Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

variations resulting from age and sex, it is at once evident that all representatives of the same specific type differ in some points. Although these differences are very slight, they constitute individual traits, shades as Isidore Geoffroy said, which enable us to distinguish between two of the same species.

But the differences are not confined within these limits. The specific types are variable, that is to say, every kind of physical character is modified in their derivatives and, under the influence of certain conditions, to such an extent as to make it often very difficult to recognise their unity of origin. This, again, is a fact upon which all naturalists agree. Blainville even, who, defined spocies as “the individual repeated and continued through time and space,” distinctly recognised this variability; for the individual is perpetually undergoing modification, and does not retain its similarity during the various stages of life. He admitted, moreover, the existence of distinct races.

The variability of species has also been the subject of animated discussion among naturalists. The memorable contention which arose upon this subject between Cuvier and Geoffroy is not yet forgotten, a struggle considered by Goethe as more important than the gravest political events. In the present day a school to which many of the most illustrious names in England, Germany and elsewhere belong, has taken up, with certain modifications, the ideas of Lamarck and Geoffroy; it gives support to them from retaining the term variability of species.

There is a grave confusion of words in this formula. Lamarck, Geoffroy, Darwin and his school, consider the species not only as variable but as transmutable. The specific types are not merely modified, they are replaced by new types. Variation is in their estimation only a phase of the very different phenomena of transmutation.

I shall discuss these theories presently. I shall now confine myself to the remark that true variability, admitted even by the defenders of dogmatic invariability, by Blain. ville, for example, a variability which I fully accept, has nothing in common with the transmutability of Lamarck, Geoffroy and Darwin. Let us briefly determine the limits of this variability.

III. When an individual trait is exaggerated and passes a limit always very loosely defined, it constitutes an exceptional character which clearly distinguishes the individual aftected by it from all those most nearly resembling it. This individual constitutes a Variety.

The same term must be applied to all those individuals, which, like certain plants reproduced by slips, grafts, or shoots, derive their origin from the first exceptional in. dividual, without having the power of transmitting their distinctive characters by means of normal generation. I borrow from M. Chevreul a curious example of these multiple varieties. In 1803 or 1805, M. Descemet discovered in his garden at Saint Denis, in the midst of a bed of acacias (Robinia pseudo-acacia) an individual without thorns which 'he describes under the epithet spectabilis. It is to the multiplication of this individual by the art of the gardener that all the thornless acacias, now distributed over every part of the globe, owe their origin. Now these individuals produce seeds, but if the seeds are sown they only yield thorny acacias. The acacia spectabilis has remained a Variety.

The latter may then be defined as :- An individual or a number of individuals belonging to the same sexual generation, which is distinguished from the other representatives of the same species by one or several exceptional characters."

It will readily be seen how great the number of varieties in one species may be. There is, in fact, scarcely any either external or internal part of an animal or plant, which cannot be exaggerated, diminished or modified in a thousand ways, and each of these exaggerations, diminutions or modifications will characterise a fresh variety, with the one condition of its being sufficiently marked.

IV. When the characters peculiar to a variety become hereditary, that is to say, when they are transmitted from generations to the descendants of the first modified individual, a race is formed. For example, if a thornless acacia ever reproduced by seed, trees resembling itself and enjoying the same power, then the Acacia spectabilis would cease to be a simple variety, and would have become a race.

The race, then, will consist of:"A number of individuals resembling each other, belonging to one species, having received and transmitting, by means of sexual generation, the characters of a primitive variety.

Thus the Species is the point of departure; the variety appears amongst the individuals of which it is composed, and, when the characters of this variety become hereditary, a racz is formed.

Such are the relations which, according to all naturalists, "from Cuvier to Lamarck himself,” as Isidore Geoffroy said, exist between these three terms. We have here a fundamental idea which we should never lose sight of in the study of the questions with which we are engaged. From neglect of it men of the highest distinction have failed to understand most significant facts,

We see that the idea of resemblance, which is much curtailed in the species, reassumes in the race an importance equal to that of filiation.

We see also that the number of races which spring directly from one species may be equal to the pumber of varieties of the same species, and consequently very considerable. But this number has a tendency to increase still further to an indefinite extent. In fact, each of these primary races is susceptible of fresh modifications, which may either extend no further than one individual, or become transmissible by means of generation. Thus secondary and tertiary varieties or races come into existence. Our plants and domestic animals furnish innumerable examples of these facts.

V. By reason of races originating in this manner from one another, and from their multiplication, they may assume differential characters which become more and niore decided. But however numerous they may be, and whatever differences there may be between them, and however far they may seem to be removed from the primitive type, they nevertheless, still form part of the species from which the primitive races derived their origin.

On the other hand, every species comprises, independently of the individuals which have preserved their primitive characters, all those which compose the primary, secondary and tertiary, etc., races, derived from the fundamental type.

In other words the species is the unit and the races are the fractions of this unit. Or again, the species is the trunk of the tree, of which the several series of races represent the principal and lesser branches and the twigs. The general unity and relative independence of the trunk and the branches of the tree represent in an obvious manner the connections existing between the species and its races.

CHAPTER IV.

NATURE OF VARIATIONS IN ANIMAL AND VEGETABLE

RACES ; APPLICATION TO MAN.

I. The meaning of the question stated above is now intel. ligible. We have to discover whether the human groups, which we know to be distinguished by characters which are often very marked, are fractions of a single unit, branches of the same tree, or so many units of different value, so many trees of various nature.

Historical documents are absolutely incapable of solving this problem. On the other hand, man being the subject of the problem, it is evident that the solution must be sought elsewhere.

Where then must we turn in order to obtain a definite answer to this question which concerns us so closely ? Clearly to naturalists and to naturalists alone. The Species and the Race have, for more than two centuries, been the subject of their studies; they have amassed observations, multiplied experiments. They have, in their studies, been guided by a scientific spirit alone, and from being placed beyond the reach of controversy, have preserved all their freedom of judgment. The results thus acquired, deserve the greatest confidence, and supply reliable data for the application of our anthropological method.

Anyone really desirous of forming an opinion upon the unity or multiplicity of the human species, should therefore discover what are the facts and phenomena which characterise race and species in plants and animals ; then turn to man and compare the facts and phenomena there presented with those which botanists and zoologists have observed in

« ÎnapoiContinuați »