The other difficulty, of unequal sterility of reciprocal crosses, seems none to me; for it is a step to more complete sterility, and as such would be increased by selection.
LETTER 213. TO A.R. WALLACE. Down, April 6th .
I have been considering the terrible problem. Let me first say that no man could have more earnestly wished for the success of Natural Selection in regard to sterility than I did; and when I considered a general statement (as in your last note) I always felt sure it could be worked out, but always failed in detail. The cause being, as I believe, that Natural Selection cannot effect what is not good for the individual, including in this term a social community. It would take a volume to discuss all the points, and nothing is so humiliating to me as to agree with a man like you (or Hooker) on the premises and disagree about the result.
I agree with my son's argument and not with the rejoinder. The cause of our difference, I think, is that I look at the number of offspring as an important element (all circumstances remaining the same) in keeping up the average number of individuals within any area. I do not believe that the amount of food by any means is the sole determining cause of number. Lessened fertility is equivalent to a new source of destruction. I believe if in one district a species produced from any cause fewer young, the deficiency would be supplied from surrounding districts. This applies to your Paragraph 5. (213/1. See Letter 211.) If the species produced fewer young from any cause in every district, it would become extinct unless its fertility were augmented through Natural Selection (see H. Spencer).
I demur to probability and almost to possibility of Paragraph 1., as you start with two forms within the same area, which are not mutually sterile, and which yet have supplanted the parent-form.
(Paragraph 6.) I know of no ghost of a fact supporting belief that disinclination to cross accompanies sterility. It cannot hold with plants, or the lower fixed aquatic animals. I saw clearly what an immense aid this would be, but gave it up. Disinclination to cross seems to have been independently acquired, probably by Natural Selection; and I do not see why it would not have sufficed to have prevented incipient species from blending to have simply increased sexual disinclination to cross.
(Paragraph 11.) I demur to a certain extent to amount of sterility and structural dissimilarity necessarily going together, except indirectly and by no means strictly. Look at vars. of pigeons, fowls, and cabbages.
I overlooked the advantage of the half-sterility of reciprocal crosses; yet, perhaps from novelty, I do not feel inclined to admit probability of Natural Selection having done its work so queerly.