Samuel Butler.

Evolution, old and new, or, The theories of Buffon, Dr. Erasmus Darwin and Lamarck, as compared with that of Charles Darwin online

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EVOLUTION
OLD AND NEW



UBRARY

WVWSmOP
AUPORNIA




-*



Evolution,
Old and New



Re-issue of the Works of the late
Samuel Butler

Author of "Erewhon," "The Way of All Flesh," etc.
MB. FJFIELD has pleasure in announcing he has taken over the publication
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London : A. C. Fifield, 13 Clifford's Inn, E.C.



Evolution,
Old and New;

Or, the theories of Buffon, Dr. Erasmus

Darwin, and Lamarck, as compared

with that of Charles Darwin

By

Samuel Butler

Author of

"Life and Habit," "Luck, or Cunning?" "Erewhon,"
" God the Known and God the Unknown," etc.

OP. 4

New Edition (the Third), with Author's Revisions, Appendix, and Index



London: A. C. Fifield
1911



" The want of a practical acquaintance with Natural History
leads the author to take an erroneous view of the bearing of his
own theories on those of Mr. Darwin." Review of 'Life and
Habit,' by Mr. A. R. Wallace, in * Nature? March 27, 1879.

" Neither lastly would our observer be driven out of hie con-
clusion, or from his confidence in its truth, by being told that
he knows nothing at all about the matter. He knows enough
for his argument ; he knows the utility of the end ; he knows
the subserviency and adaptation of the means to the end.
These points being known, his ignorance concerning other
points, his doubts concerning other points, affect not the cer-
tainty of his reasoning. The consciousness of knowing little
need not beget a distrust of that which he does know."

Paley's * Natural Theology,' chap. L






NOTE

THE demand for a new edition of "Evolution, Old
and New," gives me an opportunity of publishing
Butler's latest revision of his work. The second
edition of "Evolution, Old and New," which was
published in 1882 and re-issued with a new title-
page in 1890, was merely a re-issue of the first
edition with a new preface, an appendix, and an
index. At a later date, though I cannot say precisely
when, Butler revised the text of the book in view
of a future edition. The corrections that he made
are mainly verbal and do not, I think, affect the
argument to any considerable extent. Butler, how-
ever, attached sufficient importance to them to incur
the expense of having the stereos of more than fifty
pages cancelled and new stereos substituted. I have
also added a few entries to the index, which are taken
from a copy of the book, now in my possession, in
which Butler made a few manuscript notes.

R A. STKEATFEILD.
October, 1911.



AUTHOR'S PREFACE

TO

THE SECOND EDITION

SINCE the proof-sheets of the Appendix to this book
left my hands, finally corrected, and too late for me to
be able to recast the first of the two chapters that
compose it, I hear, with the most profound regret, of
the death of Mr. Charles Darwin.

It being still possible for me to refer to this event in
a preface, I hasten to say how much it grates upon me
to appear to renew my attack upon Mr. Darwin under
the present circumstances.

I have insisted in each of my three books on Evolu-
tion upon the immensity of the service which Mr.
Darwin rendered to that transcendently important
theory. In " Life and Habit," I said : " To the end of
time, if the question be asked, ' Who taught people to
believe in Evolution ?' the answer must be that it was
Mr. Darwin." This is true ; and it is hard to see
what palm of higher praise can be awarded to any
philosopher.

I have always admitted myself to be under the
deepest obligations to Mr. Darwin's works ; and it was
with the greatest reluctance, not to say repugnance,



viii PREFACE.

that I became one of his opponents. I have partaken
of his hospitality, and have had too much experience
of the charming simplicity of his manner not to be
among the readiest to at once admire and envy it. It
is unfortunately true that I believe Mr. Darwin to
have behaved badly to me ; this is too notorious to be
denied ; but at the same time I cannot be blind to the
fact that no man can be judge in his own case, and
that after all Mr. Darwin may have been right, and I
wrong.

At the present moment, let me impress this latter
alternative upon my mind as far as possible, and dwell
only upon that side of Mr. Darwin's work and charac-
ter, about which there is no difference of opinion
among either his admirers or his opponents.

April 21, 1882.



PREFACE.

CONTRARY to the advice of my friends, who caution me
to avoid all appearance of singularity, I venture upon
introducing a practice, the expediency of which I will
submit to the judgment of the reader. It is one
which has been adopted by musicians for more than a
century to the great convenience of all who are fond
of music and I observe that within the last few years
two such distinguished painters as Mr. Alma-Taderaa
and Mr. Hubert Herkomer have taken to it. It is
a matter for regret that the practice should not have
been general at an earlier date, not only among painters
and musicians, but also among the people who write
books. It consists in signifying the number of a piece
of music, picture, or book by the abbreviation " Op."
and the number whatever it may happen to be.

No work can be judged intelligently unless not only
the author's relations to his surroundings, but also the
relation in which the work stands to the life and other
works of the author, is understood and borne in mind ;
nor do I know any way of conveying this information
at a glance, comparable to that which I now borrow
from musicians. When we see the number against a
work of Beethoven, we need ask no further to be
informed concerning the general character of the



x PREFACE.

music. The same holds good more or less with all
composers. Handel's works were not numbered not
at least his operas and oratorios. Had they been so,
the significance of the numbers on Susanna and Theo-
dora would have been at once apparent, connected as
they would have been with the number on Jephthah,
Handel's next and last work, in which he emphatically
repudiates the influence which, perhaps in a time of
self-distrust, he had allowed contemporary German
music to exert over him. Many painters have dated
their works, but still more have neglected doing so,
and some of these have been not a little misconceived
in consequence. As for authors, it is unnecessary to
go farther back than Lord Beaconsfield, Thackeray,
Dickens, and Scott, to feel how much obliged we should
have been to any custom that should have compelled
them to number their works in the order in which
they were written. When we think of Shakespeare,
any doubt which might remain as to the advantage of
the proposed innovation is felt to disappear.

My friends, to whom I urged all the above, and more,
met me by saying that the practice was doubtless a
very good one in the abstract, but that no one was par-
ticularly likely to want to know in what order my
books had been written. To which I answered that
even a bad book which introduced so good a custom
would not be without value, though the value might
lie in the custom, and not in the book itself ; whereon,
seeing that I was obstinate, they left me, and inter-
preting their doing so into at any rate a modified appro-
bation of my design, I have carried it into practice.



PREFACE. xi

The edition of the * Philosophie Zoologique ' referred
to in the following volume, is that edited by M. Chas.
Martins, Paris, Librairie F. Savy, 24, Kue de Haute-
feuille, 1873.

The edition of the ' Origin of Species ' is that of 1876,
unless another edition be especially named.

The italics throughout the book are generally mine,
except in the quotations from Miss Seward, where
they are all her own.

I am anxious also to take the present opportunity
of acknowledging the obligations I am under to my
friend Mr. H. F. Jones, and to other friends (who will
not allow me to mention their names, lest more errors
should be discovered than they or I yet know of), for
the invaluable assistance they have given me while
this work was going through the press. If I am able
to let it go before the public with any comfort or peace
of mind, I owe it entirely to the carefulness of their
supervision.

I am also greatly indebted to Mr. Garnett, of the
British Museum, for having called my attention to
many works and passages of which otherwise I should
have known nothing.

March 31, 1879.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTEE I.

PAOB

STATEMENT OF THE QUESTION CURRENT OPINION ADVERSE TO

TELEOLOGY ., *



CHAPTER n.
THE TELEOLOGY OF PALEY AND THE THEOLOGIANS 12

CHAPTER HI.

IMPOTENCE OF PALEY'S CONCLUSION THE TELEOLOGY OF THE

EVOLUTIONIST 24

CHAPTER IV.

FAILURE OF THE FIRST EVOLUTIONISTS TO SEE THEIR POSITION

AS TELEOLOGICAL 34

CHAPTER V.

THE TELEOLOGICAL EVOLUTION OF ORGANISM THE PHILOSOPHY

OF THE UNCONSCIOUS .... 43



xiv CONTENTS.



CHAPTEK VI.

PAGE

SCHEME OF THE REMAINDER OF THE WORK HISTORICAL SKETCII

OF THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION CO



CHAPTER VII.

PRE-BUFFONIAN EVOLUTION, AND SOME GERMAN WRITERS .. C8

CHAPTER VIII.
MEMOIB ............. . ., .. .. 74



CHAPTER IX.

BrFFON's METHOD THE IRONICAL CHARACTER OF HIS WORK 78

CHAPTER X.

SUPPOSED FLUCTUATIONS OF OPINION CAUSES OR MEANS OF

THE TRANSFORMATION OF SPECIES ............ 97

CHAPTER XI.

BUFFON FULLER QUOTATIONS .............. 107

CHAPTER XII.

SKETCH OF DR. ERASMUS DARWIN'S LIFE .......... 173

CHAPTER XIII.
PHIUXSOPHY o DB, EBABMW DABWIN ..... , .. .. .. 195



CONTENTS. xv



CHAPTER XIV.

PAGE

FULLER QUOTATIONS FROM THE 'ZOONOMIA' 214



CHAPTEE XV.
MEMOIR OP LAMARCK .. 235

CHAPTEE XVI.

GENERAL MISCONCEPTION CONCERNING LAMARCK His PHILO-
SOPHICAL POSITION .. 244

CHAPTEE XVII.
SUMMARY OF THE 'PHILOSOPIUE ZOOLOGTQUE' 2G1

CHAPTEE XVIII.

MR. PATRICK MATTHEW, MM. ETIENNE AND ISIDORE GEOFFROY

ST. HlLAIRE, AND MR. HERBERT Sl'ENCEK 315

CHAPTEE XIX.

MAIN POINTS OF AGREEMENT AND OF DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE

OLD AND NEW THEORIES OF EVOLUTION 335

CHAPTEE XX.

NATURAL SELECTION CONSIDERED AS A MEANS OF MODIFICATION

THE CONFUSION WHICH THIS EXPRESSION OCCASIONS . 345



xvi CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XXI.

FAGS

MR. DARWIN'S DEFENCE OP THE EXPRESSION, NATURAL SELEC-

T10N PROFESSOR MIVABT AND NATURAL SELECTION .. 3G2

CHAPTEE XXII.

TIIE CASE OF THE MADEIRA BEETLES AS ILLUSTRATING THE
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE EVOLUTION OF LAMARCK AND
OF MR. CHARLES DARWIN CONCLUSION 373

APPENDIX 385

INDEX.. 409



EVOLUTION, OLD AND NEW.



CHAPTER I.

STATEMENT OP THE QUESTION. CURRENT OPINION
ADVERSE TO TELEOLOGY.

OF all the questions now engaging the attention of
those whose destiny has commanded them to take more
or less exercise of mind, I know of none more interesting
than that which deals with what is called teleology
that is to say, with design or purpose, as evidenced by
the different parts of animals and plants.
The question may be briefly stated thus :
Can we or can we not see signs in the structure of
animals and plants, of something which carries with it
the idea of contrivance so strongly that it is impossible
for us to think of the structure, without at the same
time thinking of contrivance, or design, in connection
with it ?

It is my object in the present work to answer this
question in the affirmative, and to lead my reader to
agree with me, perhaps mainly, by following the history



2 EVOLUTION, OLD AND NEW.

of that opinion which is now supposed to be fatal to a
purposive view of animal and vegetable organs. I refer
to the theory of evolution or descent with modification.

Let me state the question more at large.

When we see organs, or living tools for there is no
well-developed organ of any living being which is not
used by its possessor as an instrument or tool for the
effecting of some purpose which he considers or has
considered for his advantage when we see living tools
which are as admirably fitted for the work required of
them, as is the carpenter's plane for planing, or the
blacksmith's hammer and anvil for the hammering of
iron, or the tailor's needle for sewing, what conclusion
shall we adopt concerning them ?

Shall we hold that they must have been designed or
contrived, not perhaps by mental processes indistin-
guishable from those by which the carpenter's saw or
the watch has been designed, but still by processes
so closely resembling these that no word can be found
to express the facts of the case so nearly as the
word "design"? That is to say, shall we imagine
that they were arrived at by a living mind as the result
of scheming and contriving, and thinking (not without
occasional mistakes) which of the courses open to it
seemed best fitted for the occasion, or are we to regard
the apparent connection between such an organ, we will
say, as the eye, and the sight which is affected by it, as
in no way due to the design or plan of a living intelli-
gent being, but as caused simply by the accumulation,
one upon another, of an almost infinite series of small
pieces of good fortune ?



STA TEMENT OF THE QUESTION A T ISSUE. 3

In other words, shall we see something for which, as
Professor Mivart has well said, " to us the word ' mind '
is the least inadequate and misleading symbol," as
having given to the eagle an eyesight which can pierce
the sun, but which in the night is powerless ; while to
the owl it has given eyes which shun even the full
moon, but find a soft brilliancy in darkness ? Or shall
we deny that there has been any purpose or design in
the fashioning of these different kinds of eyes, and see
nothing to make us believe that any living being made
the eagle's eye out of something which was not an eye
nor anything like one, or that this living being im-
planted this particular eye of all others in the eagle's
head, as being most in accordance with the habits of the
creature, and as therefore most likely to enable it to live
contentedly and leave plenitude of offspring ? And shall
we then go on to maintain that the eagle's eye was
formed little by little by a series of accidental variations,
each one of which was thrown for, as it were, with dice ?

We shall most of us feel that there must have
been a little cheating somewhere with these accidental
variations before the eagle could have become so great
a winner.

I believe I have now stated the question at issue so
plainly that there can be no mistake about its nature,
I will therefore proceed to show as briefly as possible
what have been the positions taken in regard to it by
our forefathers, by the leaders of opinion now living,
and what I believe will be the next conclusion that will
be adopted for any length of time by any considerable
number of people.

B 2



4 EVOLUTION, OLD AND NEW.

Iii the times of the ancients the preponderance of
opinion was in favour of teleology, though impngners
were not wanting. Aristotle * leant towards a denial
of purpose, while Plato f was a firm believer iu design.
From the days of Plato to our own times, there have
been but few objectors to the teleological or purposive
view of nature. If an animal had an eye, that eye was
regarded as something which had been designed in
order to enable its owner to see after such fashion as
should be most to its advantage.

This, however, is now no longer the prevailing opinion
either in this country or in Germany.

Professor Haeckel holds a high place among the
leaders of German philosophy at the present day. He
declares a belief in evolution and in purposiveness to
be incompatible, and denies purpose in language which
holds out little prospect of a compromise.

"As soon, in fact," he writes, "as we acknowledge
the exclusive activity of the physico-chemical causes in
living (organic) bodies as well as in so-called inani-
mate (inorganic) nature," and this is what Professor
Haeckel holds we are bound to do if we accept the
theory of descent with modification " we concede ex-
clusive dominion to that view of the universe, which
we may designate as mechanical, and which is opposed
to the teleological conception. If we compare all the
ideas of the universe prevalent among different nations
at different times, we can divide them all into two

* See note to Mr. Darwin, Historical Sketch, &c., ' Origin of Species,'
p. xiii. ed. 1876, and Arist. ' Physkee Auscultationes,' lib. ii. cap. viii.

8.2.

t See Phffido and Timseus.



STA TEMENT OF THE QUESTION A T ISSUE. 5

sharply contrasted groups a causal or mechanical, and
a teleological or vitalistic. The latter has prevailed
generally in biology until now, and accordingly the
animal and vegetable kingdoms have been considered
as the products of a creative power, acting for a definite
purpose. In the contemplation of every organism, the
unavoidable conviction seemed to press itself upon us,
that such a wonderful machine, so complicated an
apparatus for motion as exists in the organism, could
only be produced by a power analogous to, but infinitely
more powerful than the power of man in the construc-
tion of his machines." *

A little lower down he continues :

" I maintain with regard to " this " much talked of
'purpose in nature ' that it has no existence but for those
persons who observe phenomena in plants and animals in
the most superficial manner. Without going more deeply
into the matter, we can see at once that the rudi-
mentary organs are a formidable obstacle to this theory.
And, indeed, anyone who makes a really close study of
the organization and mode of life of the various animals
and plants, .... must necessarily come to the con-
clusion, that this ' purposiveuess ' no more exists than
the much talked of ' beneficence ' of the Creator." t

Professor Haeckel justly sees no alternative between,
upon the one hand, the creation of independent species by
a Personal God by a " Creator," in fact, who " becomes
an organism, who designs a plan, reflects upon and
varies this plan, and finally forms creatures according

* ' History of Creation,' vol. i. p. 18 (H. S. King and Co., 1876).
t Ibid. p. 19.



6 EVOLUTION, OLD AND NEW.

to it, as a human architect would construct his build-
ing," * and the denial of all plan or purpose whatever.
There can be no question but that he is right here. To
talk of a " designer " who has no tangible existence, no
organism with which to think, no bodily mechanism
with which to carry his purposes into effect ; whose design
is not design inasmuch as it has to contend with no
impediments from ignorance or impotence, and who thus
contrives but by a sort of make-believe in which there
is no contrivance; who has a familiar name, but nothing
beyond a name which any human sense has ever been
able to perceive this is an abuse of words an attempt
to palm off a shadow upon our un erstandings as
though it were a substance. It is plain therefore that
there must either be a designer who "becomes an
organism, designs a plan, &c.," or that there can be no
designer at all and hence no design.

We have seen which of these alternatives Professor
Haeckel has adopted. He holds that those who accept
evolution are bound to reject all " purposiveness." And
here, as I have intimated, I differ from him, for reasons
which will appear presently. I believe in an organic
and tangible designer of every complex structure, for
so long a time past, as that reasonable people will be
incurious about all that occurred at any earlier time.

Professor Clifford, again, is a fair representative of
opinions which are finding favour with the majority of
our own thinkers. He writes :

" There are here some words, however, which require
careful definition. And first the word purpose. A

* 'History of Creation,' vol. i. p. 73 (H. S. King and Co., 1876).



STATEMENT OF THE QUESTION AT ISSUE. 7

thing serves a purpose when it is adapted for some end ;
thus a corkscrew is adapted to the end of extracting
corks from bottles, and our lungs are adapted to the end
of respiration. We may say that the extraction of
corks is the purpose of the corkscrew, and that respi-
ration is the purpose of the lungs, but here we shall
have used the word in two different senses. A man
made the corkscrew with a purpose in his mind, and he
knew and intended that it should be used for pulling
out corks. But nobody made our lungs with a purpose
in his mind and intended that they should be used for
breathing. The respiratory apparatus was adapted to
its purpose by natural selection, namely, by the gradual
preservation of better and better adaptations, and by the
killing-off of the worse and imperfect adaptations." *

No denial of anything like design could be more
explicit. For Professor Clifford is well aware that the
very essence of the " Natural Selection " theory, is that
the variations shall have been mainly accidental and
without design of any sort, but that the adaptations of
structure to need shall have come about by the accu-
mulation, through natural selection, of any variation
that happened to be favourable.

It will be my business on a later page not only to
show that the lungs are as purposive as the corkscrew,
but furthermore that if drawing corks had been a matter
of as much importance to us as breathing is, the list of
our organs would have been found to comprise one
corkscrew at the least, and possibly two, twenty, or ten
thousand ; even as we see that the trowel without which

* ' Fortnightly Review,' new series, vol. xviii. p. 795.



8 EVOLUTION, OLD AND NEW.

the beaver cannot plaster its habitation in such fashion
as alone satisfies it, is incorporate into the beaver's own
body by way of a tail, the like of which is to be found
in no other animal.

To take a name which carries with it a far greater
authority, that of Mr. Charles Darwin. He writes :

" It is scarcely possible to avoid comparing the eye
with a telescope. We know that this instrument has
been perfected by the long-continued efforts of the
highest human intellects ; and we naturally infer that
the eye has been formed by a somewhat analogous
process. But may not this inference be presumptuous ?
Have we any right to declare that the Creator works
by intellectual powers like those of man?" *

Here purposiveness is not indeed denied point-blank,
but the intention of the author is unmistakable, it is
to refer the wonderful result to the gradual accumulation
of small accidental improvements which were not due
as a rule, if at all, to anything " analogous " to design.

" Variation," he says, " will cause the slight altera-
tions ; " that is to say, the slight successive variations
whose accumulation results in such a marvellous struc-
ture as the eye, are caused by variation ; or in other

words, they are indefinite, due to nothing that we can
lay our hands upon, and therefore certainly not due
to design. " Generation," continues Mr. Darwin, " will
multiply them almost infinitely, and natural selection
will pick out with unerring skill each improvement. Let



Online LibrarySamuel ButlerEvolution, old and new, or, The theories of Buffon, Dr. Erasmus Darwin and Lamarck, as compared with that of Charles Darwin → online text (page 1 of 30)