2, Hesketh Terrace, Torquay [August 2nd, 1861].
I declare that you read the reviews on the "Origin" more carefully than I do. I agree with all your remarks. The point of correlation struck me as well put, and on varieties growing together; but I have already begun to put things in train for information on this latter head, on which Bronn also enlarges. With respect to sexuality, I have often speculated on it, and have always concluded that we are too ignorant to speculate: no physiologist can conjecture why the two elements go to form a new being, and, more than that, why nature strives at uniting the two elements from two individuals. What I am now working at in my orchids is an admirable illustration of the law. I should certainly conclude that all sexuality had descended from one prototype. Do you not underrate the degree of lowness of organisation in which sexuality occurs--viz., in Hydra, and still lower in some of the one-celled free confervae which "conjugate," which good judges (Thwaites) believe is the simplest form of true sexual generation? (130/1. See Letter 97.) But the whole case is a mystery.
There is another point on which I have occasionally wished to say a few words. I believe you think with Asa Gray that I have not allowed enough for the stream of variation having been guided by a higher power. I have had lately a good deal of correspondence on this head. Herschel, in his "Physical Geography" (130/2. "Physical Geography of the Globe," by Sir John F.W. Herschel, Edinburgh, 1861. On page 12 Herschel writes of the revelations of Geology pointing to successive submersions and reconstructions of the continents and fresh races of animals and plants. He refers to a "great law of change" which has not operated either by a gradually progressing variation of species, nor by a sudden and total abolition of one race...The following footnote on page 12 of the "Physical Geography" was added in January, 1861: "This was written previous to the publication of Mr. Darwin's work on the "Origin of Species," a work which, whatever its merit or ingenuity, we cannot, however, consider as having disproved the view taken in the text. We can no more accept the principle of arbitrary and casual variation and natural selection as a sufficient account, per se, of the past and present organic world, than we can receive the Laputan method of composing books (pushed a outrance) as a sufficient one of Shakespeare and the "Principia." Equally in either case an intelligence, guided by a purpose, must be continually in action to bias the directions of the steps of change--to regulate their amount, to limit their divergence, and to continue them in a definite course. We do not believe that Mr. Darwin means to deny the necessity of such intelligent direction. But it does not, so far as we can see, enter into the formula of this law, and without it we are unable to conceive how far the law can have led to the results. On the other hand, we do not mean to deny that such intelligence may act according to a law (that is to say, on a preconceived and definite plan). Such law, stated in words, would be no other than the actual observed law of organic succession; a one more general, taking that form when applied to our own planet, and including all the links of the chain which have disappeared. BUT THE ONE LAW IS A
NECESSARY SUPPLEMENT TO THE OTHER, AND OUGHT, IN ALL LOGICAL
FORM A PART OF ITS ENUNCIATION. Granting this, and with some demur as to the genesis of man, we are far from disposed to repudiate the view taken of this mysterious subject in Mr. Darwin's book." The sentence in italics is no doubt the one referred to in the letter to Lyell. See Letter 243.), has a sentence with respect to the "Origin," something to the effect that the higher law of Providential Arrangement should always be stated. But astronomers do not state that God directs the course of each comet and planet. The view that each variation has been providentially arranged seems to me to make Natural Selection entirely superfluous, and indeed takes the whole case of the appearance of new species out of the range of science. But what makes me most object to Asa Gray's view is the study of the extreme variability of domestic animals. He who does not suppose that each variation in the pigeon was providentially caused, by accumulating which variations, man made a Fantail, cannot, I think, logically argue that the tail of the woodpecker was formed by variations providentially ordained. It seems to me that variations in the domestic and wild conditions are due to unknown causes, and are without purpose, and in so far accidental; and that they become purposeful only when they are selected by man for his pleasure, or by what we call Natural Selection in the struggle for life, and under changing conditions. I do not wish to say that God did not foresee everything which would ensue; but here comes very nearly the same sort of wretched imbroglio as between freewill and preordained necessity. I doubt whether I have made what I think clear; but certainly A. Gray's notion of the courses of variation having been led like a stream of water by gravity, seems to me to smash the whole affair. It reminds me of a Spaniard whom I told I was trying to make out how the
Cordillera was formed; and he answered me that it was useless, for "God made them." It may be said that God foresaw how they would be made. I
wonder whether Herschel would say that you ought always to give the higher providential law, and declare that God had ordered all certain changes of level, that certain mountains should arise. I must think that such views of Asa Gray and Herschel merely show that the subject in their minds is in
Comte's theological stage of science...
Of course I do not want any answer to my quasi-theological discussion, but only for you to think of my notions, if you understand them.
I hope to Heaven your long and great labours on your new edition are drawing to a close.
LETTER 131. TO C. LYELL. Torquay, [August 13 th, 1861].
Very many thanks for the orchids, which have proved extremely useful to me in two ways I did not anticipate, but were too monstrous (yet of some use) for my special purpose.
When you come to "Deification" (131/1. See Letter 105, note.), ask yourself honestly whether what you are thinking applies to the endless variations of domestic productions, which man accumulates for his mere fancy or use. No doubt these are all caused by some unknown law, but I cannot believe they were ordained for any purpose, and if not so ordained under domesticity, I can see no reason to believe that they were ordained in a state of nature. Of course it may be said, when you kick a stone, or a leaf falls from a tree, that it was ordained, before the foundations of the world were laid, exactly where that stone or leaf should lie. In this sense the subject has no interest for me.
Once again, many thanks for the orchids; you must let me repay you what you paid the collector.
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