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Evolution and Ethics and Other Essays by Thomas H. Huxley

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exhausted ours--that what we meant for the briefest and most general
sketch of some geological considerations in favor of Darwins hypothesis
has so extended as to leave no room for considering "the great facts of
comparative anatomy and zoology" with which Darwins theory "very well
accords," nor for indicating how "it admirably serves for explaining
the unity of composition of all organisms, the existence of
representative and rudimentary organs, and the natural series which
genera and species compose." Suffice it to say that these are the real
strongholds of the new system on its theoretical side; that it goes far
toward explaining both the physiological and the structural gradations
and relations between the two kingdoms, and the arrangement of all
their forms in groups subordinate to groups, all within a few great
types; that it reads the riddle of abortive organs and of morphological
conformity, of which no other theory has ever offered a scientific
explanation, and supplies a ground for harmonizing the two fundamental
ideas which naturalists and philosophers conceive to have ruled the
organic world, though they could not reconcile them; namely, Adaptation
to Purpose and Conditions of Existence, and Unity of Type. To reconcile
these two undeniable principles is the capital problem in the
philosophy of natural history; and the hypothesis which consistently
does so thereby secures a great advantage.

We all know that the arm and hand of a monkey, the foreleg and foot of
a dog and of a horse, the wing of a bat, and the fin of a porpoise, are
fundamentally identical; that the long neck of the giraffe has the same
and no more bones than the short one of the elephant; that the eggs of
Surinam frogs hatch into tadpoles with as good tails for swimming as
any of their kindred, although as tadpoles they never enter the water;
that the Guinea-pig is furnished with incisor teeth which it never
uses, as it sheds them before birth; that embryos of mammals and birds
have branchial slits and arteries running in loops, in imitation or
reminiscence of the arrangement which is permanent in fishes; and that
thousands of animals and plants have rudimentary organs which, at least
in numerous cases, are wholly useless to their possessors, etc., etc.
Upon a derivative theory this morphological conformity is explained by
community of descent; and it has not been explained in any other way.

Naturalists are constantly speaking of "related species," of the
"affinity" of a genus or other group, and of "family
resemblance"--vaguely conscious that these terms of kinship are
something more than mere metaphors, but unaware of the grounds of their
aptness. Mr. Darwin assures them that they have been talking derivative
doctrine all their lives--as M. Jourdain talked prose--without knowing

If it is difficult and in many cases practically impossible to fix the
limits of species, it is still more so to fix those of genera; and
those of tribes and families are still less susceptible of exact
natural circumscription. Intermediate forms occur, connecting one group
with another in a manner sadly perplexing to systematists, except to
those who have ceased to expect absolute limitations in Nature. All
this blending could hardly fail to suggest a former material connection
among allied forms, such as that which the hypothesis of derivation

Here it would not be amiss to consider the general principle of
gradation throughout organic Nature--a principle which answers in a
general way to the Law of Continuity in the inorganic world, or rather
is so analogous to it that both may fairly be expressed by the
Leibnitzian axiom, Natura non agit saltatim. As an axiom or
philosophical principle, used to test modal laws or hypotheses, this in
strictness belongs only to physics. In the investigation of Nature at
large, at least in the organic world, nobody would undertake to apply
this principle as a test of the validity of any theory or supposed law.
But naturalists of enlarged views will not fail to infer the principle
from the phenomena they investigate--to perceive that the rule holds,
under due qualifications and altered forms, throughout the realm of
Nature; although we do not suppose that Nature in the organic world
makes no distinct steps, but only short and serial steps--not
infinitely fine gradations, but no long leaps, or few of them.

To glance at a few illustrations out of many that present themselves.
It would be thought that the distinction between the two organic
kingdoms was broad and absolute. Plants and animals belong to two very
different categories, fulfill opposite offices and, as to the mass of
them are so unlike that the difficulty of the ordinary observer would
be to find points of comparison Without entering into details which
would fill an article, we may safely say that the difficulty with the
naturalist is all the other way--that all these broad differences
vanish one by one as we approach the lower confines of the two
kingdoms, and that no absolute distinction whatever is now known
between them. It is quite possible that the same organism may be both
vegetable and animal, or may be first the one and then the other. If
some organisms may be said to be at first vegetables and then animals,
others, like the spores and other reproductive bodies of many of the
lower Algae, may equally claim to have first a characteristically
animal, and then an unequivocally vegetable existence. Nor is the
gradation restricted to these simple organisms. It appears in general
functions, as in that of reproduction, which is reducible to the same
formula in both kingdoms, while it exhibits close approximations in the
lower forms; also in a common or similar ground of sensibility in the
lowest forms of both, a common faculty of effecting movements tending
to a determinate end, traces of which pervade the vegetable
kingdom--while, on the other hand, this indefinable principle, this

"Animula vagula, blandula, Hospes comesque corporis,"

graduates into the higher sensitiveness of the lower class of animals.
Nor need we hesitate to recognize the fine gradations from simple
sensitiveness and volition to the higher instinctive and to the other
psychical manifestations of the higher brute animals. The gradation is
undoubted, however we may explain it.

Again, propagation is of one mode in the higher animals, of two in all
plants; but vegetative propagation, by budding or offshoots, extends
through the lower grades of animals. In both kingdoms there may be
separation of the offshoots, or indifference in this respect, or
continued and organic union with the parent stock; and this either with
essential independence of the offshoots, or with a subordination of
these to a common whole; or finally with such subordination and
amalgamation, along with specialization of function, that the same
parts, which in other cases can be regarded only as progeny, in these
become only members of an individual.

This leads to the question of individuality, a subject quite too large
and too recondite for present discussion. The conclusion of the whole
matter, however, is, that individuality--that very ground of being as
distinguished from thing--is not attained in Nature at one leap. If
anywhere truly exemplified in plants, it is only in the lowest and
simplest, where the being is a structural unit, a single cell,
member-less and organless, though organic--the same thing as those
cells of which all the more complex plants are built up, and with which
every plant and (structurally) every animal began its development. In
the ascending gradation of the vegetable kingdom individuality is, so
to say, striven after, but never attained; in the lower animals it is
striven after with greater though incomplete success; it is realized
only in animals of so high a rank that vegetative multiplication or
offshoots are out of the question, where all parts are strictly members
and nothing else, and all subordinated to a common nervous centre--is
fully realized only in a conscious person.

So, also, the broad distinction between reproduction by seeds or ova
and propagation by buds, though perfect in some of the lowest forms of
life, becomes evanescent in others; and even the most absolute law we
know in the physiology of genuine reproduction--that of sexual
cooperation--has its exceptions in both kingdoms in parthenogenesis, to
which in the vegetable kingdom a most curious and intimate series of
gradations leads. In plants, likewise, a long and finely graduated
series of transitions leads from bisexual to unisexual blossoms; and so
in various other respects. Everywhere we may perceive that Nature
secures her ends, and makes her distinctions on the whole manifest and
real but everywhere without abrupt breaks We need not wonder therefore
that gradations between species and varieties should occur; the more
so, since genera, tribes, and other groups into which the naturalist
collocates species, are far from being always absolutely limited in
Nature, though they are necessarily represented to be so in systems.
From the necessity of the case, the classifications of the naturalist
abruptly define where Nature more or less blends. Our systems are
nothing, if not definite. They express differences, and some of the
coarser gradations. But this evinces not their perfection, but their
imperfection. Even the best of them are to the system of Nature what
consecutive patches of the seven colors are to the rainbow.

Now the principle of gradation throughout organic Nature may, of
course, be interpreted upon other assumptions than those of Darwins
hypothesis--certainly upon quite other than those of a materialistic
philosophy, with which we ourselves have no sympathy. Still we conceive
it not only possible, but probable, that this gradation, as it has its
natural ground, may yet have its scientific explanation. In any case,
there is no need to deny that the general facts correspond well with an
hypothesis like Darwins, which is built upon fine gradations.

We have contemplated quite long enough the general presumptions in
favor of an hypothesis of the derivation of species. We cannot forget,
however, while for the moment we overlook, the formidable difficulties
which all hypotheses of this class have to encounter, and the serious
implications which they seem to involve. We feel, moreover, that
Darwins particular hypothesis is exposed to some special objections. It
requires no small strength of nerve steadily to conceive, not only of
the diversification, but of the formation of the organs of an animal
through cumulative variation and natural selection. Think of such an
organ as the eye, that most perfect of optical instruments, as so
produced in the lower animals and perfected in the higher! A friend of
ours, who accepts the new doctrine, confesses that for a long while a
cold chill came over him whenever he thought of the eye. He has at
length got over that stage of the complaint, and is now in the fever of
belief, perchance to be succeeded by the sweating stage, during which
sundry peccant humors may be eliminated from the system. For ourselves,
we dread the chill, and have some misgivings about the consequences of
the reaction. We find ourselves in the "singular position"
acknowledged by Pictet--that is, confronted with a theory which,
although it can really explain much, seems inadequate to the heavy task
it so boldly assumes, but which, nevertheless, appears better fitted
than any other that has been broached to explain, if it be possible to
explain, somewhat of the manner in which organized beings may have
arisen and succeeded each other. In this dilemma we might take
advantage of Mr. Darwins candid admission, that he by no means expects
to convince old and experienced people, whose minds are stocked with a
multitude of facts all regarded during a long course of years from the
old point of view. This is nearly our case. So, owning no call to a
larger faith than is expected of us, but not prepared to pronounce the
whole hypothesis untenable, under such construction as we should put
upon it, we naturally sought to attain a settled conviction through a
perusal of several proffered refutations of the theory. At least, this
course seemed to offer the readiest way of bringing to a head the
various objections to which the theory is exposed. On several accounts
some of these opposed reviews especially invite examination. We
propose, accordingly, to conclude our task with an article upon "Darwin
and his Reviewers."


The origin of species, like all origination, like the institution of
any other natural state or order, is beyond our immediate ken. We see
or may learn how things go on; we can only frame hypotheses as to how
they began.

Two hypotheses divide the scientific world, very unequally, upon the
origin of the existing diversity of the plants and animals which
surround us. One assumes that the actual kinds are primordial; the
other, that they are derivative. One, that all kinds originated
supernaturally and directly as such, and have continued unchanged in
the order of Nature; the other, that the present kinds appeared in some
sort of genealogical connection with other and earlier kinds, that they
became what they now are in the course of time and in the order of

Or, bringing in the word species, which is well defined as "the
perennial succession of individuals," commonly of very like
individuals--as a close corporation of individuals perpetuated by
generation, instead of election--and reducing the question to
mathematical simplicity of statement: species are lines of individuals
coming down from the past and running on to the future; lines receding,
therefore, from our view in either direction. Within our limited
observation they appear to be parallel lines, as a general thing
neither approaching to nor diverging from each other.

The first hypothesis assumes that they were parallel from the unknown
beginning and will be to the unknown end. The second hypothesis assumes
that the apparent parallelism is not real and complete, at least
aboriginally, but approximate or temporary; that we should find the
lines convergent in the past, if we could trace them far enough; that
some of them, if produced back, would fall into certain fragments of
lines, which have left traces in the past, lying not exactly in the
same direction, and these farther back into others to which they are
equally unparallel. It will also claim that the present lines, whether
on the whole really or only approximately parallel, sometimes fork or
send off branches on one side or the other, producing new lines
(varieties), which run for a while, and for aught we know indefinitely
when not interfered with, near and approximately parallel to the parent
line. This claim it can establish; and it may also show that these
close subsidiary lines may branch or vary again, and that those
branches or varieties which are best adapted to the existing conditions
may be continued, while others stop or die out. And so we may have the
basis of a real theory of the diversification of species and here
indeed, there is a real, though a narrow, established ground to build
upon But as systems of organic Nature, both doctrines are equally
hypotheses, are suppositions of what there is no proof of from
experience, assumed in order to account for the observed phenomena, and
supported by such indirect evidence as can be had.

Even when the upholders of the former and more popular system mix up
revelation with scientific discussion--which we decline to do--they by
no means thereby render their view other than hypothetical. Agreeing
that plants and animals were produced by Omnipotent fiat does not
exclude the idea of natural order and what we call secondary causes.
The record of the fiat--"Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb
yielding seed," etc., "and it was so;" "let the earth bring forth the
living creature after his kind, cattle and creeping thing and beast of
the earth after his kind, and it was so"--seems even to imply them.
Agreeing that they were formed of "the dust of the ground," and of thin
air, only leads to the conclusion that the pristine individuals were
corporeally constituted like existing individuals, produced through
natural agencies. To agree that they were created "after their kinds"
determines nothing as to what were the original kinds, nor in what
mode, during what time, and in what connections it pleased the Almighty
to introduce the first individuals of each sort upon the earth.
Scientifically considered, the two opposing doctrines are equally

The two views very unequally divide the scientific world; so that
believers in "the divine right of majorities" need not hesitate which
side to take, at least for the present. Up to a time quite within the
memory of a generation still on the stage, two hypotheses about the
nature of light very unequally divided the scientific world. But the
small minority has already prevailed: the emission theory has gone
out; the undulatory or wave theory, after some fluctuation, has reached
high tide, and is now the pervading, the fully-established system.
There was an intervening time during which most physicists held their
opinions in suspense.

The adoption of the undulatory theory of light called for the extension
of the same theory to heat, and this promptly suggested the hypothesis
of a correlation, material connection, and transmutability of heat,
light, electricity, magnetism, etc.; which hypothesis the physicists
held in absolute suspense until very lately, but are now generally
adopting. If not already established as a system, it promises soon to
become so. At least, it is generally received as a tenable and probably
true hypothesis.

Parallel to this, however less cogent the reasons, Darwin and others,
having shown it likely that some varieties of plants or animals have
diverged in time into cognate species, or into forms as different as
species, are led to infer that all species of a genus may have thus
diverged from a common stock, and thence to suppose a higher community
of origin in ages still farther back, and so on. Following the safe
example of the physicists, and acknowledging the fact of the
diversification of a once homogeneous species into varieties, we may
receive the theory of the evolution of these into species, even while
for the present we hold the hypothesis of a further evolution in cool
suspense or in grave suspicion. In respect to very many questions a
wise mans mind rests long in a state neither of belief nor unbelief.
But your intellectually short-sighted people are apt to be
preternaturally clear-sighted, and to find their way very plain to
positive conclusions upon one side or the other of every mooted

In fact, most people, and some philosophers, refuse to hold questions
in abeyance, however incompetent they may be to decide them. And,
curiously enough, the more difficult, recondite, and perplexing, the
questions or hypotheses are--such, for instance, as those about organic
Nature--the more impatient they are of suspense. Sometimes, and
evidently in the present case, this impatience grows out of a fear that
a new hypothesis may endanger cherished and most important beliefs.
Impatience under such circumstances is not unnatural, though perhaps
needless, and, if so, unwise.

To us the present revival of the derivative hypothesis, in a more
winning shape than it ever before had, was not unexpected. We wonder
that any thoughtful observer of the course of investigation and of
speculation in science should not have foreseen it, and have learned at
length to take its inevitable coming patiently; the more so, as in
Darwins treatise it comes in a purely scientific form, addressed only
to scientific men. The notoriety and wide popular perusal of this
treatise appear to have astonished the author even more than the book
itself has astonished the reading world Coming as the new presentation
does from a naturalist of acknowledged character and ability and marked
by a conscientiousness and candor which have not always been
reciprocated we have thought it simply right to set forth the doctrine
as fairly and as favorably as we could There are plenty to decry it and
the whole theory is widely exposed to attack For the arguments on the
other side we may look to the numerous adverse publications which
Darwin s volume has already called out and especially to those reviews
which propose directly to refute it. Taking various lines and
reflecting very diverse modes of thought, these hostile critics may be
expected to concentrate and enforce the principal objections which can
be brought to bear against the derivative hypothesis in general, and
Darwins new exposition of it in particular.

Upon the opposing side of the question we have read with attention--1.
An article in the North American Review for April last; 2. One in the
Christian Examiner, Boston, for May; 3. M. Pictets article in the
Bibliotheque Universelle, which we have already made considerable use
of, which seems throughout most able and correct, and which in tone and
fairness is admirably in contrast with--4. The article in the Edinburgh
Review for May, attributed--although against a large amount of internal
presumptive evidence--to the most distinguished British comparative
anatomist; 5. An article in the North British Review for May; 6. Prof.
Agassiz has afforded an early opportunity to peruse the criticisms he
makes in the forthcoming third volume of his great work, by a
publication of them in advance in the American Journal of Science for

In our survey of the lively discussion which has been raised, it
matters little how our own particular opinions may incline. But we may
confess to an impression, thus far, that the doctrine of the permanent
and complete immutability of species has not been established, and may
fairly be doubted. We believe that species vary, and that "Natural
works; but we suspect that its operation, like every analogous natural
operation, may be limited by something else. Just as every species by
its natural rate of reproduction would soon completely fill any country
it could live in, but does not, being checked by some other species or
some other condition--so it may be surmised that variation and natural
selection have their struggle and consequent check, or are limited by
something inherent in the constitution of organic beings.

We are disposed to rank the derivative hypothesis in its fullness with
the nebular hypothesis, and to regard both as allowable, as not
unlikely to prove tenable in spite of some strong objections, but as
not therefore demonstrably true. Those, if any there be, who regard the
derivative hypothesis as satisfactorily proved, must have loose notions
as to what proof is. Those who imagine it can be easily refuted and
cast aside, must, we think, have imperfect or very prejudiced
conceptions of the facts concerned and of the questions at issue.

We are not disposed nor prepared to take sides for or against the new
hypothesis, and so, perhaps, occupy a good position from which to watch
the discussion and criticise those objections which are seemingly
inconclusive. On surveying the arguments urged by those who have
undertaken to demolish the theory, we have been most impressed with a
sense of their great inequality. Some strike us as excellent and
perhaps unanswerable; some, as incongruous with other views of the same
writers; others, when carried out, as incompatible with general
experience or general beliefs, and therefore as proving too much; still
others, as proving nothing at all; so that, on the whole, the effect is
rather confusing and disappointing. We certainly expected a stronger
adverse case than any which the thoroughgoing opposers of Darwin appear
to have made out. Wherefore, if it be found that the new hypothesis has
grown upon our favor as we proceeded, this must be attributed not so
much to the force of the arguments of the book itself as to the want of
force of several of those by which it has been assailed. Darwins
arguments we might resist or adjourn; but some of the refutations of it
give us more concern than the book itself did.

These remarks apply mainly to the philosophical and theological
objections which have been elaborately urged, almost exclusively by the
American reviewers. The North British reviewer, indeed, roundly
denounces the book as atheistical, but evidently deems the case too
clear for argument. The Edinburgh reviewer, on the contrary, scouts all
such objections--as well he may, since he records his belief in "a
continuous creative operation," a constantly operating secondary
creational law," through which species are successively produced; and
he emits faint, but not indistinct, glimmerings of a transmutation
theory of his own;[III-8] so that he is equally exposed to all the
philosophical objections advanced by Agassiz, and to most of those
urged by the other American critics, against Darwin himself.

Proposing now to criticise the critics, so far as to see what their
most general and comprehensive objections amount to, we must needs
begin with the American reviewers, and with their arguments adduced to
prove that a derivative hypothesis ought not to be true, or is not
possible, philosophical, or theistic.

It must not be forgotten that on former occasions very confident
judgments have been pronounced by very competent persons, which have
not been finally ratified. Of the two great minds of the seventeenth
century, Newton and Leibnitz, both profoundly religious as well as
philosophical, one produced the theory of gravitation, the other
objected to that theory that it was subversive of natural religion. The
nebular hypothesis--a natural consequence of the theory of gravitation
and of the subsequent progress of physical and astronomical
discovery--has been denounced as atheistical even down to our own day.
But it is now largely adopted by the most theistical natural
philosophers as a tenable and perhaps sufficient hypothesis, and where
not accepted is no longer objected to, so far as we know, on
philosophical or religious grounds.

The gist of the philosophical objections urged by the two Boston
reviewers against an hypothesis of the derivation of species--or at
least against Darwins particular hypothesis-- is, that it is
incompatible with the idea of any manifestation of design in the
universe, that it denies final causes. A serious objection this, and
one that demands very serious attention.

The proposition, that things and events in Nature were not designed to
be so, if logically carried out, is doubtless tantamount to atheism.
Yet most people believe that some were designed and others were not,
although they fall into a hopeless maze whenever they undertake to
define their position. So we should not like to stigmatize as
atheistically disposed a person who regards certain things and events
as being what they are through designed laws (whatever that expression
means), but as not themselves specially ordained, or who, in another
connection, believes in general, but not in particular Providence. We
could sadly puzzle him with questions; but in return he might equally
puzzle us. Then, to deny that anything was specially designed to be
what it is, is one proposition; while to deny that the Designer
supernaturally or immediately made it so, is another: though the
reviewers appear not to recognize the distinction.

Also, "scornfully to repudiate" or to "sneer at the idea of any
manifestation of design in the material universe,"[III-9] is one thing;
while to consider, and perhaps to exaggerate, the difficulties which
attend the practical application of the doctrine of final causes to
certain instances, is quite another thing: yet the Boston reviewers, we
regret to say, have not been duly regardful of the difference. Whatever
be thought of Darwins doctrine, we are surprised that he should be
charged with scorning or sneering at the opinions of others, upon such
a subject. Perhaps Darwins view is incompatible with final causes--we
will consider that question presently-- but as to the Examiners charge,
that he "sneers at the idea of any manifestation of design in the
material universe," though we are confident that no misrepresentation
was intended, we are equally confident that it is not at all warranted
by the two passages cited in support of it. Here are the passages:

"If green woodpeckers alone had existed, or we did not know that there
were many black and pied kinds, I dare say that we should have thought
that the green color was a beautiful adaptation to hide this
tree-frequenting bird from its enemies."

"If our reason leads us to admire with enthusiasm a multitude of
inimitable contrivances in Nature, this same reason tells us, though we
may easily err on both sides, that some contrivances are less perfect.
Can we consider the sting of the wasp or of the bee as perfect, which,
when used against many attacking animals, cannot be withdrawn, owing to
the backward serratures, and so inevitably causes the death of the
insect by tearing out its viscera?"

If the sneer here escapes ordinary vision in the detached extracts (one
of them wanting the end of the sentence), it is, if possible, more
imperceptible when read with the context. Moreover, this perusal
inclines us to think that the Examiner has misapprehended the
particular argument or object, as well as the spirit, of the author in
these passages. The whole reads more naturally as a caution against the
inconsiderate use of final causes in science, and an illustration of
some of the manifold errors and absurdities which their hasty
assumption is apt to involve--considerations probably equivalent to
those which induced Lord Bacon to liken final causes to "vestal
virgins." So, if any one, it is here Bacon that "sitteth in the seat of
the scornful." As to Darwin, in the section from which the extracts
were made, he is considering a subsidiary question, and trying to
obviate a particular difficulty, but, we suppose, is wholly unconscious
of denying "any manifestation of design in the material universe." He
concludes the first sentence:

--"and consequently that it was a character of importance, and might
have been acquired through natural selection; as it is, I have no doubt
that the color is due to some quite distinct cause, probably to sexual

After an illustration from the vegetable creation, Darwin adds:

"The naked skin on the head of a vulture is generally looked at as a
direct adaptation for wallowing in putridity; and so it may be, or it
may possibly be due to the direct action of putrid matter; but we
should be very cautious in drawing any such inference, when we see that
the skin on the head of the clean-feeding male turkey is likewise
naked. The sutures in the skulls of young mammals have been advanced as
a beautiful adaptation for aiding parturition, and no doubt they
facilitate or may be indispensable for this act; but as sutures occur
in the skulls of young birds and reptiles, which have only to escape
from a broken egg, we may infer that this structure has arisen from the
laws of growth, and has been taken advantage of in the parturition of
the higher animals."

All this, simply taken, is beyond cavil, unless the attempt to explain
scientifically how any designed result is accomplished savors of

In the other place, Darwin is contemplating the patent fact that
"perfection here below" is relative, not absolute--and illustrating
this by the circumstance that European animals, and especially plants,
are now proving to be better adapted for New Zealand than many of the
indigenous ones--that "the correction for the aberration of light is
said, on high authority, not to be quite perfect even in that most
perfect organ, the eye." And then follows the second extract of the
reviewer. But what is the position of the reviewer upon his own
interpretation of these passages? If he insists that green woodpeckers
were specifically created so in order that they might be less liable to
capture, must he not equally hold that the black and pied ones were
specifically made of these colors in order that they might be more
liable to be caught? And would an explanation of the mode in which
those woodpeckers came to be green, however complete, convince him that
the color was undesigned?

As to the other illustration, is the reviewer so complete an optimist
as to insist that the arrangement and the weapon are wholly perfect
(quoad the insect) the normal use of which often causes the animal
fatally to injure or to disembowel itself? Either way it seems to us
that the argument here, as well as the insect, performs hari-kari. The
Examiner adds:

"We should in like manner object to the word favorable, as implying
that some species are placed by the Creator under unfavorable
circumstances, at least under such as might be advantageously

But are not many individuals and some races of men placed by the
Creator "under unfavorable circumstances, at least under such as might
be advantageously modified?" Surely these reviewers must be living in
an ideal world, surrounded by "the faultless monsters which our world
neer saw," in some elysium where imperfection and distress were never
heard of! Such arguments resemble some which we often hear against the
Bible, holding that book responsible as if it originated certain facts
on the shady side of human nature or the apparently darker lines of
Providential dealing, though the facts are facts of common observation
and have to be confronted upon any theory.

The North American reviewer also has a world of his own--just such a
one as an idealizing philosopher would be apt to devise--that is, full
of sharp and absolute distinctions: such, for instance, as the
"absolute invariableness of instinct;" an absolute want of intelligence
in any brute animal; and a complete monopoly of instinct by the brute
animals, so that this "instinct is a great matter" for them only, since
it sharply and perfectly distinguishes this portion of organic Nature
from the vegetable kingdom on the one hand and from man on the other:
most convenient views for argumentative purposes, but we suppose not
borne out in fact.

In their scientific objections the two reviewers take somewhat
different lines; but their philosophical and theological arguments
strikingly coincide. They agree in emphatically asserting that Darwins
hypothesis of the origination of species through variation and natural
selection "repudiates the whole doctrine of final causes," and "all
indication of design or purpose in the organic world . . . is neither
more nor less than a formal denial of any agency beyond that of a blind
chance in the developing or perfecting of the organs or instincts of
created beings. . . . It is in vain that the apologists of this
hypothesis might say that it merely attributes a different mode and
time to the Divine agency--that all the qualities subsequently
appearing in their descendants must have been implanted, and have
remained latent in the original pair." Such a view, the Examiner
declares, "is nowhere stated in this book, and would be, we are sure,
disclaimed by the author."

We should like to be informed of the grounds of this sureness. The
marked rejection of spontaneous generation--the statement of a belief
that all animals have descended from four or five progenitors, and
plants from an equal or lesser number, or, perhaps, if constrained to
it by analogy, "from some one primordial form into which life was first
breathed"--coupled with the expression, "To my mind it accords better
with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that
the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of
the world should have been due to secondary causes," than "that each
species has been independently created"--these and similar expressions
lead us to suppose that the author probably does accept the kind of
view which the Examiner is sure he would disclaim. At least, we
charitably see nothing in his scientific theory to hinder his adoption
of Lord Bacons "Confession of Faith" in this regard-- "That,
notwithstanding God hath rested and ceased from creating, yet,
nevertheless, he doth accomplish and fulfill his divine will in all
things, great and small, singular and general, as fully and exactly by
providence as he could by miracle and new creation, though his working
be not immediate and direct, but by compass; not violating Nature,
which is his own law upon the creature."

However that may be, it is undeniable that Mr. Darwin has purposely
been silent upon the philosophical and theological applications of his
theory. This reticence, under the circumstances, argues design, and
raises inquiry as to the final cause or reason why. Here, as in higher
instances, confident as we are that there is a final cause, we must not
be overconfident that we can infer the particular or true one. Perhaps
the author is more familiar with natural-historical than with
philosophical inquiries, and, not having decided which particular
theory about efficient cause is best founded, he meanwhile argues the
scientific questions concerned--all that relates to secondary
causes--upon purely scientific grounds, as he must do in any case.
Perhaps, confident, as he evidently is, that his view will finally be
adopted, he may enjoy a sort of satisfaction in hearing it denounced as
sheer atheism by the inconsiderate, and afterward, when it takes its
place with the nebular hypothesis and the like, see this judgment
reversed, as we suppose it would be in such event.

Whatever Mr. Darwins philosophy may be, or whether he has any, is a
matter of no consequence at all, compared with the important questions,
whether a theory to account for the origination and diversification of
animal and vegetable forms through the operation of secondary causes
does or does not exclude design; and whether the establishment by
adequate evidence of Darwin s particular theory of diversification
through variation and natural selection would essentially alter the
present scientific and philosophical grounds for theistic views of
Nature. The unqualified affirmative judgment rendered by the two Boston
reviewers, evidently able and practised reasoners, "must give us
pause." We hesitate to advance our conclusions in opposition to theirs.
But, after full and serious consideration, we are constrained to say
that, in our opinion, the adoption of a derivative hypothesis, and of
Darwins particular hypothesis, if we understand it, would leave the
doctrines of final causes, utility, and special design, just where they
were before. We do not pretend that the subject is not environed with
difficulties. Every view is so environed; and every shifting of the
view is likely, if it removes some difficulties, to bring others into
prominence. But we cannot perceive that Darwins theory brings in any
new kind of scientific difficulty, that is, any with which
philosophical naturalists were not already familiar.

Since natural science deals only with secondary or natural causes, the
scientific terms of a theory of derivation of species--no less than of
a theory of dynamics--must needs be the same to the theist as to the
atheist. The difference appears only when the inquiry is carried up to
the question of primary cause--a question which belongs to philosophy.
Wherefore, Darwin s reticence about efficient cause does not disturb
us. He considers only the scientific questions. As already stated, we
think that a theistic view of Nature is implied in his book, and we
must charitably refrain from suggesting the contrary until the contrary
is logically deduced from his premises. If, however, he anywhere
maintains that the natural causes through which species are diversified
operate without an ordaining and directing intelligence, and that the
orderly arrangements and admirable adaptations we see all around us are
fortuitous or blind, undesigned results--that the eye, though it came
to see, was not designed for seeing, nor the hand for handling--then,
we suppose, he is justly chargeable with denying, and very needlessly
denying, all design in organic Nature; otherwise, we suppose not. Why,
if Darwins well-known passage about the eye[III-10] equivocal though
some of the language be--does not imply ordaining and directing
intelligence, then he refutes his own theory as effectually as any of
his opponents are likely to do. He asks:

"May we not believe that [under variation proceeding long enough,
generation multiplying the better variations times enough, and natural
selection securing the improvements] a living optical instrument might
be thus formed as superior to one of glass as the works of the Creator
are to those of man?"

This must mean one of two things: either that the living instrument was
made and perfected under (which is the same thing as by) an intelligent
First Cause, or that it was not. If it was, then theism is asserted;
and as to the mode of operation, how do we know, and why must we
believe, that, fitting precedent forms being in existence, a living
instrument (so different from a lifeless manufacture) would be
originated and perfected in any other way, or that this is not the
fitting way? If it means that it was not, if he so misuses words that
by the Creator he intends an unintelligent power, undirected force, or
necessity, then he has put his case so as to invite disbelief in it.
For then blind forces have produced not only manifest adaptions of
means to specific ends--which is absurd enough--but better adjusted and
more perfect instruments or machines than intellect (that is, human
intellect) can contrive and human skill execute--which no sane person
will believe.

On the other hand, if Darwin even admits--we will not say adopts--the
theistic view, he may save himself much needless trouble in the
endeavor to account for the absence of every sort of intermediate form.
Those in the line between one species and another supposed to be
derived from it he may be bound to provide; but as to "an infinite
number of other varieties not intermediate, gross, rude, and
purposeless, the unmeaning creations of an unconscious cause," born
only to perish, which a relentless reviewer has imposed upon his
theory--rightly enough upon the atheistic alternative--the theistic
view rids him at once of this "scum of creation." For, as species do
not now vary at all times and places and in all directions, nor produce
crude, vague, imperfect, and useless forms, there is no reason for
supposing that they ever did. Good-for-nothing monstrosities, failures
of purpose rather than purposeless, indeed, sometimes occur; but these
are just as anomalous and unlikely upon Darwins theory as upon any
other. For his particular theory is based, and even over-strictly
insists, upon the most universal of physiological laws, namely, that
successive generations shall differ only slightly, if at all, from
their parents; and this effectively excludes crude and impotent forms.
Wherefore, if we believe that the species were designed, and that
natural propagation was designed, how can we say that the actual
varieties of the species were not equally designed? Have we not similar
grounds for inferring design in the supposed varieties of species, that
we have in the case of the supposed species of a genus? When a

naturalist comes to regard as three closely related species what he
before took to be so many varieties of one species how has he thereby
strengthened our conviction that the three forms are designed to have
the differences which they actually exhibit? Wherefore so long as
gradatory, orderly, and adapted forms in Nature argue design, and at
least while the physical cause of variation is utterly unknown and
mysterious, we should advise Mr. Darwin to assume in the philosophy of
his hypothesis that variation has been led along certain beneficial
lines. Streams flowing over a sloping plain by gravitation (here the
counterpart of natural selection) may have worn their actual channels
as they flowed; yet their particular courses may have been assigned;
and where we see them forming definite and useful lines of irrigation,
after a manner unaccountable on the laws of gravitation and dynamics,
we should believe that the distribution was designed.

To insist, therefore, that the new hypothesis of the derivative origin
of the actual species is incompatible with final causes and design, is
to take a position which we must consider philosophically untenable. We
must also regard it as highly unwise and dangerous, in the present
state and present prospects of physical and physiological science. We
should expect the philosophical atheist or skeptic to take this ground;
also, until better informed, the unlearned and unphilosophical
believer; but we should think that the thoughtful theistic philosopher
would take the other side. Not to do so seems to concede that only
supernatural events can be shown to be designed, which no theist can
admit--seems also to misconceive the scope and meaning of all ordinary
arguments for design in Nature. This misconception is shared both by
the reviewers and the reviewed. At least, Mr. Darwin uses expressions
which imply that the natural forms which surround us, because they have
a history or natural sequence, could have been only generally, but not
particularly designed--a view at once superficial and contradictory;
whereas his true line should be, that his hypothesis concerns the order
and not the cause, the how and not the why of the phenomena, and so
leaves the question of design just where it was before.

To illustrate this from the theists point of view: Transfer the
question for a moment from the origination of species to the
origination of individuals, which occurs, as we say, naturally. Because
natural, that is, "stated, fixed, or settled," is it any the less
designed on that account? We acknowledge that God is our maker--not
merely the originator of the race, but our maker as individuals--and
none the less so because it pleased him to make us in the way of
ordinary generation. If any of us were born unlike our parents and
grandparents, in a slight degree, or in whatever degree, would the case
be altered in this regard?

The whole argument in natural theology proceeds upon the ground that
the inference for a final cause of the structure of the hand and of the
valves in the veins is just as valid now, in individuals produced
through natural generation, as it would have been in the case of the
first man, supernaturally created. Why not, then, just as good even on
the supposition of the descent of men from chimpanzees and gorillas,
since those animals possess these same contrivances? Or, to take a more
supposable case: If the argument from structure to design is convincing
when drawn from a particular animal, say a Newfoundland dog, and is not
weakened by the knowledge that this dog came from similar parents,
would it be at all weakened if, in tracing his genealogy, it were
ascertained that he was a remote descendant of the mastiff or some
other breed, or that both these and other breeds came (as is suspected)
from some wolf? If not, how is the argument for design in the structure
of our particular dog affected by the supposition that his wolfish
progenitor came from a post-tertiary wolf, perhaps less unlike an
existing one than the dog in question is to some other of the numerous
existing races of dogs, and that this post-tertiary came from an
equally or more different tertiary wolf? And if the argument from
structure to design is not invalidated by our present knowledge that

individual dog was developed from a single organic cell, how is it
invalidated by the supposition of an analogous natural descent, through
a long line of connected forms, from such a cell, or from some simple
animal, existing ages before there were any dogs?

Again, suppose we have two well-known and apparently most decidedly
different animals or plants, A and D, both presenting, in their
structure and in their adaptations to the conditions of existence, as
valid and clear evidence of design as any animal or plant ever
presented: suppose we have now discovered two intermediate species, B
and C, which make up a series with equable differences from A to D. Is
the proof of design or final cause in A and D, whatever it amounted to,
at all weakened by the discovery of the intermediate forms? Rather does
not the proof extend to the intermediate species, and go to show that
all four were equally designed? Suppose, now, the number of
intermediate forms to be much increased, and therefore the gradations
to be closer yet--as close as those between the various sorts of dogs,
or races of men, or of horned cattle: would the evidence of design, as
shown in the structure of any of the members of the series, be any
weaker than it was in the case of A and D? Whoever contends that it
would be, should likewise maintain that the origination of individuals
by generation is incompatible with design, or an impossibility in
Nature. We might all have confidently thought the latter, antecedently
to experience of the fact of reproduction. Let our experience teach us

These illustrations make it clear that the evidence of design from
structure and adaptation is furnished complete by the individual animal
or plant itself, and that our knowledge or our ignorance of the history
of its formation or mode of production adds nothing to it and takes
nothing away. We infer design from certain arrangements and results;
and we have no other way of ascertaining it. Testimony, unless
infallible, cannot prove it, and is out of the question here. Testimony
is not the appropriate proof of design: adaptation to purpose is. Some
arrangements in Nature appear to be contrivances, but may leave us in
doubt. Many others, of which the eye and the hand are notable examples,
compel belief with a force not appreciably short of demonstration.
Clearly to settle that such as these must have been designed goes far
toward proving that other organs and other seemingly less explicit
adaptations in Nature must also have been designed, and clinches our
belief, from manifold considerations, that all Nature is a preconcerted
arrangement, a manifested design. A strange contradiction would it be
to insist that the shape and markings of certain rude pieces of flint,
lately found in drift-deposits, prove design, but that nicer and
thousand-fold more complex adaptations to use in animals and vegetables
do not a fortiori argue design.

We could not affirm that the arguments for design in Nature are
conclusive to all minds. But we may insist, upon grounds already
intimated, that, whatever they were good for before Darwins book
appeared, they are good for now. To our minds the argument from design
always appeared conclusive of the being and continued operation of an
intelligent First Cause, the Ordainer of Nature; and we do not see that
the grounds of such belief would be disturbed or shifted by the
adoption of Darwins hypothesis. We are not blind to the philosophical
difficulties which the thoroughgoing implication of design in Nature
has to encounter, nor is it our vocation to obviate them It suffices us
to know that they are not new nor peculiar difficulties--that, as
Darwin s theory and our reasonings upon it did not raise these
perturbing spirits, they are not bound to lay them. Meanwhile, that the
doctrine of design encounters the very same difficulties in the
material that it does in the moral world is Just what ought to be

So the issue between the skeptic and the theist is only the old one,
long ago argued out--namely, whether organic Nature is a result of
design or of chance. Variation and natural selection open no third
alternative; they concern only the question how the results, whether
fortuitous or designed, may have been brought about. Organic Nature
abounds with unmistakable and irresistible indications of design, and,
being a connected and consistent system, this evidence carries the
implication of design throughout the whole. On the other hand, chance
carries no probabilities with it, can never be developed into a
consistent system, but, when applied to the explanation of orderly or
beneficial results, heaps up improbabilities at every step beyond all
computation. To us, a fortuitous Cosmos is simply inconceivable. The
alternative is a designed Cosmos.

It is very easy to assume that, because events in Nature are in one
sense accidental, and the operative forces which bring them to pass are
themselves blind and unintelligent (physically considered, all forces
are), therefore they are undirected, or that he who describes these
events as the results of such forces thereby assumes that they are
undirected. This is the assumption of the Boston reviewers, and of Mr.
Agassiz, who insists that the only alternative to the doctrine, that
all organized beings were supernaturally created just as they are, is,
that they have arisen spontaneously through the omnipotence of

As to all this, nothing is easier than to bring out in the conclusion
what you introduce in the premises. If you import atheism into your
conception of variation and natural selection, you can readily exhibit
it in the result. If you do not put it in, perhaps there need be none
to come out. While the mechanician is considering a steamboat or
locomotive-engine as a material organism, and contemplating the fuel,
water, and steam, the source of the mechanical forces, and how they
operate, he may not have occasion to mention the engineer. But, the
orderly and special results accomplished, the why the movements are in
this or that particular direction, etc., is inexplicable without him.
If Mr. Darwin believes that the events which he supposes to have
occurred and the results we behold were undirected and undesigned, or
if the physicist believes that the natural forces to which he refers
phenomena are uncaused and undirected, no argument is needed to show
that such belief is atheism. But the admission of the phenomena and of
these natural processes and forces does not necessitate any such
belief, nor even render it one whit less improbable than before.

Surely, too, the accidental element may play its part in Nature without
negativing design in the theists view. He believes that the earths
surface has been very gradually prepared for man and the existing
animal races, that vegetable matter has through a long series of
generations imparted fertility to the soil in order that it may support
its present occupants, that even beds of coal have been stored up for
mans benefit Yet what is more accidental, and more simply the
consequence of physical agencies than the accumulation of vegetable
matter in a peat bog and its transformation into coal? No scientific
person at this day doubts that our solar system is a progressive
development, whether in his conception he begins with molten masses, or
aeriform or nebulous masses, or with a fluid revolving mass of vast
extent, from which the specific existing worlds have been developed one
by one What theist doubts that the actual results of the development in
the inorganic worlds are not merely compatible with design but are in
the truest sense designed re suits? Not Mr. Agassiz, certainly, who
adopts a remarkable illustration of design directly founded on the
nebular hypothesis drawing from the position and times of the
revolution of the world, so originated direct evidence that the
physical world has been ordained in conformity with laws which obtain
also among living beings But the reader of the interesting
exposition[III-12] will notice that the designed result has been
brought to pass through what, speaking after the manner of men, might
be called a chapter of accidents.

A natural corollary of this demonstration would seem to be, that a
material connection between a series of created things--such as the
development of one of them from another, or of all from a common
stock--is highly compatible with their intellectual connection, namely,
with their being designed and directed by one mind. Yet upon some
ground which is not explained, and which we are unable to conjecture,
Mr. Agassiz concludes to the contrary in the organic kingdoms, and
insists that, because the members of such a series have an intellectual
connection, "they cannot be the result of a material differentiation of
the objects themselves,"[III-13] that is, they cannot have had a
genealogical connection. But is there not as much intellectual
connection between the successive generations of any species as there
is between the several species of a genus, or the several genera of an
order? As the intellectual connection here is realized through the
material connection, why may it not be so in the case of species and
genera? On all sides, therefore, the implication seems to be quite the
other way.

Returning to the accidental element, it is evident that the strongest
point against the compatibility of Darwins hypothesis with design in
Nature is made when natural selection is referred to as picking out
those variations which are improvements from a vast number which are
not improvements, but perhaps the contrary, and therefore useless or
purposeless, and born to perish. But even here the difficulty is not
peculiar; for Nature abounds with analogous instances. Some of our race
are useless, or worse, as regards the improvement of mankind; yet the
race may be designed to improve, and may be actually improving. Or, to
avoid the complication with free agency--the whole animate life of a
country depends absolutely upon the vegetation, the vegetation upon the
rain. The moisture is furnished by the ocean, is raised by the suns
heat from the oceans surface, and is wafted inland by the winds. But
what multitudes of raindrops fall back into the ocean--are as much
without a final cause as the incipient varieties which come to
nothing! Does it therefore follow that the rains which are bestowed
upon the soil with such rule and average regularity were not designed
to support vegetable and animal life? Consider, likewise, the vast
proportion of seeds and pollen, of ova and young--a thousand or more to
one--which come to nothing, and are therefore purposeless in the same
sense, and only in the same sense, as are Darwins unimproved and unused
slight variations. The world is full of such cases; and these must
answer the argument--for we cannot, except by thus showing that it
proves too much.

Finally, it is worth noticing that, though natural selection is
scientifically explicable, variation is not. Thus far the cause of
variation, or the reason why the offspring is sometimes unlike the
parents, is just as mysterious as the reason why it is generally like
the parents. It is now as inexplicable as any other origination; and,
if ever explained, the explanation will only carry up the sequence of
secondary causes one step farther, and bring us in face of a somewhat
different problem, but which will have the same element of mystery that
the problem of variation has now. Circumstances may preserve or may
destroy the variations man may use or direct them but selection whether
artificial or natural no more originates them than man originates the
power which turns a wheel when he dams a stream and lets the water fall
upon it The origination of this power is a question about efficient
cause. The tendency of science in respect to this obviously is not
toward the omnipotence of matter, as some suppose, but to ward the
omnipotence of spirit.

So the real question we come to is as to the way in which we are to
conceive intelligent and efficient cause to be exerted, and upon what
exerted. Are we bound to suppose efficient cause in all cases exerted
upon nothing to evoke something into existence--and this thousands of
times repeated, when a slight change in the details would make all the
difference between successive species? Why may not the new species, or
some of them, be designed diversifications of the old?

There are, perhaps, only three views of efficient cause which may claim
to be both philosophical and theistic:

1. The view of its exertion at the beginning of time, endowing matter
and created things with forces which do the work and produce the

2. This same view, with the theory of insulated interpositions, or
occasional direct action, engrafted upon it--the view that events and
operations in general go on in virtue simply of forces communicated at
the first, but that now and then, and only now and then, the Deity puts
his hand directly to the work.

3. The theory of the immediate, orderly, and constant, however
infinitely diversified, action of the intelligent efficient Cause.

It must be allowed that, while the third is preeminently the Christian
view, all three are philosophically compatible with design in Nature.
The second is probably the popular conception. Perhaps most thoughtful
people oscillate from the middle view toward the first or the
third--adopting the first on some occasions, the third on others. Those
philosophers who like and expect to settle all mooted questions will
take one or the other extreme. The Examiner inclines toward, the North
American reviewer fully adopts, the third view, to the logical extent
of maintaining that "the origin of an individual, as well as the origin
of a species or a genus, can be explained only by the direct action of
an intelligent creative cause." To silence his critics, this is the
line for Mr. Darwin to take; for it at once and completely relieves his
scientific theory from every theological objection which his reviewers
have urged against it.

At present we suspect that our author prefers the first conception,
though he might contend that his hypothesis is compatible with either
of the three. That it is also compatible with an atheistic or
pantheistic conception of the universe, is an objection which, being
shared by all physical, and some ethical or moral science, cannot
specially be urged against Darwins system. As he rejects spontaneous
generation, and admits of intervention at the beginning of organic
life, and probably in more than one instance, he is not wholly excluded
from adopting the middle view, although the interventions he would
allow are few and far back. Yet one interposition admits the principle
as well as more. Interposition presupposes particular necessity or
reason for it, and raises the question, when and how often it may have
been necessary. It might be the natural supposition, if we had only one
set of species to account for, or if the successive inhabitants of the
earth had no other connections or resemblances than those which
adaptation to similar conditions, which final causes in the narrower
sense, might explain. But if this explanation of organic Nature
requires one to "believe that, at innumerable periods in the earths
history, certain elemental atoms have been commanded suddenly to flash
into living tissues," and this when the results are seen to be strictly
connected and systematic, we cannot wonder that such interventions
should at length be considered, not as interpositions or interferences,
but rather--to use the reviewers own language--as "exertions so
frequent and beneficent that we come to regard them as the ordinary
action of Him who laid the foundation of the earth, and without whom
not a sparrow falleth to the ground."[III-14] What does the difference
between Mr. Darwin and his reviewer now amount to? If we say that
according to one view the origination of species is natural, according
to the other miraculous, Mr. Darwin agrees that "what is natural as
much requires and presupposes an intelligent mind to render it so--
that is, to effect it continually or at stated times--as what is
supernatural does to effect it for once."[III-15] He merely inquires
into the form of the miracle, may remind us that all recorded miracles
(except the primal creation of matter) were transformations or actions
in and upon natural things, and will ask how many times and how
frequently may the origination of successive species be repeated before
the supernatural merges in the natural.

In short, Darwin maintains that the origination of a species, no less
than that of an individual, is natural; the reviewer, that the natural
origination of an individual, no less than the origination of a
species, requires and presupposes Divine power. A fortiori, then, the
origination of a variety requires and presupposes Divine power. And so
between the scientific hypothesis of the one and the philosophical
conception of the other no contrariety remains. And so, concludes the
North American reviewer, "a proper view of the nature of causation
places the vital doctrine of the being and the providence of a God on
ground that can never be shaken."[III-16] A worthy conclusion, and a
sufficient answer to the denunciations and arguments of the rest of the
article, so far as philosophy and natural theology are concerned. If a
writer must needs use his own favorite dogma as a weapon with which to
give coup de grace to a pernicious theory, he should be careful to
seize his edge-tool by the handle, and not by the blade.

We can barely glance at a subsidiary philosophical objection of the
North American reviewer, which the Examiner also raises, though less
explicitly. Like all geologists, Mr. Darwin draws upon time in the
most unlimited manner. He is not peculiar in this regard. Mr. Agassiz
tells us that the conviction is "now universal, among well-informed
naturalists, that this globe has been in existence for innumerable
ages, and that the length of time elapsed since it first became
inhabited cannot be counted in years;" Pictet, that the imagination
refuses to calculate the immense number of years and of ages during
which the faunas of thirty or more epochs have succeeded one another,
and developed their long succession of generations. Now, the reviewer
declares that such indefinite succession of ages is "virtually
infinite," "lacks no characteristic of eternity except its name," at
least, that "the difference between such a conception and that of the
strictly infinite, if any, is not appreciable." But infinity belongs to
metaphysics. Therefore, he concludes, Darwin supports his theory, not
by scientific but by metaphysical evidence; his theory is "essentially
and completely metaphysical in character, resting altogether upon that
idea of the infinite which the human mind can neither put aside nor
comprehend."[III-17] And so a theory which will be generally regarded
as much too physical is transferred by a single syllogism to

Well, physical geology must go with it: for, even on the soberest view,
it demands an indefinitely long time antecedent to the introduction of
organic life upon our earth. A fortiori is physical astronomy a branch
of metaphysics, demanding, as it does, still larger "instalments of
infinity," as the reviewer calls them, both as to time and number.
Moreover, far the greater part of physical inquiries now relate to
molecular actions, which, a distinguished natural philosopher informs
us, "we have to regard as the results of an infinite number of in
finitely small material particles, acting on each other at infinitely
small distances"--a triad of infinities--and so physics becomes the
most metaphysical of sciences. Verily, if this style of reasoning is
to prevail--

"Thinking is but an idle waste of thought,
And naught is everything, and everything is naught."

The leading objection of Mr. Agassiz is likewise of a philosophical
character. It is, that species exist only "as categories of
thought"--that, having no material existence, they can have had no
material variation, and no material community of origin. Here the
predication is of species in the subjective sense, the inference in the
objective sense. Reduced to plain terms, the argument seems to be:
Species are ideas; therefore the objects from which the idea is derived
cannot vary or blend, and cannot have had a genealogical connection.

The common view of species is, that, although they are generalizations,
yet they have a direct objective ground in Nature, which genera,
orders, etc., have not. According to the succinct definition of
Jussieu--and that of Linnaeus is identical in meaning--a species is the
perennial succession of similar individuals in continued generations.
The species is the chain of which the individuals are the links. The
sum of the genealogically-connected similar individuals constitutes the
species, which thus has an actuality and ground of distinction not
shared by genera and other groups which were not supposed to be
genealogically connected. How a derivative hypothesis would modify this
view, in assigning to species only a temporary fixity, is obvious. Yet,
if naturalists adopt that hypothesis, they will still retain Jussieus
definition, which leaves untouched the question as to how and when the
"perennial successions" were established. The practical question will
only be, How much difference between two sets of individuals entitles
them to rank under distinct species? and that is the practical question
now, on whatever theory. The theoretical question is--as stated at the
beginning of this article--whether these specific lines were always as
distinct as now.

Mr. Agassiz has "lost no opportunity of urging the idea that, while
species have no material existence, they yet exist as categories of
thought in the same way [and only in the same way] as genera, families,
orders, classes," etc. He

"has taken the ground that all the natural divisions in the animal
kingdom are primarily distinct, founded upon different categories of
characters, and that all exist in the same way, that is, as categories
of thought, embodied in individual living forms. I have attempted to
show that branches in the animal kingdom are founded upon different
plans of structure, and for that very reason have embraced from the
beginning representatives between which there could be no community of
origin; that classes are founded upon different modes of execution of
these plans, and therefore they also embrace representatives which
could have no community of origin; that orders represent the different
degrees of complication in the mode of execution of each class, and
therefore embrace representatives which could not have a community of
origin any more than the members of different classes or branches; that
families are founded upon different patterns of form, and embrace,
representatives equally independent in their origin; that genera are
founded upon ultimate peculiarities of structure, embracing
representatives which, from the very nature of their peculiarities,
could have no community of origin; and that, finally, species are based
upon relations--and proportions that exclude, as much as all the
preceding distinctions, the idea of a common descent.

"As the community of characters among the beings belonging to these
different categories arises from the intellectual connection which
shows them to be categories of thought, they cannot be the result of a

material differentiation of the objects themselves. The argument on
which these views are founded may be summed up in the following few
words: Species, genera, families, etc., exist as thoughts, individuals
as facts."[III-18]

An ingenious dilemma caps the argument:

"It seems to me that there is much confusion of ideas in the general
statement of the variability of species so often repeated lately. If
species do not exist at all, as the supporters of the transmutation
theory maintain, how can they vary? And if individuals alone exist, how
can the differences which may be observed among them prove the
variability of species?"

Now, we imagine that Mr. Darwin need not be dangerously gored by either
horn of this curious dilemma. Although we ourselves cherish
old-fashioned prejudices in favor of the probable permanence, and
therefore of a more stable objective ground of species, yet we
agree--and Mr. Darwin will agree fully with Mr. Agassiz--that species,
and he will add varieties, "exist as categories of thought," that is,
as cognizable distinctions--which is all that we can make of the phrase
here, whatever it may mean in the Aristotelian metaphysics. Admitting
that species are only categories of thought, and not facts or things,
how does this prevent the individuals, which are material things, from
having varied in the course of time, so as to exemplify the present
almost innumerable categories of thought, or embodiments of Divine
thought in material forms, or--viewed on the human side--in forms
marked with such orderly and graduated resemblances and differences as
to suggest to our minds the idea of species, genera, orders, etc., and
to our reason the inference of a Divine Original? We have no clear idea
how Mr. Agassiz intends to answer this question, in saying that
branches are founded upon different plans of structure, classes upon
different mode of execution of these plans, orders on different degrees
of complication in the mode of execution, families upon different
patterns of form, genera upon ultimate peculiarities of structure, and
species upon relations and proportions. That is, we do not perceive how
these several "categories of thought" exclude the possibility or the
probability that the individuals which manifest or suggest the thoughts
had an ultimate community of origin.

Moreover, Mr. Darwin might insinuate that the particular philosophy of
classification upon which this whole argument reposes is as purely
hypothetical and as little accepted as is his own doctrine. If both are
pure hypotheses, it is hardly fair or satisfactory to extinguish the
one by the other. If there is no real contradiction between them,
nothing is gained by the attempt.

As to the dilemma propounded, suppose we try it upon that category of
thought which we call chair. This is a genus, comprising a common chair
(Sella vulgaris), arm or easy chair (S. cathedra), the rocking-chair
(S. oscillans)--widely distributed in the United States--and some
others, each of which has sported, as the gardeners say, into many
varieties. But now, as the genus and the species have no material
existence, how can they vary? If only individual chairs exist, how can
the differences which may be observed among them prove the variability
of the species? To which we reply by asking, Which does the question
refer to, the category of thought, or the individual embodiment? If the
former, then we would remark that our categories of thought vary from
time to time in the readiest manner. And, although the Divine thoughts
are eternal, yet they are manifested to us in time and succession, and
by their manifestation only can we know them, how imperfectly! Allowing
that what has no material existence can have had no material connection
or variation, we should yet infer that what has intellectual existence
and connection might have intellectual variation; and, turning to the
individuals, which represent the species, we do not see how all this
shows that they may not vary. Observation shows us that they do.
Wherefore, taught by fact that successive individuals do vary, we
safely infer that the idea must have varied, and that this variation of
the individual representatives proves the variability of the species,
whether objectively or subjectively regarded.

Each species or sort of chair, as we have said, has its varieties, and
one species shades off by gradations into another. And--note it
well--these numerous and successively slight variations and gradations,
far from suggesting an accidental origin to chairs and to their forms,
are very proofs of design.

Again, edifice is a generic category of thought. Egyptian, Grecian,
Byzantine, and Gothic buildings are well-marked species, of which each
individual building of the sort is a material embodiment. Now, the
question is, whether these categories or ideas may not have been
evolved, one from another in succession, or from some primal, less
specialized, edificial category. What better evidence for such
hypothesis could we have than the variations and grades which connect
these species with each other? We might extend the parallel, and get
some good illustrations of natural selection from the history of
architecture, and the origin of the different styles under different
climates and conditions. Two considerations may qualify or limit the
comparison. One, that houses do not propagate, so as to produce
continuing lines of each sort and variety; but this is of small moment
on Agassizs view, he holding that genealogical connection is not of the
essence of a species at all. The other, that the formation and
development of the ideas upon which human works proceed are gradual;
or, as the same great naturalist well states it, "while human thought
is consecutive, Divine thought is simultaneous." But we have no right
to affirm this of Divine action.

We must close here. We meant to review some of the more general
scientific objections which we thought not altogether tenable. But,
after all, we are not so anxious just now to know whether the new
theory is well founded on facts, as whether it would be harmless if it
were. Besides, we feel quite unable to answer some of these objections,
and it is pleasanter to take up those which one thinks he can.

Among the unanswerable, perhaps the weightiest of the objections, is
that of the absence, in geological deposits, of vestiges of the
intermediate forms which the theory requires to have existed. Here all
that Mr. Darwin can do is to insist upon the extreme imperfection of
the geological record and the uncertainty of negative evidence. But,
withal, he allows the force of the objection almost as much as his
opponents urge it--so much so, indeed, that two of his English critics
turn the concession unfairly upon him, and charge him with actually
basing his hypothesis upon these and similar difficulties--as if he
held it because of the difficulties, and not in spite of them; a
handsome return for his candor!

As to this imperfection of the geological record, perhaps we should get
a fair and intelligible illustration of it by imagining the existing
animals and plants of New England, with all their remains and products
since the arrival of the Mayflower, to be annihilated; and that, in the
coming time, the geologists of a new colony, dropped by the New Zealand
fleet on its way to explore the ruins of London, undertake, after fifty
years of examination, to reconstruct in a catalogue the flora and fauna
of our day, that is, from the close of the glacial period to the
present time. With all the advantages of a surface exploration, what a
beggarly account it would be! How many of the land animals and plants
which are enumerated in the Massachusetts official reports would it be
likely to contain?

Another unanswerable question asked by the Boston reviewers is, Why,
when structure and instinct or habit vary-- as they must have varied,
on Darwins hypothesis--they vary together and harmoniously, instead of
vaguely? We cannot tell, because we cannot tell why either varies at
all. Yet, as they both do vary in successive generations--as is seen
under domestication--and are correlated, we can only adduce the fact.
Darwin may be precluded from our answer, but we may say that they vary
together because designed to do so. A reviewer says that the chance of
their varying together is inconceivably small; yet, if they do not, the
variant individuals must all perish. Then it is well that it is not
left to chance. To refer to a parallel case: before we were born,
nourishment and the equivalent to respiration took place in a certain
way. But the moment we were ushered into this breathing world, our
actions promptly conformed, both as to respiration and nourishment, to
the before unused structure and to the new surroundings.

"Now," says the Examiner, "suppose, for instance, the gills of an
aquatic animal converted into lungs, while instinct still compelled a
continuance under water, would not drowning ensue?" No doubt.
But--simply contemplating the facts, instead of theorizing--we notice
that young frogs do not keep their heads under water after ceasing to
be tadpoles. The instinct promptly changes with the structure, without
supernatural interposition--just as Darwin would have it, if the
development of a variety or incipient species, though rare, were as
natural as a metamorphosis.

"Or if a quadruped, not yet furnished with wings, were suddenly
inspired with the instinct of a bird, and precipitated itself from a
cliff, would not the descent be hazardously rapid?" Doubtless the
animal would be no better supported than the objection. But Darwin
makes very little indeed of voluntary efforts as a cause of change, and
even poor Lamarck need not be caricatured. He never supposed that an
elephant would take such a notion into his wise head, or that a
squirrel would begin with other than short and easy leaps; yet might
not the length of the leap be increased by practice?

The North American reviewers position, that the higher brute animals
have comparatively little instinct and no intelligence, is a heavy blow
and great discouragement to dogs, horses, elephants, and monkeys. Thus
stripped of their all, and left to shift for themselves as they may in
this hard world, their pursuit and seeming attainment of knowledge
under such peculiar difficulties are interesting to contemplate.
However, we are not so sure as is the critic that instinct regularly
increases downward and decreases upward in the scale of being. Now that
the case of the bee is reduced to moderate proportions,[III-19] we know
of nothing in instinct surpassing that of an animal so high as a bird,
the talegal, the male of which plumes himself upon making a hot-bed in
which to batch his partners eggs--which he tends and regulates the beat
of about as carefully and skillfully as the unplumed biped does an

As to the real intelligence of the higher brutes, it has been ably
defended by a far more competent observer, Mr. Agassiz, to whose
conclusions we yield a general assent, although we cannot quite place
the best of dogs "in that respect upon a level with a considerable
proportion of poor humanity," nor indulge the hope, or indeed the
desire, of a renewed acquaintance with the whole animal kingdom in a
future life.

The assertion that acquired habitudes or instincts, and acquired
structures, are not heritable, any breeder or good observer can
That "the human mind has become what it is out of a developed
instinct," is a statement which Mr. Darwin nowhere makes, and, we
presume, would not accept. That he would have us believe that
individual animals acquire their instincts gradually,[III-21] is a
statement which must have been penned in inadvertence both of the very
definition of instinct, and of everything we know of in Mr. Darwins

It has been attempted to destroy the very foundation of Darwins
hypothesis by denying that there are any wild varieties, to speak of,
for natural selection to operate upon. We cannot gravely sit down to
prove that wild varieties abound. We should think it just as necessary
to prove that snow falls in winter. That variation among plants cannot
be largely due to hybridism, and that their variation in Nature is not
essentially different from much that occurs in domestication, and, in
the long-run, probably hardly less in amount, we could show if our
space permitted.

As to the sterility of hybrids, that can no longer be insisted upon as
absolutely true, nor be practically used as a test between species and
varieties, unless we allow that hares and rabbits are of one species.
That such sterility, whether total or partial, subserves a purpose in
keeping species apart, and was so designed, we do not doubt. But the
critics fail to perceive that this sterility proves nothing whatever
against the derivative origin of the actual species; for it may as well
have been intended to keep separate those forms which have reached a
certain amount of divergence, as those which were always thus

The argument for the permanence of species, drawn from the identity
with those now living of cats, birds, and other animals preserved in
Egyptian catacombs, was good enough as used by Cuvier against
St.-Hilaire, that is, against the supposition that time brings about a
gradual alteration of whole species; but it goes for little against
Darwin, unless it be proved that species never vary, or that the
perpetuation of a variety necessitates the extinction of the parent
breed. For Darwin clearly maintains--what the facts warrant--that the
mass of a species remains fixed so long as it exists at all, though it
may set off a variety now and then. The variety may finally supersede
the parent form, or it may coexist with it; yet it does not in the
least hinder the unvaried stock from continuing true to the breed,
unless it crosses with it. The common law of inheritance may be
expected to keep both the original and the variety mainly true as long
as they last, and none the less so because they have given rise to
occasional varieties. The tailless Manx cats, like the curtailed fox in
the fable, have not induced the normal breeds to dispense with their
tails, nor have the Dorkings (apparently known to Pliny) affected the
permanence of the common sort of fowl.

As to the objection that the lower forms of life ought, on Darwins
theory, to have been long ago improved out of existence, and replaced
by higher forms, the objectors forget what a vacuum that would leave
below, and what a vast field there is to which a simple organization is
best adapted, and where an advance would be no improvement, but the
contrary. To accumulate the greatest amount of being upon a given
space, and to provide as much enjoyment of life as can be under the
conditions, is what Nature seems to aim at; and this is effected by

Finally, we advise nobody to accept Darwins or any other derivative
theory as true. The time has not come for that, and perhaps never will.
We also advise against a similar credulity on the other side, in a
blind faith that species--that the manifold sorts and forms of existing
animals and vegetables--"have no secondary cause." The contrary is
already not unlikely, and we suppose will hereafter become more and
more probable. But we are confident that, if a derivative hypothesis
ever is established, it will be so on a solid theistic ground.

Meanwhile an inevitable and legitimate hypothesis is on trial--an
hypothesis thus far not untenable--a trial just now very useful to
science, and, we conclude, not harmful to religion, unless injudicious
assailants temporarily make it so.

One good effect is already manifest; its enabling the advocates of the
hypothesis of a multiplicity of human species to perceive the double
insecurity of their ground. When the races of men are admitted to be of
one species, the corollary, that they are of one origin, may be
expected to follow. Those who allow them to be of one species must
admit an actual diversification into strongly-marked and persistent
varieties, and so admit the basis of fact upon which the Darwinian
hypothesis is built; while those, on the other hand, who recognize
several or numerous human species, will hardly be able to maintain that
such species were primordial and supernatural in the ordinary sense of
the word.

The English mind is prone to positivism and kindred forms of
materialistic philosophy, and we must expect the derivative theory to
be taken up in that interest. We have no predilection for that school,
but the contrary. If we had, we might have looked complacently upon a
line of criticism which would indirectly, but effectively, play into
the hands of positivists and materialistic atheists generally. The
wiser and stronger ground to take is, that the derivative hypothesis
leaves the argument for design, and therefore for a designer, as valid
as it ever was; that to do any work by an instrument must require, and
therefore presuppose, the exertion rather of more than of less power
than to do it directly; that whoever would be a consistent theist
should believe that Design in the natural world is coextensive with
Providence, and hold as firmly to the one as he does to the other, in
spite of the wholly similar and apparently insuperable difficulties
which the mind encounters whenever it endeavors to develop the idea
into a system, either in the material and organic, or in the moral
world. It is enough, in the way of obviating objections, to show that
the philosophical difficulties of the one are the same, and only the
same, as of the other.





THE first act of a new-born child is to draw a deep breath. In fact, it
will never draw a deeper, inasmuch as the passages and chambers of the
lungs, once distended with air, do not empty themselves again; it is
only a fraction of their contents which passes in and out with the
flow and the ebb of the respiratory tide. Mechanically, this act of
drawing breath, or inspiration, is of the same nature as that by which
the handles of a bellows are separated, in order to fill the bellows
with air; and, in like manner, it involves that expenditure of energy
which we call exertion, or work, or labour. It is, therefore, no mere
metaphor to say that man is destined to a life of toil: the work of
respiration which began with his first breath ends only with his last;
nor does one born in the purple get off with a lighter task than the
child who first sees light under a hedge.

[148] How is it that the new-born infant is enabled to perform this
first instalment of the sentence of life-long labour which no man may
escape? Whatever else a child may be, in respect of this particular
question, it is a complicated piece of mechanism, built up out of
materials supplied by its mother; and in the course of such
building-up, provided with a set of motors--the muscles. Each of these
muscles contains a stock of substance capable of yielding energy under
certain conditions, one of which is a change of state in the nerve
fibres connected with it. The powder in a loaded gun is such another
stock of substance capable of yielding energy in consequence of a
change of state in the mechanism of the lock, which intervenes between
the finger of the man who pulls the trigger and the cartridge. If that
change is brought about, the potential energy of the powder passes
suddenly into actual energy, and does the work of propelling the
bullet. The powder, therefore, may be appropriately called work-stuff,
not only because it is stuff which is easily made to yield work in the
physical sense, but because a good deal of work in the economical sense
has contributed to its production. Labour was necessary to collect,
transport, and purify the raw sulphur and saltpetre; to cut wood and
convert it into powdered charcoal; to mix these ingredients in the
right proportions; to give the mixture the proper grain, and so on.
The powder [149] once formed part of the stock, or capital, of a
powder-maker: and it is not only certain natural bodies which are
collected and stored in the gunpowder, but the labour bestowed on the
operations mentioned may be figuratively said to be incorporated in

In principle, the work-stuff stored in the muscles of the new-born
child is comparable to that stored in the gun-barrel. The infant is
launched into altogether new surroundings; and these operate through
the mechanism of the nervous machinery, with the result that the
potential energy of some of the work-stuff in the muscles which bring
about inspiration is suddenly converted into actual energy; and this,
operating through the mechanism of the respiratory apparatus, gives
rise to an act of inspiration. As the bullet is propelled by the
"going off" of the powder, as it might be said that the ribs are
raised and the midriff depressed by the "going off" of certain
portions of muscular work-stuff. This work-stuff is part of a stock or
capital of that commodity stored up in the child's organism before
birth, at the expense of the mother; and the mother has made good her
expenditure by drawing upon the capital of food-stuffs which furnished
her daily maintenance.

Under these circumstances, it does not appear to me to be open to doubt
that the primary act of outward labour in the series which necessarily
accompany [150] the life of man is dependent upon the pre-existence of
a stock of material which is not only of use to him, but which is
disposed in such a manner as to be utilisable with facility. And I
further imagine that the propriety of the application of the term
'capital' to this stock of useful substance cannot be justly called in
question; inasmuch as it is easy to prove that the essential
constituents of the work-stuff accumulated in the child's muscles have
merely been transferred from the store of food-stuffs, which everybody
admits to be capital, by means of the maternal organism to that of the
child, in which they are again deposited to await use. Every
subsequent act of labour, in like manner, involves an equivalent
consumption of the child's store of work-stuff--its vital capital; and
one of the main objects of the process of breathing is to get rid of
some of the effects of that consumption. It follows, then, that, even
if no other than the respiratory work were going on in the organism,
the capital of work-stuff, which the child brought with it into the
world, must sooner or later be used up, and the movements of breathing
must come to an end; just as the see-saw of the piston of a
steam-engine stops when the coal in the fireplace has burnt away.

Milk, however, is a stock of materials which essentially consists of
savings from the food-stuffs supplied to the mother. And these savings
are [151] in such a physical and chemical condition that the organism
of the child can easily convert them into work-stuff. That is to say,
by borrowing directly from the vital capital of the mother, indirectly
from the store in the natural bodies accessible to her, it can make
good the loss of its own. The operation of borrowing, however,
involves further work; that is, the labour of sucking, which is a
mechanical operation of much the same nature as breathing. The child
thus pays for the capital it borrows in labour; but as the value in
work-stuff of the milk obtained is very far greater than the value of
that labour, estimated by the consumption of work-stuff it involves,
the operation yields a large profit to the infant. The overplus of
food-stuff suffices to increase the child's capital of work-stuff; and
to supply not only the materials for the enlargement of the "buildings
and machinery" which is expressed by the child's growth, but also the
energy required to put all these materials together, and to carry them
to their proper places. Thus, throughout the years of infancy, and so
long thereafter as the youth or man is not thrown upon his own
resources, he lives by consuming the vital capital provided by others.
To use a terminology which is more common than appropriate, whatever
work he performs (and he does a good deal, if only in mere locomotion)
is unproductive.

[152] Let us now suppose the child come to man's estate in the
condition of a wandering savage, dependent for his food upon what he
can pick up or catch, after the fashion of the Australian aborigines.
It is plain that the place of mother, as the supplier of vital
capital, is now taken by the fruits, seeds, and roots of plants and by
various kinds of animals. It is they alone which contain stocks of
those substances which can be converted within the man's organism into
work-stuff; and of the other matters, except air and water, required
to supply the constant consumption of his capital and to keep his
organic machinery going. In no way does the savage contribute to the
production of these substances. Whatever labour he bestows upon such
vegetable and animal bodies, on the contrary, is devoted to their
destruction; and it is a mere matter of accident whether a little
labour yields him a great deal--as in the case, for example, of a
stranded whale; or whether much labour yields next to nothing--as in
times of long-continued drought. The savage, like the child, borrows
the capital he needs, and, at any rate, intentionally, does nothing
towards repayment; it would plainly be an improper use of the word
"produce" to say that his labour in hunting for the roots, or the
fruits, or the eggs, or the grubs and snakes, which he finds and eats,
"pro duces" or contributes to "produce" them. The same thing is true
of more advanced tribes, who [153] are still merely hunters, such as
the Esquimaux. They may expend more labour and skill; but it is spent
in destruction.

When we pass from these to men who lead a purely pastoral life, like
the South American Gauchos, or some Asiatic nomads, there is an
important change. Let us suppose the owner of a flock of sheep to live
on the milk, cheese, and flesh which they yield. It is obvious that
the flock stands to him in the economic relation of the mother to the
child, inasmuch as it supplies him with food-stuffs competent to make
good the daily and hourly losses of his capital of workstuff. If we
imagine our sheep-owner to have access to extensive pastures and to be
troubled neither by predacious animals nor by rival shepherds, the
performance of his pastoral functions will hardly involve the
expenditure of any more labour than is needful to provide him with the
exercise required to maintain health. And this is true, even if we
take into account the trouble originally devoted to the domestication
of the sheep. It surely would be a most singular pretension for the
shepherd to talk of the flock as the "produce" of his labour in any
but a very limited sense. In truth, his labour would have been a mere
accessory of production of very little consequence. Under the
circumstances supposed, a ram and some ewes, left to themselves for a
few years, would probably generate as large a flock; [154] and the
superadded labour of the shepherd would have little more effect upon
their production than upon that of the blackberries on the bushes
about the pastures. For the most part the increment would be
thoroughly unearned; and, if it is a rule of absolute political ethics
that owners have no claim upon "betterment" brought about
independently of their own labour, then the shepherd would have no
claim to at least nine-tenths of the increase of the flock.

But if the shepherd has no real claim to the title of "producer," who
has? Are the rams and ewes the true "producers"? Certainly their
title is better if, borrowing from the old terminology of chemistry,
they only claim to be regarded as the "proximate principles" of
production. And yet, if strict justice is to be dispensed, even they
are to be regarded rather as collectors and distributors than as
"producers." For all that they really do is to collect, slightly
modify, and render easily accessible, the vital capital which already
exists in the green herbs on which they feed, but in such a form as to
be practically out of the reach of man.

Thus, from an economic point of view, the sheep are more comparable to
confectioners than to producers. The usefulness of biscuit lies in the
raw flour of which it is made; but raw flour does not answer as an
article of human diet, and biscuit does. So the usefulness of mutton
lies mainly in certain chemical compounds which it [155] contains: the
sheep gets them out of grass; we cannot live on grass, but we can on

Now, herbaceous and all other green plants stand alone among
terrestrial natural bodies, in so far as, under the influence of
light, they possess the power to build up, out of the carbonic acid
gas in the atmosphere, water and certain nitrogenous and mineral
salts, those substances which in the animal organism are utilised as
work-stuff. They are the chief and, for practical purposes, the sole
producers of that vital capital which we have seen to be the necessary
antecedent of every act of labour. Every green plant is a laboratory
in which, so long as the sun shines upon it, materials furnished by
the mineral world, gases, water, saline compounds, are worked up into
those foodstuffs without which animal life cannot be carried on. And
since, up to the present time, synthetic chemistry has not advanced so
far as to achieve this feat, the green plant may be said to be the
only living worker whose labour directly results in the production of
that vital capital which is the necessary antecedent of human labour.*
Nor is this statement a paradox involving perpetual motion, because
the energy by which the plant does its work is supplied by the
sun--the primordial capitalist so far as we are concerned. But [156]
it cannot be too strongly impressed upon the mind that sunshine, air,
water, the best soil that is to be found on the surface of the earth,
might co-exist; yet without plants, there is no known agency competent
to generate the so-called "protein compounds," by which alone animal
life can be permanently supported. And not only are plants thus
essential; but, in respect of particular kinds of animals, they must
be plants of a particular nature. If there were no terrestrial green
plants but, say, cypresses and mosses, pastoral and agricultural life
would be alike impossible; indeed, it is difficult to imagine the
possibility of the existence of any large animal, as the labour
required to get at a sufficiency of the store of food-stuffs,
contained in such plants as these, could hardly extract from them an
equivalent for the waste involved in that expenditure of work.

* It remains to be seen whether the plants which have no
chlorophyll, and flourish in darkness, such as the Fungi, can
live upon purely mineral food.

We are compact of dust and air; from that we set out, and to that
complexion must we come at last. The plant either directly, or by some
animal intermediary, lends us the capital which enables us to carry on
the business of life, as we flit through the upper world, from the one
term of our journey to the other. Popularly, no doubt, it is
permissible to speak of the soil as a "producer," just as we may talk
of the daily movement of the sun. But, as I have elsewhere remarked,
propositions which are to bear any deductive strain that may be put
upon them must run the risk of [157] seeming pedantic, rather than
that of being inaccurate. And the statement that land, in the sense of
cultivable soil, is a producer, or even one of the essentials of
economic production, is anything but accurate. The process of
water-culture, in which a plant is not "planted" in any soil, but is
merely supported in water containing in solution the mineral
ingredients essential to that plant, is now thoroughly understood;
and, if it were worth while, a crop yielding abundant food-stuffs
could be raised on an acre of fresh water, no less than on an acre of
dry land. In the Arctic regions, again, land has nothing to do with
"production" in the social economy of the Esquimaux, who live on seals
and other marine animals; and might, like Proteus, shepherd the flocks
of Poseidon if they had a mind for pastoral life. But the seals and
the bears are dependent on other inhabitants of the sea, until,
somewhere in the series, we come to the minute green plants which
float in the ocean, and are the real "producers" by which the whole of
its vast animal population is supported.* Thus, when we find set forth
as an "absolute" [158] truth the statement that the essential factors
in economic production are land, capital and labour--when this is
offered as an axiom whence all sorts of other important truths may be
deduced--it is needful to remember that the assertion is true only
with a qualification. Undoubtedly "vital capital" is essential; for,
as we have seen, no human work can be done unless it exists, not even
that internal work of the body which is necessary to passive life.
But, with respect to labour (that is, human labour) I hope to have
left no doubt on the reader's mind that, in regard to production, the
importance of human labour may be so small as to be almost a vanishing
quantity. Moreover, it is certain that there is no approximation to a
fixed ratio between the expenditure of labour and the production of
that vital capital which is the foundation of all wealth. For, suppose
that we introduce into our suppositious pastoral paradise beasts of
prey and rival shepherds, the amount of labour thrown upon the
sheep-owner may increase almost indefinitely, and its importance as a
condition of production may be enormously augmented, while the
quantity of produce remains stationary. Compare for a moment the
unimportance of the shepherd's labour, under the circumstances first
defined, with its indispensability in countries in which the water for
the sheep has to be drawn from deep [159] wells, or in which the flock
has to be defended from wolves or from human depredators. As to land,
it has been shown that, except as affording mere room and standing
ground, the importance of land, great as it may be, is secondary. The
one thing needful for economic production is the green plant, as the
sole producer of vital capital from natural inorganic bodies. Men
might exist without labour (in the ordinary sense) and without land;
without plants they must inevitably perish.

* In some remarkable passages of the Botany of Sir James Ross's
Antarctic voyage, which took place half a century ago, Sir
Joseph Hooker demonstrated the dependence of the animal life of
the sea upon the minute, indeed microscopic, plants which float
in it: a marvellous example of what may be done by
water-culture. One might indulge in dreams of cultivating and
improving diatoms, until the domesticated bore the same
relation to the wild forms, as cauliflowers to the primitive
Brassica oleracea, without passing beyond the limits of fair
scientific speculation.

That which is true of the purely pastoral condition is a fortiori true
of the purely agricultural* condition, in which the existence of the
cultivator is directly dependent on the production of vital capital by
the plants which he cultivates. Here, again, the condition precedent
of the work of each year is vital capital. Suppose that a man lives
exclusively upon the plants which he cultivates. It is obvious that he
must have food-stuffs to live upon, while he prepares the soil for
sowing and throughout the period which elapses between this and
harvest. These food-stuffs must be yielded by the stock remaining over
from former crops. The result is the same as before--the pre-existence
of vital capital is the necessary antecedent of labour. Moreover, the
amount of labour which contributes, as an accessory condition, to the
production [160] of the crop varies as widely in the case of
plant-raising as in that of cattle-raising. With favourable soil,
climate and other conditions, it may be very small, with unfavourable,
very great, for the same revenue or yield of food-stuffs.

* It is a pity that we have no word that signifies plant-culture
exclusively. But for the present purpose I may restrict
agriculture to that sense.

Thus, I do not think it is possible to dispute the following
proposition: the existence of any man, or of any number of men,
whether organised into a polity or not, depends on the production of
foodstuffs (that is, vital capital) readily accessible to man, either
directly or indirectly, by plants. But it follows that the number of
men who can exist, say for one year, on any given area of land, taken
by itself, depends upon the quantity of food-stuffs produced by such
plants growing on the area in one year. If a is that quantity, and b
the minimum of food-stuffs required for each man, A/B=N, the maximum
number of men who can exist on the area. Now the amount of production
(a) is limited by the extent of area occupied; by the quantity of
sunshine which falls upon the area; by the range and distribution of
temperature; by the force of the winds; by the supply of water; by the
composition and the physical characters of the soil; by animal and
vegetable competitors and destroyers. The labour of man neither does,
nor can, produce vital capital; all that it can do is to modify,
favourably or unfavourably, the conditions of its production. The most
important of these-- [161] namely, sunshine, range of daily and
nightly temperature, wind--are practically out of men's reach.* On the
other hand, the supply of water, the physical and chemical qualities
of the soil, and the influences of competitors and destroyers, can
often, though by no means always, be largely affected by labour and
skill. And there is no harm in calling the effect of such labour
"production," if it is clearly understood that "production" in this
sense is a very different thing from the "production" of food-stuffs
by a plant.

* I do not forget electric lighting, greenhouses and hothouses,
and the various modes of affording shelter against violent
winds: but in regard to production of food-stuffs on the large
scale they may be neglected. Even if synthetic chemistry should
effect the construction of proteids, the Laborato ry will
hardly enter into competition with the Farm within any time
which the present generation need trouble itself about.

We have been dealing hitherto with suppositions the materials of which
are furnished by everyday experience, not with mere a priori
assumptions. Our hypothetical solitary shepherd with his flock, or the
solitary farmer with his grain field, are mere bits of such
experience, cut out, as it were, for easy study. Still borrowing from
daily experience, let us suppose that either sheep-owner or farmer,
for any reason that may be imagined, desires the help of one or more
other men; and that, in exchange for their labour, he offers so many
sheep, or quarts of milk, or pounds of [162] cheese, or so many
measures of grain, for a year's service. I fail to discover any a
priori "rights of labour" in virtue of which these men may insist on
being employed, if they are not wanted. But, on the other hand, I
think it is clear that there is only one condition upon which the
persons to whom the offer of these "wages" is made can accept it; and
that is that the things offered in exchange for a year's work shall
contain at least as much vital capital as a man uses up in doing the
year's work. For no rational man could knowingly and willingly accept
conditions which necessarily involve starvation. Therefore there is an
irreducible minimum of wages; it is such an amount of vital capital as
suffices to replace the inevitable consumption of the person hired.
Now, surely, it is beyond a doubt that these wages, whether at or
above the irreducible minimum, are paid out of the capital disposable
after the wants of the owner of the flock or of the crop of grain are
satisfied; and, from what has been said already, it follows that there
is a limit to the number of men, whether hired, or brought in any other
way, who can be maintained by the sheep owner or landowner out of his
own resources. Since no amount of labour can produce an ounce of
foodstuff beyond the maximum producible by a limited number of plants,
under the most favourable circumstances in regard to those conditions
which are not affected by labour, it follows [163] that, if the number
of men to be fed increases indefinitely, a time must come when some
will have to starve. That is the essence of the so-called Malthusian
doctrine; and it is a truth which, to my mind, is as plain as the
general proposition that a quantity which constantly increases will,
some time or other, exceed any greater quantity the amount of which is

The foregoing considerations leave no doubt about the fundamental
condition of the existence of any polity, or organised society of men,
either in a purely pastoral or purely agricultural state, or in any
mixture of both states. It must possess a store of vital capital to
start with, and the means of repairing the consumption of that capital
which takes place as a consequence of the work of the members of the
society. And, if the polity occupies a completely isolated area of the
earth's surface, the numerical strength of that polity can never
exceed the quotient of the maximum quantity of food-stuffs producible
by the green plants on that area, in each year, divided by the
quantity necessary for the maintenance of each person during the year.
But, there is a third mode of existence possible to a polity; it may,
conceivably, be neither purely pastoral nor purely agricultural, but
purely manufacturing. Let us suppose three islands, like Gran Canaria,
Teneriffe and Lanzerote, in the Canaries, to be quite cut off from the
rest of the world. Let Gran Canaria be [164] inhabited by
grain-raisers, Teneriffe by cattle-breeders; while the population of
Lanzerote (which we may suppose to be utterly barren) consists of
carpenters, woollen manufacturers, and shoemakers. Then the facts of
daily experience teach us that the people of Lanzerote could never
have existed unless they came to the island provided with a stock of
food-stuffs; and that they could not continue to exist, unless that
stock, as it was consumed, was made up by contributions from the vital
capital of either Gran Canaria, or Teneriffe, or both. Moreover, the
carpenters of Lanzerote could do nothing, unless they were provided
with wood from the other islands; nor could the wool spinners and
weavers or the shoemakers work without wool and skins from the same
sources. The wood and the wool and the skins are, in fact, the capital
without which their work as manufacturers in their respective trades
is impossible--so that the vital and other capital supplied by Gran
Canaria and Teneriffe is most indubitably the necessary antecedent of
the industrial labour of Lanzerote. It is perfectly true that by the
time the wood, the wool, and the skins reached Lanzerote a good deal
of labour in cutting, shearing, skinning, transport, and so on, would
have been spent upon them. But this does not alter the fact that the
only "production" which is essential to the existence of the
population of Teneriffe and Gran Canaria is that effected by the [165]
green plants in both islands; and that all the labour spent upon the
raw produce useful in manufacture, directly or indirectly yielded by
them--by the inhabitants of these islands and by those of Lanzerote
into the bargain--will not provide one solitary Lanzerotian with a
dinner, unless the Teneriffians and Canariotes happen to want his
goods and to be willing to give some of their vital capital in
exchange for them.

Under the circumstances defined, if Teneriffe and Gran Canaria
disappeared, or if their inhabitants ceased to care for carpentry,
clothing, or shoes, the people of Lanzerote must starve. But if they
wish to buy, then the Lanzerotians, by "cultivating" the buyers,
indirectly favour the cultivation of the produce of those buyers.

Thus, if the question is asked whether the labour employed in
manufacture in Lanzerote is "productive" or "unproductive" there can
be only one reply. If anybody will exchange vital capital, or that
which can be exchanged for vital capital, for Lanzerote goods, it is
productive; if not, it is unproductive.

In the case of the manufacturer, the dependence of labour upon capital
is still more intimate than in that of the herdsman or agriculturist.
When the latter are once started they can go on, without troubling
themselves about the existence of any other people. But the
manufacturer depends on pre-existing capital, not only at the [166]
beginning, but at the end of his operations. However great the
expenditure of his labour and of his skill, the result, for the
purpose of maintaining his existence, is just the same as if he had
done nothing, unless there is a customer able and willing to exchange
food-stuffs for that which his labour and skill have achieved.

There is another point concerning which it is very necessary to have
clear ideas. Suppose a carpenter in Lanzerote to be engaged in making
chests of drawers. Let us suppose that a, the timber, and b, the grain
and meat needful for the man's sustenance until he can finish a chest
of drawers, have to be paid for by that chest. Then the capital with
which he starts is represented by a + b. He could not start at all
unless he had it; day by day, he must destroy more or less of the
substance and of the general adaptability of a in order to work it up
into the special forms needed to constitute the chest of drawers; and,
day by day, he must use up at least so much of b as will replace his
loss of vital capital by the work of that day. Suppose it takes the
carpenter and his workmen ten days to saw up the timber, to plane the
boards, and to give them the shape and size proper for the various
parts of the chest of drawers. And suppose that he then offers his
heap of boards to the advancer of a + b as an equivalent for the wood
+ ten days' supply of vital capital? The latter will surely say: "No.
[167] I did not ask for a heap of boards. I asked for a chest of
drawers. Up to this time, so far as I am concerned, you have done
nothing and are as much in my debt as ever." And if the carpenter
maintained that he had "virtually" created two-thirds of a chest of
drawers, inasmuch as it would take only five days more to put together
the pieces of wood, and that the heap of boards ought to be accepted
as the equivalent of two-thirds of his debt, I am afraid the creditor
would regard him as little better than an impudent swindler. It
obviously makes no sort of difference whether the Canariote or
Teneriffian buyer advanced the wood and the food-stuffs, on which the
carpenter had to maintain himself; or whether the carpenter had a stock
of both, the consumption of which must be recouped by the exchange of
a chest of drawers for a fresh supply. In the latter case, it is even
less doubtful that, if the carpenter offered his boards to the man who
wanted a chest of drawers, the latter would laugh in his face. And if
he took the chest of drawers for himself, then so much of his vital
capital would be sunk in it past recovery. Again, the payment of goods
in a lump, for the chest of drawers, comes to the same thing as the
payment of daily wages for the fifteen days that the carpenter was
occupied in making it. If, at the end of each day, the carpenter chose
to say to himself "I have 'virtually' created, by my day's labour, a
fifteenth of what I shall get for the chest [168] of
drawers--therefore my wages are the produce of my day's labour"--there
is no great harm in such metaphorical speech, so long as the poor man
does not delude himself into the supposition that it represents the
exact truth. "Virtually" is apt to cover more intellectual sins than
"charity" does moral delicts. After what has been said, it surely must
be plain enough that each day's work has involved the consumption of
the carpenter's vital capital, and the fashioning of his timber, at
the expense of more or less consumption of those forms of capital.
Whether the a + b to be exchanged for the chest has been advanced as a
loan, or is paid daily or weekly as wages, or, at some later time, as
the price of a finished commodity--the essential element of the
transaction, and the only essential element, is, that it must, at
least, effect the replacement of the vital capital consumed. Neither
boards nor chest of drawers are eatable; and, so far from the
carpenter having produced the essential part of his wages by each
day's labour, he has merely wasted that labour, unless somebody who
happens to want a chest of drawers offers to exchange vital capital,
or something that can procure it, equivalent to the amount consumed
during the process of manufacture.*

* See the discussion of this subject further on.

That it should be necessary, at this time of day, to set forth such
elementary truths as these may [169] well seem strange; but no one who
consults that interesting museum of political delusions, "Progress and
Poverty," some of the treasures of which I have already brought to
light, will doubt the fact, if he bestows proper attention upon the
first book of that widely-read work. At page 15 it is thus written:

"The proposition I shall endeavour to prove is: that wages, instead of
being drawn from capital, are, in reality, drawn from the product of
the labour for which they are paid."

Again at page 18:--

"In every case in which labour is exchanged for commodities,

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