Letter 132 To C Lyell

(132/1. The first paragraph probably refers to the proof-sheets of Lyell's "Antiquity of Man," but the passage referred to seems not to occur in the book.)

Torquay, August 21st [1861].

... I have really no criticism, except a trifling one in pencil near the end, which I have inserted on account of dominant and important species generally varying most. You speak of "their views" rather as if you were a thousand miles away from such wretches, but your concluding paragraph shows that you are one of the wretches.

I am pleased that you approve of Hutton's review. (132/2. "Some Remarks on Mr. Darwin's Theory," by F.W. Hutton. "Geologist," Volume IV., page 132 (1861). See Letter 124.) It seemed to me to take a more philosophical view of the manner of judging the question than any other review. The sentence you quote from it seems very true, but I do not agree with the theological conclusion. I think he quotes from Asa Gray, certainly not from me; but I have neither A. Gray nor "Origin" with me. Indeed, I have over and over again said in the "Origin" that Natural Selection does nothing without variability; I have given a whole chapter on laws, and used the strongest language how ignorant we are on these laws. But I agree that I have somehow (Hooker says it is owing to my title) not made the great and manifest importance of previous variability plain enough. Breeders constantly speak of Selection as the one great means of improvement; but of course they imply individual differences, and this I should have thought would have been obvious to all in Natural Selection; but it has not been so.

I have just said that I cannot agree with "which variations are the effects of an unknown law, ordained and guided without doubt by an intelligent cause on a preconceived and definite plan." Will you honestly tell me (and I should be really much obliged) whether you believe that the shape of my nose (eheu!) was ordained and "guided by an intelligent cause?" (132/3. It should be remembered that the shape of his nose nearly determined FitzRoy to reject Darwin as naturalist to H.M.S. "Beagle" ("Life and Letters," I., page 60).) By the selection of analogous and less differences fanciers make almost generic differences in their pigeons; and can you see any good reason why the Natural Selection of analogous individual differences should not make new species? If you say that God ordained that at some time and place a dozen slight variations should arise, and that one of them alone should be preserved in the struggle for life and the other eleven should perish in the first or few first generations, then the saying seems to me mere verbiage. It comes to merely saying that everything that is, is ordained.

Let me add another sentence. Why should you or I speak of variation as having been ordained and guided, more than does an astronomer, in discussing the fall of a meteoric stone? He would simply say that it was drawn to our earth by the attraction of gravity, having been displaced in its course by the action of some quite unknown laws. Would you have him say that its fall at some particular place and time was "ordained and guided without doubt by an intelligent cause on a preconceived and definite plan"? Would you not call this theological pedantry or display? I believe it is not pedantry in the case of species, simply because their formation has hitherto been viewed as beyond law; in fact, this branch of science is still with most people under its theological phase of development. The conclusion which I always come to after thinking of such questions is that they are beyond the human intellect; and the less one thinks on them the better. You may say, Then why trouble me? But I should very much like to know clearly what you think.

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