But in all seriousness, why should indefinite and unlimited variation have been regarded as a more probable account of the origin of Adaptation? Only, I think, because the obstacle was shifted one plane back, and so looked rather less prominent. The abundance of Adaptation, we all grant, is an immense, almost an unsurpassable difficulty in all non-Lamarckian views of Evolution; but if the steps by which that adaptation arose were fortuitous, to imagine them insensible is assuredly no help. In one most important respect indeed, as has often been observed, it is a multiplication of troubles. For the smaller the steps, the less could Natural Selection act upon them. Definite variations--and of the occurrence of definite variations in abundance we have now the most convincing proof--have at least the obvious merit that they can make and often do make a real difference in the chances of life.
There is another aspect of the Adaptation problem to which I can only allude very briefly. May not our present ideas of the universality and precision of Adaptation be greatly exaggerated? The fit of organism to its environment is not after all so very close--a proposition unwelcome perhaps, but one which could be illustrated by very copious evidence. Natural Selection is stern, but she has her tolerant moods.
We have now most certain and irrefragable proof that much definiteness exists in living things apart from Selection, and also much that may very well have been preserved and so in a sense constituted by Selection. Here the matter is likely to rest. There is a passage in the sixth edition of the "Origin" which has I think been overlooked. On page 70 Darwin says "The tuft of hair on the breast of the wild turkey-cock cannot be of any use, and it is doubtful whether it can be ornamental in the eyes of the female bird." This tuft of hair is a most definite and unusual structure, and I am afraid that the remark that it "cannot be of any use" may have been made inadvertently; but it may have been intended, for in the first edition the usual qualification was given and must therefore have been deliberately excised. Anyhow I should like to think that Darwin did throw over that tuft of hair, and that he felt relief when he had done so. Whether however we have his great authority for such a course or not, I feel quite sure that we shall be rightly interpreting the facts of nature if we cease to expect to find purposefulness wherever we meet with definite structures or patterns. Such things are, as often as not, I suspect rather of the nature of tool-marks, mere incidents of manufacture, benefiting their possessor not more than the wire-marks in a sheet of paper, or the ribbing on the bottom of an oriental plate renders those objects more attractive in our eyes.
If Variation may be in any way definite, the question once more arises, may it not be definite in direction? The belief that it is has had many supporters, from Lamarck onwards, who held that it was guided by need, and others who, like Nageli, while laying no emphasis on need, yet were convinced that there was guidance of some kind. The latter view under the name of "Orthogenesis," devised I believe by Eimer, at the present day commends itself to some naturalists. The objection to such a suggestion is of course that no fragment of real evidence can be produced in its support. On the other hand, with the experimental proof that variation consists largely in the unpacking and repacking of an original complexity, it is not so certain as we might like to think that the order of these events is not pre-determined. For instance the original "pack" may have been made in such a way that at the nth division of the germ-cells of a Sweet Pea a colour-factor might be dropped, and that at the n plus n prime division the hooded variety be given off, and so on. I see no ground whatever for holding such a view, but in fairness the possibility should not be forgotten, and in the light of modern research it scarcely looks so absurdly improbable as before.
No one can survey the work of recent years without perceiving that evolutionary orthodoxy developed too fast, and that a great deal has got to come down; but this satisfaction at least remains, that in the experimental methods which Mendel inaugurated, we have means of reaching certainty in regard to the physiology of Heredity and Variation upon which a more lasting structure may be built.
VI. THE MINUTE STRUCTURE OF CELLS IN RELATION TO HEREDITY.
By EDUARD STRASBURGER, Professor of Botany in the University of Bonn.
Since 1875 an unexpected insight has been gained into the internal structure of cells. Those who are familiar with the results of investigations in this branch of Science are convinced that any modern theory of heredity must rest on a basis of cytology and cannot be at variance with cytological facts. Many histological discoveries, both such as have been proved correct and others which may be accepted as probably well founded, have acquired a fundamental importance from the point of view of the problems of heredity.