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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

Weismann's Evolutionist Position

The most characteristic representative, however, of the modern school of
unified and purified Darwinism is not Haeckel, but the Freiburg zoologist,
Weismann. Through a long series of writings he has carried on the conflict
against heterodox, and especially Lamarckian theories of evolution, and
has developed his theories of heredity and the causes of variation, of the
non-transmissibility of acquired characters, and the all-sufficiency of
natural selection. In his latest great work, in two volumes, "Lectures on
the Theory of Descent,"(11) he has definitely summed up and systematised
his views. These will interest us when we come to inquire into the problem
of the factors operative in evolution. For the moment we are only
concerned with his attitude to the Theory of Descent as such. It is
precisely the same as Haeckel's, although he is opposed to Haeckel in
regard to the strictly Darwinian standpoint. The Theory of Descent has
conquered, and it may be said with assurance, for ever. That is the firm
conviction on which the whole work is based, and it is really rather
treated as a self-evident axiom than as a statement to be proved. Weismann
takes little trouble to prove it. All the well-known, usually very clear
proofs from palaeontology, comparative anatomy, &c., which we are
accustomed to meet with in evolutionist books are wanting here, the
genealogical trees of the Equidae, with the gradually diminishing number of
toes and the varying teeth, of Planorbis multiformis, of the ammonites,
the graduated series of stages exhibited by individual organs, for
instance, from the ganglion merely sensitive to light up to the intricate
eye, or from the rayed skeleton of the paired fins in fishes up to the
five-fingered hands and feet of the higher vertebrates, &c. These are only
briefly touched upon in the terse "Introduction," and the whole of the
comprehensive work is then directed to showing what factors can have been
operative, and to proving that they must have been "Darwinian" (selection
in the struggle for existence), and not Lamarckian or any other. This is
shown in regard to the coloration of animals, the phenomena of mimicry,
the protective arrangements of plants, the development of instinct in
animals, and the origin of flowers.

In reality Weismann only adduces one strict proof, and even that is only
laying special stress on what is well known in comparative embryology;
namely, the possibility of "predicting" on the basis of the theory of
descent, as Leverrier "predicted" Neptune. For instance, in the lower
vertebrates from amphibians upwards there is an os centrale in the
skeleton of wrist, but there is none in man. Now if man be descended from
lower vertebrates, and if the fundamental biogenetic law be true (that
every form of life recapitulates in its own development, especially in its
embryonic development, the evolution of its race, though with
abbreviations and condensations), it may be predicted that the os
centrale is to be found in the early embryonic stages of man. And
Rosenberg found it. In the same way the "gill-clefts" of the fish-like
ancestors have long since been discovered in the embryo of the higher
vertebrates and of man. Weismann himself "predicted" that the markings of
the youngest stage of the caterpillars of the Sphingidae (hawk-moths) would
be found to be not oblique but longitudinal stripes, and ten years later a
fortunate observation verified the prediction. Because of the abundance of
evidential facts Weismann does not go into any detailed proof of
evolution. "One can hardly take up any work, large or small, on the finer
or more general structural relations, or on the development of any animal,
without finding in it proofs for the evolution theory."

But assured as the doctrine of descent appears,(12) and certain as it is
that it has not only maintained its hold since Darwin's day, but has
strengthened it and has gained adherents, this foundation of Darwinism is
nevertheless not the unanimous and inevitable conclusion of all scientific
men in the sense and to the extent that the utterances of Weismann and
others would lead us to suppose. Apart from all apologetic attempts either
in religious, ethical, or aesthetic interests, apart, too, from the
superior standpoint of the philosophers, who have not, so to speak, taken
the theory very seriously, but regard it as a provisional theory, as a
more or less necessary and useful method of grouping our ideas in regard
to the organic world, there are even among the biologists themselves some
who, indifferent towards religious or philosophical or naturalistic dogma,
hold strictly to fact, and renounce with nonchalance any pretensions at
completeness of knowledge if the data do not admit of it, and on these
grounds hold themselves aloof from evolutionist generalisation. From among
these come the counsels of "caution," admissions that the theory is a
scientific hypothesis and a guide to research, but not knowledge, and
confessions that the Theory of Descent as a whole is verifiable rather as
a general impression than in detail.

Next: Virchow's Position

Previous: Haeckel's Evolutionist Position

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