"As this paper contains nothing which deserves the name either of experiment or discovery, and as it is, in fact, destitute of every species of merit, we should have allowed it to pass among the multitude of those articles which must always find their way into the collections of a society which is pledged to publish two or three volumes every year. . . . We wish to raise our feeble voice against innovations, that can have no other effect than to check the progress of science, and renew all those wild phantoms of the imagination which Bacon and Newton put to flight from her temple."--Opening Paragraph of a Review of Dr. Young's Bakerian Lecture. Edinburgh Review, January 1803, p. 450.
"Young's work was laid before the Royal society, and was made the 1801 Bakerian Lecture. But he was before his time. The second number of the Edinburgh Review contained an article levelled against him by Henry (afterwards Lord) Brougham, and this was so severe an attack that Young's ideas were absolutely quenched for fifteen years. Brougham was then only twenty-four years of age. Young's theory was reproduced in France by Fresnel. In our days it is the accepted theory, and is found to explain all the phenomena of light."--Times Report of a Lecture by Professor Tyndall on Light, April 27, 1880.
Is inscribed to
RICHARD GARNETT, ESQ.
(Of the British Museum)
In grateful acknowledgment of the unwearying kindness with which he has so often placed at my disposal his varied store of information.
For many years a link in the chain of Samuel Butler's biological works has been missing. "Unconscious Memory" was originally published thirty years ago, but for fully half that period it has been out of print, owing to the destruction of a large number of the unbound sheets in a fire at the premises of the printers some years ago. The present reprint comes, I think, at a peculiarly fortunate moment, since the attention of the general public has of late been drawn to Butler's biological theories in a marked manner by several distinguished men of science, notably by Dr. Francis Darwin, who, in his presidential address to the British Association in 1908, quoted from the translation of Hering's address on "Memory as a Universal Function of Original Matter," which Butler incorporated into "Unconscious Memory," and spoke in the highest terms of Butler himself. It is not necessary for me to do more than refer to the changed attitude of scientific authorities with regard to Butler and his theories, since Professor Marcus Hartog has most kindly consented to contribute an introduction to the present edition of "Unconscious Memory," summarising Butler's views upon biology, and defining his position in the world of science. A word must be said as to the controversy between Butler and Darwin, with which Chapter IV is concerned. I have been told that in reissuing the book at all I am committing a grievous error of taste, that the world is no longer interested in these "old, unhappy far-off things and battles long ago," and that Butler himself, by refraining from republishing "Unconscious Memory," tacitly admitted that he wished the controversy to be consigned to oblivion. This last suggestion, at any rate, has no foundation in fact. Butler desired nothing less than that his vindication of himself against what he considered unfair treatment should be forgotten. He would have republished "Unconscious Memory" himself, had not the latter years of his life been devoted to all- engrossing work in other fields. In issuing the present edition I am fulfilling a wish that he expressed to me shortly before his death.
R. A. STREATFEILD.
INTRODUCTION By Marcus Hartog, M.A. D.Sc., F.L.S., F.R.H.S.
In reviewing Samuel Butler's works, "Unconscious Memory" gives us an invaluable lead; for it tells us (Chaps. II, III) how the author came to write the Book of the Machines in "Erewhon" (1872), with its foreshadowing of the later theory, "Life and Habit," (1878), "Evolution, Old and New" (1879), as well as "Unconscious Memory" (1880) itself. His fourth book on biological theory was "Luck? or Cunning?" (1887). [0a]
Besides these books, his contributions to biology comprise several essays: "Remarks on Romanes' Mental Evolution in Animals, contained in "Selections from Previous Works" (1884) incorporated into "Luck? or Cunning," "The Deadlock in Darwinism" (Universal Review, April- June, 1890), republished in the posthumous volume of "Essays on Life, Art, and Science" (1904), and, finally, some of the "Extracts from the Notebooks of the late Samuel Butler," edited by Mr. H. Festing Jones, now in course of publication in the New Quarterly Review.
Of all these, "LIFE AND HABIT" (1878) is the most important, the main building to which the other writings are buttresses or, at most, annexes. Its teaching has been summarised in "Unconscious Memory" in four main principles: "(1) the oneness of personality between parent and offspring; (2) memory on the part of the offspring of certain actions which it did when in the persons of its forefathers; (3) the latency of that memory until it is rekindled by a recurrence of the associated ideas; (4) the unconsciousness with which habitual actions come to be performed." To these we must add a fifth: the purposiveness of the actions of living beings, as of the machines which they make or select.
Butler tells ("Life and Habit," p. 33) that he sometimes hoped "that this book would be regarded as a valuable adjunct to Darwinism." He was bitterly disappointed in the event, for the book, as a whole, was received by professional biologists as a gigantic joke--a joke, moreover, not in the best possible taste. True, its central ideas, largely those of Lamarck, had been presented by Hering in 1870 (as Butler found shortly after his publication); they had been favourably received, developed by Haeckel, expounded and praised by Ray Lankester. Coming from Butler, they met with contumely, even from such men as Romanes, who, as Butler had no difficulty in proving, were unconsciously inspired by the same ideas--"Nur mit ein bischen ander'n Worter."
It is easy, looking back, to see why "Life and Habit" so missed its mark. Charles Darwin's presentation of the evolution theory had, for the first time, rendered it possible for a "sound naturalist" to accept the doctrine of common descent with divergence; and so given a real meaning to the term "natural relationship," which had forced itself upon the older naturalists, despite their belief in special and independent creations. The immediate aim of the naturalists of the day was now to fill up the gaps in their knowledge, so as to strengthen the fabric of a unified biology. For this purpose they found their actual scientific equipment so inadequate that they were fully occupied in inventing fresh technique, and working therewith at facts--save a few critics, such as St. George Mivart, who was regarded as negligible, since he evidently held a brief for a party standing outside the scientific world.
Butler introduced himself as what we now call "The Man in the Street," far too bare of scientific clothing to satisfy the Mrs. Grundy of the domain: lacking all recognised tools of science and all sense of the difficulties in his way, he proceeded to tackle the problems of science with little save the deft pen of the literary expert in his hand. His very failure to appreciate the difficulties gave greater power to his work--much as Tartarin of Tarascon ascended the Jungfrau and faced successfully all dangers of Alpine travel, so long as he believed them to be the mere "blagues de reclame" of the wily Swiss host. His brilliant qualities of style and irony themselves told heavily against him. Was he not already known for having written the most trenchant satire that had appeared since "Gulliver's Travels"? Had he not sneered therein at the very foundations of society, and followed up its success by a pseudo- biography that had taken in the "Record" and the "Rock"? In "Life and Habit," at the very start, he goes out of his way to heap scorn at the respected names of Marcus Aurelius, Lord Bacon, Goethe, Arnold of Rugby, and Dr. W. B. Carpenter. He expressed the lowest opinion of the Fellows of the Royal Society. To him the professional man of science, with self-conscious knowledge for his ideal and aim, was a medicine-man, priest, augur--useful, perhaps, in his way, but to be carefully watched by all who value freedom of thought and person, lest with opportunity he develop into a persecutor of the worst type. Not content with blackguarding the audience to whom his work should most appeal, he went on to depreciate that work itself and its author in his finest vein of irony. Having argued that our best and highest knowledge is that of whose possession we are most ignorant, he proceeds: "Above all, let no unwary reader do me the injustice of believing in me. In that I write at all I am among the damned."
His writing of "EVOLUTION, OLD AND NEW" (1879) was due to his conviction that scant justice had been done by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace and their admirers to the pioneering work of Buffon, Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck. To repair this he gives a brilliant exposition of what seemed to him the most valuable portion of their teachings on evolution. His analysis of Buffon's true meaning, veiled by the reticences due to the conditions under which he wrote, is as masterly as the English in which he develops it. His sense of wounded justice explains the vigorous polemic which here, as in all his later writings, he carries to the extreme.
As a matter of fact, he never realised Charles Darwin's utter lack of sympathetic understanding of the work of his French precursors, let alone his own grandfather, Erasmus. Yet this practical ignorance, which to Butler was so strange as to transcend belief, was altogether genuine, and easy to realise when we recall the position of Natural Science in the early thirties in Darwin's student days at Cambridge, and for a decade or two later. Catastropharianism was the tenet of the day: to the last it commended itself to his Professors of Botany and Geology,--for whom Darwin held the fervent allegiance of the Indian scholar, or chela, to his guru. As Geikie has recently pointed out, it was only later, when Lyell had shown that the breaks in the succession of the rocks were only partial and local, without involving the universal catastrophes that destroyed all life and rendered fresh creations thereof necessary, that any general acceptance of a descent theory could be expected. We may be very sure that Darwin must have received many solemn warnings against the dangerous speculations of the "French Revolutionary School." He himself was far too busy at the time with the reception and assimilation of new facts to be awake to the deeper interest of far- reaching theories.
It is the more unfortunate that Butler's lack of appreciation on these points should have led to the enormous proportion of bitter personal controversy that we find in the remainder of his biological writings. Possibly, as suggested by George Bernard Shaw, his acquaintance and admirer, he was also swayed by philosophical resentment at that banishment of mind from the organic universe, which was generally thought to have been achieved by Charles Darwin's theory. Still, we must remember that this mindless view is not implicit in Charles Darwin's presentment of his own theory, nor was it accepted by him as it has been by so many of his professed disciples.
"UNCONSCIOUS MEMORY" (1880).--We have already alluded to an anticipation of Butler's main theses. In 1870 Dr. Ewald Hering, one of the most eminent physiologists of the day, Professor at Vienna, gave an Inaugural Address to the Imperial Royal Academy of Sciences: "Das Gedachtniss als allgemeine Funktion der organisirter Substanz" ("Memory as a Universal Function of Organised Matter"). When "Life and Habit" was well advanced, Francis Darwin, at the time a frequent visitor, called Butler's attention to this essay, which he himself only knew from an article in "Nature." Herein Professor E. Ray Lankester had referred to it with admiring sympathy in connection with its further development by Haeckel in a pamphlet entitled "Die Perigenese der Plastidule." We may note, however, that in his collected Essays, "The Advancement of Science" (1890), Sir Ray Lankester, while including this Essay, inserts on the blank page [0b]--we had almost written "the white sheet"--at the back of it an apology for having ever advocated the possibility of the transmission of acquired characters.
"Unconscious Memory" was largely written to show the relation of Butler's views to Hering's, and contains an exquisitely written translation of the Address. Hering does, indeed, anticipate Butler, and that in language far more suitable to the persuasion of the scientific public. It contains a subsidiary hypothesis that memory has for its mechanism special vibrations of the protoplasm, and the acquired capacity to respond to such vibrations once felt upon their repetition. I do not think that the theory gains anything by the introduction of this even as a mere formal hypothesis; and there is no evidence for its being anything more. Butler, however, gives it a warm, nay, enthusiastic, reception in Chapter V (Introduction to Professor Hering's lecture), and in his notes to the translation of the Address, which bulks so large in this book, but points out that he was "not committed to this hypothesis, though inclined to accept it on a prima facie view." Later on, as we shall see, he attached more importance to it.
The Hering Address is followed in "Unconscious Memory" by translations of selected passages from Von Hartmann's "Philosophy of the Unconscious," and annotations to explain the difference from this personification of "The Unconscious" as a mighty all-ruling, all- creating personality, and his own scientific recognition of the great part played by UNCONSCIOUS PROCESSES in the region of mind and memory.
These are the essentials of the book as a contribution to biological philosophy. The closing chapters contain a lucid statement of objections to his theory as they might be put by a rigid necessitarian, and a refutation of that interpretation as applied to human action.
But in the second chapter Butler states his recession from the strong logical position he had hitherto developed in his writings from "Erewhon" onwards; so far he had not only distinguished the living from the non-living, but distinguished among the latter MACHINES or TOOLS from THINGS AT LARGE. [0c] Machines or tools are the external organs of living beings, as organs are their internal machines: they are fashioned, assembled, or selected by the beings for a purposes so they have a FUTURE PURPOSE, as well as a PAST HISTORY. "Things at large" have a past history, but no purpose (so long as some being does not convert them into tools and give them a purpose): Machines have a Why? as well as a How?: "things at large" have a How? only.
In "Unconscious Memory" the allurements of unitary or monistic views have gained the upper hand, and Butler writes (p. 23):-
"The only thing of which I am sure is, that the distinction between the organic and inorganic is arbitrary; that it is more coherent with our other ideas, and therefore more acceptable, to start with every molecule as a living thing, and then deduce death as the breaking up of an association or corporation, than to start with inanimate molecules and smuggle life into them; and that, therefore, what we call the inorganic world must be regarded as up to a certain point living, and instinct, within certain limits, with consciousness, volition, and power of concerted action. IT IS ONLY OF LATE, HOWEVER, THAT I HAVE COME TO THIS OPINION."
I have italicised the last sentence, to show that Butler was more or less conscious of its irreconcilability with much of his most characteristic doctrine. Again, in the closing chapter, Butler writes (p. 275):-
"We should endeavour to see the so-called inorganic as living in respect of the qualities it has in common with the organic, rather than the organic as non-living in respect of the qualities it has in common with the inorganic."
We conclude our survey of this book by mentioning the literary controversial part chiefly to be found in Chapter IV, but cropping up elsewhere. It refers to interpolations made in the authorised translation of Krause's "Life of Erasmus Darwin." Only one side is presented; and we are not called upon, here or elsewhere, to discuss the merits of the question.
"LUCK, OR CUNNING, as the Main Means of Organic Modification? an Attempt to throw Additional Light upon the late Mr. Charles Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection" (1887), completes the series of biological books. This is mainly a book of strenuous polemic. It brings out still more forcibly the Hering-Butler doctrine of continued personality from generation to generation, and of the working of unconscious memory throughout; and points out that, while this is implicit in much of the teaching of Herbert Spencer, Romanes, and others, it was nowhere--even after the appearance of "Life and Habit"--explicitly recognised by them, but, on the contrary, masked by inconsistent statements and teaching. Not Luck but Cunning, not the uninspired weeding out by Natural Selection but the intelligent striving of the organism, is at the bottom of the useful variety of organic life. And the parallel is drawn that not the happy accident of time and place, but the Machiavellian cunning of Charles Darwin, succeeded in imposing, as entirely his own, on the civilised world an uninspired and inadequate theory of evolution wherein luck played the leading part; while the more inspired and inspiring views of the older evolutionists had failed by the inferiority of their luck. On this controversy I am bound to say that I do not in the very least share Butler's opinions; and I must ascribe them to his lack of personal familiarity with the biologists of the day and their modes of thought and of work. Butler everywhere undervalues the important work of elimination played by Natural Selection in its widest sense.
The "Conclusion" of "Luck, or Cunning?" shows a strong advance in monistic views, and a yet more marked development in the vibration hypothesis of memory given by Hering and only adopted with the greatest reserve in "Unconscious Memory."
"Our conception, then, concerning the nature of any matter depends solely upon its kind and degree of unrest, that is to say, on the characteristics of the vibrations that are going on within it. The exterior object vibrating in a certain way imparts some of its vibrations to our brain; but if the state of the thing itself depends upon its vibrations, it [the thing] must be considered as to all intents and purposes the vibrations themselves--plus, of course, the underlying substance that is vibrating. . . . The same vibrations, therefore, form the substance remembered, introduce an infinitesimal dose of it within the brain, modify the substance remembering, and, in the course of time, create and further modify the mechanism of both the sensory and the motor nerves. Thought and thing are one.
"I commend these two last speculations to the reader's charitable consideration, as feeling that I am here travelling beyond the ground on which I can safely venture. . . . I believe they are both substantially true."
In 1885 he had written an abstract of these ideas in his notebooks (see New Quarterly Review, 1910, p. 116), and as in "Luck, or Cunning?" associated them vaguely with the unitary conceptions introduced into chemistry by Newlands and Mendelejeff. Judging himself as an outsider, the author of "Life and Habit" would certainly have considered the mild expression of faith, "I believe they are both substantially true," equivalent to one of extreme doubt. Thus "the fact of the Archbishop's recognising this as among the number of his beliefs is conclusive evidence, with those who have devoted attention to the laws of thought, that his mind is not yet clear" on the matter of the belief avowed (see "Life and Habit," pp. 24, 25).
To sum up: Butler's fundamental attitude to the vibration hypothesis was all through that taken in "Unconscious Memory"; he played with it as a pretty pet, and fancied it more and more as time went on; but instead of backing it for all he was worth, like the main theses of "Life and Habit," he put a big stake on it--and then hedged.
The last of Butler's biological writings is the Essay, "THE DEADLOCK IN DARWINISM," containing much valuable criticism on Wallace and Weismann. It is in allusion to the misnomer of Wallace's book, "Darwinism," that he introduces the term "Wallaceism" [0d] for a theory of descent that excludes the transmission of acquired characters. This was, indeed, the chief factor that led Charles Darwin to invent his hypothesis of pangenesis, which, unacceptable as it has proved, had far more to recommend it as a formal hypothesis than the equally formal germ-plasm hypothesis of Weismann.
The chief difficulty in accepting the main theses of Butler and Hering is one familiar to every biologist, and not at all difficult to understand by the layman. Everyone knows that the complicated beings that we term "Animals" and "Plants," consist of a number of more or less individualised units, the cells, each analogous to a simpler being, a Protist--save in so far as the character of the cell unit of the Higher being is modified in accordance with the part it plays in that complex being as a whole. Most people, too, are familiar with the fact that the complex being starts as a single cell, separated from its parent; or, where bisexual reproduction occurs, from a cell due to the fusion of two cells, each detached from its parent. Such cells are called "Germ-cells." The germ-cell, whether of single or of dual origin, starts by dividing repeatedly, so as to form the PRIMARY EMBRYONIC CELLS, a complex mass of cells, at first essentially similar, which, however, as they go on multiplying, undergo differentiations and migrations, losing their simplicity as they do so. Those cells that are modified to take part in the proper work of the whole are called tissue-cells. In virtue of their activities, their growth and reproductive power are limited- -much more in Animals than in Plants, in Higher than in Lower beings. It is these tissues, or some of them, that receive the impressions from the outside which leave the imprint of memory. Other cells, which may be closely associated into a continuous organ, or more or less surrounded by tissue-cells, whose part it is to nourish them, are called "secondary embryonic cells," or "germ-cells." The germ- cells may be differentiated in the young organism at a very early stage, but in Plants they are separated at a much later date from the less isolated embryonic regions that provide for the Plant's branching; in all cases we find embryonic and germ-cells screened from the life processes of the complex organism, or taking no very obvious part in it, save to form new tissues or new organs, notably in Plants.
Again, in ourselves, and to a greater or less extent in all Animals, we find a system of special tissues set apart for the reception and storage of impressions from the outer world, and for guiding the other organs in their appropriate responses--the "Nervous System"; and when this system is ill-developed or out of gear the remaining organs work badly from lack of proper skilled guidance and co- ordination. How can we, then, speak of "memory" in a germ-cell which has been screened from the experiences of the organism, which is too simple in structure to realise them if it were exposed to them? My own answer is that we cannot form any theory on the subject, the only question is whether we have any right to INFER this "memory" from the BEHAVIOUR of living beings; and Butler, like Hering, Haeckel, and some more modern authors, has shown that the inference is a very strong presumption. Again, it is easy to over-value such complex instruments as we possess. The possessor of an up-to-date camera, well instructed in the function and manipulation of every part, but ignorant of all optics save a hand-to-mouth knowledge of the properties of his own lens, might say that a priori no picture could be taken with a cigar-box perforated by a pin-hole; and our ignorance of the mechanism of the Psychology of any organism is greater by many times than that of my supposed photographer. We know that Plants are able to do many things that can only be accounted for by ascribing to them a "psyche," and these co-ordinated enough to satisfy their needs; and yet they possess no central organ comparable to the brain, no highly specialised system for intercommunication like our nerve trunks and fibres. As Oscar Hertwig says, we are as ignorant of the mechanism of the development of the individual as we are of that of hereditary transmission of acquired characters, and the absence of such mechanism in either case is no reason for rejecting the proven fact.
However, the relations of germ and body just described led Jager, Nussbaum, Galton, Lankester, and, above all, Weismann, to the view that the germ-cells or "stirp" (Galton) were IN the body, but not OF it. Indeed, in the body and out of it, whether as reproductive cells set free, or in the developing embryo, they are regarded as forming one continuous homogeneity, in contrast to the differentiation of the body; and it is to these cells, regarded as a continuum, that the terms stirp, germ-plasm, are especially applied. Yet on this view, so eagerly advocated by its supporters, we have to substitute for the hypothesis of memory, which they declare to have no real meaning here, the far more fantastic hypotheses of Weismann: by these they explain the process of differentiation in the young embryo into new germ and body; and in the young body the differentiation of its cells, each in due time and place, into the varied tissue cells and organs. Such views might perhaps be acceptable if it could be shown that over each cell-division there presided a wise all-guiding genie of transcending intellect, to which Clerk-Maxwell's sorting demons were mere infants. Yet these views have so enchanted many distinguished biologists, that in dealing with the subject they have actually ignored the existence of equally able workers who hesitate to share the extremest of their views. The phenomenon is one well known in hypnotic practice. So long as the non-Weismannians deal with matters outside this discussion, their existence and their work is rated at its just value; but any work of theirs on this point so affects the orthodox Weismannite (whether he accept this label or reject it does not matter), that for the time being their existence and the good work they have done are alike non-existent. [0e]
Butler founded no school, and wished to found none. He desired that what was true in his work should prevail, and he looked forward calmly to the time when the recognition of that truth and of his share in advancing it should give him in the lives of others that immortality for which alone he craved.
Lamarckian views have never lacked defenders here and in America. Of the English, Herbert Spencer, who however, was averse to the vitalistic attitude, Vines and Henslow among botanists, Cunningham among zoologists, have always resisted Weismannism; but, I think, none of these was distinctly influenced by Hering and Butler. In America the majority of the great school of palaeontologists have been strong Lamarckians, notably Cope, who has pointed out, moreover, that the transformations of energy in living beings are peculiar to them.
We have already adverted to Haeckel's acceptance and development of Hering's ideas in his "Perigenese der Plastidule." Oscar Hertwig has been a consistent Lamarckian, like Yves Delage of the Sorbonne, and these occupy pre-eminent positions not only as observers, but as discriminating theorists and historians of the recent progress of biology. We may also cite as a Lamarckian--of a sort--Felix Le Dantec, the leader of the chemico-physical school of the present day.
But we must seek elsewhere for special attention to the points which Butler regarded as the essentials of "Life and Habit." In 1893 Henry P. Orr, Professor of Biology in the University of Louisiana, published a little book entitled "A Theory of Heredity." Herein he insists on the nervous control of the whole body, and on the transmission to the reproductive cells of such stimuli, received by the body, as will guide them on their path until they shall have acquired adequate experience of their own in the new body they have formed. I have found the name of neither Butler nor Hering, but the treatment is essentially on their lines, and is both clear and interesting.
In 1896 I wrote an essay on "The Fundamental Principles of Heredity," primarily directed to the man in the street. This, after being held over for more than a year by one leading review, was "declined with regret," and again after some weeks met the same fate from another editor. It appeared in the pages of "Natural Science" for October, 1897, and in the "Biologisches Centralblatt" for the same year. I reproduce its closing paragraph:-
"This theory [Hering-Butler's] has, indeed, a tentative character, and lacks symmetrical completeness, but is the more welcome as not aiming at the impossible. A whole series of phenomena in organic beings are correlated under the term of MEMORY, CONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS, PATENT AND LATENT. . . . Of the order of unconscious memory, latent till the arrival of the appropriate stimulus, is all the co-operative growth and work of the organism, including its development from the reproductive cells. Concerning the modus operandi we know nothing: the phenomena may be due, as Hering suggests, to molecular vibrations, which must be at least as distinct from ordinary physical disturbances as Rontgen's rays are from ordinary light; or it may be correlated, as we ourselves are inclined to think, with complex chemical changes in an intricate but orderly succession. For the present, at least, the problem of heredity can only be elucidated by the light of mental, and not material processes."
It will be seen that I express doubts as to the validity of Hering's invocation of molecular vibrations as the mechanism of memory, and suggest as an alternative rhythmic chemical changes. This view has recently been put forth in detail by J. J. Cunningham in his essay on the "Hormone [0f] Theory of Heredity," in the Archiv fur Entwicklungsmechanik (1909), but I have failed to note any direct effect of my essay on the trend of biological thought.
Among post-Darwinian controversies the one that has latterly assumed the greatest prominence is that of the relative importance of small variations in the way of more or less "fluctuations," and of "discontinuous variations," or "mutations," as De Vries has called them. Darwin, in the first four editions of the "Origin of Species," attached more importance to the latter than in subsequent editions; he was swayed in his attitude, as is well known, by an article of the physicist, Fleeming Jenkin, which appeared in the North British Review. The mathematics of this article were unimpeachable, but they were founded on the assumption that exceptional variations would only occur in single individuals, which is, indeed, often the case among those domesticated races on which Darwin especially studied the phenomena of variation. Darwin was no mathematician or physicist, and we are told in his biography that he regarded every tool-shop rule or optician's thermometer as an instrument of precision: so he appears to have regarded Fleeming Jenkin's demonstration as a mathematical deduction which he was bound to accept without criticism.
Mr. William Bateson, late Professor of Biology in the University of Cambridge, as early as 1894 laid great stress on the importance of discontinuous variations, collecting and collating the known facts in his "Materials for the Study of Variations"; but this important work, now become rare and valuable, at the time excited so little interest as to be 'remaindered' within a very few years after publication.
In 1901 Hugo De Vries, Professor of Botany in the University of Amsterdam, published "Die Mutationstheorie," wherein he showed that mutations or discontinuous variations in various directions may appear simultaneously in many individuals, and in various directions. In the gardener's phrase, the species may take to sporting in various directions at the same time, and each sport may be represented by numerous specimens.
De Vries shows the probability that species go on for long periods showing only fluctuations, and then suddenly take to sporting in the way described, short periods of mutation alternating with long intervals of relative constancy. It is to mutations that De Vries and his school, as well as Luther Burbank, the great former of new fruit- and flower-plants, look for those variations which form the material of Natural Selection. In "God the Known and God the Unknown," which appeared in the Examiner (May, June, and July), 1879, but though then revised was only published posthumously in 1909, Butler anticipates this distinction:-
"Under these circumstances organism must act in one or other of these two ways: it must either change slowly and continuously with the surroundings, paying cash for everything, meeting the smallest change with a corresponding modification, so far as is found convenient, or it must put off change as long as possible, and then make larger and more sweeping changes.
"Both these courses are the same in principle, the difference being one of scale, and the one being a miniature of the other, as a ripple is an Atlantic wave in little; both have their advantages and disadvantages, so that most organisms will take the one course for one set of things and the other for another. They will deal promptly with things which they can get at easily, and which lie more upon the surface; THOSE, HOWEVER, WHICH ARE MORE TROUBLESOME TO REACH, AND LIE DEEPER, WILL BE HANDLED UPON MORE CATACLYSMIC PRINCIPLES, BEING ALLOWED LONGER PERIODS OF REPOSE FOLLOWED BY SHORT PERIODS OF GREATER ACTIVITY . . . it may be questioned whether what is called a sport is not the organic expression of discontent which has been long felt, but which has not been attended to, nor been met step by step by as much small remedial modification as was found practicable: so that when a change does come it comes by way of revolution. Or, again (only that it comes to much the same thing), it may be compared to one of those happy thoughts which sometimes come to us unbidden after we have been thinking for a long time what to do, or how to arrange our ideas, and have yet been unable to come to any conclusion" (pp. 14, 15). [0g]
We come to another order of mind in Hans Driesch. At the time he began his work biologists were largely busy in a region indicated by Darwin, and roughly mapped out by Haeckel--that of phylogeny. From the facts of development of the individual, from the comparison of fossils in successive strata, they set to work at the construction of pedigrees, and strove to bring into line the principles of classification with the more or less hypothetical "stemtrees." Driesch considered this futile, since we never could reconstruct from such evidence anything certain in the history of the past. He therefore asserted that a more complete knowledge of the physics and chemistry of the organic world might give a scientific explanation of the phenomena, and maintained that the proper work of the biologist was to deepen our knowledge in these respects. He embodied his views, seeking the explanation on this track, filling up gaps and tracing projected roads along lines of probable truth in his "Analytische Theorie der organische Entwicklung." But his own work convinced him of the hopelessness of the task he had undertaken, and he has become as strenuous a vitalist as Butler. The most complete statement of his present views is to be found in "The Philosophy of Life" (1908-9), being the Giffold Lectures for 1907-8. Herein he postulates a quality ("psychoid") in all living beings, directing energy and matter for the purpose of the organism, and to this he applies the Aristotelian designation "Entelechy." The question of the transmission of acquired characters is regarded as doubtful, and he does not emphasise--if he accepts--the doctrine of continuous personality. His early youthful impatience with descent theories and hypotheses has, however, disappeared.
In the next work the influence of Hering and Butler is definitely present and recognised. In 1906 Signor Eugenio Rignano, an engineer keenly interested in all branches of science, and a little later the founder of the international review, Rivista di Scienza (now simply called Scientia), published in French a volume entitled "Sur la transmissibilite des Caracteres acquis--Hypothese d'un Centro- epigenese." Into the details of the author's work we will not enter fully. Suffice it to know that he accepts the Hering-Butler theory, and makes a distinct advance on Hering's rather crude hypothesis of persistent vibrations by suggesting that the remembering centres store slightly different forms of energy, to give out energy of the same kind as they have received, like electrical accumulators. The last chapter, "Le Phenomene mnemonique et le Phenomene vital," is frankly based on Hering.
In "The Lesson of Evolution" (1907, posthumous, and only published for private circulation) Frederick Wollaston Hutton, F.R.S., late Professor of Biology and Geology, first at Dunedin and after at Christchurch, New Zealand, puts forward a strongly vitalistic view, and adopts Hering's teaching. After stating this he adds, "The same idea of heredity being due to unconscious memory was advocated by Mr. Samuel Butler in his "Life and Habit."
Dr. James Mark Baldwin, Stuart Professor of Psychology in Princeton University, U.S.A., called attention early in the 90's to a reaction characteristic of all living beings, which he terms the "Circular Reaction." We take his most recent account of this from his "Development and Evolution" (1902):- [0h]
"The general fact is that the organism reacts by concentration upon the locality stimulated for the CONTINUANCE of the conditions, movements, stimulations, WHICH ARE VITALLY BENEFICIAL, and for the cessation of the conditions, movements, stimulations WHICH ARE VITALLY DEPRESSING."
This amounts to saying in the terminology of Jenning (see below) that the living organism alters its "physiological states" either for its direct benefit, or for its indirect benefit in the reduction of harmful conditions.
"This form of concentration of energy on stimulated localities, with the resulting renewal through movement of conditions that are pleasure-giving and beneficial, and the consequent repetition of the movements is called 'circular reaction.'"
Of course, the inhibition of such movements as would be painful on repetition is merely the negative case of the circular reaction. We must not put too much of our own ideas into the author's mind; he nowhere says explicitly that the animal or plant shows its sense and does this because it likes the one thing and wants it repeated, or dislikes the other and stops its repetition, as Butler would have said. Baldwin is very strong in insisting that no full explanation can be given of living processes, any more than of history, on purely chemico-physical grounds.
The same view is put differently and independently by H. S. Jennings, [0i] who started his investigations of living Protista, the simplest of living beings, with the idea that only accurate and ample observation was needed to enable us to explain all their activities on a mechanical basis, and devised ingenious models of protoplastic movements. He was led, like Driesch, to renounce such efforts as illusory, and has come to the conviction that in the behaviour of these lowly beings there is a purposive and a tentative character--a method of "trial and error"--that can only be interpreted by the invocation of psychology. He points out that after stimulation the "state" of the organism may be altered, so that the response to the same stimulus on repetition is other. Or, as he puts it, the first stimulus has caused the organism to pass into a new "physiological state." As the change of state from what we may call the "primary indifferent state" is advantageous to the organism, we may regard this as equivalent to the doctrine of the "circular reaction," and also as containing the essence of Semon's doctrine of "engrams" or imprints which we are about to consider. We cite one passage which for audacity of thought (underlying, it is true, most guarded expression) may well compare with many of the boldest flights in "Life and Habit":-
"It may be noted that regulation in the manner we have set forth is what, in the behaviour of higher organisms, at least, is called intelligence [the examples have been taken from Protista, Corals, and the Lowest Worms]. If the same method of regulation is found in other fields, there is no reason for refusing to compare the action to intelligence. Comparison of the regulatory processes that are shown in internal physiological changes and in regeneration to intelligence seems to be looked upon sometimes as heretical and unscientific. Yet intelligence is a name applied to processes that actually exist in the regulation of movements, and there is, a priori, no reason why similar processes should not occur in regulation in other fields. When we analyse regulation objectively there seems indeed reason to think that the processes are of the same character in behaviour as elsewhere. If the term intelligence be reserved for the subjective accompaniments of such regulation, then of course we have no direct knowledge of its existence in any of the fields of regulation outside of the self, and in the self perhaps only in behaviour. But in a purely objective consideration there seems no reason to suppose that regulation in behaviour (intelligence) is of a fundamentally different character from regulation elsewhere." ("Method of Regulation," p. 492.)
Jennings makes no mention of questions of the theory of heredity. He has made some experiments on the transmission of an acquired character in Protozoa; but it was a mutilation-character, which is, as has been often shown, [0j] not to the point.
One of the most obvious criticisms of Hering's exposition is based upon the extended use he makes of the word "Memory": this he had foreseen and deprecated.
"We have a perfect right," he says, "to extend our conception of memory so as to make it embrace involuntary [and also unconscious] reproductions of sensations, ideas, perceptions, and efforts; but we find, on having done so, that we have so far enlarged her boundaries that she proves to be an ultimate and original power, the source and, at the same time, the unifying bond, of our whole conscious life." ("Unconscious Memory," p. 68.)
This sentence, coupled with Hering's omission to give to the concept of memory so enlarged a new name, clear alike of the limitations and of the stains of habitual use, may well have been the inspiration of the next work on our list. Richard Semon is a professional zoologist and anthropologist of such high status for his original observations and researches in the mere technical sense, that in these countries he would assuredly have been acclaimed as one of the Fellows of the Royal Society who were Samuel Butler's special aversion. The full title of his book is "DIE MNEME als erhaltende Prinzip im Wechsel des organischen Geschehens" (Munich, Ed. 1, 1904; Ed. 2, 1908). We may translate it "MNEME, a Principle of Conservation in the Transformations of Organic Existence."
From this I quote in free translation the opening passage of Chapter II:-
"We have shown that in very many cases, whether in Protist, Plant, or Animal, when an organism has passed into an indifferent state after the reaction to a stimulus has ceased, its irritable substance has suffered a lasting change: I call this after-action of the stimulus its 'imprint' or 'engraphic' action, since it penetrates and imprints itself in the organic substance; and I term the change so effected an 'imprint' or 'engram' of the stimulus; and the sum of all the imprints possessed by the organism may be called its 'store of imprints,' wherein we must distinguish between those which it has inherited from its forbears and those which it has acquired itself. Any phenomenon displayed by an organism as the result either of a single imprint or of a sum of them, I term a 'mnemic phenomenon'; and the mnemic possibilities of an organism may be termed, collectively, its 'MNEME.'
"I have selected my own terms for the concepts that I have just defined. On many grounds I refrain from making any use of the good German terms 'Gedachtniss, Erinnerungsbild.' The first and chiefest ground is that for my purpose I should have to employ the German words in a much wider sense than what they usually convey, and thus leave the door open to countless misunderstandings and idle controversies. It would, indeed, even amount to an error of fact to give to the wider concept the name already current in the narrower sense--nay, actually limited, like 'Erinnerungsbild,' to phenomena of consciousness. . . . In Animals, during the course of history, one set of organs has, so to speak, specialised itself for the reception and transmission of stimuli--the Nervous System. But from this specialisation we are not justified in ascribing to the nervous system any monopoly of the function, even when it is as highly developed as in Man. . . . Just as the direct excitability of the nervous system has progressed in the history of the race, so has its capacity for receiving imprints; but neither susceptibility nor retentiveness is its monopoly; and, indeed, retentiveness seems inseparable from susceptibility in living matter."
Semen here takes the instance of stimulus and imprint actions affecting the nervous system of a dog
"who has up till now never experienced aught but kindness from the Lord of Creation, and then one day that he is out alone is pelted with stones by a boy. . . . Here he is affected at once by two sets of stimuli: (1) the optic stimulus of seeing the boy stoop for stones and throw them, and (2) the skin stimulus of the pain felt when they hit him. Here both stimuli leave their imprints; and the organism is permanently changed in relation to the recurrence of the stimuli. Hitherto the sight of a human figure quickly stooping had produced no constant special reaction. Now the reaction is constant, and may remain so till death. . . . The dog tucks in its tail between its legs and takes flight, often with a howl [as of] pain."
"Here we gain on one side a deeper insight into the imprint action of stimuli. It reposes on the lasting change in the conditions of the living matter, so that the repetition of the immediate or synchronous reaction to its first stimulus (in this case the stooping of the boy, the flying stones, and the pain on the ribs), no longer demands, as in the original state of indifference, the full stimulus a, but may be called forth by a partial or different stimulus, b (in this case the mere stooping to the ground). I term the influences by which such changed reaction are rendered possible, 'outcome-reactions,' and when such influences assume the form of stimuli, 'outcome-stimuli.'
They are termed "outcome" ("ecphoria") stimuli, because the author regards them and would have us regard them as the outcome, manifestation, or efference of an imprint of a previous stimulus. We have noted that the imprint is equivalent to the changed "physiological state" of Jennings. Again, the capacity for gaining imprints and revealing them by outcomes favourable to the individual is the "circular reaction" of Baldwin, but Semon gives no reference to either author. [0k]
In the preface to his first edition (reprinted in the second) Semon writes, after discussing the work of Hering and Haeckel:-
"The problem received a more detailed treatment in Samuel Butler's book, 'Life and Habit,' published in 1878. Though he only made acquaintance with Hering's essay after this publication, Butler gave what was in many respects a more detailed view of the coincidences of these different phenomena of organic reproduction than did Hering. With much that is untenable, Butler's writings present many a brilliant idea; yet, on the whole, they are rather a retrogression than an advance upon Hering. Evidently they failed to exercise any marked influence upon the literature of the day."
This judgment needs a little examination. Butler claimed, justly, that his "Life and Habit" was an advance on Hering in its dealing with questions of hybridity, and of longevity puberty and sterility. Since Semon's extended treatment of the phenomena of crosses might almost be regarded as the rewriting of the corresponding section of "Life and Habit" in the "Mneme" terminology, we may infer that this view of the question was one of Butler's "brilliant ideas." That Butler shrank from accepting such a formal explanation of memory as Hering did with his hypothesis should certainly be counted as a distinct "advance upon Hering," for Semon also avoids any attempt at an explanation of "Mneme." I think, however, we may gather the real meaning of Semon's strictures from the following passages:-
"I refrain here from a discussion of the development of this theory of Lamarck's by those Neo-Lamarckians who would ascribe to the individual elementary organism an equipment of complex psychical powers--so to say, anthropomorphic perception and volitions. This treatment is no longer directed by the scientific principle of referring complex phenomena to simpler laws, of deducing even human intellect and will from simpler elements. On the contrary, they follow that most abhorrent method of taking the most complex and unresolved as a datum, and employing it as an explanation. The adoption of such a method, as formerly by Samuel Butler, and recently by Pauly, I regard as a big and dangerous step backward" (ed. 2, pp. 380-1, note).
Thus Butler's alleged retrogressions belong to the same order of thinking that we have seen shared by Driesch, Baldwin, and Jennings, and most explicitly avowed, as we shall see, by Francis Darwin. Semon makes one rather candid admission, "The impossibility of interpreting the phenomena of physiological stimulation by those of direct reaction, and the undeception of those who had put faith in this being possible, have led many on the BACKWARD PATH OF VITALISM." Semon assuredly will never be able to complete his theory of "Mneme" until, guided by the experience of Jennings and Driesch, he forsakes the blind alley of mechanisticism and retraces his steps to reasonable vitalism.
But the most notable publications bearing on our matter are incidental to the Darwin Celebrations of 1908-9. Dr. Francis Darwin, son, collaborator, and biographer of Charles Darwin, was selected to preside over the Meeting of the British Association held in Dublin in 1908, the jubilee of the first publications on Natural Selection by his father and Alfred Russel Wallace. In this address we find the theory of Hering, Butler, Rignano, and Semon taking its proper place as a vera causa of that variation which Natural Selection must find before it can act, and recognised as the basis of a rational theory of the development of the individual and of the race. The organism is essentially purposive: the impossibility of devising any adequate accounts of organic form and function without taking account of the psychical side is most strenuously asserted. And with our regret that past misunderstandings should be so prominent in Butler's works, it was very pleasant to hear Francis Darwin's quotation from Butler's translation of Hering [0l] followed by a personal tribute to Butler himself.
In commemoration of the centenary of the birth of Charles Darwin and of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the "Origin of Species," at the suggestion of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, the University Press published during the current year a volume entitled "Darwin and Modern Science," edited by Mr. A. C. Seward, Professor of Botany in the University. Of the twenty-nine essays by men of science of the highest distinction, one is of peculiar interest to the readers of Samuel Butler: "Heredity and Variation in Modern Lights," by Professor W. Bateson, F.R.S., to whose work on "Discontinuous Variations" we have already referred. Here once more Butler receives from an official biologist of the first rank full recognition for his wonderful insight and keen critical power. This is the more noteworthy because Bateson has apparently no faith in the transmission of acquired characters; but such a passage as this would have commended itself to Butler's admiration:-
"All this indicates a definiteness and specific order in heredity, and therefore in variation. This order cannot by the nature of the case be dependent on Natural Selection for its existence, but must be a consequence of the fundamental chemical and physical nature of living things. The study of Variation had from the first shown that an orderliness of this kind was present. The bodies and properties of living things are cosmic, not chaotic. No matter how low in the scale we go, never do we find the slightest hint of a diminution in that all-pervading orderliness, nor can we conceive an organism existing for one moment in any other state."
We have now before us the materials to determine the problem of Butler's relation to biology and to biologists. He was, we have seen, anticipated by Hering; but his attitude was his own, fresh and original. He did not hamper his exposition, like Hering, by a subsidiary hypothesis of vibrations which may or may not be true, which burdens the theory without giving it greater carrying power or persuasiveness, which is based on no objective facts, and which, as Semon has practically demonstrated, is needless for the detailed working out of the theory. Butler failed to impress the biologists of his day, even those on whom, like Romanes, he might have reasonably counted for understanding and for support. But he kept alive Hering's work when it bade fair to sink into the limbo of obsolete hypotheses. To use Oliver Wendell Holmes's phrase, he "depolarised" evolutionary thought. We quote the words of a young biologist, who, when an ardent and dogmatic Weismannist of the most pronounced type, was induced to read "Life and Habit": "The book was to me a transformation and an inspiration." Such learned writings as Semon's or Hering's could never produce such an effect: they do not penetrate to the heart of man; they cannot carry conviction to the intellect already filled full with rival theories, and with the unreasoned faith that to-morrow or next day a new discovery will obliterate all distinction between Man and his makings. The mind must needs be open for the reception of truth, for the rejection of prejudice; and the violence of a Samuel Butler may in the future as in the past be needed to shatter the coat of mail forged by too exclusively professional a training.
Cork, April, 1910
Not finding the "well-known German scientific journal Kosmos" [0m] entered in the British Museum Catalogue, I have presented the Museum with a copy of the number for February 1879, which contains the article by Dr. Krause of which Mr. Charles Darwin has given a translation, the accuracy of which is guaranteed--so he informs us-- by the translator's "scientific reputation together with his knowledge of German." [0n]
I have marked the copy, so that the reader can see at a glance what passages has been suppressed and where matter has been interpolated.
I have also present a copy of "Erasmus Darwin." I have marked this too, so that the genuine and spurious passages can be easily distinguished.
I understand that both the "Erasmus Darwin" and the number of Kosmos have been sent to the Keeper of Printed Books, with instructions that they shall be at once catalogued and made accessible to readers, and do not doubt that this will have been done before the present volume is published. The reader, therefore, who may be sufficiently interested in the matter to care to see exactly what has been done will now have an opportunity of doing so.
October 25, 1880.
[0a] This is the date on the title-page. The preface is dated October 15, 1886, and the first copy was issued in November of the same year. All the dates are taken from the Bibliography by Mr. H. Festing Jones prefixed to the "Extracts" in the New Quarterly Review (1909).
[0b] I.e. after p. 285: it bears no number of its own!
[0c] The distinction was merely implicit in his published writings, but has been printed since his death from his "Notebooks," New Quarterly Review, April, 1908. I had developed this thesis, without knowing of Butler's explicit anticipation in an article then in the press: "Mechanism and Life," Contemporary Review, May, 1908.
[0d] The term has recently been revived by Prof. Hubrecht and by myself (Contemporary Review, November 1908).
[0e] See Fortnightly Review, February 1908, and Contemporary Review, September and November 1909. Since these publications the hypnosis seems to have somewhat weakened.
[0f] A "hormone" is a chemical substance which, formed in one part of the body, alters the reactions of another part, normally for the good of the organism.
[0g] Mr. H. Festing Jones first directed my attention to these passages and their bearing on the Mutation Theory.
[0i] He says in a note, "This general type of reaction was described and illustrated in a different connection by Pfluger in 'Pfluger's Archiv. f.d. ges. Physiologie,' Bd. XV." The essay bears the significant title "Die teleologische Mechanik der lebendigen Natur," and is a very remarkable one, as coming from an official physiologist in 1877, when the chemico-physical school was nearly at its zenith.
[0j] "Contributions to the Study of the Lower Animals" (1904), "Modifiability in Behaviour" and "Method of Regulability in Behaviour and in other Fields," in Journ. Experimental Zoology, vol. ii. (1905).
[0h] See "The Hereditary Transmission of Acquired Characters" in Contemporary Review, September and November 1908, in which references are given to earlier statements.
[0k] Semon's technical terms are exclusively taken from the Greek, but as experience tells that plain men in England have a special dread of suchlike, I have substituted "imprint" for "engram," "outcome" for "ecphoria"; for the latter term I had thought of "efference," "manifestation," etc., but decided on what looked more homely, and at the same time was quite distinctive enough to avoid that confusion which Semon has dodged with his Graecisms.
[0l] "Between the 'me' of to-day and the 'me' of yesterday lie night and sleep, abysses of unconsciousness; nor is there any bridge but memory with which to span them."--Unconscious Memory, p. 71.
[0m] Preface by Mr. Charles Darwin to "Erasmus Darwin." The Museum has copies of a Kosmos that was published 1857-60 and then discontinued; but this is clearly not the Kosmos referred to by Mr. Darwin, which began to appear in 1878.
[0n] Preface to "Erasmus Darwin."