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Activity Of Consciousness
Aim And Method Of Naturalism
Autonomy Of Spirit
Consciousness Of The Ego
Constructive Criticism
Contrast Between Darwinian And Post-darwinian Views
Creative Power Of Consciousness
Criticisms Of The Mechanistic Theory Of Life
Crities Of Darwinism
Darwinish In General
Darwinism And Teleology
Darwinism In The Strict Sense
De Vries's Mutation-theory
Differences Of Opinion As To The Factors In Evolution
Eimer's Orthogenesis
Evolution And New Beginnings
Feeling Individuality Genius And Mysticism
Freedom Of Spirit
Fundamental Principles Of Naturalism
Goethe's Attitude To Naturalism
Haeckel's Evolutionist Position
How All This Affects The Religious Outlook
How The Religious And The Naturalistic Outlooks Conflict
Individual Development
Intuitions Of Reality
Is There Ageing Of The Mind?
Lamarckism And Neo-lamarckism
Machnical Theories Criticism
Mind And Spirit The Human And The Animal Soul
Mystery : Dependence : Purpose
Natural Selection
Naturalistic Attacks On The Autonomy Of The Spiritual
No Parallelism
Other Instances Of Dissatisfaction With The Theory Of Descent
Pre-eminence Of Consciousness
Preyer's Position
Religion And The Theory Of Descent
Spontaneous Generation
Teleological And Scientific Interpretations Are Alike Necessary
The Antimony Of Our Conception Of Space
The Antimony Of Our Conception Of Time
The Antimony Of The Conditioned And The Unconditioned
The Characteristic Features Of Darwinism
The Conservation Of Matter And Energy
The Constructive Work Of Driesch
The Contingency Of The World
The Dependence Of The Order Of Nature
The Development Of Darwinism
The Ego
The Fundamental Answer
The Law Of The Conservation Of Energy
The Mechanics Of Development
The Mystery Of Existence Remains Unexplained
The Organic And The Inorganic
The Position Of Bunge And Other Physiologists
The Problema Continui
The Real World
The Recognition Of Purpose
The Religious Interpretation Of The World
The Spontaneous Activity Of The Organism
The Supremacy Of Mind
The Theory Of Descent
The True Naturalism
The Two Kinds Of Naturalism
The Unconscious
The Unity Of Consciousness
The Views Of Albrecht And Schneider
The Views Of Botanists Illustrated
The World And God
Theory Of Definite Variation
Theory Of Life
Various Forms Of Darwinism
Virchow's Caution
Virchow's Position
Weismann's Evolutionist Position
What Is Distinctive In The Naturalistic Outlook
What Is Distinctive In The Religious Outlook

Natural Selection

We have for the moment provisionally admitted the theory of natural
selection, in order to see whether it could be included in a religious
interpretation of things. But in reality such an admission is not to be
thought of, in face of what is at present so apparent--the breaking down of
this hypothesis, which has been upheld with so much persistence. We shall
have to occupy ourselves with this later on. In the meantime a few more
remarks must be added to what has been already said.

It might be said, paradoxically, that the worst fate that could befall
this hypothesis would be to be proved, for then it would be most certainly
refuted. What we mean is this: If it is really "utility" that rules the
world and things, there can be no certainty and objectivity of knowledge,
no guarantee of truth. The "struggle for existence" is not concerned with
selecting beings who see the world as it is. It selects only the
interpretation and conception of the environment that is most serviceable
for the existence and maintenance of the species. But there is nothing to
guarantee that the "true" knowledge will also be the most useful. It might
quite well be that an entirely subjective and in itself wholly false
interpretation would be the most serviceable. And if, by some
extraordinary chance, the selected interpretation should be also the true
one, there would be no means of establishing the fact. And what is true of
this interpretation is true also of all theories that are derived from it,
for example of the theory of selection itself.

Furthermore, a great part, perhaps the greatest part of the confidence
placed in the theory of selection is due to an involuntary, but entirely
fallacious habit of crediting it with the probabilities in favour of the
doctrine of descent. The main arguments in favour of evolution and descent
are very often, though unwittingly, adduced in support of Darwinism in
particular. This is a great mistake. Take, for instance, the evidence of
the "palaeontological" record. It affords hundreds of proofs of evolution,
but not a single proof of selection. Its "intermediate" and "connecting
links" do possibly prove the affiliation of species and the validity of
genealogical trees. But precisely the "intermediate links" which
selection requires--the myriads of forms of life which were not
successfully adapted, the unfit competitors in the struggle for existence
which must have accompanied the favourably adapted variants from step to
step, from generation to generation--these are altogether awanting.

Another circumstance seems to us to have been entirely overlooked, and it
is one which gives the theory of selection an inevitable appearance of
truth, even if it is essentially false, and thus makes it very difficult
to refute. Assuming that the recognition of teleological factors is valid,
that there is an inward law of development, that "Moses" or whoever one
will was undoubtedly right, it is self-evident that, because of the
indubitable over-production of organisms, there would even then be a
struggle for existence on an immense scale, and that it would have a
far-reaching "selective" influence, because of the relative plasticity of
many forms of life. Beyond doubt it would, in the course of aeons, have
applied its shears to many forms of life, and probably there would be no
organisms, organs, or associations in the evolution of the ultimate form
of which it had not energetically co-operated. Its influence would,
perhaps, be omnipresent, yet it might be far from being the all-sufficient
factor in evolution; indeed, as far as the actual impulse of evolution is
concerned, it might be a mere accessory. Unless we are to think of the
forms of life as wholly passive and wooden, the struggle for existence
must necessarily be operative, and the magnitude of its results, and their
striking and often bizarre outcome, will tend ever anew to conceal the
fact that the struggle is after all only an inevitable accompaniment of
evolution. And thus we understand how it is that interpretations from the
point of view of an inward law of development, of orthogenesis, or of
teleology, notwithstanding their inherent validity, have a priori always
had a relatively difficult position as compared with the Darwinian view.

It is usual to speak of the "all-sufficiency of natural selection," yet
the champion of the selection-theory admits, as he needs must, that the
struggle for existence and selection can of themselves create absolutely
nothing, no new character, no new or higher combination of the vital
elements; they can only take what is already given; they can only select
and eliminate among the wealth of what is offered.(38) And the offerer is
Life itself by virtue of its mysterious capacity for boundless and
inexhaustible variability, self-enrichment and increase. The "struggle for
existence" only digs the bed through which life's stream flows, draws the
guiding-line, and continually stimulates it to some fresh revelation of
its wealth. But this wealth was there from the beginning; it was, to use
the old word, "potential" in the living, and included with it in the
universal being from which life was called forth. The struggle for
existence is only the steel which strikes the spark from the flint; is,
with its infinite forms and components, only the incredibly complex
channel through which life forces its way upwards. If we keep this clearly
in mind, the alarming and ominous element in the theory shrinks to half
its dimensions.

And, finally, if we can rid ourselves of the peculiar fascination which
this theory exercises, we soon begin to discover what extraordinary
improbability and fundamental artificiality it implies. "Utility" is
maintained to be that which absolutely, almost tyrannically, determines
form and development in the realm of the living. Is this an idea that
finds any analogy elsewhere in nature? Those who uphold the theory most
strongly are wont to compare the development of organisms to
crystal-formation in order in some way to tack on the living to the
not-living. Crystal-formation, with its processes of movement and
form-development, is, they say, a kind of connecting link between the
living and the not-living. And in truth we find here, as in the realm of
life, species-formation, development into individuals, stages and systems.
But all this takes place without any hint of "struggle for existence," of
laboriously "selective" processes, or of ingenious accumulation of
"variations." The "species" of crystals are formed not according to
utility, but according to inherent, determining laws of development, to
which the diversity of their individual appearances is due. If "Life" were
only a higher potential of what is already stirring in crystallisation, as
this view suggests, then we should expect to find fixed tendencies,
determined from within, in accordance with which life would pass through
the cycle of its forms and possibilities, and rise spontaneously through
gradual stages.

Next: Crities Of Darwinism

Previous: Weismannism

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