in their structure peculiarities which at later periods are
only observed separately in different, distinct types. Sauroid fishes
before reptiles, Pterodactyles before birds, Ichthyosauri before
dolphins, etc. There are entire families, of nearly every class of
animals, which in the state of their perfect development exemplify such
prophetic relations.

The sauroid fishes of the past geological ages are an example of this
kind These fishes which preceded the appearance of reptiles present a
combination of ichthyic and reptilian characters not to be found in the
true members of this class, which form its bulk at present. The
Pterodactyles, which preceded the class of birds, and the Ichthyosauri,
which preceded the Cetacea, are other examples of such prophetic
types."--(Agassiz, "Contributions, Essay on Classification," p. 117.)

Now, these reptile-like fishes, of which gar-pikes are the living
representatives, though of earlier appearance, are admittedly of higher
rank than common fishes. They dominated until reptiles appeared, when
they mostly gave place to (or, as the derivationists will insist, were
resolved by divergent variation and natural selection into) common
fishes, destitute of reptilian characters, and saurian reptiles--the
intermediate grades, which, according to a familiar piscine saying, are
"neither fish, flesh, nor good red-herring," being eliminated and
extinguished by natural consequence of the struggle for existence which
Darwin so aptly portrays. And so, perhaps, of the other prophetic
types. Here type and antitype correspond. If these are true prophecies,
we need not wonder that some who read them in Agassizs book will read
their fulfillment in Darwins.

Note also, in this connection, that along with a wonderful persistence
of type, with change of species, genera, orders, etc., from formation
to formation, no species and no higher group which has once
unequivocally died out ever afterward reappears. Why is this, but that
the link of generation has been sundered? Why, on the hypothesis of
independent originations, were not failing species recreated, either
identically or with a difference, in regions eminently adapted to their
well-being? To take a striking case. That no part of the world now
offers more suitable conditions for wild horses and cattle than the
pampas and other plains of South America, is shown by the facility with
which they have there run wild and enormously multiplied, since
introduced from the Old World not long ago. There was no wild American
stock. Yet in the times of the mastodon and megatherium, at the dawn of
the present period, wild-horses--certainly very much like the existing
horse--roamed over those plains in abundance. On the principle of
original and direct created adaptation of species to climate and other
conditions, why were they not reproduced, when, after the colder
intervening era, those regions became again eminently adapted to such
animals? Why, but because, by their complete extinction in South
America, the line of descent was there utterly broken? Upon the
ordinary hypothesis, there is no scientific explanation possible of
this series of facts, and of many others like them. Upon the new
hypothesis, "the succession of the same types of structure within the
same areas during the later geological periods ceases to be mysterious,
and is simply explained by inheritance." Their cessation is failure of

Along with these considerations the fact (alluded to on page 98) should
be remembered that, as a general thing, related species of the present
age are geographically associated. The larger part of the plants, and
still more of the animals, of each separate country are peculiar to it;
and, as most species now flourish over the graves of their by-gone
relatives of former ages, so they now dwell among or accessibly near
their kindred species.

Here also comes in that general "parallelism between the order of
succession of animals and plants in geological times, and the gradation
among their living representatives" from low to highly organized, from
simple and general to complex and specialized forms; also "the
parallelism between the order of succession of animals in geological
times and the changes their living representatives undergo during their
embryological growth," as if the world were one prolonged gestation.
Modern science has much insisted on this parallelism, and to a certain
extent is allowed to have made it out. All these things, which conspire
to prove that the ancient and the recent forms of life "are somehow
intimately connected together in one grand system," equally conspire to
suggest that the connection is one similar or analogous to generation.
Surely no naturalist can be blamed for entering somewhat confidently
upon a field of speculative inquiry which here opens so invitingly; nor
need former premature endeavors and failures utterly dishearten him.

All these things, it may naturally be said, go to explain the order,
not the mode, of the incoming of species. But they all do tend to bring
out the generalization expressed by Mr. Wallace in the formula that
"every species has come into existence coincident both in time and
space with preexisting closely-allied species." Not, however, that this
is proved even of existing species as a matter of general fact. It is
obviously impossible to prove anything of the kind. But we must concede
that the known facts strongly suggest such an inference. And--since
species are only congeries of individuals, since every individual came
into existence in consequence of preexisting individuals of the same
sort, so leading up to the individuals with which the species began,
and since the only material sequence we know of among plants and
animals is that from parent to progeny--the presumption becomes
exceedingly strong that the connection of the incoming with the
preexisting species is a genealogical one.

Here, however, all depends upon the probability that Mr. Wallaces
inference is really true. Certainly it is not yet generally accepted;
but a strong current is setting toward its acceptance.

So long as universal cataclysms were in vogue, and all life upon the
earth was thought to have been suddenly destroyed and renewed many
times in succession, such a view could not be thought of. So the
equivalent view maintained by Agassiz, and formerly, we believe, by
DOrbigny, that irrespectively of general and sudden catastrophes, or
any known adequate physical cause, there has been a total depopulation
at the close of each geological period or formation, say forty or fifty
times or more, followed by as many independent great acts of creation,
at which alone have species been originated, and at each of which a
vegetable and an animal kingdom were produced entire and complete,
full-fledged, as flourishing, as wide-spread, and populous, as varied
and mutually adapted from the beginning as ever afterward--such a view,
of course, supersedes all material connection between successive
species, and removes even the association and geographical range of
species entirely out of the domain of physical causes and of natural
science. This is the extreme opposite of Wallaces and Darwin s view,
and is quite as hypothetical. The nearly universal opinion, if we
rightly gather it, manifestly is, that the replacement of the species
of successive formations was not complete and simultaneous, but partial
and successive; and that along the course of each epoch some species
probably were introduced, and some, doubtless, became extinct. If all
since the tertiary belongs to our present epoch, this is certainly true
of it: if to two or more epochs, then the hypothesis of a total change
is not true of them.

Geology makes huge demands upon time; and we regret to find that it has

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