Advertisement

Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 113–140 | Cite as

Darwin's use of the analogy between artificial and natural selection

  • L. T. Evans
Article

Conclusion

The central role played by Darwin's analogy between selection under domestication and that under nature has been adequately appreciated, but I have indicated how important the domesticated organisms also were to other elements of Darwin's theory of evolution-his recognition of “the constant principle of change,” for instance, of the imperfection of adaptation, and of the extent of variation in nature. The further development of his theory and its presentation to the public likewise hinged on frequent reference to domesticates.

We have seen that Darwin's reliance on the analogy between domesticated varieties and wild species was a bold and original step, in light of contemporary views on the nature of domesticates. However, as Darwin undoubtedly foresaw, his reliance on the analogy created difficulties as well as solving problems, and these began with his Malthusian codiscoverer of the principle of natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace's paper “On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type,” presented to the Linnean Scoiety along with the first public unveiling of Darwin's theory, states: We see, then, that no inferences as to varieties in a state of nature can be deduced from the observation of those occurring among domestic animals. The two are so much opposed to each other in every circumstance of their existence, that what applies to the one is almost sure not to apply to the other. Domestic animals are abnormal, irregular, artificial; they are subject to varieties which never occur and never can occur in a state of nature.62

Much has been made of the similarity of views of Darwin and Wallace, but this quotation surely reveals how utterly different their views were on what to Darwin was an important matter. Several critics of the Origin saw Darwin's reliance on the domesticates as his Achilles heel. As Young has pointed out, Samuel Wilberforce included the following passage in his attack on the Origin: Nor must we pass over unnoticed the transference of the argument from the domesticated to the untamed animals. Assuming that man as the selector can do much in a limited time, Mr. Darwin argues that Nature, a more powerful, a more continuous power, working over vastly extended ranges of time, can do more. But why should Nature, so uniform and persistent in all her operations, tend in this instance to change? Why should she become a selector of varieties?63

Another critic, Fleeming Jenkin, found the analogy a weakness in Darwin's theory because of the limited extent of variation in any one direction in domestic animals and plants.64 We have already seen that Darwin had confided a similar view to his notebook thirty years earlier, but changed his mind as a result of his profound study of domesticates. De Beer's reference to “an English country gentleman's knowledge of domestic plants and animals and their breeding”65 fails totally to recognize the originality and depth of Darwin's knowledge of domesticates.

Why did Darwin, against the currents of his time, rely so heavily on mankind's experience with domesticated organisms to shape his theory about species in nature? On reason is that only with domesticates was an approach that came close to experimental verification possible. Darwin fully realized the inadequacies of the experiment, as is emphasized by his repeated contrasting of selection under nature and selection by man. Yet the extensive experience and data of plant and animal breeders offered the only reliable base against which Darwin could continually challenge his views. As he wrote in the introduction to Variation, with domestication, “man ... may be said to have been trying an experiment on a gigantic scale.”66 Given Darwin's high opinion of the quantitative work of Malthus and Quetelet (as emphasized by Schweber),67 and his unremitting efforts to secure data by which to test his theories, it was inevitable that he should attach high significance to domesticated varieties. John Tyndall, in his Belfast address of 1874, said: “The strength of the doctrine of Evolution consists, not in experimental demonstration (for the subject is hardly accessible to this mode of proof), but in its general harmony with scientific thought.”68 Darwin would have agreed with the latter thought, but I think he would have challenged the preceding one on the grounds that long experience with domesticated varieties did provide an element of experimental demonstration. It gave him confidence in his theory, and he used his vast knowledge of artificial selection boldly and creatively.

Keywords

Domestic Animal Artificial Selection Domestic Plant Contemporary View Continuous Power 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. 1.
    “Darwin Manuscripts and Letters,” Nature, 150 (1942), 535.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. C.Greene, “Reflections on the Progress of Darwin Studies,” J. Hist. Biol., 8 (1975), 243–273.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    R. M.Young, “Darwin's Metaphor: Does Nature Select?” Monist, 55 (1971), 442–503.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, p. 4. Unless specified otherwise, all references are to the first edition, published by John Murray in 1859.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    FrancisDarwin, ed., The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, 3 vols. (London: John Murray, 1887) [hereafter referred to as L & L], II, 29.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    L & L, II, 78; cf. II. 116–118.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    NoraBarlow, ed., The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809–1882 (London: Collins, 1958), p. 119.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    FrancisDarwin and A. C.Seward, eds., More Letters of Charles Darwin, 2 vols. (London: John Murray, 1903) [hereafter referred to as ML], I, 118.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    P. B.Medawar, The Art of the Soluble (London: Methuen, 1967), p. 121.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    G.deBeer, Evolution by Natural Selection (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958), p. 4.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    G.Wichler, Charles Darwin, The Founder of the Theory of Evolution and Natural Selection (Oxford: Pergamon, 1961); M. T. Ghiselin, The Triumph of the Darwinian Method (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    P. J.Vorzimmer, “Darwin's Questions about the Breeding of Animals (1839),” J. Hist. Biol., 2 (1969), 269–281; “Darwin, Malthus and the Theory of Natural Selection,” J. Hist. Ideas, 30 (1969), 527–542; Charles Darwin: The Years of Controversy. The Orgin of Species and its Critics, 1859–1882 (Philadephia: Temple University Press, 1970); Young, “Darwin's Metaphor”; M. Ruse, “The Value of Analogical Models in Science,” Dialogue, 12 (1973), 246–253; “Charles Darwin and Artificial Selection,” J. Hist. Ideas, 36 (1975), 339–350; “Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution: An Analysis” J. Hist. Biol., 8 (1975), 219–241; S. S. Schweber, “Darwin and the Political Economists: Divergence of Character,” J. Hist. Biol., 13 (1980), 195–289.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    C.Limoges, La Sélection naturelle. Etude sur la premiére constitution d'un concept (1837–1859) (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1970).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    S.Herbert, “Darwin, Malthus and Selection”. J. Hist. Biol., 4 (1971), 209–217; quotation on p. 212.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    D.Kohn, “Theories to Work By: Rejected Theories, Reproduction and Darwin's Path to Natural Selection.” in Studies in History of Biology, ed. W.Coleman and C.Limoges (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 67–170, esp. p. 138.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    M.Ruse, The Darwinian Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pp. 172, 177.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    ML, I, 367.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    D.Kohn, “Theories to Work By: Rejected Theories, Reproduction and Darwin's Path to Natural Selection.” in Studies in History of Biology, ed. W.Coleman and C.Limoges (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), p. 70. However, in “Darwin's Conversion: The Beagle Voyage and its Aftermath,” (J. Hist. Biol., 15 [1982], 373 n64) F. J. Sulloway has pointed out that a footnote on the geographic distribution of species on the two sides of the Andes, probably drafted in mid-May 1837, hints at a possible evolutionary interpretation. It is also notable that the first sign of Darwin's evolutionary dialogue with himself, recorded in his Diary of the Voyage of H. M. S. Beagle (ed. N. Barlow, Cambridge University Press, 1933) during his trip to Bathurst, was one of the few significant diary passages omitted from his published journal. Contemplating the unique character of the marsupial fauna of Australia, Darwin exclaims: “Surely two distinct Creators must have been at work”; but then, contemplating the predatory technique of the local lion ant, he decides that no two workmen would “ever hit on so beautiful, so simple, and yet so artificial a contrivance” and concludes that “the one hand has surely worked throughout the universe” (p. 383).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    CharlesDarwin, Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited during the Voyage of HMS ‘Beagle’ round the World (London: Murray, 1889, ed.) pp. 191, 192, 401.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    G.deBeer, “Darwin's Journal,” Bull. Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Hist. Ser., 2 (1959), 1–21; quotation on p. 7.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    NoraBarlow, ed., The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809–1882 (London: Collins, 1958), p. 82.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    P. J.Vorzimmer, “The Darwin Reading Notebooks (1838–1860),” J. Hist. Biol., 10 (1977), 107–153.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    S.Herbert, “The Red Notebook of Charles Darwin,” Bull. Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Hist. Ser., 7 (1980), 1–164.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    D.Kohn, “Theories to Work By: Rejected Theories, Reproduction and Darwin's Path to Natural Selection.” in Studies in History of Biology, ed. W.Coleman and C.Limoges (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), p. 77.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    All references to Darwin's four Transmutation Notebooks (B-E) are to the page numbers indicated in the versions edited by de Beer and his colleagues, supplemented by the addenda, corrigenda, and recovered excised pages, but using Darwin's original labels (Part I=B, II=C, III=D, IV=E): G. de Beer, “Darwin's Notebooks on Transmutation of Species,” Part I. First Notebook (July 1837–February 1838). Bull. Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Hist. Ser., 2 (1960), 23–73; Part II. Second Notebook (February to July 1838), ibid., 2 (1960), 75–118; Part III. Third Notebook (July 15, 1838 – October 2, 1838), ibid., 2 (1960), 119–150; Part IV. Fourth Notebook (October 1838 – 10 July 1839), ibid., 2 (1960), 151–183; G. de Beer and M. J. Rowlands, Part V. Addenda and Corrigenda, ibid., 2 (1961), 185–200; G. de Beer, M. J. Rowlands, and B. M. Skaramovsky, Part VI, pages excised by Darwin, ibid., 3 (1967), 129–176.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    H. E.Gruber and P. H.Barrett, Darwin on Man: A Psychological Study of Scientific Creativity (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1974).Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    See S.Herbert, “The Place of Man in the Development of Darwin's Theory of Transmutation. Part II” J. Hist. Biol., 10 (1977), 155–227, esp. p. 192.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Sir John SaundersSebright, The Art of Improving the Breeds of Domestic Animals. A Letter to Sir Joseph Banks (London: John Harding, 1809), p. 31; John Wilkinson, Remarks on the Improvement of Cattle. A Letter to Sir John Saunders Sebright (H. Barnett, 3rd ed., 1820), p. 71. Darwin's own copies of the papers by Sebright and Wilkinson are in the Cambridge University Library where, with the assistance of Peter Gautrey, I was able to cousult them.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    S. S.Schweber, “The Origin of the Origin Revisited,” J. Hist. Biol., 10 (1977), 229–316, esp. p. 289.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Ghiselin, The Triumph of the Darwinian Method, p. 48.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    S.Wilberforce, “Darwin's Origin of Species,” Quarterly Rev., 108 (1860), 237; cf. L & L, II, 321–323.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    D.Kohn, “Theories to Work By: Rejected Theories, Reproduction and Darwin's Path to Natural Selection.” in Studies in History of Biology, ed. W.Coleman and C.Limoges (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), p. 117.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    C.Limoges, La Sélection naturelle. Etude sur la premiére constitution d'un concept (1837–1859) (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1970). p. 105.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Ruse, “Charles Darwin and Artificial Selection”; Kohn, “Theories to Work By,” note 131.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Sir JohnSebright, On the Instinct of Animals (London: Gossling and Egley, 1836), p. 16.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    D.Ospovat, “Darwin after Malthus,” J. Hist. Biol. 12 (1979), 211–230.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    This has been suggested by Schweber, “The Origin of the Origin Revisited.”Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    H. E.Gruber and P. H.Barrett, Darwin on Man: A Psychological Study of Scientific Creativity (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1974) pp. 423–425.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    G.deBeer, Questions about the Breeding of Animals (1968) (London: Society for the Bibliography of Natural History, (1968); Vorzimmer, “Darwin's Questions”; R. B. Freeman and P. J. Gautrey, “Darwin's ‘Questions’ about the Breeding of Animals with a Note on Queries about Expression,” J. Soc. Bibliog. Nat. Hist., 5 (1969), 220–225.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    J. C.Greene, “Reflections on the Progress of Darwin Studies,” J. Hist. Biol., 8 (1975), pp. 245–246.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    J. A.Secord, “Nature's Fancy: Charles Darwin and the Breeding of Pigeons,” Isis 72 (1981), 163–186.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    NoraBarlow, ed., The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809–1882 (London: Collins, 1958), p. 120. D. Kohn, S. Smith, and R. C. Stauffer have recently shown that Darwin did in fact continue making notebook entries on transmutation until the summer of 1842. They have identified and partially reconstructed two such notebooks, referred to as the “Torn-Apart” notebooks. (“New Light on the Foundations of the Origin of Species: A Reconstruction of the Archival Record,”, J. Hist. Biol., 15 [1982], 419–442.)Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    P. J.Vorzimmer, “An Early Darwin Manuscript: The Outline and Draft of 1839,” J. Hist. Biol. 8 (1975), 191–217; see also Herbert, “The Red notebook,” p. 28.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    C.Limoges, La Sélection naturelle. Etude sur la premiére constitution d'un concept (1837–1859) (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1970). p. 105.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    De Beer, “Darwin's Journal.” Kohn, Smith, and Stauffer, “New Light,” have recently reconstructed the sequence of drafts by Darwin of his “Sketch” and “Essay.” In doing so, they identify the draft published by Vorzimmer (“An Early Darwin Manuscript”) as Chapter I of Draft C of the “Sketch,” which became the original version of Chapter 1 of the 1844 “Essay.”Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    All references to Darwin's “Sketch” of 1842 and his “Essay” of 1844 refer to the relevant page numbers in the versions published by de Beer, Evolution by Natural Selection. The Sketch is given on pp. 41–88 and the Essay on pp. 91–254.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Ibid., p. 35.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Ibid., p. 26; cf. also Ruse, The Darwinian Revolution, p. 184. The opinion expressed by de Beer is thoroughly challenged by Dov Ospovat in The Development of Darwin's Theory: Natural History, Natural Theology, and Natural Selection, 1838–1859 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    R. C.Stauffer, ed. Charles Darwin's Natural Selection — Being the Second Part of His Big Species Book Written from 1856 to 1858 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 692; cf. R. J. Richards, “Why Darwin Delayed, or Interesting Problems and Models in the History of Science,” J. Hist. Behav. Sci., 19 (1983), 45–53.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    M. L., I, 131.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    L & L II, 318.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    For example, S.Smith, “The Origin of ‘The Origin’ as Discerned from Charles Darwin's Notebooks and His Annotations in the Books He Read between 1837 and 1842,” Adv. Sci. (London), 16 (1960), 391–401; Vorzimmer, “Darwin, Malthus”; Young, “Darwin's Metaphor”; Herbert, “Darwin, Malthus, and Selection” and “Place of Man”; Ruse, “Charles Darwin and Natural Selection”, Schweber, “Origin of the Origin Revisited”; Kohn, “Theories to Work By”; Sulloway, “Darwin's Conversion.”Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Limoges, “La Sélection naturelle”; cf. Kohn, “Theories to Work By.”Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Ospovat, “Darwin after Malthus” and Development of Darwin's Theory.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    G.deBeer, Evolution by Natural Selection (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958), p. 43; cf. Kohn, Smith, and Stauffer, “New Light,” p. 431.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    R. C.Stauffer, ed. Charles Darwin's Natural Selection — Being the Second Part of His Big Species Book Written from 1856 to 1858 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 195.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    G.Wichler, Charles Darwin, The Founder of the Theory of Evolution and Natural Selection (Oxford: Pergamon, 1961), p. 40.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Ghiselin, The Triumph of the Darwinian Method, pp. 215 and 218.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Secord, “Nature's Fancy.”Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    L & L, II, 373.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Ruse, “Analogical Models”; also Schweber, “Darwin and the Political Economists,” pp. 217–220.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    G.deBeer, Evolution by Natural Selection (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958), p. 277.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Young, “Darwin's Metaphor,” p. 471; Wilberforce, “Darwin's Origin of Species.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    FleemingJenkin, “The Origin of Species,” N. Brit. Rev., 42 (1867), 277–318; reprinted by D. L. Hull (1973) in Darwin and his Critics Cambridge, Mass.: (Harvard University Press), pp. 305–309.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    G.deBeer, Evolution by Natural Selection (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958), p. 4.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    CharlesDarwin. The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, 2 vols. (London: Murray, 1868); 1905 ed., p. 3.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Schweber, “Origin of the Origin Revisited.”Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Quoted by Young, “Darwin's Metaphor.”Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. T. Evans
    • 1
  1. 1.CSIRO Division of Plant IndustryCanberraAustralia

Personalised recommendations