Imagens das páginas


Note on the Origin of Spines in Plants (p. 431).

THE Rev. R. P. Murray, who is well acquainted with the flora of the Canaries by numerous botanical explorations, informs me that there are practically no spinous plants except one or two species closely allied to European forms. Though the islands are not very deficient in rainfall, yet the porous nature of the soil gives them an arid and barren appearance and a scanty vegetation ; and the absence of spinous plants as compared with most continental areas where somewhat similar conditions prevail is very remarkable, and adds another item to the body of facts connecting spines and prickles with the presence of herbivorous mammals rather than with climatic conditions. The reason why they appear to be the product of arid conditions is, probably, that in such areas, characterised by the absence of forest vegetation, the mammalian fauna is more abundant, and in times of drought threatens the destruction of all shrubby plants which have not some special protection.

Readers who are interested in this subject will find additional facts and illustrations in chap. xv. (vol. i.) of my Studies, Scientific and Social.



General identity of human and animal structure-Rudiments and varia

tions showing relation of man to other mammals—The embryonic development of man and other mammalia— Diseases common to man and the lower animals—The animals most nearly allied to manThe brains of man and apes—External differences of man and apesSummary of the animal characteristics of man — The geological antiquity of man—The probable birthplace of man—The origin of the moral and intellectual nature of man-The argument from continuity-The origin of the mathematical faculty—The origin of the musical and artistic faculties - Independent proof that these faculties have not been developed by natural selection—The interpretation of the facts-Concluding remarks.

OUR review of modern Darwinism might fitly have terminated with the preceding chapter; but the immense interest that attaches to the origin of the human race, and the amount of misconception which prevails regarding the essential teachings of Darwin's theory on this question, as well as regarding my own special views upon it, induce me to devote a final chapter to its discussion.

To any one who considers the structure of man's body, even in the most superficial manner, it must be evident that it is the body of an animal, differing greatly, it is true, from the bodies of all other animals, but agreeing with them in all essential features. The bony structure of man classes him as a vertebrate ; the mode of suckling his young classes him as a mammal; his blood, his muscles, and his nerves, the structure of his heart with its veins and arteries, his lungs and his whole respiratory and circulatory systems, all closely correspond to those of other mammals, and are often almost identical with them. He possesses the same number of limbs terminating in the same number of digits as belong fundamentally to the mammalian class. His senses are identical with theirs, and his organs of sense are the same in number and occupy the same relative position. Every detail of structure which is common to the mammalia as a class is found also in man, while he only differs from them in such ways and degrees as the various species or groups of mammals differ from each other. If, then, we have good reason to believe that every existing group of mammalia has descended from some common ancestral form—as we saw to be so completely demonstrated in the case of the horse tribe,—and that each family, each order, and even the whole class must similarly have descended from some much more ancient and more generalised type, it would be in the highest degree improbable—so improbable as to be almost inconceivable—that man, agreeing with them so closely in every detail of his structure, should have had some quite distinct mode of origin. Let us, then, see what other evidence bears upon the question, and whether it is sufficient to convert the probability of his animal origin into a practical certainty.

Rudiments and Variations as Indicating the Relation of Man to

other Mammals. All the higher animals present rudiments of organs which, though useless to them, are useful in some allied group, and are believed to have descended from a common ancestor in which they were useful. Thus there are in ruminants rudiments of incisor teeth which, in some species, never cut through the gums; many lizards have external rudimentary legs ; while many birds, as the Apteryx, have quite rudimentary wings. Now man possesses similar rudiments, sometimes constantly, sometimes only occasionally present, which serve intimately to connect his bodily structure with that of the lower animals. Many animals, for example, have a special muscle for moving or twitching the skin. In man there are remnants of this in certain parts of the body, especially in the forehead, enabling us to raise our eyebrows; but some persons have it in other parts. A few persons are able to move the whole scalp so as to throw off any object placed on the head, and this property has been proved, in one case, to be inherited. In the outer fold of the ear there is sometimes a projecting point, corresponding in position to the pointed ear of many animals, and believed to be a rudiment of it. In the alimentary canal there is a rudiment—the vermiform appendage of the cæcumwhich is not only useless, but is sometimes a cause of disease and death in man; yet in many vegetable feeding animals it is very long, and even in the orang-utan it is of considerable length and convoluted. So, man possesses rudimentary bones of a tail concealed beneath the skin, and, in some rare cases, this forms a minute external tail.

The variability of every part of man's structure is very great, and many of these variations tend to approximate towards the structure of other animals. The courses of the arteries are eminently variable, so that for surgical purposes it has been necessary to determine the probable proportion of each variation. The muscles are so variable that in fifty cases the muscles of the foot were found to be not strictly alike in any two, and in some the deviations were considerable ; while in thirty-six subjects Mr. J. Wood observed no fewer than 558 muscular variations. The same author states that in a single male subject there were no fewer than seven muscular variations, all of which plainly represented muscles proper to various kinds of apes. The muscles of the hands and arms—parts which are so eminently characteristic of man-are extremely liable to vary, so as to resemble the corresponding muscles of the lower animals. That such variations are due to reversion to a former state of existence Mr. Darwin thinks highly probable, and he adds: “It is quite incredible that a man should, through mere accident, abnormally resemble certain apes in no less than seven of his muscles, if there had been no genetic connection between them. On the other hand, if man is descended from some ape-like creature, no valid reason can be assigned why certain muscles should not suddenly reappear after an interval of many thousand generations, in the same manner as, with horses, asses, and mules, dark coloured stripes suddenly reappear on the legs and shoulders, after an interval of hundreds, or more probably of thousands of generations.” 1

1 Descent of Man, pp. 41-43 ; also pp. 13-15.

« AnteriorContinuar »