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Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence
Top atheist and professor Anthony Flew has finally admitted the obvious--that life is too complex to have arisen by natural causes. He now believes in the essentials of Intelligent Design theory and a "limited God", based on scientific evidence.
The greatest scientific deceit in history has been dealt a serious blow.
It is not difficult to find passages in Darwin's writing suggesting that he considered species to be purely artificial constructs. For instance: "In short, we shall have to treat species in the same manner as those naturalists treat genera, who admit that genera are merely artificial combinations made for convenience. This may not be a cheering prospect; but we shall at least be freed from the vain search for the undiscovered and undiscoverable essence of the term species." On the basis of statements such as this, Mayr and others have come to the conclusion that Darwin upheld a morphological, as opposed to a biological, species concept. That is, they maintain that he looked upon species as merely classes of organisms having a given degree of similarity and difference in the observed properties of their members. But there are certain other passages in Darwin's writings which show that the problem is more complicated. In his second notebook on the transmutation of species, Darwin says: "As species is real thing with regard to contemporaries - fertility must settle it." The reality of species is affirmed in a letter to Gray written in 1860, in which Darwin severely criticizes some assertions of Louis Agassiz. The following statement is particularly relevant to the question at issue: "How absurd that logical quibble - 'if species do not exist, how can they vary?' As if any one doubted their temporary existence." It appears that there is at least one sense in which species are thought to be real, although it is evident that there is a sense in which they are held to be not real. This being the case, any citation of statements by Darwin in support of his holding one or another point of view must be buttressed by a demonstration of the sense which he intended.
26 Origin, p. 485.
27 Mayr, "Isolation."
28 Second Notebook, p. 99. (The view expressed here was later modified.)
29 Life and Letters, II, 333.
Again, it may be asked, how is it that varieties, which I have called incipient species, become ultimately converted into good and distinct species, which in most cases obviously differ from each other far more than do the varieties of the same species? How do those groups of species, which constitute what are called distinct genera, and which differ from each other more than do the species of the same genus, arise? All these results, as we shall more fully see in the next chapter, follow from the struggle for life. Owing to this struggle, variations, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if they be in any degree profitable to the individuals of a species, in their infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to their physical conditions of life, will tend to the preservation of such individuals, and will generally be inherited by the offspring. The offspring, also, will thus have a better chance of surviving, for, of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man's power of selection. [Chapter III, p51f]
In order that any great amount of modification should be effected in a species, a variety, when once formed, must again, perhaps after a long interval of time, vary or present individual differences of the same favourable nature as before; and these must be again preserved, and so onward, step by step. [p66]
Intercrossing plays a very important part in nature by keeping the individuals of the same species, or of the same variety, true and uniform in character. It will obviously thus act far more efficiently with those animals which unite for each birth; but, as already stated, we have reason to believe that occasional intercrosses take place with all animals and plants. Even if these take place only at long intervals of time, the young thus produced will gain so much in vigour and fertility over the offspring from long-continued self-fertilisation, that they will have a better chance of surviving and propagating their kind; and thus in the long run the influence of crosses, even at rare intervals, will be great. With respect to organic beings extremely low in the scale, which do not propagate sexually, nor conjugate, and which cannot possibly intercross, uniformity of character can be retained by them under the same conditions of life, only through the principle of inheritance, and through natural selection which will destroy any individuals departing from the proper type. If the conditions of life change and the form undergoes modification, uniformity of character can be given to the modified offspring, solely by natural selection preserving similar favourable variations. [p79]
Isolation, also, is an important element in the modification of species through natural selection. In a confined or isolated area, if not very large, the organic and inorganic conditions of life will generally be almost uniform; so that natural selection will tend to modify all the varying individuals of the same species in the same manner. Intercrossing with the inhabitants of the surrounding districts will, also, be thus prevented. Moritz Wagner has lately published an interesting essay on this subject, and has shown that the service rendered by isolation in preventing crosses between newly-formed varieties is probably greater even than I supposed. But from reasons already assigned I can by no means agree with this naturalist, that migration and isolation are necessary elements for the formation of new species. The importance of isolation is likewise great in preventing, after any physical change in the conditions such as of climate, elevation of the land, &c., the immigration of better adapted organisms; and thus new places in the natural economy of the district will be left open to be filled up by the modification of the old inhabitants. Lastly, isolation will give time for a new variety to be improved at a slow rate; and this may sometimes be of much importance. If, however, an isolated area be very small, either from being surrounded by barriers, or from having very peculiar physical conditions, the total number of the inhabitants will be small; and this will retard the production of new species through natural selection, by decreasing the chances of favourable variations arising. [p79f]
Although isolation is of great importance in the production of new species, on the whole I am inclined to believe that largeness of area is still more important, especially for the production of species which shall prove capable of enduring for a long period, and of spreading widely. Throughout a great and open area, not only will there be a better chance of favourable variations, arising from the large number of individuals of the same species there supported, but the conditions of life are much more complex from the large number of already existing species; and if some of these many species become modified and improved, others will have to be improved in a corresponding degree, or they will be exterminated. Each new form, also, as soon as it has been much improved, will be able to spread over the open and continuous area, and will thus come into competition with many other forms. Moreover, great areas, though now continuous, will often, owing to former oscillations of level, have existed in a broken condition; so that the good effects of isolation will generally, to a certain extent, have concurred. Finally, I conclude that, although small isolated areas have been in some respects highly favourable for the production of new species, yet that the course of modification will generally have been more rapid on large areas; and what is more important, that the new forms produced on large areas, which already have been victorious over many competitors, will be those that will spread most widely, and will give rise to the greatest number of new varieties and species. They will thus play a more important part in the changing history of the organic world. [p80f]
If things could be created out of nothing, any kind of things could be produced from any source. In the first place, men could spring from the sea, squamous fish from the ground, and birds could be hatched from the sky; cattle and other farm animals, and every kind of wild beast, would bear young of unpredictable species, and would make their home in cultivated and barren parts without discrimination. Moreover, the same fruits would not invariably grow on the same trees, but would change: any tree could bear any fruit. Seeing that there would be no elements with the capacity to generate each kind of thing, how could creatures constantly have a fixed mother? But, as it is, because all are formed from fixed seeds, each is born and issues out into the shores of light only from a source where the right ultimate particles exist. And this explains why all things cannot be produced from all things: any given thing possesses a distinct creative capacity.
(Lucretius 1969: 38, Book I. 155-191)