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* nature. Things do fit into each other, no doubt, as if they ' were designed; but all we know about them is that these corre
spondences exist, and that they seem to be the result of physical • laws of development and growth. No matter-we reply-how these correspondences have arisen, and are daily arising. The perception of them by our mind is as much a fact as the sight or touch of the things in which they appear. They may have been produced by growth - they may have been the result of a process of development,- but it is not the less the development of a mental purpose.
It is the end subserved that we absolutely know. What alone is doubtful and obscure is precisely that which alone we are told is the legitimate object of our research, – viz. the means by which that end has been attained. Take one instance out of millions. The poison of a deadly snake — let us for a moment consider what this is. It is a secretion of definite chemical properties which have reference, not to the organism of the animal in which it is developed, but to the organism of another animal which it is intended to destroy. Some naturalists have a vague sort of notion that, as regards merely mechanical weapons, or organs of attack, they may be developed by use, – that legs may become longer by fast running, teeth sharper and longer by biting. Be it so this law of growth, if it exist, is but itself an instrument whereby purpose is fulfilled. But how will this law of growth adjust a poison in one animal with such subtle knowledge of the organisation of another that the deadly virus shall in a few minutes curdle the blood, benumb the nerves, and rush in upon the citadel of life? There is but one explanation -- a Mind, having minute and perfect knowledge of the structure of both, has designed the one to be capable of inflicting death upon the other. This mental purpose and resolve is the one thing which our intelligence perceives with direct and intuitive recognition. The method of creation, by means of which this purpose has been carried into effect, is utterly unknown.
Perhaps no illustration so striking of this principle was ever presented as in the astonishing volume just published by Mr. Darwin on the · Fertilisation of Orchids.'
It appears that the fertilisation of almost all orchids is dependent on the transport of the pollen from one flower to another by means of insects. It appears, further, that the structure of these flowers is elaborately contrived, so as to secure the certainty and effectiveness of this operation. Mr. Darwin's work is devoted to tracing in detail what these contrivances are. To a large extent they are purely mechanical, and can be traced with as much clearness and certainty as the different parts of which a steam-engine is VOL. CXVI. NO. CCXXXVI.
composed. The complication and ingenuity of these contrivances almost exceed belief. • Moth-traps and spring-guns set r on these grounds,' might be the motto of the orchids. There are baits to tempt the nectar-loving lepidoptera, with rich odours exhaled at night, and lustrous colours to shine by day; there are channels of approach along which they are surely guided, so as to compel them to pass by certain spots; there are adhesive plasters nicely adjusted to fit their probosces, or to catch their brows; there are hair-triggers carefully set in their necessary path, communicating with explosive shells, which project the pollen-stalks with unerring aim upon their bodies. There are, in short, an infinitude of adjustments, for an idea of which we must refer our readers to Mr. Darwin's inimitable powers of observation and description — adjustments all contrived so as to secure the accurate conveyance of the pollen of the one flower to its precise destination in the structure of another.
Now there are two questions which present themselves when we examine such a mechanism as this. The first is, What is the use of the various parts, or their relation to each other with reference to the purpose of the whole? The second question is, How were those parts made, and out of what materials? It is the first of these questions -- that is to say, the use, object, intention, or purpose of the different parts of the plant,—which Darwin sets himself instinctively to answer first; and it is this which he does answer with precision and success. The second question,--that is to say, how those parts came to be developed, and out of what 'primordial elements’ they have been derived in their present shapes, and converted to their present uses ? - this is a question which Darwin does also attempt to solve, but the solution of which is in the highest degree difficult and uncertain. It is curious to observe the language which this most advanced disciple of pure naturalism instinctively uses when he has to describe the complicated structure of this curious order of plants. 'Caution in ascribing intentions to nature' does not seem to occur to him as possible. Intention is the one thing which he does see, and which, when he does not see, he seeks for diligently until he finds it. He exhausts every form of words and of illustration by which intention or mental purpose can be described. Contrivance,' - curious contrivance' - beau.tiful contrivance'-these are expressions which recur over and over again. We quote one sentence describing the parts of a particular species. The labellum is developed into a long
nectary, in order to attract lepidoptera, and we shall presently 'give reasons for suspecting that the nectar is purposely so • lodged that it can be sucked only slowly, in order to give time
. for the curious chemical quality of the viscid matter setting ‘hard and dry.'* Nor are the words we have here quoted used in any sense different from that in which they are applicable to the works of man's contrivance — to the instruments we use or invent for carrying into effect our own preconceived designs. On the contrary, human instruments are often selected as the aptest illustrations both of the object in yiew, and of the means taken to effect it. Of one particular structure Mr. Darwin says:- This contrivance of the guiding ridges may be compared 'to the little instrument sometimes used for guiding a thread
into the eye of a needle. Again, referring to the precautions , taken to compel the insects to come to the proper spot, in order to have the pollinia' attached to their bodies, Mr, Darwin says:—Thus we have the rostellum partially closing the mouth
of the nectary, like a trap placed in a run for game,- and the 'trap so complex and perfect!' † But this is not all. The idea of special use, as the final end and controlling principle of construction, is so impressed on Mr. Darwin's mind, that, in every detail of structure, however singular or obscure, he has absolute faith that in this lies the ultimate explanation. If an organ is largely developed, it is because some special purpose is to be fulfilled. If it is aborted or rudimentary, it is because that purpose is no longer to be subserved. In the case of another species whose structure is very singular, Mr. Darwin had great difficulty in discovering how the mechanism was meant to work, so as to effect the purpose. At last he made it out, and of the clue which led to the discovery he says :—The strange position
of the labellum perched on the summit of the column, ought to have shown me that here was the place for experiment. I ought to have scorned the notion that the labellum was thus placed for no good purpose. I neglected this plain guide, and ' for a long time completely failed to understand the flower.'
When we come to the second part of Mr. Darwin's work, viz. the Homology of the Orchids, we find that the inquiry divides itself into two separate questions -- first, the question what all these complicated organs are in their primitive relation to each other; and secondly, how these successive modifications have arisen, so as to fit them for new and changing uses. Now it is very remarkable that of these two questions, that which may be called the most abstract and transcendental — the most nearly related to the supernatural and supermaterial — is again precisely the one which Darwin solves best and most clearly.
We have already seen how well he solves the first
question - What is the use and intention of these various parts? The next question is, What are these parts in their primal order and conception? The answer is, that they are members of a numerical group, having a definite and still traceable order of symmetrical arrangement. They are expressions of a numerical idea, as so many other things — perhaps as all things — of beauty are. Mr. Darwin gives a diagram, showing the primordial or archetypal arrangement of Threes within Threes, out of which all the strange and marvellous forms of the orchids have been developed, and to which, by careful counting and dissection, they can still be ideally reduced. But when we come to the last question – By what process of natural consequence have these elementary organs of Three within Three been developed into so many various forms of beauty, and made to subserve so many curious and ingenious designs ? — we find nothing but the vaguest and most unsatisfactory conjectures. We can only give one instance, as an example. There is a Madagascar orchis — the . Angræcum sesquipedale' - with an immensely long and deep nectary. How did such an extraordinary organ come to be developed ? Mr. Darwin's explanation is this. The pollen of this tower can only be removed by the proboscis of some very large moths trying to get at the nectar at the bottom of the vessel. The moths with the longest probosees would do this most effectually; they would be rewarded for their long noses by getting the most nectar; whilst, on the other hand, the flowers with the deepest nectaries would be the best fertilised by the largest moths preferring them. Consequently, the deepest-nectaryed orchids, and the longest-nosed moths, would each confer on the other a great advantage in the • battle of life. This would tend to their respective perpetuation, and to the constant lengthening of nectaries and of noses. But the passage is so curious and characteristic, that we give Mr. Darwin's own words:
As certain moths of Madagascar became larger, through natural selection in relation to their general conditions of life, either in the larval or mature state, or as the proboscis alone was lengthened to obtain honey from the Angræcum, those individual plants of the Angræcum which had the longest nectaries (and the nectary varies much in length in some orchids), and which, consequently, compelled the moths to insert their probosces up to the very base, would be best fertilised. These plants would yield most seed, and the seedlings would generally inherit longer nectaries; and so it would be in successive generations of the plant and moth. Thus it would appear that there has been a race in gaining length between the nectary of the Angræcum and the proboscis of certain moths; but the Angræcum has triumphed, for it flourishes and abounds in the forests of Mada
gascar, and still troubles each moth to insert its proboscis as far as possible in order to drain the last drop of nectar. thus,' says Mr. Darwin, 'partially understand how the astonishing length of the nectary may have been acquired by successive modifications.'
It is indeed but a 'partial' understanding. How different from the clearness and the certainty with which Mr. Darwin is able to explain to us the use and intention of the various organs! or the primal idea of numerical order and arrangement which governs the whole structure of the flower! It is the same through all nature. Purpose and intention, or ideas of order based on numerical relations, are what meet us at every turn, and are more or less readily recognised by our own intelligence as corresponding to conceptions familiar to our own minds. We know, too, that these purposes and ideas are not our own, but the ideas and purposes of Another - of One whose manifestations are indeed superhuman and supermaterial, but are not 'supernatural,' in the sense of being strange to nature, or in violation of it.
The truth is, that there is no such distinction between what we find in nature, and what we are called upon to believe in religion, as that which men pretend to draw between the natural and the supernatural. It is a distinction purely artificial, arbitrary, unreal. Nature presents to our intelligence, the more clearly the more we search her, the designs, ideas, and intentions of some
Living Will that shall endure,
When all that seems shall suffer shock.' Religion presents to us that same Will, not only working equally through the use of means, but using means which are strictly analogous—referable to the same general principles—and which are constantly appealed to as of a sort which we ought to be able to appreciate, because we ourselves are already familiar with the like. Religion makes no call on us to reject that idea, which is the only idea some men can see in nature the idea of the universal reign of Law — the necessity of conformning to it — the limitations which in one aspect it seems to place on the exercise of Will,— the essential basis, in another aspect, which it supplies for that exercise. On the contrary, the high regions into which this idea is found extending, and the matters over which it is found prevailing, is one of the deepest mysteries both of religion and of nature. We feel sometimes as if we should like to get above this rule — into some secret Presence where its bonds are broken. But no glimpse is ever given us of