Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)
of Man Deduced From the Theory of
"Natural Selection" (S93: 1864)
But while on this question of man's antiquity there is a very general agreement,--and all are waiting eagerly for fresh evidence to clear up those points which all admit to be full of doubt,--on other and not less obscure and difficult questions a considerable amount of dogmatism is exhibited; doctrines are put forward as established truth, no doubt or hesitation is admitted, and it seems to be supposed that no further evidence is required, or that any new facts can modify our convictions. This is especially the case when we inquire, Are the various forms under which man now exists primitive, or derived from preexisting forms; in other words, is man of one or many species? To this question we immediately obtain distinct answers diametrically opposed to each other: the one party positively maintaining that man is a species and is essentially one--that all differences are but local and temporary variations, produced by the different physical and moral conditions by which he is surrounded; the other party maintaining with equal confidence that man is a genus of many species, each of which is practically unchangeable, and has ever been as distinct, or even more distinct, than we now behold them. This difference of opinion is somewhat remarkable, when we consider that both parties are well acquainted with the subject; both use the same vast accumulation of facts; both reject those early traditions of mankind which profess to give an account of his origin; and both declare that they are seeking fearlessly after truth alone. I believe, however, it will be found to be the old story over again of the shield--gold on one side and silver on the other--about which the knights disputed; each party will persist in looking only at the portion of truth on his own side of the question, and at the error which is mingled with his opponent's doctrine. It is my wish to show how the two opposing [[p. clix]] views can be combined so as to eliminate the error and retain the truth in each, and it is by means of Mr. Darwin's celebrated theory of "Natural Selection" that I hope to do this, and thus to harmonise the conflicting theories of modern anthropologists.
Let us first see what each party has to say for itself. In favour of the unity of mankind it is argued that there are no races without transitions to others; that every race exhibits within itself variations of colour, of hair, of feature, and of form, to such a degree as to bridge over to a large extent the gap that separates it from other races. It is asserted that no race is homogeneous; that there is a tendency to vary; that climate, food, and habits produce and render permanent physical peculiarities, which, though slight in the limited periods allowed to our observation, would, in the long ages during which the human race has existed, have sufficed to produce all the differences that now appear. It is further asserted that the advocates of the opposite theory do not agree among themselves; that some would make three, some five, some fifty or a hundred and fifty species of man; some would have had each species created in pairs, while others require nations to have at once sprung into existence, and that there is no stability or consistency in any doctrine but that of one primitive stock.
The advocates of the original diversity of man, on the other hand, have much to say for themselves. They argue that proofs of change in man have never been brought forward except to the most trifling amount, while evidence of his permanence meets us everywhere. The Portuguese and Spaniards, settled for two or three centuries in South America, retain their chief physical, mental, and moral characteristics; the Dutch boers at the Cape, and the descendants of the early Dutch settlers in the Moluccas, have not lost the features or the colour of the Germanic races; the Jews, scattered over the world in the most diverse climates, retain the same characteristic lineaments everywhere; the Egyptian sculptures and paintings show us that, for at least 4000 or 5000 years, the strongly contrasted features of the Negro and the Semitic races have remained altogether unchanged; while more recent discoveries prove that, in the case at least of the American aborigines, the mound-builders of the Mississippi valley, and the dwellers on Brazilian mountains, had still in the very infancy of the human race the same characteristic type of cranial formation that now distinguishes them.
If we endeavour to decide impartially on the merits of this difficult controversy, judging solely by the evidence that each party has brought forward, it certainly seems that the best of the argument is on the side of those who maintain the primitive diversity of man. Their opponents have not been able to refute the permanence of existing races as far back as we can trace them, and have failed to show, in a single case, that at any former epoch the well marked varieties of mankind approximated more closely than they do at the present day. At the same time this is but negative evidence. A condition of immobility for four or five thousand years, does not preclude an advance at an earlier epoch, and--if we can show that there [[p. clx]] are causes in nature which would check any further physical change when certain conditions were fulfilled--does not even render such an advance improbable, if there are any general arguments to be adduced in its favour. Such a cause, I believe, does exist, and I shall now endeavour to point out its nature and its mode of operation.
In order to make my argument intelligible, it is necessary for me to explain very briefly the theory of "Natural Selection" promulgated by Mr. Darwin, and the power which it possesses of modifying the forms of animals and plants. The grand feature in the multiplication of organic life is that of close general resemblance, combined with more or less individual variation. The child resembles its parents or ancestors more or less closely in all its peculiarities, deformities, or beauties; it resembles them in general more than it does any other individuals; yet children of the same parents are not all alike, and it often happens that they differ very considerably from their parents and from each other. This is equally true of man, of all animals, and of all plants. Moreover, it is found that individuals do not differ from their parents in certain particulars only, while in all others they are exact duplicates of them. They differ from them and from each other in every particular: in form, in size, in colour, in the structure of internal as well as of external organs; in those subtle peculiarities which produce differences of constitution, as well as in those still more subtle ones which lead to modifications of mind and character. In other words, in every possible way, in every organ and in every function, individuals of the same stock vary.
Now, health, strength, and long life are the results of a harmony between the individual and the universe that surrounds it. Let us suppose that at any given moment this harmony is perfect. A certain animal is exactly fitted to secure its prey, to escape from its enemies, to resist the inclemencies of the seasons, and to rear a numerous and healthy offspring. But a change now takes place. A series of cold winters, for instance, come on, making food scarce, and bringing an immigration of some other animals to compete with the former inhabitants of the district. The new immigrant is swift of foot, and surpasses its rivals in the pursuit of game; the winter nights are colder, and require a thicker fur as a protection, and more nourishing food to keep up the heat of the system. Our supposed perfect animal is no longer in harmony with its universe; it is in danger of dying of cold or of starvation. But the animal varies in its offspring. Some of these are swifter than others--they still manage to catch food enough; some are hardier and more thickly furred--they manage in the cold nights to keep warm enough; the slow, the weak, and the thinly clad soon die off. Again and again, in each succeeding generation, the same thing takes place. By this natural process, which is so inevitable that it cannot be conceived not to act, those best adapted to live, live; those least adapted, die. It is sometimes said that we have no direct evidence of the action of this selecting power in nature. But it seems to me we have better evidence than even direct observation would be, because it is more universal, viz., the evidence of necessity. It must be so; for, as all wild animals increase [[p. clxi]] in a geometrical ratio, while their actual numbers remain on the average stationary, it follows that as many die annually as are born. If therefore, we deny natural selection, it can only be by asserting that in such a case as I have supposed, the strong, the healthy, the swift, the well clad, the well organised animals in every respect, have no advantage over,--do not on the average live longer than the weak, the unhealthy, the slow, the ill-clad, and the imperfectly organised individuals; and this no sane man has yet been found hardy enough to assert. But this is not all; for the offspring on the average resemble their parents, and the selected portion of each succeeding generation will therefore be stronger, swifter, and more thickly furred than the last; and if this process goes on for thousands of generations, our animal will have again become thoroughly in harmony with the new conditions in which he is placed. But he will now be a different creature. He will be not only swifter and stronger, and more furry, he will also probably have changed in colour, in form, perhaps have acquired a longer tail, or differently shaped ears; for it is an ascertained fact, that when one part of an animal is modified, some other parts almost always change as it were in sympathy with it. Mr. Darwin calls this "correlation of growth," and gives as instances that hairless dogs have imperfect teeth; blue eyed cats are deaf; small feet accompany short beaks in pigeons; and other equally interesting cases.
Grant, therefore, the premises: 1st. That peculiarities of every kind are more or less hereditary. 2nd. That the offspring of every animal vary more or less in all parts of their organisation. 3rd. That the universe in which these animals live, is not absolutely invariable;--none of which propositions can be denied; and then consider that the animals in any country (those at least which are not dying out) must at each successive period be brought into harmony with the surrounding conditions; and we have all the elements for a change of form and structure in the animals, keeping exact pace with changes of whatever nature in the surrounding universe. Such changes must be slow, for the changes in the universe are very slow; but just as these slow changes become important, when we look at results after long periods of action, as we do when we perceive the alterations of the earth's surface during geological epochs; so the parallel changes in animal form become more and more striking according as the time they have been going on is great, as we see when we compare our living animals with those which we disentomb from each successively older geological formation.
This is briefly the theory of "natural selection," which explains the changes in the organic world as being parallel with, and in part dependent on those in the inorganic. What we now have to inquire is,--Can this theory be applied in any way to the question of the origin of the races of man? or is there anything in human nature that takes him out of the category of those organic existences, over whose successive mutations it has had such powerful sway?
In order to answer these questions, we must consider why it is that "natural selection" acts so powerfully upon animals, and we shall, I [[p. clxii]] believe, find that its effect depends mainly upon their self-dependence and individual isolation. A slight injury, a temporary illness, will often end in death, because it leaves the individual powerless against its enemies. If a herbivorous animal is a little sick and has not fed well for a day or two, and the herd is then pursued by a beast of prey, our poor invalid inevitably falls a victim. So in a carnivorous animal the least deficiency of vigour prevents its capturing food, and it soon dies of starvation. There is, as a general rule, no mutual assistance between adults, which enables them to tide over a period of sickness. Neither is there any division of labour; each must fulfil all the conditions of its existence, and, therefore, "natural selection" keeps all up to a pretty uniform standard.
But in man, as we now behold him, this is different. He is social and sympathetic. In the rudest tribes the sick are assisted at least with food; less robust health and vigour than the average does not entail death. Neither does the want of perfect limbs or other organs produce the same effects as among animals. Some division of labour takes place; the swiftest hunt, the less active fish, or gather fruits; food is to some extent exchanged or divided. The action of natural selection is therefore checked; the weaker, the dwarfish, those of less active limbs, or less piercing eyesight, do not suffer the extreme penalty which falls upon animals so defective.
In proportion as these physical characteristics become of less importance, mental and moral qualities will have increasing influence on the well-being of the race. Capacity for acting in concert, for protection and for the acquisition of food and shelter; sympathy, which leads all in turn to assist each other; the sense of right, which checks depredations upon our fellows; the decrease of the combative and destructive propensities; self-restraint in present appetites; and that intelligent foresight which prepares for the future, are all qualities that from their earliest appearance must have been for the benefit of each community, and would, therefore, have become the subjects of "natural selection." For it is evident that such qualities would be for the well-being of man; would guard him against external enemies, against internal dissensions, and against the effects of inclement seasons and impending famine, more surely than could any merely physical modification. Tribes in which such mental and moral qualities were predominant, would therefore have an advantage in the struggle for existence over other tribes in which they were less developed, would live and maintain their numbers, while the others would decrease and finally succumb.
Again, when any slow changes of physical geography, or of climate, make it necessary for an animal to alter its food, its clothing, or its weapons, it can only do so by a corresponding change in its own bodily structure and internal organisation. If a larger or more powerful beast is to be captured and devoured, as when a carnivorous animal which has hitherto preyed on sheep is obliged from their decreasing numbers to attack buffaloes, it is only the strongest who can hold,--those with most powerful claws, and formidable canine teeth, that can struggle with and overcome such an animal. Natural [[p. clxiii]] selection immediately comes into play, and by its action these organs gradually become adapted to their new requirements. But man, under similar circumstances, does not require longer nails or teeth, greater bodily strength or swiftness. He makes sharper spears, or a better bow, or he constructs a cunning pitfall, or combines in a hunting party to circumvent his new prey. The capacities which enable him to do this are what he requires to be strengthened, and these will, therefore, be gradually modified by "natural selection," while the form and structure of his body will remain unchanged. So when a glacial epoch comes on, some animals must acquire warmer fur, or a covering of fat, or else die of cold. Those best clothed by nature are, therefore, preserved by natural selection. Man, under the same circumstances, will make himself warmer clothing, and build better houses; and the necessity of doing this will react upon his mental organisation and social condition--will advance them while his natural body remains naked as before.
When the accustomed food of some animal becomes scarce or totally fails, it can only exist by becoming adapted to a new kind of food, a food perhaps less nourishing and less digestible. "Natural selection" will now act upon the stomach and intestines, and all their individual variations will be taken advantage of to modify the race into harmony with its new food. In many cases, however, it is probable that this cannot be done. The internal organs may not vary quick enough, and then the animal will decrease in numbers, and finally become extinct. But man guards himself from such accidents by superintending and guiding the operations of nature. He plants the seed of his most agreeable food, and thus procures a supply independent of the accidents of varying seasons or natural extinction. He domesticates animals which serve him either to capture food or for food itself, and thus changes of any great extent in his teeth or digestive organs are rendered unnecessary. Man, too, has everywhere the use of fire, and by its means can render palatable a variety of animal and vegetable substances, which he could hardly otherwise make use of, and thus obtains for himself a supply of food far more varied and abundant than that which any animal can command.
Thus man, by the mere capacity of clothing himself, and making weapons and tools, has taken away from nature that power of changing the external form and structure which she exercises over all other animals. As the competing races by which they are surrounded, the climate, the vegetation, or the animals which serve them for food, are slowly changing, they must undergo a corresponding change in their structure, habits, and constitution, to keep them in harmony with the new conditions--to enable them to live and maintain their numbers. But man does this by means of his intellect alone; which enables him with an unchanged body still to keep in harmony with the changing universe.
From the time, therefore, when the social and sympathetic feelings came into active operation, and the intellectual and moral faculties became fairly developed, man would cease to be influenced by "natural selection" in his physical form and structure; as an [[p. clxiv]] animal he would remain almost stationary; the changes of the surrounding universe would cease to have upon him that powerful modifying effect which it exercises over other parts of the organic world. But from the moment that his body became stationary, his mind would become subject to those very influences from which his body had escaped; every slight variation in his mental and moral nature which should enable him better to guard against adverse circumstances, and combine for mutual comfort and protection, would be preserved and accumulated; the better and higher specimens of our race would therefore increase and spread, the lower and more brutal would give way and successively die out, and that rapid advancement of mental organisation would occur, which has raised the very lowest races of man so far above the brutes (although differing so little from some of them in physical structure), and, in conjunction with scarcely perceptible modifications of form, has developed the wonderful intellect of the Germanic races.
But from the time when this mental and moral advance commenced, and man's physical character became fixed and immutable, a new series of causes would come into action, and take part in his mental growth. The diverse aspects of nature would now make themselves felt, and profoundly influence the character of the primitive man.1
When the power that had hitherto modified the body, transferred its action to the mind, then races would advance and become improved merely by the harsh discipline of a sterile soil and inclement seasons. Under their influence, a hardier, a more provident, and a more social race would be developed, than in those regions where the earth produces a perennial supply of vegetable food, and where neither foresight nor ingenuity are required to prepare for the rigours of winter. And is it not the fact that in all ages, and in every quarter of the globe, the inhabitants of temperate have been superior to those of tropical countries? All the great invasions and displacements of races have been from North to South, rather than the reverse; and we have no record of there ever having existed, any more than there exists to-day, a solitary instance of an indigenous inter-tropical civilisation. The Mexican civilisation and government came from the North, and, as well as the Peruvian, was established, not in the rich tropical plains, but on the lofty and sterile plateaux of the Andes. The religion and civilisation of Ceylon were introduced from North India; the successive conquerors of the Indian peninsula came from the North-west, and it was the bold and adventurous tribes of the North that overran and infused new life into Southern Europe.
It is the same great law of "the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life," which leads to the inevitable extinction of all [[p. clxv]] those low and mentally undeveloped populations with which Europeans come in contact. The red Indian in North America, and in Brazil; the Tasmanian, Australian and New Zealander in the southern hemisphere, die out, not from any one special cause, but from the inevitable effects of an unequal mental and physical struggle. The intellectual and moral, as well as the physical qualities of the European are superior; the same powers and capacities which have made him rise in a few centuries from the condition of the wandering savage2 with a scanty and stationary population to his present state of culture and advancement, with a greater average longevity, a greater average strength, and a capacity of more rapid increase,--enable him when in contact with the savage man, to conquer in the struggle for existence, and to increase at his expense, just as the more favourable increase at the expense of the less favourable varieties in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, just as the weeds of Europe overrun North America and Australia, extinguishing native productions by the inherent vigour of their organisation, and by their greater capacity for existence and multiplication.
If these views are correct; if in proportion as man's social, moral and intellectual faculties became developed, his physical structure would cease to be affected by the operation of "natural selection," we have a most important clue to the origin of races. For it will follow, that those striking and constant peculiarities which mark the great divisions of mankind, could not have been produced and rendered permanent after the action of this power had become transferred from physical to mental variations. They must, therefore, have existed since the very infancy of the race; they must have originated at a period when man was gregarious, but scarcely social, with a mind perceptive but not reflective, ere any sense of right or feelings of sympathy had been developed in him.
By a powerful effort of the imagination, it is just possible to perceive him at that early epoch existing as a single homogeneous race without the faculty of speech, and probably inhabiting some tropical region. He would be still subject, like the rest of the organic world, to the action of "natural selection," which would retain his physical form and constitution in harmony with the surrounding universe. He must have been even then a dominant race, spreading widely over the warmer regions of the earth as it then existed, and, in agreement with what we see in the case of other dominant species, gradually becoming modified in accordance with local conditions. As he ranged farther from his original home, and became exposed to greater extremes of climate, to greater changes of food, and had to contend with new enemies, organic and inorganic, useful variations in his constitution would be selected and rendered permanent, and would, on the principle of "correlation of growth", be accompanied [[p. clxvi]] by corresponding external physical changes. Thus arose those striking characteristics and special modifications which still distinguish the chief races of mankind. The red, black, yellow, or blushing white skin; the straight, the curly, the woolly hair; the scanty or abundant beard; the straight or oblique eyes; the various forms of the pelvis, the cranium, and other parts of the skeleton.
But while these changes had been going on, his mental development had correspondingly advanced, and had now reached that condition in which it began powerfully to influence his whole existence, and would therefore, become subject to the irresistible action of "natural selection." This action would rapidly give the ascendancy to mind: speech would probably now be first developed, leading to a still further advance of the mental faculties, and from that moment man as regards his physical form would remain almost stationary. The art of making weapons, division of labour, anticipation of the future, restraint of the appetites, moral, social and sympathetic feelings, would now have a preponderating influence on his well being, and would therefore be that part of his nature on which "natural selection" would most powerfully act; and we should thus have explained that wonderful persistence of mere physical characteristics, which is the stumbling-block of those who advocate the unity of mankind.
We are now, therefore, enabled to harmonise the conflicting views of anthropologists on this subject. Man may have been, indeed I believe must have been, once a homogeneous race; but it was at a period of which we have as yet discovered no remains, at a period so remote in his history, that he had not yet acquired that wonderfully developed brain, the organ of the mind, which now, even in his lowest examples, raises him far above the highest brutes;--at a period when he had the form but hardly the nature of man, when he neither possessed human speech, nor those sympathetic and moral feelings which in a greater or less degree everywhere now distinguish the race. Just in proportion as these truly human faculties became developed in him would his physical features become fixed and permanent, because the latter would be of less importance to his well being; he would be kept in harmony with the slowly changing universe around him, by an advance in mind, rather than by a change in body. If, therefore, we are of opinion that he was not really man till these higher faculties were developed, we may fairly assert that there were many originally distinct races of men; while, if we think that a being like us in form and structure, but with mental faculties scarcely raised above the brute, must still be considered to have been human, we are fully entitled to maintain the common origin of all mankind.
These considerations, it will be seen, enable us to place the origin of man at a much more remote geological epoch than has yet been thought possible. He may even have lived in the Eocene or Miocene period, when not a single mammal possessed the same form as any existing species. For, in the long series of ages during which the forms of these primeval mammals were being slowly specialised into those now inhabiting the earth, the power which acted to modify them would [[p. clxvii]] only affect the mental organisation of man. His brain alone would have increased in size and complexity and his cranium have undergone corresponding changes of form, while the whole structure of lower animals was being changed. This will enable us to understand how the fossil crania of Denise and Engis agree so closely with existing forms, although they undoubtedly existed in company with large mammalia now extinct. The Neanderthal skull may be a specimen of one of the lowest races then existing, just as the Australians are the lowest of our modern epoch. We have no reason to suppose that mind and brain and skull-modification, could go on quicker than that of the other parts of the organisation, and we must, therefore, look back very far in the past to find man in that early condition in which his mind was not sufficiently developed to remove his body from the modifying influence of external conditions, and the cumulative action of "natural selection." I believe, therefore, that there is no à priori reason against our finding the remains of man or his works, in the middle or later tertiary deposits. The absence of all such remains in the European beds of this age has little weight, because as we go further back in time, it is natural to suppose that man's distribution over the surface of the earth was less universal than at present. Besides, Europe was in a great measure submerged during the tertiary epoch, and though its scattered islands may have been uninhabited by man, it by no means follows that he did not at the same time exist in warm or tropical continents. If geologists can point out to us the most extensive land in the warmer regions of the earth, which has not been submerged since eocene or miocene times, it is there that we may expect to find some traces of the very early progenitors of man. It is there that we may trace back the gradually decreasing brain of former races, till we come to a time when the body also begins materially to differ. Then we shall have reached the starting point of the human family. Before that period, he had not mind enough to preserve his body from change, and would, therefore, have been subject to the same comparatively rapid modifications of form as the other mammals.
If the views I have here endeavoured to sustain have any foundation, they give us a new argument for placing man apart, as not only the head and culminating point of the grand series of organic nature, but as in some degree a new and distinct order of being. From those infinitely remote ages, when the first rudiments of organic life appeared upon the earth, every plant, and every animal has been subject to one great law of physical change. As the earth has gone through its grand cycles of geological, climatal and organic progress, every form of life has been subject to its irresistible action, and has been continually, but imperceptibly moulded into such new shapes as would preserve their harmony with the ever changing universe. No living thing could escape this law of its being; none could remain unchanged and live, amid the universal change around it.
At length, however, there came into existence a being in whom that subtle force we term mind, became of greater importance than his mere bodily structure. Though with a naked and unprotected [[p. clxviii]] body, this gave him clothing against the varying inclemencies of the seasons. Though unable to compete with the deer in swiftness, or with the wild bull in strength, this gave him weapons with which to capture or overcome both. Though less capable than most other animals of living on the herbs and the fruits that unaided nature supplies, this wonderful faculty taught him to govern and direct nature to his own benefit, and make her produce food for him when and where he pleased. From the moment when the first skin was used as a covering, when the first rude spear was formed to assist in the chase, the first seed sown or shoot planted, a grand revolution was effected in nature, a revolution which in all the previous ages of the earth's history had had no parallel, for a being had arisen who was no longer necessarily subject to change with the changing universe--a being who was in some degree superior to nature, inasmuch, as he knew how to control and regulate her action, and could keep himself in harmony with her, not by a change in body, but by an advance of mind.
Here, then, we see the true grandeur and dignity of man. On this view of his special attributes, we may admit that even those who claim for him a position as an order, a class, or a sub-kingdom by himself, have some reason on their side. He is, indeed, a being apart, since he is not influenced by the great laws which irresistibly modify all other organic beings. Nay more; this victory which he has gained for himself gives him a directing influence over other existences. Man has not only escaped "natural selection" himself, but he actually is able to take away some of that power from nature which, before his appearance, she universally exercised. We can anticipate the time when the earth will produce only cultivated plants and domestic animals; when man's selection shall have supplanted "natural selection"; and when the ocean will be the only domain in which that power can be exerted, which for countless cycles of ages ruled supreme over all the earth.
Briefly to recapitulate the argument;--in two distinct ways has man escaped the influence of those laws which have produced unceasing change in the animal world. By his superior intellect he is enabled to provide himself with clothing and weapons, and by cultivating the soil to obtain a constant supply of congenial food. This renders it unnecessary for his body, like those of the lower animals, to be modified in accordance with changing conditions--to gain a warmer natural covering, to acquire more powerful teeth or claws, or to become adapted to obtain and digest new kinds of food, as circumstances may require. By his superior sympathetic and moral feelings, he becomes fitted for the social state; he ceases to plunder the weak and helpless of his tribe; he shares the game which he has caught with less active or less fortunate hunters, or exchanges it for weapons which even the sick or the deformed can fashion; he saves the sick and wounded from death; and thus the power which leads to the rigid destruction of all animals who cannot in every respect help themselves, is prevented from acting on him.
This power is "natural selection"; and, as by no other means can [[p. clxix]] it be shewn that individual variations can ever become accumulated and rendered permanent so as to form well-marked races, it follows that the differences we now behold in mankind must have been produced before he became possessed of a human intellect or human sympathies. This view also renders possible, or even requires, the existence of man at a comparatively remote geological epoch. For, during the long periods in which other animals have been undergoing modification in their whole structure to such an amount as to constitute distinct genera and families, man's body will have remained generically, or even specifically, the same, while his head and brain alone will have undergone modification equal to theirs. We can thus understand how it is that, judging from the head and brain, Professor Owen places man in a distinct sub-class of mammalia, while, as regards the rest of his body, there is the closest anatomical resemblance to that of the anthropoid apes, "every tooth, every bone, strictly homologous--which makes the determination of the difference between Homo and Pithecus the anatomist's difficulty." The present theory fully recognises and accounts for these facts; and we may perhaps claim as corroborative of its truth, that it neither requires us to depreciate the intellectual chasm which separates man from the apes, nor refuses full recognition of the striking resemblances to them which exist in other parts of its structure.
In concluding this brief sketch of a great subject, I would point out its bearing upon the future of the human race. If my conclusions are just, it must inevitably follow that the higher--the more intellectual and moral--must displace the lower and more degraded races; and the power of "natural selection", still acting on his mental organisation, must ever lead to the more perfect adaptation of man's higher faculties to the conditions of surrounding nature, and to the exigencies of the social state.3 While his external form will probably ever remain unchanged, except in the development of that perfect beauty which results from a healthy and well organised body, refined and ennobled by the highest intellectual faculties and sympathetic emotions, his mental constitution may continue to advance and improve till the world is again inhabited by a single homogeneous race, no individual of which will be inferior to the noblest specimens of existing humanity. Each one will then work out his own happiness in relation to that of his fellows; perfect freedom of action will be maintained, since the well balanced moral faculties will never permit any one to transgress on the equal freedom of others; restrictive laws will not be wanted, for each man will be guided by the best of laws; a thorough appreciation of the rights, and a perfect sympathy with the feelings, of all about him; compulsory government will have died away as unnecessary (for every man will know how to govern himself), and will be replaced by voluntary associations for all beneficial public purposes; the passions and animal propensities will be restrained within those limits which most conduce to happiness; and mankind will have at length discovered [[p. clxx]] that it was only required of them to develope the capacities of their higher nature, in order to convert this earth, which had so long been the theatre of their unbridled passions, and the scene of unimaginable misery, into as bright a paradise as ever haunted the dreams of seer or poet.4
says: "If we regard the immediate
influence of climate upon men, perhaps it is not so extensive as has
been supposed. But the indirect influence of climate, that which, for
example, results from the fact that, in a warm country, men live in
the open air, while in a cold country they shut themselves up in their
houses; that in the one case they nourish themselves in one manner,
in the other in another;--these are facts of great importance, facts
which, by the simple difference of material life, act powerfully upon
civilisation." (Hist. of Civilisation in Europe.) [[originally
placed at the bottom of page clxiv]]
Mr. Wallace: Before I begin seriatim to notice a few of the objections made to my paper, I should like to correct a slight misapprehension which Dr. Hunt has made, while fresh in my memory. I have been obliged, in order to compress my remarks, and at the same time to make my meaning clear, to use expressions which are, perhaps, not logically accurate. In the latter part of the paper, the argument is the contrast between change of body and change of mind. By the former was meant change of organisation, of the limbs particularly, and of other external physical characteristics. By the mind I always include the brain and skull--the organ of the mind--the cranium and the face; and therefore, when I afterwards contrasted change of external form with change of mind, of course I do not mean to say that the cranium which contains the organ of mind was stationary. Therefore, I beg to be understood that there is no contradiction in my argument,--that man may advance to this high state of civilisation, while his physical frame remains unchanged. Mr. Burke's observations have, to a great extent, been answered by several speakers. I would say that they appeared to me totally to misrepresent the purport of my paper. Of course it was seen that, to a certain extent, it was impossible to go into details with respect to this subject of natural selection, and I only brought forward my illustrations of it to refresh the memory of those who are not thoroughly acquainted with the whole theory. I do not now argue generally for that theory; I merely show how it applies to a particular doctrine of anthropology. I endeavoured to apply it in a way in which it has not been applied before. I will now pass on to notice the special objections that have been brought forward to my theory. Mr. Burke's arguments were all against the theory of natural selection itself; but Mr. Darwin has argued it so well that it is impossible for me to add anything. The two next gentlemen who spoke agreed with me generally. Mr. Bendyshe objected to my statement, that man, to some extent, triumphs over nature; and he argued that man does not triumph over climate, because Europeans cannot live in the tropics, and the natives of the tropics cannot live in Europe. First, I say that there are facts to show that this is not absolutely the case. There are cases in which Europeans have gone and resided in the tropics, and, as far as we can see, live there to this day perfectly well. One particular case I will mention. In the interior of South America, on the eastern slope of the Andes, the head waters of the Amazon, [[p. clxxxii]] there is a district quite isolated from the rest of the world, cut off on the one side from the Pacific by the Andes, and on the other side by the intervention of Brazil, no communication of any kind having been allowed till recently. In this upper valley of the Amazon there is a large population, purely European, or at least very nearly so. There are a number of towns and cities there, numbering ten, fifteen, and even twenty thousand inhabitants. No doubt the race is partly mixed,--we cannot say how much, but my friend, Mr. Spruce the botanist, describes them to me as actually whiter than the Brazilians, remarkably white for a south European race. He was astonished to come upon so large a population, which knew nothing of any other part of the world. They are the descendants of some of the Spanish settlers. Here, then, we have the case of a European population transferred to a tropical country.
Mr. Bollaert: Will you name some of those cities?
Mr. Wallace: Well, Tarapoto, and Moyobamba.
Mr. Bollaert: I should say that the population was two-thirds Indian; certainly a mixed race.
Mr. Wallace: I got the information from a gentleman who has resided there, and he assured me that the mass of the population was white.
Mr. Bollaert: There is a great deal of Indian blood.
Mr. Bendyshe: What is the altitude?
Mr. Wallace: Not more than a thousand feet above the sea. The plain of the Andes is perfectly flat.
Mr. Bollaert: If there is Indian blood there, that is the very point.
Mr. Wallace: But it is urged, that directly you get a cross you get infertility; and yet here there are immense numbers.
Mr. Bollaert: I doubt extremely the immense numbers.
Mr. Wallace: I can only give the facts as they were given to me. If they are wrong, they can be disproved; but the question does not depend upon that; for admitting that man may not be able to stand a sudden change in climate, yet, supposing that the change were a slow one--supposing that Europe were gradually sunk beneath the sea from the north, so that we were gradually shoved, as it were, into a tropical climate at the rate of a few miles in a century,--do you not think that natural selection would act so that the race would stand the climate? I do not think we should all die out. All the facts of nature seem to be opposed to such a supposition. The dog has stood all over the world with us notwithstanding the climate.
Mr. Blake: May I ask the historical evidence of the migration of dogs?
Mr. Wallace: I cannot now go into that. Dogs are carried by man all over the world.
Mr. Bollaert: And they die.
Mr. Wallace: Mr. Reddie began by saying that Mr. Darwin's theory had nothing to do with varieties. Now, from my study of the theory, it appeared to be all founded on the study of varieties. The whole argument is based on varieties, showing that they merge gradually into species.
[[p. clxxxiii]] Mr. Reddie: What I meant to say was, that it was not limited to varieties.
Mr. Wallace: I thought you said it had nothing to do with varieties. Then, another strong argument was that the Esquimaux, notwithstanding their bad climate, do not build good houses, not so good as Englishmen. I have asserted that man, in his progress from a low to a high state, would be assisted by the necessary discipline of a harsh climate, which would make him exert his mental faculties much more than a tropical climate. Now, I think that is almost self-evident, and is not at all affected by the fact that the Esquimaux are less intelligent than the English. The question is, "Do they build houses at all?" Yes; and very good ones. Travellers describe how ingeniously they build their snow houses; and the manner in which they make their clothing and sledges shows that they are not so low intellectually as most of the inhabitants of tropical countries. Mr. Reddie also wants to know how the intellect came at first. I don't pretend to answer that question, because we must go so long back. If Mr. Reddie denies that any animal has intellect, it is a difficult question to answer; but if animals have intellect in different proportions, and if the human infant, the moment it is born, has not so much intellect as an animal, and if, as the infant grows, the intellect grows with it, I do not see the immense difficulty if you grant the universal process of selection from lower to higher animals. If you throw aside altogether, this process of selection, you need not make the objection about the intellect. Mr. Blake made a few objections, which may have some little weight. The principal was that we have no evidence to show that when one race, or nation, or people are exterminated, or driven out by another, the one that is so exterminated is necessarily inferior; and he wanted to show either by historic evidence or by remains of bodies that it is impossible to say that the Celtic was inferior to the Teutonic, or the Basque inferior to the race which drove them out. Now, it appears to me that the mere fact of one race supplanting another proves their superiority. It is not a question of intellect only, nor of bodily strength only. We cannot tell what causes may produce it. A hundred peculiarities, that we can hardly appreciate, may cause the one race to melt away, as it were, before the other. But still there is the plain fact that two races came into contact, and that one drives out the other. This is a proof that the one race is better fitted to live upon the world than the other. Mr. Blake says that there is no necessary correlation between man and his habitat; and he endeavoured to show that, by proving that the thickness of the crania does not vary in accordance with the heat of the sun. No doubt such an objection is very easy to make; but we must consider, is it at all likely that we shall be able, by our examination, to appreciate this correlation, whatever it may be. For instance, you take two animals; one lives in a northern hemisphere, the other in a southern,--one in a wet country, the other in a dry one. Can you tell me why these two animals are fitted to live in their respective climates? They may be so closely allied that you can hardly find out their differences; and if you cannot find out the [[p. clxxxiv]] difference in animals which serves to adapt them to the climate, is it likely you can find out the difference in man? But there are facts which show that there is a correlation between man and his habitat. For instance, take the case of the inhabitants of West Africa, who stand the fever and malaria of that country; and it is the same in New Orleans. It is asserted in America, I believe, that one-fourth of black blood is enough to save the individual from the yellow fever in New Orleans. This is a striking case, I think, of correlation between man and his habitat. Then again, as to the prevalence of black-skinned races in the tropical regions, I do not believe that there is any special production of the black skin by the heat of the sun; but I believe that because the black skin is correlative to the hot sun, the black skinned constitution is best adapted to stand the diseases of the climate, and the process of natural selection has preserved them. If we find a people who are apparently not well adapted to stand the climate, we have some reason to believe that they are a comparatively recent immigration into the country. My friend, Mr. Bates, who is not here, has supported this theory from his observations on the Amazon, asserting that the inhabitants of tropical America are a recent introduction. He comes to that conclusion from a great many peculiarities of manners and customs, and if so, it is a corroboration of the argument that races do become correlated to the climate in which they live. Mr. Blake objected to my statement, that man can to a certain extent control nature. He asserted that man could not control disease; but that was not the point I went upon. I especially mentioned the point on which man can control nature,--raising himself by his intellect above the action of natural selection, which changes the forms of other animals, because they could only be kept in harmony with the universe except by being changed; whereas man is kept in harmony by his mind. Again, no weak animal--no animal born with a sickly constitution--lives to propagate its kind: but man does. Hundreds of weak individuals live to a comparatively healthy and comfortable old age, and have large families. This is a special case, in which man controls nature differently to the animals. He controls nature so much that he is an exception to all the rest of animated beings. Dr. Hunt made a great many special objections. He says, I disappointed him, because I promised to explain everything. I must say, I did not. I simply proposed to myself to explain, or rather to suggest, a theory which should do away with this difficulty of the absolute contradiction between two classes of ethnologists, commonly called the monogenists and the polygenists, by showing that both were right. I think that is a most satisfactory way of harmonising people that differ. Again, he objects to my using the expression "must have been". Well, I put in the words "I believe," and "according to the Darwinian theory", because, according to that theory, every group of species arises from one, every group of varieties from one, every group of individuals from a pair; therefore, if you do but go far back enough, you must come to a unity of origin. If that theory is utterly wrong, then my argument goes for nothing. Then Dr. Hunt says I did not [[p. clxxxv]] give facts enough. Well, first you are aware that in a subject like this, if a sufficiency of facts were given, they would fill a volume; consequently, I was obliged in this paper to sketch and allude hastily to facts. Dr. Hunt asserts, that archæology shows that the ancient races were the same as modern. Well, that is a fact I quoted on my own side, and his quoting it against me only shows that you can twist a fact as you like. I quoted it as a proof that you must go to an enormous distance of time to bridge over the difference between the crania of the lower animals and of man. I said, perhaps a million, or even ten millions, of years were necessary. If my argument is correct, it is a logical conclusion. Dr. Hunt objects to my using an expression to the effect that students are rather dogmatic in assertions of this kind. Well, I think I could bring forward facts to prove this; and I should think that anybody who knows anything of the literature of the subject, would agree with me that there is the strongest feeling on both sides that they are right, and that they express their feelings in the strongest manner, and that each party is inclined to look down on what it believes to be the absurd ideas of the other. Still, I do not deny that there are some who do not manifest this dogmatic feeling. With respect to the fact about the Portuguese and Spaniards in South America, I can assert it on my own authority, because I have lived among them, and have seen European families in tropical countries who have been there for many generations. I may name the town of Amboyna, in the Moluccas, where there are families that have kept their blood pure for three hundred years, as fair skinned, and in every respect like Dutch men and women.
Mr. Bollaert: Have not fresh families been sent out to them from Holland?
Mr. Wallace: Possibly so.
Mr. Bollaert: But that is very important.
Mr. Wallace: I allow it; but still there is the fact, that this period of time has produced no change. If there was a change, notwithstanding a little fresh blood, it would be perceptible.
Mr. Bollaert: More than a little, depend upon it.
Mr. Wallace: But there is no perceptible difference. Of course, these kind of facts are the most difficult in the world to get at. You cannot isolate men. They will mix; and there is no possible fact you can bring forward but is liable to the same objection. It was thought at one time, by Prichard and the older ethnologists, that it was a strong argument for the unity of the race that the Jews were white, black, and brown. Now, it is known that in every case in which the Jews have changed colour apparently, it has been the Jewish converts who have been treated as Jews, simply because they have embraced that religion. But a better proof than colour is physiognomy, which you see maintained in the Jews all over the world. Physiognomy maintains itself much longer than colour; and it seems as if the physiognomy of the superior race maintained itself much longer than the inferior; whereas the colour of the inferior race is often most lasting. For example, I may mention the descendants of the Portuguese in the Malay archipelago. In a great many towns there [[p. clxxxvi]] are thousands of Portuguese; some of them keep the Portuguese language; others have lost it; but still Portuguese words crop up all over the land, and there are Portuguese customs and manners and European features; but still they are generally the same colour as the people of the country in which they live. With respect to Europeans not living in India, that is nothing when we remember what a vile climate it is. We live in it as an exceptional race; and if we could bring instances of the third generation, you would say there was mixed blood in them. Then again, Dr. Hunt wanted me to explain how I could use such a word as "provident". Why, is it not perfectly clear that if people live in a country where there is a severe winter, in which little or no food is to be had, that they must provide against the scarcity, and that gradually the race would become a provident race? Therefore, I think I am justified in saying that, given two races of the same capacity, and put one in a tropical and the other in a temperate climate, the one in the temperate climate will become the more provident race of the two. With respect to Britons ever having been savages, I cannot assert that; but I think it would puzzle Dr. Hunt to show that they were civilised. All the evidence we have proves that they were savages, as much so as the South Sea islanders.
The President: Chariots?
Mr. Wallace: The South Sea islanders had no horses. Well, then, as to the term "inherent," I do not mean to withdraw it. I mean to maintain it as a very proper expression; and the answer I gave to that last question about a provident race, will almost answer for this,--that peculiarities produced gradually by natural selection, or any other cause, become inherent. The very fact of the race being gradually brought into harmony with the climate of the country in which it is, gives it a superior power, and an inherent capacity to maintain it. I do not know whether the words are the same, but the sense is exactly the same as will be found in Darwin's own book, where he points out this extraordinary fact, the bearing of which had never been noticed before, that in Australia, in the Cape of Good Hope, and to a considerable degree in North America--in fact, to a great extent in all the comparatively limited areas to which Europeans go--the weeds of Europe that are carried accidentally thrive and flourish there. They spread over the country, and maintain themselves in competition with the native weeds, showing that they are better adapted for the country than the plants which were apparently specially created for the country. Mr. Darwin explains it on his theory in this manner,--that Europe and Asia, which [[are]] now to a great extent dry land, have been long in existence as dry land; and that in the immense series of ages during which the changes of the northern continent have been going on, becoming modified from one form to another, sometimes to an inland climate, sometimes to a continental climate, sometimes a mountainous region, sometimes a flat region; owing to that great amount of change, its plants have acquired an immense variety of specialities: because, when a speciality is once acquired, it is not lost. It is handed down and kept in store, as it were, so that the immense mutations which the northern hemisphere has undergone, [[p. clxxxvii]] have given these plants a capacity of adapting themselves to a great variety of conditions. The result is, that directly they are carried into Australia these properties come into play. They have been adapted, in some previous state of the northern hemisphere, to similar conditions, and they have inherited this peculiarity by transmission, and therefore they are capable of driving out the plants of Australia merely by the inherent vigour they have gained. I applied this in illustration of the way in which civilised man has been developed by a great variety of circumstances. The intermixture of races has been very great. We are a mixed race to a very great extent, and therefore we have the capacities and powers of a great many; therefore, when we come into contact with the lower races, we are enabled in the same manner to drive them out. Then, it is said, that man without speech is not man. That is one of my points. I said, if you choose to consider he is not man, then so and so follows; but if you consider he is man, then so and so. And as to the argument, that if man could take the effects of natural selection away, it must be powerless,--that has not much to do with the subject. We might as well say, how powerless life is, because we can take it away,--when such a slight thing as stopping the mouth with pitch-plaster can destroy it. This only shows how easily it can be changed or destroyed; it does not prove its weakness. And so it does not show the weakness of natural selection, because man is able to modify it by putting himself into certain conditions, instead of leaving nature to select those conditions for him. I think I have now answered all the objections; and it is now so late that I really cannot detain you any longer. With regard to the poetical conclusion, I would merely say that I began it by stating that I would point out what I considered to be the bearings of this theory, if it is true. If it is not true, of course my remarks go for nothing; but I do not think myself that the concluding part of the paper is more poetical than true.
The meeting then adjourned.
This disquisition seems to have been intended principally as Wallace's attempt to resolve the monogeny vs polygeny debate that, while on the wane, was still active in the 1860s. But in recent years it has attracted more attention for its claim that natural selection for physical excellence, while "of necessity" among "wild animals," is effectively suspended among members of our highly "social and sympathetic" species. Among humans, Wallace declares, society and technology, rather than physical attributes, play the critical role in individual survival. In which case, natural selection must act not on individual human morphologies, but on societies as wholes, with "mental and moral" qualities as its principal target. Wallace's logic implies that the physical differences allowing us to recognize (if not define) racial groups among mankind might predate the origin of the distinctive human intellect; and, as a product of his place and time, his claim is perhaps hardly surprising that assumed European intellectual superiority resulted from stronger selection for such qualities in more rigorous northern climates. Nonetheless, still of huge importance today is Wallace's explicitly stated conclusion that the human mind cannot have been driven into existence by natural selection. The search for an alternative mechanism led him to his involvement with the Spiritualists; but his underlying perception remains an important one. Both the fossil and archaeological records make it clear that human symbolic cognition is not simply a more complex extrapolation of what preceded it: it is qualitatively unique, and evidently emergent in its nature. What is more, symbolic thought was apparently first expressed within the tenure on Earth of Homo sapiens, in a pattern that the slow working of natural selection is simply unable to explain. The only plausible alternative is that, over the eons, the human brain acquired a structure that, with only minor exaptive addition, was capable of symbolic thought. The innovation concerned was most likely acquired in the event that produced anatomically recognizable Homo sapiens, and the resulting new capacity was subsequently "discovered" by its possessor via a cultural stimulus, plausibly the invention of language. And if this is correct, while Wallace may not have been entirely correct in believing that natural selection has not exerted itself on the physical makeup of social mankind, he was clearly right in his penetrating perception that it does not explain everything.