Germinal (German Edition)


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These genera, now, are by no means all so nearly allied that they could have inherited the leaf-markings from a common ancestral form. They belong to different continents and have probably for the most part acquired their protective colorings themselves. But one resemblance they have in common—they are all forest-butterflies. Now what is it that has put so many genera of forest-butterflies and no others into positions where they could acquire this resemblance to leaves?

Was it directive formative laws? If we closely examine the markings by which the similarity of the leaf is determined, we shall find, for example, in Kallima Inachis, and Parallecta, the Indian leaf-butterflies, that the leaf-markings are executed in absolute independence of the other uniformities governing the wing.

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From the tail of the wing to the apex of the fore wings runs with a beautiful curvature a thick, doubly-contoured dark line accompanied by a brighter one, representing the midrib of the leaf. This line cuts the "veins" and the "cells" of the wing in the most disregardful fashion, here in acute and here in obtuse angles, and in absolute independence of the regular system of divisions of the wing, which should assuredly be the expression of the "formative law of the wing," if that were the product of an internal directive principle.

But leaving this last question aside, this much is certain with regard to the markings, that they are dependent, not on an internal , but on an external directive power. Should any one be still unconvinced by the evidence we have adduced, let him give the leaf-markings a closer inspection. Now these two pieces of the leaf-rib do not begin on corresponding spots of the two wings, but on absolutely non-identical spots. And the same is also true of the lines which represent the lateral ribs of the leaf. These lines proceed in acute angles from the rib; to the right and to the left in the same angle, those of the same side parallel with each other.

Here, too, no relation is noticeable between the parts of the wings over which the lines pass. The venation of the wing is utterly ignored by the leaf-markings, and its surface is treated as a tabula rasa upon which anything conceivable can be drawn.

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In other words, we are presented here with a bilaterally symmetrical figure engraved on a surface which is essentially radially symmetrical in its divisions. I lay unusual stress upon this point because it shows that we are dealing here with one of those cases which cannot be explained by mechanical, that is, by natural means, unless natural selection actually exists and is actually competent to create new properties; for the Lamarckian principle is excluded here ab initio , seeing that we are dealing with a formation which is only passive in its effects; the leaf-markings are effectual simply by their existence and not by any function which they perform; they are present in flight as well as at rest, during the absence of danger, as well as during the approach of an enemy.

Assuming this seemingly mechanical force, therefore, we should be led back inevitably to a teleological principle which produces adaptive characters and which must have deposited the directive principle in the very first germ of terrestrial organisms, so that after untold ages at a definite time and place the illusive leaf-markings should be developed. The assumption of pre-established harmony between the evolution of the ancestral line of the tree with its pre-figurative leaf, and that of the butterfly with its imitating wing, is absolutely necessary here—a fact which I pointed out many years ago, [9] but which is constantly forgotten by the promulgators of the theory of internal evolutionary forces.

For the present I leave out of consideration altogether the question as to the conceivable extent of the sphere of operation of natural selection; I am primarily concerned only with elucidating the process of selection itself, wholly irrespective of the comprehensiveness or limitedness of its sphere of action. For this purpose it is sufficient to show, as I have just done, that cases exist wherein all natural explanations except that of selection fail us.

But let us now see how far the principle of selection will carry us in the explanation of such cases—natural selection, I mean, as it was formulated by Darwin and Wallace. But just here, it would seem, is the insurmountable barrier to the explanatory power of our principle, for who, or what, is to be our guarantee that dark scales shall appear at the exact spots on the wing where the midrib of the leaf must grow? And that later dark scales shall appear at the exact spots to which the midrib must be prolonged?

And that still later such dark spots shall appear at the places whence the lateral ribs start, and that here also a definite acute angle shall be accurately preserved, and the mutual distances of the lateral ribs shall be alike and their courses parallel? And that the prolongation of the median rib from the hind wing to the fore wing shall be extended exactly to that spot where the fore wing is not covered by the hind wing in the attitude of repose?


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And so on. If I could go more minutely into this matter, I should attempt to prove that the markings, as I have just assumed, have not arisen suddenly, but were perfected very, very gradually; that in one species they began on the fore wing and in another on the hind wing; and that in many they never until recently proceeded beyond one wing, in other species they went only a little way, and in only a few did they spread over the entire surface of both wings.

That these markings advanced slowly and gradually, but with marvelous accuracy, is no mere conjecture. But it follows that the right variations at the right places must never have been wanting, or, as I expressed it before: the useful variations were always present. But how is that possible in such long extensive lines of dissimilar variations as have gradually come to constitute markings of the complexity here presented? It is a fact that in constant species, that is, in such as are not in process of transformation, the variations of the markings are by no means frequent or abundant.

Or, suppose that they had really appeared, but occurred only in individuals, or in a small percentage of individuals? Such are the objections raised against the theory of selection by its opponents, and put forward as insurmountable obstacles to the process. Nor are such objections relevant only in the case of protective colorings; they are applicable in all cases where the process of selection is concerned. Take the case of instincts that are called into action only once in life, as, for example, the pupal performances of insects, the artificial fabrication of cocoons, etc.

How is it that the useful variations were always present here? And yet they must have been present, if such complicated spinning instincts could have taken their rise as are observable in the silk-worm, or in the emperor-moth. And they have been developed, and that in whole families, in forms varying in all species, and in every case adapted to the special wants of the species. Particularly striking is the proof afforded of this constant presence of the useful variations by cases where we meet with the development of highly special adaptations that are uncommon even for the group of organisms concerned.

Such a case, for example, is the apparatus designed for the capture of small animals and their digestion, found in widely different plants and widely separated families. But even taking the very simplest cases of selection, it is impossible to do without this assumption, that the useful variations are always present, or that they always exist in a sufficiently large number of individuals for the selective process. You know the thickness and power of resistance of the egg-shells of round-worms.


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The eggs of the round-worms of horses have been known to continue their course of development undisturbed even after they had been thrown into strong alcohol and all other kinds of injurious liquids—much to the vexation of the embryologists, who wished to preserve a definite stage of development and sought to kill the embryo at that stage.

Indeed, think of the result, if in the course of their phylogenesis stout and resistant variations of egg-shells had not been presented in these worms, or had not always been presented, or had not been presented in every generation and not in sufficient quantities. The cogency of the facts is absolutely overpowering when we consider that practically no modification occurs alone , that every primary modification brings in its train secondary ones, and that these induce forced modifications in many parts of the body, frequently of the most diversified, or even self-contradictory, forms.

Now, although I deem his conclusion precipitate, yet the very fact of a simultaneous, functionally concordant, yet essentially diversified modification of numerous parts, points conclusively to the circumstance that something is still wanting to the selection of Darwin and Wallace, which it is obligatory on us to discover, if we possibly can , and without which selection as yet offers no complete explanation of the phyletic processes of transformation.

There is a hidden secret to be unriddled here before we can obtain a satisfactory insight into the phenomena in question. We must seek to discover why it happens that the useful variations are always present. Herbert Spencer appealed to Lamarck's principle for the explanation of coadaptation, and it is certain that functional adaptation is operative during the individual life, and that it compensates in a certain measure the inequalities of the inherited constitutions.

I shall not repeat what I have said before on this subject, nor maintain, in refutation of Spencer's contention, that functional adaptation is itself nothing more than the efflux of intra-biontic selective processes, as Spencer himself once suggested in a prophetic moment, but which it was left for Wilhelm Roux to introduce into science as "the struggle of the parts" of organisms.

This is the case with the skeletal parts of Articulata; e. In all these cases the ready-made, hard, unalterable, chitinous part is first set into activity; consequently its adaptation to the function must have been previously effected, independently of that function. These joints, and divers other parts, accordingly, have been developed in the precisest manner for the function, and the latter could have had no direct share in their formation.

When we consider, now, that it is impossible that every one of the numerous surfaces, ridges, furrows, and corners found in a single such articulation, let alone in all the articulations of the body, should hold in its hands the power of life and death over individuals for untold successions of generations, the fact is again unmistakably impressed upon our attention that the conception of the selective processes which has hitherto obtained is insufficient, that the root of the process in fact lies deeper, that it is to be found in the place where it is determined what variations of the parts of the organism shall appear—namely in the germ.

The phenomena observed in the stunting , or degeneration , of parts rendered useless , point to the same conclusion. On the contrary, we see such retrogressions affected apparently in the shape of a continuous evolutionary process determined by internal causes , in the case of which there can be no question whatever of selection of persons or of a survival of the fittest, that is, of individuals with the smallest rudiments.

It is this consideration principally that has won so many adherents for the Lamarckian principle in recent times, particularly among the paleontologists. They see the outer toes of hoofed animals constantly and steadily degenerating through long successions of generations and species, concurrently with the re-enforcement of one or two middle toes, which are preferred or are afterwards used exclusively for stepping, and they believe correctly enough that these results should not be ascribed to the effects of personal selection alone. They demand a principle which shall effect the degeneration by internal forces, and believe that they have found it in functional adaptation.

Recently, an inquirer of great caution and calmness of judgment, Prof.

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Lloyd Morgan, has expressed the opinion that the Lamarckian principle must at least be admitted as a working hypothesis. But with this I cannot agree, at least as things stand at present. A working hypothesis may be false, and yet lead to further progress; that is, it may constitute an advance to the extent of being useful in formulating the problem and in illuminating paths that are likely to lead to results. But it seems to me that a hypothesis of this kind has performed its services and must be discarded the moment it is found to be at hopeless variance with the facts.

If it can be proved that precisely the same degenerative processes also take place in such superfluous parts as have only passive and not active functions, as is the case with the chitinous parts of the skeleton of Arthropoda , then it is a demonstrated fact, that the cessation of functional action is not the efficient cause of the process of degeneration.

For the person who is convinced he has found the right explanation is not going to seek for it. I can understand perfectly well the hesitation that has prevailed on this point in many minds, from their having seen one aspect of the facts more distinctly than the other. From this sceptical point of view Osborn has drawn the following perfectly correct conclusion: "If acquired variations are transmitted, there must be some unknown principle in heredity; if they are not transmitted, there must be some unknown factor in evolution. Such in fact is the case and I shall attempt to point out to you what this factor is.

My inference is a very simple one: if we are forced by the facts on all hands to the assumption that the useful variations which render selection possible are always present, then some profound connection must exist between the utility of a variation and its actual appearance , or, in other words, the direction of the variation of a part must be determined by utility , and we shall have to see whether facts exist that confirm our conjecture.

The facts do indeed exist and lie before our very eyes, despite their not having been recognised as such before. I shall choose an example which seems to me especially clear and simple because only one character has been substantially modified here. The long-tailed variety of domestic cock, now bred in Japan and Corea, owes its existence to skilful selection and not at all to the circumstance that at some period of the race's history a cock with tail-feathers six feet in length suddenly and spasmodically appeared.

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At the present day even, as Professor Ishikawa of Tokio writes me, the breeders still make extraordinary efforts to increase the length of the tail, and every inch gained adds considerably to the value of the bird. Now nothing has been done here whatever except always to select for purposes of breeding the cocks with the longest feathers; and in this way alone were these feathers, after the lapse of many generations, prolonged to a length far exceeding every previous variation.

I once asked a famous dove-fancier, Mr. Tegetmeier of London, whether it was his opinion that by artificial selection alone a character could be augmented.

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