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D. S. (David Samuel) Margoliouth.

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Italian artificers taught the workmen of other countries the highest
skill in the manufactures of steel, iron, bronze, silk, glass, porcelain,
and jewelry. Italian shops, with their dazzling array of luxuries, ex-
cited the admiration and envy of foreigners from less favored lands."
Then, on looking into their histories, we find that industrial guilds were
the bases of their political organizations ; that the upper mercantile
classes became the rulers, in some cases excluding the nobles ; and
that, while external wars and internal feuds tended continually to
revive narrower, or more personal, forms of rule, rebellions of the
industrial citizens, from time to time occurring, tended to reestablish
popular rule.

When we join with these the like general connections that arose
in the Netherlands and in the Ilanse towns ; when we remember the
liberalization of our own political institutions which has gone along
with growing industrialism ; when we observe that the towns more
than the country, and the great industrial centers more than the small
ones, have given the impulses to these changes — it becomes unques-
tionable that, while by increase of militant activities compound head-
ships are narrowed, they are widened in proportion as industrial
activities become predominant.

In common with the results reached in preceding chapters, the
results above reached show that types of political organization are
not matters of deliberate choice. It is common to speak of a society
as though it had, once upon a time, decided on the form of govern-
ment which thereafter existed in it. Even Mr. Grote, in his compari-
son between the institutions of ancient Greece and those of mediaeval
Europe (vol. iii, pages 10-12) tacitly implies that concej^tions of the
advantages or disadvantages of this or that arrangement furnished
motives for establishing or maintaining it. But, as gathered together
in the foregoing sections, the facts show us that, as with the genesis of
simple political headships, so with the genesis of compound political
headships, conditions and not intentions determine.

Recognizing the fact that mdependence of character is a factor,
but ascribing this independence of character to the continued exist-
ence of a race in a habitat which facilitates evasion of control, we saw
that, with such a nature so conditioned, cooperation in war causes the
union on equal terms of groups whose heads are joined to form a di-
rective council. And according as the component groups are governed
more or less autocratically, the directive council is more or less oli-
garchic. We have seen that in localities differing so widely as do moun-



21 8 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tain-regions, mai'shes or mud-islands, and jungles, men of different
races have developed, political heads of this compound kind. And, on
observing that the localities, otherwise so unlike, are alike as being
severally made up of parts difficult of access, we can not question that
to this is mainly due the governmental form under which their in-
habitants unite.

Besides the compound headships which are thus indigenous in
places favoring them, there are other compound headships which arise
after the break-up of preceding political organizations. Especially
apt are they so to arise where the people, not scattered through a wide
district but concentrated in a town, can assemble bodily. Control of
every kind having disappeared, it happens in such cases that the aggre-
gate will has free play, and there establishes itself for a time that
relatively popular form with which all government begins ; but, regu-
larly or irregularly, a superior few become differentiated fi'ora the
many, and of predominant men some one is made, directly or indi-
rectly, most predominant.

Compound headships habitually become, in course of time, either
narrower or wider. They are narrowed by militancy, which tends
ever to concentrate directive power in fewer hands, and, if continued,
almost certainly changes them into simple headships. Conversely,
they are widened by industrialism. This, by gathering together aliens
detached from the restraints imposed by patriarchal, feudal, or other
such organizations, by increasing the number of those to be coerced
in comparison with the number of those who have to coerce them, by
placing this larger number in conditions favoring concerted action,
by substituting for daily enforced obedience the daily fulfillment of
voluntary obligations and daily maintenance of claims, tends ever
toward equalization of citizenship.



DEGENERATION.

By Dr. ANDEEW WILSON.

IT can not be gainsaid that a survey of the fields of life around us
impresses one with the idea that the general tendencies of living
nature gravitate toward progression and improvement, and are mod-
eled on lines which, as Yon Baer long ago remarked, lead from the
general or simple toward the definite special and complex. This much
is admitted on all hands, and the ordinary courses of life substantiate
the aphorism that progress from low grades and humble ways is the
law of the organic universe that hems us in on every side, and of which,
indeed, we ourselves form part. The growth of plant-life, which runs
concurrently with the changing seasons of the year, impresses this



DEGENER A TIOX. z 1 9

fact upon us, and the history of animal development but repeats tlie
tale. From seed to seed-leaf, from seed-leaf to stem and leaves, from
simple leaves to flower, and from flower to fruit, there is exhibited a
natural progress in plant-existence, which testifies eloquently enough,
by analogy at least, to the existence of like tendencies in all other
forms of life. Similarly, in the animal host, progressive change is
seen to convert that which is literally at first " without form and void "
into the definite structure of the organism. A minute speck of pro-
toplasm on the surface of the egg — a speck that is indistinguishable,
in so far as its matter is concerned, from the materies of the animal-
cule of the pool — is the germ of the bird of the future. Day by day
the forces and powers of development weave the protoplasm into cells,
and the cells into bone and muscle, sinew and nerve, heart and brain.
In due season the form of the higher vertebrate is evolved, and pro-
gressive change is once more illustrated before the waiting eyes of
life-science. But the full meaning of most problems which life-science
presents to view is hardly gained by a merely cursory inspection of
what may be called the normal side of things. The by-paths of de-
velopment — more frequently, pei-haps, than its beaten tracks — reveal
guiding clews and traces of the manner in which the progress in ques-
tion has come to pass. So, also, the side-avenues of biology open up
new phases of, it may be, the main question at issue, and may reveal,
as in the present instance, an interesting reverse to the aspects we at
first deem of sole and paramount importance. For example, a casual
study of the facts of animal development is well calculated to show
that life is not all progress, and that it includes retrogression as well
as advance. Physiological history can readily be proved to tend in
many cases toward backsliding, instead of reaching forward and up-
ward to higher levels. This latter tendency, beginning now to be bet-
ter recognized in biology than of late years, can readily be shown to
exercise no unimportant influence on the fortunes of animals and
plants. In truth, life at large must now be regarded as existing be-
tween two great tendencies — the one progressive and advancing, the
other retrogressive and degenerating. Such a view of matters may
serve to explain many things in living histories which have hitherto
been regarded as somewhat occult and difficult of solution ; while we
may likewise discover that the coexistence of progress and retrogres-
sion is a fact perfectly compatible with the lucid opinions and teach-
ings concerning the origin of living things which we owe to the genius
of Darwin and his disciples.

A fundamental axiom of modern biology declares that in the de-
velopment of a living being we may discern a panoramic unfolding,
more or less complete, of its descent. " Development repeats descent "
is an aphorism which cultured biology has everywhere writ large over
its portals. Rejecting this view of what development teaches, the
phases through which animals and plants pass in the course of their



2 20 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

progress from tlie germ to the adult stage present themselves to view
as simply meaningless facts and useless freaks and vagaries of Nature.
Accepting the idea — favored, one may add, by every circumstance of
life-science — much that was before wholly inexplicable becomes plain
and readily understood. And the view that a living being's develop-
ment is really a quick and often abbreviated summary of its evolution
and descent both receives support from and gives countenance to the
general conclusion that life's forces tend as a rule toward progress, but
likewise exhibit retrogression and degeneration. If a living being is
found to begin its history, as all animals and plants commence their
existence, as a speck of living jelly, comparable to the animalcule of
the pool, it is a fair and logical inference that the organisms in ques-
tion have descended from lowly beings, whose simplicity of structure
is repeated in the primitive nature of the germ. If, to quote another
illustration, the placid frog of to-day, after passing through its merely
protoplasmic stage, appears before us in the likeness of a gill-breath-
ing fish (Fig. 1), the assumption is plain and warrantable that the frog




race has descended from some primitive fish stock, whose likeness is
reproduced with greater or less exactness in the tadpoles of the ditches.
Or if, to cite yet another example, man and his neighbor quadrupeds
(Fig. 2), birds, and reptiles, which never breathe by gills at any period
of their existence, are found in an early stage of development to pos-
sess "gill-arches" (y), such as we naturally expect to see, and such as
w^e find in the fishes themselves, the deduction that these higher ani-
mals are descended from gill-bearing or aquatic ancestors admits of



DEGENERA TION. 221

no denial. On any other theory, the existence of gill-arches in the
young of an animal which never possesses gills is to be viewed as an
inexplicable freak of Nature — a dictum which, it is needless to remark,
belongs to an era one might well term prescientific, in comparison with
the " sweetness and light " of these latter days.




Hanging very closely on the aphorism respecting development and
its meaning, is another biological axiom, wellnigh as important as the
former. If development teaches that life has been and still is pro-
gressive in its ways, and that the simpler stages in an animal's history
represent the conditions of its earliest ancestors, it is a no less stable
proposition that at all stages of their growth living beings are subject
to the action of outward and inward forces. Every living organism
lives under the sway and dominance of forces acting upon it from
without, and which it is enabled to modify and to utilize by its own
inherent capabilities of action. It is, in fact, the old problem of the
living being and its surroundings applied to the newer conceptions
of life and nature which modern biology has revealed. The living
thing is not a stable unit in its universe, however wide or narrow
that sphere may be. On the contrary, it exists in a condition of con-
tinual war, if one may so put it, between its own innate powers of life
and action, of living and being, and the physical powers and condi-
tions outside. This much is noAv accepted by all scientists. Differ-
ences of opinion certainly exist as to the share which the internal con-
stitution of the living being plays in the drama of life and progress.
It seems, however, most reasonable to conclude that two parties exist
to this, as to every other bargain ; and, regarding the animal or plant
as plastic in its nature, we may assume such plasticity to be modified
on the one hand by outside forces, and on the other by internal actions
proper to the organism as a living thing. Examples of such tenden-
cies of life are freely scattered everywhere in Nature's domain. For
instance, we know of many organisms which have continued from the
remotest ages to the present time, without manifest change of form or
life, and which appear before us to-day the living counterparts of
llieir fossilized representatives of the chalk, or it may be of Silurian
or Cambrian times. The lamp-shells { Terehratula) of the chalk exist
in our own seas with wellnigh inappreciable differences. ThoLlngula



222 THE POPULAR SCIEXCE MONTHLY.

or Lingxdella (Fig. 3, «), another genus of these animals, has persisted
from the Cambrian age (I), e) to our own times, presenting little or no
change for the attention of the geological chronicler. The curious
king-crabs, or Limuli (Fig. 4), of the West Indies are likewise pre-





FlG. 3.— LiNGOTA.



Fig. 4.— King Crab.



sented to our view, with little or no variation, from very early ages of
cosmical history ; and of the pearly nautilus (Fig. 8) — now remaining
as the only existing four-gilled and externally shelled cuttle-fish — the
same remark holds good. The fishes, likewise, are not without their
parallel instances of lack of change and alteration throughout long
ages of time. The well-known case of the genus Beryx presents us

with a fish of high organi-
zation, found living in the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans,
and which possesses fossil
representatives and fac -
similes in the chalk (Fig.
5.) From the latter period
to the present day, the
genus Beryx has therefore
undergone little modifica-
tion or change. The same
remark certainly holds good of many of those huge " dragons of the
prime " (Figs. 6 and 7), which reveled in the seas of the Trias, Oolite,
and Chalk epochs — developed in immense numbers in these eras of
earth's history, but disappearing for ever from the lists of living




Fig. 5.— Bebtx.



D EG EXE R A TION.



223



things at the close of the Cretaceous age, and exhibiting little or no
change during their relatively brief history.

Such cases of stability amid conditions which might well have fa-
vored change, and which saw copious modification and progression in
other groups of animals, might at first sight be regarded as presenting
a serious obstacle to the doctrine of progressive development on which
the whole theory of evolution depends. As such an obstacle, the se-
ries of facts in question was long regarded ; as such, these facts are
sometimes even now advanced, but only by those who imperfectly ap-
preciate and only partially understand what the doctrine of evolution
teaches and what its leading idea includes. Even Cuvier himself, when
advancing the case of the apparently unchanged mummies of Egyptian
animals against Lamarck's doctrine of descent, failed — possibly through
the imperfectly discussed stage in which the whole question rested in
his day — to understand that the very facts of preservation revealed in
the monuments of Egypt testified to the absence of those physical
changes which could alone have affected the animals of the Nile land.
]]ut the fuller consideration of that theory of nature which credits pro-
gressive change as the usual way of life, shows us that it is no part of
evolution to maintain either that living beings must needs undergo
continual change, or that they must change and modify at the same
rate. On the contrary, Mr. Darwin, in his classic work, maintains ex-
actly the opposite proposition. There are, in fact, two great factors
at work in living nature — a tendency to vary and change, and the in-
fluence of environments or surroundings. Given the first tendency,
which is not at all a matter of dispute, the influence of the second is
plainly enough discernible in bringing to the front either the original,




AND 7.— IcnTHTOSAURCS AND PLESIOSAURrf:.



primitive, or, as it might be named, the parent form, or the varying
forms which are produced by modification of the parent. As it has
well been put : " Granting the existence of the tendency to the pro-
duction of variations, then, whether the variations which are produced



224



THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.



shall survive and supplant the parent, or whether the parent form shall
survive and supplant the variations, is a matter which depends entirely
on those conditions which give rise to the struggle for existence. If
the surrounding conditions are such that the parent form is more com-
petent to deal with them and flourish in them than the derived forihs,
then in the struggle for existence the parent form will maintain itself,
and the derived forms will be exterminated. But, if, on the contrary,
the conditions are such as to be more favorable to a derived than to
the parent form, the parent form will be extirpated, and the derived
form will take its place. In the first case, there will be no progression,
no change of structure, through any imaginable series of ages ; in the
second place, there will be modification and change of form." To
the same end Darwin himself leads us. In one or two very pregnant
passages, the author of the " Theory of Xatural Selection " very plainly
indicates why progression should not be universal, and why certain
beings remain lowly organized while others attain to the summit and
pinnacle of their respective organizations. " How is it," says Darwin,
" that throughout the world a multitude of the lowest forms still exist ?
and how is it that in each great class some forms are far more highly
developed than others ? Why have not the more highly developed
forms evervAvhere supplanted and exterminated the lower?" An-
swering his own queries, Darwin says that natural selection by no




Fig. 8.— Peably Nautelits.



means includes " progressive development — it only takes advantage,*'
he remarks, "of such variations as arise and are beneficial to each
creature under its complex relations of life. And it may be asked,
M"hat advantage, as far as we can see, would it be to an infusorian
animalcule — to an intestinal worm — or even to an earthworm, to be
highly organized ? If it were no advantage, these forms would be



DEGENERATION.



225



left, by natural selection, unimproved or but little improved, and
might remain for ages in their present lowly condition. And geology
tells us that some of the lowest forms, as the foraminifera (Fig. 9), in-
fusoria, and rhizopods, have remained for an enormous period in nearly
their pix'sent state. But," adds Darwin, with a characteristically im-
partial view of matters, "to suppose that most of the many now ex-
isting low forms have not in the least advanced since the first dawn
of life would be exti-emely rash ; for every natui-alist who has dissected
some of the beings now ranked as very low in the scale must have been
struck with their really wondrous and beautiful organization."

Thus one of the plainest facts
of natural history, namely, that in
even one group or class of animals
we find forms of exceedingly low
structure included along with ani-
mals of high organization — the
apparently diverse bodies being
really modeled on the one and the
same type — is explained by the
consideration that with different
conditions, or with various condi-
tions acting differently upon un-
like constitutions, we expect to
find extreme differences in the rank
to which the members of a class
may attain. In the class of fishes
we find the worm-like, clear-bodied
lancelet of an inch long associated
with the ferocious shark, the active
dogfish, or the agile food-fishes of
our table. But, as Darwin re-
marks, the shark would not tend
to supplant the lancelet, their

-pheres and their conditions of existence being of diverse nature.
The same remark applies to many other classes of living beings. So
that lowly beings still live as such among us, and presei-ve the primi-
tive simplicity of their race, firstly, because the conditions of life and
their limited numbers may not have induced any great competition or
struggle for existence. On the "let-well-alone" principle we may un-
derstand why some animals, such as the lancelet itself, have lagged be-
liind in the race after progress. Then, secondly, as Darwin remarks,
favorable variations, by way of beginning the work of progress, may
never have appeared — a result due, probably, as much to hidden causes
within the living being as to outside conditions. We may not fail to
note, lastly, that the simpler and more uniform these latter conditions
ire — as represented in the abysses of the ocean, for example — the less
vor,. XIX. — 15




GEKIXA, ETC.



226



THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.



incentive is there for the progress and evolution of the races which
dwell in their midst.

This somewhat lengthy introduction to the subject of degeneration
and its results is in its way necessary for the full appreciation of the
fashion in which degeneration relates itself to the other conditions of
life. From the preceding reflections it becomes clear that three pos-
sibilities of life await each living being. Either it remains primitive
and unchanged, or it progresses toward a higher type, or, last of all, it
backslides and retrogresses. As the first condition, that of stability,
is, as already noted, perfectly consistent with the doctrine of descent,
so are the two latter conditions part and parcel of that theory. The
stable state forces the animal to remain as it now is, or as it has been
in all times past ; the progressive tendency will make it a more elabo-
rate animal : and the progress of degeneration will, on the other hand,
tend to simplify its structure. It requires no thought to perceive that
progress is a great fact of nature. The development of every animal
and plant shows the possibilities of nature in this direction. But the
bearings of degeneration and physiological backsliding are not, per-
chance, so clearly seen ; hence, to this latter aspect of biology we may
now specially direct our attention.

That certain animals degenerate or retrogress in their development
before our eyes to-day, is a statement susceptible of ready and familiar
illustration. No better illustrations of this statement can be found
than those derived from the domain of parasitic existence. When an
animal or plant attaches itself partly or
wholly to another living being, and be-
comes more or less dependent upon the
latter for support and nourishment, it ex-
hibits, as a rule, retrogression and degen-
eration. The parasitic " guest " dependent
on its "host" for lodging alone, or it may
be for both board and lodging, is in a fair
way to become degraded in structure, and,
as a rule, exhibits degradation of a marked
kind, where the association has persisted
sufiiciently long. Parasitism and servile
dependence act very much in structural
lower life as analogous instances of men-
Fia. 10.— CoMMos Tapeworm (Tcenia tal dependence on Others act in our-

•«o/!W7n). 1. The head extremity, mag- , ri-,i t , ,• p -, , • ,•

nifled, showing hooks (a\ and snck- selves. 1 he destruction ot characteristic

ers (&, c); d, neck, with immature ,. . t t. j ,1 ,• .■ n

joints. 2. A joint, largely magnified, individuality and the extinction or per-

which" the numerous ^gs'oTeach sonality are natural results of that form

joint are matured. ^^ association wherein one form becomes

absolutely dependent on another for all the conditions of life, A

life of attachment exhibits similar results, and organs of movement

disappear by the law of disuse. A digestive system is a superfluity




DEGENERATION.



227



to an animal which, like a tapeworm (Fig. 10), obtains its food ready-
made in the very kitchen, so to speak, of its host. Hence the lack
of a digestive apparatus follows the finding of a free commissariat
by the parasite. Organs of sense are not necessary for an attached
and rooted animal ; these latter, therefore, go by the board, and the
nervous system itself becomes modified and altered. Degradation,
wholesale and complete, is the penalty the parasite has to pay for
its free board and lodging ; and in this fashion Nature may be said
to revenge the host for the pains and troubles wherewith, like the
just of old, he may be tormented. Numerous life-histories testify
clearly enough to the correctness of the foregoing observations. Take,



Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthThe Popular science monthly (Volume 19) → online text (page 28 of 110)