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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

Virchow's Position

Warnings of this kind have come occasionally from Du Bois-Reymond, but the
true type of this group, and its mode of thought, is Virchow. It will
repay us and suffice us to make acquaintance with it through him. His
opposition to Darwinism and the theory of descent was directed at its most
salient point: the descent of man from the apes. In lectures and
treatises, at zoological and anthropological congresses, especially at the
meetings of his own Anthropological-Ethnological Society in Berlin, from
his "Vortraege ueber Menschen-und Affen-Schaedel" (Lectures on the Skulls of
Man and Apes, 1869), to the disputes over Dubois' Pithecanthropus
erectus in the middle of the nineties, he threw the whole weight of his
immense learning--ethnological and anthropological, osteological, and above
all "craniological"--into the scale against the Theory of Descent and its
supporters. Virchow has therefore been reckoned often enough among the
anti-Darwinians, and has been quoted by apologists and others as against
Darwinism, and he has given reason for this, since he has often taken the
field against "the Darwinists" or has scoffed at their "longing for a
pro-anthropos."(13) Sometimes even it has been suggested that he was
actuated by religious motives, as when he occasionally championed not only
freedom for science, but, incidentally, the right of existence for "the
churches," leaving, for instance, in his theory of psychical life, gaps in
knowledge which faith might occupy in moderation and modesty. But this
last proves nothing. With Virchow's altogether unemotional nature it is
unlikely that religious or spiritual motives had any role in the
establishment of his convictions, and in Haeckel's naive blustering at
religion, there is, so to speak, more religion than in the cold-blooded
connivance with which Virchow leaves a few openings in otherwise frozen
ponds for the ducks of faith to swim in! And he has nothing of the pathos
of Du Bois-Reymond's "ignorabimus." He is the neutral, prosaic scientist,
who will let nothing "tempt him to a transcendental consideration,"(14)
either theological or naturalistic, who holds tenaciously to matters of
fact, who, without absolutely rejecting a general theory, will not concern
himself about it, except to point out every difficulty in the way of it;
in short, he is the representative of a mood that is the ideal of every
investigator and the despair of every theoriser.

His lecture of 1869 already indicates his subsequent attitude. "Considered
logically and speculatively" the Theory of Descent seems to him
"excellent,"(15) indeed a logical moral(!) hypothesis, but unproved in
itself, and erroneous in many of its particular propositions. As far back
as 1858, before the publication of Darwin's great work, he stated at the
Naturalists' Congress in Carlsruhe, that the origin of one species out of
another appeared to him a necessary scientific inference, but----And
throughout the whole lecture he alternates between favourable recognition
of the theory in general, and emphasis of the difficulties which confront
it in detail. The skull, which, according to Goethe's theory, has evolved
from three modified vertebrae, is fundamentally different in man and
monkeys, both in regard to its externals, crests, ridges and shape, and
especially in regard to the nature of the cavity which it forms for the
brain. Specifically distinctive differences in the development and
structure of the rest of the body must also be taken into account. The
so-called ape-like structures in the skull and the rest of the body, which
occasionally occur in man (idiots, microcephaloids, &c.) cannot be
regarded as atavisms and therefore as proofs of the Theory of Descent;
they are of a pathological nature, entirely facts sui generis, and "not
to be placed in a series with the normal results of evolution." A man
modified by disease "is still thoroughly a man, not a monkey."

Virchow continued to maintain this attitude and persisted in this kind of
argument. He energetically rejected all attempts to find "pithecoid"
characters in the prehistoric remains of man. He declared the narrow and
less arched forehead, the elliptical form, and the unusually large frontal
cavities of the "Neanderthal skull" found in the Wupperthal in 1856, to be
simply pathological features, which occur as such in certain examples of
homo sapiens.(16) He explained the abnormal appearance of the jaw from
the Moravian cave of Schipka as a result of the retention of teeth,(17)
accompanied by directly "antipithecoid" characters.

The proceedings at the meetings of the Ethnological Society in 1895, at
which Dubois was present, had an almost dramatic character.(18) In the
diverse opinions of Dubois, Virchow, Nehring, Kollmann, Krause and others,
we have almost an epitome of the present state of the Darwinian question.
Virchow doubted whether the parts put together by Dubois (the head of a
femur, two molar teeth, and the top of a skull) belonged to the same
individual at all, disputed the calculations as to the large capacity of
the skull, placed against Dubois' very striking and clever drawing of the
curves of the skull-outline, which illustrated, with the help of the
Pithecanthropus, the gradual transition from the skull of a monkey to that
of man, his own drawing, according to which the Pithecanthropus curve
simply coincides with that of a gibbon (Hylobates), and asserted that
the remains discovered were those of a species of gibbon, refusing even to
admit that they represented a new genus of monkeys. He held fast to his
ceterum censeo: "As yet no diluvial discovery has been made which can be
referred to a man of a pithecoid type." Indeed, his polemic or "caution"
in regard to the Theory of Descent went even further. He not only refused
to admit the proof of the descent of man from monkey, he would not even
allow that the descent of one race from another has been demonstrated.(19)
In spite of all the plausible hypotheses it remains "so far only a pium
desiderium." The race obstinately maintains its specific distinctness,
and resists variation, or gradual transformation into another. The negro
remains a negro in America, and the European colonist of Australia remains
a European.

Yet all Virchow's opposition may be summed up in the characteristic words,
which might almost be called his motto, "I warn you of the need for
caution," and it is not a seriously-meant rejection of the Theory of
Descent. In reality he holds the evolution-idea as an axiom, and in the
last-named treatise he shows distinctly how he conceives of the process.
He starts with variation (presumably "kaleidoscopic"), which comes about
as a "pathological" phenomenon, that is to say, not spontaneously, but as
the result of environmental stimulus, as the organism's reaction to
climatic and other conditions of life. The result is an alteration of
previous characteristics, and a new stable race is established by an
"acquired anomaly."(20)

Next: Other Instances Of Dissatisfaction With The Theory Of Descent

Previous: Weismann's Evolutionist Position

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