7 MARCH 1885, Page 10


MR. MIVART, in the interesting article on Organic Nature's Riddle," which he contributes to the March number of the Fortnightly Review, puts, in what seems to us a completely unanswerable form, the objection to Professor Haeckel's contention that the organs and organisms with which our world is peopled have not been produced or guided by anything resembling intelligent purpose. Mr. Mivart discusses at

some length the operation of instinct and the operation of organic processes which, not being accompanied by any sort of animal consciousness (or " consentience," as he prefers to name the inferior forms of consciousness), cannot be called instincts, though they certainly produce results quite as remarkable as the most elaborate instincts ; and he shows that in neither

case is it possible to give any rationale at all of what occurs, without assuming the organisation of these pro

cesses by some power which deliberately adapts means to ends. Let us take his two most remarkable illustrations, the first from the well-known instinct of the sphex-wasp,—which is by no means a solitary case of this sort of instinct, Mr. Mivart showing that the mother pole-cat has been known to provide for the wants of her offspring in a precisely similar manner, —and the second from the wonderful healing agencies which have been known to restore completely the elaborate apparatus in a human elbow, after it had been removed by amputation. Here is the case of the pure instinct :—

" The female of the wasp, sphex, affords another well-known but very remarkable example of a complex instinct closely related to that already mentioned in the case of the polecat. The female wasp has to provide fresh, living, animal food for her progeny, which, when it quits its egg, quits it in the form of an almost helpless grub, utterly unable to catch, retain, or kill an active, struggling prey. Accordingly the mother insect has not only to provide and ylace beside her eggs suitable living prey, but so to treat it that it may be a helpless, unresisting victim. That victim may be a mere caterpillar, or it may be a great, powerful grasshopper, or even that moat fierce, active, and rapacious of insect tyrants, a fell and venomous spider. Whichever it may be, the wasp adroitly stings it at the spot which induces, or in the several spots which induce, complete paralysis as to motion, let us hope as to sensation also. This done, the wasp entombs the helpless being with its own egg, and leaves it

for the support of the future grub Even the strongest advocate of the intelligence of insects would not affirm that the

mother sphex has a knowledge of the comparative anatomy of the nervous system of these very diversely formed insects. According to the doctrine of natural selection, either an ancestral wasp must have accidentally stung them each in the right places, and so our sphex of to-day is the naturally selected descendant of a line of insects which inherited this lucky tendency to sting different insects differently, but always in the exact situation of their nervous ganglia • or else the young of the ancestral sphex originally fed on dead food, but the offspring of some individuals who happened to sting their prey so as to paralyse but not kill them, wore better nourished, and so the habit grew. But the incredible supposition that the ancestor should accidentally have acquired the habit of stinging different insects differently, but always in the right spot, is not eliminated by the latter hypothesis."

Still less, of course, can the explanation of instinct, as a transmitted habit originally due to intelligence, apply to such a case as this, unless the ancestral sphex-wasp be credited with a far better knowledge of anatomy than uneducated man has now,— in which case the sphex-wasp would probably be in the place of man, at the head of civilisation, and man would be his slave. Again, in the case of the healing agencies at work in Nature,— which are, indeed, only inferior forma of the original formative agencies which first made those parts of our frame that they are not always able to restore,—Mr. Mivart shows what it is which is really effected, without even the dimmest consciousness on our part of the nature of the agency at work :—

" In the process of healing and repair of a wounded part of the body, a fluid, perfectly structureless substance, is secreted, or poured forth, from the parts about the wound. In this substance, cells arise and become abundant ; so that the substance, at first structureless, becomes what is called cellular tissue. Then, by degrees, this structure transforms itself into vessels, tendons, nerves, bone, and .membrane—into some or all of such parts—according to the circumstances of the case. In a case of broken bone, the two broken ends of the bone soften, the sharp edges thus disappearing. Then a soft substance is secreted, and this becomes at Bret gelatinous, often afterwards cartilaginous, and finally osseous or bony. But not only do these different kinds of substance—these distinct tissues—thus arise and develop themselves in this neutral or, as it is called, "undifferentiated" substance, but very complex structures, appropriately formed and nicely adjusted for the performance of complex functions, may also be developed. We see this in the production of admirablyformed joints in parts which were at first devoid of anything of the kind. I may quote, as an example, the case of a railway guard, whose arm had been so injured that he had been compelled to have the elbow with its-joint cat out, but who afterwards developed a new joint almost as good as the old one. In the uninjured condition the outer bone of the lower arm—the radius—ends above in a smoothsurfaced cap, which plays against part of the lower end of the bone of the upper arm, or humerus, while its side also plays against the side of the other bone of the lower arm, the ulna, with the interposition of a cartilaginous surface. The radius and ulna are united to the humerus by dense and strong membranes or ligaments, which pass between it and them, anteriorly, posteriorly, and on each side, and are attached to projecting processes, one on each side of the humerus. Such was the condition of the parts which were removed by the surgeon. Nine years after the operation the patient died, and Mr. Syme had the opportunity of dissecting the arm, which in the meantime had served the poor man perfectly well, he having been in the habit of swinging himself by it from one carriage to another, while the train was in motion, quite as easily and securely as with the other arm. On examination, Mr. Syme found that the amputated end of the radius had formed a fresh polished surface, and played both on the humerus and the ulna, a material something like cartilage being interposed. The ends of the bones of the forearm were locked in by two processes projecting downwards from the humerus, and also strong lateral and still stronger anterior and posterior ligaments again bound them fast to the last-named bone."

Now, that is but the imperfect repetition in later life of the process which first produces the elbow in every human frame ; but it is impossible to account for it either by " natural selection" or by "lapsed intelligence." The former explains Nature as stumbling accidentally upon her greatest and most wonderful discoveries, and then persevering in and perfect. ing them by similar stumbles into a long series of improvements ; and what could be more miraculous than such a knack of stumbling into a happy succession of stumbles ? And why, if that be the explanation, should not a second attempt at an elbow on the part of the same organism which succeeded with the first, be even more likely to achieve success P The second view would explain the marvel of Nature as it is, only by assuming the intelligence of Nature as it was; and if we are to assume intelligence as the origin of structural laws, it is much easier to suppose that it is at work still, than that it has perpetuated and stereotyped itself in some organic habit, and then completely disappeared.

We hold, then, that Mr. Mivart has proved his case ; but we must go on to ask what light his proof throws on the scope of design in Nature P What we have undoubtedly in such cases of instinct, and such cases of structural origination and renovation,

as Mr. Mivart puts before us, is a very limited adaptation of means to ends,—limited, because, as he himself shows us, a very slight disturbance of the ordinary circumstances will sriffine to put the agency at work entirely out of gear. For example, one of the species of wasps visits her grubs to provide them with fresh food, and finds her way with unerring instinct, though they are carefully covered-up, to the place of concealtneat. But if the entrance is uncovered for her by man, the wasp is put-out instead of helped by the apparent assistance, and no longer recognises her young. Thus it is clear that the instinct is a general apparatus with which the species is furnished for adapting means to ends under such circumstances as are ordinarily to be expected, but is not, in anysense, a guidance vouehsalbd to each individual insect by an intelligence prompting it at each instant to do that which would serve its purpose best. And again, in the case of the reparative functions of the hnmaa system, if the animal be young and strong, the injury is repaired effectually ; if the animal be old, and the vital functions more or less exhausted, the injury is repaired much less effectually er perhaps not at all. Here again, then, it appears to be a strictly limited reservoir of resources for adapting means to ends with which the organism is supplied. No.demands upon it in excellent these narrow limits will be honoured. What is pointed-al, then, is not the immanent action of that unlimited stbre of force and design which we represent by the word Providence, but rather the existence of small, well-defined stores of organic capacity for adapting means to ends, easily defeated, easily exhaustible, though marvellous enough within their definite limits, and only intelligible at all' as the handiwork of a larger intelligence. Just so the late Clerk Maxwell used to speak of the atoms of the chemist as highly "manufactured articles," full of specific quality and relation. Well, the qualities which Mr. Clerk Maxwell ascribed to the chemical atom, it seems that we must ascribe in a still higher degree to the animal organism, whether instinctive or merely structural. It is a manufactured article of a higher kind than the chemical atom, fuller still of compressed specific quality and of elastic power to adapt itself to a very considerable range of circumstances, and this power is only intelligible on the assumption that it is provided fly a higher intelligence, though it does not in any way represent the full resources and flexibility of that higher intelligence, since it is a power the limits of which are very easily reached. Mr. Mivart's argument seems to us to prove design to demonstration; but it proves design of a limited kind, design intended apparently to provide for only ordinary events, and not to be in any sense what instinct is sometimes called,—a lower sort of inspiration. And when we come to the consideration of design in its higher theological aspects, we are not sure that all these elaborate paraphernalia of stingsand poisons and predatory instincts, and reparative forces more or less equal to what is wanted of them,—often rather loss than more,—are at all easier to reconcile with the conception of a directly acting omniscience, than those unbending physical laws themselves, of which we suppose that these instincts and organic apparatus are more or less the outcome. As it seems to us, those highly ". mannfactnred articles," — the ultimate atoms, — are at least as unintelligible without a creative intelligence as animal instincts themselves ; while animal instincts, though they witness to some intelligent creator in every feature of their existence, suggest rather a limited than an unlimited store of resource behind them. After all, we have to fall hack on tie evidence of man's moral and spiritual nature for our belief in God the creator; and no evidence of organic nature, such asthat insisted on by Mr. Mivart, would take us beyond a very secondary sort of " demiurgus." Design proves intelligence of a limited kind, not of an infinite kind. And, therefore, natural theology will never be of effectual use for any purpose beyond the bare refutation of the Materialist and the Atheist. After they are refuted, the great problem of theology begins.