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The Deadlock in Darwinism


It will be readily admitted that of all living writers Mr. Alfred
Russel Wallace is the one the peculiar turn of whose mind best fits
him to write on the subject of natural selection, or the
accumulation of fortunate but accidental variations through descent
and the struggle for existence. His mind in all its more essential
characteristics closely resembles that of the late Mr. Charles
Darwin himself, and it is no doubt due to this fact that he and Mr.
Darwin elaborated their famous theory at the same time, and
independently of one another. I shall have occasion in the course
of the following article to show how misled and misleading both
these distinguished men have been, in spite of their unquestionable
familiarity with the whole range of animal and vegetable phenomena.
I believe it will be more respectful to both of them to do this in
the most out-spoken way. I believe their work to have been as
mischievous as it has been valuable, and as valuable as it has been
mischievous; and higher, whether praise or blame, I know not how to
give. Nevertheless I would in the outset, and with the utmost
sincerity, admit concerning Messrs. Wallace and Darwin that neither
can be held as the more profound and conscientious thinker; neither
can be put forward as the more ready to acknowledge obligation to
the great writers on evolution who had preceded him, or to place his
own developments in closer and more conspicuous historical
connection with earlier thought upon the subject; neither is the
more ready to welcome criticism and to state his opponent's case in
the most pointed and telling way in which it can be put; neither is
the more quick to encourage new truth; neither is the more genial,
generous adversary, or has the profounder horror of anything even
approaching literary or scientific want of candour; both display the
same inimitable power of putting their opinions forward in the way
that shall best ensure their acceptance; both are equally unrivalled
in the tact that tells them when silence will be golden, and when on
the other hand a whole volume of facts may be advantageously brought
forward. Less than the foregoing tribute both to Messrs. Darwin and
Wallace I will not, and more I cannot pay.

Let us now turn to the most authoritative exponent of latter-day
evolution--I mean to Mr. Wallace, whose work, entitled "Darwinism,"
though it should have been entitled "Wallaceism," is still so far
Darwinistic that it develops the teaching of Mr. Darwin in the
direction given to it by Mr. Darwin himself--so far, indeed, as this
can be ascertained at all--and not in that of Lamarck. Mr. Wallace
tells us, on the first page of his preface, that he has no intention
of dealing even in outline with the vast subject of evolution in
general, and has only tried to give such an account of the theory of
natural selection as may facilitate a clear conception of Darwin's
work. How far he has succeeded is a point on which opinion will
probably be divided. Those who find Mr. Darwin's works clear will
also find no difficulty in understanding Mr. Wallace; those, on the
other hand, who find Mr. Darwin puzzling are little likely to be
less puzzled by Mr. Wallace. He continues:-

"The objections now made to Darwin's theory apply solely to the
particular means by which the change of species has been brought
about, not to the fact of that change."

But "Darwin's theory"--as Mr. Wallace has elsewhere proved that he
understands--has no reference "to the fact of that change"--that is
to say, to the fact that species have been modified in course of
descent from other species. This is no more Mr. Darwin's theory
than it is the reader's or my own. Darwin's theory is concerned
only with "the particular means by which the change of species has
been brought about"; his contention being that this is mainly due to
the natural survival of those individuals that have happened by some
accident to be born most favourably adapted to their surroundings,
or, in other words, through accumulation in the common course of
nature of the more lucky variations that chance occasionally
purveys. Mr. Wallace's words, then, in reality amount to this, that
the objections now made to Darwin's theory apply solely to Darwin's
theory, which is all very well as far as it goes, but might have
been more easily apprehended if he had simply said, "There are
several objections now made to Mr. Darwin's theory."

It must be remembered that the passage quoted above occurs on the
first page of a preface dated March 1889, when the writer had
completed his task, and was most fully conversant with his subject.
Nevertheless, it seems indisputable either that he is still
confusing evolution with Mr. Darwin's theory, or that he does not
know when his sentences have point and when they have none.

I should perhaps explain to some readers that Mr. Darwin did not
modify the main theory put forward, first by Buffon, to whom it
indisputably belongs, and adopted from him by Erasmus Darwin,
Lamarck, and many other writers in the latter half of the last
century and the earlier years of the present. The early
evolutionists maintained that all existing forms of animal and
vegetable life, including man, were derived in course of descent
with modification from forms resembling the lowest now known.

Mr. Darwin went as far as this, and farther no one can go. The
point at issue between him and his predecessors involves neither the
main fact of evolution, nor yet the geometrical ratio of increase,
and the struggle for existence consequent thereon. Messrs. Darwin
and Wallace have each thrown invaluable light upon these last two
points, but Buffon, as early as 1756, had made them the keystone of
his system. "The movement of nature," he then wrote, "turns on two
immovable pivots: one, the illimitable fecundity which she has
given to all species: the other, the innumerable difficulties which
reduce the results of that fecundity." Erasmus Darwin and Lamarck
followed in the same sense. They thus admit the survival of the
fittest as fully as Mr. Darwin himself, though they do not make use
of this particular expression. The dispute turns not upon natural
selection, which is common to all writers on evolution, but upon the
nature and causes of the variations that are supposed to be selected
from and thus accumulated. Are these mainly attributable to the
inherited effects of use and disuse, supplemented by occasional
sports and happy accidents? Or are they mainly due to sports and
happy accidents, supplemented by occasional inherited effects of use
and disuse?

The Lamarckian system has all along been maintained by Mr. Herbert
Spencer, who, in his "Principles of Biology," published in 1865,
showed how impossible it was that accidental variations should
accumulate at all. I am not sure how far Mr. Spencer would consent
to being called a Lamarckian pure and simple, nor yet how far it is
strictly accurate to call him one; nevertheless, I can see no
important difference in the main positions taken by him and by

The question at issue between the Lamarckians, supported by Mr.
Spencer and a growing band of those who have risen in rebellion
against the Charles-Darwinian system on the one hand, and Messrs.
Darwin and Wallace with the greater number of our more prominent
biologists on the other, involves the very existence of evolution as
a workable theory. For it is plain that what Nature can be supposed
able to do by way of choice must depend on the supply of the
variations from which she is supposed to choose. She cannot take
what is not offered to her; and so again she cannot be supposed able
to accumulate unless what is gained in one direction in one
generation, or series of generations, is little likely to be lost in
those that presently succeed. Now variations ascribed mainly to use
and disuse can be supposed capable of being accumulated, for use and
disuse are fairly constant for long periods among the individuals of
the same species, and often over large areas; moreover, conditions
of existence involving changes of habit, and thus of organisation,
come for the most part gradually; so that time is given during which
the organism can endeavour to adapt itself in the requisite
respects, instead of being shocked out of existence by too sudden
change. Variations, on the other hand, that are ascribed to mere
chance cannot be supposed as likely to be accumulated, for chance is
notoriously inconstant, and would not purvey the variations in
sufficiently unbroken succession, or in a sufficient number of
individuals, modified similarly in all the necessary correlations at
the same time and place to admit of their being accumulated. It is
vital therefore to the theory of evolution, as was early pointed out
by the late Professor Fleeming Jenkin and by Mr. Herbert Spencer,
that variations should be supposed to have a definite and persistent
principle underlying them, which shall tend to engender similar and
simultaneous modification, however small, in the vast majority of
individuals composing any species. The existence of such a
principle and its permanence is the only thing that can be supposed
capable of acting as rudder and compass to the accumulation of
variations, and of making it hold steadily on one course for each
species, till eventually many havens, far remote from one another,
are safely reached.

It is obvious that the having fatally impaired the theory of his
predecessors could not warrant Mr. Darwin in claiming, as he most
fatuously did, the theory of evolution. That he is still generally
believed to have been the originator of this theory is due to the
fact that he claimed it, and that a powerful literary backing at
once came forward to support him. It seems at first sight
improbable that those who too zealously urged his claims were
unaware that so much had been written on the subject, but when we
find even Mr. Wallace himself as profoundly ignorant on this subject
as he still either is, or affects to be, there is no limit
assignable to the ignorance or affected ignorance of the kind of
biologists who would write reviews in leading journals thirty years
ago. Mr. Wallace writes:-

"A few great naturalists, struck by the very slight difference
between many of these species, and the numerous links that exist
between the most different forms of animals and plants, and also
observing that a great many species do vary considerably in their
forms, colours and habits, conceived the idea that they might be all
produced one from the other. The most eminent of these writers was
a great French naturalist, Lamarck, who published an elaborate work,
the Philosophie Zoologique, in which he endeavoured to prove that
all animals whatever are descended from other species of animals.
He attributed the change of species chiefly to the effect of changes
in the conditions of life--such as climate, food, &c.; and
especially to the desires and efforts of the animals themselves to
improve their condition, leading to a modification of form or size
in certain parts, owing to the well-known physiological law that all
organs are strengthened by constant use, while they are weakened or
even completely lost by disuse . . .

"The only other important work dealing with the question was the
celebrated 'Vestiges of Creation,' published anonymously, but now
acknowledged to have been written by the late Robert Chambers."

None are so blind as those who will not see, and it would be waste
of time to argue with the invincible ignorance of one who thinks
Lamarck and Buffon conceived that all species were produced from one
another, more especially as I have already dealt at some length with
the early evolutionists in my work, "Evolution, Old and New," first
published ten years ago, and not, so far as I am aware, detected in
serious error or omission. If, however, Mr. Wallace still thinks it
safe to presume so far on the ignorance of his readers as to say
that the only two important works on evolution before Mr. Darwin's
were Lamarck's Philosophie Zoologique and the "Vestiges of
Creation," how fathomable is the ignorance of the average reviewer
likely to have been thirty years ago, when the "Origin of Species"
was first published? Mr. Darwin claimed evolution as his own
theory. Of course, he would not claim it if he had no right to it.
Then by all means give him the credit of it. This was the most
natural view to take, and it was generally taken. It was not,
moreover, surprising that people failed to appreciate all the
niceties of Mr. Darwin's "distinctive feature" which, whether
distinctive or no, was assuredly not distinct, and was never frankly
contrasted with the older view, as it would have been by one who
wished it to be understood and judge upon its merits. It was in
consequence of this omission that people failed to note how fast and
loose Mr. Darwin played with his distinctive feature, and how
readily he dropped it on occasion.

It may be said that the question of what was thought by the
predecessors of Mr. Darwin is, after all, personal, and of no
interest to the general public, comparable to that of the main
issue--whether we are to accept evolution or not. Granted that
Buffon, Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck bore the burden and heat of the
day before Mr. Charles Darwin was born, they did not bring people
round to their opinion, whereas Mr. Darwin and Mr. Wallace did, and
the public cannot be expected to look beyond this broad and
indisputable fact.

The answer to this is, that the theory which Messrs. Darwin and
Wallace have persuaded the public to accept is demonstrably false,
and that the opponents of evolution are certain in the end to
triumph over it. Paley, in his "Natural Theology," long since
brought forward far too much evidence of design in animal
organisation to allow of our setting down its marvels to the
accumulations of fortunate accident, undirected by will, effort and
intelligence. Those who examine the main facts of animal and
vegetable organisation without bias will, no doubt, ere long
conclude that all animals and vegetables are derived ultimately from
unicellular organisms, but they will not less readily perceive that
the evolution of species without the concomitance and direction of
mind and effort is as inconceivable as is the independent creation
of every individual species. The two facts, evolution and design,
are equally patent to plain people. There is no escaping from
either. According to Messrs. Darwin and Wallace, we may have
evolution, but are on no account to have it as mainly due to
intelligent effort, guided by ever higher and higher range of
sensations, perceptions, and ideas. We are to set it down to the
shuffling of cards, or the throwing of dice without the play, and
this will never stand.

According to the older men, cards did indeed count for much, but
play counted for more. They denied the teleology of the time--that
is to say, the teleology that saw all adaptation to surroundings as
part of a plan devised long ages since by a quasi-anthropomorphic
being who schemed everything out much as a man would do, but on an
infinitely vaster scale. This conception they found repugnant alike
to intelligence and conscience, but, though they do not seem to have
perceived it, they left the door open for a design more true and
more demonstrable than that which they excluded. By making their
variations mainly due to effort and intelligence, they made organic
development run on all-fours with human progress, and with
inventions which we have watched growing up from small beginnings.
They made the development of man from the amoeba part and parcel of
the story that may be read, though on an infinitely smaller scale,
in the development of our most powerful marine engines from the
common kettle, or of our finest microscopes from the dew-drop.

The development of the steam-engine and the microscope is due to
intelligence and design, which did indeed utilise chance
suggestions, but which improved on these, and directed each step of
their accumulation, though never foreseeing more than a step or two
ahead, and often not so much as this. The fact, as I have elsewhere
urged, that the man who made the first kettle did not foresee the
engines of the Great Eastern, or that he who first noted the
magnifying power of the dew-drop had no conception of our present
microscopes--the very limited amount, in fact, of design and
intelligence that was called into play at any one point--this does
not make us deny that the steam-engine and microscope owe their
development to design. If each step of the road was designed, the
whole journey was designed, though the particular end was not
designed when the journey was begun. And so is it, according to the
older view of evolution, with the development of those living
organs, or machines, that are born with us, as part of the
perambulating carpenter's chest we call our bodies. The older view
gives us our design, and gives us our evolution too. If it refuses
to see a quasi-anthropomorphic God modelling each species from
without as a potter models clay, it gives us God as vivifying and
indwelling in all His creatures--He in them, and they in Him. If it
refuses to see God outside the universe, it equally refuses to see
any part of the universe as outside God. If it makes the universe
the body of God, it also makes God the soul of the universe. The
question at issue, then, between the Darwinism of Erasmus Darwin and
the neo-Darwinism of his grandson, is not a personal one, nor
anything like a personal one. It not only involves the existence of
evolution, but it affects the view we take of life and things in an
endless variety of most interesting and important ways. It is
imperative, therefore, on those who take any interest in these
matters, to place side by side in the clearest contrast the views of
those who refer the evolution of species mainly to accumulation of
variations that have no other inception than chance, and of that
older school which makes design perceive and develop still further
the goods that chance provides.

But over and above this, which would be in itself sufficient, the
historical mode of studying any question is the only one which will
enable us to comprehend it effectually. The personal element cannot
be eliminated from the consideration of works written by living
persons for living persons. We want to know who is who--whom we can
depend upon to have no other end than the making things clear to
himself and his readers, and whom we should mistrust as having an
ulterior aim on which he is more intent than on the furthering of
our better understanding. We want to know who is doing his best to
help us, and who is only trying to make us help him, or to bolster
up the system in which his interests are vested. There is nothing
that will throw more light upon these points than the way in which a
man behaves towards those who have worked in the same field with
himself, and, again, than his style. A man's style, as Buffon long
since said, is the man himself. By style, I do not, of course, mean
grammar or rhetoric, but that style of which Buffon again said that
it is like happiness, and vient de la douceur de l'ame. When we
find a man concealing worse than nullity of meaning under sentences
that sound plausibly enough, we should distrust him much as we
should a fellow-traveller whom we caught trying to steal our watch.
We often cannot judge of the truth or falsehood of facts for
ourselves, but we most of us know enough of human nature to be able
to tell a good witness from a bad one.

However this may be, and whatever we may think of judging systems by
the directness or indirectness of those who advance them,
biologists, having committed themselves too rashly, would have been
more than human if they had not shown some pique towards those who
dared to say, first, that the theory of Messrs. Darwin and Wallace
was unworkable; and secondly, that even though it were workable it
would not justify either of them in claiming evolution. When
biologists show pique at all they generally show a good deal of
pique, but pique or no pique, they shunned Mr. Spencer's objection
above referred to with a persistency more unanimous and obstinate
than I ever remember to have seen displayed even by professional
truth-seekers. I find no rejoinder to it from Mr. Darwin himself,
between 1865 when it was first put forward, and 1882 when Mr. Darwin
died. It has been similarly "ostrichised" by all the leading
apologists of Darwinism, so far at least as I have been able to
observe, and I have followed the matter closely for many years. Mr.
Spencer has repeated and amplified it in his recent work, "The
Factors of Organic Evolution," but it still remains without so much
as an attempt at serious answer, for the perfunctory and illusory
remarks of Mr. Wallace at the end of his "Darwinism" cannot be
counted as such. The best proof of its irresistible weight is that
Mr. Darwin, though maintaining silence in respect to it, retreated
from his original position in the direction that would most obviate
Mr. Spencer's objection.

Yet this objection has been repeatedly urged by the more prominent
anti-Charles-Darwinian authorities, and there is no sign that the
British public is becoming less rigorous in requiring people either
to reply to objections repeatedly urged by men of even moderate
weight, or to let judgment go by default. As regards Mr. Darwin's
claim to the theory of evolution generally, Darwinians are beginning
now to perceive that this cannot be admitted, and either say with
some hardihood that Mr. Darwin never claimed it, or after a few
saving clauses to the effect that this theory refers only to the
particular means by which evolution has been brought about, imply
forthwith thereafter none the less that evolution is Mr. Darwin's
theory. Mr. Wallace has done this repeatedly in his recent
"Darwinism." Indeed, I should be by no means sure that on the first
page of his preface, in the passage about "Darwin's theory," which I
have already somewhat severely criticised, he was not intending
evolution by "Darwin's theory," if in his preceding paragraph he had
not so clearly shown that he knew evolution to be a theory of
greatly older date than Mr. Darwin's.

The history of science--well exemplified by that of the development
theory--is the history of eminent men who have fought against light
and have been worsted. The tenacity with which Darwinians stick to
their accumulation of fortuitous variations is on a par with the
like tenacity shown by the illustrious Cuvier, who did his best to
crush evolution altogether. It always has been thus, and always
will be; nor is it desirable in the interests of Truth herself that
it should be otherwise. Truth is like money--lightly come, lightly
go; and if she cannot hold her own against even gross
misrepresentation, she is herself not worth holding.
Misrepresentation in the long run makes Truth as much as it mars
her; hence our law courts do not think it desirable that pleaders
should speak their bona fide opinions, much less that they should
profess to do so. Rather let each side hoodwink judge and jury as
best it can, and let truth flash out from collision of defence and
accusation. When either side will not collide, it is an axiom of
controversy that it desires to prevent the truth from being

Let us now note the courses forced upon biologists by the
difficulties of Mr. Darwin's distinctive feature. Mr. Darwin and
Mr. Wallace, as is well known, brought the feature forward
simultaneously and independently of one another, but Mr. Wallace
always believed in it more firmly than Mr. Darwin did. Mr. Darwin
as a young man did not believe in it. He wrote before 1889,
"Nature, by making habit omnipotent and its effects hereditary, has
fitted the Fuegian for the climate and productions of his country,"
{21} a sentence than which nothing can coincide more fully with the
older view that use and disuse were the main purveyors of
variations, or conflict more fatally with his own subsequent
distinctive feature. Moreover, as I showed in my last work on
evolution, {22} in the peroration to his "Origin of Species," he
discarded his accidental variations altogether, and fell back on the
older theory, so that the body of the "Origin of Species" supports
one theory, and the peroration another that differs from it toto
caelo. Finally, in his later editions, he retreated indefinitely
from his original position, edging always more and more continually
towards the theory of his grandfather and Lamarck. These facts
convince me that he was at no time a thorough-going Darwinian, but
was throughout an unconscious Lamarckian, though ever anxious to
conceal the fact alike from himself and from his readers.

Not so with Mr. Wallace, who was both more outspoken in the first
instance, and who has persevered along the path of Wallaceism just
as Mr. Darwin with greater sagacity was ever on the retreat from
Darwinism. Mr. Wallace's profounder faith led him in the outset to
place his theory in fuller daylight than Mr. Darwin was inclined to
do. Mr. Darwin just waved Lamarck aside, and said as little about
him as he could, while in his earlier editions Erasmus Darwin and
Buffon were not so much as named. Mr. Wallace, on the contrary, at
once raised the Lamarckian spectre, and declared it exorcised. He
said the Lamarckian hypothesis was "quite unnecessary." The giraffe
did not "acquire its long neck by desiring to reach the foliage of
the more lofty shrubs, and constantly stretching its neck for this
purpose, but because any varieties which occurred among its
antitypes with a longer neck than usual at once secured a fresh
range of pasture over the same ground as their shorter-necked
companions, and on the first scarcity of food were thus enabled to
outlive them." {23}

"Which occurred" is evidently "which happened to occur" by some
chance or accident unconnected with use and disuse. The word
"accident" is never used, but Mr. Wallace must be credited with this
instance of a desire to give his readers a chance of perceiving that
according to his distinctive feature evolution is an affair of luck,
rather than of cunning. Whether his readers actually did understand
this as clearly as Mr. Wallace doubtless desired that they should,
and whether greater development at this point would not have helped
them to fuller apprehension, we need not now inquire. What was
gained in distinctness might have been lost in distinctiveness, and
after all he did technically put us upon our guard.

Nevertheless he too at a pinch takes refuge in Lamarckism. In
relation to the manner in which the eyes of soles, turbots, and
other flat-fish travel round the head so as to become in the end
unsymmetrically placed, he says:-

"The eyes of these fish are curiously distorted in order that both
eyes may be upon the upper side, where alone they would be of any
use. . . . Now if we suppose this process, which in the young is
completed in a few days or weeks, to have been spread over thousands
of generations during the development of these fish, those usually
WHICH THE YOUNG FISH TRIED TO TWIST THEM [italics mine], the change
becomes intelligible." {24} When it was said by Professor Ray
Lankester--who knows as well as most people what Lamarck taught--
that this was "flat Lamarckism," Mr. Wallace rejoined that it was
the survival of the modified individuals that did it all, not the
efforts of the young fish to twist their eyes, and the transmission
to descendants of the effects of those efforts. But this, as I said
in my book, "Evolution, Old and New," {25} is like saying that
horses are swift runners, not by reason of the causes, whatever they
were, that occasioned the direct line of their progenitors to vary
towards ever greater and greater swiftness, but because their more
slow-going uncles and aunts go away. Plain people will prefer to
say that the main cause of any accumulation of favourable
modifications consists rather in that which brings about the initial
variations, and in the fact that these can be inherited at all, than
in the fact that the unmodified individuals were not successful.
People do not become rich because the poor in large numbers go away,
but because they have been lucky, or provident, or more commonly
both. If they would keep their wealth when they have made it they
must exclude luck thenceforth to the utmost of their power, and
their children must follow their example, or they will soon lose
their money. The fact that the weaker go to the wall does not bring
about the greater strength of the stronger; it is the consequence of
this last and not the cause--unless, indeed, it be contended that a
knowledge that the weak go to the wall stimulates the strong to
exertions which they would not otherwise so make, and that these
exertions produce inheritable modifications. Even in this case,
however, it would be the exertions, or use and disuse, that would be
the main agents in the modification. But it is not often that Mr.
Wallace thus backslides. His present position is that acquired (as
distinguished from congenital) modifications are not inherited at
all. He does not indeed put his faith prominently forward and pin
himself to it as plainly as could be wished, but under the heading,
"The Non-Heredity of Acquired Characters," he writes as follows on
p. 440 of his recent work in reference to Professor Weismann's
Theory of Heredity:-

"Certain observations on the embryology of the lower animals are
held to afford direct proof of this theory of heredity, but they are
too technical to be made clear to ordinary readers. A logical
result of the theory is the impossibility of the transmission of
acquired characters, since the molecular structure of the germ-plasm
is already determined within the embryo; and Weismann holds that
there are no facts which really prove that acquired characters can
be inherited, although their inheritance has, by most writers, been
considered so probable as hardly to stand in need of direct proof.

"We have already seen in the earlier part of this chapter that many
instances of change, imputed to the inheritance of acquired
variations, are really cases of selection."

And the rest of the remarks tend to convey the impression that Mr.
Wallace adopts Professor Weismann's view, but, curiously enough,
though I have gone through Mr. Wallace's book with a special view to
this particular point, I have not been able to find him definitely
committing himself either to the assertion that acquired
modifications never are inherited, or that they sometimes are so.
It is abundantly laid down that Mr. Darwin laid too much stress on
use and disuse, and a residuary impression is left that Mr. Wallace
is endorsing Professor Weismann's view, but I have found it
impossible to collect anything that enables me to define his
position confidently in this respect.

This is natural enough, for Mr. Wallace has entitled his book
"Darwinism," and a work denying that use and disuse produced any
effect could not conceivably be called Darwinism. Mr. Herbert
Spencer has recently collected many passages from "The Origin of
Species" and from "Animals and Plants under Domestication," {26}
which show how largely, after all, use and disuse entered into Mr.
Darwin's system, and we know that in his later years he attached
still more importance to them. It was out of the question,
therefore, that Mr. Wallace should categorically deny that their
effects were inheritable. On the other hand, the temptation to
adopt Professor Weismann's view must have been overwhelming to one
who had been already inclined to minimise the effects of use and
disuse. On the whole, one does not see what Mr. Wallace could do,
other than what he has done--unless, of course, he changed his
title, or had been no longer Mr. Wallace.

Besides, thanks to the works of Mr. Spencer, Professor Mivart,
Professor Semper, and very many others, there has for some time been
a growing perception that the Darwinism of Charles Darwin was
doomed. Use and disuse must either do even more than is officially
recognised in Mr. Darwin's later concessions, or they must do a
great deal less. If they can do as much as Mr. Darwin himself said
they did, why should they not do more? Why stop where Mr. Darwin
did? And again, where in the name of all that is reasonable did he
really stop? He drew no line, and on what principle can we say that
so much is possible as effect of use and disuse, but so much more
impossible? If, as Mr. Darwin contended, disuse can so far reduce
an organ as to render it rudimentary, and in many cases get rid of
it altogether, why cannot use create as much as disuse can destroy,
provided it has anything, no matter how low in structure, to begin
with? Let us know where we stand. If it is admitted that use and
disuse can do a good deal, what does a good deal mean? And what is
the proportion between the shares attributable to use and disuse and
to natural selection respectively? If we cannot be told with
absolute precision, let us at any rate have something more definite
than the statement that natural selection is "the most important
means of modification."

Mr. Darwin gave us no help in this respect; and worse than this, he
contradicted himself so flatly as to show that he had very little
definite idea upon the subject at all. Thus in respect to the
winglessness of the Madeira beetles he wrote:-

"In some cases we might easily put down to disuse modifications of
structure, which are wholly or mainly due to natural selection. Mr.
Wollaston has discovered the remarkable fact that 200 beetles, out
of the 550 species (but more are now known) inhabiting Madeira, are
so far deficient in wings that they cannot fly; and that of the 29
endemic genera no less than 23 have all their species in this
condition! Several facts,--namely, that beetles in many parts of
the world are frequently blown out to sea and perish; that the
beetles in Madeira, as observed by Mr. Wollaston, lie much concealed
until the wind lulls and the sun shines; that the proportion of
wingless beetles is larger on the exposed Desertas than in Madeira
itself; and especially the extraordinary fact, so strongly insisted
on by Mr. Wollaston, that certain large groups of beetles, elsewhere
excessively numerous, which absolutely require the use of their
wings are here almost entirely absent;--these several considerations
make me believe that the wingless condition of so many Madeira
beetles is mainly due to the action of natural selection, COMBINED
PROBABLY WITH DISUSE [italics mine]. For during many successive
generations each individual beetle which flew least, either from its
wings having been ever so little less perfectly developed or from
indolent habit, will have had the best chance of surviving, from not
being blown out to sea; and, on the other hand, those beetles which
most readily took to flight would oftenest have been blown to sea,
and thus destroyed." {27}

We should like to know, first, somewhere about how much disuse was
able to do after all, and moreover why, if it can do anything at
all, it should not be able to do all. Mr. Darwin says: "Any change
in structure and function which can be effected by small stages is
within the power of natural selection." "And why not," we ask,
"within the power of use and disuse?" Moreover, on a later page we
find Mr. Darwin saying:-

RENDERING ORGANS RUDIMENTARY [italics mine]. It would at first lead
by slow steps to the more and more complete reduction of a part,
until at last it has become rudimentary--as in the case of the eyes
of animals inhabiting dark caverns, and of the wings of birds
inhabiting oceanic islands, which have seldom been forced by beasts
of prey to take flight, and have ultimately lost the power of
flying. Again, an organ, useful under certain conditions, might
become injurious under others, AS WITH THE WINGS OF BEETLES LIVING
ON SMALL AND EXPOSED ISLANDS; and in this case natural selection
will have aided in reducing the organ, until it was rendered
harmless and rudimentary [italics mine]." {28}

So that just as an undefined amount of use and disuse was introduced
on the earlier page to supplement the effects of natural selection
in respect of the wings of beetles on small and exposed islands, we
have here an undefined amount of natural selection introduced to
supplement the effects of use and disuse in respect of the identical
phenomena. In the one passage we find that natural selection has
been the main agent in reducing the wings, though use and disuse
have had an appreciable share in the result; in the other, it is use
and disuse that have been the main agents, though an appreciable
share in the result must be ascribed to natural selection.

Besides, who has seen the uncles and aunts going away with the
uniformity that is necessary for Mr. Darwin's contention? We know
that birds and insects do often get blown out to sea and perish, but
in order to establish Mr. Darwin's position we want the evidence of
those who watched the reduction of the wings during the many
generations in the course of which it was being effected, and who
can testify that all, or the overwhelming majority, of the beetles
born with fairly well-developed wings got blown out to sea, while
those alone survived whose wings were congenitally degenerate. Who
saw them go, or can point to analogous cases so conclusive as to
compel assent from any equitable thinker?

Darwinians of the stamp of Mr. Thiselton Dyer, Professor Ray
Lankester, or Mr. Romanes, insist on their pound of flesh in the
matter of irrefragable demonstration. They complain of us for not
bringing forward some one who has been able to detect the movement
of the hour-hand of a watch during a second of time, and when we
fail to do so, declare triumphantly that we have no evidence that
there is any connection between the beating of a second and the
movement of the hour-hand. When we say that rain comes from the
condensation of moisture in the atmosphere, they demand of us a
rain-drop from moisture not yet condensed. If they stickle for
proof and cavil on the ninth part of a hair, as they do when we
bring forward what we deem excellent instances of the transmission
of an acquired characteristic, why may not we, too, demand at any
rate some evidence that the unmodified beetles actually did always,
or nearly always, get blown out to sea, during the reduction above
referred to, and that it is to this fact, and not to the masterly
inactivity of their fathers and mothers, that the Madeira beetles
owe their winglessness? If we began stickling for proof in this
way, our opponents would not be long in letting us know that
absolute proof is unattainable on any subject, that reasonable
presumption is our highest certainty, and that crying out for too
much evidence is as bad as accepting too little. Truth is like a
photographic sensitised plate, which is equally ruined by over and
by under exposure, and the just exposure for which can never be
absolutely determined.

Surely if disuse can be credited with the vast powers involved in
Mr. Darwin's statement that it has probably "been the main agent in
rendering organs rudimentary," no limits are assignable to the
accumulated effects of habit, provided the effects of habit, or use
and disuse, are supposed, as Mr. Darwin supposed them, to be
inheritable at all. Darwinians have at length woke up to the
dilemma in which they are placed by the manner in which Mr. Darwin
tried to sit on the two stools of use and disuse, and natural
selection of accidental variations, at the same time. The knell of
Charles-Darwinism is rung in Mr. Wallace's present book, and in the
general perception on the part of biologists that we must either
assign to use and disuse such a predominant share in modification as
to make it the feature most proper to be insisted on, or deny that
the modifications, whether of mind or body, acquired during a single
lifetime, are ever transmitted at all. If they can be inherited at
all, they can be accumulated. If they can be accumulated at all,
they can be so, for anything that appears to the contrary, to the
extent of the specific and generic differences with which we are
surrounded. The only thing to do is to pluck them out root and
branch: they are as a cancer which, if the smallest fibre be left
unexcised, will grow again, and kill any system on to which it is
allowed to fasten. Mr. Wallace, therefore, may well be excused if
he casts longing eyes towards Weismannism.

And what was Mr. Darwin's system? Who can make head or tail of the
inextricable muddle in which he left it? The "Origin of Species" in
its latest shape is the reduction of hedging to an absurdity. How
did Mr. Darwin himself leave it in the last chapter of the last
edition of the "Origin of Species"? He wrote:-

"I have now recapitulated the facts and considerations which have
thoroughly convinced me that species have been modified during a
long course of descent. This has been effected chiefly through the
natural selection of numerous, successive, slight, favourable
variations; aided in an important manner by the inherited effects of
the use and disuse of parts, and in an unimportant manner--that is,
in relation to adaptive structures whether past or present--by the
direct action of external conditions, and by variations which seem
to us in our ignorance to arise spontaneously. It appears that I
formerly underrated the frequency and value of these latter forms of
variation, as leading to permanent modifications of structure
independently of natural selection."

The "numerous, successive, slight, favourable variations" above
referred to are intended to be fortuitous, accidental, spontaneous.
It is the essence of Mr. Darwin's theory that this should be so.
Mr. Darwin's solemn statement, therefore, of his theory, after he
had done his best or his worst with it, is, when stripped of
surplusage, as follows:-

"The modification of species has been mainly effected by
accumulation of spontaneous variations; it has been aided in an
important manner by accumulation of variations due to use and
disuse, and in an unimportant manner by spontaneous variations; I do
not even now think that spontaneous variations have been very
important, but I used once to think them less important than I do

It is a discouraging symptom of the age that such a system should
have been so long belauded, and it is a sign of returning
intelligence that even he who has been more especially the alter ego
of Mr. Darwin should have felt constrained to close the chapter of
Charles-Darwinism as a living theory, and relegate it to the
important but not very creditable place in history which it must
henceforth occupy. It is astonishing, however, that Mr. Wallace
should have quoted the extract from the "Origin of Species" just
given, as he has done on p. 412 of his "Darwinism," without
betraying any sign that he has caught its driftlessness--for drift,
other than a desire to hedge, it assuredly has not got. The battle
now turns on the question whether modifications of either structure
or instinct due to use or disuse are ever inherited, or whether they
are not. Can the effects of habit be transmitted to progeny at all?
We know that more usually they are not transmitted to any
perceptible extent, but we believe also that occasionally, and
indeed not infrequently, they are inherited and even intensified.
What are our grounds for this opinion? It will be my object to put
these forward in the following number of the Universal Review.


At the close of my article in last month's number of the Universal
Review, I said I would in this month's issue show why the opponents
of Charles-Darwinism believe the effects of habits acquired during
the lifetime of a parent to produce an effect on their subsequent
offspring, in spite of the fact that we can rarely find the effect
in any one generation, or even in several, sufficiently marked to
arrest our attention.

I will now show that offspring can be, and not very infrequently is,
affected by occurrences that have produced a deep impression on the
parent organism--the effect produced on the offspring being such as
leaves no doubt that it is to be connected with the impression
produced on the parent. Having thus established the general
proposition, I will proceed to the more particular one--that habits,
involving use and disuse of special organs, with the modifications
of structure thereby engendered, produce also an effect upon
offspring, which, though seldom perceptible as regards structure in
a single, or even in several generations, is nevertheless capable of
being accumulated in successive generations till it amounts to
specific and generic difference. I have found the first point as
much as I can treat within the limits of this present article, and
will avail myself of the hospitality of the Universal Review next
month to deal with the second.

The proposition which I have to defend is one which no one till
recently would have questioned, and even now, those who look most
askance at it do not venture to dispute it unreservedly; they every
now and then admit it as conceivable, and even in some cases
probable; nevertheless they seek to minimise it, and to make out
that there is little or no connection between the great mass of the
cells of which the body is composed, and those cells that are alone
capable of reproducing the entire organism. The tendency is to
assign to these last a life of their own, apart from, and
unconnected with that of the other cells of the body, and to cheapen
all evidence that tends to prove any response on their part to the
past history of the individual, and hence ultimately of the race.

Professor Weismann is the foremost exponent of those who take this
line. He has naturally been welcomed by English Charles-Darwinians;
for if his view can be sustained, then it can be contended that use
and disuse produce no transmissible effect, and the ground is cut
from under Lamarck's feet; if, on the other hand, his view is
unfounded, the Lamarckian reaction, already strong, will gain still
further strength. The issue, therefore, is important, and is being
fiercely contested by those who have invested their all of
reputation for discernment in Charles-Darwinian securities.

Professor Weismann's theory is, that at every new birth a part of
the substance which proceeds from parents and which goes to form the
new embryo is not used up in forming the new animal, but remains
apart to generate the germ-cells--or perhaps I should say "germ-
plasm"--which the new animal itself will in due course issue.

Contrasting the generally received view with his own, Professor
Weismann says that according to the first of these "the organism
produces germ-cells afresh again and again, and that it produces
them entirely from its own substance." While by the second "the
germ-cells are no longer looked upon as the product of the parent's
body, at least as far as their essential part--the specific germ-
plasm--is concerned; they are rather considered as something which
is to be placed in contrast with the tout ensemble of the cells
which make up the parent's body, and the germ-cells of succeeding
generations stand in a similar relation to one another as a series
of generations of unicellular organisms arising by a continued
process of cell-division." {30}

On another page he writes:-

"I believe that heredity depends upon the fact that a small portion
of the effective substance of the germ, the germ-plasm, remains
unchanged during the development of the ovum into an organism, and
that this part of the germ-plasm serves as a foundation from which
the germ-cells of the new organism are produced. There is,
therefore, continuity of the germ-plasm from one generation to
another. One might represent the germ-plasm by the metaphor of a
long creeping root-stock from which plants arise at intervals, these
latter representing the individuals of successive generations." {31}

Mr. Wallace, who does not appear to have read Professor Weismann's
essays themselves, but whose remarks are, no doubt, ultimately
derived from the sequel to the passage just quoted from page 266 of
Professor Weismann's book, contends that the impossibility of the
transmission of acquired characters follows as a logical result from
Professor Weismann's theory, inasmuch as the molecular structure of
the germ-plasm that will go to form any succeeding generation is
already predetermined within the still unformed embryo of its
predecessor; "and Weismann," continues Mr. Wallace, "holds that
there are no facts which really prove that acquired characters can
be inherited, although their inheritance has, by most writers, been
considered so probable as hardly to stand in need of direct proof."

Professor Weismann, in passages too numerous to quote, shows that he
recognises this necessity, and acknowledges that the non-
transmission of acquired characters "forms the foundation of the
views" set forth in his book, p. 291.

Professor Ray Lankester does not commit himself absolutely to this
view, but lends it support by saying (Nature, December 12, 1889):
"It is hardly necessary to say that it has never yet been shown
experimentally that ANYTHING acquired by one generation is
transmitted to the next (putting aside diseases)."

Mr. Romanes, writing in Nature, March 18, 1890, and opposing certain
details of Professor Weismann's theory, so far supports it as to say
that "there is the gravest possible doubt lying against the
supposition that any really inherited decrease is due to the
inherited effects of disuse." The "gravest possible doubt" should
mean that Mr. Romanes regards it as a moral certainty that disuse
has no transmitted effect in reducing an organ, and it should follow
that he holds use to have no transmitted effect in its development.
The sequel, however, makes me uncertain how far Mr. Romanes intends
this, and I would refer the reader to the article which Mr. Romanes
has just published on Weismann in the Contemporary Review for this
current month.

The burden of Mr. Thiselton Dyer's controversy with the Duke of
Argyll (see Nature, January 16, 1890, et seq.) was that there was no
evidence in support of the transmission of any acquired
modification. The orthodoxy of science, therefore, must be held as
giving at any rate a provisional support to Professor Weismann, but
all of them, including even Professor Weismann himself, shrink from
committing themselves to the opinion that the germ-cells of any
organisms remain in all cases unaffected by the events that occur to
the other cells of the same organism, and until they do this they
have knocked the bottom out of their case.

From among the passages in which Professor Weismann himself shows a
desire to hedge I may take the following from page 170 of his book:-

"I am also far from asserting that the germ-plasm which, as I hold,
is transmitted as the basis of heredity from one generation to
another, is absolutely unchangeable or totally uninfluenced by
forces residing in the organism within which it is transformed into
germ-cells. I am also compelled to admit it as conceivable that
organisms may exert a modifying influence upon their germ-cells, and
even that such a process is to a certain extent inevitable. The
nutrition and growth of the individual must exercise some influence
upon its germ-cells . . . "

Professor Weismann does indeed go on to say that this influence must
be extremely slight, but we do not care how slight the changes
produced may be provided they exist and can be transmitted. On an
earlier page (p. 101) he said in regard to variations generally that
we should not expect to find them conspicuous; their frequency would
be enough, if they could be accumulated. The same applies here, if
stirring events that occur to the somatic cells can produce any
effect at all on offspring. A very small effect, provided it can be
repeated and accumulated in successive generations, is all that even
the most exacting Lamarckian will ask for.

Having now made the reader acquainted with the position taken by the
leading Charles-Darwinian authorities, I will return to Professor
Weismann himself, who declares that the transmission of acquired
characters "at first sight certainly seems necessary," and that "it
appears rash to attempt to dispense with its aid." He continues:-

"Many phenomena only appear to be intelligible if we assume the
hereditary transmission of such acquired characters as the changes
which we ascribe to the use or disuse of particular organs, or to
the direct influence of climate. Furthermore, how can we explain
instinct as hereditary habit, unless it has gradually arisen by the
accumulation, through heredity, of habits which were practised in
succeeding generations?" {33}

I may say in passing that Professor Weismann appears to suppose that
the view of instinct just given is part of the Charles-Darwinian
system, for on page 889 of his book he says "that many observers had
followed Darwin in explaining them [instincts] as inherited habits."
This was not Mr. Darwin's own view of the matter. He wrote:-

"If we suppose any habitual action to become inherited--and I think
it can be shown that this does sometimes happen--then the
resemblance between what originally was a habit and an instinct
becomes so close as not to be distinguished. . . But it would be the
most serious error to suppose that the greater number of instincts
have been acquired by habit in one generation, and then transmitted
by inheritance to succeeding generations. It can be clearly shown
that the most wonderful instincts with which we are acquainted,
namely, those of the hive-bee and of many ants, could not possibly
have been thus acquired."--["Origin of Species," ed., 1859, p. 209.]

Again we read: "Domestic instincts are sometimes spoken of as
actions which have become inherited solely from long-continued and
compulsory habit, but this, I think, is not true."--Ibid., p. 214.

Again: "I am surprised that no one has advanced this demonstrative
case of neuter insects, against the well-known doctrine of inherited
habit, as advanced by Lamarck."--["Origin of Species," ed. 1872, p.

I am not aware that Lamarck advanced the doctrine that instinct is
inherited habit, but he may have done so in some work that I have
not seen.

It is true, as I have more than once pointed out, that in the later
editions of the "Origin of Species" it is no longer "the MOST
serious" error to refer instincts generally to inherited habit, but
it still remains "a serious error," and this slight relaxation of
severity does not warrant Professor Weismann in ascribing to Mr.
Darwin an opinion which he emphatically condemned. His tone,
however, is so offhand, that those who have little acquaintance with
the literature of evolution would hardly guess that he is not much
better informed on this subject than themselves.

Returning to the inheritance of acquired characters, Professor
Weismann says that this has never been proved either by means of
direct observation or by experiment. "It must be admitted," he
writes, "that there are in existence numerous descriptions of cases
which tend to prove that such mutilations as the loss of fingers,
the scars of wounds, &c., are inherited by the offspring, but in
these descriptions the previous history is invariably obscure, and
hence the evidence loses all scientific value."

The experiments of M. Brown-Sequard throw so much light upon the
question at issue that I will quote at some length from the summary
given by Mr. Darwin in his "Variation of Animals and Plants under
Domestication." {34} Mr. Darwin writes:-

"With respect to the inheritance of structures mutilated by injuries
or altered by disease, it was until lately difficult to come to any
definite conclusion." [Then follow several cases in which
mutilations practised for many generations are not found to be
transmitted.] "Notwithstanding," continues Mr. Darwin, "the above
several negative cases, we now possess conclusive evidence that the
effects of operations are sometimes inherited. Dr. Brown-Sequard
gives the following summary of his observations on guinea-pigs, and
this summary is so important that I will quote the whole:-

"'1st. Appearance of epilepsy in animals born of parents having
been rendered epileptic by an injury to the spinal cord.

"'2nd. Appearance of epilepsy also in animals born of parents
having been rendered epileptic by the section of the sciatic nerve.

"'3rd. A change in the shape of the ear in animals born of parents
in which such a change was the effect of a division of the cervical
sympathetic nerve.

"'4th. Partial closure of the eyelids in animals born of parents in
which that state of the eyelids had been caused either by the
section of the cervical sympathetic nerve or the removal of the
superior cervical ganglion.

"'5th. Exophthalmia in animals born of parents in which an injury
to the restiform body had produced that protrusion of the eyeball.
This interesting fact I have witnessed a good many times, and I have
seen the transmission of the morbid state of the eye continue
through four generations. In these animals modified by heredity,
the two eyes generally protruded, although in the parents usually
only one showed exophthalmia, the lesion having been made in most
cases only on one of the corpora restiformia.

"'6th. Haematoma and dry gangrene of the ears in animals born of
parents in which these ear-alterations had been caused by an injury
to the restiform body near the nib of the calamus.

"'7th. Absence of two toes out of the three of the hind leg, and
sometimes of the three, in animals whose parents had eaten up their
hind-leg toes which had become anaesthetic from a section of the
sciatic nerve alone, or of that nerve and also of the crural.
Sometimes, instead of complete absence of the toes, only a part of
one or two or three was missing in the young, although in the parent
not only the toes but the whole foot was absent (partly eaten off,
partly destroyed by inflammation, ulceration, or gangrene).

"'8th. Appearance of various morbid states of the skin and hair of
the neck and face in animals born of parents having had similar
alterations in the same parts, as effects of an injury to the
sciatic nerve.'

"It should be especially observed that Brown-Sequard has bred during
thirty years many thousand guinea-pigs from animals which had not
been operated upon, and not one of these manifested the epileptic
tendency. Nor has he ever seen a guinea-pig born without toes,
which was not the offspring of parents which had gnawed off their
own toes owing to the sciatic nerve having been divided. Of this
latter fact thirteen instances were carefully recorded, and a
greater number were seen; yet Brown-Sequard speaks of such cases as
one of the rarer forms of inheritance. It is a still more
interesting fact, 'that the sciatic nerve in the congenitally
toeless animal has inherited the power of passing through all the
different morbid states which have occurred in one of its parents
from the time of the division till after its reunion with the
peripheric end. It is not, therefore, simply the power of
performing an action which is inherited, but the power of performing
a whole series of actions, in a certain order.'

"In most of the cases of inheritance recorded by Brown-Sequard only
one of the two parents had been operated upon and was affected. He
concludes by expressing his belief that 'what is transmitted is the
morbid state of the nervous system,' due to the operation performed
on the parents."

Mr. Darwin proceeds to give other instances of inherited effects of

"With the horse there seems hardly a doubt that exostoses on the
legs, caused by too much travelling on hard roads, are inherited.
Blumenbach records the case of a man who had his little finger on
the right hand almost cut off, and which in consequence grew
crooked, and his sons had the same finger on the same hand similarly
crooked. A soldier, fifteen years before his marriage, lost his
left eye from purulent ophthalmia, and his two sons were
microphthalmic on the same side."

The late Professor Rolleston, whose competence as an observer no one
is likely to dispute, gave Mr. Darwin two cases as having fallen
under his own notice, one of a man whose knee had been severely
wounded, and whose child was born with the same spot marked or
scarred, and the other of one who was severely cut upon the cheek,
and whose child was born scarred in the same place. Mr. Darwin's
conclusion was that "the effects of injuries, especially when
followed by disease, or perhaps exclusively when thus followed, are
occasionally inherited."

Let us now see what Professor Weismann has to say against this. He

"The only cases worthy of discussion are the well-known experiments
upon guinea-pigs conducted by the French physiologist, Brown-
Sequard. But the explanation of his results is, in my opinion, open
to discussion. In these cases we have to do with the apparent
transmission of artificially produced malformations . . . All these
effects were said to be transmitted to descendants as far as the
fifth or sixth generation.

"But we must inquire whether these cases are really due to heredity,
and not to simple infection. In the case of epilepsy, at any rate,
it is easy to imagine that the passage of some specific organism
through the reproductive cells may take place, as in the case of
syphilis. We are, however, entirely ignorant of the nature of the
former disease. This suggested explanation may not perhaps apply to
the other cases; but we must remember that animals which have been
subjected to such severe operations upon the nervous system have
sustained a great shock, and if they are capable of breeding, it is
only probable that they will produce weak descendants, and such as
are easily affected by disease. Such a result does not, however,
explain why the offspring should suffer from the same disease as
that which was artificially induced in the parents. But this does
not appear to have been by any means invariably the case. Brown-
Sequard himself says: 'The changes in the eye of the offspring were
of a very variable nature, and were only occasionally exactly
similar to those observed in the parents.'

"There is no doubt, however, that these experiments demand careful
consideration, but before they can claim scientific recognition,
they must be subjected to rigid criticism as to the precautions
taken, the nature and number of the control experiments, &c.

"Up to the present time such necessary conditions have not been
sufficiently observed. The recent experiments themselves are only
described in short preliminary notices, which, as regards their
accuracy, the possibility of mistake, the precautions taken, and the
exact succession of individuals affected, afford no data on which a
scientific opinion can be founded" (pp. 81, 82).

The line Professor Weismann takes, therefore, is to discredit the
facts; yet on a later page we find that the experiments have since
been repeated by Obersteiner, "who has described them in a very
exact and unprejudiced manner," and that "the fact"--(I imagine that
Professor Weismann intends "the facts")--"cannot be doubted."

On a still later page, however, we read:-

"If, for instance, it could be shown that artificial mutilation
spontaneously reappears in the offspring with sufficient frequency
to exclude all possibilities of chance, then such proof [i.e., that
acquired characters can be transmitted] would be forthcoming. The
transmission of mutilations has been frequently asserted, and has
been even recently again brought forward, but all the supposed
instances have broken down when carefully examined" (p. 390).

Here, then, we are told that proof of the occasional transmission of
mutilations would be sufficient to establish the fact, but on p. 267
we find that no single fact is known which really proves that
acquired characters can be transmitted, "FOR THE ASCERTAINED FACTS
but it was mutilation in many cases that Professor Weismann
practically admitted to have been transmitted when he declared that
Obersteiner had verified Brown-Sequard's experiments.

That Professor Weismann recognises the vital importance to his own
theory of the question whether or no mutilations can be transmitted
under any circumstances, is evident from a passage on p. 425 of his
work, on which he says: "It can hardly be doubted that mutilations
are acquired characters; they do not arise from any tendency
contained in the germ, but are merely the reaction of the body under
certain external influences. They are, as I have recently expressed
it, purely somatogenic characters--viz., characters which emanate
from the body (soma) only, as opposed to the germ-cells; they are,
therefore, characters that do not arise from the germ itself.

"If mutilations must necessarily be transmitted" [which no one that
I know of has maintained], "or even if they might occasionally be
transmitted" [which cannot, I imagine, be reasonably questioned], "a
powerful support would be given to the Lamarckian principle, and the
transmission of functional hypertrophy or atrophy would thus become
highly probable."

I have not found any further attempt in Professor Weismann's book to
deal with the evidence adduced by Mr. Darwin to show that
mutilations, if followed by diseases, are sometimes inherited; and I
must leave it to the reader to determine how far Professor Weismann
has shown reason for rejecting Mr. Darwin's conclusion. I do not,
however, dwell upon these facts now as evidence of a transmitted
change of bodily form, or of instinct due to use and disuse or
habit; what they prove is that the germ-cells within the parent's
body do not stand apart from the other cells of the body so
completely as Professor Weismann would have us believe, but that, as
Professor Hering, of Prague, has aptly said, they echo with more or
less frequency and force to the profounder impressions made upon
other cells.

I may say that Professor Weismann does not more cavalierly wave
aside the mass of evidence collected by Mr. Darwin and a host of
other writers, to the effect that mutilations are sometimes
inherited, than does Mr. Wallace, who says that, "as regards
mutilations, it is generally admitted that they are not inherited,
and there is ample evidence on this point." It is indeed generally
admitted that mutilations, when not followed by disease, are very
rarely, if ever, inherited; and Mr. Wallace's appeal to the "ample
evidence" which he alleges to exist on this head, is much as though
he should say that there is ample evidence to show that the days are
longer in summer than in winter. "Nevertheless," he continues, "a
few cases of apparent inheritance of mutilations have been recorded,
and these, if trustworthy, are difficulties in the way of the
theory." . . . "The often-quoted case of a disease induced by
mutilation being inherited (Brown-Sequard's epileptic guinea-pigs)
has been discussed by Professor Weismann and shown to be not
conclusive. The mutilation itself--a section of certain nerves--was
never inherited, but the resulting epilepsy, or a general state of
weakness, deformity, or sores, was sometimes inherited. It is,
however, possible that the mere injury introduced and encouraged the
growth of certain microbes, which, spreading through the organism,
sometimes reached the germ-cells, and thus transmitted a diseased
condition to the offspring." {35}

I suppose a microbe which made guinea-pigs eat their toes off was
communicated to the germ-cells of an unfortunate guinea-pig which
had been already microbed by it, and made the offspring bite its
toes off too. The microbe has a good deal to answer for.

On the case of the deterioration of horses in the Falkland Islands
after a few generations, Professor Weismann says:-

"In such a case we have only to assume that the climate which is
unfavourable, and the nutriment which is insufficient for horses,
affect not only the animal as a whole but also its germ-cells. This
would result in the diminution in size of the germ-cells, the
effects upon the offspring being still further intensified by the
insufficient nourishment supplied during growth. But such results
would not depend upon the transmission by the germ-cells of certain
peculiarities due to the unfavourable climate, which only appear in
the full-grown horse."

But Professor Weismann does not like such cases, and admits that he
cannot explain the facts in connection with the climatic varieties
of certain butterflies, except "by supposing the passive acquisition
of characters produced by the direct influence of climate."

Nevertheless in his next paragraph but one he calls such cases
"doubtful," and proposes that for the moment they should be left
aside. He accordingly leaves them, but I have not yet found what
other moment he considered auspicious for returning to them. He
tells us that "new experiments will be necessary, and that he has
himself already begun to undertake them." Perhaps he will give us
the results of these experiments in some future book--for that they
will prove satisfactory to him can hardly, I think, be doubted. He

"Leaving on one side, for the moment, these doubtful and
insufficiently investigated cases, we may still maintain that the
assumption that changes induced by external conditions in the
organism as a whole are communicated to the germ-cells after the
manner indicated in Darwin's hypothesis of pangenesis, is wholly
unnecessary for the explanation of these phenomena. Still we cannot
exclude the possibility of such a transmission occasionally
occurring, for even if the greater part of the effects must be
attributable to natural selection, there might be a smaller part in
certain cases which depends on this exceptional factor."

I repeatedly tried to understand Mr. Darwin's theory of pangenesis,
and so often failed that I long since gave the matter up in despair.
I did so with the less unwillingness because I saw that no one else
appeared to understand the theory, and that even Mr. Darwin's
warmest adherents regarded it with disfavour. If Mr. Darwin means
that every cell of the body throws off minute particles that find
their way to the germ-cells, and hence into the new embryo, this is
indeed difficult of comprehension and belief. If he means that the
rhythms or vibrations that go on ceaselessly in every cell of the
body communicate themselves with greater or less accuracy or
perturbation, as the case may be, to the cells that go to form
offspring, and that since the characteristics of matter are
determined by vibrations, in communicating vibrations they in effect
communicate matter, according to the view put forward in the last
chapter of my book "Luck or Cunning," {36} then we can better
understand it. I have nothing, however, to do with Mr. Darwin's
theory of pangenesis beyond avoiding the pretence that I understand
either the theory itself or what Professor Weismann says about it;
all I am concerned with is Professor Weismann's admission, made
immediately afterwards, that the somatic cells may, and perhaps
sometimes do, impart characteristics to the germ-cells.

"A complete and satisfactory refutation of such an opinion," he
continues, "cannot be brought forward at present"; so I suppose we
must wait a little longer, but in the meantime we may again remark
that, if we admit even occasional communication of changes in the
somatic cells to the germ-cells, we have let in the thin end of the
wedge, as Mr. Darwin did when he said that use and disuse did a good
deal towards modification. Buffon, in his first volume on the lower
animals, {37} dwells on the impossibility of stopping the breach
once made by admission of variation at all. "If the point," he
writes, "were once gained, that among animals and vegetables there
had been, I do not say several species, but even a single one, which
had been produced in the course of direct descent from another
species; if, for example, it could be once shown that the ass was
but a degeneration from the horse--then there is no farther limit to
be set to the power of Nature, and we should not be wrong in
supposing that with sufficient time she could have evolved all other
organised forms from one primordial type." So with use and disuse
and transmission of acquired characteristics generally--once show
that a single structure or instinct is due to habit in preceding
generations, and we can impose no limit on the results achievable by
accumulation in this respect, nor shall we be wrong in conceiving it
as possible that all specialisation, whether of structure or
instinct, may be due ultimately to habit.

How far this can be shown to be probable is, of course, another
matter, but I am not immediately concerned with this; all I am
concerned with now is to show that the germ-cells not unfrequently
become permanently affected by events that have made a profound
impression upon the somatic cells, in so far that they transmit an
obvious reminiscence of the impression to the embryos which they go
subsequently towards forming. This is all that is necessary for my
case, and I do not find that Professor Weismann, after all, disputes

But here, again, comes the difficulty of saying what Professor
Weismann does, and what he does not, dispute. One moment he gives
all that is wanted for the Lamarckian contention, the next he denies
common-sense the bare necessaries of life. For a more exhaustive
and detailed criticism of Professor Weismann's position, I would
refer the reader to an admirably clear article by Mr. Sidney H.
Vines, which appeared in Nature, October 24, 1889. I can only say
that while reading Professor Weismann's book, I feel as I do when I
read those of Mr. Darwin, and of a good many other writers on
biology whom I need not name. I become like a fly in a window-pane.
I see the sunshine and freedom beyond, and buzz up and down their
pages, ever hopeful to get through them to the fresh air without,
but ever kept back by a mysterious something, which I feel but
cannot either grasp or see. It was not thus when I read Buffon,
Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck; it is not thus when I read such
articles as Mr. Vines's just referred to. Love of self-display, and
the want of singleness of mind that it inevitably engenders--these,
I suppose, are the sins that glaze the casements of most men's
minds; and from these, no matter how hard he tries to free himself,
nor how much he despises them, who is altogether exempt?

Finally, then, when we consider the immense mass of evidence
referred to briefly, but sufficiently, by Mr. Charles Darwin, and
referred to without other, for the most part, than off-hand
dismissal by Professor Weismann in the last of the essays that have
been recently translated, I do not see how any one who brings an
unbiased mind to the question can hesitate as to the side on which
the weight of testimony inclines. Professor Weismann declares that
"the transmission of mutilations may be dismissed into the domain of
fable." {38} If so, then, whom can we trust? What is the use of
science at all if the conclusions of a man as competent as I readily
admit Mr. Darwin to have been, on the evidence laid before him from
countless sources, is to be set aside lightly and without giving the
clearest and most cogent explanation of the why and wherefore? When
we see a person "ostrichising" the evidence which he has to meet, as
clearly as I believe Professor Weismann to be doing, we shall in
nine cases out of ten be right in supposing that he knows the
evidence to be too strong for him.


Now let me return to the recent division of biological opinion into
two main streams--Lamarckism and Weismannism Both Lamarckians and
Weismannists, not to mention mankind in general, admit that the
better adapted to its surroundings a living form may be, the more
likely it is to outbreed its compeers. The world at large, again,
needs not to be told that the normal course is not unfrequently
deflected through the fortunes of war; nevertheless, according to
Lamarckians and Erasmus-Darwinians, habitual effort, guided by ever-
growing intelligence--that is to say, by continued increase of power
in the matter of knowing our likes and dislikes--has been so much
the main factor throughout the course of organic development, that
the rest, though not lost sight of, may be allowed to go without
saying. According, on the other hand, to extreme Charles-Darwinians
and Weismannists, habit, effort and intelligence acquired during the
experience of any one life goes for nothing. Not even a little
fraction of it endures to the benefit of offspring. It dies with
him in whom it is acquired, and the heirs of a man's body take no
interest therein. To state this doctrine is to arouse instinctive
loathing; it is my fortunate task to maintain that such a nightmare
of waste and death is as baseless as it is repulsive.

The split in biological opinion occasioned by the deadlock to which
Charles-Darwinism has been reduced, though comparatively recent,
widens rapidly. Ten years ago Lamarck's name was mentioned only as
a byword for extravagance; now, we cannot take up a number of Nature
without seeing how hot the contention is between his followers and
those of Weismann. This must be referred, as I implied earlier, to
growing perception that Mr. Darwin should either have gone farther
towards Lamarckism or not so far. In admitting use and disuse as
freely as he did, he gave Lamarckians leverage for the overthrow of
a system based ostensibly on the accumulation of fortunate
accidents. In assigning the lion's share of development to the
accumulation of fortunate accidents, he tempted fortuitists to try
to cut the ground from under Lamarck's feet by denying that the
effects of use and disuse can be inherited at all. When the public
had once got to understand what Lamarck had intended, and wherein
Mr. Charles Darwin had differed from him, it became impossible for
Charles-Darwinians to remain where they were, nor is it easy to see
what course was open to them except to cast about for a theory by
which they could get rid of use and disuse altogether. Weismannism,
therefore, is the inevitable outcome of the straits to which
Charles-Darwinians were reduced through the way in which their
leader had halted between two opinions.

This is why Charles-Darwinians, from Professor Huxley downwards,
have kept the difference between Lamarck's opinions and those of Mr.
Darwin so much in the background. Unwillingness to make this
understood is nowhere manifested more clearly than in Dr. Francis
Darwin's life of his father. In this work Lamarck is sneered at
once or twice, and told to go away, but there is no attempt to state
the two cases side by side; from which, as from not a little else, I
conclude that Dr. Francis Darwin has descended from his father with
singularly little modification.

Proceeding to the evidence for the transmissions of acquired habits,
I will quote two recently adduced examples from among the many that
have been credibly attested. The first was contributed to Nature
(March 14, 1889) by Professor Marcus M. Hartog, who wrote:-

"A. B. is moderately myopic and very astigmatic in the left eye;
extremely myopic in the right. As the left eye gave such bad images
for near objects, he was compelled in childhood to mask it, and
acquired the habit of leaning his head on his left arm for writing,
so as to blind that eye, or of resting the left temple and eye on
the hand, with the elbow on the table. At the age of fifteen the
eyes were equalised by the use of suitable spectacles, and he soon
lost the habit completely and permanently. He is now the father of
two children, a boy and a girl, whose vision (tested repeatedly and
fully) is emmetropic in both eyes, so that they have not inherited
the congenital optical defect of their father. All the same, they
have both of them inherited his early acquired habit, and need
constant watchfulness to prevent their hiding the left eye when
writing, by resting the head on the left forearm or hand. Imitation
is here quite out of the question.

"Considering that every habit involves changes in the proportional
development of the muscular and osseous systems, and hence probably
of the nervous system also, the importance of inherited habits,
natural or acquired, cannot be overlooked in the general theory of
inheritance. I am fully aware that I shall be accused of flat
Lamarckism, but a nickname is not an argument."

To this Professor Ray Lankester rejoined (Nature, March 21, 1889):-

"It is not unusual for children to rest the head on the left forearm
or hand when writing, and I doubt whether much value can be attached
to the case described by Professor Hartog. The kind of observation
which his letter suggests is, however, likely to lead to results
either for or against the transmission of acquired characters. An
old friend of mine lost his right arm when a schoolboy, and has ever
since written with his left. He has a large family and
grandchildren, but I have not heard of any of them showing a
disposition to left-handedness."

From Nature (March 21, 1889) I take the second instance communicated
by Mr. J. Jenner-Weir, who wrote as follows:-

"Mr. Marcus M. Hartog's letter of March 6th, inserted in last week's
number (p. 462), is a very valuable contribution to the growing
evidence that acquired characters may be inherited. I have long
held the view that such is often the case, and I have myself
observed several instances of the, at least I may say, apparent

"Many years ago there was a very fine male of the Capra megaceros in
the gardens of the Zoological Society. To restrain this animal from
jumping over the fence of the enclosure in which he was confined, a
long, and heavy chain was attached to the collar round his neck. He
was constantly in the habit of taking this chain up by his horns and
moving it from one side to another over his back; in doing this he
threw his head very much back, his horns being placed in a line with
the back. The habit had become quite chronic with him, and was very
tiresome to look at. I was very much astonished to observe that his
offspring inherited the habit, and although it was not necessary to
attach a chain to their necks, I have often seen a young male
throwing his horns over his back and shifting from side to side an
imaginary chain. The action was exactly the same as that of his
ancestor. The case of the kid of this goat appears to me to be
parallel to that of child and parent given by Mr. Hartog. I think
at the time I made this observation I informed Mr. Darwin of the
fact by letter, and he did not accuse me of 'flat Lamarckism.'"

To this letter there was no rejoinder. It may be said, of course,
that the action of the offspring in each of these cases was due to
accidental coincidence only. Anything can be said, but the question
turns not on what an advocate can say, but on what a reasonably
intelligent and disinterested jury will believe; granted they might
be mistaken in accepting the foregoing stories, but the world of
science, like that of commerce, is based on the faith or confidence,
which both creates and sustains them. Indeed the universe itself is
but the creature of faith, for assuredly we know of no other
foundation. There is nothing so generally and reasonably accepted--
not even our own continued identity--but questions may be raised
about it that will shortly prove unanswerable. We cannot so test
every sixpence given us in change as to be sure that we never take a
bad one, and had better sometimes be cheated than reduce caution to
an absurdity. Moreover, we have seen from the evidence given in my
preceding article that the germ-cells issuing from a parent's body
can, and do, respond to profound impressions made on the somatic-
cells. This being so, what impressions are more profound, what
needs engage more assiduous attention than those connected with
self-protection, the procuring of food, and the continuation of the
species? If the mere anxiety connected with an ill-healing wound
inflicted on but one generation is sometimes found to have so
impressed the germ-cells that they hand down its scars to offspring,
how much more shall not anxieties that have directed action of all
kinds from birth till death, not in one generation only but in a
longer series of generations than the mind can realise to itself,
modify, and indeed control, the organisation of every species?

I see Professor S. H. Vines, in the article on Weismann's theory
referred to in my preceding article, says Mr. Darwin "held that it
was not the sudden variations due to altered external conditions
which become permanent, but those slowly produced by what he termed
'the accumulative action of changed conditions of life.'" Nothing
can be more soundly Lamarckian, and nothing should more conclusively
show that, whatever else Mr. Darwin was, he was not a Charles-
Darwinian; but what evidence other than inferential can from the
nature of the case be adduced in support of this, as I believe,
perfectly correct judgment? None know better than they who clamour
for direct evidence that their master was right in taking the
position assigned to him by Professor Vines, that they cannot
reasonably look for it. With us, as with themselves, modification
proceeds very gradually, and it violates our principles as much as
their own to expect visible permanent progress, in any single
generation, or indeed in any number of generations of wild species
which we have yet had time to observe. Occasionally we can find
such cases, as in that of Branchipus stagnalis, quoted by Mr.
Wallace, or in that of the New Zealand Kea whose skin, I was assured
by the late Sir Julius von Haast, has already been modified as a
consequence of its change of food. Here we can show that in even a
few generations structure is modified under changed conditions of
existence, but as we believe these cases to occur comparatively
rarely, so it is still more rarely that they occur when and where we
can watch them. Nature is eminently conservative, and fixity of
type, even under considerable change of conditions, is surely more
important for the well-being of any species than an over-ready power
of adaptation to, it may be, passing changes. There could be no
steady progress if each generation were not mainly bound by the
traditions of those that have gone before it. It is evolution and
not incessant revolution that both parties are upholding; and this
being so, rapid visible modification must be the exception, not the
rule. I have quoted direct evidence adduced by competent observers,
which is, I believe, sufficient to establish the fact that offspring
can be and is sometimes modified by the acquired habits of a
progenitor. I will now proceed to the still more, as it appears to
me, cogent proof afforded by general considerations.

What, let me ask, are the principal phenomena of heredity? There
must be physical continuity between parent, or parents, and
offspring, so that the offspring is, as Erasmus Darwin well said, a
kind of elongation of the life of the parent.

Erasmus Darwin put the matter so well that I may as well give his
words in full; he wrote:-

"Owing to the imperfection of language the offspring is termed a new
animal, but is in truth a branch or elongation of the parent, since
a part of the embryon animal is, or was, a part of the parent, and
therefore, in strict language, cannot be said to be entirely new at
the time of its production; and therefore it may retain some of the
habits of the parent system.

"At the earliest period of its existence the embryon would seem to
consist of a living filament with certain capabilities of
irritation, sensation, volition, and association, and also with some
acquired habits or propensities peculiar to the parent; the former
of these are in common with other animals; the latter seem to
distinguish or produce the kind of animal, whether man or quadruped,
with the similarity of feature or form to the parent." {39}

Those who accept evolution insist on unbroken physical continuity
between the earliest known life and ourselves, so that we both are
and are not personally identical with the unicellular organism from
which we have descended in the course of many millions of years,
exactly in the same way as an octogenarian both is and is not
personally identical with the microscopic impregnate ovum from which
he grew up. Everything both is and is not. There is no such thing
as strict identity between any two things in any two consecutive
seconds. In strictness they are identical and yet not identical, so
that in strictness they violate a fundamental rule of strictness--
namely, that a thing shall never be itself and not itself at one and
the same time; we must choose between logic and dealing in a
practical spirit with time and space; it is not surprising,
therefore, that logic, in spite of the show of respect outwardly
paid to her, is told to stand aside when people come to practice.
In practice identity is generally held to exist where continuity is
only broken slowly and piecemeal, nevertheless, that occasional
periods of even rapid change are not held to bar identity, appears
from the fact that no one denies this to hold between the
microscopically small impregnate ovum and the born child that
springs from it, nor yet, therefore, between the impregnate ovum and
the octogenarian into which the child grows; for both ovum and
octogenarian are held personally identical with the newborn baby,
and things that are identical with the same are identical with one

The first, then, and most important element of heredity is that
there should be unbroken continuity, and hence sameness of
personality, between parents and offspring, in neither more nor less
than the same sense as that in which any other two personalities are
said to be the same. The repetition, therefore, of its
developmental stages by any offspring must be regarded as something
which the embryo repeating them has already done once, in the person
of one or other parent; and if once, then, as many times as there
have been generations between any given embryo now repeating it, and
the point in life from which we started--say, for example, the
amoeba. In the case of asexually and sexually produced organisms
alike, the offspring must be held to continue the personality of the
parent or parents, and hence on the occasion of every fresh
development, to be repeating something which in the person of its
parent or parents it has done once, and if once, then any number of
times, already.

It is obvious, therefore, that the germ-plasm (or whatever the fancy
word for it may be) of any one generation is as physically identical
with the germ-plasm of its predecessor as any two things can be.
The difference between Professor Weismann and, we will say,
Heringians consists in the fact that the first maintains the new
germ-plasm when on the point of repeating its developmental
processes to take practically no cognisance of anything that has
happened to it since the last occasion on which it developed itself;
while the latter maintain that offspring takes much the same kind of
account of what has happened to it in the persons of its parents
since the last occasion on which it developed itself, as people in
ordinary life take of things that happen to them. In daily life
people let fairly normal circumstances come and go without much heed
as matters of course. If they have been lucky they make a note of
it and try to repeat their success. If they have been unfortunate
but have recovered rapidly they soon forget it; if they have
suffered long and deeply they grizzle over it and are scared and
scarred by it for a long time. The question is one of cognisance or
non-cognisance on the part of the new germs, of the more profound
impressions made on them while they were one with their parents,
between the occasion of their last preceding development, and the
new course on which they are about to enter. Those who accept the
theory put forward independently by Professor Hering of Prague
(whose work on this subject is translated in my book, "Unconscious
Memory") {40} and by myself in "Life and Habit," {41} believe in
cognizance, as do Lamarckians generally. Weismannites, and with
them the orthodoxy of English science, find non-cognisance more

If the Heringian view is accepted, that heredity is only a mode of
memory, and an extension of memory from one generation to another,
then the repetition of its development by any embryo thus becomes
only the repetition of a lesson learned by rote; and, as I have
elsewhere said, our view of life is simplified by finding that it is
no longer an equation of, say, a hundred unknown quantities, but of
ninety-nine only, inasmuch as two of the unknown quantities prove to
be substantially identical. In this case the inheritance of
acquired characteristics cannot be disputed, for it is postulated in
the theory that each embryo takes note of, remembers and is guided
by the profounder impressions made upon it while in the persons of
its parents, between its present and last preceding development. To
maintain this is to maintain use and disuse to be the main factors
throughout organic development; to deny it is to deny that use and
disuse can have any conceivable effect. For the detailed reasons
which led me to my own conclusions I must refer the reader to my
books, "Life and Habit" {42} and "Unconscious Memory," {42} the
conclusions of which have been often adopted, but never, that I have
seen, disputed. A brief resume of the leading points in the
argument is all that space will here allow me to give.

We have seen that it is a first requirement of heredity that there
shall be physical continuity between parents and offspring. This
holds good with memory. There must be continued identity between
the person remembering and the person to whom the thing that is
remembered happened. We cannot remember things that happened to
some one else, and in our absence. We can only remember having
heard of them. We have seen, however, that there is as much bona-
fide sameness of personality between parents and offspring up to the
time at which the offspring quits the parent's body, as there is
between the different states of the parent himself at any two
consecutive moments; the offspring therefore, being one and the same
person with its progenitors until it quits them, can be held to
remember what happened to them within, of course, the limitations to
which all memory is subject, as much as the progenitors can remember
what happened earlier to themselves. Whether it does so remember
can only be settled by observing whether it acts as living beings
commonly do when they are acting under guidance of memory. I will
endeavour to show that, though heredity and habit based on memory go
about in different dresses, yet if we catch them separately--for
they are never seen together--and strip them there is not a mole nor
strawberry-mark, nor trick nor leer of the one, but we find it in
the other also.

What are the moles and strawberry-marks of habitual action, or
actions remembered and thus repeated? First, the more often we
repeat them the more easily and unconsciously we do them. Look at
reading, writing, walking, talking, playing the piano, &c.; the
longer we have practised any one of these acquired habits, the more
easily, automatically and unconsciously, we perform it. Look, on
the other hand, broadly, at the three points to which I called
attention in "Life and Habit":-

I. That we are most conscious of and have most control over such
habits as speech, the upright position, the arts and sciences--which
are acquisitions peculiar to the human race, always acquired after
birth, and not common to ourselves and any ancestor who had not
become entirely human.

II. That we are less conscious of and have less control over eating
and drinking [provided the food be normal], swallowing, breathing,
seeing, and hearing--which were acquisitions of our prehuman
ancestry, and for which we had provided ourselves with all the
necessary apparatus before we saw light, but which are still,
geologically speaking, recent.

III. That we are most unconscious of and have least control over
our digestion and circulation--powers possessed even by our
invertebrate ancestry, and, geologically speaking, of extreme

I have put the foregoing very broadly, but enough is given to show
the reader the gist of the argument. Let it be noted that
disturbance and departure, to any serious extent, from normal
practice tends to induce resumption of consciousness even in the
case of such old habits as breathing, seeing, and hearing, digestion
and the circulation of the blood. So it is with habitual actions in
general. Let a player be never so proficient on any instrument, he
will be put out if the normal conditions under which he plays are
too widely departed from, and will then do consciously, if indeed he
can do it at all, what he had hitherto been doing unconsciously. It
is an axiom as regards actions acquired after birth, that we never
do them automatically save as the result of long practice; the
stages in the case of any acquired facility, the inception of which
we have been able to watch, have invariably been from a nothingness
of ignorant impotence to a little somethingness of highly self-
conscious, arduous performance, and thence to the
unselfconsciousness of easy mastery. I saw one year a poor blind
lad of about eighteen sitting on a wall by the wayside at Varese,
playing the concertina with his whole body, and snorting like a
child. The next year the boy no longer snorted, and he played with
his fingers only; the year after that he seemed hardly to know
whether he was playing or not, it came so easily to him. I know no
exception to this rule. Where is the intricate and at one time
difficult art in which perfect automatic ease has been reached
except as the result of long practice? If, then, wherever we can
trace the development of automatism we find it to have taken this
course, is it not most reasonable to infer that it has taken the
same even when it has risen in regions that are beyond our ken?
Ought we not, whenever we see a difficult action performed,
automatically to suspect antecedent practice? Granted that without
the considerations in regard to identity presented above it would
not have been easy to see where a baby of a day old could have had
the practice which enables it to do as much as it does
unconsciously, but even without these considerations it would have
been more easy to suppose that the necessary opportunities had not
been wanting, than that the easy performance could have been gained
without practice and memory.

When I wrote "Life and Habit" (originally published in 1877) I said
in slightly different words:-

"Shall we say that a baby of a day old sucks (which involves the
whole principle of the pump and hence a profound practical knowledge
of the laws of pneumatics and hydrostatics), digests, oxygenises its
blood--millions of years before any one had discovered oxygen--sees
and hears, operations that involve an unconscious knowledge of the
facts concerning optics and acoustics compared with which the
conscious discoveries of Newton are insignificant--shall we say that
a baby can do all these things at once, doing them so well and so
regularly without being even able to give them attention, and yet
without mistake, and shall we also say at the same time that it has
not learnt to do them, and never did them before?

"Such an assertion would contradict the whole experience of

I have met with nothing during the thirteen years since the
foregoing was published that has given me any qualms about its
soundness. From the point of view of the law courts and everyday
life it is, of course, nonsense; but in the kingdom of thought, as
in that of heaven, there are many mansions, and what would be
extravagance in the cottage or farmhouse, as it were, of daily
practice, is but common decency in the palace of high philosophy,
wherein dwells evolution. If we leave evolution alone, we may stick
to common practice and the law courts; touch evolution and we are in
another world; not higher, not lower, but different as harmony from
counterpoint. As, however, in the most absolute counterpoint there
is still harmony, and in the most absolute harmony still
counterpoint, so high philosophy should be still in touch with
common sense, and common sense with high philosophy.

The common-sense view of the matter to people who are not over-
curious and to whom time is money, will be that a baby is not a baby
until it is born, and that when born it should be born in wedlock.
Nevertheless, as a sop to high philosophy, every baby is allowed to
be the offspring of its father and mother.

The high-philosophy view of the matter is that every human being is
still but a fresh edition of the primordial cell with the latest
additions and corrections; there has been no leap nor break in
continuity anywhere; the man of to-day is the primordial cell of
millions of years ago as truly as he is the himself of yesterday; he
can only be denied to be the one on grounds that will prove him not
to be the other. Every one is both himself and all his direct
ancestors and descendants as well; therefore, if we would be
logical, he is one also with all his cousins, no matter how distant,
for he and they are alike identical with the primordial cell, and we
have already noted it as an axiom that things which are identical
with the same are identical with one another. This is practically
making him one with all living things, whether animal or vegetable,
that ever have existed or ever will--something of all which may have
been in the mind of Sophocles when he wrote:-

"Nor seest thou yet the gathering hosts of ill
That shall en-one thee both with thine own self
And with thine offspring."

And all this has come of admitting that a man may be the same person
for two days running! As for sopping common sense it will be enough
to say that these remarks are to be taken in a strictly scientific
sense, and have no appreciable importance as regards life and
conduct. True they deal with the foundations on which all life and
conduct are based, but like other foundations they are hidden out of
sight, and the sounder they are, the less we trouble ourselves about

What other main common features between heredity and memory may we
note besides the fact that neither can exist without that kind of
physical continuity which we call personal identity? First, the
development of the embryo proceeds in an established order; so must
all habitual actions based on memory. Disturb the normal order and
the performance is arrested. The better we know "God save the
Queen," the less easily can we play or sing it backwards. The
return of memory again depends on the return of ideas associated
with the particular thing that is remembered--we remember nothing
but for the presence of these, and when enough of these are
presented to us we remember everything. So, if the development of
an embryo is due to memory, we should suppose the memory of the
impregnate ovum to revert not to yesterday, when it was in the
persons of its parents, but to the last occasion on which it was an
impregnate ovum. The return of the old environment and the presence
of old associations would at once involve recollection of the course
that should be next taken, and the same should happen throughout the
whole course of development. The actual course of development
presents precisely the phenomena agreeable with this. For fuller
treatment of this point I must refer the reader to the chapter on
the abeyance of memory in my book "Life and Habit," already referred

Secondly, we remember best our last few performances of any given
kind, so our present performance will probably resemble some one or
other of these; we remember our earlier performances by way of
residuum only, but every now and then we revert to an earlier habit.
This feature of memory is manifested in heredity by the way in which
offspring commonly resembles most its nearer ancestors, but
sometimes reverts to earlier ones. Brothers and sisters, each as it
were giving their own version of the same story, but in different
words, should generally resemble each other more closely than more
distant relations. And this is what actually we find.

Thirdly, the introduction of slightly new elements into a method
already established varies it beneficially; the new is soon fused
with the old, and the monotony ceases to be oppressive. But if the
new be too foreign, we cannot fuse the old and the new--nature
seeming to hate equally too wide a deviation from ordinary practice
and none at all. This fact reappears in heredity as the beneficial
effects of occasional crossing on the one hand, and on the other, in
the generally observed sterility of hybrids. If heredity be an
affair of memory, how can an embryo, say of a mule, be expected to
build up a mule on the strength of but two mule-memories? Hybridism
causes a fault in the chain of memory, and it is to this cause that
the usual sterility of hybrids must be referred.

Fourthly, it requires many repeated impressions to fix a method
firmly, but when it has been engrained into us we cease to have much
recollection of the manner in which it came to be so, or indeed of
any individual repetition, but sometimes a single impression, if
prolonged as well as profound, produces a lasting impression and is
liable to return with sudden force, and then to go on returning to
us at intervals. As a general rule, however, abnormal impressions
cannot long hold their own against the overwhelming preponderance of
normal authority. This appears in heredity as the normal non-
inheritance of mutilations on the one hand, and on the other as
their occasional inheritance in the case of injuries followed by

Fifthly, if heredity and memory are essentially the same, we should
expect that no animal would develop new structures of importance
after the age at which its species begins ordinarily to continue its
race; for we cannot suppose offspring to remember anything that
happens to the parent subsequently to the parent's ceasing to
contain the offspring within itself. From the average age,
therefore, of reproduction, offspring should cease to have any
farther steady, continuous memory to fall back upon; what memory
there is should be full of faults, and as such unreliable. An
organism ought to develop as long as it is backed by memory--that is
to say, until the average age at which reproduction begins; it
should then continue to go for a time on the impetus already
received, and should eventually decay through failure of any memory
to support it, and tell it what to do. This corresponds absolutely
with what we observe in organisms generally, and explains, on the
one hand, why the age of puberty marks the beginning of completed
development--a riddle hitherto not only unexplained but, so far as I
have seen, unasked; it explains, on the other hand, the phenomena of
old age--hitherto without even attempt at explanation.

Sixthly, those organisms that are the longest in reaching maturity
should on the average be the longest-lived, for they will have
received the most momentous impulse from the weight of memory behind
them. This harmonises with the latest opinion as to the facts. In
his article on Weismann in the Contemporary Review for May 1890, Mr.
Romanes writes: "Professor Weismann has shown that there is
throughout the metazoa a general correlation between the natural
lifetime of individuals composing any given species, and the age at
which they reach maturity or first become capable of procreation."
This, I believe, has been the conclusion generally arrived at by
biologists for some years past.

Lateness, then, in the average age of reproduction appears to be the
principle underlying longevity. There does not appear at first
sight to be much connection between such distinct and apparently
disconnected phenomena as 1, the orderly normal progress of
development; 2, atavism and the resumption of feral characteristics;
3, the more ordinary resemblance inter se of nearer relatives; 4,
the benefit of an occasional cross, and the usual sterility of
hybrids; 5, the unconsciousness with which alike bodily development
and ordinary physiological functions proceed, so long as they are
normal; 6, the ordinary non-inheritance, but occasional inheritance
of mutilations; 7, the fact that puberty indicates the approach of
maturity; 8, the phenomena of middle life and old age; 9, the
principle underlying longevity. These phenomena have no conceivable
bearing on one another until heredity and memory are regarded as
part of the same story. Identify these two things, and I know no
phenomenon of heredity that does not immediately become infinitely
more intelligible. Is it conceivable that a theory which harmonises
so many facts hitherto regarded as without either connection or
explanation should not deserve at any rate consideration from those
who profess to take an interest in biology?

It is not as though the theory were unknown, or had been condemned
by our leading men of science. Professor Ray Lankester introduced
it to English readers in an appreciative notice of Professor
Hering's address, which appeared in Nature, July 18, 1876. He wrote
to the Athenaeum, March 24, 1884, and claimed credit for having done
so, but I do not believe he has ever said more in public about it
than what I have here referred to. Mr. Romanes did indeed try to
crush it in Nature, January 27, 1881, but in 1883, in his "Mental
Evolution in Animals," he adopted its main conclusion without
acknowledgment. The Athenaeum, to my unbounded surprise, called him
to task for this (March 1, 1884), and since that time he has given
the Heringian theory a sufficiently wide berth. Mr. Wallace showed
himself favourably enough disposed towards the view that heredity
and memory are part of the same story when he reviewed my book "Life
and Habit" in Nature, March 27, 1879, but he has never since
betrayed any sign of being aware that such a theory existed. Mr.
Herbert Spencer wrote to the Athenaeum (April 5, 1884), and claimed
the theory for himself, but, in spite of his doing this, he has
never, that I have seen, referred to the matter again. I have dealt
sufficiently with his claim in my book, "Luck or Cunning." {43}
Lastly, Professor Hering himself has never that I know of touched
his own theory since the single short address read in 1870, and
translated by me in 1881. Every one, even its originator, except
myself, seems afraid to open his mouth about it. Of course the
inference suggests itself that other people have more sense than I
have. I readily admit it; but why have so many of our leaders shown
such a strong hankering after the theory, if there is nothing in it?

The deadlock that I have pointed out as existing in Darwinism will,
I doubt not, lead ere long to a consideration of Professor Hering's
theory. English biologists are little likely to find Weismann
satisfactory for long, and if he breaks down there is nothing left
for them but Lamarck, supplemented by the important and elucidatory
corollary on his theory proposed by Professor Hering. When the time
arrives for this to obtain a hearing it will be confirmed,
doubtless, by arguments clearer and more forcible than any I have
been able to adduce; I shall then be delighted to resign the
championship which till then I shall continue, as for some years
past, to have much pleasure in sustaining. Heretofore my
satisfaction has mainly lain in the fact that more of our prominent
men of science have seemed anxious to claim the theory than to
refute it; in the confidence thus engendered I leave it to any
fuller consideration which the outline I have above given may
incline the reader to bestow upon it.


{21} "Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle," iii. p. 237.

{22} "Luck, or Cunning, as the main means of Organic Modification?"
(Longmans), pp. 179, 180.

{23} Journals of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Zoology,
vol. iii.), 1859, p. 61.

{24} "Darwinism" (Macmillan, 1889), p. 129.

{25} Longmans, 1890, p. 376.

{26} See Nature, March 6, 1890.

{27} "Origin of Species," sixth edition, 1888, vol. i. p. 168.

{28} "Origin of Species," sixth edition, 1888, vol. ii. p. 261.

{29} Mr. J. T. Cunningham, of the Marine Biological Laboratory,
Plymouth, has called my attention to the fact that I have ascribed
to Professor Ray Lankester a criticism on Mr. Wallace's remarks upon
the eyes of certain fiat-fish, which Professor Ray Lankester was, in
reality, only adopting--with full acknowledgment--from Mr.
Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham has left it to me whether to correct my
omission publicly or not, but he would so plainly prefer my doing so
that I consider myself bound to insert this note. Curiously enough
I find that in my book "Evolution Old and New," I gave what Lamarck
actually said upon the eyes of flat-fish, and having been led to
return to the subject, I may as well quote his words. He wrote:-

"Need--always occasioned by the circumstances in which an animal is
placed, and followed by sustained efforts at gratification--can not
only modify an organ--that is to say, augment or reduce it--but can
change its position when the case requires its removal.

"Ocean fishes have occasion to see what is on either side of them,
and have their eyes accordingly placed on either side of their head.
Some fishes, however, have their abode near coasts on submarine
banks and inclinations, and are thus forced to flatten themselves as
much as possible in order to get as near as they can to the shore.
In this situation they receive more light from above than from
below, and find it necessary to pay attention to whatever happens to
be above them; this need has involved the displacement of their
eyes, which now take the remarkable position which we observe in the
case of soles, turbots, plaice, &c. The transfer of position is not
even yet complete in the case of these fishes, and the eyes are not,
therefore, symmetrically placed; but they are so with the skate,
whose head and whole body are equally disposed on either side a
longitudinal section. Hence the eyes of this fish are placed
symmetrically upon the uppermost side."--Philosophie Zoologique,
tom. i., pp. 250, 251. Edition C. Martins. Paris, 1873.

{30} "Essays on Heredity," &c., Oxford, 1889, p. 171.

{31} "Essays on Heredity," &c., Oxford, 1889, p. 266.

{32} "Darwinism," 1889, p. 440.

{33} Page 83.

{34} Vol. i. p. 466, &c. Ed. 1885.

{35} "Darwinism," p. 440.

{36} Longmans, 1890.

{37} Tom. iv. p. 383. Ed. 1753.

{38} Essays, &c., p. 447.

{39} "Zoonomia," 1794, vol. i. p. 480.

{40} Longmans, 1890.

{41} Longmans, 1890.

{42} Longmans, 1890.

{43} Longmans, 1890.

Samuel Butler

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