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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

Other Instances Of Dissatisfaction With The Theory Of Descent

What was with Virchow only a suggestion of the need for caution, or
controversial matter to be subsequently allowed for or contradicted, had
more serious consequences to others, and led to still greater hesitancy as
regards evolutionist generalisations and speculations, and sometimes to
sharp antagonism to them.

One of the best known of the earlier examples of this mood is Kerner von
Marilaun's large and beautiful work on "Plant Life."(21) He does, indeed,
admit that our species are variations of antecedent forms, but only in a
very limited sense. Within the stocks or grades of organisation which have
always existed, variations have come about, through "hybridisation,"
through the crossing of similar, but relatively different forms; these
variations alter the configuration and appearance in detail, but neither
affect the general character nor cause any transition from "lower" to

Kerner disposes of the chief argument in favour of the theory of descent,
the homology of individual organs, by explaining that the homology is due
to the similarity of function in the different organisms. A similar
argument is used in regard to "ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny."
Palaeontology does not disclose in the plant-world any "synthetic types,"
which might have been the common primitive stock from which many now
divergent branches have sprung, nor does it disclose any "transition
links" really intermediate, for instance, between cryptogams and
gymnosperms, or between gymnosperms and angiosperms. That the higher races
are apparently absent from the earlier strata is not a proof that they
have never existed. The peat-bog flora must have involved the existence of
a large companion-flora, without which the peat could not have been
formed, but all trace of this is absent in the still persistent vestiges
of these times.(22) Life, with energy and matter, has existed as a
phenomenon of the universe from all eternity, and thus its chief forms and
manifestations have not "arisen," but have always been. If facts such as
these contradict the Kant-Laplace theory of the universe, then the latter
must be corrected in the light of them, not conversely. The extreme
isolation of Kerner and his theory is probably due especially to this
corollary of his views.

Among the most recent examples of antagonism to the Evolution-Theory, the
most interesting is a book by Fleischmann, professor of zoology in
Erlangen, published in 1901, and entitled, "The Theory of Descent." It
consists of "popular lectures on the rise and decline of a scientific
hypothesis" (namely, the Theory of Descent), and it is a complete
recantation by a quondam Darwinian of the doctrine of his school, even of
its fundamental proposition, the concept of evolution itself. For
Fleischmann is not guilty, like Weismann, of the inaccuracy of using
"Theory of Descent" as equivalent to Darwinism; he is absolutely
indifferent to the theory of natural selection. His book keeps strictly to
matters of fact, and rejects as speculation everything in the least beyond
these; it does not express even an opinion on the question of the origin
of species, but merely criticises and analyses.

It does not bring forward any new and overwhelming arguments in refutation
of the Theory of Descent, but strongly emphasises difficulties that have
always beset it, and discusses these in detail. The old dispute which
interested Goethe, Geoffroy St. Hilaire, and Cuvier, as to the unity or
the fundamental heterogeneity of the "architectural plan" in nature is
revived. Modern zoology recognises not merely the four types of Cuvier,
but seventeen different styles, "phyla," or groups of forms, to derive one
of which from another is hopeless. And what is true of the whole is true
also of the subdivisions within each phylum; e.g., within the vertebrate
phylum with its fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. No bridge
leads from one to the other. This is proved particularly by the very
instance which is the favourite illustration in support of the Theory of
Descent--the fin of fishes and its relation to the five-fingered hand of
vertebrates. The so-called transition forms (Archaeopteryx, monotremes,
&c.) are discredited. So with the "stalking-horse" of evolutionists--the
genealogical tree of the Equidae, which is said to be traceable
palaeontologically right back, without a break, from the one-toed horses of
the present day to the normal five-toed ancestry; and so with another
favourite instance of evolution, the history of the pond-snails
(Planorbis multiformis), the numerous varieties of which occur with
transitions between them in actual contiguity in the Steinheim beds, and
thus seem to afford an obvious example of the transformation of species.
Against these cases, and against using the palaeontological archives as a
basis for the construction of genealogical trees in general, the weighty
and apparently decisive objection is urged, that nowhere are the soft
parts of the earlier forms of life preserved, and that it is impossible to
establish relationships with any certainty on the basis of hard parts
only, such as bones, teeth and shells. Even Haeckel admits that snails of
very different bodily structure may form very similar and even hardly
distinguishable shells.

Fleischmann further asserts that Haeckel's "fundamental biogenetic law"
has utterly collapsed. "Recapitulation" does not occur. Selenka's figures
of ovum-segmentation show that there are specific differences in the
individual groups. The origin and development of the blastoderm or
germinal disc has nothing to do with recapitulation of the phylogeny. It
is not the case that the embryos of higher vertebrates are
indistinguishable from one another. Even the egg-cell has a specific
character, and is totally different from any unicellular organism at the
Protistan level. The much-cited "gill-clefts" of higher vertebrates in the
embryonic stage are not persistent reminiscences of earlier lower stages;
they are rudiments or primordia shared by all vertebrates, and developing
differently at the different levels; (thus in fishes they become breathing
organs, and in the higher vertebrates they become in part associated with
the organs of hearing, or in part disappear again).

Though Fleischmann's vigorous protest against over-hastiness in
construction and over-confidence on the part of the adherents of the
doctrine of descent is very interesting, and may often be justified in
detail, it is difficult to resist the impression that the wheat has been
rejected with the chaff.(23)

Even a layman may raise the following objections: Admitting that the great
groups of forms cannot be traced back to one another, the palaeontological
record still proves, though it may be only in general outline, that within
each phylum there has been a gradual succession and ascent of forms. How
is the origin of what is new to be accounted for? Without doing violence
to our thinking, without a sort of intellectual autonomy, we cannot rest
content with the mere fact that new elements occur. So, in spite of all
"difficulties," the assumption of an actual descent quietly forces
itself upon us as the only satisfactory clue. And the fact, which
Fleischmann does not discuss, that even at present we may observe the
establishment of what are at least new breeds, impels us to accept an
analogous origin of new species. Even if the biogenetic law really "finds
its chief confirmation in its exceptions," even if we cannot speak of a
strict recapitulation of earlier stages of evolution, there are
indisputable facts which are most readily interpreted as reminiscences, as
due to affiliation (ideal or hereditary), with ancestral forms. (Note, for
instance, Weismann's "prediction," &c.(24)) Even if Archaeopteryx and other
intermediate forms cannot be regarded as connecting links in the strict
sense, i.e., as being stages in the actual pedigree, yet the occurrence
of reptilian and avian peculiarities side by side in one organism, goes
far to prove the close relationship of the two classes.

Fleischmann's book strengthens the impression gained elsewhere, that a
general survey of the domain of life as a whole gives force and
convincingness to the Theory of Descent, while a study of details often
results in breaking the threads and bringing the difficulties into
prominence. But the same holds true of many other theoretical
constructions, and yet we do not seriously doubt their validity. (Take,
for instance, the Kant-Laplace theory, and theories of ethnology, of the
history of religion, of the history of language, and so on.) And it is
quite commonly to be observed that those who have an expert and specialist
knowledge, who are aware of the refractoriness of detailed facts, often
take up a sceptical attitude towards every comprehensive theory, though
the ultimate use of detailed investigation is to make the construction of
general theories possible. Fleischmann does exactly what, say, an
anthropologist would do if, under the impression of the constancy and
distinctiveness of the human races, which would become stronger the more
deeply he penetrated, he should resignedly renounce all possibility of
affiliating them, and should rest content with the facts as he found them.
Similarly, those who are most intimately acquainted with the races of
domesticated animals often resist most strenuously all attempts, although
these seem to others a matter of course, to derive our "tame" forms from
"wild" species living in freedom.

But to return. Even where the Theory of Descent is recognised, whether
fully or only half-heartedly, the recognition does not always mean the
same thing. Even the adherents of the general, but in itself quite vague
view that a transformation from lower forms to higher, and from similar to
different forms, has taken place, may present so many points of
disagreement, and may even stand in such antagonism to one another, that
onlookers are apt to receive the impression that they occupy quite
different standpoints, and are no longer at one even in the fundamentals
of their hypotheses.

The most diverse questions and answers crop up; whether evolution has been
brought about "monophyletically" or "polyphyletically," i.e., through
one or many genealogical trees; whether it has taken place in a continuous
easy transition from one type to another, or by leaps and bounds; whether
through a gradual transformation of all organs, each varying individually,
or through correlated "kaleidoscopic" variations of many kinds throughout
the whole system; whether it is essentially asymptotic, or whether
organisms pass from "labile" phases of vital equilibrium by various
halting-places to stable states, which are definitive, and are, so to
speak, the blind alleys and terminal points of evolutionary possibilities,
e.g., the extinct gigantic saurians, and perhaps also man. And to these
problems must be added the various answers to the question, What precedes,
or may have preceded, the earliest stages of life of which we know? Whence
came the first cell? Whence the first living protoplasm? and How did the
living arise from the inorganic? These deeper questions will occupy us in
our chapter on the theory of life. Some of the former, in certain of their
aspects, will be considered in the sixth chapter, which deals with factors
in evolution.

The Theory of Descent itself and the differences that obtain even among
its adherents can best be studied by considering for a little the works of
Reinke and of Hamann.

Reinke, Professor of Botany in Kiel, has set forth his views in his book,
"Die Welt als Tat,"(25) and more recently in his "Einleitung in die
theoretische Biologie" (1901). Both books are addressed to a wide circle
of readers. Reinke and Hamann both revive some of the arguments and
opinions set forth in the early days of Darwinism by Wigand,(26) an author
whose works are gradually gaining increased appreciation.

It is Reinke's "unalterable conviction" that organisms have evolved, and
that they have done so after the manner of fan-shaped genealogical trees.
The Theory of Descent is to him an axiom of modern biology, though as a
matter of fact the circumstantial evidence in favour of it is extremely
fragmentary. The main arguments in favour of it appear to him to be the
general ones; the homologies and analogies revealed by comparative
morphology and physiology, the ascending series in the palaeontological
record, vestigial organs, parasitic degeneration, the origin of those
vital associations which we call consortism and symbiosis. These he
illustrates mainly by examples from his own special domain and personal

The simplest unicellular forms of life are to be thought of as at the
beginning of evolution; and, since mechanical causes cannot explain their
ascent, it must be assumed that they have an inherent "phylogenetic
potential of development," which, working epigenetically, results in
ascending evolution. He leaves us to choose between monophyletic and
polyphyletic evolution, but himself inclines towards the latter,
associating with it a rehabilitation of Wigand's theory of the primitive
cells. If, in the beginning, primitive forms of life arose (probably as
unicellulars) from the not-living, it is not obvious why we need think of
only one so arising, and, if many did so, why they should not have
inherent differences which would at once result in typically different
evolutionary series and groups of forms. But evolution does not go on ad
libitum or ad infinitum, for the capacity for differentiation and
transformation gradually diminishes. The organisation passes from a labile
state of equilibrium to an increasingly stable state, and at many points
it may reach a terminus where it comes to a standstill. Man, the dog, the
horse, the cereals, and fruit trees appear to Reinke to have reached their
goal. The preliminary stages he calls "Phylembryos," because they bear to
the possible outcome of their evolution the same relation that the embryo
does to the perfect individual. Thus, Phenacodus may be regarded as the
Phylembryo of the modern horse. It is quite conceivable that each of our
modern species may have had an independent series of Phylembryos reaching
back to the primitive cells. But the palaeontological record, and
especially its synthetic types, lead Reinke rather to assume that instead
of innumerable series, there have been branching genealogical trees, not
one, however, but several.

These views, together or separately, which are characterised chiefly by
the catch-words "polyphyletic descent," "labile and stable equilibrium,"
and so on, crop up together or separately in the writings of various
evolutionists belonging to the opposition wing. They are usually
associated with a denial of the theory of natural selection, and with
theories of "Orthogenesis," "Heterogenesis," and "Epigenesis."

We shall discuss them later when we are considering the factors in
evolution. But we must first take notice of a work in which the theories
opposed to Darwinian orthodoxy have been most decisively and aggressively
set forth. As far back as 1892 O. Hamann, then a lecturer on zoology in
Goettingen, gathered these together and brought them into the field,
against Haeckel in particular, in his book "Entwicklungslehre und

Hamann's main theme is that Darwinism overlooks the fact that "there
cannot have been an origin of higher types from types already finished."
For this "unfortunate and unsupported assumption" there are no proofs in
embryology, palaeontology, or anatomy. He adopts and expands the arguments
and anti-Haeckelian deliverances of His in embryology, of Snell and Heer
in palaeontology, of Koelliker and von Baer in their special interpretation
of evolution, of Snell particularly as regards the descent of man. It is
impossible to derive Metazoa from Protozoa in their present finished state
of evolution; even the Amoeba is so exactly adapted in organisation and
functional activity to the conditions of its existence that it is a
"finished" type. It is only by a stretch of fancy that fishes can be
derived from worms, or higher vertebrates from fishes. One of his
favourite arguments--and it is a weighty one, though neglected by the
orthodox Darwinians--is that living substance is capable, under similar
stimuli, of developing spontaneously and afresh, at quite different points
and in different groups, similar organs, such as spots sensitive to light,
accumulations of pigment, eye-spots, lenses, complete eyes, and similarly
with the notochord, the excretory organs, and the like. Therefore homology
of organs is no proof of their hereditary affiliation.(28) They rather
illustrate "iterative evolution."

Another favourite argument is the fact of "Paedogenesis." Certain animals,
such as Amphioxus lanceolatus, Peripatus, and certain Medusae, are very
frequently brought forward as examples of persistent primitive stages and
"transitional connecting links." But considered from the point of view of
Paedogenesis, they all assume quite a different aspect, and seem rather to
represent very highly evolved species, and to be, not primitive forms, but
conservative and regressive forms. Paedogenesis is the phenomenon exhibited
by a number of species, which may stop short at one of the stages of their
embryonic or larval development, become sexually mature, and produce
offspring without having attained their own fully developed form.

Another argument is the old, suggestive, and really important one urged by
Koelliker, that "inorganic nature shows a natural system among minerals
(crystals) just as much as animals and plants do, yet in the former there
can be no question of any genetic connection in the production of forms."

Yet another argument is found in the occurrence of "inversions" and
anomalies in the palaeontological succession of forms, which to some extent
upsets the Darwinian-Haeckelian genealogical trees. (Thus there are forms
in the Cambrian whose alleged ancestors do not appear till the Silurian.
Foraminifera and other Protozoa do not appear till the Silurian.)

From embryology in particular, as elsewhere in general, we read the
"fundamental biogenetic law," that evolution is from the general to the
special, from the imperfect to the more perfect, from what is still
indefinite and exuberant to the well-defined and precise, but never from
the special to the special. According to Hamann's hypothesis we must think
of evolution as going on, so to speak, not about the top but about the
bottom. The phyla or groups of forms are great trunks bearing many
branches and twigs, but not giving rise to one another. Still less do the
little side branches of one trunk bear the whole great trunk of another
animal or plant phylum. But they all grow from the same roots among the
primitive forms of life. Unicellulars these must have been, but not like
our "Protists." They should be thought of as primitive forms having within
themselves the potentialities of the most diverse and widely separate
evolution-series to which they gave rise, as it were, along diverging
fan-like rays.

It would be instructive to follow some naturalist into his own particular
domain, for instance a palaeontologist into the detailed facts of
palaeontology, or an embryologist into those of embryology, in order to
learn whether these corroborate the assumptions of the Theory of Descent
or not. It is just in relation to these detailed facts that criticisms or
even denials of the theory have been most frequent. Koken, otherwise a
convinced supporter of the theory, inquires in his "Vorwelt," apropos of
the tortoises, what has become of the genealogical trees that were
scattered abroad in the world as proved facts in the early days of
Darwinism. He asserts, in regard to Archaeopteryx, the instance which is
always put forward as the intermediate link in the evolution of birds,
that it does not show in any of its characters a fundamental difference
from any of the birds of to-day, and further, that, through convergent
development under similar influences, similar organs and structural
relations result, iterative arrangements which come about quite
independently of descent. He maintains, too, that the principle of the
struggle for existence is rather disproved than corroborated by the
palaeontological record.

In embryology, so competent an authority as O. Hertwig--himself a former
pupil of Haeckel's--has reacted from the "fundamental biogenetic law." His
theory of the matter is very much that of Hamann which we have already
discussed; development is not so much a recapitulation of finished
ancestral types as the laying down of foundations after the pattern of
generalised simple forms, not yet specialised; and from these foundations
the special organs rise to different levels and grades of differentiation
according to the type.(29) But we must not lose ourselves in details.

Looking back over the whole field once more, we feel that we are justified
in maintaining with some confidence that the different pronouncements in
regard to the detailed application and particular features of the Theory
of Descent, and the different standpoints that are occupied even by
evolutionists, are at least sufficient to make it obvious that, even if
evolution and descent have actually taken place, they have not run so
simple and smooth a course as the over-confident would have us believe;
that the Theory of Descent rather emphasises than clears away the riddles
and difficulties of the case, and that with the mere corroboration of the
theory we shall have gained only something relatively external, a clue to
creation, which does not so much solve its problems as restate them. The
whole criticism of the "right wing," from captious objections to actual
denials, proves this indisputably. And it seems likely that in the course
of time a sharpening of the critical insight and temper will give rise to
further reactions from the academic theory as we have come to know it.(30)
On the other hand, it may be assumed with even greater certainty that the
general evolutionist point of view and the great arguments for descent in
some form or other will ultimately be victorious if they are not so
already, and that, sooner or later, we shall take the Theory of Descent in
its most general form as a matter of course, just as we now do the
Kant-Laplace theory.

Next: Religion And The Theory Of Descent

Previous: Virchow's Position

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