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|14 - Recapitulation and Conclusion||14-01 - Recapitulation of the difficulties on the theory of Natural Selection||30||
With respect to the almost universal sterility of species when first crossed, which forms so remarkable a contrast with the almost universal fertility of varieties when crossed, I must refer the reader to the recapitulation of the facts given at the end of the eighth chapter, which seem to me conclusively to show that this sterility is no more a special endowment than is the incapacity of two trees to be grafted together, but that it is incidental on constitutional differences in the reproductive systems of the intercrossed species.
We see the truth of this conclusion in the vast difference in the result, when the same two species are crossed reciprocally; that is, when one species is first used as the father and then as the mother.
The fertility of varieties when intercrossed and of their mongrel offspring cannot be considered as universal; nor is their very general fertility surprising when we remember that it is not likely that either their constitutions or their reproductive systems should have been profoundly modified.
Moreover, most of the varieties which have been experimentised on have been produced under domestication; and as domestication apparently tends to eliminate sterility, we ought not to expect it also to produce sterility.
The sterility of hybrids is a very different case from that of first crosses, for their reproductive organs are more or less functionally impotent; whereas in first crosses the organs on both sides are in a perfect condition.
As we continually see that organisms of all kinds are rendered in some degree sterile from their constitutions having been disturbed by slightly different and new conditions of life, we need not feel surprise at hybrids being in some degree sterile, for their constitutions can hardly fail to have been disturbed from being compounded of two distinct organisations.
This parallelism is supported by another parallel, but directly opposite, class of facts; namely, that the vigour and fertility of all organic beings are increased by slight changes in their conditions of life, and that the offspring of slightly modified forms or varieties acquire from being crossed increased vigour and fertility.
So that, on the one hand, considerable changes in the conditions of life and crosses between greatly modified forms, lessen fertility; and on the other hand, lesser changes in the conditions of life and crosses between less modified forms, increase fertility.
|14 - Recapitulation and Conclusion||14-02 - Recapitulation of the general and special circumstances in its favour||30||
As geology plainly proclaims that each land has undergone great physical changes, we might have expected that organic beings would have varied under nature, in the same way as they generally have varied under the changed conditions of domestication.
And if there be any variability under nature, it would be an unaccountable fact if natural selection had not come into play.
It has often been asserted, but the assertion is quite incapable of proof, that the amount of variation under nature is a strictly limited quantity.
Man, though acting on external characters alone and often capriciously, can produce within a short period a great result by adding up mere individual differences in his domestic productions; and every one admits that there are at least individual differences in species under nature.
But, besides such differences, all naturalists have admitted the existence of varieties, which they think sufficiently distinct to be worthy of record in systematic works.
No one can draw any clear distinction between individual differences and slight varieties; or between more plainly marked varieties and subspecies, and species.
Let it be observed how naturalists differ in the rank which they assign to the many representative forms in Europe and North America.
|14 - Recapitulation and Conclusion||14-01 - Recapitulation of the difficulties on the theory of Natural Selection||20||
It is, no doubt, extremely difficult even to conjecture by what gradations many structures have been perfected, more especially amongst broken and failing groups of organic beings; but we see so many strange gradations in nature, as is proclaimed by the canon, `Natura non facit saltum,' that we ought to be extremely cautious in saying that any organ or instinct, or any whole being, could not have arrived at its present state by many graduated steps.
There are, it must be admitted, cases of special difficulty on the theory of natural selection; and one of the most curious of these is the existence of two or three defined castes of workers or sterile females in the same community of ants but I have attempted to show how this difficulty can be mastered.
|14 - Recapitulation and Conclusion||14-01 - Recapitulation of the difficulties on the theory of Natural Selection||10||
As this whole volume is one long argument, it may be convenient to the reader to have the leading facts and inferences briefly recapitulated.
That many and grave objections may be advanced against the theory of descent with modification through natural selection, I do not deny.
I have endeavoured to give to them their full force.
Nothing at first can appear more difficult to believe than that the more complex organs and instincts should have been perfected not by means superior to, though analogous with, human reason, but by the accumulation of innumerable slight variations, each good for the individual possessor.
Nevertheless, this difficulty, though appearing to our imagination insuperably great, cannot be considered real if we admit the following propositions, namely, -- that gradations in the perfection of any organ or instinct, which we may consider, either do now exist or could have existed, each good of its kind, -- that all organs and instincts are, in ever so slight a degree, variable, -- and, lastly, that there is a struggle for existence leading to the preservation of each profitable deviation of structure or instinct.
The truth of these propositions cannot, I think, be disputed.