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but a casual aggregation of inert and dead matter, but eternally
impossible to the spirits and souls of the righteous. If it be no
blasphemy, but a truth of science, then the stars of heaven, the showers
and dew, the winter and summer, the fire and heat, the mountains and
hills, may no longer be called to exalt the Lord with us by praise;
their work is to modify all things by blindly starving and murdering
everything that is not lucky enough to survive in the universal struggle
for hogwash.


Thus did the neck of the giraffe reach out across the whole heavens and
make men believe that what they saw there was a gloaming of the gods.
For if this sort of selection could turn an antelope into a giraffe, it
could conceivably turn a pond full of amoebas into the French
Academy. Though Lamarck's way, the way of life, will, aspiration, and
achievement, remained still possible, this newly shewn way of hunger,
death, stupidity, delusion, chance, and bare survival was also possible:
was indeed most certainly the way in which many apparently intelligently
designed transformations had actually come to pass. Had I not preluded
with the apparently idle story of my revival of the controversial
methods of Elijah, I should be asked how it was that the explorer who
opened up this gulf of despair, far from being stoned or crucified as
the destroyer of the honor of the race and the purpose of the world, was
hailed as Deliverer, Savior, Prophet, Redeemer, Enlightener, Rescuer,
Hope Giver, and Epoch Maker; whilst poor Lamarck was swept aside as a
crude and exploded guesser hardly worthy to be named as his erroneous
forerunner. In the light of my anecdote, the explanation is obvious. The
first thing the gulf did was to swallow up Paley, and the Disorderly
Designer, and Shelley's Almighty Fiend, and all the rest of the
pseudo-religious rubbish that had blocked every upward and onward path
since the hopes of men had turned to Science as their true Savior. It
seemed such a convenient grave that nobody at first noticed that it was
nothing less than the bottomless pit, now become a very real terror. For
though Darwin left a path round it for his soul, his followers presently
dug it right across the whole width of the way. Yet for the moment,
there was nothing but wild rejoicing: a sort of scientific mafficking.
We had been so oppressed by the notion that everything that happened in
the world was the arbitrary personal act of an arbitrary personal god
of dangerously jealous and cruel personal character, so that even the
relief of the pains of childbed and the operating table by chloroform
was objected to as an interference with his arrangements which he would
probably resent, that we just jumped at Darwin. When Napoleon was asked
what would happen when he died, he said that Europe would express its
intense relief with a great 'Ouf!': Well, when Darwin killed the god who
objected to chloroform, everybody who had ever thought about it said
'Ouf!' Paley was buried fathoms deep with his watch, now fully accounted
for without any divine artificer at all. We were so glad to be rid of
both that we never gave a thought to the consequences. When a prisoner
sees the door of his dungeon open, he dashes for it without stopping to
think where he shall get his dinner outside. The moment we found that we
could do without Shelley's almighty fiend intellectually, he went into
the gulf that seemed only a dustbin with a suddenness that made our own
lives one of the most astonishing periods in history. If I had told that
uncle of mine that within thirty years from the date of our conversation
I should be exposing myself to suspicions of the grossest superstition
by questioning the sufficiency of Darwin; maintaining the reality of the
Holy Ghost; declaring that the phenomenon of the Word becoming Flesh
was occurring daily, he would have regarded me as the most extravagant
madman our family had ever produced. Yet it was so. In 1906 I might
have vituperated Jehovah more heartily than ever Shelley did without
eliciting a protest in any circle of thinkers, or shocking any public
audience accustomed to modern discussion; but when I described Darwin
as 'an intelligent and industrious pigeon fancier,' that blasphemous
levity, as it seemed, was received with horror and indignation. The tide
has now turned; and every puny whipster may say what he likes about
Darwin; but anyone who wants to know what it was to be a Lamarckian
during the last quarter of the nineteenth century has only to read Mr
Festing Jones's memoir of Samuel Butler to learn how completely even a
man of genius could isolate himself by antagonizing Darwin on the one
hand and the Church on the other.


I am well aware that in describing the effect of Darwin's discovery on
naturalists and on persons capable of serious reflection on the nature
and attributes of God, I am leaving the vast mass of the British public
out of account. I have pointed out elsewhere that the British nation
does not consist of atheists and Plymouth Brothers; and I am not now
going to pretend that it ever consisted of Darwinians and Lamarckians.
The average citizen is irreligious and unscientific: you talk to him
about cricket and golf, market prices and party politics, not about
evolution and relativity, transubstantiation and predestination. Nothing
will knock into his head the fateful distinction between Evolution as
promulgated by Erasmus Darwin, and Circumstantial (so-called Natural)
Selection as revealed by his grandson. Yet the doctrine of Charles
reached him, though the doctrine of Erasmus had passed over his head.
Why did not Erasmus Darwin popularize the word Evolution as effectively
as Charles?

The reason was, I think, that Circumstantial Selection is easier to
understand, more visible and concrete, than Lamarckian evolution.
Evolution as a philosophy and physiology of the will is a mystical
process, which can be apprehended only by a trained, apt, and
comprehensive thinker. Though the phenomena of use and disuse, of
wanting and trying, of the manufacture of weight lifters and wrestlers
from men of ordinary strength, are familiar enough as facts, they are
extremely puzzling as subjects of thought, and lead you into metaphysics
the moment you try to account for them. But pigeon fanciers, dog
fanciers, gardeners, stock breeders, or stud grooms, can understand
Circumstantial Selection, because it is their business to produce
transformation by imposing on flowers and animals a Selection From
Without. All that Darwin had to say to them was that the mere chapter of
accidents is always doing on a huge scale what they themselves are doing
on a very small scale. There is hardly a laborer attached to an English
country house who has not taken a litter of kittens or puppies to the
bucket, and drowned all of them except the one he thinks the most
promising. Such a man has nothing to learn about the survival of the
fittest except that it acts in more ways than he has yet noticed; for he
knows quite well, as you will find if you are not too proud to talk to
him, that this sort of selection occurs naturally (in Darwin's sense)
too: that, for instance, a hard winter will kill off a weakly child as
the bucket kills off a weakly puppy. Then there is the farm laborer.
Shakespear's Touchstone, a court-bred fool, was shocked to find in the
shepherd a natural philosopher, and opined that he would be damned for
the part he took in the sexual selection of sheep. As to the production
of new species by the selection of variations, that is no news to your
gardener. Now if you are familiar with these three processes: the
survival of the fittest, sexual selection, and variation leading to new
kinds, there is nothing to puzzle you in Darwinism.

That was the secret of Darwin's popularity. He never puzzled anybody. If
very few of us have read The Origin of Species from end to end, it is
not because it overtaxes our mind, but because we take in the whole case
and are prepared to accept it long before we have come to the end of
the innumerable instances and illustrations of which the book mainly
consists. Darwin becomes tedious in the manner of a man who insists
on continuing to prove his innocence after he has been acquitted. You
assure him that there is not a stain on his character, and beg him to
leave the court; but he will not be content with enough evidence: he
will have you listen to all the evidence that exists in the world.
Darwin's industry was enormous. His patience, his perseverance, his
conscientiousness reached the human limit. But he never got deeper
beneath or higher above his facts than an ordinary man could follow
him. He was not conscious of having raised a stupendous issue, because,
though it arose instantly, it was not his business. He was conscious of
having discovered a process of transformation and modification which
accounted for a great deal of natural history. But he did not put it
forward as accounting for the whole of natural history. He included it
under the heading of Evolution, though it was only pseudo-evolution at
best; but he revealed it as _a_ method of evolution, not as _the_ method
of evolution. He did not pretend that it excluded other methods, or
that it was the chief method. Though he demonstrated that many
transformations which had been taken as functional adaptations (the
current phrase for Lamarckian evolution) either certainly were or
conceivably might be due to Circumstantial Selection, he was careful
not to claim that he had superseded Lamarck or disproved Functional
Adaptation. In short, he was not a Darwinian, but an honest naturalist
working away at his job with so little preoccupation with theological
speculation that he never quarrelled with the theistic Unitarianism into
which he was born, and remained to the end the engagingly simple and
socially easy-going soul he had been in his boyhood, when his elders
doubted whether he would ever be of much use in the world.


Not so the rest of us intellectuals. We all began going to the devil
with the utmost cheerfulness. Everyone who had a mind to change, changed
it. Only Samuel Butler, on whom Darwin had acted homeopathically,
reacted against him furiously; ran up the Lamarckian flag to the
top-gallant peak; declared with penetrating accuracy that Darwin had
'banished mind from the universe'; and even attacked Darwin's personal
character, unable to bear the fact that the author of so abhorrent a
doctrine was an amiable and upright man. Nobody would listen to him. He
was so completely submerged by the flowing tide of Darwinism that when
Darwin wanted to clear up the misunderstanding on which Butler was
basing his personal attacks, Darwin's friends, very foolishly and
snobbishly, persuaded him that Butler was too ill-conditioned and
negligible to be answered. That they could not recognize in Butler a
man of genius mattered little: what did matter was that they could not
understand the provocation under which he was raging. They actually
regarded the banishment of mind from the universe as a glorious
enlightenment and emancipation for which he was ignorantly ungrateful.
Even now, when Butler's eminence is unchallenged, and his biographer, Mr
Festing Jones, is enjoying a vogue like that of Boswell or Lockhart, his
memoirs shew him rather as a shocking example of the bad controversial
manners of our country parsonages than as a prophet who tried to head
us back when we were gaily dancing to our damnation across the rainbow
bridge which Darwinism had thrown over the gulf which separates life and
hope from death and despair. We were intellectually intoxicated with the
idea that the world could make itself without design, purpose, skill,
or intelligence: in short, without life. We completely overlooked the
difference between the modification of species by adaptation to their
environment and the appearance of new species: we just threw in the word
'variations' or the word 'sports' (fancy a man of science talking of
an unknown factor as a sport instead of as _x_!) and left them to
'accumulate' and account for the difference between a cockatoo and a
hippopotamus. Such phrases set us free to revel in demonstrating to the
Vitalists and Bible worshippers that if we once admit the existence of
any kind of force, however unintelligent, and stretch out the past to
unlimited time for such force to operate accidentally in, that force may
conceivably, by the action of Circumstantial Selection, produce a world
in which every function has an organ perfectly adapted to perform it,
and therefore presents every appearance of having been designed, like
Paley's watch, by a conscious and intelligent artificer for the purpose.
We took a perverse pleasure in arguing, without the least suspicion
that we were reducing ourselves to absurdity, that all the books in the
British Museum library might have been written word for word as they
stand on the shelves if no human being had ever been conscious, just
as the trees stand in the forest doing wonderful things without

And the Darwinians went far beyond denying consciousness to trees.
Weismann insisted that the chick breaks out of its eggshell
automatically; that the butterfly, springing into the air to avoid the
pounce of the lizard, 'does not wish to avoid death; knows nothing about
death,' what has happened being simply that a flight instinct evolved by
Circumstantial Selection reacts promptly to a visual impression produced
by the lizard's movement. His proof is that the butterfly immediately
settles again on the flower, and repeats the performance every time the
lizard springs, thus shewing that it learns nothing from experience,
and - Weismann concludes - is not conscious of what it does.

It should hardly have escaped so curious an observer that when the cat
jumps up on the dinner table, and you put it down, it instantly jumps
up again, and finally establishes its right to a place on the cloth by
convincing you that if you put it down a hundred times it will jump up a
hundred and one times; so that if you desire its company at dinner you
can have it only on its own terms. If Weismann really thought that
cats act thus without any consciousness or any purpose, immediate or
ulterior, he must have known very little about cats. But a thoroughgoing
Weismannite, if any such still survive from those mad days, would
contend that I am not at present necessarily conscious of what I am
doing; that my writing of these lines, and your reading of them, are
effects of Circumstantial Selection; that I heed know no more about
Darwinism than a butterfly knows of a lizard's appetite; and that the
proof that I actually am doing it unconsciously is that as I have spent
forty years in writing in this fashion without, as far as I can see,
producing any visible effect on public opinion, I must be incapable of
learning from experience, and am therefore a mere automaton. And
the Weismannite demonstration of this would of course be an equally
unconscious effect of Circumstantial Selection.


Do not too hastily say that this is inconceivable. To Circumstantial
Selection all mechanical and chemical reactions are possible, provided
you accept the geologists' estimates of the great age of the earth, and
therefore allow time enough for the circumstances to operate. It is true
that mere survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence plus
sexual selection fail as hopelessly to account for Darwin's own life
work as for my conquest of the bicycle; but who can prove that there
are not other soulless factors, unnoticed or undiscovered, which only
require imagination enough to fit them to the evolution of an automatic
Jesus or Shakespear? When a man tells you that you are a product of
Circumstantial Selection solely, you cannot finally disprove it. You can
only tell him out of the depths of your inner conviction that he is a
fool and a liar. But as this, though British, is uncivil, it is wiser to
offer him the counter-assurance that you are the product of Lamarckian
evolution, formerly called Functional Adaptation and now Creative
Evolution, and challenge him to disprove _that_, which he can no more
do than you can disprove Circumstantial Selection, both forces being
conceivably able to produce anything if you only give them rope enough.
You may also defy him to act for a single hour on the assumption that he
may safely cross Oxford Street in a state of unconsciousness, trusting
to his dodging reflexes to react automatically and promptly enough
to the visual impression produced by a motor bus, and the audible
impression produced by its hooter. But if you allow yourself to defy him
to explain any particular action of yours by Circumstantial Selection,
he should always be able to find some explanation that will fit the case
if only he is ingenious enough and goes far enough to find it. Darwin
found several such explanations in his controversies. Anybody who really
wants to believe that the universe has been produced by Circumstantial
Selection co-operating with a force as inhuman as we conceive magnetism
to be can find a logical excuse for his belief if he tries hard enough.


The stultification and damnation which ensued are illustrated by a
comparison of the ease and certainty with which Butler's mind moved to
humane and inspiring conclusions with the grotesque stupidities and
cruelties of the idle and silly controversy which arose among the
Darwinians as to whether acquired habits can be transmitted from parents
to offspring. Consider, for example, how Weismann set to work on that
subject. An Evolutionist with a live mind would first have dropped the
popular expression 'acquired habits,' because to an Evolutionist there
are no other habits and can be no others, a man being only an amoeba
with acquirements. He would then have considered carefully the process
by which he himself had acquired his habits. He would have assumed that
the habits with which he was born must have been acquired by a similar
process. He would have known what a habit is: that is, an Action
voluntarily attempted until it has become more or less automatic and
involuntary; and it would never have occurred to him that injuries or
accidents coming from external sources against the will of the victim
could possibly establish a habit; that, for instance, a family could
acquire a habit of being killed in railway accidents.

And yet Weismann began to investigate the point by behaving like the
butcher's wife in the old catch. He got a colony of mice, and cut off
their tails. Then he waited to see whether their children would be born
without tails. They were not, as Butler could have told him beforehand.
He then cut off the children's tails, and waited to see whether the
grandchildren would be born with at least rather short tails. They were
not, as I could have told him beforehand. So with the patience and
industry on which men of science pride themselves, he cut off the
grandchildren's tails too, and waited, full of hope, for the birth of
curtailed great-grandchildren. But their tails were quite up to the
mark, as any fool could have told him beforehand. Weismann then gravely
drew the inference that acquired habits cannot be transmitted. And yet
Weismann was not a born imbecile. He was an exceptionally clever and
studious man, not without roots of imagination and philosophy in him
which Darwinism killed as weeds.

How was it that he did not see that he was not experimenting with habits
or characteristics at all? How had he overlooked the glaring fact that
his experiment had been tried for many generations in China on the feet
of Chinese women without producing the smallest tendency on their part
to be born with abnormally small feet? He must have known about the
bound feet even if he knew nothing of the mutilations, the clipped ears
and docked tails, practised by dog fanciers and horse breeders on many
generations of the unfortunate animals they deal in. Such amazing
blindness and stupidity on the part of a man who was naturally
neither blind nor stupid is a telling illustration of what Darwin
unintentionally did to the minds of his disciples by turning their
attention so exclusively towards the part played in Evolution by
accident and violence operating with entire callousness to suffering and

A vital conception of Evolution would have taught Weismann that
biological problems are not to be solved by assaults on mice. The
scientific form of his experiment would have been something like this.
First, he should have procured a colony of mice highly susceptible to
hypnotic suggestion. He should then have hypnotized them into an
urgent conviction that the fate of the musque world depended on
the disappearance of its tail, just as some ancient and forgotten
experimenter seems to have convinced the cats of the Isle of Man. Having
thus made the mice desire to lose their tails with a life-or-death
intensity, he would very soon have seen a few mice born with little or
no tail. These would be recognized by the other mice as superior
beings, and privileged in the division of food and in sexual selection.
Ultimately the tailed mice would be put to death as monsters by their
fellows, and the miracle of the tailless mouse completely achieved.

The objection to this experiment is not that it seems too funny to be
taken seriously, and is not cruel enough to overawe the mob, but simply
that it is impossible because the human experimenter cannot get at the
mouse's mind. And that is what is wrong with all the barren cruelties of
the laboratories. Darwin's followers did not think of this. Their only
idea of investigation was to imitate 'Nature' by perpetrating violent
and senseless cruelties, and watch the effect of them with a paralyzing
fatalism which forbade the smallest effort to use their minds instead of
their knives and eyes, and established an abominable tradition that the
man who hesitates to be as cruel as Circumstantial Selection itself is a
traitor to science. For Weismann's experiment upon the mice was a mere
joke compared to the atrocities committed by other Darwinians in their
attempts to prove that mutilations could not be transmitted. No doubt
the worst of these experiments were not really experiments at all, but
cruelties committed by cruel men who were attracted to the laboratory by
the fact that it was a secret refuge left by law and public superstition
for the amateur of passionate torture. But there is no reason to suspect
Weismann of Sadism. Cutting off the tails of several generations of mice
is not voluptuous enough to tempt a scientific Nero. It was a mere piece
of one-eyedness; and it was Darwin who put out Weismann's humane and
sensible eye. He blinded many another eye and paralyzed many another
will also. Ever since he set up Circumstantial Selection as the creator
and ruler of the universe, the scientific world has been the very
citadel of stupidity and cruelty. Fearful as the tribal god of the
Hebrews was, nobody ever shuddered as they passed even his meanest and
narrowest Little Bethel or his proudest war-consecrating cathedral as we
shudder now when we pass a physiological laboratory. If we dreaded and
mistrusted the priest, we could at least keep him out of the house; but
what of the modern Darwinist surgeon whom we dread and mistrust ten
times more, but into whose hands we must all give ourselves from time
to time? Miserably as religion had been debased, it did at least still
proclaim that our relation to one another was that of a fellowship
in which we were all equal and members one of another before the
judgment-seat of our common father. Darwinism proclaimed that our true
relation is that of competitors and combatants in a struggle for mere
survival, and that every act of pity or loyalty to the old fellowship is
a vain and mischievous attempt to lessen the severity of the struggle
and preserve inferior varieties from the efforts of Nature to weed them
out. Even in Socialist Societies which existed solely to substitute
the law of fellowship for the law of competition, and the method of
providence and wisdom for the method of rushing violently down a steep
place into the sea, I found myself regarded as a blasphemer and an
ignorant sentimentalist because whenever the Neo-Darwinian doctrine was
preached there I made no attempt to conceal my intellectual contempt for
its blind coarseness and shallow logic, or my natural abhorrence of its
sickening inhumanity.

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