Contrast Between Darwinian And Post-darwinian Views

The new views that have thus arisen have been definitely summarised and

clearly contrasted with Darwinism by the botanist Korschinsky. He died

before completing his general work, "Heterogenesis und Evolution," but he

has elsewhere(55) given an excellent summary of his results, which we

append in abstract.

DARWIN. (1) Everything organic is capable of variation. Variations arise

in part from internal, in pa
t from external causes. They are slight,

inconspicuous, individual differences.

KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (1) Everything organic is capable of

variation. This capability is a fundamental, inherent character of living

forms in general, and is independent of external conditions. It is usually

kept latent by "heredity," but occasionally breaks forth in sudden


DARWIN. (2) The struggle for existence. This combines, increases, fixes

useful variations, and eliminates the useless. All the characters and

peculiarities of a finished species are the results of long-continued

selection; they must therefore be adapted to the external conditions.

KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (2) Saltatory variations.--These are, under

favourable circumstances, the starting-point of new and constant races.

The characters may sometimes be useful, sometimes quite indifferent,

neither advantageous nor disadvantageous. Sometimes they are not in

harmony with external circumstances.

DARWIN. (3) The species is subject to constant variation. It is

continually subject to selection and augmentation of its characters. Hence

again the origin of new species.

KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (3) All fully developed species persist, but

through heterogenesis a splitting up into new forms may take place, and

this is accompanied by a disturbance of the vital equilibrium. The new

state is at first insecure and fluctuating, and only gradually becomes

stable. Thus new forms and races arise with gradual consolidation of their


DARWIN. (4) The sharper and more acute the effect of the environment, the

keener is the struggle for existence, and the more rapidly and certainly

do new forms arise.

KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (4) Only in specially favourable conditions,

only when the struggle for existence is weak, or when there is none, can

new forms arise and become fixed. When the conditions are severe no new

forms arise, or if they do they are speedily eliminated.

DARWIN. (5) The chief condition of evolution is therefore the struggle for

existence and the selection which this involves.

KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (5) The struggle for existence simply

decimates the overwhelming abundance of possible forms. Where it occurs it

prevents the establishment of new variations, and in reality stands in the

way of new developments. It is rather an unfavourable than an advantageous


DARWIN. (6) If there were no struggle for existence there would be no

adaptation, no perfecting.

KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (6) Were there no struggle for existence,

there would be no destruction of new forms, or of forms in process of

arising. The world of organisms would then be a colossal genealogical tree

of enormous luxuriance, and with an incalculable wealth of forms.

DARWIN. (7) Progress in nature, the "perfecting" of organisms, is only an

increasingly complex and ever more perfect adaptation to the external

circumstances. It is attained by purely mechanical methods, by an

accumulation of the variations most useful at the time.

KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (7) The adaptation which the struggle for

existence brings about has nothing to do with perfecting, for the

organisms which are physiologically and morphologically higher are by no

means always better adapted to external circumstances than those lower in

the scale. Evolution cannot be explained mechanically. The origin of

higher forms from lower is only possible if there is a tendency to

progress innate in the organism itself. This tendency is nearly related to

or identical with the tendency to variation. It compels the organism to

perfect itself as far as external circumstances will permit.

All this implies an admission of evolution and of descent, but a setting

aside of Darwinism proper as an unsuccessful hypothesis, and a positive

recognition of an endeavour after an aim, internal causes, and teleology

in nature, as against fortuitous and superficial factors. This opens up a

vista into the background of things, and thereby yields to the religious

conception all that a study of nature can yield--namely, an acknowledgment

of the possibility and legitimacy of interpreting the world in a religious

sense, and assistance in so doing.

The most important point has already been emphasised. Even if the theory

of the struggle for existence were correct, it would be possible to

subject the world as a whole to a teleological interpretation. But these

anti-Darwinian theories now emerging, though they do not directly induce

teleological interpretation, suggest it much more strongly than orthodox

Darwinism does. A world which in its evolution is not exposed, for good or

ill, to the action of chance factors--playing with it and forcing it hither

and thither--but which, exposed indeed to the most diverse conditions of

existence and their influences, and harmonising with them, nevertheless

carries implicitly and infallibly within itself the laws of its own

expression, and especially the necessity to develop upwards into higher

and higher forms, is expressly suited for teleological consideration, and

we can understand how it is that the old physico-teleological evidences of

the existence of God are beginning to hold up their heads again. They are

wrong when they try to demonstrate God, but quite right when they simply

seek to show that nature does not contradict--in fact that it allows room

and validity to--belief in the Highest Wisdom as the cause and guide of all

things natural.

As far as the question of the right to interpret nature teleologically is

concerned, it would be entirely indifferent whether what Korschinsky calls

"the tendency to progress," and the system of laws in obedience to which

evolution brings forth its forms, can be interpreted "mechanically" or

not; that is to say, whether or not evolution depends on conditions and

potentialities of living matter, which can be demonstrated and made

mechanically commensurable or not. It may be that they can neither be

demonstrated nor made mechanically commensurable, but lie in the

impenetrable mystery inherent in all life. Whether this mystery really

exists, and whether religion has any particular interest in it if it does,

must be considered in the following chapter.