Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)
I thank you for sending me your work on Development and Evolution. Being more than usually occupied just now I have only been able to look at certain chapters which especially interest me. Your account of Organic Selection, as originated by yourself and Lloyd Morgan, is very clear and I have no doubt is occasionally a real factor in evolution. But I do not think that it is an important or even an essential one. I am myself so impressed by the extreme rigidity of natural selection in keeping up each species to a high standard of adaptability to its environment, and also with the very great range of variation always present in every dominant and wide ranging species (and it is from these alone that new species are produced) that all the arguments of H. Spencer and others as to the impossibility of coincident variations of the right kind occuring when required seem to me purely verbal objections not warranted by the facts of nature. This view is enforced in the various chapters on The Theory of Evolution in my "Studies Scientific and Social," vol. 1.
One other subject I will refer to. On p. 145 you refer to the controlling force of intelligence on evolution in man, which has become mental instead of physical. I believe I was the first to put forth this view nearly forty years ago in my paper on The Development of Human Races (Anthropological Review, 1864) and republished in my "Natural Selection and Tropical Nature," Chap. 8, where it will be found to be enforced by a considerable amount of reasoning which has never been replied to.
Prof. J. M. Baldwin,
My friend Prof. E. B. Poulton writes me that I have not acknowledged the receipt of your book "Development and Evolution" [rather "Darwin and the Humanities]1 which you were so good as to send me. I have ever since been under the impression that I did acknowledge its receipt as I always do of books, if not of papers. If I really did not, I sincerely apologize. Sometimes I think I will write when I have had time to read the book, and then the press of work or the book being laid out of sight causes me to forget all about it. It may have been so with yours, which is really too elaborate and metaphysical for my matter-of-fact mind to assimilate. I can hardly ever (of late years) read any book that is "pure reasoning." I require the facts to be clearly stated and demonstrated first, unless already well known to me; but your book assumes a full knowledge of modern physiology and psychology, of which I know nothing except mere outlines at second hand.
If I remember, I met you some years back at South Kensington, and had a conversation, and it was after that that you sent me your book. The subject you wanted me to look at was what you termed "organic selection." This, as I think I told you at the time I did not think of much importance, neither do I now that I have looked at it more carefully, both in your book and in those of my friends Lloyd Morgan and Poulton. In a book that I have been writing for the past year I touch upon this subject and give my reasons for thinking that although it may possibly, in very exceptional cases, have been of use as a supplement to natural selection, yet these cases are I think of very rare occurrence.
The accumulation of books--big books--on every phase of [[p. 248]] evolution is now so great that it is quite impossible for me to do more than look at a few points in them in which I am more especially interested; especially as I have more correspondence than I can keep up with and not the strength for continued work that I had forty years ago.
Yours very truly,
Copyright: Alfred Russel Wallace Literary Estate.