AT THE DEATHBED OF DARWINISM
A SERIES OF PAPERS
E. DENNERT, Ph.D.
By E. V. O'HARRA and JOHN H. PESCHGES
1904 GERMAN LITERARY BOARD Burlington, Iowa
Copyright 1904 By R. NEUMANN
CHAPTER I.—The Return to Wigand—The Botanist, Julius von Sachs—The Vienna Zoologist, Dr. Schneider 35
CHAPTER II.—Professor Goethe on "The Present Status of Darwinism"—Explains the Reluctance of certain men of Science to Discard Darwinism 41
CHAPTER III.—Professor Korchinsky Rejects Darwinism—His Theory of Heterogenesis—Professor Haberlandt of Graz—Demonstration of a "Vital Force"—Its Nature—The Sudden Origination of a New Organ—Importance of the Experiment. 49
CHAPTER IV.—Testimony of a Palaeontologist, Professor Steinmann—On Haeckel's Family Trees—The Principle of Multiple Origin—Extinction of the Saurians—"Darwinism Not the Alpha and Omega of the Doctrine of Descent"—Steinmann's Conclusions 60
CHAPTER V.—Eimer's Theory of Organic Growth—Definite Lines of Development—Rejects Darwin's Theory of Fluctuating Variations—Opposes Weismann—Repudiates Darwinian "Mimicry"—Discards the "Romantic" Hypothesis of Sexual Selection—"Transmutation is a Physiological Process, a Phyletic Growth" 69
CHAPTER VI.—Admissions of a Darwinian—Professor von Wagner's Explanation of the Decay of Darwinism—Darwinism Rejects the Inductive Method, Hence Unscientific—Wagner's Contradictory Assertions 90
CHAPTER VII.—Haeckel's Latest Production—His Extreme Modesty—Reception of the Weltraetsel—Schmidt's Apologia—The Romanes Incident—Men of Science Who Convicted Haeckel of Deliberate Fraud 104
CHAPTER VIII.—Grottewitz Writes on "Darwinian Myths"—Darwinism Incapable of Scientific Proof—"The Principle of Gradual Development Certainly Untenable"—"Darwin's Theory of "Chance" a Myth" 118
CHAPTER IX.—Professor Fleischmann of Erlangen—Doctrine of Descent Not Substantiated—Missing Links—"Collapse of Haeckel's Theory"—Descent Hypothesis "Antiquated"—Fleischmann Formerly a Darwinian—Haeckel's Disreputable Methods of Defense 124
CHAPTER X.—Hertwig, the Berlin Anatomist, Protests Against the Materialistic View of Life"—No Empiric Proof of Darwinism—"The Impotence of Natural Selection"—Rejects Haeckel's "Biogenetic Law" 137
CONCLUSION.—Darwinism Abandoned by Men of Science—Supplanted by a Theory in Harmony With Theistic Principles 146
The general tendency of recent scientific literature dealing with the problem of organic evolution may fairly be characterized as distinctly and prevailingly unfavorable to the Darwinian theory of Natural Selection. In the series of chapters herewith offered for the first time to English readers, Dr. Dennert has brought together testimonies which leave no room for doubt about the decadence of the Darwinian theory in the highest scientific circles in Germany. And outside of Germany the same sentiment is shared generally by the leaders of scientific thought. That the popularizers of evolutionary conceptions have any anti-Darwinian tendencies cannot, of course, be for a moment maintained. For who would undertake to popularize what is not novel or striking? But a study of the best scientific literature reveals the fact that the attitude assumed by one of our foremost American zoologists, Professor Thomas Hunt Morgan, in his recent work on "Evolution and Adaptation," is far more general among the leading men of science than is popularly supposed. Professor Morgan's position may be stated thus: He adheres to the general theory of Descent, i.e., he believes the simplest explanation which has yet been offered of the structural similarities between species within the same group, is the hypothesis of a common descent from a parent species. But he emphatically rejects the notion—and this is the quintessence of Darwinism—that the dissimilarities between species have been brought about by the purely mechanical agency of natural selection.
To find out what, precisely, Darwin meant by the term "natural selection" let us turn for a moment, to his great work, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. In the second chapter of that work, Darwin observes that small "fortuitous" variations in individual organisms, though of small interest to the systematist, are of the "highest importance" for his theory, since these minute variations often confer on the possessor of them, some advantage over his fellows in the quest for the necessaries of life. Thus these chance individual variations become the "first steps" towards slight varieties, which, in turn, lead to sub-species, and, finally, to species. Varieties, in fact, are "incipient species." Hence, small "fortuitous" fluctuating, individual variations—i.e., those which chance to occur without predetermined direction—are the "first-steps" in the origin of species. This is the first element in the Darwinian theory.
In the third chapter of the same work we read: "It has been seen in the last chapter that amongst organic beings in a state of nature there is some individual variability. * * * But the mere existence of individual variability and of some few well-marked varieties, though necessary as a foundation of the work, helps us but little in understanding how species arise in nature. How have all those exquisite adaptations of one part of the organization to another part, and to the conditions of life, and of one organic being to another being, been perfected? * * *" Again it may be asked, how is it that varieties, which I have called incipient species, become ultimately converted into good and distinct species, which in most cases obviously differ from each other far more than do the varieties of the same species? How do those groups of species which constitute what are called distinct genera arise? All of these results follow from the struggle for life. Owing to this struggle, variations, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if they be in any degree profitable to the individuals of a species, in their infinitely complex relations to other organic beings, and to their physical conditions of life, will tend to the preservation of such individuals and will generally be inherited by the offspring. The offspring also will thus have a better chance of surviving, for of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive. I have called this principle by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term, "natural selection." Mr. Darwin adds that his meaning would be more accurately expressed by a phrase of Mr. Spencer's coinage, "Survival of the Fittest."
It may be observed that neither "natural selection" nor "survival of the fittest" gives very accurate expression to the idea which Darwin seems to wish to convey. Natural selection is at best a metaphorical description of a process, and "survival of the fittest" describes the result of that process. Nor shall we find the moving principle of evolution in individual variability unless we choose to regard chance as an efficient agency. Consequently, the only efficient principle conceivably connected with the process is the "struggle for existence;" and even this has only a purely negative function in the origination of species or of adaptations. For, the "surviving fittest" owe nothing more to the struggle for existence than our pensioned veterans owe to the death-dealing bullets which did not hit them. Mr. Darwin has, however, obviated all difficulty regarding precision of terms by the remark that he intended to use his most important term, "struggle for existence" in "a large and metaphorical sense."
We have now seen the second element of Darwinism, namely, the "struggle for life." The theory of natural selection, then, postulates the accumulation of minute "fortuitions" individual modifications, which are useful to the possessor of them, by means of a struggle for life of such a sanguinary nature and of such enormous proportions as to result in the destruction of the overwhelming majority of adult individuals. These are the correlative factors in the process of natural selection.
In view of the popular identification of Darwinism with the doctrine of evolution, on the one hand, and with the theory of struggle for life, on the other hand, it is necessary to insist on the Darwinian conception of small, fluctuating, useful variations as the "first-steps" in the evolutionary process. For, this conception distinguishes Darwinism from the more recent evolutionary theory, e.g., of De Vries who rejects the notion that species have originated by the accumulation of fluctuating variations; and it is quite as essential to the Darwinian theory of natural selection as is the "struggle for life." It is, in fact, an integral element in the selection theory.
The attitude of science towards Darwinism may, therefore, be conveniently summarized in its answer to the following questions:
1. Is there any evidence that such a struggle for life among mature forms, as Darwin postulates, actually occurs?
2. Can the origin of adaptive structures be explained on the ground of their utility in this struggle, i.e., is it certain or even probable that the organism would have perished, had it lacked the particular adaptation in its present degree of perfection? On the contrary, is there not convincing proof that many, and presumably most, adaptations cannot be thus accounted for?
The above questions are concerned with "the struggle for life." Those which follow have to do with the problem of variations.
3. Is there any reason to believe that new species may originate by the accumulation of fluctuating individual variations?
4. Does the evidence of the geological record—which, as Huxley observed, is the only direct evidence that can be had in the question of evolution—does this evidence tell for or against the origin of existing species from earlier ones by means of minute gradual modifications?
We must be content here with the briefest outline of the reply of science to these inquiries.
1. Darwin invites his readers to "keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase in geometrical ratio." If this tendency were to continue unchecked, the progeny of living beings would soon be unable to find standing room. Indeed, the very bacteria would quickly convert every vestige of organic matter on earth into their own substance. For has not Cohn estimated that the offspring of a single bacterium, at its ordinary rate of increase under favorable conditions, would in three days amount to 4,772 billions of individuals with an aggregate weight of seven thousand five hundred tons? And the 19,000,000 elephants which, according to Darwin, should to-day perpetuate the lives of each pair that mated in the twelfth century—surely these would be a "magna pars" in the sanguinary contest. When the imagination views these and similar figures, and places in contrast to this multitude of living beings, the limited supply of nourishment, the comparison of nature with a huge slaughterhouse seems tame enough. But reason, not imagination, as Darwin observes more than once, should be our guide in a scientific inquiry.
It is observed on careful reflection that Darwin's theory is endangered by an extremely large disturbing element, viz., accidental destruction. Under this term we include all the destruction of life which occurs in utter indifference to the presence or absence of any individual variations from the parent form. Indeed, the greatest destruction takes place among immature forms before any variation from the parent stock is discernible at all. In this connection we may instance the vast amount of eggs and seeds destroyed annually irrespective of any adaptive advantage that would be possessed by the matured form. And the countless forms in every stage of individual development which meet destruction through "accidental causes which would not be in the least degree mitigated by certain changes of structure or of constitution which would otherwise be beneficial to the species." This difficulty, Darwin himself recognized. But he was of opinion that if even "one-hundredth or one-thousandth part" of organic beings escaped this fortuitous destruction, there would supervene among the survivors a struggle for life sufficiently destructive to satisfy his theory. This suggestion, however, fails to meet the difficulty. For, as Professor Morgan points out, Darwin assumes "that a second competition takes place after the first destruction of individuals has occurred, and this presupposes that more individuals reach maturity than there is room for in the economy of nature." It presupposes that the vast majority of forms that survive accidental destruction, succumb in the second struggle for life in which the determining factor is some slight individual variation, e.g., a little longer neck in the case of the giraffe, or a wing shorter than usual in the case of an insect on an island. The whole theory of struggle, as formulated by Darwin, is, therefore, a violent assumption. Men of science now recognize that "egoism and struggle play a very subordinate part in organic development, in comparison with co-operation and social action." What, indeed, but a surrender of the paramountcy of struggle for life, is Huxley's celebrated Romanes lecture in which he supplants the cosmic process by the ethical? The French free-thinker, Charles Robin, gave expression to the verdict of exact science when he declared: "Darwinism is a fiction, a poetical accumulation of probabilities without proof, and of attractive explanations without demonstration."
2. The hopeless inadequacy of the struggle for life to account for adaptive structures has been dealt with at considerable length by Professor Morgan in the concluding chapters of the work already mentioned. We cannot here follow him in his study of the various kinds of adaptations, e.g., form and symmetry, mutual adaptation of colonial forms, protective coloration, organs of extreme perfection, tropisms and instincts, etc., in regard to the origin of each of which he is forced to abandon the Darwinian theory. It will suffice to call attention to his conclusions concerning the phenomena of regeneration of organs. By his research in this special field Professor Morgan has won international recognition among men of science. It was while prosecuting his studies in this field that he became impressed with the utter bankruptcy of the theory of natural selection which Darwinians put forward to explain the acquisition by organisms of this most useful power of regeneration. It is not difficult to show that regeneration could not in many cases, and presumably in none, have been acquired through natural selection (p. 379). If an earth worm (allolobophora foctida) be cut in two in the middle, the posterior piece regenerates at its anterior cut end, not a head but a tail. "Not by the widest stretch of the imagination can such a result be accounted for on the selection theory." Quite the reverse case presents itself in certain planarians. If the head of planaria lugubris is cut off just behind the eyes, there develops at the cut surface of the head-piece another head turned in the opposite direction. "These and other reasons," concludes Professor Morgan (p. 381), "indicate with certainty that regeneration cannot be explained by the theory of natural selection."
The ingenuity of the Darwinian imagination, however, will hardly fail to assign some reason why two heads are more useful than one in the above instance, and thus reconcile the phenomenon with Darwinism. For, according to Professor Morgan "to imagine that a particular organ is useful to its possessor and to account for its origin because of the imagined benefit conferred, is the general procedure of the followers of the Darwinian school." "Personal conviction, mere possibility," writes Quatrefages, "are offered as proofs, or at least as arguments in favor of the theory." "The realms of fancy are boundless," is Blanchard's significant comment on Darwin's explanation of the blindness of the mole. "On this class of speculation," says Bateson in his "Materials for the Study of Variation," referring to Darwinian speculation as to the beneficial or detrimental nature of variations, "on this class of speculation the only limitations are those of the ingenuity of the author." The general form of Darwin's argument, declared the writer of a celebrated article in the North British Review, is as follows: "All these things may have been, therefore my theory is possible; and since my theory is a possible one, all those hypotheses which it requires are rendered probable."
3. We pass now to the question of the possibility of building up a new species by the accumulation of chance individual variations. That species ever originate in this way is denied by the advocates of the evolutionary theory which is now superseding Darwinism. Typical of the new school is the botanist Hugo De Vries of Amsterdam. The "first-steps" in the origin of new species according to De Vries are not fluctuating individual variations, but mutations, i.e., definite and permanent modifications. According to the mutation theory a new species arises from the parent species, not gradually but suddenly. It appears suddenly "without visible preparation and without transitional steps." The wide acceptance with which this theory is meeting must be attributed to the fact that men of science no longer believe in the origin of species by the accumulation of slight fluctuating modifications. To quote the words of De Vries, "Fluctuating variation cannot overstep the limits of the species, even after the most prolonged selection—still less can it lead to the production of new, permanent characters." It has been the wont of Darwinians to base their speculations on the assumption that "an inconceivably long time" could effect almost anything in the matter of specific transformations. But the evidence which has been amassed during the past forty years leaves no doubt that there is a limit to individual variability which neither time nor skill avail to remove. As M. Blanchard asserts in his work, La vie des etres animes (p. 102), "All investigation and observation make it clear that, while the variability of creatures in a state of nature displays itself in very different degrees, yet, in its most astonishing manifestations, it remains confined within a circle beyond which it cannot pass."
It is interesting to observe how writers of the Darwinian school attempt to explain the origin of articulate language as a gradual development of animal sounds. "It does not," observes Darwin, "appear altogether incredible that some unusually wise ape-like animal should have thought of imitating the growl of a beast of prey, so as to indicate to his fellow monkeys the nature of the expected danger. And this would have been a first step in the formation of a language." But what a tremendous step! An ape-like animal that "thought" of imitating a beast must certainly have been "unusually wise." In bridging the chasm which rational speech interposes between man and the brute creation, the Darwinian is forced to assume that the whole essential modification is included in the first step. Then he conceals the assumption by parcelling out the accidental modification in a supposed series of transitional stages. He endeavors to veil his inability to explain the first step, as Chevalier Bunsen remarked, by the easy but fruitless assumption of an infinite space of time, destined to explain the gradual development of animals into men; as if millions of years could supply the want of an agent necessary for the first movement, for the first step in the line of progress. "How can speech, the expression of thought, develop itself in a year or in millions of years, out of unarticulated sounds which express feelings of pleasure, pain, and appetite? The common-sense of mankind will always shrink from such theories."
4. The hopes and fears of Darwinians have rightly been centered on the history of organic development as outlined in the geological record. It has been pointed out repeatedly by the foremost men of science that if the theory of genetic descent with the accumulation of small variations be the true account of the origin of species, a complete record of the ancestry of any existing species would reveal no distinction of species and genera. Between any two well-defined species, if one be derived from the other, there must be countless transition forms. But palaeontology fails to support the theory of evolution by minute variations. Darwinism has been shattered on the geologic rocks. "The complete absence of intermediate forms," says Mr. Carruthers, "and the sudden and contemporaneous appearance of highly organized and widely separated groups, deprive the hypothesis of genetic evolution of any countenance from the plant record of these ancient rocks. The whole evidence is against evolution (i.e., by minute modification) and there is none for it." (cf. History of Plant Life and its Bearing on Theory of Evolution, 1898). Similar testimony regarding the animal kingdom is borne by Mr. Mivart in the following carefully worded statement: "The mass of palaeontological evidence is indeed overwhelmingly against minute and gradual modification." "The Darwinian theory," declared Professor Fleischmann of Erlangen, recently, "has not a single fact to confirm it in the realm of nature. It is not the result of scientific research, but purely the product of the imagination."
On one occasion Huxley expressed his conviction that the pedigree of the horse as revealed in the geological record furnished demonstrative evidence for the theory of evolution. The question has been entered into in detail by Professor Fleischmann in his work, Die Descendenstheorie. In this book the Erlangen professor makes great capital out of the "trot-horse" (Paradepferd) of Huxley and Haeckel; and as regards the evolutionary theory, easily claims a verdict of "not proven." In this connection the moderate statement of Professor Morgan is noteworthy: "When he (Fleischmann) says there is no absolute proof that the common plan of structure must be the result of blood relationship, he is not bringing a fatal argument against the theory of descent, for no one but an enthusiast sees anything more in the explanation than a very probable theory that appears to account for the facts. To demand an absolute proof is to ask for more than any reasonable advocate of the descent theory claims for it." (Professor Morgan, as we have already seen, rejects Darwinism, and inclines to the mutation theory of De Vries.) The vast majority of Darwinians must, therefore, be classed as "enthusiasts" who are not "reasonable advocates of the descent theory." For has not Professor Marsh told his readers that "to doubt evolution is to doubt science?" And similar assertions have been so frequently made and reiterated by Darwinians that the claim that Darwinism has become a dogma contains, as Professor Morgan notes, more truth than the adherents of that school find pleasant to hear.
More interesting, however, than Huxley's geological pedigree of the horse is Haeckel's geological pedigree of man. One who reads Haeckel's Natural History of Creation can hardly escape the impression that the author had actually seen specimens of each of the twenty-one ancestral forms of which his pedigree of man is composed. Such, however, was not the case. Quatrefages, speaking of this wonderful genealogical tree which Haeckel has drawn up with such scientific accuracy of description, observes: "The first thing to remark is that not one of the creatures exhibited in this pedigree has ever been seen, either living or in fossil. Their existence is based entirely upon theory." (Les Emules de Darwin, ii. p. 76). "Man's pedigree as drawn up by Haeckel," says the distinguished savant, Du Bois-Reymond, "is worth about as much as is that of Homer's heroes for critical historians."
In constructing his genealogies Haeckel has frequent recourse to his celebrated "Law of Biogenesis." The "Law of Biogenesis" which is the dignified title Haeckel has given to the discredited recapitulation theory, asserts that the embryological development of the individual (ontogeny), is a brief recapitulation, a summing up, of the stages through which the species passed in the course of its evolution in the geologic past, (phylogeny). Ontogeny is a brief recapitulation of phylogeny. This, says Haeckel, is what the "fundamental Law of Biogenesis" teaches us. (The reader of Haeckel and other Darwinians will frequently find laws put forward to establish facts: whereas other men of science prefer to have facts establish laws). When, therefore, as Quatrefages remarks, the transition between the types which Haeckel has incorporated into his genealogical tree, appears too abrupt, he often betakes himself to ontogeny and describes the embryo in the corresponding interval of development. This description he inserts in his genealogical mosaic, by virtue of the "Law of Biogenesis."
Many theories have been constructed to explain the phenomena of embryological development. Of these the simplest and least mystical is that of His in the great classic work on embryology, "Unsere Koerperform." His tells us: "In the entire series of forms which a developing organism runs through, each form is the necessary antecedent step of the following. If the embryo is to reach the complicated end-form, it must pass, step by step, through the simpler ones. Each step of the series is the physiological consequence of the preceding stage, and the necessary condition for the following." But whatever theory be accepted by men of science, it is certainly not that proposed by Haeckel. Carl Vogt after giving Haeckel's statement of the "Law of Biogenesis" wrote: "This law which I long held as well-founded, is absolutely and radically false." Even Oskar Hertwig, perhaps the best known of Haeckel's former pupils, finds it necessary to change Haeckel's expression of the biogenetic law so that "a contradiction contained in it may be removed." Professor Morgan, finally, rejects Haeckel's boasted "Law of Biogenesis" as "in principle, false." And he furthermore seems to imply that Fleischmann merits the reproach of men of science, for wasting his time in confuting "the antiquated and generally exaggerated views of writers like Haeckel."
"Antiquated and generally exaggerated views." Such is the comment of science on Haeckel's boast that Darwin's pre-eminent service to science consisted in pointing out how purposive adaptations may be produced by natural selection without the direction of mind just as easily as they may be produced by artificial selection and human design. And yet the latest and least worthy production from the pen of this Darwinian philosopher, The Riddle of the Universe, is being scattered broad-cast by the anti-Christian press, in the name and guise of popular science. It is therein that the evil consists. For the discerning reader sees in the book itself, its own best refutation. The pretensions of Haeckel's "consistent and monistic theory of the eternal cosmogenetic process" are best met by pointing to the fact that its most highly accredited and notorious representative has given to the world in exposition and defense of pure Darwinian philosophy, a work, which, for boldness of assertion, meagerness of proof, inconsequence of argument, inconsistency in fundamental principles and disregard for facts which tell against the author's theory, has certainly no equal in contemporary literature. In the apt and expressive phrase of Professor Paulsen, the book "fairly drips with superficiality" (von Seichtigkeit triefen). If the man of science is to be justified, as Huxley suggested, not by faith but by verification, Haeckel and his docile Darwinian disciples have good reason to tremble for their scientific salvation.
EDWIN V. O'HARA.
St. Paul, Minn.
During the last few years I have published under this title short articles dealing with the present status of Darwinism. In view of the kind reception which has been accorded to these articles by the reading public I have thought it well to bring them together in pamphlet form. Indeed, the Darwinian movement and its present status are eminently deserving of consideration, especially on the part of those before whom Darwinism has hitherto always been held up triumphantly as a scientific disproof of the very foundations of the Christian faith.
By way of introduction and explanation some general preliminary remarks may not be amiss here. Previous to twenty or thirty years ago, it was justifiable to identify Darwinism with the doctrine of Descent, for at that time Darwinism was the only doctrine of Descent which could claim any general recognition. Consequently, one who was an adherent of the doctrine of Descent was also a Darwinian. Those to whom this did not apply were so few as to be easily counted. The dispute then hinged primarily on Darwinism; hence, for those who did not admit the truth of that theory, the doctrine of Descent was for the most part also a myth.
I say, for the most part; for there were already even at that time a few clear-sighted naturalists (Wigand, Naegeli, Koelliker and others) who saw plainly the residue of truth that would result from the discussion. But to the overwhelming majority, the alternatives seemed to be: Either Darwinism or no evolution at all. Today, however, the state of things is considerably altered. The doctrine of Descent is clearly and definitely distinguished from Darwinism at least by the majority of naturalists. It is therefore of the utmost importance that this luminous distinction should likewise become recognized in lay circles.
My object in these pages is to show that Darwinism will soon be a thing of the past, a matter of history; that we even now stand at its death-bed, while its friends are solicitous only to secure for it a decent burial.
Out of the chaos of controversy which has obtained during the last four decades there has emerged an element of truth—for there lurks a germ of truth in most errors—which has gained almost universal recognition among contemporary men of science, namely, the doctrine of Descent. The fact that living organisms form an ascending series from the less perfect to the more perfect; the further fact that they also form a series according as they display more or less homology of structure and are formed according to similar types; and, lastly, that the fossil remains of organisms found in the various strata of the earth's surface likewise represent an ascending series from the simple to the more complex—these three facts suggested to naturalists the thought that living organisms were not always as we find them to-day, but that the more perfect had developed from simpler forms through a series of modifications. These thoughts were at first advanced with some hesitation, and were confined to narrow circles. They received, however, material support when, during the fourth decade of the 19th century the splendid discovery was made (by K. E. von Baer) that every organism is slowly developed from a germ, and in the process of development passes through temporary lower stages to a permanent higher one. Even at that time many naturalists believed in a corresponding development of the whole series of organisms, without of course being able to form a clear conception of the process. Such was the state of affairs when Darwin in the year 1859 published his principal work, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. In this work for the first time an exhaustive attempt was made to sketch a clear and completely detailed picture of the process of development.
Darwin started with the fact that breeders of animals and growers of plants, having at their disposal a large number of varieties, always diverging somewhat from each other, choose individuals possessing characteristics which they desired to strengthen, and use only these for procreation. In this manner the desired characteristic is gradually made more prominent, and the breeder appears to have obtained a new species. Similar conditions are supposed to prevail in Nature, only that there is lacking the selecting hand of the breeder. Here the so-called principle of Natural Selection holds automatic sway by means of the Struggle for Existence. All the various forms of life are warring for the means of subsistence, each striving to obtain for itself the best nourishment, etc. In this struggle those organisms will be victorious which possess the most favorable characteristics; all others must succumb. Hence those only will survive which are best adapted to their environment. But between those which survive, the struggle begins anew, and when the favoring peculiarities become more pronounced in some, (by chance, of course) these in turn win out. Thus Nature gradually improves her various breeds through the continued action of a self-regulating mechanism. Such are the main features of Darwinism, its real kernel, about which of course,—and this is a proof of its insufficiency,—from the very beginning a number of auxiliary hypotheses attached themselves.
Darwin's theory sounds so clear and simple, and seems at first blush so luminous that it is no wonder if many careful naturalists regarded it as an incontrovertible truth. The warning voice of the more prudent men of science was silenced by the loud enthusiasm of the younger generation over the solution of the greatest of the world-problems: the genesis of living beings had been brought to light, and—a thing which admitted of no doubt—man as well as the brute creation was a product of purely natural evolution. The doctrine which materialism had already proclaimed with prophetic insight, had at length been irrefragably established on a scientific basis: God, Soul and Immortality were contemptuously relegated to the domain of nursery tales. What further use was there for a God when, in addition to the Kant-Laplacian theory of the origin of the planetary system, it had been discovered that living organisms had likewise evolved spontaneously? How could man who had sprung from the irrational brute possess a soul? And thus, finally, disappeared the third delusion, the hope of immortality. For with death the functions of the body simply cease, as also do those of the brain, which people had foolishly believed to be something more than an aggregation of atoms. The body dissolves into its constituent elements and serves in its turn to build up other organisms: but as a human body it all turns to dust nor 'leaves a wrack behind'. Thus Darwinism was made the basis first for a materialistic, and then for a monistic, view of the world, and hence came to be rigorously opposed to every form of Theism. But since, at that time, Darwinism was the only theory of evolution recognized by the world of science, the opposition of the Christian world was directed not specifically against Darwinism, but against the theory of evolution as such. The wheat was rooted up with the tares.
I will not discuss here which of the two views concerning creation; the origin of the world in one moment of time, or a gradual evolution of the world and its potentialities, is the more worthy of the creative power of God. Manifestly the greatness and magnificence of creation will in no way be compromised by the concept of evolution. This, of course, is simply my opinion. Any further statement would be out of place here.
But what is the Darwinian position?
It is merely a special form of the evolutionary theory, one of the various attempts to explain how the process of development actually took place. Darwinism as understood in the following chapters possesses the following characteristic traits:
(1) Evolution began and continues without the aid or intervention of a Creator.
(2) In the production of Variations there is no definite law; Chance reigns supreme.
(3) There is no indication of purpose or finality to be detected anywhere in the evolutionary process.
(4) The working factor in evolution is Egoism, a war of each against his fellows: this is the predominating principle which manifests itself in Nature.
(5) In this struggle the strongest, fleetest and most cunning will always prevail, (the Darwinian term "fittest" has been the innocent source of a great deal of error).
(6) Man, whether you regard his body or his mind, is nothing but a highly developed animal.
A careful examination of Darwinism shows that these are the necessary presuppositions, or, if you will, the inevitable consequences of that theory. To accept that theory is to repudiate the Christian view of the world. The truth of the above propositions is utterly incompatible, not only with any religious views, but with our civil and social principles as well.
The most patent facts of man's moral life, however, cannot be explained on any such hypothesis, and the logic of events has already shown that Darwinism could never have won general acceptance but for the incautious enthusiasm of youth which intoxicated the minds of the rising generation of naturalists and incapacitated them for the exercise of sober judgment. To show that there is among contemporary men of science a healthy reaction against Darwinism is the object of this treatise.
The reader may now ask, What, then, is your idea of evolution? It certainly is easier to criticise than to do constructive work. An honest study of nature, however, inevitably leads us to the conclusion that the final solution of the problem is still far distant. Many a stone has already been quarried for the future edifice of evolution by unwearied research during the last four decades. But in opposition to Darwinism it may, at the present time, be confidently asserted that any future doctrine of evolution will have to be constructed on the following basic principles:
(1) All evolution is characterized by finality; it proceeds according to a definite plan, and tends to a definite end.
(2) Chance and disorder find no place in Nature; every stage of the evolutionary process is the result of law-controlled factors.
(3) Egoism and struggle among living organisms are of very subordinate importance in comparison with co-operation and social action.
(4) The soul of man is an independent substance, and entirely unintelligible as a mere higher stage of development of animal instinct.
A theory of evolution, however, resting on these principles cannot dispense with a Creator and Conserver of the world and of life.
"It was a happy day that people threw off the straight-jacket of logic and the burdensome fetters of strict method, and mounting the light-caparisoned steed of philosophic science, soared into the empyrean, high above the laborious path of ordinary mortals. One may not take offense if even the most sedate citizen, for the sake of a change, occasionally kicks over the traces, provided only that he returns in due time to his wonted course. And now in the domain of Biology, one is led to think that the time has at length arrived for putting an end to mad masquerade pranks and for returning without reserve to serious and sober work, to find satisfaction therein." With these words did the illustrious Wigand, twenty-five years ago, conclude the preface to the third volume of his large classical work against Darwinism. True, he did not at that time believe that the mad campaign of Darwinism had already ended to its own detriment, but he always predicted with the greatest confidence that the struggle would soon terminate in victory for the anti-Darwinian camp. When Wigand closed his eyes in death in 1896, he was able to bear with him the consciousness that the era of Darwinism was approaching its end, and that he had been in the right.
Today, at the dawn of the new century, nothing is more certain than that Darwinism has lost its prestige among men of science. It has seen its day and will soon be reckoned a thing of the past. A few decades hence when people will look back upon the history of the doctrine of Descent, they will confess that the years between 1860 and 1880 were in many respects a time of carnival; and the enthusiasm which at that time took possession of the devotees of natural science will appear to them as the excitement attending some mad revel.
A justification of our hope that Wigand's warning prediction will finally be fulfilled is to be found in the fact that to-day the younger generation of naturalists is departing more and more from Darwinism. It is a fact worthy of special mention that the opposition to Darwinism to-day comes chiefly from the ranks of the zoologists, whereas thirty years ago large numbers of zoologists from Jena associated themselves with the Darwinian school, hoping to find there a full and satisfactory solution for the profoundest enigmas of natural science.
The cause of this reaction is not far to seek. There was at the time a whole group of enthusiastic Darwinians among the university professors, Haeckel leading the van, who clung to that theory so tenaciously and were so zealous in propagating it, that for a while it seemed impossible for a young naturalist to be anything but a Darwinian. Then the inevitable reaction gradually set in. Darwin himself died, the Darwinians of the sixties and seventies lost their pristine ardor, and many even went beyond Darwin. Above all, calm reflection took the place of excited enthusiasm. As a result it has become more and more apparent that the past forty years have brought to light nothing new that is of any value to the cause of Darwinism. This significant fact has aroused doubts as to whether after all Darwinism can really give a satisfactory explanation of the genesis of organic forms.
The rising generation is now discovering what discerning scholars had already recognized and stated a quarter of a century ago. They are also returning to a study of the older opponents of Darwinism, especially of Wigand. It is only now, many years after his death, that a tribute has been paid to this distinguished savant which unfortunately was grudgingly withheld during his life. One day recently there was laid before his monument in the Botanical Garden of Marburg a laurel-wreath with the inscription: "To the great naturalist, philosopher and man." It came from a young zoologist at Vienna who had thoroughly mastered Wigand's great anti-Darwinian work, an intelligent investigator who had set to work in the spirit of Wigand. Another talented zoologist, Hans Driesch, dedicates to the memory of Wigand two books in rapid succession and reprehends the contemporaries of that master of science for ignoring him. O. Hammann abandons Darwinism for an internal principle of development. W. Haacke openly disavows Darwinism; and even at the convention of naturalists in 1897, L. Wilser was allowed to assert without contradiction that, "anyone who has committed himself to Darwinism can no longer be ranked as a naturalist."
These are all signs which clearly indicate a radical revolution, and they are all the more significant since it is the younger generation, which will soon take the lead, that thinks and speaks in this manner. But it is none the less noteworthy that the younger naturalists are not alone in this movement. Many of the older men of science are swelling the current. We shall recall here only the greatest of those whom we might mention in this connection.
Julius von Sachs, the most gifted and brilliant botanist of the last century, who unfortunately is no longer among us, was in the sixties an outspoken Darwinian, as is evident especially from his History of Botany and from the first edition of his Handbook of Botany. Soon, however, Sachs began to incline toward the position assumed by Naegeli; and as early as 1877, Wigand, in the third volume of his great work, expressed the hope that Sachs would withdraw still further from Darwinism. As years went by, Sachs drifted more and more from his earlier position, and Wigand was of opinion that to himself should be ascribed the credit of bringing about the change. During his last years Sachs had become bitterly opposed to Darwinism, and in his masterly "Physiological Notes" he took a firm stand on the "internal factors of evolution."
During recent years I had the pleasure of occasional correspondence with Sachs. On the 16th of September, 1896, he wrote me: For more than twenty years I have recognized that if we are to build up a strictly scientific theory of organic structural processes, we must separate the doctrine of Descent from Darwinism. It was with this intention that he worked during the last years of his life and it is to be hoped that his school will continue his researches with this aim in view.
The tendency among naturalists to return to Wigand is well exemplified in an article contributed to the "Preussischen Jahrbuecher" for January, 1897, by Dr. Karl Camillo Schneider, assistant at the zoological Institute of the University of Vienna. This article which is entitled The Origin of Species, pursues Wigand's train of thought throughout, and whole sentences and even paragraphs are taken verbatim from his main work. This, at all events, is a very instructive indication of the present tendency which deserves prominence: and its significance becomes more evident when we recall how the work of Wigand was received by the non-christian press a quarter of a century ago. It was either ridiculed or ignored. The two methods of treatment were applied to his writings which are always readily employed when the critic has nothing pertinent to say. It is interesting to note that Darwin himself employed this method. Wigand once told me that he had sent Darwin a copy of his work and had addressed a letter to him at the same time merely stating that he had sent the book, making no reference to the line of thought contained in it. Darwin answered immediately in the kindest manner that he had not as yet received the book, but when it arrived he would at once make a careful study of its contents. Darwin did not write to him again, and when a new edition of his works appeared, the work of Wigand, the most comprehensive answer to Darwin ever written, was passed over without even a passing mention. Thus Darwin completely ignored his keenest antagonist.
As has been said, the majority of those who wrote about Wigand ridiculed him: very few regarded him seriously, and even these indulged chiefly in personal recriminations. Thus matters stood twenty-five years ago. Wigand's prediction passed unheeded. That a periodical not having a specifically Christian circle of readers should now publish a condemnation of Darwinism entirely in accordance with the views of Wigand, is a fact which indicates a notable change of sentiment during the intervening years. I should not be at all astonished if many who sneered at Wigand twenty years ago, now read the article in the Preussischen Jahrbuecher with entire approval. Ill-will towards Wigand has not altogether disappeared even to-day. This is evident from the fact that as yet Dr. Schneider does not venture to defend Wigand publicly, nor to acknowledge him as his principal authority. We must be content, however, if only, the truth will finally prevail.
Striking testimony relative to the present position of Darwinism is borne by the Strasburg zoologist, Dr. Goette, who has won fame by his invaluable labors as an historian of evolutionary theory. In the "Umschau," No. 5, 1898, he discusses the "Present Status of Darwinism," and the conclusions he arrives at, are identical with mine. At the outset Goette indicates the distinction between Darwinism and the doctrine of Descent, and then points out that the distinguishing features of the former consist not so much in the three facts of Heredity, Variation, and Over-production, but rather in Selection, Survival of the Fittest, and also in that mystical theory of heredity—the doctrine of Pangenesis—which is peculiarly Darwinian. Since this theory of Pangenesis has found no adherents, the question may henceforth be restricted to the doctrine of natural selection. This Goette very well observes.
He points, moreover, to the fact that the misgivings that were entertained concerning the doctrine of natural selection on its first appearance, were, on the whole, precisely the same as they are to-day; only with this difference, that formerly they were disregarded by naturalists whose clearness of vision was obscured by excessive enthusiasm; whereas, to-day men have again returned to their sober senses and lend their attention more readily to objections.
Goette recalls the fact that M. Wagner tried to supplement natural selection with his "Law of Migration," and that later on, Romanes and Gulick endeavored to supply the evident deficiencies in Darwin's theory, by invoking other principles; and that even at that time, Askenasy, Braun, and Naegeli—and more recently, the lately deceased Eimer—insisted on the fact of definitely ordered variations, in opposition to the theory of Selection.
Many naturalists recognize the difficulties but do not abandon the theory of Selection, thinking that some supplementary principle would suffice to make it acceptable: many others refuse to decide either for or against Darwinism and maintain towards it an attitude of indifference. The younger investigators, however, are utterly opposed to it. "There can be no doubt that since its first appearance the influence of Darwinism on men's minds has notably diminished, although the theory has not been entirely discarded."—But the very fact that the younger naturalists are hostile to it, makes it evident that Darwinism has a still darker future in store for it: that sooner or later it will come to possess a merely historical interest.
"The present position of Darwinism," says Goette, "is characterized especially by the uncertainty of criticism which is unable to declare definitely in favor of either side." Goette finds the chief cause of this uncertainty in the fact "that men of science (even Darwin himself) have widened the concept of selection as a means of originating new species through the interaction of individuals in the same species, so as to express the mutually antagonistic relations existing between several such species." The latter alone is subject to experimental verification, but it can only cause the isolation of existing forms and is not a species-originating selection—with which alone we are here concerned. This kind of selection can enfeeble the existing flora and fauna, but cannot produce a new species. Selection productive of new species "is not actually demonstrable; it is a purely theoretical invention."
Goette next points out that the investigator is everywhere confronted by definitely-directed variation: a fact which does not harmonize with the theory of selection, nor, consequently with Darwinism. If some scientists have not as yet accepted Eimer's presentation of this doctrine, their action is most probably to be attributed to the fear lest "they should have to accept not merely, variation according to definite laws, but likewise a principle of finality and other causes lying beyond the range of scientific investigation." The rejection of the theory of selection often promotes, as Goette rightly observes, a reactionary tendency towards a priori explanations of phenomena with which we are but slightly acquainted. "There are naturalists who do not discard the theory of selection simply because it seems to furnish a much-desired mechanical explanation of purposive adaptions" (a momentous admission to which we shall have occasion to revert).
Others have broken entirely with selection and the principle of utility and extend the idea of finality to the general capacity of organisms to persist. Thus adaptation becomes a principle which transcends the limits of natural science and pervades the whole domain of life. Goette observes that Darwin spoke of useful, less useful and indifferent organisms, by which he meant those adaptations destined for particular vital functions which tend to make the organs more and more specialized. Since the ability to live is threatened by this specialization it cannot be purposive. This is not wholly true, because the more specialized the individual organ becomes, the more perfect is the whole organism which is composed of these specialized organs. The functions of the individual organ may be restricted, but the power of the entire organism is notably increased, according to the law of the division of labor. Goette therefore has not sufficient grounds for rejecting this expression. He considers that a real and permanent purpose for the individual living forms is out of the question, but that this purpose may be sought for in the development and history of the collective life of nature. Definitely ordered variation, he thinks, a scientific explanation of which is indeed yet forthcoming, will explain adaptation equally as well as does selection. After what has been said this statement of Goette must come as a surprise, for one would think that according to his view definite variation explains adaptations better than selection. Goette sums up his main conclusion in the following words: "The doctrine of Heredity or of Descent, which comes from Lamarck though it was first made widely known by Darwin, has since continually gained a broader and surer foundation. But Darwin's own doctrine regarding the causes and process of Descent which alone can be called Darwinism, has on the other hand doubtlessly waned in influence and prestige."
This is exactly what we also maintain: The establishment of the theory of Descent in general, and the continual retrogression of Darwinism in particular. Wigand was entirely right when he said that Darwinism would not live beyond the century.
We may, however, derive from the discussions of Goette something else that is of the highest importance, namely, an admission in which is to be found the real and fundamental explanation of the conduct of the majority of naturalists who still cling to Darwinism. It does not consist in the fact that they are convinced of the truth of Darwinism but in their "reluctance to give up the mechanical explanation of finality proposed by Darwin," or rather in the fear of being driven to the recognition of theistic principles. With commendable candor Goette attacks this method of keeping up a system notwithstanding its recognized deficiencies. Goette furthermore points out especially that this recognition is more widespread than one might be able to gather from occasional discussions on the subject.
From the account which Goette gives of the present status of Darwinism we may safely conclude that Darwinism had entered upon a period of decay; it is in the third stage of a development through which many a scientific doctrine has already passed.
The four stages of this development are the following:
1. The incipient stage: A new doctrine arises, the older representatives of the science oppose it partly because of keener insight and greater experience, partly also from indolence, not wishing to allow themselves to be drawn out of their accustomed equilibrium; among the younger generation there arises a growing sentiment in favor of the new doctrine.
2. The stage of growth: the new doctrine continually gains greater favor among the young generation, finding vent in bursts of enthusiasm; some of the cautious seniors have passed away, others are carried along by the stream of youthful enthusiasm in spite of better knowledge, and the voices of the thoughtful are no longer heard in the general uproar, exultingly proclaiming that to live is bliss.
3. The period of decay: the joyous enthusiasm has vanished; depression succeeds intoxication. Now that the young men have themselves grown older and become more sober, many things appear in a different light. The doubts already expressed by the old and prudent during the stage of growth are now better appreciated and gradually increase in weight. Many become indifferent, the present younger generation becomes perplexed and discards the theory entirely.
4. The final stage: the last adherents of the "new doctrine" are dead or at least old and have ceased to be influential, they sit upon the ruins of a grandeur that even now belongs to the "good old time." The influential and directing spirits have abandoned this doctrine, once so important and seemingly invincible, for the consideration of living issues and the younger generation regards it as an interesting episode in the history of science.
With reference to Darwinism we are in the third stage which is characterized especially by the indifference of the present middle-aged generation and by growing opposition on the part of the younger coming generation. This very characteristic feature is brought into prominence by the discussion of Goette. If all signs, however, are not deceptive, this third stage, that of decay, is drawing to an end; soon we shall enter the final stage and with that the tragic-comedy of Darwinism will be brought to a close.
If some one were to ask me how according to the count of years, I should determine the extent of the individual stages of Darwinism, this would be my answer:
1. The incipient stage extends from 1859 (the year during which Darwin's principal work, The Origin of Species, appeared) to the end of the sixties.
2. The stage of growth: from that time, for about 20 years, to the end of the eighties.
3. The stage of decay: from that time on to about the year 1900.
4. The final stage: the first decade of the new century.
I am not by choice a prophet, least of all regarding the weather. But I think it may not be doubted that the fine weather, at least, has passed for Darwinism. So having carefully scanned the firmament of science for signs of the weather, I shall for once make a forecast for Darwinism, namely: Increasing cloudiness with heavy precipitations, indications of a violent storm, which threatens to cause the props of the structure to totter, and to sweep it from the scene.
As further witnesses to the passing of Darwinism, two botanists may be cited; the first is Professor Korschinsky who in No. 24, 1899, of the Naturwissenschaftliche Wochenschrift published an article on "Heterogenesis and Evolution," which was to be followed later by a large work on this subject. With precision and emphasis he points to the numerous instances in which there occurs on or in a plant, suddenly and without intervention, a variation which may become hereditary under certain circumstances; thus during the last century a number of varieties of garden plants have been evolved. On the basis of such experiments Korschinsky developed the theory which had been proposed by Koelliker in Wuerzburg thirty years earlier, namely, the theory of "heterogeneous production" or "heterogenesis," as Korschinsky calls it. When one understands that a plant gives rise suddenly and without any intervention to a grain of seed, which produces a different plant, it becomes evident that all Darwinistic speculations about selection and struggle for existence are forthwith absolutely excluded. The effect can proceed only from the internal vital powers inherent in the specified organism acting in connection, perhaps, with the internal conditions of life, which suddenly exert an influence in a new direction.
Korschinsky distinguishes clearly and definitely between the principles of Heterogenesis and Transmutation (gradual transformation through natural selection in the struggle for existence), and in so doing comes to a complete denial of Darwinism.
The other naturalist who has dealt Darwinism a telling blow is the botanist of Graz, Professor Haberlandt.
He published some very interesting observations and experiments in the "Festschrift fuer Schwendener" (Berlin 1899, Borntraeger). They are concerned with a Liane javas of the family of mulberry plants (Conocephalus ovatus.) The free leaves possess under the outer layer, a tissue composed of large, thin-walled, water-storing cells; flat cavities on the upper side, having, furthermore, organs that secrete water, which the botanist calls hydathodes. These are delicate, small, glandular cells over which are the bundles of vascular fibres (leaf-veins) that convey the water to them; over these in the top layer are so-called water-crevices through which the water can force itself to the outside. It is unnecessary to enter upon a closer explanation of the anatomical structure of these peculiar organs. The water which is forced upward by the root-pressure of the plant is naturally conveyed through the vascular fibres into the leaves and at every hydathode the superfluous water oozes out in drops, a phenomenon which one can also very nicely observe e.g. on the "Lady's cloak" (Alchemilla vulgaris) of the German flora. A portion of the night-dew must be attributed to this secretion of water. On the Liane, then, Haberlandt observed a very considerable secretion of water: a full-grown leaf secreted during one night 2.76 g. of water (that is 26 per cent. of its own weight.) Through this peculiarity the water supply within the plant is regulated and the danger avoided that any water should penetrate the surrounding tissue in consequence of strong root-pressure,—which would naturally obstruct the vital function of the entire leaf. Besides it is to be noticed that in this way an abundant flow of water is produced: the plant takes up large quantities of water from the earth, laden with nutritive salts, and the distilled water is almost pure (it contains only 0.045 g. salts), so that the nutritive salts are absorbed by the plant.
From these considerations it necessarily appears that the hydathodes are of great biological importance to the plant.
Haberlandt then "poisoned" the plant, by sprinkling it with a 0.1 per cent sublimate solution of alcohol. The purpose of this experiment was to ascertain whether in the secretion of water there was question of a merely physical process or of a vital process. In the first case the action of the hydathode should continue even after the treatment with the sublimate solution, while in the latter case it should not. As the secretion ceased the obvious conclusion to be deduced from this experiment is that the hydathodes do not act as purely mechanical filtration-apparatuses, as one might have thought, but that there is here evidence of an active vital process in the plant; the unusual term "poisoning" is therefore really justified under present circumstances.
Let me dwell for a moment on this result, for, although it may be somewhat foreign to our present purpose and to the further observations of Haberlandt, it is very significant in itself. The water moves in the plant in closed cells, as the cells of the aqueous gland are entirely closed, but the organic membrane, as every one knows, has the peculiar physical property of allowing water to pass through, the pressure, of course, being applied on the side of least resistance; when therefore the water is forced into the cells by root-pressure, it is easily intelligible that according to purely physical laws it should come to the surface of the leaf on the side of the least resistance, that is, by way of the water-crevices. Even the defenders of "vital force" would not find any reason in this for not considering the phenomenon of distillation in this case a purely physical phenomenon. And still according to Haberlandt's experiments it is not. The sublimate could at most only impede the process of filtration, but should under no circumstances have destroyed it. But it does destroy it, and the hydathode dies. The conclusion certainly follows from this that this process is connected with some vital function. Even if the hydathode is treated with sublimate solution, all the conditions for mechanical filtration still remain: the earth has moisture which can be taken up by the roots so that root-pressure still exists. The water is in all cases conveyed to the hydathodes through the vascular fibres, the cell walls of the hydathodes are still adapted for filtration, and yet they do not filter. Hence some other factor must join itself to the physico-mechanical process of filtration and affect or destroy it, and this factor can be found only in the protoplasm, the vital element of the cells; for we know that the sublimate acts with pernicious effect on it and in such a manner that it destroys its entire power of reaction; it kills it, as we say.
The experiment under discussion has, therefore, great significance for our view of the vital processes in the plant; it proves beyond doubt that these processes are in no way of a purely mechanical nature, but that there is something underlying all this, a hitherto inexplicable something, which we call "life." In all vital activities, physical and chemical processes certainly do occur; they do not, however, take place spontaneously but are made use of by the vital element of the plant to produce an effect that is desirable or necessary for the vital activity of the plant. If the vital element is dead, no matter how favorable the conditions may be for chemical and physical processes, these do not take place and the effect necessary for life is not obtained. It is very remarkable after all that according to the experiment of Haberlandt this peculiar relation should become apparent in a process that is so open to our investigation as the filtration of water through the cell-wall of a plant.
After what has been said I consider this simple experiment of Haberlandt of great significance; for it is a direct proof of the existence of a vital force. One may resist to his heart's content, but without avail; vital force is again finding its way into science. More and more cognizance is being taken of the fact that 60 and 70 years ago people jumped at conclusions very imprudently when they believed that the first artificial preparation of organic matter (urea, by Woehler) had proven the non-existence of a vital force. Since then there has been great rejoicing in the camp of materialists who scoffed at the "ignorant" who would not as yet forsake vital force. "Behold," they said, "in the chemist's retort the same matter is produced chemically that is produced in the body of the animal, without the direction of a hidden vital force, which, if it is not necessary in the one case, neither is it necessary in the other." Any one who had given the matter careful consideration could even at that time have known where the "ignorant" really were. That in both cases chemical processes take place is clear and undisputed, but the materialists forgot entirely that even in the laboratory it was not the mere contact of the elements that produced the urea; a chemist was needed and in this case not any one arbitrarily chosen, but a man of the genius and knowledge of a Woehler to watch over the process, and utilize and partly direct the laws of chemistry in order to obtain the desired result. Hence it was even then absurd to deny vital force as a consequence of that experiment. Since, however, it was well-adapted for materialistic purposes, this denial was proclaimed with the sound of trumpet throughout the land, and repeated again and again with surprising tenacity, with the result that even thoughtful investigators rejected vital force almost universally in the seventies and eighties.
It has always been a problem to me how this could have happened. It can, indeed, be explained only on the supposition that naturalists were adverse to the introduction of anything into nature, that appeared to them mystical and mysterious. Nor is such a procedure at all necessary: vital force is by no means a mysterious, ghostly power that soars above nature, but a force of nature like its other forces, as mysterious and as definite as they are, only that it dominates a specified group of beings, namely, living organisms. It may readily be compared with any other natural phenomenon. For instance, the phenomenon of crystallization has its well determined sphere of activity, viz., the mineral world. It employs definite mathematico-physical laws to obtain a specified result, and even acts differently in different mineral substances in so far as it produces in the one case this, in the other case that form; but still it should be a similarly directed force which has the effect of producing these peculiar forms. Precisely similar is it with vital force. It has its determined sphere of activity, the kingdom of living organisms; it acts according to definite physico-chemical laws in producing a specified result; it acts differently in different living organisms; it is therefore a force of nature as clear yet as mysterious as the force of crystallization or as any other force of nature. Hence one has no cause to complain of its mysteriousness, for all other forces of nature are just as much, or if you will, just as little mysterious as vital force. The only thing to be maintained is this, that living organisms are dominated by a special force with special phenomena and special activities, even as in mineral substances there is a special dominant force which produces special phenomena and exercises special activities.
It is possible to produce crystals in the laboratory, but no one will be so foolish as to maintain that in nature crystals are not formed in consequence of a very definite force inherent in the mineral-substances; nor will any one deny the existence of the force of crystallization because it does not appear in living organisms.
Nor have I ever despaired of a return of the theory of vital force. A change of opinion has really taken place during this decade; at present the voices for a vital force are constantly growing stronger and it will most probably not be very long before it will be again universally recognized, not as something preternatural, of course, but as a force of nature on an equal footing with the other forces of nature, with activities, just as mysterious and just as well-attested as the activities of the other forces of nature.
Haberlandt's experiment, however, had also an indirect consequence that is of far-reaching importance. He observed that within a few days new water-secreting organs of an entirely different structure and of different origin were formed on the leaves that had been sprinkled with sublimate. Over the bundles of vascular fibres, little knots as large as a pin head arose in larger numbers out of a tissue underlying the top layer; out of these the water now oozed every morning. Closer investigation disclosed the fact that these organs develop only on young immature leaves where groups of peculiar, perishable gland-hairs are found; beneath these dead mucous glands the substitute secretive organs originate in the inner tissue. It is of no importance to state in what particular cells they originate.
Suffice it to say that they are colorless capillary tubes originating in various cells; projecting like the hairs of a brush, containing living protoplasm and evanescent chlorophyll. It is also important to note that this new organ is immediately connected with the water-conducting system consisting of bundles of vascular fibres. Haberlandt furthermore indicates especially that these organs when viewed in connection with the process of secretion give evidence of an active vital principle as well as of simple mechanical filtration.
These substitute organs are all indeed well adapted to their purpose and adequately replace the old secretive organs, but they so easily dry out and are so little protected that after a week they become parched and die because wound-cork forms under them. The leaf no longer produces new hydathodes, but on its lower side it produces growths that function as vesicles, by means of which it continues to sustain itself.
Haberlandt furthermore records a phenomenon perhaps analogous to this on the grape-vine, but with this exception the case described by him is unique. In order to pass any further judgment regarding it, we should have to ascertain whether the whole phenomenon is not a case of so-called adaptation; if so, processes should be found in nature, analogous to the poisoning of the hydathodes in this experiment, which result in the destruction of the hydathodes so that in consequence the plant would have gained the power of making good the loss, by means of the substitute organs. Such processes, however, (even through poisoning or through parasites) would be very highly improbable. Equally incredible is the alternative possibility that the new organs would be produced by the plant not as a substitute but as a supplementary apparatus when the old ones would not suffice for secretion in case of very large absorption of water. This also must doubtlessly be rejected, as Haberlandt has observed.
Powers of adaptation should, of course, according to Darwinism, be gradually acquired in the struggle for existence, as in that case they should also have stability; but since this is not possessed by the new organs, the presumption is that they do not possess the character of adaptation. They are therefore new organs that originated after an entirely unnatural and unforeseen interference with the normal vital functions and in consequence of a self-regulating activity of the organism.
What then is there in the whole phenomenon worthy of notice with regard to the theory of Descent?
1. An immediately well adapted new organ has here originated very suddenly without any previous incipient formation, without gradual perfection and without stages of transition.
2. In its formation struggle for existence and natural selection are entirely excluded, neither can find any application whatever even according to the newer exposition of Weismann. Haberlandt himself draws this conclusion.
3. If this phenomenon of a suddenly appearing change can take place in the course of the development of the individual, there can be no obvious reason why it should not take place in the same manner (without natural selection or struggle for existence) in the course of the phylogenetic development.
It is manifestly of the greatest importance that in this case a direct, experimental proof has been given that an organ has originated suddenly and without the aid of Darwinian principles. Haberlandt's article is nothing less than a complete renunciation of Darwinism on the part of Haberlandt, a renunciation which we greet with great satisfaction.
In fact one such observation would really suffice to set aside Darwinism and prove the utter insufficiency of its principles to give explanation of the origin of natural species. On the other hand, this observation plainly proves two things: first, that the above mentioned doctrine of Koelliker, now held by Korschinsky is a move in the right direction for the discovery of the causes of descent; and secondly, that the principal cause of the evolution is not to be sought in environment and blind forces but in the systematically working, internal vital principle in plants and animals. With that, however, an important part of the foundation of the mechanical-materialistic view of the world is demolished.
Since we have heard the verdict of zoologists and botanists concerning Darwinism, it is but right that we should now listen to a palaeontologist, a representative of the science, which investigates the petrified records of the earth's surface, and strives to collect information regarding the world of life during remote, by-gone ages of the earth. It is evident to every-one that the verdict of this science must be of very special importance in passing on the question of the development of living organisms. Darwin himself recognized this at the outset. He and his followers, however, soon perceived that, while the revelations of palaeontology were on the whole favorable to the doctrine of Descent, in so far as they proved the gradual change of organization, in consecutive strata, from the simple to more complex forms, palaeontology revealed nothing that would sustain the Darwinian theory as to the method of that development. As soon as the Darwinians, and first of all Darwin himself, perceived this, they at once brought forward a very cheap subterfuge. Since Darwinism postulates a very gradual, uninterrupted development of living organisms, there must have been an immense number of transition-forms between any two animal or plant species which to-day, although otherwise related, are separated by characteristic features. Consequently, on the Darwinian hypothesis, all of these transition-forms must have perished for the singular reason that other better organized forms overcame them in the struggle for existence. If therefore the millions of transition-forms were still missing, and the known petrified forms of older strata of the earth did not reveal them, the Darwinians were able to console themselves until from 20 to 40 years ago, with the assertion that our knowledge was still too deficient, that a more thorough investigation of the earth's surface and especially of out-of-the-way parts would eventually bring to light the supposed transition forms. Such assertion affords very poor consolation, and is anything but scientific. The method of natural science consists in establishing general principles on the basis of the materials actually furnished by experiments and observation and not in excogitating general laws and then consoling oneself with the thought that while our knowledge of nature is as yet extremely imperfect, time will furnish the actual material necessary to substantiate our guesses. But since then many a year has come and gone and Darwinism has caused, and for that alone it deserves credit, a diligent research in every field of natural science, and has promoted among palaeontologists a search for the missing transition-forms. The materials of investigation from the field of palaeontology have also wonderfully increased during these decades. Hence it is worth while now at the dawn of the new century to examine this material with a view to its availableness for the theory of Descent and especially for Darwinism.
Professor Steinmann has recently done so in Freiburg in Breisgau, on the occasion of an address as Rector of the University. What conclusions did he reach?
Steinmann declares it to be the primary task of post-Darwinian palaeontology "to arrange the fossil animal and plant-remains in the order of descent and thus to build up a truly natural, because historically demonstrable, classification of the animal and plant-world." At the outset it is to be noted that for various reasons palaeontology is unable to execute this momentous task in its full extent. The evidence of palaeontology is deficient, if for no other reason than that many animal organisms could not be preserved at all on account of their soft bodies; many animal groups have, nevertheless, received an unusual increase (mollusks, radiata, fish, saurians, vertebrates, and dendroid plants).
As regards the attempt made in the sixties to draw up lines of descent, Steinmann repudiates, without, of course, mentioning names, the family tree constructed by Haeckel and his associates as wholly hypothetical and hence unjustified; he rightly remarks that their method smacks of the closet. He finds fault with them chiefly because they predicated actuality of this imaginary family-tree and fancied that the historical research of the future would have but isolated facts to establish.
In speaking of the palaeontological research of the last few decades, Steinmann says: "In the light of recent research, fossil discoveries have frequently appeared less intelligible and more ambiguous than before, and in those cases in which an attempt has been made to bring the descent-system into agreement with the actual facts, the incongruity between the two has become obvious." Thus, for instance, the well-known archaeopteryx is not, as was maintained, a connecting link between reptile and bird, but a member of a blindly ending side branch. In fact palaeontological research has proven incapable of finding the transitions between different species, clearly determined by the theory. But the overwhelming abundance of matter called for new endeavors to master it. It was then further discovered—Steinmann finds an illustration of this fact in the echinodermata—that the well-known "fundamental law of biogenesis" of Haeckel can be accepted only in a very restricted sense and may even lead to conclusions absolutely false. We desire to remark here that a "fundamental principle" should never mislead; if it does so, it is not a fundamental principle.
It is of importance to know that according to palaeontological investigation, empiric systematizing and phylogenetic classification do not always coincide, as, for instance, in the case of the ammonites. Acording to palaeontological investigation the great systematic categories are only grades of organization. Hence present day systematizing is being more and more discarded, and the said categories—as indeed also the lesser groups of forms—must be of polyphyletic origin, that is, they must have descended from different primitive stocks. It may be asked: What bearing has this principle of multiple origins? For a long time reptiles were the predominating vertebrates; when mammals and birds appeared, numerous, varied and strange saurians inhabited land and sea; but "with the end of the chalk-period most saurians seem to have vanished suddenly from the scene, and soon we behold the mainlands and oceans inhabited by mammals of most diverse kinds." The saurians have become almost extinct and the mammal-tribe suddenly shows a most extraordinary variability and power of development. How is either phenomenon to be explained?
"The disappearance of a group of organisms has been preferably explained since the time of Darwin, by defeat in the struggle with superior competitors. If ever an explanation lacked pertinency, it does so in this case, in which the succumbing group is represented by gigantic and well preserved animal forms, widely distributed and accustomed to the most varied methods of nutrition, whereas the competitor appears in the form of small, harmless marsupials. It would be equivalent to a struggle between the elephant and the mouse."
We acknowledge with pleasure this clear rejection of Darwinism on the part of Steinmann.
Steinmann also rejects the natural extinction of those forms, perhaps from the weakness of old age; whether he is wholly warranted in doing so, seems somewhat doubtful. He tries to explain the phenomenon on the basis of the multiple origin of the mammals; and in fact there is already speculation regarding triple origin, viz: tambreets, marsupials, and the other mammals. Now if the latter also possessed a multiple origin, the problem of the extinction of the saurians would, according to Steinmann solve itself. One would not need to consider the number of extinct forms as large as is now done. However, he does not enter upon any closer consideration of this question. But he points out, for instance, that to-day the shells of mollusks (snails and conchylia) are regarded as structures that were acquired only in the course of time for the sake of protection, the disappearance of which, therefore, implied a disadvantage for the respective organisms. This transition would be something extraordinary—"but if on the contrary, one regards the shells as the necessary products of a special kind of assimilation and of the immoveableness of certain parts of the body, the gradual disappearance might well be considered a process which may take place in various animal-groups with a certain regularity in the course of the phyletic development." The snails devoid of shells, for instance, may be derived with certainty from those possessed of shells; this process has very probably also taken place in different genetic lines.
This view is well worth consideration; it stands in sharp opposition, in fundamental principles, to the Darwinian explanation. This calls for special emphasis here. How should one explain the origin of uncrusted mollusks from crusted ones through the struggle for existence, since in such a contest the latter must have had far greater prospect of survival than the former?
This view together with the principle of multiple origin opens up, according to Steinmann, "the prospect of an altered conception of the process of formation of the organic world." According to the new conception, the many extinct forms of antiquity are not, as Darwin supposed, "unsuccessful attempts and continued aberrations of nature"—how this reminds one of that old, naive, much-ridiculed idea that fossils were models that God had discarded as unserviceable—but would gain new life and assume hitherto unsuspected relationship to the present organic creation.
"Science, which seeks after operative causes, at the beginning of the century regarded creation as a multiplicity of phenomena without any causal connection as to their origin. Darwin taught as a fundamental principle the unity and the causal inter-relation of creation, but was not entirely able to save this hypothesis from a violent and sudden death. In the future sketch creation will appear as wholly restricted in itself and lasting, the causes of its limitation lie, up to the time of the intervention of men, solely in the balanced motion of the planet which it peoples."
At the close of his address Steinmann points out that behind the problem of the manner of development, there stands "the unsolved question regarding its operative causes." "Regarding this point," he continues, "opinions have perhaps never been so divergent as they are to-day. The times have passed when the Darwinian explanations were regarded with naive confidence as the alpha and omega of the doctrine of Descent. Not only are the adherents of Darwinian ideas divided among themselves, but the theory of Lamarck, somewhat altered, favored by the results of historical investigation, appears more striking and now seems more in harmony with facts than formerly. What is considered by one as the ruling factor in the evolution of organisms is regarded by another as a "quantite negligeable" or even as the greatest mistake of the century. In this discord of opinions the principle of Descent alone forms the stable pole."
Thus Steinmann, and we can but applaud his conclusions with undisguised pleasure, for they tend throughout in the direction of our anti-Darwinian view, and deal Darwinism another fatal blow. It is also worthy of special note that this time the blow is dealt from the side of palaeontology; for, even if now and again we dissent from Steinmann, in this we fully agree with him that the historical method of considering the evidences of bygone periods of creation is at the very least quite as important for passing correct judgment regarding descent, as is the investigation of contemporary living organisms. Indeed, family-trees were constructed without regard for palaeontology, almost exclusively from an examination of present conditions, and sometimes the author did not even shrink from falsification. This procedure has been bitterly revenged and will take further revenge unless at length a definite end be put to the family-tree nuisance and the respective books instead of being published anew, be relegated to the lumber-room of science, there to turn yellow amid dust and cobwebs—the curious evidence of gross folly. But only have patience, even that time will come.
The conclusions of Steinmann, that are most important for us, may be summarized as follows:
1. The family and transition forms demanded from palaeontology by Darwinism for its family-trees, constructed not empirically but a priori, are nowhere to be found among the abundant materials which palaeontological investigation has already produced.
2. The results of the investigation do not correspond with the family groups drawn up according to the so-called "biogenetic principle," which principle has in fact led men of science into false paths.
3. At best, the biogenetic principle has a limited validity, (we add that later it will undoubtedly follow Darwinism and its family trees into the lumber-room).
4. The results of palaeontology, in so far, for instance, as they testify to the sudden disappearance of the saurians and the advent of mammals, everywhere contradict the Darwinian principle of the survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence.
5. "The time has long passed when the Darwinian explanations were regarded with naive confidence as the alpha and omega of the doctrine of Descent."
6. Only the principle of Descent is universally recognized; the "how" of it, its causes, are to-day entirely a matter of dispute.
The strongest evidence of the decay of Darwinism is to be found in the fact that, since Darwin first enunciated his theory, many and diverse attempts have been made to explain the origin of species on other principles. Names of men, like M. Wagner, Naegeli, Wigand, Koelliker, and Kerner mark these attempts; but of these investigators Naegeli alone proposed a well-developed hypothesis. Finally, however, Eimer, professor of zoology in Tuebingen came forward with a detailed theory of Descent. As early as 1888 he published a comprehensive work dealing with it, under the title: "The Origin of Species by Means of the Transmission of Acquired Characters According to the Laws of Organic Growth." As the title itself indicates, a very marked divergence was even at that time manifesting itself between Eimer and his former teacher and friend, the great defender of Darwinism in Germany, Aug. Weismann, professor of zoology in Freiburg in Breisgau. For, while the latter vigorously attacks the transmission of acquired characters, Eimer's whole theory is founded on this very transmission. Observations regarding the coloring of animals, in fact, form the basis of Eimer's theory.
Eimer attributes the origin of species to "organic growth" by which he means not merely increase in size, but also change of form, etc. This growth does not proceed blindly or aimlessly, but proceeds on rigidly determined lines, which depend upon the structure and constitution of the particular organism. External influences, however, also affect it. Eimer specially emphasizes four points in this connection: 1. This rigidly determined development of a character exhibits well defined, regular stages, and the evolution of each individual repeats the whole series of transformations (the Mueller-Haeckel "biogenetic-law.") 2. New characters are first acquired by strong adult males (the law of male dominance). 3. New characters appear on definite parts of the body, spreading especially from the rear to the front, (the law of undulation). 4. Varieties are stages in the process of development, through which all the individuals of the respective species must pass.
These points indicate how important for Eimer is the transmission of those characters which the parents themselves have acquired in the course of their own development. He conceives that this transmission takes place when the causative influences exert themselves permanently on many succeeding generations. Eimer thinks that in this way the constitution of the respective species is gradually transformed. Besides the effect of external influences (which may vary according to the climate, etc.: Geoffroy St. Hilaire), Eimer mentions as important and active factors in this development, (1). The use and disuse of organs (Lamarck); (2). The struggle for existence (Darwin); (3). The correlation of organs, that is, the inner relation of organs in consequence of which a change in one organ may occasion a sudden change in another organ; (4). Cross fertilization and hybridism.