Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 2009
Online Publication Date:October 2010
Original Publication Year:1876
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511693281.007
Subjects: Evolutionary biology
That homely adage, “What is one man's meat is another man's poison,” comes to mind when we consider with what different eyes different naturalists look upon the hypothesis of the derivative origin of actual specific forms, since Mr. Darwin gave it vogue and vigor and a raison d'être for the present day. This latter he did, not only by bringing forward a vera causa in the survival of the fittest under changing circumstances—about which the question among naturalists mainly is how much it will explain, some allowing it a restricted, others an unlimited operation—but also by showing that the theory may be made to do work, may shape and direct investigations, the results of which must in time tell us whether the theory is likely to hold good or not. If the hypothesis of natural selection and the things thereto appertaining had not been capable of being put to useful work, although, like the “Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation,” it might have made no little noise in the world, it would hardly have engaged the attention of working naturalists as it has done. We have no idea even of opening the question as to what work the Darwinian theory has incited, and in what way the work done has reacted upon the theory; and least of all do we like to meddle with the polemical literature of the subject, already so voluminous that the German bibliographers and booksellers make a separate class of it.