arrived and at the door was pounced upon by two of the

time:2023-12-01 01:07:22 Classification:news source:news

Knowing that you do not dissuade the more attentive of your readers from communicating directly to yourself any ideas they may have upon subjects connected with your writings, I take the liberty of sending the enclosed copy of a letter, which I have recently addressed to Mr. Herbert Spencer. You will perceive that the subject dealt with is the same as that to which a letter of mine in last week's "Nature" [July 2nd, page 164] refers--viz., "Disuse as a Reducing Cause in Species." In submitting this more detailed exposition of my views to your consideration, I should like to state again what I stated in "Nature" some weeks ago, viz., that in propounding the cessation of selection as a reducing cause, I do not suppose that I am suggesting anything which has not occurred to you already. Not only is this principle embodied in the theory set forth in the article on Rudimentary Organs ("Nature," Volume IX.); but it is more than once hinted at in the "Origin," in the passages where rudimentary organs are said to be more variable than others, because no longer under the restraining influence of Natural Selection. And still more distinctly is this principle recognised in page 120.

arrived and at the door was pounced upon by two of the

Thus, in sending you the enclosed letter, I do not imagine that I am bringing any novel suggestions under your notice. As I see that you have already applied the principle in question to the case of artificially-bred structures, I cannot but infer that you have pondered it in connection with naturally-bred structures. What objection, however, you can have seen to this principle in this latter connection, I am unable to divine; and so I think the best course for me to pursue is the one I adopt--viz., to send you my considerations in full.

arrived and at the door was pounced upon by two of the

In the absence of express information, the most natural inference is that the reason you refuse to entertain the principle in question, is because you show the backward tendency of indiscriminate variability [to be] inadequate to contend with the conservative tendency of long inheritance. The converse of this is expressed in the words "That the struggle between Natural Selection on the one hand, and the tendency to reversion and variability on the other hand, will in the course of time cease; and that the most abnormally developed organs may be made constant, I see no reason to doubt" ("Origin," page 121). Certainly not, if, as I doubt not, the word "constant" is intended to bear a relative signification; but to say that constancy can ever become absolute--i.e., that any term of inheritance could secure to an organ a total immunity from the smallest amount of spontaneous variability--to say this would be unwarrantable. Suppose, for instance, that for some reason or other a further increase in the size of a bat's wing should now suddenly become highly beneficial to that animal: we can scarcely suppose that variations would not be forthcoming for Natural Selection to seize upon (unless the limit of possible size has now been reached, which is an altogether distinct matter). And if we suppose that minute variations on the side of increase are thus even now occasionally taking place, much more is it probable that similar variations on the side of decrease are now taking place--i.e., that if the conservative influence of Natural Selection were removed for a long period of time, more variations would ensue below the present size of bat's wings, than above it. To this it may be added, that when the influence of "speedy selection" is removed, it seems in itself highly probable that the structure would, for this reason, become more variable, for the only reason why it ever ceased to be variable (i.e., after attaining its maximum size), was because of the influence of selection constantly destroying those individuals in which a tendency to vary occurred. When, therefore, this force antagonistic to variability was removed, it seems highly probable that the latter principle would again begin to assert itself, and this in a cumulative manner. Those individuals in which a tendency to vary occurred being no longer cut off, they would have as good a chance of leaving progeny to inherit their fluctuating disposition as would their more inflexible companions.

arrived and at the door was pounced upon by two of the

LETTER 264. TO G.J. ROMANES. July 16th, 1874.

I am much obliged for your kind and long communication, which I have read with great interest, as well as your articles in "Nature." The subject seems to me as important and interesting as it is difficult. I am much out of health, and working very hard on a very different subject, so thus I cannot give your remarks the attention which they deserve. I will, however, keep your letter for some later time, when I may again take up the subject. Your letter makes it clearer to me than it ever was before, how a part or organ which has already begun from any cause to decrease, will go on decreasing through so-called spontaneous variability, with intercrossing; for under such circumstances it is very unlikely that there should be variation in the direction of increase beyond the average size, and no reason why there should not be variations of decrease. I think this expresses your view. I had intended this summer subjecting plants to [illegible] conditions, and observing the effects on variation; but the work would be very laborious, yet I am inclined to think it will be hereafter worth the labour.

LETTER 265. TO T. MEEHAN. Down, October 9th, 1874.

I am glad that you are attending to the colours of dioecious flowers; but it is well to remember that their colours may be as unimportant to them as those of a gall, or, indeed, as the colour of an amethyst or ruby is to these gems. Some thirty years ago I began to investigate the little purple flowers in the centre of the umbels of the carrot. I suppose my memory is wrong, but it tells me that these flowers are female, and I think that I once got a seed from one of them; but my memory may be quite wrong. I hope that you will continue your interesting researches.

LETTER 266. TO G. JAGER. Down, February 3rd, 1875.