By Asa Gray

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Do Varieties wear out, or tend to wear out?

This question has been argued from time to time for more than half a century, and is far from being settled yet. Indeed, it is not to be settled either way so easily as is sometimes thought. The result of a prolonged and rather lively discussion of the topic about forty years ago in England, in which Lindley bore a leading part on the negative side, was, if we rightly remember, that the nays had the best of the argument. The deniers could fairly well explain away the facts adduced by the other side, and evade the force of the reasons then assigned to prove that varieties were bound to die out in the course of time. But if the case were fully re-argued now, it is by no means certain that the nays would win it. The most they could expect would be the Scotch verdict, “not proven.” And this not because much, if any, additional evidence of the actual wearing out of any variety has turned up since, but because a presumption has been raised under which the evidence would take, a bias the other way. There is now in the minds of scientific men some reason to expect that certain varieties would die out in the long run, and this might have an important influence upon the interpretation of the facts.