Various Forms Of Darwinism

The great majority of these express what may be called popular Darwinism

["Darwinismus vulgaris"], theoretically worthless, but practically

possessed of great powers of attraction and propagandism. It expresses in

the main a conviction, usually left unexplained, that everything "happens

naturally," that man is really descended from monkeys, and that life has

"evolved from lower stages" of itself, that dualism is wrong, and that

monism is the truth. It is exactly the standpoint of the popular

naturalism we have already described, which here mingles unsuspectingly

and without scruple Lamarckian and other principles with the Darwinian,

which is enthusiastic on the one hand over the "purely mechanical"

interpretation of nature, and on the other drags in directly psychical

motives, unconscious consciousness, impulses, spontaneous

self-differentiation of organisms, which nevertheless adheres to "monism"

and possibly even professes to share Goethe's conception of nature!

Above this stratum we come to that of the real experts, the only one which

concerns us in the least. Here too we find an ever-growing distance

between divergent views, the most manifold differences amounting sometimes

to mutual exclusion. These differences occur even with reference to the

fundamental doctrine generally adhered to, the doctrine of descent. To one

party it is a proved fact, to another a probable, scientific working

hypothesis, to a third a "rescuing plank." One party is always finding

fresh corroborations, another new difficulties. And within the same group

we find the contrasts of believers in monophyletic and believers in

polyphyletic evolution, the mechanists and the half-confessed or

thoroughgoing vitalists, the preformationists and the believers in

epigenesis. Opinions differ even more widely in regard to the role of

the "struggle for existence" in the production of species. On the one hand

we have the Darwinism of Darwin freed from inconsequent additions and

formulated as orthodox "neo-Darwinism"; on the other hand we have

heterodox Lamarckism. The "all-sufficiency" of natural selection is

proclaimed by some, its impotence by others. Indefinite variation is

opposed by orthogenesis, fluctuating variation by saltatory mutation

(Halmatogenesis in "Greek"), passive adaptation by the spontaneous

activity and self-regulation of the living organism. The struggle for

existence is variously regarded as the chief factor, or as a co-operating

factor, or as an indifferent, or even an inimical factor in the

origination of new species.

And among the representatives of these different standpoints there are

most interesting personal differences: in some, like Weismann, we find a

great loyalty to, and persistence in the position once arrived at, in

others the most surprising transitions and changes of opinion. Thus

Fleischmann, a pupil of Selenka's, after illustrating during many years of

personal research the orthodox Darwinian standpoint, finally developed

into an outspoken opponent not only of the theory of selection but of the

doctrine of descent. So also Friedmann.(6) Driesch started from the

mechanical theory of life and advanced through the connected series of his

own biological essays to vitalism. Romanes, a prominent disciple of

Darwin, ended in Christian theism, and Wallace, the discoverer of "the

struggle for existence," landed in spiritualism.

Nothing like an exhaustive view of the present state of Darwinism and its

many champions can here be attempted. But it will be necessary to get to

know what we may call its possibilities by a study of typical and leading

examples. In the course of our study many of the problems to which the

theory gives rise will reveal themselves, and their orientation will be


This task falls naturally into two subdivisions: (1) the present state of

the theory of Evolution and Descent, and how far the religious conception

of the world is or is not affected by it; (2) the truth as to the

originative and directive factors of Evolution, especially as to "natural

selection in the struggle for existence," whether they are tenable and

sufficient, and what attitude religion must take towards them. These two

problems must be kept distinct throughout, and must be discussed in order.

For the validity of what is characteristically Darwinism is in no way

decided by proving descent and evolution, although it appears so in most

popular expositions.(7)

Underivability Virchow's Caution facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail