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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

The First Paper on Natural Selection (S657: 1908)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor of The Times (London) printed on page twelve of its 3 July 1908 issue. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S657.htm

     Sir,--My attention has been called to the article under the above heading in your issue of Tuesday last, in which I find a misconception or oversight as regards the argument I put forth 50 years ago, which I ask your permission to correct.

     After describing (in his fifth paragraph) my views as to the survival of favourable variations (but not in my own words), the writer adds this criticism:--"There is a logical flaw here resulting from the use of such indefinite words as 'stronger' and 'inferior' instead of the phrase 'adapted to the environment.'" But the word "stronger" (printed with quotation marks) I cannot find once used in my paper in the sense implied, and the word "inferior" only once, and then immediately after a reference to the greater or less power of survival under adverse conditions.

     But even if they had been more frequently used, they should be always interpreted by reference to a preceding section headed "The Abundance or Rarity of a Species dependent upon its more or less perfect Adaptation to the Conditions of Existence," an idea which forms the keynote of my whole paper, and recurs in such phrases as "tending to increase the facilities for preserving existence," "the most capable of supporting existence," both being used in the very paragraph from which the word "inferior" is quoted.

     As what Professor Lloyd Morgan has tersely named "survival value" is the idea pervading my whole original article, and it is the first time the charge of being "illogical" has been made against it--and that in a journal which will spread the charge over the whole civilized world--I may be excused for the wish to show that this charge is not justified.

Alfred R. Wallace.

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