Alfred Russell Wallace
best excerpts from some works of the co-author of the theory of natural selection and great biogeographer
and Mimicry in Plants. - In animals, as we have
seen,colour is greatly influenced by the need of protection from, or of warning
to, their numerous enemies, and by the necessity for identification and easy
recognition. Plants rarely need to be concealed, and obtain protection either by
their spines, their hardness, their lairy covering, or their poisonous
secretions. A very few cases of what seem to be true protective colouring do,
however, exist; the most remarkable being that of the "stone mesembryanthemum,"
of the Cape of Good Hope, which, in form and colour closely resembles the stones
among which it grows; and Dr. Burchell, who first discovered it, believes that
the juicy little plant thus generally escapes the notice of cattle and wild
herbivorous animals. Mr. J. P. Mansel Weale also noticed that many plants
growing in the stony Karoo have their tuberous roots above the soil; and these
so perfectly resemble the stones among which they grow that, when not in leaf,
it is almost impossible to distinguish them (Nature, vol. iii. p. 507). A few
cases of what seems to be protective mimicry have also been noted; the most
curious being that of three very rare British fungi, found by Mr. Worthington
Smith, each in company with common species which they so closely resembled that
only a minute examination could detect the difference. One of the common species
is stated in botanical works to be "bitter and nauseous," so that it is not
improbable that the rare kind may escape being eaten by being mistaken for an
uneatable species, though itself palatable. Mr. Mansel Weale also mentions a
labiate plant, the Ajugaophrydis, of South Africa, as strikingly resembling an
orchid. This may be a means of attracting insects to fertilize the flower in the
absence of sufficient nectar or other attraction in the flower itself; and the
supposition is rendered more probable by this being the only species of the
genus Ajuga in South Africa. Many other cases of resemblences between very
distinct plants have been noticed - as that of some Euphorbias to Cacti; but
these very rarely inhabit the same country or locality, and it has not been
proved that there is any of these cases the amount of inter-relation between the
species which is the essential feature of the protective "mimicry" that occurs
in the animal world."
Pyramid. - There is one other striking example of a
higher being succeeded by a lower degree of knowledge, which is in danger of
being forgotten because it has been made the foundation of theories which seem
wild and fantastic, and are probably in great part erroneous. I allude to the
Great Pyramid of Egypt, whose form, dimensions, structure, and uses have
recently been the subject of elaborate works by Prof. Piazzi Smyth. Now the
admitted facts about the pyramid are so interesting and so apposite to the
subject we are considering, that I beg to recall them to your attention. Most of
you are aware that this pyramid has been carefully explored and measured by
successive Egyptologists, and that the dimensions have lately become capable of
more accurate determination, owing to the discovery of some of the original
casing-stones, and the clearing away of the earth from the corners of the
foundation showing the sockets in which the corner-stones fitted. Prof. Smyth
devoted many months of work with the best instruments, in order to fix the
dimensions and angles of all accessible parts of the structure; and he has
carefully determined these by a comparison of his own and all previous measures,
the best of which agree pretty closely with each other. The results arrived at
1. That the pyramid is truly square, the sides being equal and the angles right angles.
2. That the four sockets on which the four first stones of the corners rested, are truly on the same level.
3. That the directions of the sides are accurately to the four cardinal points.
4. That the vertical height of the pyramid bears the same proportion to its circumference at the base, as the radius of a circle does to its circumference.
Now all these measures, angles, and levels are accurate, not as an ordinary surveyor or builder could make them, but to such a degree as requires the very best modern instruments and all the refinements of geodetical science to discover any error at all. In addition to this we have the wonderful perfection of the workmanship in the interior of the pyramid, the passages and chambers being lined with huge blocks of stones fitted with the utmost accuracy, while every part of the building exhibits the highest structural science.
In all these respects this largest pyramid surpasses every other in Egypt. Yet it is universally admitted to be the oldest, and also the oldest historical building in the world.
Now these admitted facts about the Great Pyramid are surely remarkable, and worthy of the deepest consideration. They are facts which, in the pregnant words of the late Sir John Herschel, "according to received theories ought not to happen," and which, he tells us, should therefore be kept ever present to our minds, since "they belong to the class of facts which serve as the clue to new discoveries." According to modern theories, the higher civilisation is ever a growth and an outcome from a preceding lower state; and it is inferred that this progress is visible to us throughout all history and in all material records of human intellect. But here we have a building which marks the very dawn of history, which is the oldest authentic monument of man's genius and skill, and which, instead of being far inferior, is very much superior to all which followed it. Great men are the products of their age and country, and the designer and constructors of this wonderful monument could never have arisen among an unintellectual and half-barbarous people. So perfect a work implies many preceding less perfect works which have disappeared. It marks the culminating point of an ancient civilisation, of the early stages of which we have no trace or record whatever.
The three cases to which I have now adverted (and there are many others) seem to require for their satisfactory interpretation a somewhat different view of human progress from that which is now generally accepted. Taken in connection with the great intellectual power of the ancient Greeks - which Mr. Galton believes to have been far above that of the average of any modern nation - and the elevation, at once intellectual and moral, displayed in the writings of Confucius, Zoroaster, and the Vedas, they point to the conclusion that, while in material progress there has been a tolerably steady advance, man's intellectual and moral development reached almost its highest level in a very remote past. The lower, the more animal, but often the more energetic types have, however, always been far the more numerous; hence such established societies as have here and there arisen under the guidance of higher minds have always been liable to be swept away by the incursions of barbarians. Thus in almost every part of the globe there may have been a long succession of partial civilisations, each in turn succeeded by a period of barbarism; and this view seems supported by the occurrence of degraded types of skull along with such ":as might have belonged to a philosopher," at a time when the mammoth and the reindeer inhabited southern France.
Nor need we fear that there is not time enough for the rise and decay of so many successive civilisations as this view would imply; for the opinion is now gaining ground among geologists that palaeolithic man was really preglacial, and that the great gap (marked alike by a change of physical conditions and of animal life) which in Europe always separates him from his neolithic successor, was caused by the coming on and passing away of the great ice age.
If the view now advanced are correct, many, perhaps most, of our existing savages are the successors of higher races; and their arts, often showing a wonderful similarity in distant continents, may have been derived from a common source among more civilised peoples."
|"If, therefore, we have traced one force,
however minute, to an origin in our own will, while we have no knowledge
of any other primary cause of force, it does not seem an improbable
conclusion that all force may be will-force; and thus, that the whole
universe is not merely dependent on, but actually is, the will of higher
intelligences or of one Supreme Intelligence... These speculations are
usually held to be far beyond the bounds of science; but they appear to me
to be more legitimate deductions from the facts of science than those
which consist in reducing the whole universe, not merely to matter, but to
matter conceived and defined so as to be philosophically inconsievable. It
is surely a great step in advance, to get rid of the notion that matter is
a thing of itself, which can exist per se, and must have been eternal,
since it is supposed to be indestructible and uncreated, - that force, or
the forces of nature, are another thing, given or added to matter, or else
its necessary properties, - and that mind is yet another thing, either a
product of this matter and its supposed inherent forces, or distinct from
and co-existent with it; - and to be able to substitute for this
complicated theory, which leads to endless dilemmas and contradictions,
the far simpler and more consistent belief, that matter, as an entity
distinct from force, does not exist; and that force is a product of mind.
Philosophy had long demonstrated our incapacity to prove the existence of
matter, as usually conceived; while it admitted the demonstration to each
of us of our own self-conscious, spiritual existence. Science has now
worked its way up to the same result, and this agreement between them
should give us some confidence in their combined
(Alfred Russell Wallace: Essays on Natural Selection, IX: Limits of Natural Selection as Applied to Man. see Wallace 1895, p. 212-213)