George St. Clair.

Darwinism and design: or, Creation by evolution online

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188 DARWINISM AND DESIGN.

makes the wisdom more manifest, and frees the charac-
ter from imputation.

It has been remarked that Natural Selection acta by
killing, not by creating : " Natural Selection endows the
woodpecker with its instrument — ' a striking instance
of adaptation ' — ie., it does not give one woodpecker its
instrument ; it has nothing to do with that ; it only Mils
off another woodpecker who has not got it. Natural
Selection forms the flying squirrel with its parachute,
i.e., it makes away with another squirrel who has not got
a parachute, and is at a disadvantage in the locality.
Natural Selection has ' reduced the wing' of some species
of beetles in Madeira. That means that those species
which had reduced or shortened wings were naturally
selected or survived, whereas others with full wings, by
reason of this very completeness of them, perished, be-
cause they flew, and flying, they flew over the sea, and
flying over the sea, got carried away by winds, and could
not get back again to land.'^^ All this is true. A
frosty night " selects " the hardy plants in a plantation
from among the tender ones as effectually as if the in-
telligence of a gardener had been operative in cutting
the weaker organisms down ; and whether you say that
the strongs are selected to live, or the weak selected to
die, makes no difference. But this is not a method of
trial and error, as Professor Huxley calls it ; nor is it
fatal to teleology, as he appears to think. He says, —
For the notion that every organism has been created
as it is, and launched straight at a purpose, Mr Darwin
substitutes the conception of something which may
fairly be termed a method of trial and error. Organ-
isms vary incessantly; of these variations the few meet
1 Quarterly Review, July 1869.



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HUXLEY ON TELEOLOGY. 189

with surrounding conditions which suit them and thrive;
the many are imsuited and become extinguished. Ac-
cording to teleology, each organism is like a rifle buUet
fired straight at a mark ; according to Darwin, organisms
are like grape-shot, of which one hits something, and the
rest f aU wide.^ Professor Huxley may be right in sayiQg
that teleology, as commonly understood, has received its
death-blow at Mr Darwin's hands; but we remember
his other word — " there is a wider teleology " — and we
desire to arrive at that. If we may no longer say that
cats exist in order to catch mice, but have survived
because they proved the fittest to catch them, we are
not obliged to hand over everything to the haphazard
of grape-shot. The "variations of the feline stock
which died out from want of power to resist opposing in-
fluences," did not come into life by mistake, nor pass
out of it through "error." We have seen that death is the
necessary stepping-stone to higher life; without the
multitude of creatures there would not be that nice
balancing of the organic world, which is more wonder-
ful than that of the planets — ^the organic orbit must
have its aphelion and its perihelion, and when the an-
tagonist forces are living forces the temporary superiority
of one means so much death in the other. But it is the
weak which are weeded out; the irregularities, mon-
strosities, and abortions which are carried off — those
who would have found life least enjoyable, and would
have left descendants to whom it would have- been a
burden. Did the diseased and feeble habitually survive
and propagate, the vigour of the species would be
diminished ; whereas the death of the worst and multi-
plication of the best, results in the maintenance of a
1 Lay Sermons, p. 302.



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190 DAKWINISM AND DESIGN.

constitution in harmony with surrounding conditions,
and eventually in an improved type of life. The very
species that suffers most in the loss of individuals is
often most improved through the stringency of the
selection ; for aU following generations are more healthy
and vigorous, better able to obtain their food regularly
and to avoid their numerous enemies. There is more
life in the world because there is death, more enjoyment
because there is some suffering ; the greater prevalence
of death (though, of course, of life also) is with small
species, which are of lower type and less sensitive to
pain ; with the young, who are not yet fully bound up
in life's relations, and with the aged and the diseased,
to whom death is a happy release. Granting only that
death would be necessary because an animal machine
cannot wear without wearing out, there is wisdom in the
arrangement which uses the flesh of one creature as the
food of another, instead of leaving all to die of disease
and poUute the air by their decomposition.

And it may be remarked before leaving the subject,
that although this action of Natural Selection, in weed-
ing out the weak and those iU-adapted to the conditions
of life, explains the fact that only the vigorous and well-
adapted have survived, it is no sufficient account of the
" adaptations " of nature, and is no more the ultimate
power which brought strong and weak alike into exist-
ence than the winds and waves of the Bay of Biscay,
which have " selected " the grains of sand from amidst
the gravel, and heaped them by themselves over a great
area, are the powers to be credited with the origin of
matter.^

Orowth of Habit and Instinct. — ^In a larger Essay,
^ See Lay Sermons, p. 316,



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HABIT AND INSTINCT. 191

Habit would have a chapter to itself and Instinct
another; and then it might be necessary to write a
third chapter to show their mutual relation. Habit is
acquired by practice, and expresses a facility in bodily
or mental operations, or a propensity to them. We
apply the term to the dexterity of the workman, the
rapidity of the accountant, the quick fingering of a
piano, or to Dr Johnson's action in touching every post
he passed in his walks. Instinct is inherited, and is the
capability of performing complex acts without instruction
or experience, and without a knowledge of the purpose
for which they are performed. We use the word of the
action of the cuckoo in laying her eggs in other birds'
nests, of chickens concealing themselves at the danger-
chuckle of the mother-hen, and of the comb-making
power of the hive bee.

Habit is allied to the use and disuse of organs, pre-
viously spoken of. Not a single domestic animal can
be named which has not in some country drooping ears;
and the view suggested by some authors that the droop-
ing is due to the disuse of the muscles of the ear, from
the animals not being much alarmed by danger, seems
probable. On the other hand, the increased use of an
organ through the repetitionary acts of habit, strengthens
it, and this change being physiological, tends to be in-
herited, so that the offspring may start where the parent
left off, with a facility for performing certain actions ;
and if disposed to use the power it feels itself to possess,
will gain increased facility. Moreover, in the formation'
of habit, the mental powers are concerned as weU as the
bodily organ* Dugald Stewart remarks that ^'a man
who has been accustomed to write with his right hand
can write better with his left hand than another who



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192 DARWINISM AND DESIGN.

never practised the art at all ; but lie cannot write so
well with his left hand as with his right : the effects of
practice, therefore, it should seem, are produced partly
on the mind and partly on the body."^ Both the bodily
and the mental action tend to become automatic — ^the
movements of the fingers, which at first required effort
and attention, and the thought which was once con-
sciously directed to their guidance, may both go on
unconsciously while the mind is occupied with some-
thing else.^ Habit becomes second nature. The mental
part of habit — or, perhaps more strictly, the organic
change produced by the repeated mental action — ^tends
to be inherited, like the more obviously bodily part.
In fact, the habit itself may become hereditary — the
entire facility for performing certain actions, and the
entire tendency to perform them. Mr Lewes had' a
puppy taken from its mother at six weeks old, who,
although never taught *'to beg" (an accomplishment
his mother had been taught), spontaneously took to
begging for everything he wanted when about seven or
eight months old. He would beg for food, beg to be let
out of the room, and one day was found opposite a rab-
bit-hutch begging for rabbits. This case reminds us of
others connected with dogs. Dogs are trained to " point"
and to " retrieve ;'" and although they may possess natu-
rally some slight disposition to do these things (there
must be a foundation for the trainer to build upon), there
is little doubt that the breeds have been produced by edu-
cation and selection. Now it cannot- be disputed that
young pointers will sometimes point, and even back other

1 Philosophy of the Human Mind. Chap, on Attention.

2 See Dr W. B. Carpenter's Art. on the Physiology of the
WiU, in the Goniemp. Bemew, May 1871.



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INSTINCT AND INHERITED HABIT. 193

dogs the very first time that they are taken out. Ee-
trieving, also, is certainly in some degree inherited by
retrievers, and a tendency to run round instead of at
a flock of sheep by shepherd-dogs. But these inherited
habits or tendencies in retrievers and pointers are called
instincts ; and so we are led to notice the close connec-
tion, if not the identity, between instincts and inherited
habits. As in repeating a well-known song, so in in-
stincts — one action follows another by a sort of rhythm.
If a person be interrupted in a song, or in repeating
anything by rote, he is generally forced to go back to
recover the habitual train of thought; so P. Huber
found it was with a caterpillar, which makes- a very
complicated hammock. If he took an individual which
had completed its hammock up to, say, the sixth stage
of construction, and put it into a hammock completed
up only to the third stage, the caterpillar simply re-
performed the fourth, fifth, and sixth stages of con-
struction. If, however, a caterpillar were taken out of
a hammock made up, for instance, to the third stage,
and were put into one finished up to the sixth stage, so
that much of its work was already done for it, far
from feeling the benefit of this, it was much embar-
rassed, and in order to complete its hammock, seemed
forced to start from the third stage, where it had left
ofi^, and thus tried to complete the already finished
work.^

If this be a true account of the origin of instinct, then
we see that instincts, like simple pecxdiarities of bodily
structure, taking their start from outward conditions —
that is, in the case of instinct, from some occasional
action which an animal is prompted to repeat — are per-
^ Darwin's Origin of Species : chap, on Ingstinct.
N



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194 DARWINISM AND DESIGN.

fected by Natural Selection, which continually preserves
the favourable variations.

Then, also, aU that we have before said about the
wisdom seen in the lines in which variation has been
guided, applies here with a force proportioned to the
utility and beauty of the results ; and how remarkable
the results are, as, e.g., in the case of the hive bee 1 " He
must be a dull man," says Mr Darwin,^ "who can
examine the exquisite structure of a comb, so beauti-
fully adapted to its end, without enthusiastic admiration.
We hear from mathematicians that bees have practically
solved a recondite problem, and have made their cells of
the proper shape to hold the greatest possible amount of
honey, with the least possible consumption of precious
wax in their construction. It has been remarked that
a skilful workman, with fitting tools and measures, would
find it very difficult to make cells of wax of the true
form, though this is perfectly effected by a crowd of bees
working in a dark hive."

If the tendency to a beneficial habit died with the
individual who first exhibited it — if the law of heredity
did not co-operate with the law of variation — the growth
of instinct would be impossible, and the bees and ants
would be in the position of their rude progenitors. The
preservation of each new favourable variation of instinct
is to these insects what the preservation of the best
thoughts and discoveries of men, preserved in literature
or taught in school and workshop, is to the human
race; and the insects have this additional advantage,
that Natural Selection^ like a Eomanist Council of the
Index, rigorously but unerringly destroys what is not
good.

^ Darwin's Origin of Species:: chap, on Instinct



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REASON AND CONSCIENCE. 195

Our prospect widens. If instinct is formed in this
way we cannot stop at instinct. Even in animals very-
low in the scale of nature a little dose (as Pierre Huber
expresses it) of judgment or reason often comes into
play. How godlike a power is man's reason, and how
wondrous must have been its evolution ! Man, again,
is a social animal ; and if the moral sense or conscience
has been developed from the social instincts, as sug-
gested by Sir Benjamin Brodie^ and maintained by Mr
Darwin,^ what wisdom must have been at work here !
Morality leads on to religion, — belief in a Creator, faith
in God, love to God ! Surely the Creator has looked
forward from the beginning to the evolution of a race
made in His image, able to understand something of His
work, to see a part of absolute truth, to appreciate in a
degree absolute goodness, to sympathise with Him in
what He approves, and to aim to realise it in them-
selves and in their fellow-men !

* Psydiological InquirieSy first part, p. 199*

* Descent ofMwru



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CHAPTER VII.

THE BENEFICENCE OF THE ALMIGHTY SEEN IN EVOLUTION.

Beneficence is so combined with wisdom in the works
of the Almighty that it was difficult to avoid the fre-
quent mention of the one attribute in treating of the
other. As, however, it must have suggested itself to
the reader's mind as weU as the writer's, the same
ground will not be gone over, to any great extent, in the
present chapter.

§ 1. DiJlcuUies Removed.

All who have sought in nature some evidence of the
character of God have been perplexed by the seeming
conflict of the indications : there is so much that looks
like beneficence and so much that might be maleficence
that the Dualism of ancient Pagan theologies is under-
stood though not assented to.

" We trusted God was love indeed,
And love creation's final law ;
Though nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravin, shrieks against the creed."

Existence of Carnivorous Animals. — Professor Huxley,
who says that cats were not created in order to catch
mice, consistently says in another place that the human
eye was not constructed in order that man might see.
It is clear that these two things must go together, and



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CARNIVOROUS ANIMALS. 197

he who contends that Design is exhibited in the human
eye, must see it also in the claws and teeth and digestive
canal of the tiger — so admirably suited for catching, and
tearing, and assimilating to itself the flesh of other
creatures. Yet it grates against one's feeling to read
a passage like the following : — " Why then has nature
deliberately sacrificed a certain amount of force, by put-
ting a triangular muscle into the leg of the tiger, to do
the work which she does so effectually in my leg by a
straight rope of muscle ? The answer is this — I am a
man and not a tiger ; I am not intended, as a tiger is,
to hide in a jungle, to jump from the jungle at a troop
of horsemen going by, to take one of them and carry
him off, spite of the rest, and eat him. That is not the
purpose for which the Creator brought me here ; but if
I were brought here for such a purpose, I am sure I
should have a triangular muscle in my leg."^ On the
one hand, we cannot escape from the admission Mr
Spencer would force from us, that if organisms were
severally constructed with a view to their respective
ends, then the character of the constructor is indicated
both by the ends themselves, and the perfection or im-
perfection with which the organisms are fitted to them ;^
on the other hand, our own better nature revolts from
the deliberate infliction of pain. The whole difiiculty
has arisen from metaphysical views of creation and of
Deity — from the supposition that, by an Infinite Being,
results could be attained without processes, and ideal
perfection without temporary incidental evil. The
moment we learn from Evolution that struggle and

^ See Professor Haughton's " Lectures on Least Action," Brit.
Med. Jour^y May and June, 1871,
' Principles of Biology, L 340.



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198 DARWINISM AND DESIGN.

death were absolutely necessary in order to render
possible the advancement of the forms of life, and the
eventual birth and perfecting of man, the existence of
carnivorous animals ceases to appear a satire on the
Beneficence of the Creator. In the lower animals there
appears to be something approaching a complete enjoy-
ment of life while it lasts; and when the end does arrive
it is in most cases unforeseen, and the suffering which
attends it is in general of only momentary duration.
To the objection that the Creator could have fitted all
animals to live on a vegetable diet, we may oppose first
of aU the answer of Dr Andrew Combe, — Had there
been no beasts of prey, the world would soon have been
overrun with herbivorous creatures to such an extent
that their numbers would speedily have become exces-
sive in reference to the possible supply of food, and
there would have been infinitely more suffering from
starvation and disease than what actually arises out of
the existing relation of different classes to each other.
On the present plan there is ample food and enjoyment for
all.^ And further, we can see, as Dr Combe perhaps could
not see in 1845, that vegetable feeders, with abundant
food, would not have struggled as animals struggle now,
and the higher forms of life would not have been possible.

Existence of Parasites arid of Diseases. — The existence
of parasites, though less is said about it, is a greater
difficulty than the existence of carnivores : for here it
is the inferior which destroy the superior, and the suffer-
ing seems to bring no compensating benefit. There are
two kinds of tapeworm which flourish in the human
intestines, producing great constitutional disturbances,
sometimes ending in insanity ; and from the germs of

^ Combe's Physiology of Digestion (EcUnburgh, 1845), c. vi



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J



ARE PARASITES DESIGNED? 199

one of these, when carried into other parts of the body,
urise certain partially-developed forms which cause dis-
organization more or less extensive in the brain, the
lungs, the liver, the heart, the eye, &c. ; often ending
fatJly after long-continued 'suffering. Altogether, the
parasites of the human body, internal and external,
anin^al and vegetal, number two or three dozen species ;
besides which almost every known animal has its
peculiar species, generally more than one, and some-
times as many as man, or even more. Can we say that
parasites were purposely endowed with constitutions
fitting them to live by absorbing the juices of the human
body ; that they were designedly furnished with appli-
ances, often of a formidable kind, enabling them to root
themselves in and upon the body ; and that they were
made prolific in an almost incredible degree in order
that their germs might have a sufl&cient number of
chances of finding their way into the human organism ?
" Shall we say that man, ' the head and crown of things,'
was provided as a habitat for these parasites ? Or shall
•we say that these degraded creatures, incapable of
thought or enjoyment, were created that they might
cause unhappiness to man ? One or other of these alter-
natives must be chosen by those who contend that every
kind of organism was separately devised by the Creator.
Which do they prefer ? With the conception of two anta-
gonistic powers, which severally work good and evil in
the world, the facts are congruous enough. But with the
conception of a supreme beneficence, this gratuitous inflic-
tion of misery on man, in common with all other terrestrial
creatures capable of feeling, is absolutely incompatible."^

^ Spencer : Principles of Biology, i 344 Biichner : Force and
Matter, p. 95.



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200 DARWINISM AND DESIGN.

On the hypothesis of Special Creation this is a tre-
mendous difficulty, and if the theory of Evolution dii
not clear it up it would leave us in no worse position
than before. Mr Spencer endeavours to explain it by
the principle of " incidental evil," which, in the nature
of things, is connected with a process like that of evolu-
tion — evil which is but " a deduction from the a^«rage
benefits," and is "ever being self-eliminated," thd ten-
dency being " to produce a type of superior orgAnisms
less liable to the invasions of the inferior." Thus,
" though there may arise the question. Why could they
not have been avoided ? there does not arise the ques-
tion, Why were they deliberately inflicted ? Whatever
may be thought of them, it is clear that they do not
imply gratuitous malevolence." This seems hardly
enough for us, on the view maintained in this Essay ;
for in so far as the bodies of these creatures exhibit
what we must call mechanism, we must hold them to
have been designed. We confess to some difficulty. Dr
Bree says, "We cannot answer these questions;"^ but
unless they admit of an answer they seem to leave room
for the denial of Design in any and every part of the
animal or vegetal creation. Our first suggestion is, that
since incidental evils are correlated with the process to
which they are incidental, they do not carry with them
any denial of design in that process ; but, on the con-
trary, so far as they are fitted for any purpose, or seem
to exhibit any design themselves, they prove design in
the process of which they are the incidents ; much as the
complex character of the refuse from chemical works in-
dicates complexity in the processes which gave rise to it,
or as the regularity of blun*ed letters on a fragment of
^ Fallacies of Dancinism, p. 68.



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PAEASITES AND DISEASES. 201

dirty paper speaks of the printing machinery through
which it has accidentally passed. A second suggestion
is, that parasites, in so far as they affect chiefly indi-
viduals of uncleanly habits or careless feeding, and kill
those whose oi^ans are weakest, are engaged in a use-
ful work, on the principle of Natural Selection, and
may have been as much designed for that purpose
as the general struggle for existence is designed. A
third suggestion I find in Mr J. J. Murphy's work —
viz., that parasites are descended from species which
were not parasitic, and have become self-adapted to new
habitats, so that we have in their existence only a par-
ticular case of the question why pain and disease are
permitted at all.^ If either of these suggestions should
prove accordant with fact, it will probably supply at the
same time a solution to the class of difficulties referred
to by Mr Darwin in the following passage : — Finally, it
may not be a logical deduction, but to my imagination
it is far more satisfactory to look at such instincts as the
young cuckoo ejecting its foster-brothers, ants making
slaves, the larvae of ichneumonidae feeding within the
live bodies of caterpillars — not as specially endowed or
created instincts, but as small consequences of one
general law, leading to the advancement of all organic
beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live
and the weakest die.^

Diseases other than parasitic seem to admit of an
easier explanation. That certain substances should be
80 related to the blood that they will " poison " it if in-
troduced, may be as inevitable as that pointed weapons
should be fitted to pierce the skin, or that plane sur-
faces should admit of contact throughout their extent
* Habit and Intelligence, chap. zxviL * Origin of Species : Instinct



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202 DABWINISM AND DESIGN.

while a cube and a sphere can only touch at one point.
There is some truth in Professor Huxley's strong state-
ment that plague, pestilence, and famine are admitted by
all but fools to be the natural result of causes for the most


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Online LibraryGeorge St. ClairDarwinism and design: or, Creation by evolution → online text (page 15 of 20)